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22 Posts authored by: Michael Bernstein

What would you say if someone told you that one of the best things you could eat with a nice glass of certain red wines would be a fatty burger?

It wouldn’t hurt to try it with filet mignon, either, but there is something special about that burger that will probably surprise you.

According to a report in ACS’ journal Langmuir, lipids (fats) in certain foods match up well with wines high in tannins (polyphenols, or antioxidants) to produce a smooth-tasting beverage. Such wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Montepulciano, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Nebbiolo, all reds.


This interaction is critical to the taste of the wine because the fats interfere with the tannins’ ability to mix with saliva and create a bitter taste, says Julie Géan, Ph.D., who is the study team leader. So any foods with a significant amount of lipids would work well with these high-tannin red wines. Studies have shown that tannins from red grape seeds and skins are known to play an important part in taste since they contribute to red wine astringency, a dry and rough sensation in the mouth.


“Based on our study, we can assume that fats present in meat, fish and cheese could interact with tannins when you drink wine,” said Géan, who is with Université Bordeaux, Pessac, France.


This study is unique because of its close examination of interactions between the tannins and the lipids and their effect on the wine taste and “feel,” she said. Researchers had studied astringency and the tannin-saliva interaction widely, but little was known about interactions between tannins and lipids and their implications for tasting wine. In addition, the influence of food on the flavor and dryness of wine is well known by consumers, but has not been examined at the molecular level, according to Géan.


That is, we know that cheese goes well with a nice Petite Sirah, but we just haven’t known why –– until this study. So with what you now know, how about trying a glass of red with a double cheeseburger?

Red Wine Tannins Fluidify and Precipitate Lipid Liposomes and Bicelles. A Role for Lipids in Wine Tasting?



Click here for the abstract.

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For a strawberry-lover there’s nothing better than picking that sweet, dark red piece of fruit right off the bush and popping it into your mouth. Well, maybe strawberries and cream would be nice, too. And then there’s strawberry jam slathered on a nice piece of buttered toast. Wait: How about a big slice of strawberry pie? 

Just when you think it can’t get any better for your strawberry desserts, there’s new, exciting research on your favorite fruit. Scientists are breeding the better berry. So far these super-good strawberries appear to have more healthful antioxidants and a sweeter flavor than your standard red berry of the same name in grocery stores. Another advantage of their process is that it involves natural breeding to develop new varieties and does not produce “genetically modified,” or GMO, strawberries, avoiding this controversial technique.

According to a report in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and flavonoids, a rich source of antioxidants. Numerous studies have linked eating lots of fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants to lower risk of cancer and heart disease. So with this in mind, a research team in Italy decided to see if it could create even more healthful berries that taste even better.

For their study, the researchers bred wild strawberries with a commercial variety. “We already released a new variety (Romina) with increased high nutritional quality of the fruit in comparison with other varieties on the market (e.g. Elsanta),” said Bruno Mezzetti, who headed the team of scientists. “But then by crossing wild strawberries with cultivated genotypes we were able to develop new genotypes with a further higher content of antioxidants that looked pleasing to the eye and tasted quite sweet.” The new plants also produced a good yield of berries, he added.

Overall, the researchers worked with 20 kinds of strawberries they created and their “parents,” checking them for weight, yield, sugar content, acidity and antioxidant content. Based on their analysis, they concluded that a full-scale breeding program can produce new strawberry varieties that are superior to current commercial crops.

Mezzetti says the group’s ultimate aim is to produce these “super-good” strawberries that will be sold commercially. First, they will test the berries further in the lab and then, possibly, with human volunteers to determine even more definitively if the fruit has added health benefits and is even tastier than current varieties.



Use of Wild Genotypes in Breeding Program Increases Strawberry Fruit Sensorial and

Nutritional Quality”


Click here for the abstract.


