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Articles from 2016 In May

More discovered about pomegranate’s power against Alzheimer’s

Scientists have discovered more about how pomegranates may shield us from Alzheimer’s disease. Bacteria in our gut may be key to the fruit’s protective powers—yet another revelation about the vital gut-brain axis.

In Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid proteins in the brain form clumps. To fight the clumping, a compound needs to have molecules that can cross the blood-brain barrier to do their work. Previous research showed that pomegranate extract had anti-Alzheimer’s effects, but didn’t identify the compounds that made it through the barrier. Scientists designed the recent study to try to determine which compounds were the barrier-crossers, according to a release about the work from the American Chemical Society. The research appeared in the American Chemical Society’s journal Chemical Neuroscience. also noted the results.

The team of researchers isolated and identified 21 compounds, mostly polyphenols, from pomegrantate extract. Computational studies found that polyphenols can’t cross the blood-brain barrier; however, a compound that’s formed when a certain type of pomegranate polyphenol is metabolized by bacteria in our gut can. Called urolithins, they not only can cross the barrier into the brain, but they can also reduce the protein clumping, at least in vitro. The urolithins also increased the lifespan of an Alzheimer’s roundworm model. Next step: test the model in humans.

Pomegranates are one of the oldest cultivated fruits. Walnuts, also cultivated for thousands of years, may also have neuroprotective powers. A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests the nuts may delay the onset and slow the progression or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Millions may be moved to tears by omegas

Millions may be moved to tears by omegas

Omega-3 fatty acids may wipe out dry eye syndrome, according to new research. Dry eye syndrome affects up to one-third of the world’s population, causing itchy, stinging eyes and sensitivity to light. If left untreated, it can impair vision, and in extreme cases, cause blindness.

Researchers in India found that a daily dose of omegas improved the symptoms of dry eye syndrome by as much as 105 percent. They presented their data at the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery Symposium in San Diego.

Their research supports the finding of several previous studies that suggested the power of omega-3 fatty acids to soothe the symptoms of dry eye syndrome.

During the study, conducted at the Advanced Eye Centre in Chandigarh, India, researchers gave 60 patients with untreated moderate dry eye disease either a daily dose of 1.2gm of omega-3 or a vitamin E placebo for 12 weeks. The study’s authors wrote that improvements were “statistically significantly greater” in the patients who received the omegas.

The researchers also found that the patients who received the omegas experienced significant improvements in contrast sensitivity, the ability to distinguish between increments of light and dark, which is critical for night driving.

"When you are faced with low light, fog, or glare, the contrast between objects and their background is often reduced,” David Allamby, a laser eye surgeon and medical director at London's Focus Clinic, who was not part of the research, explained in a post about the study on "So it's clearly essential that you have a good standard of contrast sensitivity when driving at night, where you might not see pedestrians on dimly-lit streets. If omega-3 supplements increase your chances of getting home safely, that's surely a reason to start upping your intake."

Do you have the natural retail value equation?

Do you have the natural retail value equation?
<p>Bill Crawford</p>

Value equals benefits minus hassle.

In a retail seminar at Natural Products Expo West 2016, I introduced this definition of value into a discussion. I have had a series of ongoing discussions about this concept since then, so adding it to the topics in this forum seemed like a good thing.

Natural retailers have to focus on delivering value to their shoppers. This contrasts with simply trying to provide them goods at low costs. Those with whom natural retailers compete—grocery stores, national and regional chains, drug stores, e-tailers—are much better equipped to fight and prevail in a protracted price battle. Value is where our stores can excel, but little is understood about what value is and is not.

First, value is about benefits, what is gained from the purchase of a product. Second, it is about hassle, or the absence of it. So, while the first component of value is about the product, the other part of it is about the retailer and/or the purchase process or experience. As a retailer, you control both since you determine what you carry and control your operation.

This gives reinforcement to something vital. Retailers, especially natural product-focused ones, need to be very deliberate in choosing what brands and products they carry. Are they made well? Do the ingredients meet your standards? Are these products the ones that you wish tied to your reputation?

The desired, perceived or received benefits are going to vary from person to person. By this I am referring not only to the benefits that they want from buying natural and organic products in general, but also to those received from a specific product. For some, the benefits are about health and wellness. We can call those intended benefits since they were what the manufacturer and the retailer had in mind when these products were made and made available. For others, the benefits are about image, coolness and being trendy as they emulate celebrities and others using or endorsing a brand or product. I am not mentioning this to denigrate those who shop for something other than the intended benefits, but to make the point that some of the value that drives purchase is unintended and is therefore much more likely to change over time. 

We should never stop stressing the health and wellness benefits coming from the products that we carry. Some of it will be preaching to the choir, but there are some in the choir who have not yet been converted.

Hassle has got to be one of the more negative words and concepts that there is. Retail hassle consists of issues relating to staff, supply and systems.

Staff: Do you have enough staff to make the shopping experience pleasant? Is your staff trained to give quality product information? Does your staff focus on customer service?

Supply: Are there chronic out of stocks on your shelves? Are best-sellers or sales items ever out of stock? Do your products have adequate dating on them for in home use?

