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Organic Shmorganic - Slate (2014)

When my son was a baby, organic was a synonym for edible. If the apples I found at the grocery store weren’t certified, I wasn’t buying them. I knew that conventional produce could harbor traces of pesticides, and I’d read that pesticides could affect brain development. Sure, the details of this association were hazy—I didn’t know how many pesticides my son might ingest from Shoprite strawberries, nor did I know whether that amount would do him any harm. But in a way, it didn’t matter: Shelling out a bit more cash to minimize the risks, whatever they were, seemed worth it to me.

 

Fast-forward two years and my son is eating Shoprite strawberries for breakfast... I can’t help but wonder whether giving my son organic food really makes a difference to his health, considering that he’s been known to lick the bottom of his shoes, kiss my poop-sniffing dog, and eat crackers—someone else’s—off of the preschool floor. Instead of continuing to wonder, I decided to dig into the literature and talk to toxicologists, horticulturists, risk experts, and nutritionists... 

 

This column is about whether it’s worth buying organic produce for your kids specifically because you think the pesticides on conventional produce could harm them... I’m also not going to spend much space addressing the recent debate over whether organic produce has higher concentrations of beneficial nutrients than conventionally-farmed produce does... it seems fairly clear that organic fruits and veggies don’t hold a major nutritional edge over conventional ones... It’s also difficult to broadly compare the nutrients found in organically versus conventionally grown foods because geography and individual farm practices can impact growth drastically.

 

So let’s focus on that other major claim about organic food—that is it’s healthier, particularly for kids, because it contains fewer pesticides. First, let’s start with the fact that organic does not mean pesticide-free... organic farmers can and often do use pesticides. The difference is that... organic farmers are (mostly) limited to “natural” ones.. (I say “mostly” because several synthetic chemicals are approved for use in organic farming, too.) 

 

The assumption, of course, is that these natural pesticides are safer than the synthetic ones. Many of them are, but there are some notable exceptions. Rotenone, a pesticide allowed in organic farming, is far more toxic by weight than many synthetic pesticides. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency sets exposure limits for the amount of a chemical that individuals (including kids) can be exposed to per day without any adverse effects. For Rotenone, the EPA has determined that people should be exposed to no more than 0.004 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day... 

 

EPA’s recommended exposure limit for Glyphosate, another widely used synthetic pesticide—you might know it as Round-Up—is 0.1 milligrams per kilogram per day, which means it’s 25 times less toxic by weight than Rotenone. The synthetic pesticide Captan is 32.5 times less toxic than Rotenone, and another one, Pyrimethanil, is 42.5 times less toxic than Rotenone. Rotenone is also not the only natural pesticide that out-ranks synthetic pesticides in terms of toxicity. The pyrethrins, a class of pesticides derived from chrysanthemums that are approved for use in organic farming, are more toxic... too...

 

Many organic farmers use pesticides as a last resort... (Conventional growers don’t use pesticides unless they have to, either, though; spraying is expensive.) The problem is that farmers often “have to use a lot of the natural pesticides because they break down faster,” explains Linda Chalker-Scott, a professor of horticulture... “One of the benefits of some of the more traditional synthetic pesticides is that they have been manufactured to be more effective at lower doses.” ... 

 

Since organic farmers may have to spray crops more frequently with natural pesticides, it’s not crazy to think that organic produce could sometimes have just as much, if not more, pesticide on it—natural pesticide, yes, but remember that natural isn’t intrinsically safe... 

 

Ah, but what about all those studies that suggest that organic fruits and veggies harbor fewer pesticide residues than conventionally farmed produce does? Those studies only tested for synthetic pesticides. In the few studies that have also looked for natural pesticides... scientists have found that between 15 and 43 percent of organic produce samples harbor measurable traces of either natural or synthetic pesticides or both...  

 

So now the question is: Are these pesticides harmful to your kids? As any toxicologist will tell you, it’s the dose that makes the poison. In other words, just because both conventional and organic produce are sometimes laced with pesticides doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re doing anyone any harm... 

 

For Captan, the synthetic pesticide most commonly found on conventionally grown strawberries, Americans are exposed to 8,180 times less of the chemical per day than the EPA’s limit. Overall, Winter and his colleagues reported that the EPA’s exposure limits were more than 1000 times higher than the daily exposure estimates for 90 percent of the fruit and vegetable comparisons they made... 

 

And if you ever did ingest a pesticide at or above the EPA’s limit, you wouldn’t suddenly keel over and die. The agency sets pesticide limits at least 100 times lower than the lowest dose that caused any sign of harm, however minimal, to animals when they were fed that amount every day for most of their lives... And by the way, in none of these studies were the fruits and vegetables rinsed with tap water before they were tested... 

 

There’s another important thing to keep in mind about fruits and veggies: They are chock full of many naturally-occurring toxic compounds—things like flavonoids, hydrogen peroxide, and formaldehyde... Americans consume about 1,500 milligrams of natural toxins from plants a day, which is approximately 16,000 times more than the 0.09 milligrams of synthetic pesticides we get from food every day. These natural toxins are for real, too... the natural chemicals that are known to cause cancer in animals and are found in a single cup of coffee are about equal in weight to a year’s worth of our exposure to synthetic pesticide residues that are known to cause cancer.

 

In a 1996 report, the National Research Council, a non-profit institution that provides expert advice to the government, noted that “natural components of the diet may prove to be of greater concern than synthetic components with respect to cancer risk,” in part because “synthetic chemicals are highly regulated while natural chemicals are not.”

 

If you ask Ames or the National Research Council what all this means... that plants are exceptionally good for us in spite of the fact that they contain high levels of natural toxins—and that we certainly shouldn’t be worried about the minuscule differences in pesticide levels between organic and conventional foods. Indeed, if the research literature is clear about anything regarding fruits and vegetables, it’s that eating more of them—conventional or organic—does good things for the body... 

 

“The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.” What’s more, irrational fears over conventionally farmed produce can introduce dangerous trade-offs... “If you don’t feed your kid the ‘right strawberry,’ what do you feed him?” I’ve walked into markets with a hungry kid and been so afraid to buy the conventional apple that I’ve gotten him a snack pack of Annie’s Crackers instead... These aren’t smart moves. It is far, far better for your kids’ long-term health to get them in the habit of eating whole fruits and vegetables, regardless of what type of farm they came from, than to give them pretty much anything else to eat, no matter how organic or all-natural it may be.

 

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2014/01/organic_vs_conventional_produce_for_kids_you_don_t_need_to_fear_pesticides.single.html

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Well worth reading the entire piece. 

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Alexander J. Stein's curator insight, January 29, 2014 2:22 PM

Well worth reading the entire piece. 

