Study: How Supermarket Samples May Boost Cancer-Fighting Food Purchases

When you get a grocery store food sample, do you end up purchasing that item or something similar? If so, join the crowd – many people do. And now, says a new series of studies, if you think that food sample is healthy – whether it is or not – that can prime you to fill your grocery cart with healthier foods.

For supermarkets, the studies offer insights into helping their customers towards the healthier foods. But the study also offers some important take aways to help “prime” your home environment to shape healthier choices for your family, including more cancer fighting vegetables and fruits.

The authors conducted a series of studies to determine if food samples can set people up to make choices for either healthy or less healthy food items. In the first study 120 participants received an apple, cookie or no sample at the beginning of their shopping. The researchers then counted the number of fruits and vegetables samplers purchased at the end of shopping and found that apple samplers purchased more vegetables and fruits than cookie and no samplers. Continue reading


Diet Swap Alters Gut Bacteria, Signs of Colon Cancer Risk

What you eat can play a big role in preventing colorectal cancer, with research showing that fiber-filled foods lower risk; red and processed meats increase it. Now a study hones in on how diet can affect risk, showing that swapping a high-fiber healthy diet for a low-fiber western-style diet alters gut bacteria and signs of inflammation that may play a role in colon cancer.Choice between healthy apple and unhealthy hamburger

The study is published in Nature Communications and it adds to a growing body of research on how our bacteria – our microbiota – play a role in cancer risk.

For the study, researchers flipped the diets of 20 African Americans and 20 South Africans for two weeks. All the participants had colonoscopy exams before and after the diet swap.
The Americans were served African-style foods, almost quadrupling their fiber intake to an amount equal to over 3.5 cups of beans. At the same time, they cut their calories from fat in half. Africans went the opposite direction, dramatically cutting their fiber and upping their fat intake.

After two weeks on the African diet, the Americans had less markers of inflammation in the colon while those same markers increased among the Africans eating the less healthy diet. There were also opposing increases and decreases of the compound  butyrate, which forms from digesting fiber and is linked to lowering colon cancer risk. The American group was producing more butyrate; the Africans on the American diet less. Continue reading


Study: For Healthy Habits, Your Environment Matters

Have you ever resolved to eat healthier, only to be tempted by fast food options everywhere you look? Do you think you would exercise more if only you didn’t have to spend so much time in your car?

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Many in the public health community think that factors like these play a big role in what we eat, how much we move, and what we weigh. And many communities have tried to change these factors through so-called “environmental interventions.”

Researchers from Drexel University set out to test whether these environmental interventions work in a study recently published in the journal Obesity Reviews. They conducted a systematic review looking at the impact of various environmental interventions on diet, physical activity, and obesity. Their review included 37 natural and “quasi-“ experiments. About half of these studies focused on diet.

They found that studies involving mandatory changes to the food environment—such as laws banning trans fat in restaurants or requiring healthier foods to be offered in schools—were effective in their intended outcomes. Policies that make it easier for low-income people to use their benefits to buy fruits and vegetables were also effective. Continue reading