*Journalists can request a PDF of the journal article by emailing


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Avocados are great with a little salad dressing or as the yummiest ingredient in guacamole. But when you get to the half of the fruit with that big brown seed or pit in it, the fun stops abruptly. Using a knife doesn’t work well, and forget about a fork. Luckily the third key utensil is the magic charm: A nice large soup spoon is ideal for scooping out the seed and the fruit.

Unless you plan to grow your own avocado plant, however, you will throw that seed in the trash. But not so fast!

A recent review article in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry says that the seeds and other inedible parts of certain tropical fruits in particular may well contain ingredients for a new, natural weight-loss product. We’re talking about the flower, leaf and peel, as well as the seeds.

After reviewing more than 80 studies done over a decade, Dawei Zhang and colleagues have concluded that these apparently worthless waste products actually contain high amounts of phytochemicals that could help with losing weight.
are non-nutritive plant chemicals that can help protect people from diseases. Among these are polyphenols, which are healthful antioxidants.

As yet, there is no clear evidence on exactly how these phytochemicals work to reduce weight, Zhang says. Researchers haven’t isolated the bioactive compounds or discovered if there is a combination of compounds in the fruits that work to reduce weight. But the point is that the fruit waste does appear to be effective in keeping weight down in lab tests, thus helping prevent development of diabetes, for example.

Besides having great potential as an anti-obesity agent, the study team says the fruit waste has a major advantage over weight-loss drugs: It won’t produce side effects as some synthetic meds do. So what are some of these magical inedibles? They include seeds from nuts and corn in addition to avocados; tangerine, mango and prickly pear peels; pomegranate flowers, and mango, guava, papaya and olive leaves.

While studies document how effective these waste fat-fighters can be, no one has described how to extract and process these compounds from foods. “We need to find the right places and equipment to store these fruit wastes to prevent them from decaying,” said Zhang. “We also need to develop large-scale extraction techniques to take up only the parts that we need.” Also important, he said, is to grow large quantities of crops that contain high amounts of the valuable anti-obesity compounds.


“The Hidden Potential of Tropical Fruit Waste Components As Useful Source of Remedy for Obesity”

Click here for the abstract.

*Journalists can request a PDF of the journal article by emailing






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Sunflower seeds. Sesame seeds. Caraway seeds. Rye seeds. Pumpkin seeds. Surely, there must be an edible seed for everyone’s taste. Un-hulled sunflower seeds are a baseball player’s delight. Rye, caraway and sesame seeds dress up a variety of breads, including bagels. And roasted pumpkin seeds are a Halloween treat for many.

And now we can add another one to the list that will, no doubt, surprise you: canary seeds. Yes, canary seeds for human beings.

With 3 million celiac disease patients in the United States suffering from gastrointestinal and other symptoms from eating grains, including rye, barley and wheat, researchers went on a quest to find new gluten-free options. They discovered that special canary seeds could be added to the existing gluten-free diet of rice, teff, corn, buckwheat sorghum and quinoa.

Writing in the ACS journal Agricultural & Food Chemistry, Joyce Irene Boye and colleagues explain that the new variety of canary seed, minus the tiny hairs of the seed, works as a gluten-free cereal for people. Previously, the hairs –– included when used as food for birds –– had made canary seed inedible for humans.

The team said that the new canary seeds can be used to make flour that can be used in cookies, cakes breads and other products, as well as for cereal. And this new product, which has more protein than most other grain, also is loaded with other nutrients.

If you allergic to gluten, would you try this new canary seed “grain” or bake breads with a canary-seed flour? Would you “Tweet” about this?

“Analysis of Glabrous Canary Seeds by ELISA, Mass Spectrometry and Western Blotting for the Absence of Cross-reactivity with Major Plant Food Allergens”

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Credit: Credit: Steve Hurst, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

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Check the dictionary for the definition of versatile. You won’t find “cotton” there, and that’s a shame.

Here are just some of the products that come from this worthy plant: textile and yarn goods, automobile tire cord, plastic reinforcing, fertilizer, fuel and packing, pressed paper and cardboard. As if that weren’t enough, there’s cottonseed oil for salads and cooking, margarine and other shortenings and even cosmetics. And don’t forget
soap, candles, detergents, artificial leather, oilcloth and many other commodities.