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Researchers develop nutrient-rich purple potato - CSU (2016)

Researchers develop nutrient-rich purple potato - CSU (2016) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Purple potatoes might not be the first thing that comes to mind when trying to increase vitamin, mineral and antioxidant intake. However researchers… recently developed potato varieties that satisfy these nutritional needs and could act as a preventive measure to several diseases… “There are different colored potatoes such as red, purple, yellow and white with distinctive skin and flesh color… purple and red potatoes are high in antioxidants”… These colorful potatoes could be a good source of nutrition such as vitamin C, resistant starch, folic acid, minerals, potassium, iron, zinc and phenolic compounds. 


Antioxidants found in the newly developed potatoes play a critical role in the prevention of several pathological conditions, including cancer, heart disease and atherosclerosis. At a microscopic level, the antioxidants scavenge the action of some free radicals that cause damage to biological molecules, such as proteins and DNA… 


Purple and red French fries could be a healthy [rather: healthier] replacement to the traditional French fries from white and yellow potatoes. Some of the newly developed potatoes have lower levels of acrylamide, a chemical formed during the frying or baking of potato tubers… a probable carcinogen. 


Collaborative work… further reveals that phytochemicals present in purple and red potatoes have significant properties to reduce cataract formation in diabetic patients… The industry impact could be widespread, since potatoes are the number one vegetable crop in the United States and are the fourth-most-important crop worldwide behind wheat, rice and corn. 


http://source.colostate.edu/csu-researchers-develop-nutrient-rich-potato/


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The Hemsley effect: why we fall for celebrity food advice - New Scientist (2016) 

The Hemsley effect: why we fall for celebrity food advice - New Scientist (2016)  | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

By its very nature, science is full of uncertainty. Its strength – an innate desire to doubt, to challenge and to confront beliefs – is often its greatest weakness when it comes to engaging the public... 


Ask a dietitian or food scientist which foods are unhealthy and the likely answer will be along the lines of: “Well that’s an interesting question, but it really depends what you mean by healthy...” Ask the latest internet healthy-eating guru and they will say “white rice, sugar and anything with gluten”. 

Who do you think the human mind, with its instinctive attraction to simple messages, is most likely to believe? The balanced, careful voice of science, or the simple, certain opinions of a self-appointed insta-guru...

Should we care? If clean-eating proponents... manage to get a few people to eat more vegetables, that’s good, right? Perhaps, but at what cost? So often when you scratch the surface of such messages, bad science is lurking underneath.

The Hemsleys’ diet advice advocates the exclusion of perfectly nutritious foods for no sound reason... They talk about the importance of regular tongue scraping because “all your toxins come out of your tongue“. 

Worse, though... they have... endorsed the GAPS diet, a brutally restrictive, pseudo-scientific regime that comes with the bizarre, unsubstantiated claim that it can cure autism. A leading paediatric dietitian is on record as saying that a child made to eat the GAPS diet could be seriously harmed... 

A combination of likeability, photogenic appeal, a clear simple message and certainty in your beliefs is a powerful combination. In the wrong hands it has the potential to do harm... 

A Australian health blogger who claimed she had used natural healing techniques to cure her cancer before eventually confessing that she had fabricated the entire story... You would think that no sensible person would reject the might of conventional medicine in favour of the untested opinions of one person. Sadly many did and to great cost. 


https://www.newscientist.com/article/2087418-the-hemsley-effect-why-we-fall-for-celebrity-food-advice/


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Trace element concentration in organic and conventional milk: what are the nutritional implications of the recently reported differences? - Bath & Rayman (2016) - BJN

Trace element concentration in organic and conventional milk: what are the nutritional implications of the recently reported differences? - Bath & Rayman (2016) - BJN | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it
Differences in trace-element concentrations between organic and conventional milk found... The most significant difference revealed between organic and conventional milk in terms of contribution to nutrient requirements was that of iodine... milk is the single biggest contributor to iodine intake. In contrast, milk is a relatively inconsequential source of fatty acids, particularly... PUFA... Thus, the finding of lower iodine content in organic milk is an important message for consumers to hear... 

The authors... proposed several possible reasons for the lower iodine concentration... including reduced use of mineral supplements and iodophor disinfectants in organic farming... 
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Biofortifying Scottish potatoes with zinc - White &al (2016) - Plant Soil 

Biofortifying Scottish potatoes with zinc - White &al (2016) - Plant Soil  | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

The diets of many people lack sufficient zinc (Zn). This article investigates the production of potato crops with greater tuber Zn concentrations to increase dietary Zn intakes. Field experiments were undertaken to increase Zn concentrations in potato tubers using foliar Zn fertilisers. 


Foliar Zn fertilisers increased tuber Zn concentrations but excessive applications reduced tuber yield... Zinc oxide and zinc sulphate were more effective than zinc nitrate... Foliar Zn-fertilisers increased Zn concentrations in both flesh and skin of tubers. Although Zn-biofortification had no effect on the concentrations of [other minerals] it increased tuber phytate concentrations. 


Cooking reduced Zn concentrations in Zn-biofortified tubers... exacerbated by peeling. After cooking, the quotient of Zn concentrations in Zn-biofortified/non-biofortified tubers ranged from 2.4 to 3.6. Applying foliar Zn fertilisers to a preceding potato crop increased Zn concentrations in grain of a following barley crop... 

Foliar Zn fertilisers can increase Zn concentrations in potato tubers and, potentially, dietary Zn intakes.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11104-016-2903-4


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Bacteria Overgrowth Could Be Major Cause of Stunting in Children - UVA (2016) 

Bacteria Overgrowth Could Be Major Cause of Stunting in Children - UVA (2016)  | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Excessive growth of bacteria in the small intestine could be damaging the guts of young children, leading to stunting... 


Globally, 165 million children are stunted or short for their age, while in Bangladesh... stunting affects 36 percent of children under 5. Being stunted increases the chances of both cognitive disability and death before the age of 5.

One possible factor contributing to stunting is damage to the gut – “environmental enteropathy” – leading to inflammation and poor uptake of dietary nutrients. The origins of environmental enteropathy are not clear, but excessive numbers of bacteria in the small intestine, referred to as small intestine bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, have been suggested as one possible cause.

To explore this idea, the researchers examined 103 2-year-old children who had been followed from birth in an urban slum in Mirpur, Dhaka. Despite vaccination, medical care, nutritional counseling and care, stunting increased in these infants from 9.5 percent at birth to 27.6 percent at 1 year of age.

Notably, one in six 2-year-old children tested showed signs of SIBO... Importantly, bacterial overgrowth was more common in children showing stunted growth and was associated with gut inflammation. “We knew that the children’s intestines were being damaged and that was associated with malnutrition, so we decided to test to see if this damage could be due in part to bacteria in their small intestine”... 