Systems: Is your store focused on customer experience or staff convenience? Are your credit card and cash register systems reliable?

If you can minimize hassle and communicate benefits, you are providing value, meeting the needs of your customers and competing well.

[email protected]: Fashionable food waste | Flint water worries extend to the garden

5@5: Fashionable food waste | Flint water worries extend to the garden

Turning food waste into a fashion statement

An associate professor of apparel, merchandising and design at Iowa State University is turning the waste generated by making kombucha (the SCOBY) into a leather-like fabric for shoes and bags. Read more at National Geographic...


Flint water worries seep into gardens

It's not just the drinking water part of the Flint lead crisis that's got people worried. Some are anxious about using the city's water for their gardens, even though experts say vegetables do not uptake lead from soil. An organization called Edible Flint will expand its testing of soil this growing season five-fold and distribute 150 hose filters to gardeners. Read more at The Detroit News...

How restaurants know what you want to eat before you do

Typically slow to adopt new technologies, the restaurant industry is finally joining the big data party. That's because small companies like Upserve are creating new ways to use data and analytics to enhance the restaurant experience. Read more at The Boston Globe...


USDA reports market share rise for organic bread

Organic options make up 1.3 percent of all total bread sales in the U.S., according to "Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010," a report from the USDA's Economic Research Service, and cost about 30 percent more than convention. Read more at


Organic farming in the UAE produces slow and steady path to profit

If you think organic food production is hard, try growing it in the desert. Yet organic farming is on the rise in the UAE, and it doesn't seem to be heading for a slowdown. Read more at The National...

Natural product movers & shakers - May 2016

Natural product movers &amp; shakers - May 2016

Joe Weiss has joined Nutrition 21 LLC, a leading developer and marketer of patented nutritional products, as president. His top priorities will be to accelerate the company's growth with product innovation, science and branding. For the past six years he was vice president of corporate brands at Vitamin Shoppe, Inc. and was responsible for product development, sourcing, quality and scientific and regulatory affairs.

Trace One, a global leader in private label product development management solutions and supplier collaboration software for retailers, manufacturers and suppliers, announced that Kelly Thompson has joined its management team to direct the company’s strategy on retailer and supplier collaboration. In her new role at Trace One, Thompson will be responsible for the strategy, evolution and execution of Trace One’s supplier collaboration program. She has held strategic positions in relation to product development and private label sourcing at Target, as well as Technology roles at both Kraft and Nestle.

Technology-driven health and wellness products company NutraClick appointed Brandon Cantrell to director of specialty growth strategy. In this role, he will help enhance, broaden, and execute strategic initiatives to support NutraClick’s growing footprint within the specialty retail sector.  

Nutrient Innovations welcomed Eric Phaykaisorn as its new director of sales. With more than seven years of industry experience, Eric brings extensive expertise in sales and customer support with a wide range of raw ingredients.

Lucky Jack Organic Coffee Co. has tapped Matthew Ammirati as co-CEO to work in tandem with current CEO Giancarlo Chersich. Together they will lead Lucky Jack as the brand expands and enters new distribution opportunities. This news follows Jillian Michaels taking controlling interest of Lucky Jack in January of this year. Ammirati, founder of holding company LP2, has also invested in the brand.

Sustainability summits to focus on ingredients emerging from food waste

Novel ingredients—created from food waste as new technologies improve extraction and processing methods—are finding new applications in food, nutraceuticals and personal care products, as will be shown at this year's sustainability summits.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted in the supply chain. With food companies and retailers under pressure to become more efficient and reduce losses, many are re-directing food waste from landfill.

A transition is occurring whereby waste previously going to low-end applications, such as animal feed and biogas, is making its way into new ingredients.

This year's Sustainable Foods Summits are scheduled for June 9-10 in Amsterdam, and June 29-30 in São Paulo.

The 2016 Sustainable Cosmetics Summits are scheduled for Sept. 14-16 in São Paulo; Oct. 24-26 in Paris; and Nov. 14-15 in Hong Kong.

For instance, the Swiss company FoodSolutionsTeam is using green chemistry to extract active materials from food side streams. Made from carrot pulp, its KaroPRO ingredient has water-binding applications in processed foods. The Swiss company has similar food ingredients made from organic linseed, peas and rice. Phytonext is another company using new extraction techniques to produce ingredients from citrus peel and tomato waste.  

The EU is also funding research to create new ingredients from food waste. The BIORICE project involves extracting starch from rice waste to make ingredients for functional foods, nutraceuticals and cosmetics. 

Another project, APROPOS, involves taking proteins from salmon and rapeseed waste for cosmetic applications. A Spanish cosmetics firm plans to use the novel extract as a foundation for a new cream product.

Such ingredients have already made headway in natural personal care products. The Marks & Spencer department store in Britain is using resveratrol from grape waste in its Super Grape skincare products. The grape waste is coming from the production of the retailer’s private-label wines. The French company Caudalie has built its entire range of natural personal care products from grapevine-based and grapeseed ingredients such as resveratrol and polyphenols. Organic Monitor research finds the brand leads the French natural cosmetics market; its products are now present in more than 30 countries.

