Hops compounds fight cancer
First, scientists found that polyphenols in wine can help to prevent heart disease. And now compounds in another alcoholic beverage are showing promise in the prevention of many types of cancer.

Researchers at Oregon State University first discovered about 10 years ago the cancer-preventative properties of a flavonoid compound called xanthohumol, which is found in hops, an ingredient of beer. Since that time, researchers from this university and other scientists around the world have studied the role of hops flavonoids in preventing several different types of cancers, from prostate to colon cancer, and as hormone replacement therapy for women. As a result, scientists know a great deal about the biological mechanisms of action of xanthohumol and the ways that it may help to prevent cancer. There are even efforts to isolate and market it as a food supplement, and a “health beer” containing increased levels of the compound is in development.

“We can’t say that drinking beer will help prevent cancer,” said Fred Stevens, a researcher with OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute and Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in the College of Pharmacy. “Most beer has low levels of this compound, and its absorption in the body is also limited. But if ways can be developed to significantly increase the levels of xanthohumol or use it as a nutritional supplement—that might be different.”

According to scientists, the compound and other related flavonoid compounds found in hops inhibit a group of certain enzymes called cytochromes P450 that can activate the cancer process. Other research has shown that xanthohumol induces activity in a quinone reductase process that helps the body detoxify carcinogens.

USDA unveils MiPirámide
Citing research that shows nearly three out of four Hispanic adults and one out of four Hispanic children are overweight or obese, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in December unveiled a Spanish-language version of MyPyramid.gov. This is an online guide designed to help Americans make better food choices and live healthier lives.

MiPirámide: Pasos Hacia Una Mejor Salud (MyPyramid: Steps to a Healthier You) will make it easier for Spanish-speaking Americans to find nutrition information vital to good health. It incorporates recommendations from the 2005 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published every five years by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and USDA. Users of the Web site will be able to personalize nutrition information to their own lifestyle, just as users of the English version can.

Visit www.mypyramid.gov to access MiPirámide. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other consumer brochures are available at www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines.

UNH to establish organic dairy farm
The University of New Hampshire will be the first land-grant university in the United States to establish an organic dairy farm for research, education, and outreach.

The research farm will serve as both an applied research center for integrated organic production and management and an education center for organic dairy farmers, farmers undergoing or considering transition to organic, and students of sustainable agriculture. The university plans to begin production of certified organic milk by December 2006.

A 20-person advisory board that includes dairy farmers, veterinarians, grazing consultants, and nutritionists will play a key role in setting the research agenda of the farm, which will be located on a 200-acre parcel of certified-organic land in Lee, N.H.

FDA issues trans-fat labeling extension
The Food and Drug Administration has issued a Guidance Document for food manufacturers that want to request a temporary extension to the January 1, 2006, trans-fat labeling requirement. FDA will consider applications for the extension on a case-by-case basis. Visit www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/transgu2.html for a copy of the document and instructions on how to apply for an extension.

Groupe Danone to study probiotics
Groupe Danone, Paris, France, and the Pasteur Institute, Paris, France, have formed a program to study in depth scientific knowledge of the way probiotics work.

The Groupe Danone Research Center has a collection of 3,000 lactic ferments, and its research teams specialize in microbiology, biochemistry, fermentation biotechnology, immunology, and human nutrition. The Pasteur Institute has developed in-vitro and in-vivo testing models, with many relevant to probiotics.

Teams of researchers from both organizations working in partnership will focus on ferments from the Danone collection, applying test methods developed by the Pasteur Institute. Results should allow for the identification of new probiotics ferments and make for better understanding of their effects on human health.

“We will thus be carrying on the work of Elie Metchnikoff, the Russian scientist Louis Pasteur welcomed in 1888, just as the Institute opened, and who was one of the first to take an interest in the influence of lactic bacteria on health,” said Alice Dautry, Managing Director, Pasteur Institute.

This partnership has been set up for four years.

Boosting beverages with nutraceuticals
Beverages and juices top the list of foods which hold the greatest promise as a delivery vehicle for nutraceuticals, according to a recent IFT/Food Technology survey. Nearly 45% of the 327 respondents to the poll, which ran in the October issue of Food Technology, believe that beverages & juices will be a primary vehicle for delivering health-promoting ingredients to consumers. This was followed by bars (17.4%), yogurt (10.4%), ready-to-eat cereal (8.6%), bottled water (7%), chewing gum (2.8%), and oils & spreads (2.8%).

‘Sweet’ process for sugar-coated beans
The state of Michigan is a top producer in the United States of five dry bean varieties: black, cranberry, light red kidney, navy, and small red beans. Of these varieties, the cranberry beans are popular in Japan, where people eat them sugar-coated as a snack or dessert, add them to salads, or mix them with other ingredients. Stores in Japan sell small containers of the beans frozen in a sugar solution. Researchers from Michigan State University and bean producers and processors have developed a method for making the sugar-coated beans in the U.S. for export to Japan.

Kirk Dolan, Associate Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition and Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, said that the process in Japan for producing the sugar-coated bean is labor-intensive, taking about 75 min and several steps to produce about 50 lb of beans. Dolan, who launched the research project with funding from Agri Analysts L.L.C and Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Environmental and Economic Needs), set out to create a bean that looked, tasted, and had the same crunchy texture as the Japan-produced bean using only one temperature and one cooking period. Researchers developed a method that reduced the total processing time by 20%.

Dolan also said that the sugar-coated bean looks like a honey-roasted peanut and has a sweeter flavor than a peanut. Sensory tests showed that the panel participants were unable to tell the difference between the Japan-processed beans and the beans produced using the MSU method.

U. of I. wins food science grant
The University of Illinois recently won the Mettler Toledo Food Science Education Grant. The grant, which honors Erhard Mettler, the founder of part of the corporation known today as Mettler Toledo, consists of analytical equipment and accessories, balances, software, and a personal computer to establish or enhance the education in current and future college-level food science programs.

To submit applications for the 2006 award, call 800-638-8537 or visit www.mt.com/us.

UK food agency addresses labeling
The Food Standards Agency, London, UK, which represents the UK government on food safety and standards issues, is studying whether a particular front-of-pack labeling scheme should be used to help consumers make healthier food choices.

The symbol—Multiple Traffic Light—shows whether a food contains high, medium, or low levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt. Based on research conducted last year of more than 2,600 people, FSA found that the participants liked this scheme and the Colour Guideline Daily Amount labeling scheme.

Whichever scheme FSA decides on, FSA proposes that the scheme appear initially on foods such as ready-to-eat meals, breakfast cereals, burgers, sausages, pies, pizzas, and sandwiches.

FSA developed the schemes as part of the UK Government’s White Paper initiative to help make healthier food choices easier.

Please participate in our informal online survey of topical issues of interest to food formulators, technologists, and scientists. To answer the question below, please go to www.ift.org.

Q: Which strategy or strategies have you employed to reduce or eliminate trans fat from your ingredients or finished food products?
(Please check only one box.)
Genetic/breeding techniques
Product reformulation
Switched to a different oil
Processing changes
Combination of strategies
(please list the strategies)
(please specify)

The single-question survey will be posted on www.ift.org for approximately 2 weeks after the issue is distributed. The poll results will appear on our Web site and be published in a future issue of Food Technology.

by Karen Banasiak,
Assistant Editor
[email protected]