Volume 22. Number 3. 2017

'Food Evolution' Movie Redefines GM Food Debate

A new film on GM food crops hits the movie houses in New York and Los Angeles. The film, titled Food Evolution is a product of independent investigation of filmmakers Scott Hamilton Kennedy (Academy Award nominee) and Trace Sheehan. They were initially contacted by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) to make a documentary covering fact-based public dialogue about the food system. However, as the filmmakers did their research and started filming, they became intrigued by consistently polarizing debate around GMOs. IFT was initially hesitant with the change of focus, but agreed as the filmmakers showed them the importance of covering the topic.

"GMOs had become a metaphor for almost every issue we have with food and our food system and we wanted to explore if that metaphor had any merit or scientific truth to it. And perhaps, by better understanding the GMO debate, we would be able to make more informed decisions about science and technology in general, no matter the topic," explained the filmmakers. Crop Biotech Update (June 28, 2017)

EFSA Confirms Safe Levels For Nitrites And Nitrates Added To Food.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that the existing safe levels for nitrites and nitrates intentionally added to meat and other foods are sufficiently protective for consumers. After re-evaluating their safety, the EFSA found that consumer exposure to nitrites and nitrates as food additives is within safe levels for all population groups, except for a slight exceedance in children whose diet is high in foods containing these additives. However, if all dietary sources of nitrites and nitrates are considered, the safe levels (ADIs) may be exceeded for all age groups.

The current acceptable daily intake (ADI) for nitrates is 3.7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day (mg/kg bw/day). The safe level for nitrites was re-established at 0.07 mg/kg bw/day, close to the slightly more conservative existing ADI of 0.06 mg/kg bw/day. IFT Weekly 29 June 2017.

Heat Tolerant Lentils Endure Increasing Global Temperatures

A global team of experts discovered the key traits in lentils that will enable the important grain legume to tolerate rising temperatures.

Scientists from the University of Western Australia, Panjab University, Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) - Indian Institute of Pulse Research, Punjab Agricultural University, and International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) screened a number of lentil genotypes in the field and lab to search for heat tolerant traits and the key mechanisms involved in the tolerance. They exposed the lentil genotypes to heat stress during the crucial stage of reproduction, which led them to five genotypes showing heat tolerance and another five with heat sensitivity. The heat tolerant genotypes showed significantly higher germination, pollen viability, stigma function, ovule viability, and pollen tube growth as well as higher sucrose production compared with the heat sensitive genotypes. Crop Biotech Update (June 21, 2017)

Read more about the study in the UWA website.

Systematic Review Furthers our Understanding of Caffeine on Human Health

At the Experimental Biology conference in April, ILSI North America released a rigorous and transparent Systematic Review paper on caffeine safety, confirming the results of the widely-cited Health Canada literature review (2003), which concluded that adverse health effects were not associated with caffeine intake levels at =400 mg/day for adults =300 mg/day for pregnant women and =2.5 mg/kg-day for children and adolescents. 400mg is equivalent to about 4 cups of coffee/day and 90% of Americans typically consume less than this amount. Additionally, findings support a shift in future research to unhealthy populations, sensitive populations and inter-individual variability.
The research team was led by ToxStrategies, and included experts from University of Oklahoma, University of Pennsylvania, University of Miami, US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, University of Manitoba, and Purdue University.
Since 2003, more than 10,000 papers have been published related to caffeine, but a robust, transparent and systematic assessment of the health effects associated with caffeine consumption was not available in the peer-reviewed literature. For this reason, ILSI North America commissioned a Systematic Review of data published from 2001 to 2015 following the IOM Standards for Systematic Reviews. The manuscript was published in Food & Chemical Toxicology.
In line with ILSI North America's commitment to open data and transparency, all the data supporting this Systematic Review can be accessed on the Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality's (AHRQ) Systematic Review Data Repository (SRDR) and the protocol for each health outcome can be reviewed on PROSPERO, a prospective register for systematic reviews.
Explore the Systematic Review findings and methodology

Report Shows 20 Years of Economic and Environmental Benefits from Biotech/GM Crops

Crop biotechnology has significantly reduced agriculture's environmental impact and stimulated economic growth over the last 20 years of use, according to the new report of PG Economics. The peer-reviewed report GM Crops: Global Socio-economic and Environmental impacts 1996-2015 authored by Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot also presents the contribution of biotechnology in preserving the earth's natural resources while allowing farmers to grow more, high quality crops. Crop Biotech Update (June 7, 2017)

Eating Chocolate May Decrease Risk Of Irregular Heartbeat

A study published in the journal Heart suggests that consuming moderate amounts of chocolate may significantly lower the risk of being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF)'a common and dangerous type of irregular heartbeat.

The study included 55,502 men and women participating in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study. Researchers considered study participants' body mass index, blood pressure, and cholesterol, which were measured at the time participants were recruited, between December 1993 and May 1997. They also looked at participants' health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease, and data on their diet and lifestyle, from questionnaires.

Diagnoses of AF were identified from the Danish National Patient Register. There were 3,346 cases of AF among the study participants over a 13.5-year follow-up period. Compared with those who ate a 1-oz serving of chocolate less than once per month, men and women who ate one to three servings per month had a 10% lower rate of AF; those who ate one serving per week had a 17% lower rate; and those who ate two to six servings per week had a 20% lower rate. The benefit levelled off slightly with greater amounts of chocolate consumption, with those eating one or more servings per day having a 16% lower AF rate. Results were similar for men and women. IFT Weekly 1 June 2017. Link to Study

Developing Safe Level Guidelines For Bioactives.

Research has shown the potential health benefits of bioactive nutrients'those compounds found in foods like fruits, vegetables, tea, and cocoa. Researchers at the University of Illinois are working to develop recommended maximum intake levels for bioactives to help educate people about what they should be consuming. In a series of recently published papers, including a study in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, the researchers report that the key to establishing appropriate levels is assessing bioactives' safety and potential toxicity.

To set Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) or Dietary Reference Intakes (RDIs), the researchers must determine efficacy (how well it works and how much is needed) and safety (at what level might the compound produce adverse effects), a risk-benefit curve. Demonstrating the health benefits in these substances and determining the safety of the substances when consumed can be difficult because a lot of data from human clinical trials are required.

The paper includes case studies in which two bioactive nutrients as supplements were reviewed for risk and benefit: lutein and the green tea extract epigallocatechin-3-gallate (ECGC). For lutein, studies showed efficacy and that the only adverse event that's been shown is non-life threatening yellowing of skin. IFT Weekly 1 June 2017

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. - / Fax 011 660 6444 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.