News bites, December 2003

This article was originally published in December 2003

Low-carb diets

From the Harvard School of Public Health, a study shows there seems to be something about a low-carb diet that lets people eat more calories and lose a similar amount of weight as people who eat fewer calories, but more carbs. Twenty-one overweight volunteers were divided into three groups: two groups had a low-fat or low-carb diet with 1,500 calories for women and 1,800 calories for men; a third group had a low-carb diet but got an extra 300 calories a day.

Everyone lost weight, but those on the lower-cal, low-carb diet took off 23 pounds, while those who got the same calories on the low-fat approach lost 17 pounds. The big surprise was that volunteers getting the extra 300 calories a day of low-carb food lost 20 pounds. The results contradict a long-standing assumption that losing weight while increasing caloric intake is impossible. Critics say studies of short duration need at least a year to determine if participants keep the weight off. (Associated Press)

Low-carb diets and the economy

Since the introduction of the low-carb, high-protein diet, wheat prices have dropped and bread consumption has fallen, while beef sales have steadily increased and bacon consumption has hit 10-year highs. Economists argue the hype over Atkins-style diets has caused a marketing explosion and that the economic trends are almost certainly due to other causes. (CoCoSnips/ MSNBC/

Menu labeling

A bill is before the U.S. Congress to require chain restaurants with more than 20 outlets to display nutritional content of standard menu items. The intent is to help fight obesity. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate. The food and restaurant industry say the bill is unnecessary and that emphasis should be place on exercise. (Boston Globe/Reuters)

Drugs in livestock

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has amended the animal drug regulations to reflect approval of a supplemental new drug for livestock animals. The drug application was filed by Ivy Laboratories. The rule allows an additional dose of trenbolone acetate and estradiol implant for use in feedlot heifers for increased rate of weight gain. The rule was effective September 23, 2003. (Federal Register Online,, Federal Register: September 23, 2003, Volume 68, Number 184, Rules and Regulations, pages 55200-55201)

GE cotton

Financial figures for the 2002 cotton-growing season in India have come in. Although the Monsanto Company convinced many of India’s farmers that buying the more expensive genetically engineered (GE) cottonseeds would result in higher yields and better cotton, data shows that the reverse is true. Crop yields for GE cotton were five times less than traditional Indian cotton and the income from GE cotton was seven times less than conventional cotton, because Monsanto’s GE cotton has lower-quality short fibers. As a result of the insurmountable debt accrued from paying more for the GE seeds and having a poorer crop, more than 70 Indian farmers have reportedly committed suicide in the last three months. (Organic Consumers Association)

Sodas and bone density

Preliminary research shows that women who consumed more than three carbonated cola drinks a day had a 2.3 percent to 5.1 percent lower bone mineral density in their hips than women consuming less than one such drink a day. Researchers say more studies are needed to test the theory, but the study indicates that phosphoric acid in soda reduces mineral density. (Los Angeles Times/ Food Marketing Institute)

University goes organic

Organic hamburgers have now replaced conventional burgers in all University of Wisconsin student cafeterias. Produced by local farmers and distributed to the schools by Organic Valley, a farmers’ cooperative, the organic beef is only the first step towards meeting student demands for more organic food in the cafeterias. The university food service says it also plans to serve all-organic salads, but as of yet cannot find enough local organic farmers to meet the demand. (Organic Consumers Association)

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