So with this knowledge, it should come as no great surprise that there may well be yet another use for cotton, one on a rather grand scale. In the wake of such disasters as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists have discovered that unprocessed, raw cotton may be an excellent, environmentally friendly product to absorb large quantities of oil.

Reporting in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research,
Seshadri Ramkumar and colleagues say that their research was motivated by a need to find materials to soak up oil from spills that are relatively cheap, biodegradable and sustainable. While there had been in-depth research on wool, barley straw and kapok, little has been published about the absorbing levels of raw cotton, they said.

So what did they find? Each pound of cotton absorbed and retained up to 30 pounds of crude oil, a significant amount for cleanup activities. And not only did it sop up the crude, but the oil also stuck to the outside of the cotton. In addition to having great absorbing power, the raw cotton is environmentally friendly, another advantage when compared to synthetic materials that soak up spills, the team said.

With concerns over oil spills and their effect on the environment, do you think such a finding will be on a fast track to the marketplace?

“Crude Oil Sorption by Raw Cotton”


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This can’t be true, but it does seem like bananas and avocadoes start ripening the moment you put them into your shopping bag. Within just a few days, these fruits and vegetables turn an overripe brown. It takes a keen eye to pick out these foods at the store so that they will be ready when you want to add them to that bowl of cereal or guacamole.

But picking out fruit or veggies is child’s play when it comes to choosing which flowers will last through the week. Besides consulting a horticulturist, there appears to be no way to know how long it will take that vase full of red roses to fade to black.

The invisible culprit is a gas that causes fruits and vegetables to ripen and flowers to wilt too quickly.  A new technology, however, could save billions of dollars for the food and florist industries and please anyone who is fighting the ongoing ripening battle at home or in restaurant kitchens.

Scientists explain that fruits, vegetables and flowers are still alive after picking, and they produce and release ethylene gas, which helps ripening and blooming. The problem is that when the gas escapes into enclosed storage and shipping containers, it builds up and speeds up ripening. To address this issue, Nicolas Keller, Marie-Noëlle Ducamp, Didier Robert and Valérie Keller compared all ethylene control/removal techniques described in more than 300 studies.

Reporting in the American Chemical Society’s Chemical Reviews, they say that
photocatalysis offers the best opportunity to dissipate ethylene and slow ripening and blooming on Earth and during space missions. With the method, a catalyst and light act together to remove ethylene by transforming it into carbon dioxide and water.

Based on their extensive review, the team predicts that this approach could replace present ethylene removal technologies for storing and transporting fresh fruits and vegetables. The technology offers health and economic benefits worldwide by improving food quality and availability, they say.

Does this sound like an approach industry might embrace? How often do you have to throw out overripe fruit or veggies?

“Ethylene Removal and Fresh Product Storage: A Challenge at the Frontiers of Chemistry. Toward an Approach by Photocatalytic Oxidation”

*Journalists can request a PDF of the journal article by emailing


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Here are some unpalatable statistics: A total of 1.8 million Americans have celiac disease and nearly as many –– 1.4 million –– don’t know they have it. And ponder this: Nearly five times as many people have celiac disease today than in the 1950s, with the rate doubling every 15 years since 1974.

Adding to the problem is that the average person never even heard of this disease for decades after it was first discovered. Only in recent years has awareness risen and gluten-free diets and food become popular. Another major problem is that this autoimmune disease presents with symptoms common to other maladies –– bloating, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, anemia and joint pain.


Despite this gloomy picture, there now is some good news for celiac patients looking for another suitable grain to use in baking bread and cakes and cookies. Sorghum, a gluten-free grain popular in Africa, Central America and South Asia is a safe food ingredient for people with celiac disease, according to scientists. They say that to date the grain mainly has been used in animal feed in the United States. Recently, however, U.S. farmers have begun producing sorghum hybrids that are a white grain, known as “food-grade” sorghum.