“One of the things we are working on now is to see when small intestine bacterial overgrowth occurs as children grow up in urban slums and understand its contribution... We suspect that SIBO at an early age leads to malnourishment.” By understanding what causes malnourishment... it will become possible to treat and prevent it... 


https://news.virginia.edu/content/bacteria-overgrowth-could-be-major-cause-stunting-children


Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mBio.02102-15


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
The prevalence of stunting is sometimes used as proxy for the prevalence of dietary zinc deficiency (or undernutrition in general). In cases where indeed SIBO is a driving factor of stunting, this may be misleading. 
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Expanding Use of Vaccines Could Save Up to $44 for Every Dollar Spent - Johns Hopkins (2016)

Expanding Use of Vaccines Could Save Up to $44 for Every Dollar Spent - Johns Hopkins (2016) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Vaccinations, long recognized as an excellent investment that saves lives and prevents illness, could have significant economic value that far exceeds their original cost... Researchers assessed the economic benefits of vaccines in 94 low- and middle-income countries using projected vaccination rates from 2011 to 2020. When looking only at costs associated with illness, such as treatment costs and productivity losses, the return was $16 for every dollar spent on vaccines. In a separate analysis taking into account the broader economic impact of illness, vaccinations save $44 for every dollar spent... 

“Vaccines are an excellent investment... But to reap the potential economic rewards, governments and donors must continue their investments in expanding access to vaccines.” Without vaccination, millions of children would die from preventable illnesses and diseases across the decade. While billions of dollars will be spent to try and vaccinate more children, the goal of full coverage -- that is, getting every child vaccinated -- has not yet been met.

To measure the potential investment returns, researchers used two approaches. The first, known as the “cost-of-illness” approach, measures averted treatment costs, transportation costs, lost caretaker wages and productivity losses. The second, known as the “full-income approach,” estimates the broader economic and social benefits of vaccination and quantifies the value that people place on living longer and healthier lives. With both approaches, the costs of immunization programs were separately modeled to include supply chain, service delivery and vaccine costs.

Between 2011 and 2020, the estimated total cost of immunization programs in the 94 countries studied was $34 billion. Through these programs, an estimated $586 billion would be averted in cost of illness associated with vaccine-preventable diseases. Using the full-income approach, the benefit was estimated at $1.53 trillion dollars. 

The study assessed 10 vaccine-preventable infections: Haemophilus influenzae type b, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, Japanese encephalitis, measles, Neisseria meningitis serogroup A, rotavirus, rubella, Streptococcus pneumoniae and yellow fever. “Our findings should encourage donors and governments to continue their financial investments in immunization programs. But we must keep in mind that these are estimates that assume immunization coverage continues to expand and improve”... 

 

http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2016/expanding-use-of-vaccines-could-save-up-to-44-dollars-for-every-dollar-spent-study-suggests.html

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2015.1086

 

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Biofortified indica rice attains iron and zinc nutrition dietary targets in the field - Trijatmiko &al (2016) - Sci Reports

Biofortified indica rice attains iron and zinc nutrition dietary targets in the field - Trijatmiko &al (2016) - Sci Reports | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

More than two billion people are micronutrient deficient. Polished grains of popular rice varieties have concentration of approximately 2 μg/g iron (Fe) and 16 μg/g zinc (Zn). The HarvestPlus breeding programs for biofortified rice target 13 μg/g Fe and 28 μg/g Zn to reach approximately 30% of the estimated average requirement (EAR).

 

Reports on engineering Fe content in rice have shown an increase up to 18 μg/g in glasshouse settings; in contrast, under field conditions, 4 μg/g was the highest reported concentration. Here, we report on selected transgenic events, field evaluated in two countries, showing 15 μg/g Fe and 45.7 μg/g Zn in polished grain. Rigorous selection was applied to 1,689 IR64 transgenic events for insert cleanliness and, trait and agronomic performances.

 

Event NASFer-274 containing rice nicotianamine synthase (OsNAS2) and soybean ferritin (SferH-1) genes showed a single locus insertion without a yield penalty or altered grain quality... The Caco-2 cell assay indicated that Fe is bioavailable. No harmful heavy metals were detected in the grain. The trait remained stable in different genotype backgrounds. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep19792

 

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Importance of plant sources of magnesium for human health - Nielsen (2015) - Crop Pasture Sci

Importance of plant sources of magnesium for human health - Nielsen (2015) - Crop Pasture Sci | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Based on established dietary reference intakes (DRIs) (e.g. ... RDAs...), magnesium (Mg) deficiency in the range 50-99% of the requirement commonly occurs throughout the world. Yet, Mg is not often considered a major nutrient of concern for health and wellbeing, although deficient intakes and serum concentrations have been associated with numerous pathological conditions...


Evidence of Mg deficiency is not consistently found in pathological conditions with which it has been associated, and not all individuals considered Mg-deficient consistently exhibit these pathological conditions. These inconsistencies could be the outcome of chronic inflammatory stress exacerbated or induced by Mg deficiency being alleviated or prevented by other factors that have anti-inflammatory action...


Improved balance data have been reported for the determination of DRIs... Even with changed DRIs, a significant number of adults who do not eat recommended amounts of foods of plant origin would not achieve the suggested adequate intake of Mg.


Foods of plant origin... are good sources of Mg. However, Mg in these foods can be influenced by the availability of Mg to plants from the soil, and plant genotype. Thus, crop breeding and cultural practices, through modifying the amount of Mg in plant-origin foods, can have a significant impact on achieving an adequate dietary intake of Mg...

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/CP15072


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Strengthening the contribution of aquaculture to food and nutrition security: The potential of a vitamin A-rich, small fish in Bangladesh - Fiedler &al (2015) - Aquaculture

Strengthening the contribution of aquaculture to food and nutrition security: The potential of a vitamin A-rich, small fish in Bangladesh - Fiedler &al (2015) - Aquaculture | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Despite having vitamin A supplementation and fortification programs, the prevalence of inadequate vitamin A intake (IVAI) in Bangladesh is very high, estimated to be 60%. The promotion of a small indigenous fish, high in vitamin A – mola carplet – offers a promising food-based approach to improving vitamin A status of the 98% of Bangladeshis who eat fish... 


We developed baseline estimates of usual vitamin A intake, the prevalence of IVAI and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) attributable to vitamin A deficiency (VAD)... We designed and modeled the implementation of a MPP [Mola Promotion Program], and calculated the additional vitamin A intake it would provide, calculated new incidence rates of VAD-related health outcomes and estimated MPP-attributable annual changes in DALYs.

 

The MPP's total health benefits were calculated over the program's 11-year phase-in as the annual sum of DALYs saved. The MPP's costs were estimated as the sum of the costs of a small fish program of the Fisheries Development Program plus the costs of mola brood stock, other inputs and additional farmer training-related costs. Program costs and benefits were combined to produce estimates of the cost-effectiveness of the program... 

