Thursday, November 20, 2008

Goji berry may stop skin cancer (?)

A tiny red berry celebrated for its antioxidant qualities may also help protect against skin damage that leads to cancer, researchers believe. Scientists at the University of Sydney fed diluted juice from the goji berry to mice in the laboratory and found it protected them against the same sun damage as other mice when exposed to harsh UV rays. Another experiment showed skin cancer advanced slower in mice that had drunk goji juice.

Cancer specialists have cautioned that while the berry, strong in antioxidant properties, appears to act like a sunscreen in mice, it is untested on humans. Goji juice has been the subject of bad press in recent years after tests by the Australian Consumer Association showed it was no more beneficial to health than standard fruit juices.

Dr Vivienne Reeve, from the university's Faculty of Veterinary Science, told a medical research conference in Brisbane on Monday that she fed mice either water or diluted juice and then exposed them to UV radiation to give them sunburn. "The goji berry-drinking mice had significantly less inflammation of the skin," said Dr Reeve, who is a scientific adviser to a company that distributes the juice. "And the juice seemed to protect the immune system because they didn't get immuno-suppression which is a major risk factor for skin cancer development in chronically over-exposed skin."

It also appeared to have protective properties against skin cancer growth, she said, with another experiment showing skin cancer-induced mice had significantly slower growing tumours.

"We haven't tested it on humans but this gives us every indication that we should if we want to help protect people from sun damage and disease," she said.

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Professor Ian Olver said the research was interesting but should be viewed with caution. "Just because it works like sunscreen in mice does not mean it will do the same in humans as the two types of skin are very different," Prof Olver said.


Bake Sales Fall Victim to Push for "Healthier" Foods

The do-gooders are determined to do you good whether you want that or not. Too bad if you disagree with them about what is good. They have the certainty of the ignorant on their side

Tommy Cornelius and the other members of the Piedmont High School boys water polo team never expected to find themselves running through school in their Speedos to promote a bake sale across the street. But times have been tough since the school banned homemade brownies and cupcakes.

The old-fashioned school bake sale, once as American as apple pie, is fast becoming obsolete in California, a result of strict new state nutrition standards for public schools that regulate the types of food that can be sold to students. The guidelines were passed by lawmakers in 2005 and took effect in July 2007. They require that snacks sold during the school day contain no more than 35 percent sugar by weight and derive no more than 35 percent of their calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat.

The Piedmont High water polo team falls woefully short of these standards, selling cupcakes, caramel apples and lemon bars off campus in a flagrant act of nutritional disobedience.

“I know obesity is a big problem, and it’s good the school cares,” said Sam Cardoza, a senior who briefly became a successful entrepreneur last year when chocolate chip cookies were banned from the cafeteria. “At the same time, you shouldn’t stop a kid from buying a cookie.”

California is a hatchery of food trends, but its regulations are not the country’s strongest. A study of 500 to 600 school districts nationwide found that many now have policies that limit the amount of fat, trans fats, sodium and sugars in food sold or served at school, with the strictest rules directed at elementary schools, said Jamie Chriqui, a senior research scientist with the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The idea is that policy interventions to reduce consumption “will do for junk food what smoking bans and taxes did for tobacco,” Ms. Chriqui said.

In California, sports drinks, which can contain almost as much sugar as soda, are still allowed in middle and high schools, but sodas, including diet sodas, will be banned from all schools next year. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Kentucky has the strictest regulations on school nutrition, with sugar and sodium limits on beverages that eliminate most standard sports drinks. “Before, it was the chips, the Hostess cupcakes, the Little Debbie doughnut sticks,” said Ginger Gray, the director of school nutrition for the Kenton County School District in northern Kentucky. Now, only pure fruit juice and low-fat or skim milk are allowed. The district’s most popular dish is whole-wheat stromboli made from scratch, Ms. Gray said, adding that she leans toward foods that families can cook at home. “You’re teaching them habits for life,” she said.