Reporting in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Paola Pontieri and colleagues explain that the unpleasant symptoms, caused by body’s immune system attacking the digestive system, are set off by exposure to gluten, a protein composite found in such grains as wheat, rye and barley.  The only treatment is avoiding breads and other foods that contain gluten. Sorghum, they note, is a welcome, alternative grain for people with celiac disease.


They say that a recent analysis of the sorghum plant clearly showed that there was no evidence of any genes related to the troublesome gluten protein. And in addition to this positive finding, they noted that sorghum is a highly nutritional grain.


What do you think? Would you eat a sorghum pastry?  A sorghum cereal?

“Sorghum, a Healthy and Gluten-Free Food for Celiac Patients As Demonstrated by Genome, Biochemical, and Immunochemical Analyses,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry


*Journalists can request a PDF of the journal article by emailing





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Olive oil, that cooking liquid so popular today with chefs at home and in restaurants, hasn’t always been a culinary staple. There was a time when one of the few places you would find it was as a partner with red vinegar in salad dressing. And then, sometime in the latter part of the last century, olive oil began to come into its own.

A variety of restaurants, beginning with those featuring Italian cuisine, began serving this golden oil as a substitute for butter. Today, many restaurants serve olive oil flavored with herbs and spices, as well as the popular parmesan cheese. Pleasant flavor is not the only plus for olive oil. Scientists have reported that monounsaturated oils like olive, contrasted with high-fat, saturated shortenings like lard, for example, can actually improve your health. They say monounsaturated oils
may help lower your risk of heart disease by lowering your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) levels.

scientists also may be close to solving the mystery of exactly why consuming extra virgin olive oil helps reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). They say that the answer may be that one part of the olive oil helps push the abnormal AD proteins out of the brain. Noting that while 30 million people suffer from the disease around the world, a smaller percentage of people in Mediterranean countries have AD. The reason: scientists have thought that it was due to the large quantities of olive oil in the diet in that part of the world.

Amal Kaddoumi and his team note that recent studies, however, indicate that a substance called oleocanthal in the oil may protect nerve cells from the kind of damage associated with Alzheimer’s. The team has been looking for evidence that, in fact, oleocanthal does help decrease the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain.  Researchers believe that beta-amyloid is a key player in AD.

Reporting in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, the team described how they followed the effects of oleocanthal in the brains and cultured brain cells of lab mice. In both parts of the study, the substance clearly ramped up production of two proteins and key enzymes believed to be crucial in cleansing the brain of beta-amyloid.


“Olive-Oil-Derived Oleocanthal Enhances β-Amyloid Clearance as a Potential Neuroprotective Mechanism against Alzheimer’s Disease: In Vitro and in Vivo Studies,” ACS Chemical Neuroscience





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It’s pretty easy to fit the millions of people who drink wine into categories. They love red and hate white, or vice versa, or they like both kinds of wine. Taking it to another level, when it comes to the art of pairing wine with food, the group of wine-drinkers shrinks dramatically. There are, however, some who know that a nice red Barolo works well with a mushroom risotto and that you can actually drink wine with chocolate peanut butter pie (a sweet dessert wine, Banyuls).

While some even enjoy wines that have a hint if smoke, too much of a good thing can be disastrous for the palate, and this is where a research team has come to the rescue.


They have created a way to identify grapes that have been exposed to smoke from the increasing number of wildfires around the globe which could be due to climate change. The smoke from these fires can travel long distances, and smokey grapes can produce bad-tasting wine. Grapes affected by too much smoke have unappealing aromas and taste like smoked meat or even a dirty ashtray, according to researchers.


Reporting in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Yoji Hayasaka and colleagues said they developed a test to find the substances in grapes formed after the fruit comes into contact with smoke from large fires. With the test, they can find out if the grapes have been smoke-tainted before they are crushed and made into wine. This spares wine-drinkers the unpleasant experience of drinking a very unpalatable beverage.


