You don’t have to be more than a little bit observant to draw the same conclusion from your own experience. The question seems to be do we want longer, vital and abundant lives more than what we’re about to put into our mouths in the moment. Knowing this scientifically doesn’t guarantee a result. Applying the knowledge without our awareness, attention and action explains the circumstances. Optimal health has common principles. It’s up to us to chose health and the appropriate behaviors.
Data from a new study of British adults suggest that adherence to a “Western-style” diet (fried and sweet food, processed and red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products) reduces a person’s likelihood of achieving older ages in good health and with higher functionality. Study results appear in the May issue of The American Journal of Medicine.
“The impact of diet on specific age-related diseases has been studied extensively, but few investigations have adopted a more holistic approach to determine the association of diet with overall health at older ages,” says lead investigator Tasnime Akbaraly, PhD, Inserm, Montpellier, France. “We examined whether diet, assessed in midlife, using dietary patterns and adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), is associated with aging phenotypes, identified after a mean 16-year follow-up.”
The AHEI is a validated index of diet quality, originally designed to provide dietary guidelines with the specific intention to combat major chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Investigators analyzed findings from the British Whitehall II cohort study, which suggest that following the AHEI can double the odds of reversing metabolic syndrome, a condition known to be a strong predictor of heart disease and mortality. The research team sought to identify dietary factors that can not only prevent premature death, but also promote ideal aging.
Researchers followed 3,775 men and 1,575 women from 1985-2009 with a mean age of 51 years from the Whitehall II study. Using a combination of hospital data, results of screenings conducted every five years, and registry data, investigators identified mortality and chronic diseases among participants.
The outcomes at follow-up stage, classified into 5 categories were:
1. Ideal aging, defined as free of chronic conditions and high performance in physical, mental, and cognitive functioning tests – 4.0 percent
2. Nonfatal cardiovascular event – 12.7 percent
3. Cardiovascular death – 2.8 percent
4. Noncardiovascular death – 7.3 percent
5. Normal aging — 73.2 percent
The study determined that participants with low adherence to the AHEI increased their risk of cardiovascular and noncardiovascular death. Those who followed a “Western-type diet” consisting of fried and sweet food, processed food and red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products lowered their chances for ideal aging.
“We showed that following specific dietary recommendations such as the one provided by the AHEI may be useful in reducing the risk of unhealthy aging, while avoidance of the ‘Western-type foods’ might actually improve the possibility of achieving older ages free of chronic diseases and remaining highly functional,” notes Dr. Akbaraly. “A better understanding of the distinction between specific health behaviors that offer protection against diseases and those that move individuals towards ideal aging may facilitate improvements in public health prevention packages.”
A recent story By ANNIE GASPARRO in the Wall Street Journal pointed out some of the ways mainstream groceries are rushing to copy Whole Foods to stem the shrinking margins against rising food costs. There’s some skepticism about just how much “healthy” or “organic” food is really in the market. If you don’t believe me, just ask any grocer to point out the food products in their store that have no genetically modified ingredients. Go ahead, . . . . . I’ll meet you in the produce aisle.
Traditional supermarkets are investing more in the healthy food fad, trying to win back customers from the increasingly popular Whole Foods Markets Inc. and farmers markets. (Healthy food fad?? WTF?? Poor health and absenteeism is costing U.S. companies $564 billion a year. I think we’re past healthy food being a ‘fad’. Maybe a lifeline would be more apt).
Kroger Co., one of the nation’s largest grocery store networks with 2,200 locations, is the latest in rolling out a new natural and organic foods brand it hopes will boost profitability and help it compete more strongly in the segment.
In recent years, mainstream supermarkets have been losing their hold on the grocery business to myriad competitors infringing on the territory. Meanwhile, food cost inflation and budget-minded consumers are making it tougher for them to turn a profit.
Kroger has outpaced competitors, such as Safeway Inc. and Supervalu Inc., by marking down its prices to become value-oriented, even before the recession started, and expanding its store-branded line of products to lure budget shoppers.
Kroger’s first natural foods line, Naturally Preferred, was brought to stores in 2000. The company then launched its Private Selection Organic line in 2006. But the two didn’t generate the loyal following Kroger hoped.
“Our customers told us that having multiple brands was confusing to them,” Mary Ellen Adcock, Kroger’s vice president of natural foods division, said in an interview.
“This way it’s easy for them to find natural and organic products that they know they can trust, and to have more choices of both…. Choice drives incremental sales,” she added.
