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Past News Items - October 2009

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In the News

FDA Requires Faster Reporting of Food-safety Problems as Poll Reveals Most Americans Support Reform

Exercise During Pregnancy Prevents Excessive Newborn Weight

Vitamin C Regenerates Skin, Reverses Its Damage

Quercetin May Combat Colon Cancer

Released: 10/01/09

FDA Requires Faster Reporting of Food-safety Problems as Poll Reveals Most Americans Support Reform

Starting September 8, all companies that manufacture, process, or distribute food for people or animals to eat must report any problems that could lead to food-borne illness within 24 hours, according to a new mandate from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This regulation is in step with demands from the American public, as a recent poll demonstrates that Americans across class and political lines want more aggressive food safety regulations.

Food-safety problems must now be reported by manufacturers via the online Reportable Food Registry, which was mandated by Congress 2 years ago to alert FDA sooner about contaminated foods. Food companies covered by the new law must file an electronic report to FDA within 24 hours after a problem has been found when there is a probability that a food will cause serious sickness or death. These reports will be collected from many sources, which could reveal geographic patterns caused by the same or similar foods and lead to faster recalls of contaminated products. Companies failing to report problems within that time period could have their products seized and face criminal prosecution. The only exceptions to the new law are dietary supplements and infant formula, which have their own reporting procedures.

This change in regulation coincides with a new poll commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts that found 89% of Americans support more aggressive food safety regulation. According to an outline of the poll’s key findings (, 89% of respondents support broad reform of food regulation, including 61% who “strongly support” reform.

At least 90% of those polled also supported better systems for tracking food, more frequent government inspections of food facilities, and stronger regulation of imported food. A surprising 72% of respondents said they would be willing to pay between 3% and 5% more in grocery costs to ensure food safety, and this held true among lower-income (77%), middle-income (74%), and higher-income voters (69%). The poll also found agreement across party lines: 88% of Democrats, 85% of Independents, and 77% of Republicans believe that food safety should be domain of the federal government.

In addition to the Reportable Food Registry, Congress is considering further food safety reforms. On July 20, the House passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 (HR 2749) by a vote of 283-142. This bill gives FDA the authority to pull risky products from store shelves because FDA currently cannot mandate a recall and instead works with industry to orchestrate voluntary recalls. The bill would also require more frequent inspections of food facilities. To pay for the inspections, the bill would allow FDA to charge food facilities an annual $500 registration fee. In the Pew poll, 66% of respondents said they supported the registration fee program.

Exercise During Pregnancy Prevents Excessive Newborn Weight

Regular exercise during pregnancy does more than keep prospective mothers healthy—it can also help lower newborn weight, new research shows. Published in the October issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a Norwegian study demonstrates that the likelihood of delivering an excessively large baby dropped by as much as 28% in women who regularly performed certain types of exercise in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Based on the previous observation that first-time mothers (nulliparous women) exercise more frequently than women who are already mothers (multiparous  women), the results were presented separately for first-time and existing mothers. And in fact, a higher number of heavier-birth-weight newborns were born to existing mothers compared with first-time mothers: Excessive newborn birth weight was observed in 4,033 (10.9%) newborns, 56.1% (n=2,263) of whom were born to multiparous women.
Heavier birth weight, known medically as fetal macrosomia, can pose risks to both the baby and the mother. Babies weighing more than 8.8 lbs put mothers at risk of delivery problems, C-sections, and postpartum hemorrhage and can lead to low Apgar scores for infants. To measure the effect of regular maternal exercise on newborn weight, the researchers reviewed data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study. That database included information on nearly 37 000 women whose pregnancies lasted at least 37 weeks. All of the women were pregnant with only one child. Two-thirds of the women were normal weight, and 20%were overweight but not obese.

Pre-pregnancy exercise didn’t seem to make a difference in a baby's birth weight for either nulliparous or multiparous  women, but exercise during pregnancy did. In nulliparous women, those who were exercising at least 3 times a week had a 23% to 28% reduced risk of a large birth weight baby.

Interestingly, multiparous women who participated in dancing during their second trimester were less likely to deliver newborns with an excessive birth weight, whereas training in fitness centers in the second trimester was positively associated with excessive newborn birth weight. In the third trimester, low impact aerobics and dancing were negatively associated with excessive newborn birth weight, while multiparous women who swam were more likely to give birth to an excessive-birth-weight newborn compared with those who did not swim.

