Archive for the ‘Food Additives’ Category

What sweetener do you use: Part 6; the fake sugars

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Nearly a month ago I started to write a post on the “Fake sugars,” I had read an article on them in the Personal Journal section of The Wall Street Journal, but got distracted when I realized I needed to think about (and write about) table sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

they're all sweeter than sugar

So now I’m finally going to start on the artificial sweeteners. There are four major ones that WSJ reviewed (they even had a panel of tasters): Sweet’N Low, Equal, Splenda and Truvia. They came on the market, respectively, in the 1970s, 1980s, 2000 and 2008. All have zero calories per packet, whereas table sugar has 15 or 16, depending on who you read, per teaspoon. They cost much more than sugar and are considerably sweeter. A Mayo Clinic article online reviews the general subject and terms these chemicals as intense sweeteners.

The National Cancer Institute mentions that they are regulated by the FDA and, in an August 2009 online paper, states there is “no clear evidence that the artificial sweeteners available commercially in the United States are associated with cancer risk in humans.”

The most recent addition to this mix, called Truvia when it’s made by Coca-Cola and Cargill, or PureVia when it’s parents are PepsiCo and Merisant, comes from a plant called Stevia, found in South America. Stevia has a curious history in the United States; it was added to teas by Hain Celestial until the FDA got an anonymous letter questioning its safety in late 2007. At  that point the FDA banned its use in foods, but in 2009, faced with major industry interest, Stevia by-products were approved as food additives (but not Stevia itself).

Stevia, saccharin and the real sugar

Now Truvia and PureVia are being used in a wide range of processed food and beverages. A cousin to the chemical they contain has been extensively used in Japan for over twenty years without major side effects being noted and Stevia, the parent plant, has not only been used for centuries in South America, but also touted for its supposed health benefits.

So why do I have some lingering doubts, in fact some major concerns about all of these chemical food additives, not excluding Truvia and PureVia?

As best I can tell the vast majority of the research on them has been sponsored by the same companies that profit from them. I fail to see independent, carefully performed, double-blind controlled studies especially on the “new two.” Some research has been done on their chemical components, including one four-month study on type 2 diabetics that did not show either high blood pressure or high blood sugar as a result of consuming the active agent in Truvia.

But it’s not just diabetics who are being exposed to the chemicals in these sweeteners. Most of us are, if we consume a diet drink or anything labeled “light.” And medical history informs us that untoward effects may show up in relatively small number (or perhaps even large numbers), years later.

So I’m going to avoid “fake sugars” whenever I can. And perhaps, just perhaps, someday I’ll find out I was being smart in doing so.

 

What sweeteners do you use? Part 4: HFCS and mercury

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

A safer place for mercury

In my last post I mentioned that fructose metabolism appears to be more complex than I learned in medical school. Of course that was in 1962-1966 and a lot has changed in medical knowledge in the forty-five plus years since then. We all know that fructose, in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is added to many processed foods and sweetened drinks; the question being debated is, “Is that bad for us?”

I’ve been reading a variety of articles from the medical literature and some popular websites on the subject and not all scientists, physicians and dietitians agree on the answer. I previously mentioned a Mayo Clinic online article that stresses the need to cut our added-sugar intake, both table sugar and HFCS, and mentions that research on HFCS isn’t yet at the point to implicate it as worse for you than other added sweeteners.

There’s also an article by Jennifer Goldstein from Prevention magazine that I found on the msnbc website. I’m not sure of her science background (she’s now the Beauty Director for the magazine). Nonetheless, her article is reasonably well-balanced, if you read between the lines. The over-all conclusion is that anti-HFCS evidence is slim. She quotes an NYC-based nutritionist as saying the calories in HFCS and table sugar, gram for gram, are equal, but mentions several reports that have shown HFCS samples may contain mercury… in small amounts.

But you don't want it here, or in your food

Mercury is a neurotoxin, a substance which can damage the brain, especially the developing brain of a fetus or infant. Even “small amounts” are considered dangerous for babies in the womb. We have all heard of its presence in fish, but mercury in HFCS was new to me. I’m about three years behind, it appears. I found a Washington Post article from January, 2009 which mentioned two studies examining this issue.