The regulatory focus on school nutrition has been gaining ground nationwide in recent years, amid concerns over childhood obesity and a lack of access to healthful food. Sixteen states have set standards for so-called competitive foods that compete with meals, like à la carte cookies, cinnamon buns and soft drinks. And, yes, this even affects bake sales.

In Chula Vista, Calif., near San Diego, sales plummeted at Hilltop High School’s multicultural food fair, an annual fund-raising event for the foreign language and global studies departments that has traditionally featured bratwurst, breadsticks with marinara sauce, apple pie and root beer floats. “This year was really hard,” said Jade Wagner, a senior, referring to the half-bratwursts and nondairy diet root beers.

If bake sales are out, “healthy” fund-raisers, like carwashes and balloon-o-grams, are in. In Oakland, Calif., new traditions are replacing old ones: a “Healthy Halloween” vegetable platter for kindergartners at Montclair Elementary; power bars and apple slices at the after-school homework club at Crocker Highlands Elementary; a Caesar salad-making class, a weekly organic produce stand and “nutrition breaks” replacing snack breaks at Peralta Elementary.

In Berkeley, birthplace of California cuisine, food served at school is free of bovine growth hormones, irradiation, hydrogenated oils and known genetic modification.

Birthday celebrations are not immune from nutrition watchdogs: around the country, there is growing pressure to forgo cupcakes in favor of nonfood treats. “I don’t think all celebrations need to be around food,” said Ann Cooper, the director of nutrition services for the Berkeley school district. “We need to get past the mentality of food used for punishment or praise.”

In Guilford, Conn., the school district’s health advisory committee has decided that birthday parties belong at home. At A. W. Cox Elementary, birthdays are celebrated with an extra 15 minutes of recess, special pencils or a “birthday book club” with commemorative inserts. “The children have totally refocused,” said the principal, Merry Leventhal. “They’re happy to celebrate in these other ways.”

A recent study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale found that, contrary to parental fears, children were not compensating for the absence of sugar or fat at school by raiding the refrigerator at home. “Some people think that kids have this internal potato chip monitor, but there’s no evidence of that,” said Marlene B. Schwartz, the center’s deputy director. “People really do eat what’s in front of them.”

In California, bake sales are waning because ingredients cannot be regulated. Sales are banned during school hours but may be held a half-hour before or after school. The ban on bake sales has not been met with universal enthusiasm. The Piedmont Highlander, the school newspaper, editorialized about “birthday cakes turned into contraband” and homemade goodies snatched from students “by the long arm and hungry mouth of the law.”

Even some nutritionists question whether banishing bake sales is the best approach. “It concerns me we’re not teaching moderation,” said Stephanie Bruce, the president of the California School Nutrition Association, who works in the Ontario-Montclair School District in Ontario, Calif.

Melissa Luna, considered the ueber-mom of Crocker Highlands Elementary in Oakland, said that sometimes calories mattered less than the importance of a cause — like the bake sale organized to raise money for Christopher Rodriguez, a student who was shot and paralyzed last March by a stray bullet from a gas station robbery while he was taking piano lessons across the street. The sale, attended by members of the Oakland Raiders and Oakland Athletics, raised $30,000.

In Berkeley, Anna X. L. Wong, a kindergarten teacher at Jefferson Elementary, incorporates “good foods” versus “bad foods” into the curriculum and offers her students healthy snacks, including edamame — her version of preventive medicine. “We talk about the word ‘courage,’ ” Ms. Wong said of her young students. “That means being brave enough to try new things.”



John A said...

In Bake Sales we read Marlene B. Schwartz, the center’s deputy director. “People really do eat what’s in front of them.”

Well, yes. During WWII "bread" in some European markets was over fifty percent sawdust - and was sought after because it was the best on offer.

Anonymous said...

I think this is all insane. We're setting up to raise a nation of disordered eaters. I went to a local food symposium in Berkeley Thursday, and that woman Ann actually did a great thing, turning a school district menu consisting of only frozen and canned foods (pizza, chicken sticks, fries, etc), into a district that cooks all from scratch. I think that many people think if a little bit of food regulation is good, more is even better, and they go overboard, banning things for senseless reasons.