[The] project would increase average daily vitamin A intakes by 7 μg retinol activity equivalent (RAE), reduce the prevalence of IVAI by 1.1 percentage points, and save 3000 lives and 100,000 DALYs, at a cost of $194 per DALY saved. The MPP's impact would be concentrated among homestead pond-fishing households that would consume 60% of the additional mola produced. Among these, it would reduce IVAI prevalence by 7 percentage points. If the MPP was implemented for at least 20 years, it would... have higher health benefits and lower total costs than a national vitamin A wheat flour fortification program... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aquaculture.2015.11.004

 

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Curb overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture - AAP (2015)

Curb overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture - AAP (2015) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

For years, the pediatric health care community has worked to reduce the overuse of antibiotics in children. Now, an AAP technical report is spotlighting another big issue leading to antimicrobial-resistant infections: the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

The overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in veterinary and human medicine is, in large part, responsible for the emergence of antibiotic resistance, according to the report. Antimicrobial resistance now is considered one of the most serious threats to public health globally.

“Probably the most important action we could take is to change the way we use antibiotics”... Antibiotic use in animals must be addressed because more antibiotics by tonnage are used in animals than in people. And in animals used for food, their main purpose isn’t to fight disease but to promote growth.

“The fact remains that a number of studies show that low doses of antibiotics for poultry, pork, beef and other animal species do end up in getting (the animals) to market weight sooner than they otherwise would, which means farmers need to use less feed”... Antibiotics for animals often don’t require a prescription and are put into the animals’ feed and water. 

Scientists aren’t sure why antibiotics promote growth, but the practice is big business. According to the report, 80% of the overall tonnage of antimicrobial agents sold in the U.S. in 2012 was for animal use. What’s worrisome is that 60% of those antibiotics... are considered important for human medicine. “There’s a lot of overlap because a lot of antibiotics that work in humans work in animals”... 

Antimicrobial-resistant infections are costly. Each year, they cause more than 2 million Americans to become ill and 23,000 deaths... National health care system costs range from $21 billion to $34 billion annually, with 8 million hospital days. “Children are susceptible to a lot of those infections”... 


Antibiotic use in food animals has been linked to antimicrobial-resistant infections like Campylobacter, Salmonella, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcal aureus and extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli infections. Dr. Paulson urges pediatricians to consider that patients could be sick with a resistant organism and to counsel families... of health risks from consuming meat of animals treated with antibiotics.

Disease can spread to people through the food supply, by direct contact with animals on farms or in processing facilities, and through environmental contamination by water tainted with antibiotic-resistant bacteria used to irrigate crops or manure used for fertilizer.

“We have a situation that makes it more difficult to treat human infections”... “Because of the link between antibiotic use in food-producing animals and the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, antibiotic agents should be used in food-producing animals only to treat and control infectious diseases and not to promote growth or to prevent disease”... 

http://www.aappublications.org/news/2015/11/16/Antimicrobial111615

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2015-3630

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"antibiotics for poultry, pork, beef and other animal species do end up in getting (the animals) to market weight sooner than they otherwise would, which means farmers need to use less feed"
>> This is also what genetic engineering did with the AquAdvantage salmon, speeding up its growth to market size. Short of the first best solution (i.e. reducing or even stopping meat consumption), the question is: What is better, safety-tested and approved GM animals that reach market weight quickly, animals raised on antibiotics that reach market weight quickly, or animals raised conventionally that reach market weight only after having used much more resources? 

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Iodine status among pregnant women after mandatory salt iodisation - Anaforoglu &al (2015) - BJN

Iodine status among pregnant women after mandatory salt iodisation - Anaforoglu &al (2015) - BJN | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

I [iodine] is essential for thyroid hormone synthesis and neurological development. Various changes occur in thyroid hormone metabolism during pregnancy and I requirements increase significantly. The purpose of this study was to investigate I status among pregnant women in Trabzon, formerly a severely I-deficient area but shown to have become I sufficient following mandatory iodisation of table salt...

 

A total of 864 healthy pregnant women... participated in the study. None of them were using I-containing supplement. All of them were screened for use of iodised salt, obstetric history, thyroid function tests and urinary I concentrations (UIC), and thyroid ultrasonography was performed... UIC in the 1st trimester was higher compared with the 2nd and 3rd trimesters...

 

The rate of iodised salt usage among pregnant women was 90.7 %... Although the I status among SAC has been rectified, I deficiency (ID) is still prevalent among pregnant women... Pregnant women living in borderline defficient and I-sufficient areas... should receive 100-200 µg/d of I-containing supplements in addition to iodised salt.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007114515004559

 

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Links between hunger and health lead to recommendation that doctors screen patients for food insecurity - U Illinois (2015)

Links between hunger and health lead to recommendation that doctors screen patients for food insecurity - U Illinois (2015) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

It may come as a surprise that... almost 50 million people in the United States are food insecure – that is, they lack access to adequate food because of limited money or other resources... There’s a long list of negative health consequences that are linked to food insecurity, including a lower nutrient intake... birth defects, anemia, aggression, anxiety, asthma, behavioral problems, depression, thoughts of suicide, and poor oral health. 


Because of these strong associations between hunger and poor health... recommend that health care professionals ask their patients some of the same questions used to determine whether someone is food insecure. “Health care professionals should recognize the possibility that food insecurity may be one determinant, among others, of a patient’s health challenges”... 

 

Because health care professionals already take comprehensive patient histories and have other opportunities during regular office visits to ask questions, inquiring about a patient’s confidence that they can afford to buy food for their family could be included.

“This would give health care professionals one more tool in their kit to use in identifying food-insecure patients and offering care options... One option, not ordinarily considered in the context of an office visit, is to refer patients to food assistance programs such as SNAP to alleviate food insecurity and its associated poor health consequences... 

The researchers are strong proponents of SNAP and suggest that new regulations that are being recommended for the program will make many people who currently benefit from SNAP ineligible. “SNAP and other food assistance programs lead to reductions in food insecurity and also lead to reductions in health care costs and poverty... This needs to be acknowledged whenever potentially damaging changes to SNAP are being proposed.”

http://research.aces.illinois.edu/content/links-between-hunger-and-health-lead-recommendation-doctors-screen-patients-food-insecurity

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0645

 

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A cure for vitamin B6 deficiency - ETH (2015)

A cure for vitamin B6 deficiency - ETH (2015) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Plant scientists engineered the cassava plant to produce higher levels of vitamin B6 in its storage roots and leaves. This could help to protect millions of people in Africa from serious deficiencies.

In many tropical countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, cassava is one of the most important staple foods... But the roots have a disadvantage: although rich in calories, in general they contain only few vitamins. Vitamin B6 in particular is present in only small amounts, and a person for whom cassava is a staple food would have to eat about 1.3 kg of it every day for a sufficient amount of this vital vitamin. 

 

Vitamin B6 deficiency is prevalent in several African regions where cassava is often the only staple... Diseases of the cardiovascular and nervous systems... are associated with vitamin B6 deficiency... Scientists present a new genetically modified cassava variety that produces several-fold higher levels of this important vitamin.

