The Chocolate Bar in the Health Food Aisle

The New York Times has a big story in today's business section about a candy bar from Mars that is dressed up with some supplements to allegedly be something we should all eat two of every day to keep our hearts healthy.

I'm not a scientist (or a doctor--as you'll see at the top of the post, this is Henry writing, not Dr. Fuhrman), but I'm just betting that if this product went head to head with something low-tech like apples in long-term trials, the apples would win hands down.

Or, to put it another way, if your primary concern is defeating heart disease, it's hard to imagine what kind of research you'd do to end up with a candy bar, a product that is famously comprised of dairy fat and refined sugar. On the other hand, if your primary concern is selling chocolate bars...

A blog called "Jeff's blog" has some funny perspective on the new product, which is called "CocoaVia."

"Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the world, and chocolate is the No. 1 favorite ingredient in the world," said Jim Cass, Mars's vice president of marketing. "When you put those two giant macro trends together, we know this is a big idea."

...I can just imagine the boardroom meeting that launched this. 12 suits sitting around looking at different charts. Too bad they didn't try to make a hybrid-SUV with chocolate steering wheels.

A New Group to Analyze in the Next China Study

As we have discussed before, The China Study is a long-term epidemiological study that teaches us a lot about which foods inspire long-term health. It was completed by studying different groups all over China, who make sense to study because they have different diets but similar genetics.

According to a Xinhua news article (via Eastday) studying young people in Beijing today would reveal an unhealthy trend:

A survey shows that about 80 percent of Beijing middle and primary school students are fond of foreign snacks, 43.6 percent of them go to McDonald's, KFC or other foreign fast food eateries every month, and 6.1 percent go every week or every day.

Incidentally, there is also evidence that the Chinese government--which reportedly makes 10% of state revenues from a tobacco monopoly--is encouraging citizens to smoke! According to Harper's magazine, this is one of may incredible quotes from Chinese government publications:
The smokers all around us now are also people of outstanding character. They have a great deal of determination and strength. The courage that they show in the face of unforeseen events�a courage that many nonsmokers are unable to muster�is unforgettable.

As the smoking and fast food trends collide in the decades to come, China could be cruising for a long-term health care crisis.

The Cost of Poor Nutrition in Schools

Of course, there are a million reasons to feed children healthy food in schools. Inspiring better behavior and academic performance, preventing diseases like obesity, teaching healthy habits...

Author, former school kitchen administrator, and Food and Society Policy Fellow Ann Cooper adds another reason: money. In an article from 2004, Cooper cites USDA statistics in coming up with this assessment:

It costs approximately $6,000 to feed a child lunch during the entire tenure of their K-12 education, and it costs our health care system and our taxes approximately $175,000 per adult, for illnesses related to poor childhood nutrition.

Research: A New Theory About Red Meat and Milk

Red meat has been linked to heart disease and cancer in a number of studies. Most of that research has focused on saturated fat and toxins that arise from cooking.

A new study from the University of San Diego School of Medicine, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigates another theory: that a cell-surface molecular sugar called N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc), which exists in fairly high levels in milk and red meat, might build up in human tissue and inspire disease. This is from a UCSD press release on the study:

The study's senior author, Ajit Varki, M.D., UCSD professor of medicine and cellular and molecular medicine, and co-director of the UCSD Glycobiology Research and Training Center, said that although it is unlikely that the ingestion of Neu5Gc alone would be primarily responsible for any specific disease, "it is conceivable that gradual Neu5Gc incorporation into the cells of the body over a lifetime, with subsequent binding of the circulating antibodies against Neu5Gc (the immune response), could contribute to the inflammatory processes involved in various diseases."

Thanks VegSource for the heads up.