Kroger’s new brand, Simple Truth, is intended to be less complicated—by rebranding the two existing lines under one umbrella—and to be more affordable than fancy organic brands. Simple Truth reminds me of Clear Skies, No Child Left Behind and all the other attempts to co opt language to obscure meaning.
Even though private-label prices are lower, that business is more profitable for grocery stores than sales of name-brand products. Safeway, which operates regional chains such as Vons and Randalls, has said profit margins on its store-brand products are about four percentage points better than name-brand sales. And on average, store brands generate a 35% gross margin compared with 25.9% for national brands, according to the Food Marketing Institute.
Kroger has increased its store-brand business over the past few years to now constitute about 34% of the grocery items it sells, compared with just 19% at rival grocer Supervalu.
Demand for organic food is also on the rise, according to the Organic Trade Association, which claims 78% of U.S. families say they are choosing organic foods as part of their shopping. California is poised to pass the first of it’s kind GMO labeling law in the U.S. (Most foreign countries already have labeling requirements for GMO’s).
“People are still value conscious, but they are even more organic conscious,” said Whole Foods Chief Operating Officer A.C. Gallo. “Supermarkets pulled back their focus on organics during the recession, and are now starting to bring that back. But for us, it isn’t something we get in to or out of based on a fad or which way we think the wind’s blowing,” he added.
As mainstream grocers try to compete with the leading organic players for the best value proposition, they will also be up against Whole Foods’ private line, dubbed 365 Everyday Value, which already has a loyal following and wide range of products. (Apparently, not all certified organic as labeled).
“The mainstream supermarkets are launching private-label organic offerings to show customers that they have natural and organic options, but that is our entire store. So our purpose with 365 is to show our customers that we also can offer a good value.” He said the store’s margins on the products aren’t always better than sales of the national brands, but that Whole Foods is more focused on building sales volume and increasing customer frequency with the line.
Other grocery stores, such as Supervalu, have also recently moved to a single private-label line across all their stores, counting on the larger-scale operations to help decrease costs and increase marketing capabilities.
Supervalu, whose brands include Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s and more, is also expanding its private-label business this year, including a line of natural and organic foods called Wild Harvest. Safeway introduced its all-natural brand, Open Nature, in late 2010, to complement its existing organic line and health-oriented brand
One way is to patronize merchants willing to be transparent about the food products they carry or their educational outreach about those products. For example, Earth Fare carries no products containing high fructose corn syrup ( HFCS). Mother’s Market & Kitchen offers educational information to both customers and staff. Our food is in peril. How can we be sure that what we buy in a health food store is healthy?
Lewd Food in your supermarket aisles? Rebranding is not a guananteed path to success especially when consumers are playing Russian Roulette with each food purchase. It’s still a buyer beware marketplace and the savvy food shoppers know value and what questions to ask their grocers.
Rolling into 2011, fast-food joints across the country are set to deploy a potent new arsenal of greasy goodness for Americans who have grown numb to mere burgers. Think spicier, cheesier, gooier. The new items flout principles of healthful eating and instead celebrate a spirit of wanton gluttony. So much for those New Year resolutions.
Find out just what Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, Papa Johns and Taco Bell are up to in a LA Times article.
PepsiCo is betting that consumers want to “snackify” drinks.Â I guess there’s one born every minute, but paying a premium for a new pureed fruit product instead of just eating a piece of fruit escapes me. Not only will the 80 calorie
fruit puree come in colorful pouches, but a four pack will go for $2.49 to $3.49.Â So how many organic apples can you buy for $3.50? It’s gotta be enough at one a day to keep the doctor away for a week and without the solid waste and carbon footprint.
Pepsico Chairman and Chief Executive Indra Nooyi is staking her reputation on building out the company’s “good-for-you” portfolio, uniting the Tropicana, Quaker and Gatorade units under one umbrella and expanding their product lines. Ms. Nooyi has said she wants to build the nutrition business to $30 billion from $10 billion by 2020 according to the Wall Street Journal.
I’m wondering how optimistic those projections are going to look once consumers wake up to the genetically modifiedingredients in some of those “snackified” foods. If early indications from readers of our CSI Health Crimes: GMOs special report is any indication, once the truth is known, the uproar and anger may be just what we need to avoid Wally World after all.Â Maybe then those cheap introductory prices will quickly give way in the face of rising commodity prices – dairy prices are up 27%, grain is up 33%, coffee 32%, and fruits 62%.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and predict that consumers will realize sooner than later that all the ‘processing’ they need for their food starts with eating it fresh.