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Past News Items - March 2011

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In the News

Micronutrients May Affect Vigor of Probiotic Cultures

Familiarity with Whole Foods and Holistic Remedies a Burgeoning Consumer Trend

Phytosterols Effective Against CAD Even With a Western Diet

Studies Document Brain’s Reaction to Meditation, Acupuncture


Released: 03/01/11

Micronutrients May Affect Vigor of Probiotic Cultures

A recent study published in the January 13 edition of BioFactors turned the tables on probiotic supplement research. Instead of investigating how the bacteria affect nutrient absorption, the study explored how probiotics themselves are affected by specific nutrients that reach the colon as unused fragments of foods and fortificants. Previous research has linked the supplements to improved absorption and bioavailability of nutrients such as iron and zinc.

Eight nutrients—zinc sulfate, zinc carbonate, ferrous sulphate, ferric citrate, quercetin, gallic acid, phytic acid, and oxalic acid—were investigated for their effects on the 24-hour growth of 2 cultures of lactobacilli (Lactobacillus acidophilus and L plantarum), 2 isolates of bifidobacteria (Bifidobacterium longum and B bifidum), and a marketed consortium of 8 probiotic cultures (6 lactobacilli and 2 bifidobacteria).

The cultures for the study employed MRS agar with marketed fructooligosaccharides as their only source of prebiotics. In addition, the study also measured the nutrients’ effects on E coli bacteria.

Quercetin and zinc sulfate showed significant positive effect for growth of L acidophilus and the consortium (P<.01). Phytic acid showed a significant inhibitory effect for L plantarum and a slight inhibitory effect on the 2 bifidobacteria isolates. Oxalic acid had slight positive effect for L acidophilus (P <.05) and the consortium.

Zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, quercetin, and oxalic acid all significantly inhibited growth of E coli (P < 0.05).

The authors of the study noted that the combination of probiotics and nutrients may double the beneficial effects for the host by improving zinc and iron status, as well as benefiting the colon’s microbial balance. Results of the study may lead to improved synbiotic supplements—look for ones incorporating certain micronutrients that exhibit beneficial effects on the probiotics they contain.

For more information, see

Familiarity with Whole Foods and Holistic Remedies a Burgeoning Consumer Trend

Foods with health-boosting properties are coming to the forefront of consumer demands according to a new trend report coreleased by the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) and market research publisher Packaged Facts.

The report, entitled Wellness Ingredients: Culinary Trend Mapping Report, is coproduced bi-monthly. This latest issue discusses the current open-mindedness exhibited by consumers to exploring the use of diet to influence general health and well-being.

“Consumers are more engaged than ever, trying out new foods and diets in hopes of curing what ails them or preventing ailments to which they are susceptible,” the report states.

According to CCD, consumers are looking backwards, beyond the industrial era, when healing was more organic and food-based, rooted in “real” foodstuffs and shaped by centuries of tradition with attention to wellness. This interest in preindustrial nutritional healing is also driven by a quest for authentic products, whole foods, and traditional food preparation methods.

The report references consumer motivation for seeking out these timeless alternatives, stating that

uncovering and treating various conditions with food is part of this era’s DIY [do it yourself]-care mentality. Hobbled with healthcare issues and economic woes, while simultaneously emboldened by innumerable Internet pages and a growing understanding and acceptance of alternative medical systems—Traditional Chinese Medicine with its acupuncture, holistic medicine and its tinctures, naturopathy and even yoga—consumers have never had more motivation or ammunition for finding new cures themselves, especially diet-related ones.

CCD offers several examples of consumer acceptance from the report, ranked in a spectrum that runs from availability in upmarket specialty and independent outlets (stage 1) through emergence in mainstream chain restaurants and small grocers (stage 3) to broad mainstream acceptance (stage 5, which features placement at popular grocers’ shelves).

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) currently enjoys the widest acceptance of the CCD examples, with a stage 5 designation. Agave nectar and grass-fed meat and dairy animals are at stage 3. Hemp seed and hemp milk—as well as fermented foods such as miso, kasu, tempeh, and pu-erh tea—are at stage 2, while the acceptance of healing spices such as holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) and turmeric (Curcuma longa) are rated at stage 1.

More information about the report is available at

Phytosterols Effective Against CAD Even With a Western Diet

With no other dietary changes (ie, the diet remained the same and no other supplements were taken), plant sterol doses of 4 g/day were shown to lower risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD) in a recent study soon to be published by Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.

The study reported that low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels dropped 20 percent, total cholesterol dropped 16 percent, and triglyceride levels dropped 19 percent (P<.001, P=.02, and P<.001, respectively) compared to placebo after a 2-month intervention that included adding a 4 g dose of phytosterols to participants’ diets through an enriched yogurt. Participants were not asked to change their diet in any other way, but were required to log what they ate during the study.

The study included 108 people, aged between 30 and 65 years, with an average body mass index (BMI) of 29 kg/m2 (normal weight = 18.5-24.9; obesity = a BMI of 30 or greater). Participants were randomly assigned to either the phytosterol or placebo group.

While numerous studies in controlled settings document the benefits of phytosterols, this study’s significance lies in its aim to test these effects against an unregimented diet typical of the general populace.

To see a copy of the corrected proof for the abstract, go to

Studies Document Brain’s Reaction to Meditation, Acupuncture

A pair of studies have shed light on the brain’s reaction to meditation and acupuncture.

Psychiatry Research recently published findings that show a measurable increase in gray matter density following a regimen of mindfulness meditation. Using voxel-based morphometry, researchers collected anatomical magnetic resonance (MR) images and baseline gray matter readings that included a measurement of volume from a group of 16 participants before the group began an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program.

The participants were either physician-referred or self-referred individuals seeking stress reduction. The program included weekly training and audio recordings for guided meditation practice at home. Participants kept logs of their daily meditation practice.

A control group consisted of individuals on the waiting list for the meditation program; they also participated in MR imaging at the beginning and end of the study. Both groups completed a questionnaire at the study’s beginning and end that measured 5 aspects of mindfulness: observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonjudging of inner experience, and nonreactivity to inner experience.

Gray matter volume increases were observed in the left hippocampus (a region thought to influence the positive effects of meditation) of the meditation group, as well as 4 other regions of the brain—although notably not the insula, a region that has shown change in past studies. The results suggest that mindfulness-based stress reduction is associated with gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory process, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.

In an unrelated study, researchers explored the effects of acupuncture on how pain is processed by the brain. Presenting their findings to the annual meeting of the Radiological Society on Nov. 30, 2010, they revealed that functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has allowed direct observation of the brain regions that are activated by pain and the resulting variances that occur with acupuncture. Through the course of the study, researchers found that activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was significantly reduced or modulated.

The study introduced an electrical pain stimulus to the left ankle of 18 healthy volunteers under observation with fMRI. Acupuncture needles were then placed at 3 points on the right side—between the toes, below the knee, and near the thumb—and the stimulus was repeated with the needles in place.

The fMRI comparisons revealed significant activation in the contralateral supplementary motor area, somatosensory cortex, precuneus bilateral insula, and ipsilateral somatomotor cortex during stimulation without acupuncture. During acupuncture, activation in most of these areas was reduced significantly.

For more information on the meditation study (the acupuncture study is yet to be published), see


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