“Assessing the Impact of Smoke Exposure in Grapes: Development and Validation of a HPLC-MS/MS Method for the Quantitative Analysis of Smoke-Derived Phenolic Glycosides in Grapes and Wine,” Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry




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Believe it or not, in those simpler days long ago, there was a buzz of excitement when the cereal mavens first dropped a handful of plump raisins into a box of breakfast flakes. For decades, breakfast-eaters only had a choice of a bowl of milk-drenched oats or corn. Nothing fancy. Nothing too exciting.

Today, there are more milk choices (whole, reduced fat, nonfat, lactose-free, etc.) than there were kinds of cereal years ago. Fortunately, cereals have kept pace. In addition to the bonus of a variety of vitamins, manufacturers have been adding nuts, coconut, berries, bananas and –– to the joy of many –– even chunks of chocolate. One reason for the added ingredients is to enhance the taste. Another is to add more healthful fiber and antioxidants. And in the latest step in this evolutionary process scientists have created a new, explosive way to make some cereals even more healthful.

They are blowing up grains of rice to make a highly nutritious form of puffed rice. How nutritious? Try eight times more fiber and three times more protein and a bunch of other nutrients that make it just right not only for cereals but snack foods and those ubiquitous nutrition bars,
according to researchers.

Syed S.H. Rizvi and colleagues explain that commercial puffed rice is made by forcing rice flour mixed with water through a narrow opening at high temperature and pressure. After it leaves the the nozzle, the rice puffs up as steam expands and escapes. The problem, they say, is that the high heat can destroy some nutrients. To solve this problem and enrich the rice with protein and other nutrients they tried a new approach, using supercritical carbon dioxide, and it worked. Supercritical carbon dioxide (which is kind of like a gas and kind of like a liquid) also is used to make decaffeinated coffee and other products

The scientists reported in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that besides the added fiber the super-puffed rice is loaded with calcium, iron, zinc and other nutrients not found in traditional puffed rice. It’s also crisper and crunchier and has more flavor, according to the research team.


“Micronutrient and Protein-Fortified Whole Grain Puffed Rice Made by Supercritical Fluid Extrusion,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry



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To some people, it seems, the container is nearly as important as what it contains. Take beer and wine. Some time back, a bottle of a Portuguese rosé wine adorned book shelves across the United States.  The bottle –– it looks something like and upside-down tennis racquet with a round, bulbous bottom and long, thin neck –– has a certain grace to it. They still sell the wine today. And take a look at the champagne bottles. Even the cheapest grade comes in a fancy vessel, wrapped carefully in festive foil.

For beer, these days it’s all in the label. Myriad bright colors, vivid pictures. Everything from animals to bicycles. But the shape of the bottles also varies, with some as big as a bottle of wine.

And speaking of wine again, some vineyards have made another change: They have substituted the traditional cork for a screw top, and some have even turned to cartons as wine containers. These cartons, however, have presented a problem, according to researchers. And it’s not an aesthetic one…

With the changeover to cartons and screw tops at some wineries, the research team decided to see if these changes affect the taste and aroma of wine.
They report that bag-in-box wines are more likely than bottles to acquire unpleasant flavors, aromas and colors when stored at warm temperatures. The compounds in wine interact with oxygen in the air to change the taste and smell and appearance of the wine. These reactions increase as the air gets warmer, says Helene Hopfer and colleagues.

The scientists reported in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that using chemical analysis and a panel of trained tasters, they studied how storing wine for three months in different containers at different temperatures affected unoaked California Chardonnay. They observed wine stored with natural and synthetic corks, screw caps and two kinds of bag-in-box containers. The team reported that temperature had the biggest impact on all of the wines. Bag wine stored at 68 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit aged significantly faster than bottles of wine, growing darker and developing a vinegar flavor. All the wines aged better when stored at 50 degrees F.