“Using the improved variety, only 500 g of boiled roots or 50 g of leaves per day is sufficient to meet the daily vitamin B6 requirement” ... Two enzymes, PDX1 and PDX2, are involved in the synthesis of the vitamin. With the introduction of the corresponding genes for the enzymes, into the cassava genome, the researchers produced several new cassava lines that had increased levels of vitamin B6.

 

To determine if the increased production of the vitamin in the genetically modified cassava was stable without affected the yield, the plant scientists conducted tests in the greenhouse and in field trials over the course of several years... Measurements of the metabolites confirmed that cassava lines produced several times more vitamin B6 in both roots and leaves than normal cassava... The increased vitamin B6 trait remained stable even after the cassava was multiplied twice by vegetative propagation. 

 

Previously, the researchers had analysed several hundred different cassava varieties from Africa for its natural vitamin B6 content – none had a level as high as the genetically modified variety. Vitamin B6 from the genetically modified varieties is bioavailable, which means that humans can absorb it well and use it... 

 

It is still unclear when and how vitamin B6-enhanced cassava will find its way to farmers and consumers. The new trait should be crossed in varieties preferred by farmers using traditional plant breeding or introduced into selected varieties using genetic engineering... The method for increasing vitamin B6 has not been patented because the gene construct and technology should be available freely to all interested parties.

 

One huge hurdle, however, is the distribution and use of the new variety: “There are at least two obstacles: legislation for transgenic crops in developing countries and implementation of a cassava seed system to give all farmers access to technologies”... Individual national organisations as well as the FAO and other NGOs are currently organising the spread of cassava stem cuttings for cultivation in Africa... 

 

On the legislative side, the cultivation of genetically modified cassava (and other crops) is not yet regulated everywhere. In numerous African countries, such as Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria, the governments have now enacted legislation for field trials of genetically modified plants. “This is an important step to ensure that improved varieties can be tested under field conditions... the respective parliaments will have to develop further legislation.”


Vitamin B6 is a mixture of three similar molecules, namely pyridoxol, pyridoxine and pyridoxamine. These are the precursors of pyridoxal phosphate, one of the most important co-enzymes in the body involved in the assembly and modification of proteins. The human body cannot produce vitamin B6, which is why it must be supplied with the food...

 

https://www.ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2015/10/cure-for-vitamin-b6-deficiency.html

 

Original paper: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nbt.3318

 

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Impact of agricultural interventions on the nutritional status in South Asia: A review - Pandey &al (2016) - Food Pol

Impact of agricultural interventions on the nutritional status in South Asia: A review - Pandey &al (2016) - Food Pol | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Nearly half of the malnourished population of the world lives in South Asia, and agriculture is the main source of livelihood of the people in this region... The present paper... demonstrates an association between agricultural interventions and nutritional outcomes; and it shows that the production of targeted nutrition-rich crops, homestead gardens, and diversification of the agricultural production system towards fruits and vegetables and aquaculture can potentially improve nutrient intake and nutritional outcomes. The empowerment of women and nutrition knowledge play a crucial role in establishing linkage between agriculture and nutritional outcomes. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.05.002


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
Not sure how systematic this review is; the search approach (keywords and phrases) seems a bit random
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Zinc Fertilization Approaches for Agronomic Biofortification and Estimated Human Bioavailability of Zinc in Maize Grain - Imran & Rehim (2016) - Archives Ag Soil Sci

Zinc Fertilization Approaches for Agronomic Biofortification and Estimated Human Bioavailability of Zinc in Maize Grain - Imran & Rehim (2016) - Archives Ag Soil Sci | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Maize is generally low in bioavailable zinc (Zn); however, agronomic biofortification can [help prevent] human Zn deficiency. In the present experiment, Zn was applied... to maize... as foliar spray, surface broadcasting, subsurface banding, surface broadcasting + foliar and subsurface banding + foliar in comparison to an unfertilized control. 


As compared to control, all treatments significantly increased growth, yield and nutritional attributes in maize... Zinc fertilization also significantly reduced grain phytate and increased grain Zn concentration. Zinc fertilization, especially broadcasting and subsurface banding combined with foliar spray decreased grain [phytate]:[Zn] ratio to 28 and 21 and increased Zn bioavailability... to 2.04 to 2.40, respectively... 


Broadcasting and subsurface banding combined with foliar spray is suitable for optimal maize yield and agronomic Zn biofortification of maize grain. This would also be helpful to optimize Zn and protein concentration in maize grain.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03650340.2016.1185660


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Agricultural interventions for improved nutrition: A review of livelihood and environmental dimensions - Fiorella &al (2016) - Global Food Sec

Agricultural interventions for improved nutrition: A review of livelihood and environmental dimensions - Fiorella &al (2016) - Global Food Sec | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it
A diverse group of agricultural interventions aim to improve the nutritional status of women and children. These interventions range from the cultivation of bio-fortified crop varieties to home gardening to livestock intensification. We… identify three intervention typologies – Enhancement, Diversification, and Substitution – that reflect the differential impact of interventions on household livelihoods and patterns of food consumption. Our typologies allow for a nuanced approach to categorize and generalize about pathways of impact for agricultural interventions. In applying our typologies to existing evaluations, we summarize the evidence base… 

We developed three typologies, Enhancement, Diversification, and Substitution, which allow us to categorize existing interventions and how they alter household livelihoods and food consumption behaviors. The typology classifications suggest the extent to which agricultural interventions may displace other activities, alter or add to food production activities, necessitate shifting or new food consumption behaviors, and fit into a complex political, economic, and environmental context. As we develop and strengthen agricultural interventions that improve nutrition, our typologies provide a tool to differentiate among this set of interventions. 

Enhancement interventions provide for a … potentially meaningful shift in household production and consumption. Typically limited to one crop or nutrient, these interventions have demonstrated effects on the consumption of vitamin A rich foods and provide some of the most robust evidence of effectiveness… Diversification interventions goals are broadly defined around dietary diversity and quality and engage multiple pathways to diversify livelihoods, with households… adding to their… time burden… Substitution interventions provide for a much greater shift… with the possibility of a commensurate shift in incomes and nutrition… 

Underpinning assessments of agricultural interventions’ effectiveness are trade-offs in the extent to which they replace other livelihood activities. For example, the introduction of diverse crops to an existing home garden (Enhancement) impacts livelihoods less than the addition of small animal rearing to a gardening home (Diversification) or the introduction of cash cropping (Substitution)… If households shift to home gardening from a similarly lucrative activity, evaluations may well observe neutral nutrition effects. Similarly, targeting women with these interventions often requires… more work, with possible negative effects for time spent on child care. 

