by Dawn B. Olcott
Biotechnology Not Here Yet, but Coming Soon
Information on nutrition
and health selected from a variety of publications for your enjoyment
The May issue of the Nutrition Action
Health Letter reports on the current research in biotechnology
and how it may affect the public. Biotechnology is the transfer of
DNA from one plant, animal, or microorganism to another. It can be
used to create new foods and enhance certain properties of others.
Something to be aware of is that allergy-causing potential can be
transferred from one food to another.
In a recent study, a certain protein was transferred
from Brazil nuts to soybeans in the hope of boosting the protein
in soybean animal feed. However, in skin prick tests people allergic
to Brazil nuts are also allergic to the engineered soybeans. (Nuts
are very allergenic.) This shows the potential of this technology
to bring hidden dangers to the public. The scientist who conducted
this study recommen-ded to the FDA that companies marketing bioen-gineered
foods be required to label them, and to notify the FDA of their
plans to market these foods.
So far, no whole foods made using this technology
are widely available in the U.S. A cold-resistant tomato, developed
by inserting cold-water fish genes, was introduced a couple of years
ago, but was not received by a wave of enthusiasm.
Stomach Size And Satiety
Researchers at Columbia University conducted
a study to determine whether a person's stomach shrinks when the
person loses weight. The holding capacity of the stomachs of 14
people was measured before and after they lost weight. The researchers
discovered that the stomach does not actually shrink, but its capacity
to distend is diminished.
It seems that overeating on a regular basis
causes the stomach to get stretched out of shape. The body gets
used to the new stomach size and causes the signals for satiety
to be delayed until the stomach reaches the larger distension. This
increases the person's desire for large meals. When the person begins
to eat less, the stomach adjusts to holding less food, and the signal
to the brain that indicates the stomach is full is sent sooner.
After four weeks of being on a weight loss program the average stomach
capacity decreased from about 4 cups to less than 3 cups. For a
full report see the Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter,
Oat Bran and the
Oat bran was popular a few years ago
as a food that could potentially lower cholesterol. The oat bran
muffin and oat bran potato chip phase seems to have abated, but
it may be back. The FDA has a proposal under consideration to allow
health claims on food labels about a single food, and oats are bound
to be one of them. Currently health claims are limited to fat, fiber,
or single nutrients.
Oat bran can lower cholesterol, but it is how
much one consumes that counts. To lower cholesterol by five percent
one would have to eat three grams of soluble oat bran fiber a day.
That is comparable to 1 1/2 cups cooked oatmeal, 1 cup cooked oat
bran, or 3 packets instant oatmeal every day.
If the proposal passes, how much one
needs to consume of a single item would not be required to be placed
on the label with the health claim. Quaker Oats is encouraging the
FDA to pass this proposal. According to the May 1996 issue of Nutrition
Action, Quaker Oats proposes that an average daily menu could
be: oatmeal for breakfast, oatmeal bread for lunch, oatmeal cookies
for an afternoon snack, and oat-wheat crackers after dinner. The
FDA responded, "The agency is persuaded by [Quaker's] argument
that oat products can reasonably be expected to be consumed three
times a day."
Shellfish, (clams, oysters, mussels, scallops
and lobster) and also squid and octopus are low in cholesterol,
and are an excellent source of protein, iron and trace minerals
copper and zinc. Newer more accurate analytical methods for measuring
cholesterol show shellfish to be lower in cholesterol than was originally
thought--lower than skinless chicken or turkey breast (except for
shrimp and crayfish which are high).
Olcott is Publications Coordinator at Harvest.