At that time, in spite of industry denials, nearly half of HFCS samples tested contained mercury as did almost a third of processed food and beverage products. The researchers writing on this  enormously significant problem noted that HFCS had been made using chemicals produced in industrial plants clinging to an outmoded, 19th century method

A now-retired FDA scientist, Renee Dufault, headed a study in 2009 showing low levels of mercury in all the processed foods she and colleagues tested (and none in organic foods) and then had their results verified by two independent labs. She then says the FDA’s head of their Food Additives section told her to quit her HFCS studies. She quit the FDA instead and published her results. A physician-headed team at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a non-profit watchdog, repeated her studies using commercial beverages and foods. Their twenty-plus-page paper is worth reading.

By the middle of December, 2010, the HFCS industry had gotten the message. But until all HFCS made in the United States is mercury-free I’m going to avoid it.

What sweetener do you use? Part 1

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

real sugar has some calories

I have a confession to make. On the rare occasions when I do use a sweetener, I actually use sugar or occasionally honey.

Now that doesn’t happen very often; I don’t have all that much of a “sweet tooth” and usually add a few Crasins to my unsweetened cereal in the morning and drink a non-coffee called Cafix (now that’s a clever name; I suppose it’s implying “Caffeine Fix”) with a small amount of vanilla soy milk, but no sugar.

On Wednesday, January 4th of this year, The Wall Street Journal had a big spread in their “Personal Journal” section with an eye-catching title, Bracing for the Fake Sugar Rush.” In the article four artificial sweeteners, Truvia, Splenda, Equal and Sweet”n Low’ were compared to sugar. Prices were listed, tastes and aftertastes were compared, the sweetening agents were mentioned and the calories noted (0 for the articial sweeteners and 15 calories per teaspoon for the good old fashioned stuff).

Then I started thinking. I knew that adding 3,500 calories to my food intake theoretically would result in a weight gain of a pound. Since I enjoy math I wanted to figure out how much sugar that is. That translates into 233 and 1/3 teaspoons full or 1.167 kilograms of sugar (about two and a half pounds). So I’d have to eat two and a half pounds of sugar to, in theory, gain a pound of weight?

These three don't; but do they have any risks?

I went back to the article I just mentioned: my real reason for not using artificial sweeteners is two-fold. The WSJ admittedly “unscientific taste test” confirmed one of those; all four of the fake sugars had strange aftertastes according to their samplers: one was “Tab-like,” one was compared to soap water, another termed metallic and the fourth said to leave a taste “like a copper pipe.”

The other is safety; consumers often hear much later of concerns about new chemicals, whether they be sweeteners or medications. The managing director of a “brand-consulting firm” says one worry is “Did they test it on enough rats over a long enough period of time?”

Well, I’ve done basic lab research with rodents (three and a half years in medical school) and I’d really like to be able to say those experiments directly apply to humans, but I can’t be sure that’s a true statement. I did later work with dogs and when my boss (an associate professor at UCLA) was getting ready to present some of our results at an international conference, he came up with a great idea.

“Peter,” he said, “when I show the slides with our data, someone in the back of the room is going to get up and ask if humans react the same way. So let’s replicate our experiment in at least a few people.”

Guess who was the first of those “people?” I was poked and prodded and infused with the same materials as our dogs.

In our case the data was essentially the same and when that inevitable heckler at the back of the room said his piece, my boss replied, “Let’s have the first large slide.”

But how much safety testing has been done with humans for these sweeteners? I’ll try to find out if there are any long-term data on those of us who use non-caloric alternatives to sugar and write about that next.

 

An Entire Pillar of Salt?

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Not a pillar, but too much anyway

I remember a Biblical reference (Genesis 9:26 in my copy) to Lot’s wife looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah and turning into a pillar of salt. Today I’d like to talk about much smaller amounts than a whole pillar and salts in the pleural, not just sodium chloride, ordinary table salt, but potassium as well.

I am aware there’s been considerable discussion of our dietary salt/sodium intake in the past few years. A July 12, 2011 article in The Wall Street Journal titled “Neutralizing Sodium’s Heart Impact” led me back into this literature.

We’ve been urged time and again to lessen our sodium intake. The 2011 Dietary Guidelines, as I’ve mentioned before, suggested the average American cut their sodium intake from our average of  3,400 milligrams down to 2,300, roughly a teaspoon a day.

