Monday, April 28, 2014

Decaf Green Tea Promotes Weight Loss

Mice on high-fat diets while consuming decaffeinated green tea extract and exercising regularly experienced significant weight loss and improvements in overall health during a study at Penn State University.

Researchers believe people can expect similar benefits.

Following a 16-week regimine, high-fat-fed mice that exercised regularly and ingested green tea extract showed an average body mass reduction of 27.1 percent and an average abdominal fat mass reduction of 36.6 percent.

The mice on the green-tea-extract-and-exercise regimen also experienced a 17 percent reduction in fasting blood glucose level, a 65 percent decrease in plasma insulin level and reduction in insulin resistance of 65 percent -- all substantial improvements related to diabetic health.

Mice that ingested green tea extract but did not exercise or those that exercised but were not given green tea extract experienced less significant changes in weight and health measurements, noted lead researcher Joshua Lambert, associate professor of food science.

"What is significant about this research is that we report for the first time that voluntary exercise in combination with green tea extract reduced symptoms of metabolic syndrome and diet-induced obesity in high-fat-fed mice more significantly than either treatment alone," he said.  "The changes in body weight and body fat may result from increased fat metabolism and decreased fat synthesis. Green tea seems to modulate genes related to energy metabolism."

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

Artwork: Green Tea Bud and Fresh Leaves
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Edible Flowers Nip Disease in the Bud

Edible flowers, which have been used in the culinary arts in China for centuries, are receiving renewed interest.

A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists, found that common edible flowers in China are rich in phenolics and have excellent antioxidant capacity.

Flowers can be used as an essential ingredient in a recipe, provide seasoning to a dish, or simply be used as a garnish. Some of these flowers contain phenolics that have been correlated with anti-inflammatory activity and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

The findings of this study show that common edible flowers have the potential to be used as an additive in food to prevent chronic disease, help health promotion and prevent food oxidization.

Source: Institute of Food Technologists

Artwork: Assorted Edible Flowers
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Foods Shape Cultural Identity

Like other immigrant enclaves around the world, a Puerto Rican community in Hartford, Connecticut, has created a home away from home through a cuisine so authentic it caught the attention of scientists.

Botany researchers recently took a close look at the fresh crops in the Puerto Rican markets of Hartford and uncovered evidence that gives new meaning to a familiar phrases: home is in the kitchen.

"Culinary preferences tell us a good deal about human culture, what is important, and what constitutes a feeling of well-being," says David W. Taylor of the University of Portland. "As biologists, and specifically as botanists, what really struck us was the diversity of fresh plant crops, mostly of subtropical/tropical origin, that were available in ethnic markets in the northern U.S."

"The similarities between the market foods in temperate Hartford and tropical Puerto Rico demonstrate the great cultural value that the Puerto Rican community places on its cuisine — which they have recreated after moving to a climatically, culturally, and agriculturally different environment," explains Gregory J. Anderson of the University of Connecticut. "This shows that everyone has a commitment to cultural foundations, and food is one of the most important."

 CasavaLike their ancestors who immigrated from Europe, Africa, and Asia with favorite foodstuffs, the Puerto Ricans of Hartford have maintained cuisine as an important component of their identity. Such a strong relationship to food has had a profound impact on human health by reshaping environmental biodiversity, influencing the diets of neighbors, and preserving elements of culture.

Over the course of nearly two decades, Taylor and Anderson carefully and patiently measured the diversity of crops in the marketplace, their availability over time, the proportion of market space dedicated to each, and the willingness of consumers to pay for preferred items. The study, published in the American Journal of Botany, includes an analysis of nearly 100 tropical crops and offers a new approach to understanding their meaning.

 MalangaResults showed that the Puerto Ricans were often willing to pay more for culturally significant crops despite the availability of less-expensive nutritional equivalents. Fresh starchy plants, called viandas, were most essential for re-creating a sense of home. These include true yams, cassava, breadfruit, and malangas. Their preparation - fried, mashed or boiled - was also important.

The researchers' observations identified what they call "Culinary Cultural Conservation," or the preservation of cuisine over time and distance, and "Cultural Keystone Food Groups," or foods that prove to be more vital to the cuisine than others.

These concepts are helping scientists nderstand how market crops are being utilized by migrant communities worldwide and showing how foods shape our identity and create an essential connection to home.

David W. Taylor and Gregory J. Anderson. Key plants preserve elements of culture: A study over distance and time of fresh crops in Puerto Rican markets in Hartford, Connecticut, "A moveable feast" American Journal of Botany April 2014 101:624-636.

Artwork: Casava
Artwork: Malanga
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