Combined Effects of Storage Temperature and Packaging Type on the Sensory and Chemical Properties of Chardonnay,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry




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There was a time, some of you will still remember, when you could count the number of well-known national breweries in the United States on the fingers of your mug-holding hand. I won’t do a commercial here and name them, but you know which ones I mean. Many are still around today. And then, in 1980, something happened: Eight “micro” or “craft” breweries gushed onto the scene, and by 1994, that number jumped to 537. Today, there are more than 1,600 craft beer factories.

Apart from carrying imaginative brand names featuring fish and dogs and descriptors like “flying” and “sappy slappy,” brewers develop these microbrews with special care because they aren’t produced in gigantic quantities. The American Brewers Association defines a craft brewery as a small, independent brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer a year. Compare this with the more than 18 million barrels that the nation’s biggest brewer delivers annually.

With the increase in popularity of the craft beers has come an increased attention to flavor and appearance, including the head –– the foam at the top of the glass or mug. So those beer-lovers who enjoy a rich foam will be pleased to hear about the results of a new scientific study.

Scientists have discovered in the yeast used to make beer what they believe is the first gene for beer foam. And this is a good thing because the finding may well lead the way to improving the frothy head, according to researchers. Tomás G. Villa and colleagues identified the gene, which they call CFG1. They say it’s similar to one in wine and sake yeasts that also contributes to foaming. They found that there is good reason to believe the gene also could pump up the foam in beer, the world’s most popular alcoholic drink.

The researchers, writing in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, explain that the head of beer is made up of bubbles filled with carbon dioxide gas, which the yeast produces during fermentation. Proteins gather around the gas, forming the bubbles in the foam. Studies have shown that proteins from the yeast stabilize the foam, stopping the head from fading away too quickly. Until their discovery, however, no one knew which yeast gene created the foam-stabilizing protein, the researchers say.

So, armed with this new information, scientists are off and running toward putting an even fuller white mustache on the faces of beer aficionados.


“Cloning and Characterization of the Beer-Foaming Gene CFG1 from Saccharomyces pastorianus,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry



Beer foam.jpg



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If you look up the definition of cheese in a dictionary, you really should find the word “ubiquitous.” You won’t, alas, but you should because this dairy product is such an important ingredient in so many yummy dishes. Imagine mac ‘n’ cheese without the cheddar. Picture an omelet without cheese. Even filled with red or green peppers and onions, an omelet without the cheese, it’s just not the reason why you came to the table.

For cheese-lovers, probably the only thing as unpalatable as an omelet without their favorite dairy product is one made with a cheese that is not what it is billed as. It’s just not right. It’s cheesy. And this is where scientists enter center stage to set things straight. A prime target is that delicious buffalo mozzarella you find in caprese salads, accompanied by nice ripe tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar. Some gourmet restaurants use it on pizza.

It seems researchers have developed a new test to determine if this pricey buffalo mozzarella is the real article. The problem is that while
mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP is made from the milk of water buffaloes, the producers of some alleged buffalo mozzarella actually use cow’s milk to create a much less costly, bogus product. More than 100,000 pounds of buffalo mozzarella are imported by stores and restaurants in the United States each year. This doesn’t rival the 3 billion pounds of “standard” mozzarella consumed by Americans, but at as much as $30 a pound in the specialty shops, it is significant.

Barbara van Asch and colleagues explain that expensive dairy products, such as imported specialty cheeses, featuring the country of origin on the label, are among the prime candidates for doctoring by devious manufacturers. These manufacturers may substitute a cheaper ingredient for a more costly one or simply cut back on the amount of high-quality ingredients.

Studies show that the problem is widespread, with a variety of fake dairy products sold in China, India, Italy and Spain. Unfortunately, to date, tests have not been able to detect cow, goat, sheep and buffalo milks at the same time.

So the scientists have developed a test for 96 dairy products commercially available in Europe, including cheeses, butters, milks and yogurts. The test accurately determined that about 12 percent of the products did not contain ingredients listed on the labels, researchers
reported in ACS’ Journal of
Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

They found that, for example, one product label indicated that it was made from 100 percent sheep milk. Their new test clearly showed otherwise: It also contained cows’ and goats’ milk.