But a large group of us, all at risk for hypertension: everyone over 51, African-Americans, anyone with pre-existing high blood pressure and those with diabetes or chronic kidney disease (i.e., over half our population) were told we should go further, cut to roughly a half teaspoon of salt a day, with various sources suggesting 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams per day total sodium intake.

The most recent study appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine on July 11th and had a slightly different take on the subject. A prospective cohort study of 12,00+ US adults, followed nearly 15 years, showed that both lower sodium intake and higher potassium intake were associated with a lower risk of death.

The numbers appear significant with the quartile i.e., quarter of the group, ingesting the highest sodium to potassium ratio having almost one and a half times the death risk of those who ate the lowest ratio. That held true for all-cause mortality and the death risk for ischemic heart disease was over two-fold in the group who ate more sodium and less potassium-containing foods.

So how do we get more potassium in our diets and just how much should we be ingesting? I found a lovely illustrated guide on the umassmed.edu website and another good discussion on MedlinePlus, the NIH website. The former guideline has both potassium and calorie data.

Adults with normal kidney function should be getting 4.7 grams a day from the foods they eat (if you have reduced kidney function, ask your own physician how much you should ingest). Some medicines affect your ability to excrete potassium; for the rest of us 19 and older the Food and Nutrition Center of the Institute of Medicine says the 4.7 gram amount is reasonable. Nursing moms need 5.1 grams a day.

Here' a good potassium source

A large baked potato with skin has 845 milligrams of potassium and 160 calories while 1/2 of a medium sized cantaloupe has 680 milligrams and only 60 calories. A medium banana has 451 milligrams with 105 calories.

Red meats, chicken, salmon, cod, flounder and sardines are all good sources of potassium and a cup of low-fat plain yogurt has 530 milligrams with 150 calories.

Many of us have eaten far too much sodium (in processed foods) and too little potassium.

It’s time for a change.

 

 

A sneeze, a wheeze or worse: part one

Friday, July 15th, 2011

a common food allergen

I’ve been reading about food allergies recently beginning with a Wall Street Journal article entitled “An ‘Allergy Girl’ Comes Out of Her Bubble.” Sandra Beasley, author of that short piece, is in her early thirties, has major food allergies and has written a memoir, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales fom an Allergic Life.

I found two medical websites dealing with the issue, one from the Mayo Clinic. and the other on  MedicineNet.com. We have to sort out food allergy from food intolerance, which is considerably more prevalent. I have mild food intolerance to milk and dairy products, presumably from a low level of the enzyme, lactase, which helps break down the lactose in those foods, but can drink a small glass of milk without any problems resulting. I have a relative who has fairly severe lactose intolerance and strictly avoids milk; if he drinks even a small glass, he’s going to, at the very least, have lots of gas.

We have a local friend who is allergic to a protein in milk; she’ll have bloody diarrhea if she drinks any quantity of it. She can drink coconut milk and, when she joins us at our favorite Thai restaurant, will order Thai ice tea with that substitution.

Mayo’s website says the FDA requires food producers to provide a list of the big eight, the most common ingredients that cause around 80% of food allergies. The list includes milk, eggs, peanuts, so-called “tree nuts,” including almonds, walnuts and cashews, fish including bass, cod and flounder, shellfish (e.g., crab, shrimp and lobster), soy and wheat.

Fresh meat, fresh produce and some oils don’t require labeling, but packaged foods do. That holds true even when the allegen is in a flavoring, coloring or other ingredient. The manufacturers are required to list even small amounts of the allergens if and only if, they’re actually contained in an ingredient.

But there’s another issue or two or three. Some food allergens can be introduced via cross contamination, so many food producers will add statements like, “Manufactured in a factory that also processes peanuts.” This is voluntary on the part of the food company and the FDA is working to make the format of these warning labels more consistent.

But the article from “allergy girl” describes an episode where she asked for a dairy-free menu in a restaurant, then ordered a drink. The cocktail came with a milky liquid bottom layer. Upon inquiry she found the garnish contained pine nuts.

The waiter said, “You didn’t ask for the nut-free menu.”

If you have severe food allergies and eat these, you may need the Epi-pen

In her case, as in the situation for many adults with major food allergies, multiple foods can cause life-threatening reactions.

We ask friends who are coming to our house for a meal what food intolerances and food allergies they have and plan accordingly. But two years ago, one man was about to reach for a dish that had a pine nut topping when his wife grabbed his hand.

