Don't Be Nuts—Push Almonds
Almonds are the latest too-good-to-be-good-for-you food. Substituting a handful or two a day of the snack for less nutrient-dense foods can lower consumers' bad, or low-density-lipid cholesterol, as well as total cholesterol, according to a study performed at Loma Linda University in Modesto, Calif., and published in the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers suspect that the effect—which increases in proportion to the amount of almonds consumed—is caused by the combination of vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, arginine and dietary fiber found in almonds. The research was funded in part by the Almond Board of California, although none of the researchers had any financial interest in the almond industry, and several have research grants from other nut industries.
'Wild' About Organics
You might think we're bananas, but it's true: Chimpanzees and tapirs can seemingly tell the difference between organic and conventional fruits. Zookeepers at the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark began putting both types of bananas in the primates' cages last year as part of the zoo's program to earn a "green label" as an environmental zoo. Zookeepers said the apes consistently chose the organic bananas first, reported the Organic Consumers Association. What's more, the chimps ate the organic bananas skin and all, but peeled the nonorganic ones before eating them. Zookeepers assume the apes have some innate ability to distinguish between the two types of fruit.
Study Questions Antioxidant Use
A report in the June 14 issue of The Lancet suggests that random use of antioxidants may actually be harmful. By conducting a meta-analysis of seven randomized trials of treatment with vitamin E, and eight randomized trials with beta-carotene, Marc S. Penn and colleagues discovered that vitamin E failed to reduce death from cardiovascular causes, or the incidence of stroke. Their analysis showed that patients who took beta-carotene showed a small but statistically significant increase in deaths from all causes, and a 0.3 percent increase in deaths related to cardiovascular disease. The authors say antioxidants, and beta-carotene in particular, are poor inhibitors of low-density lipid (bad cholesterol) oxidation.
Critics, including experts at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, say the meta-analysis was poorly designed, looking at the effects of the antioxidants on smokers and patients who already had advanced arterial disease, rather than assessing the supplements' ability to inhibit disease in healthy people.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 8/p. 30