Altering nutritional status through agricultural interventions also entails changing households’ patterns of food consumption. Acceptability of new products and market development is a persistent challenge for changing consumption behaviors… 

The relative differences in intervention typologies further suggest metrics by which we might assess the effectiveness on nutrition outcomes. Outcome measures, and whether evaluations focus on intermediary indicators (e.g. quantity and quality of foods consumed) or anthropometric and biophysical measures (e.g. stunting, wasting, serum retinol), may be tailored by the particular aims of a typology. Assessing how interventions alter income, expenditures, and time burden would also strengthen many interventions, and be particularly useful in understanding null findings. 

To date, however, the overall quality of evidence for agricultural interventions on nutrition outcomes remains very low… The preponderance of evidence regarding the effect of agricultural interventions on nutrition outcomes has been derived from Enhancement and Diversification interventions focused on vitamin A rich food production, home gardening, and small animal production. Despite the paucity of studies of the nutrition effects of Substitution interventions, these constitute a substantial portion of development efforts and particularly warrant further study of nutritional effects… 

Further, a range of interventions emerging from environmental organizations aim to shift livelihoods and improve food security, often relying on strategies that spare forests or fisheries by intensifying or diversifying production, but are also rarely evaluated for livelihood and nutrition impacts. The integration of nutritional goals and evaluation into agricultural or conservation projects is non-trivial… The political, economic, and environmental context in which agricultural interventions operate undoubtedly shapes patterns of household livelihoods, food consumption, and interventions' success in enhancing, diversifying, or altering these… 

Agricultural interventions represent a promising set of strategies to improve maternal and child nutrition. The diversity of these food-based strategies, though a strength in tailoring them to local contexts, provides for challenges in generalizing evaluations and impacts. The typologies we propose above and apply to existing evaluations of agricultural interventions provide a nuanced view of the impacts of such interventions on household livelihoods and food consumption behavior.. 


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Reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health: key messages from Disease Control Priorities - Black &al (2016) - Lancet

Reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health: key messages from Disease Control Priorities - Black &al (2016) - Lancet | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

The World Bank… identifies essential cost-effective health interventions that can be scaled up to reduce maternal, newborn, and child deaths, and stillbirths. This Review summarises the… key findings and estimates the effect and cost of expanded implementation of these interventions… Scaling up all interventions in these packages from coverage in 2015 to hypothetically immediately achieve 90% coverage would avert 149 000 maternal deaths, 849 000 stillbirths, 1 498 000 neonatal deaths, and 1 515 000 additional child deaths. 


In alternative calculations that consider only the effects of reducing the number of pregnancies by provision of contraceptive services… meeting 90% of the unmet need for contraception would reduce global births by almost 28 million and consequently avert deaths that could have occurred at 2015 rates of fertility and mortality. Thus, 67 000 maternal deaths, 440 000 neonatal deaths, 473 000 child deaths, and 564 000 stillbirths could be averted from avoided pregnancies. Particularly effective interventions… would be management of labour and delivery, care of preterm births, and treatment of serious infectious diseases and acute malnutrition. 


Nearly all of these essential interventions can be delivered by health workers in the community or in primary health centres, which can increase population access to needed services. The annual incremental cost of immediately scaling up these essential interventions would be US$6.2 billion in low-income countries, $12.4 billion in lower-middle-income countries, and $8.0 billion in upper-middle-income countries. With the additional funding, greater focus on high-effect integrated interventions and innovations in service delivery… can help rectify major gaps in accessibility and quality of care… With continued priority and expansion of essential… interventions to high coverage, equity, and quality, as well as interventions to address underlying problems… these deaths and substantial morbidity can be largely eliminated in another generation... 


The rapid declines in under-5 mortality have been largely explained by the increase in coverage of child survival interventions and changes in nutritional status... Malnutrition in women and in children under age 5 years includes both undernutrition and the increasing problem of overweight... Maternal deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals are also prevalent, with folate, iodine, calcium, zinc, and iron deficiencies having particular relevance to maternal and fetal health... 


Nutritional disorders, including fetal growth restriction, suboptimum breastfeeding, stunting, wasting, and deficiencies of vitamin A and zinc, are important underlying causes of neonatal and child deaths, often in synergy with infectious diseases. 45% of under-5 deaths have been attributed to these nutritional disorders. Estimates suggest that as many as 39% of the world’s surviving children do not reach their developmental potential, based on the prevalence of stunting and poverty. 


There are various causes of poor development, including antenatal and postnatal nutrition... The fetal period and the first 2 years of life are crucial periods for development, because this is when the brain matures fastest and when it can be most influenced by favourable or unfavourable conditions. Micronutrient deficiencies before and during pregnancy have important consequences, such as compromised mental development with iodine deficiency and neural tube defects with folic acid deficiency. Inadequate diets and a high number of infectious diseases in the first 2 years of life lead to short stature (ie, stunting) and permanent deficits in cognitive and social development... 


Breastfeeding support and prevention of micronutrient deficiencies are inexpensive compared with facility-based treatment of severe acute malnutrition...  Many of these interventions, especially... improved childhood nutrition... are among the most cost-effective of all health interventions. Nevertheless, implementation research is still needed to adapt these interventions to the local health service context and achieve the greatest effects... 


The objectives of universal health coverage, including public health interventions as well as preventive and curative services, and ensuring financial security and health equity are key to realising the health goal of Sustainable Development Goals beyond 2015. As the world begins efforts to achieve the targets... there is a need for articulation of a clear vision and commitment to realise good health and human rights of all women, adolescents, and children.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)00738-8


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Human health implications from co-exposure to aflatoxins and fumonisins in maize-based foods in Latin America: Guatemala as a case study - Torres &al (2016) World Mycotoxin J

Human health implications from co-exposure to aflatoxins and fumonisins in maize-based foods in Latin America: Guatemala as a case study - Torres &al (2016) World Mycotoxin J | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Co-occurrence of fumonisin B1 (FB1) and aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) in maize has been demonstrated in many surveys. Combined-exposure to FB1 and AFB1 was of concern to the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives because of the known genotoxicity of AFB1 and the ability of FB1 to induce regenerative proliferation in target tissues.

 

Humans living where maize is a dietary staple are at high risk for exposure to both mycotoxins. Our work has focused on Guatemala, a country in Central America where maize is consumed in large amounts every day and where intake of FB1 has been shown to be potentially quite high... In 2012 a survey was conducted which analysed maize samples for FB1 and AFB1... The results show that the levels of AFB1 exposure are also potentially quite high in Guatemala, and likely throughout Central America and Mexico.

 

The implications of co-exposure for human health are numerous, but one area of particular concern is the potential of FB1 to modulate AFB1 hepatoxicity and/or hepatocarcinogenicity. Both the mechanism of action of FB1 and its ability to promote liver carcinogenicity in rats and rainbow trout is consistent with this concern... programmed cell death and activation of pathways stimulating cell proliferation in livers of individuals exposed to AFB1 could contribute to the tumorigenicity of AFB1.