“Did you forget to mention the last time you ate pine nuts, we had to visit the emergency room? she asked.

I was happy I had an Epi-pen in the nearby bathroom.

 

 

Leave it to we Beaver’s

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

a tree, post-beaver

The May 4, 2011 edition of the Wall Street Journal had an article that quickly send me to my computer. The title was “Why Wood Pulp Makes Ice Cream Creamier.” Well, until I read the article and then hunted down background information, I certainly didn’t know I could be chewing on logs (or derivatives thereof) in my daily diet

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an organization I generally trust, has a website on food additives. There’s a couple of pages on the good, the semi-bad and the ugly (as I would phrase it) and then 25+ pages on specific additives. I’ll drop in a link to that fascinating section of the CSPI’s web content if you want to learn more and perhaps return to the general topic in a later post. http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm

In the meantime back to the May 4th article and its cousins. I say that since Googling “wood pulp in food” yields links to a considerable number of articles, blogs and other Internet-accessible items on the subject. I just printed out a page from a blog from India, a 2006 Dow Chemical Company’s attorney’s letter (the first page of 68) requesting an exemption to for considering wood pulp as a food additive and an FDA paper on the subject.

cellulose

The bottom line is CPSI in their extensive listing of food additives rates carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) in their group “Cut Back: Not toxic, but large amounts may be unsafe or promote bad nutrition.”

Yet processed food manufacturers are using more CMC and other cellulose (read this as wood pulp) deriviatives to increase fiber content of white bread (I don’t eat white bread), allow hurried/lazy cooks to add pre-shredded cheese (we shred our own) and enhance something called “mouth feel” in ice cream.

To make the powdered form of cellulose, wood is cooked in chemicals to separate the constituent and then, in some cases, processed further with acid to break down the fiber.

If made properly, (ah, there’s that word “if” again), cellulose is a). supposed to be harmless in small amounts and b). isn’t absorbed by the body, thus adding bulk to foods without adding calories. It also adds fiber to foods that otherwise are low in this component.

The WSJ article quotes Michael Jacobson, the CSPI’s executive director, as saying, “Cellulose is cellulose.” He then apparently said that no research points to health problems secondary to eating cellulose.

The FDA limits the percentage of cellulose in some foods (e.g., cheese spread and jams) and sets an upper ceiling (usually 1 to 4 %) for how much cellulose can be added to meat products.

Well I know we need fiber in our diet and it appears that this additive isn’t bad for you. But I prefer not to eat processed foods and to get my fiber in natural forms.

So I Googled “Food high in fiber” and found a Mayo Clinic website that listed, amoung other foods: raspberries, unpeeled pears and apples, whole-wheat spaghetti, bran flakes, cooked split peas and lentils and artichokes.

It’s your choice; Processed foods with added wood pulp or plain old fruits and veggies.

Chew on!

 

What’s Good for General Bullmoose…

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

A Bull Moose has some clout

Several major concerns in Americans’ diets have apparently taken another step to resolution. I’ve written how the dietary salt (sodium really) recommendation has recently been lowered so that about 70% of us (all but the young, white and quite healthy) should be ingesting only 1,300 to 1,500 mg. of sodium per day. That’s tough enough to do. I saw a recipe yesterday in a “Light Cooking” magazine my wife gets that was interesting: a steak hash. But per portion it had 1,000 mg. of sodium.  That’s over two thirds of what I should eat in a whole day. I didn’t bookmark that recipe.

Then there’s the relatively high cost of fresh fruits and vegetables compared to some other choices, so called “prepared foods” one can buy in the supermarket. Those mixtures are often filled with sodium, fats and sugars, but they’re comparatively cheaper in many instances.

We’re fortunate enough, as a pair of USAF retirees,  to be able to buy our fruits at the Air Force Base Commissary closest to us as we did when we drove to Cheyenne to see our Dermatologist today. And in the summer, of course, we’ve again purchased a veggie share and a fruit share from the local CSA, Grant Family Farms. Next summer two sets of friends will join us in that, so the variety will go up and the price per item down as we purchase larger shares. Then we got a quarter of a “hand-raised” cow this year at a wonderful per pound price. That came through friends whose neighbor has a very small herd and sells a few each year.

So what if you’re on a tighter budget and don’t live where friends and their neighbors have livestock?