With the global population projected to reach 9 billion by 2050 and agricultural land becoming increasingly scarce, more investment is expected in creating new ingredients from food waste. A recurring theme in the Sustainable Foods Summit and Sustainable Cosmetics Summit is ‘closing loops’ whereby waste materials find a new life in fresh applications. Organizations such as TerraCycle have been successful in closing the packaging loop for consumer products; it remains to be seen how soon waste from food streams will create better lives.

Edible insect industry primed for growth

Ever since New Hope editor Todd Runestad wrote about cricket bars in 2013, the edible insect industry has exploded. While in 2014 just one insect protein product exhibited at Expo West (Chapul), now dozens of companies have hatched business plans focused on entomophagy. From cricket chips to mealworm protein to bitters infused with toasted crickets, now swarms of products feature winged, six-legged critters.

“The industry is less than five years old, but it’s astounding how many companies brought products to market and received significant investments,” says Robert Nathan Allen, president of the 2013-founded educational nonprofit Little Herds. Indeed, the edible insect industry is garnering generous support from influential investors. Both Bitty Foods, makers of cricket-protein cookies, and Tiny Farms, a supply company dedicated to scaling insect farming, received investments from Arielle Zuckerburg (Mark Zuckerberg’s sister). And in March, cricket protein bar EXO raised $4 million in its Series A funding round.

But investor interest is just one aspect of the recent tide of bug-focused events, products and initiatives that indicate this industry is primed for growth. Here’s why we think this food trend has true potential.

Vitamins may turbo boost chemo

A vitamin blast might help fight one of the deadliest forms of cancer, according to new research in mice and cells. British researchers found that a high dose of vitamin A could make chemotherapy more successful in treating pancreatic cancer.

With the highest mortality rate of all major cancers, pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially over nearly 40 years. Ninety-four percent of patients die within five years of diagnosis, with the average life expectancy after diagnosis just three to six months. About 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease this year, according to the Hirshberg Foundation of Pancreatic Cancer Research.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy alone are relatively unsuccessful in treating the disease, according to a release from the University of London, where the new research was conducted. "This is the first time that we have combined vitamin A with chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, lead researcher Hemant Kocher,MD, from QMUL's Barts Cancer said in the release. “The results are so promising that we're now taking this into a clinical trial…This could potentially be applicable to other cancers because if we try to understand the cancer as a whole, including its surrounding tissue, we may be able to develop new and better treatments." The new technique targeted stromal cells, which are cells that surround cancer cells and play a major role in their growth.

Previous research has also suggested the power of vitamin D in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

More active lifestyle? More vitamin D

If you’re an aggressive athlete who loves high-impact sports, or merely a non-aggressive klutz who falls down a lot during low-impact sports, you might need more vitamin D, according to new research.

In a retrospective cohort study, researchers analyzed the serum concentration of 25(OHD)D, which determines vitamin D status, in 124 patients with confirmed stress fractures. Stress fractures are small cracks or severe bruising in bones. They’re caused by overuse and repetitive activity and are common among athletes who participate in sports involving running, like basketball and soccer.

Eighty-three percent of the patients with stress fractures had low levels of vitamin D, according to the study’s results, published in the Journal of Foot & Ankle Surgery. Those patients had serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of 40 ng/mL or below.

"Based on these findings, we recommend a serum vitamin D level of at least 40 ng/mL to protect against stress fractures, especially for active individuals who enjoy participating in higher-impact activities," lead investigator Jason Miller, DPM, FACFAS, Fellowship Director of the Pennsylvania Intensive Lower Extremity Fellowship, foot and ankle surgeon from Premier Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and Fellow Member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons said in a release about the study. "This correlates with an earlier study of 600 female Navy recruits who were found to have a twofold greater risk of stress fractures of the tibia and fibula with a vitamin D level of less than 20 ng/mL compared with females with concentrations above 40 ng/mL.”

The new research is interesting in light of a study presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons that found that one third of Division I athletes may have low vitamin D levels.

Bugs may help fight fat

Last year, a study suggested probiotics may help women lose weight and keep it off. Chubby men worldwide sighed in despair. But they no longer need to cry into their salads, without hope of a future where fat-blasting microbes with the slimming powers of Jillian Michaels could eat away their beer bellies. A small new study suggests a microbe milkshake may indeed help men lose weight.

In the new study, Virginia Tech researchers analyzed 20 healthy men who went on a high-fat and high calorie diet for four weeks. Some men also drank a milkshake that contained a commercial product,VSL#3, a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum. Other subjects consumed a placebo milkshake. The men who consumed the probiotic mix had lower body mass gain and fat accumulation than those who didn’t, according to the researchers.

How do the bugs blast fat? It could be that the bacteria help alter gut bacteria in a way that influences the system that regulates how the body absorbs nutrients, according to a post about the study. Or, the microbes may have reduced the body’s absorption of lipids or affected the way the body expends energy. The results appeared in the journal Obesity.

Probiotics continue to wiggle into mainstream media. Time noted the “growing awareness that our bacterial communities may influence our weight.”