Margaret Malochleb

Margaret Malochleb


Due to their antioxidant activity, milk proteins could be a valuable health supplement for the prevention of aging-associated diseases, especially sarcopenia. © bangkok/iStock/ Getty Images Plus


Due to their antioxidant activity, milk proteins could be a valuable health supplement for the prevention of aging-associated diseases, especially sarcopenia. © bangkok/iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Antioxidant properties of milk proteins

Oxidative stress is known as a fundamental cause of age-related diseases such as atherosclerosis, metabolic disorder, neurodegenerative disorders, and cancer. A recent study in the Journal of Food Science investigated the potential activity of milk proteins to decrease cellular stress by observing the formation of arsenite-induced stress granules as a way to evaluate antioxidant activity in cells.

Milk proteins not only decreased the formation of stress granules in several cell types but also scavenged 2,2’-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzothiazoline- 6-sulfonic acid) (ABTS) radical cations in vitro. In addition, milk proteins inhibited cellular senescence based on an SA-β-galactosidase assay, and increased differentiation to myotubes from myoblasts isolated from the skeletal muscles of mouse pups.

Taken together, the results demonstrate that the milk proteins containing α-caseins, β-caseins, and β-lactoglobulin have an antiaging effect, especially in the prevention of skeletal muscle loss, through their antioxidant activities. The researchers suggested that milk proteins could be used as potent health supplements to prevent agingassociated diseases, especially sarcopenia.

Food technology is A-OK with Gen Z

The newest generation of food consumers with purchasing power, Gen Z, is more open to food technology than older generations, according to new research from global communications consultancy Ketchum. The research also showed that food makers may be more effective at reaching consumers by communicating the right combination of scientifically supported facts and benefits of food technology.

According to the Food Tech Consumer Perception study, Gen Z respondents indicated they are more likely to try a food grown with technology (77%) and are more comfortable overall with the use of technology to grow food (71%) than are Millennials (67% likely to try/56% comfortable), Gen Xers (58%/51%), and Baby Boomers (58%/58%).

Higher percentages of Gen Zers and Millennials qualified as Food eVangelists, a group that wants to impact the way food is raised, packaged, and sold. While 27% of Gen Z respondents and 29% of Millennials fit the profile, just 8% of Baby Boomers and 15% of Gen Xers can be considered Food eVangelists.

“Food eVangelists are open to learning about food technology and will share more with their networks, but they are also quick to dismiss a poor explanation,” said Kim Essex, partner and managing director of Food Agriculture & Ingredient for Ketchum. “Food eVangelists in their 20s are especially powerful, not only for purchases they influence today but also for the future generations they’ll impact. This group’s openness to food technology points to a major opportunity for food marketers to rethink their messages.”

The power of private brands

Forty-six percent of recently surveyed consumers say store brands influence their store choice, versus just 35% of those surveyed three years ago, according to research by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and its insights provider, IRI, which cited innovation and value as drivers of the gains that private brands are seeing across a wide range of demographics and generations.

“The solid growth of private brands reflects the success of retailers treating private brands as brands, rather than just following the lead of national and legacy brands,” said Doug Baker, FMI vice president of industry relations. “The proof is in consumer satisfaction—shoppers surveyed shared most that they trust the quality of private brands and believe they get a good value. Still, our research indicates that challenges remain for private brands’ image, such as its packaging.”

While Baker noted that grocery retail growth with their private brands has not been keeping pace with other retail channels, private brands led manufacturer brands in dollar sales growth across multiple retail outlets for the second consecutive year, up 5.4%. The catalysts include increased shopper trips, higher dollars per trip, increased velocity, shoppers adding more items to carts, and expanded distribution.

“Consumers have shown they are willing to embrace new directions in their private brand strategies, which suggests myriad possibilities for retailers as they explore shopper preferences revealed in our research,” said Mark McKeown, client insights principal, IRI.

Healthy foods have lower environmental impact

Foods with positive health outcomes have among the lowest environmental impacts, according to research from the University of Minnesota and Oxford University, indicating that widespread adoption of healthier diets could reduce the environmental impact of agriculture and food production.

The researchers explored how consuming 15 different food groups is, on average, associated with five different health outcomes and five aspects of environmental degradation. Their results show that almost all foods associated with improved health outcomes (e.g., whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and olive oil) have the lowest environmental impacts. Likewise, foods with the largest increases in disease risks—primarily unprocessed and processed red meat—are consistently associated with the largest negative environmental impacts.

The two notable exceptions are fish, a generally healthier food with moderate environmental impacts, and sugar-sweetened beverages, which pose health risks but have a low environmental impact. The researchers concluded that transitioning diets toward greater consumption of healthier foods would also improve environmental sustainability.

The study underscores recent recommendations from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which recommends that individuals eat more plant-based foods as a way to adapt to and limit worsening climate change.

“The foods making up our diets have a large impact on both ourselves and our environment. This study shows that eating healthier also means eating more sustainably,” said David Tilman, professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior at the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.

Bitterness may be in the genes

A gene that makes some compounds taste bitter may make it harder for some people to add heart-healthy vegetables to their diet, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019.

Broccoli Boy

Individuals who inherit two copies of a variant of a taste gene find foods like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage unpleasantly bitter. © Eva-Katalin/E+/Getty Images

Broccoli Boy

Individuals who inherit two copies of a variant of a taste gene find foods like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage unpleasantly bitter. © Eva-Katalin/E+/Getty Images

Your genetics affect the way you taste, and taste is an important factor in food choice,” said Jennifer L. Smith, study author and a postdoctoral fellow in cardiovascular science at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine in Lexington. “You have to consider how things taste if you really want your patient to follow nutrition guidelines.”

Everyone inherits two copies of a taste gene called TAS2R38. People who inherit two copies of a variant called AVI aren’t sensitive to bitter tastes from certain chemicals in vegetables and other foods. Those with one copy of AVI and another copy of a variant called PAV perceive bitter tastes in the same foods. However, individuals with two copies of PAV, often called “super-tasters,” find the foods exceptionally bitter.

“We’re talking a ruin-your-day level of bitter when they tasted the test compound,” said Smith. “These people are likely to find broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage unpleasantly bitter; and they may also react negatively to dark chocolate, coffee, and sometimes beer.”

When analyzing food-frequency questionnaires from 175 people with an average age of 52, the researchers found that people with the PAV form of the gene were more than two-and-a-half times as likely to rank in the bottom half of participants on the number of vegetables eaten.

“Down the road, we hope we can use genetic information to figure out which vegetables people may be better able to accept and to find out which spices appeal to supertasters so we can make it easier for them to eat more vegetables,” Smith said.

About the Author

Margaret Malochleb, Associate Editor, produces content for the News, New Products, Books, and IFT World departments and researches and writes feature articles on a variety of topics.
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Margaret Malochleb