Today in The New York Times appeared an article titled “Promote Healthy Foods.”  It details how Wal-Mart (since 2008 I think it’s actually Walmart), now the biggest retail concern in the country has a new plan, one that over the next five years will cut down on packaged foots content of the sodium, fat and sugars. That gradual approach doesn’t ring well with some; I saw some negative quotes, but other countries have followed the same pattern with success. it’s hard to go from high-salt to low-salt diets in one urgent push. I know since I tried that when my own blood pressure first went up in the early 1980s.

I tried some “no-salt” foods and hated them. Yet now, some 25+ years later, I’m quite comfortable adding pepper and other spices and using no table salt and no cooking salt.  We cook with a little salt when we have company, using less than the recipe calls for, and I frequently see our guests adding salt at the table. When we eat alone there’s no salt shaker there.

Wal-Mart is also planning to offer fruits and vegetables at lower prices. And the article said they plan to build some more stores in rural and “underserved” areas. The company has been discussing healthy eating and our epidemic of childhood obesity with the First Lady and she apparently endorsed their efforts. Why is this significant? Well it’s because they can pressure their suppliers to follow along with the concept. They are the Bull Moose herd leader and others tend to tag after them.

We don’t do much shopping with them, but in this case I say, “Hooray for Wal-Mart.”

Caveat Emptor

Friday, January 7th, 2011

An article that got me thinking and Googling

Remember when phlogiston was the answer? Well maybe not; that was a long time ago, but ideas in science and medicine come and go.

Two things reminded me of that in the last few days. I usually try to keep up with developments in those areas of medicine that I have a direct or even peripheral interest in. I read the abstracts in the Annals of Internal Medicine and decide which articles make sense to read in full. I look through the bi-monthly Journal Club appended to Annals and do the same.

Then I find suggestions in the two papers and several magazines I read and hunt down the original articles on which they are based.

Some of that is personal; we each take several prescription meds plus a senior vitamin, a large-dose B12 pill, vitamin C, fish oil capsules and vitamin D each day and our supplements have varied over the years as new articles come out.

But even as a medically-trained (now retired for 12+ years) individual, there are times when I find a sudden switch  in the conventional thinking to be jarring.

Two of those happened in the past week.

I was about to write a blog post on Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios in our diet and give my take on what our optimum ratio should be. American diets have had a ratio well over that in many countries; some advise altering that from the current/recent 15:1 or even 40+:1 to 2:1 or 1:1.

Then my wife, aware of my interest in the area, showed me an article that led me to contacting a senior Harvard professor. Dr. Frank Sacks works in the Department of Nutrition in the Harvard School of Public Health and has chaired, co-chaired or been the principal investigator on a number of well-known, multi-center studies.

He was kind enough to respond to me email and sent me two of his publications, one from the journal “Circulation 2009; 119; 902-907 and the other from The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 91(2): 309-400.  Bottom line: he feels both Omega-6s and Omega-3s are good polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and that ratios make no sense. I’m still digesting his articles and may comment on them later.

Then a friend gave me an article from The Atlantic. It had the intriguing title I pasted in above. I read the lay publication and then Googled the man written about.

Dr. John Ioannidis is a Professor of Medicine at a Greek university, Adjunct Professor at Tufts (where he did his fellowship after graduating from Harvard) and Director of the Preventive Medicine Research Center at Stanford.

Nearly ten years ago he began a project in Greek hospitals that eventually led him to state as much as 90% of the research articles published in medical journals have one or more critical flaws. This isn’t limited to medicine, of course. Similar work, termed meat-resaerch, has been done in a variety of scientific fields, with the same conclusions.

Yet a late 2007 blog post by a surgeon/scientist comments 1). to paraphrase Churchill’s famous bon mote on democracy, medicine’s use of randomized clinical trials and peer-review is the worst way to find the best new treatments, except for all other ways. Whether “evidence-based” reviews have improved the system remains to be seen.

Statistical analysis, as done in a commentary on Ioannnidis’s work, can explain why even a quarter of the very best studies can yield incorrect results.

Yet medicine moves on, discarding treatments found to be ineffective or harmful.

In the meantime, I’ll not try the latest and “best”..at least not most of the time.

More on salt; is it addictive?