 

Studies investigating the health effects of either toxin should consider the potential for co-exposure to both toxins. Also, in countries where maize-based food are prepared by alkaline treatment of the maize kernels, the effect of traditional processing on AFB1 levels and toxicity needs to be determined, especially for maize highly contaminated with AFB1.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.3920/WMJ2014.1736

 

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Micronutrient status and intake in the UK – where might we be in 10 years' time? - Miller &al (2016) - Nutrition Bulletin

Micronutrient status and intake in the UK – where might we be in 10 years' time? - Miller &al (2016) - Nutrition Bulletin | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Poor dietary choices not only manifest in obesity, which is currently the main public health focus in the UK, but can also lead to inadequate micronutrient intakes, with implications for health. Recent dietary survey data and measurements of status biomarkers have highlighted folate, vitamin D, calcium, iron and iodine to be amongst the micronutrients of most concern for particular subgroups of the UK population.

 

Those most vulnerable to inadequate intakes of these micronutrients include adolescents, ethnic minorities and lower socio-economic groups. Teenage girls and women of childbearing age are of particular concern because of their high requirements for some micronutrients and the impact poor micronutrient intakes can have on the health of their offspring. Yet, compared to other food concerns, relatively little importance seems to be given by consumers to the micronutrient density of foods.

 

This review explores different factors that may influence micronutrient intakes and status... It is likely that the micronutrients of concern remain similar, although continuation of dietary trends could result in further decreases in iron and calcium intakes. In an obesogenic and sedentary environment, where many people are being encouraged to reduce their energy intakes, increasing the micronutrient density of the diet is essential to prevent a concurrent decrease in micronutrient intake.

 

Investment in fortification policies/practices or sustained government programmes aimed at raising awareness of micronutrients... or encouraging supplementation... could considerably improve population micronutrient intakes. Over the longer term, with sufficient investment in research and support from healthcare professionals and the food industry, adequate micronutrient intakes could be achieved across the UK population. However, global food security issues, including retaining food supply in response to an increase in demand for food, energy and water, and changing climate, could potentially hamper these efforts. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/nbu.12187

 

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How you ask is what you get: Framing effects in willingness-to-pay for a QALY - Ahlert &al (2016) - Soc Sci Med

How you ask is what you get: Framing effects in willingness-to-pay for a QALY - Ahlert &al (2016) - Soc Sci Med | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

In decisions on financing new and innovative health care technologies a central question is how to determine the value citizens place on the gains in health and life expectancy that result from respective medical treatments. We report results of surveys of four representative samples of the German population.

 

In 2010 and 2012, in total about 5000 respondents were asked for their willingness-to-pay (WTP) for either an extension of their life or an improvement in their health corresponding to a gain of one quality-adjusted life year (QALY). Specific changes of the study design allow for ceteris paribus comparisons of different survey versions... 

 

The findings show that the technique of posing the questions plays an important role when respondents are asked to imagine being in hypothetical situations. This clearly refers to the wording of the questions and the survey setting (personal or online interview). But even simple design elements such as putting a yes/no filter in front greatly affect the answers in terms of both the frequency of zero WTP and the distribution of positive amounts.

 

From the different results, we conclude that it is inevitable to conduct studies comprising a broad variety of versions when trying to elicit WTP for a specific type of QALY in order to achieve an array of values combined by insights into the principles of their sensitivity. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.11.055

 

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Processed meat: the real villain? - Rohrmann & Linseisen (2015) - PNS

Processed meat: the real villain? - Rohrmann & Linseisen (2015) - PNS | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Meat is a food rich in protein, minerals, such as iron and zinc, as well as a variety of vitamins, in particular B vitamins. However, the content of cholesterol and saturated fat is higher than in some other food groups.

 

Processed meat is defined as products usually made of red meat that are cured, salted or smoked (e.g. ham or bacon) in order to improve the durability of the food and/or to improve colour and taste, and often contain a high amount of minced fatty tissue (e.g. sausages). Hence, high consumption of processed foods may lead to an increased intake of saturated fats, cholesterol, salt, nitrite, haem iron, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and... also heterocyclic amines.

 

Several large cohort studies have shown that a high consumption of processed (red) meat is related to increased overall and cause-specific mortality. A meta-analysis of nine cohort studies observed a higher mortality among high consumers of processed red meat... but not unprocessed red meat... Similar associations were reported in a second meta-analysis.

 

All studies argue that plausible mechanisms are available linking processed meat consumption and risk of chronic diseases such as CVD, diabetes mellitus or some types of cancer. However, the results of meta-analyses do show some degree of heterogeneity between studies, and it has to be taken into account that individuals with low red or processed meat consumption tend to have a healthier lifestyle in general. Hence, substantial residual confounding cannot be excluded...

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0029665115004255

 

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Aflatoxins: Poisoning Health and Trade in Sub-Saharan Africa - IPS (2015)

Aflatoxins: Poisoning Health and Trade in Sub-Saharan Africa - IPS (2015) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Aflatoxin contamination is a growing threat to trade, food and health security in sub-Saharan Africa, where smallholder farmers are challenged by food production and now climate change... 

Aflatoxins are toxic and cancer causing poisons produced by certain green mould fungus that naturally occurs in the soil. The poisons have become a serious contaminant of staple foods in sub-Saharan Africa including maize, cassava, sorghum, yam, rice, groundnut and cashews... 

Exposure to mycotoxins is an important constraint to improving the health and well-being of people in Africa where high levels of aflatoxin contamination have been confirmed. Many smallholder farmers fail to prevent contamination during production and storage of their crops because they lack cost-effective ways to determine the poisons.

Sub-Saharan Africa is annually losing more than 450 million dollars in trade revenue of major staples, particularly maize, and groundnuts as a result of contamination from aflatoxins... The health bill as a result of people unknowingly eating contaminated food runs into millions of dollars in a region with over burdened health facilities.

Africa is at risk of toxins which are linked to suppressed immunity, liver cancer in humans and stunting in children. UNICEF says 40 per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa are stunted or have low height for their age which can be associated with impaired brain development... 

High temperatures and drought conditions favour the growth of fungus, while poor farming practises and food insecurity status of many people... increase their exposure to aflatoxin contamination. In addition high soil moisture content at harvest attributed to off-season rains as a result of climate variability increases contamination.

“Climate change is indeed predicted to have a profound effect on aflatoxin contamination of food and feed crops... Consequently, any reduction in precipitation level or increment in temperature is expected to make aflatoxin problem more acute”... 

IITA... and other partners developed an indigenous biological control technology, named AflaSafe to mitigate aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnuts. Aflasafe is a mixture of four non-aflatoxin producing strains of the green mould fungus... The formulated Aflasafe product is... broadcast in the field where it grows and prevents the toxin producing strains from colonizing, multiplying and contaminating crops... 

“The benefits attributed to using the Aflasafe bio control product for mitigating aflatoxin contamination far outweighs its cost... Exposure to aflatoxin through consumption of contaminated foods is a combination of unawareness, poverty and poor enforcement of standards by governments.” Globally aflatoxins are a known threat that have been reduced thanks to investment in food safely controls.