Exercise doesn’t benefit just pregnant women. As reported in the October issue of Hepatology, regular aerobic exercise reduces fatty liver in obese individuals, even without changes in body weight or abdominal fat. In an Australian study, researchers assessed the effect of aerobic training on hepatic, blood, abdominal, and muscle lipids in 19 obese sedentary adults using magnetic resonance imaging and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Twelve participants were assigned to a 4-week aerobic cycling program, and 7 followed a home stretching routine (the control group). After 4 weeks, cardiorespiratory fitness improved significantly in the exercise group vs the control group even though body weight and body mass index remained unchanged. Compared to baseline, the aerobic exercise group had a 21% reduction in hepatic triglycerides, a 12% decline in visceral adipose tissue, and a 14% reduction in plasma free fatty acids.

Vitamin C Regenerates Skin, Reverses Its Damage

Researchers at the University of Leicester, UK, and the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology in Portugal discovered new protective properties of vitamin C in cells from the human skin that may lead to better skin regeneration.

The research found that a form of vitamin C promoted wound healing and protected skin cells from DNA damage. This report, published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, builds on the group’s previously published evidence that DNA repair is upregulated in people consuming vitamin C supplements. The researchers have now provided some mechanistic evidence for this result in cell culture, using microarray analysis to look at gene expression and the “Comet” assay to study DNA damage and repair.

Solar ultraviolet radiation is a genotoxic agent responsible for skin cancer through the formation of free radicals and DNA damage. To find ways to combat this damage, the study explored the effect of sustained exposure to a vitamin C derivative, ascorbic acid 2-phosphate (AA2P), in human dermal fibroblasts. They investigated which genes that are responsible for skin regeneration are activated by vitamin C in these cells.

The researchers found that vitamin C may improve wound healing by stimulating quiescent fibroblasts to divide and by routing their migration to the wounded area. Vitamin C also seemed to protect the skin by increasing the capacity of fibroblasts to repair potentially mutagenic DNA lesions.

These results will be of great relevance to the cosmetics industry because free radicals are associated with premature skin aging, and antioxidants like vitamin C counter these damaging compounds. Significantly, the study may also to lead to advances in the prevention and treatment of skin cancer.

Quercetin May Combat Colon Cancer

Quercetin, a flavonol found in onions and apples and shown to have antiinflammatory and antioxidant properties, may reduce the risk of patients developing cancer of the colon by 50%, according to a study conducted by the University of Aberdeen, Ireland’s National Cancer Registry, and the University of Ottawa. The study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition online ahead of print. Researchers also noted that increased intakes of flavonols in general were associated with a 40% reduction in the risk of developing colorectal cancer but cautioned that dietary intakes of the compound were not associated with beneficial effects on rectal health.

Flavonols, found in a variety of fruit and vegetables, are a subcategory of flavonoids, which also include anthocyanins found in berries, flavanones from citrus, isoflavones from soy, catechins in tea, and proanthocyanidins from berries, wine, and chocolate. A number of previous epidemiological studies have linked increased dietary intake of antioxidants from fruits, vegetables, wine, chocolate, coffee, tea, and other foods to reduced risks of a range of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Because tea is the main dietary source of flavonoids in the United Kingdom, for this study, researchers sought to distinguish between total dietary and non-tea intake of 4 flavonoid subclasses: flavonol, procyanidin, flavon-3-ol, and flavanone. In order to examine the benefits of a flavonoid-rich diet with respect to colorectal cancer risk, the researchers performed a population-based case-control study of 264 people with histologically confirmed colorectal cancer and 408 healthy controls. The participants were drawn specifically from a tea-drinking population with a high colorectal cancer incidence. Researchers gathered dietary data to calculate flavonoid intake.

Although they found no linear association between risk of developing colorectal cancer and total dietary flavonol, procyanidin, flavon-3-ol or flavanone intakes, non-tea flavonol intake was inversely associated with colorectal cancer risk. The researchers concluded that flavonols, specifically quercetin, obtained from non-tea components of the diet, might be linked with reduced risk of developing colon cancer.

This research did not explore the mechanism behind the potential beneficial effects, but an earlier study (Cui Y, Morgenstern H, Greenland S, et al. Dietary flavonoid intake and lung cancer—a population-based case-control study. Cancer. 2008;112(10):2241-2248) suggested that flavonoids may block the formation of blood vessels in tumors.

Links to Other Research:
1. Active Older Adults Live Longer, Have Better Functional Status

2. Green Tea May Help Improve Bone Health

3. Basil Plants Have Anti-arthritic Properties

4. Celiacs May Benefit From Antioxidant Supplements

5. Antioxidant-rich Melon Extract May Ease Stress, Fatigue

6. Antioxidant-rich Juices Boost Heart Health: Study

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