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Salt for your addiction

Finished with shoveling snow for the second time in twenty-four hours, I sat down to eat hot oatmeal with pumpkin, a treat Lynnette dreamed up recently. In her mail stack I noted a copy of Prevention, a magazine I seldom read, but this particular issue had a story with an intriguing title “The Food Addiction That’s Making you Fat,”

After reading the article, which I regraded as strong on suggestions, but light on references, I went back to the medical literature trying to discover if the basic premise, that salt can cause a spike in the level of dopamine, a chemical that stimulates our brain’s “pleasure center” made medical sense. It took a while, but I found a 2008 article on PubMed Central (part of the National Library of Medicine’s website that offer access to abstracts and full-text articles), and discovered the background data for the statement.

In 2008, in the journal Physiology and Behavior, a University of Iowa group published an article titled “Salt Craving: The Psychobiology of pathogenic sodium intake.” I won’t bore you with the details, but the 46-page article was well=written and the data seemed sound.

The abstract mentioned that salt is essential to our physiological functions and generally is regarded as “highly palatable.” Other sources say it brings out flavor in many foods and a humorous Time Magazine article on that subject that I found  (Josh Ozersky May 17, 2010) said a New York legislator had recently proposed banning all salt use in restaurant kitchens, making the author think of fleeing to Canada. He called salt “cocaine for the palate.”

That made me delve into the body of the much longer article. The data and studies quoted did point to the dopaminergic mechanism being involved in salt depletion experiments. But that’s salt depletion and our typical diet is a long ways from leading to that state.

I think the bottom line is salt enhances taste and we get conditioned to expect it as a learned behavior. Newborns either dislike salt or don’t care; we’re two or three before the baby-food industry or our parents get us hooked on salt.

But hooked most of us are; that’s the bad news. The good news is that addiction can be broken, starting with removing salt shakers form your dining area and coking without salt. We now use many other spices, not spice mixes which may have salt as a major ingredient…and get by just fine.

The bottom line is that many things can be regarded as addictive: drugs of course, but also fats, chocolate, carbs, sex and voluntary exercise. And with that note, I think it’s time to go to the gym. Now there’s an addiction I enjoy.

Maybe not all trans fats are bad for you

Monday, December 27th, 2010

We're back at the trans fat farm

I got my copy of the Annals of Internal Medicine today and, for once, read at least the summary of almost all the articles. One in particular caught my eye. It’s a report of a prospective study that was multi-institutional (Harvard, the NIH, University of New Mexico and University of Washington with associated branches for two of the schools), fairly large (3,736 adults), multi-racial and lengthy (1992-2006). The study group was limited to adults over 65 who were living in the community, not in institutions. It was termed a “cohort study” and one definition of that is “A study in which a particular outcome, such as death from a heart attack, is compared in groups of people who are alike in most ways but differ by a certain characteristic, such as smoking.”

In other words it’s not a prospective controlled study, which I view as a higher level of medical research; in those you decide in advance what the object of the study is and select groups again in advance who will differ in some important aspect (e.g., they will or will not receive a particular medicine that’s being studied or they’ll be put on differing diets with one group getting whole milk and the other low-fat or non-fat milk). That may seem a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one to me.

In any case the outcome was fascinating, though I’d term it preliminary.

Remember I mentioned trans fats (or more precisely trans fatty acids) as being bad guys. Well here’s a case where one particular trans fat may be a good guy.

Most trans fats in the diet of Americans are/were artificially produced (I say were because a number of places (NYC and California) have almost totally banned them (less then 0.5% is allowed in the CA law). The FDA required strict labeling of these in 2006.

But small amounts are found in milk and  red meat. This study appears to demonstrate that a  particular trans fat called trans-palmitoleate, found in whole milk is associated with a lower risk for developing diabetes in adults. The effect wasn’t found with red meat consumption or low-fat milk consumption.

Now that’s very interesting, but it doesn’t prove this particular fatty acid itself is healthful, only that, in this admittedly large and well-conducted study, that it’s “associated with” several good metabolic effects, i.e., less diabetes and less obesity. The fatty acid could be a marker for consumption of something else that causes the effect.

More studies need to follow this one, of course, but the authors suggest that if those were to show the same effect, a case might be made for enriching/supplementing milk with this fatty acid. They also mention that, until this issue is resolved, the current push toward drinking only low-fat or even no-fat dairy products may be viewed differently.

No pun intended, but I need to digest this information a little before making a choice for myself.