 

Smallholder farmers in Africa rely on a combination of traditional storage methods and use of pesticides to prevent weevils. However, these methods are not always pest proof leading to them losing a bulk of the stored crop by the time they need it most. Other innovative approaches are being tried in Africa to curbing pre and post harvest losses...

In Zimbabwe, researchers... investigate whether improved storage can reduce aflatoxin contamination in local maize grain. The two-year research... will also assess levels of exposure suffered by women and infants. The project has introduced metal silos and thick plastic “super bags,” allowing maize to be stored in air-tight conditions.

Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are challenged by lack of drying equipment, with most maize and groundnut farmers keeping their crops in fields to dry out before harvest. Sometimes, they store it before it has dried properly, making it vulnerable to aflatoxin attack.

Exports of agricultural commodities particularly peanuts from Africa have declined by as much as 20 per cent over the past two decades. The commodities have been rejected after failing to meet the European Union’s market regulations on aflatoxin levels in foods for human consumption, a serious hurdle to international trade... 

Only 15 African countries had regulatory limits for aflatoxins by 2013. In Zambia... nearly 100 per cent of the peanut butter brands sampled between 2012 and 2014... were found to contain unsafe levels of aflatoxins above 20ppb. Less than 30 per cent of milled groundnut flour collected from markets and homesteads had levels within the 4 ppb set by the EU as safe limits.

While in Kenya... nearly 200 died due to acute aflatoxicosis after eating aflatoxin contaminated maize between 2004 and 2006. About 2 million maize bags were found unfit for human consumption due to high levels of aflatoxins in 2010... Between 40 and 100 per cent of groundnut based-commodities in Malawi, were found to contain unsafe toxin levels... 

Mozambique, Senegal, The Gambia, Zambia and Malawi have lost lucrative markers in the EU, the United States and South Africa because of high aflatoxin levels in their commodities... Mozambique has... a high prevalence of liver cancer in the southern part of the country which has been associated with consumption of aflatoxin contaminated food, especially groundnuts. 


There is a need for effective aflatoxin regulation policies and country-specific standards... “If we want to overcome poverty in all its forms; combating not only the inadequacy of food but also addressing any forms of malnutrition we need to be worried... Being potent carcinogens, aflatoxins are clearly a nutrition problem.”

 

http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/aflatoxins-poisoning-health-and-trade-in-sub-saharan-africa/

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"an indigenous biological control technology... a mixture of four non-aflatoxin producing strains of the green mould fungus... The formulated... product is... broadcast in the field where it grows..." 
>> While I agree that aflatoxins are a serious problem and that this approach seems to be a smart way of addressing it, I nevertheless wonder if or how this "biological" product was approved by competent authorities before fungi are purposefully spread across the country... 

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Safety last? Consumer's response to food safety risks - EurekAlert (2015)

Safety last? Consumer's response to food safety risks - EurekAlert (2015) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Media and industry warn consumers of major recalls and problems with food items, but do consumers listen? In a new article... researcher... demonstrated that consumers are reluctant to respond to food safety risks if the recommendations interfere with their existing habits...

Participants were asked to bid on three different flavors of chocolate bars: plain, almond, or peanut. One group was allowed to choose their favorite initially, while another was randomly assigned one of the bars. After bidding, food safety risks regarding two of the flavors were given to the participants who were then allowed to adjust their bids. They were given information about a food-borne toxin that is heavily associated with peanuts, and only slightly associated with almonds

Participants who had freely picked a flavor tended not to reduce their willingness to pay after being told of the food safety risks... Before risk information was given, participants were willing to pay up to 24 cents for the peanut flavor. After the risk information was given, they were willing to pay close to 38 cents more – a 58% increase. "Consumers are selective in their understanding. If a warning doesn't agree with their beliefs, it will probably be ignored"... 


This study shows that risk information alone is not enough to get consumers to change their behavior... "It is important to realize that anyone can get sick from a food borne illness. When information about risks to your health from eating a particular food comes out comes out, check any items you have bought and respond accordingly."

 

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-11/cfb-sl112415.php

 

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Attacking 'Hidden Hunger' with Biofortified Lentils - ICARDA (2015)

Attacking 'Hidden Hunger' with Biofortified Lentils -  ICARDA (2015) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

In developing countries, where people struggle to secure one square meal a day, nutritional concerns are often ignored. Micronutrient deficiencies often known as the 'hidden hunger' go unnoticed even in the developed world... it afflicts over two billion people. More than 47% of women and pre-school children in developing countries suffer from iron deficiency that impairs physical and mental growth. Zinc deficiency is also prevalent and hampers growth and development, and weakens the immune system.

 

Lentils, which are an integral part of the staple diet of many poor people in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, are a good source of nutrition. Through genetic enhancements, scientists have developed micronutrient-dense varieties of lentil that are rich in iron and zinc. This is an effective way to combat micronutrient malnutrition, particularly for the poor for whom diverse foods and nutrient supplements are beyond reach... 


In early 2015, BARI released a micronutrient-rich variety... which is an outstanding lentil line developed from a crossing made between a Bangladeshi lentil cultivar and an ICARDA breeding line... While in the commonly available local varieties, iron and zinc contents vary between 55-62 ppm and 32-41 ppm respectively, this improved variety has iron and zinc contents in the range of 72-75 ppm and 58-60 ppm respectively – a significant gain in micronutrient nourishment.

 

Other advantages of this variety are its enhanced seed yield of 2000-2200 kg/ha as compared to 1050-1100 kg/ha with the previous varieties. Also it's a short-duration variety maturing in 110-115 days, fitting in well with the existing cropping patterns.

 

http://www.icarda.org/update/attacking-hidden-hunger-biofortified-lentils

 

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Bacon and other processed meats can cause cancer - Reuters (2015)

Bacon and other processed meats can cause cancer - Reuters (2015) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Eating processed meats like hot dogs, sausages and bacon can cause colorectal cancer in humans, and red meat is also a likely cause of the disease, World Health Organization (WHO) experts said... 

IARC classified processed meat as "carcinogenic to humans" on its group one list... for which there is "sufficient evidence" of cancer links. Each 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent... 

Red meat was classified as probably carcinogenic in IARC's group 2A list, joining glyphosate, the active ingredient in many weedkillers...

"For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed"...

 

The IARC does not compare the level of risk associated with different substances in a given category, so does not suggest eating meat is as dangerous as smoking... "What they're saying is if you eat it, eat less of it and buy it from sources that have produced it better"... 

 

According to estimates cited by the IARC, 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat. About 1 million cancer deaths per year are due to tobacco smoking... 

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/26/us-health-meat-idUSKCN0SK16P20151026

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

While the IARC does not compare the level of risk, it is more confident that processed meats cause cancer than it is about glyphosate causing cancer. 

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