“A New Method for the Simultaneous Identification of Cow, Sheep, Goat and Water Buffalo in Dairy Products by Analysis of Short Species-Specific mtDNA Targets” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry







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Fact: The potato is the most popular vegetable in the United States. So I suspect you won’t be very surprised to learn that Americans eat loads of french fries, the vast majority cooked in that sizzling oil at fast-food restaurants. They actually eat an estimated 4.5 billion pounds a year, or about 30 pounds a person. French fries may taste good to many people, but scientists agree they are not very good for you.


Not only has eating large quantities of fried food in general been linked to heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, lowered ''good'' cholesterol and obesity, but researchers have shown a connection between cancer and acrylamide, a chemical compound created by deep-frying or cooking some foods in certain ways. In fact, both the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer regard acrylamide as a “probable human carcinogen.”


Now, however, there may be a way to reduce the amount of this compound in fries and other foods, according to researchers.

Although acrylamide forms naturally when certain french fries and other foods are cooked, Donald S. Mottram and colleagues still found a way to attack the problem. For the first time, they were able to connect changes in natural potato components (glucose, fructose, amino acids, moisture) that are formed during preparation and cooking with the amount of acrylamide created. The team also developed a computer model to better predict ways of reducing acrylamide levels in cooking.


The commercial process of making french fries involves selecting potatoes, sorting and cutting them, adding sugar, blanching, drying and freezing them. Then, they are fried up at a restaurant. The researchers studied many of these steps to figure out how they contribute to acrylamide formation. It turns out that minimizing the ratio of fructose to glucose (two simple sugars humans can use for energy) in cut frozen potato strips used to make french fries can lower the levels of acrylamide that end up in this fast-food staple.


The scientists reported in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that, armed with this new information on how preparation and cooking can promote differing amounts of acrylamide in french fries and other foods, they should be able to make changes in the preparation and cooking process that will cut down on the levels of this compound.

“Kinetic Model for the Formation of Acrylamide during the Finish-Frying of Commercial French Fries,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry


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This is a story about how less can be more. It’s rather rare to come across such examples in these United States of America, where so many people believe more is usually better. Take the Big Gulp, or the other “super-sized” soft drinks or the large fries. Of course, there are instances when people agree that less is better –– less weight around the mid-section, for example.

And this story does relate to something that is healthful. We’re talking about microgreens, those little greens on top of your soup or salad or inside your gourmet sandwich. Amazingly, they have more concentrated vitamins and nutrients than full-sized versions, researchers report.

Generally, these are seedlings of spinach, lettuce, red cabbage and other vegetables, about 1-3 inches tall, picked within two weeks of germination. The microgreens have been a popular item in high-end markets and restaurants, but here is a slight problem: Microgreens are rather expensive. They cost from $30-$50 a pound in stores, usually sold in
4–8 oz. bunches or in 1-lb. containers. The good news is that some home gardeners are producing their own microgreens which, like the full-size veggies, are cheaper to grow than to buy in stores.

Overall, the mini-plants improve the color, texture and flavor of everything from soup to salads and sandwiches and other foods. Until recently, however, no scientists had compared their nutrients to the full-grown veggies.

Qin Wang, Gene E. Lester and the rest of their research team are the first to study vitamins and other chemical compounds that occur naturally in these mini-plants. They looked at 25 varieties of microgreens and found that they generally have higher concentrations of healthful vitamins and carotenoids (powerful antioxidants that may help prevent cancer and heart disease) than full-sized versions.

The scientists reported in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that they also discovered wide variations in nutrient levels among the plants tested in the study. Red cabbage microgreens, for example, had the highest concentration of vitamin C, while green daikon radish microgreens had the most vitamin E. Interestingly, they also found that microgreens grown under lights had a higher nutritional content. (The researchers will formally report these data later.)


“Assessment of Vitamin and Carotenoid Concentrations of Emerging Food Products: Edible Microgreens,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry





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