News bites, September 2016

This article was originally published in September 2016

Nuts reduce inflammation?

Investigators from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that participants in a study who consumed five or more servings of nuts per week had lower levels of inflammation biomarkers than those who never or almost never ate nuts, a finding that may help explain the health benefits of nuts. The study of more than 5,000 people, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also found that people who substituted three servings per week of nuts in place of red meat, processed meat, eggs or refined grains had significantly lower levels of the inflammation biomarkers. (

Artificial sweeteners increase appetite

Researchers at the University of Sydney are the first to identify a possible brain pathway that might push us to eat more sweet foods after consuming calorie-free sugar substitutes. They tracked neural activity of fruit flies and mice and found sweet flavor sensations are accompanied by the brain’s expectation of a calorie blast, leading test subjects to consume more calories than control groups with access to naturally sweetened food. Sucralose-fed flies also displayed other markers of a “starvation effect,” including hyperactivity, insomnia and sleep fragmentation — effects that also have been found in people who consume artificial sweeteners. (EurekAlert!)

Dannon to label GE foods

Dannon, the yogurt brand owned by French food giant Danone, said Danone’s acquisition of WhiteWave Foods may speed up a push to make products non-genetically engineered (GE). Dannon rolled out its first non-GE yogurts in mid-July and pledged to label its GE products by next year. (

Instagramming makes food taste better

Photographing food before eating it could make it taste better, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Marketing. The study found that by causing “a momentary active delay in consumption,” Instagramming food allows for savoring the experience. The catch is that under normal conditions, this effect only works for indulgent food. (CBC News)

Eat unrestricted fat?

A new review paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that diets full of fat can be healthful — as long as it's the right kind of fat. Researchers reviewed papers on Mediterranean diets compared with Western diets and although they didn’t find a difference in mortality, they did find the Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of heart attack, Type 2 diabetes and breast cancer. Those benefits appeared even when that Mediterranean diet included unrestricted amounts of unsaturated fats including olive and canola oils, nuts, seeds and avocados. (Mother Jones)

Glyphosate linked to toxic algae

Glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and other herbicides, is being connected to Lake Erie’s troubling algae blooms, which have fouled drinking water and suffocated and killed marine life in recent years. Phosphorus from farm runoff has long been identified as a leading culprit feeding the excessive blooms in the western Lake Erie basin. Now, a new study reveals a significant correlation between the increased use of glyphosate and the percentage of phosphorus in runoff. (EcoWatch)

Illegal GE wheat found in Washington

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced 22 unapproved GE wheat plants developed by Monsanto were discovered in Washington state, sending important U.S. export markets into panic. There are no GE wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production in the United States, as USDA has not deregulated any GE wheat varieties. This is the third discovery of illegal GE wheat in recent years. (Sustainable Pulse)

Consumers spurn QR codes

A new survey has found most Americans — 59 percent — say it’s not too likely, or not likely at all, they’ll use a smartphone or in-store scanner to find out if a product was produced with genetic engineering. The survey from the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University also found 31 percent would be much less likely, and 18 percent somewhat less likely, to purchase a food if they learned it contained GE ingredients. An earlier survey by Mintel Research found consumers do not perceive GE labels as a warning. (

Fish recognize faces

For the first time, a species of fish has been shown to be able to distinguish between human faces. The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that archerfish were able to learn and recognize faces with a high degree of accuracy — an impressive feat, given the task requires sophisticated visual recognition capabilities. Previously it was believed the task only could be accomplished by animals with large and complex brains. (

Post Foods sued over “natural” claim

Post Foods is being sued by three separate plaintiffs alleging the company markets its Shredded Wheat cereal products as “natural” when they contain glyphosate, an herbicide that the World Health Organization designates as a “possible carcinogen.” Class action lawsuits in California and New York say Post doesn't disclose the use of glyphosate on either the product's label or the company's website even though quantitative testing shows glyphosate is present in the cereals. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Also in this issue

The real cost of food

Consumers don't pay the true price of food at grocery stores and restaurants — the social, economic and health costs often aren't factored into the prices we see on receipts. But some companies — including many brands sold at PCC — are demonstrating that meeting global demands for food, making a profit and doing so sustainably are not mutually exclusive.

PCC's new office

Our office has moved! Our new address is: 3131 Elliott Avenue, Suite 500, Seattle, WA 98121.

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

Learn about Applegate's pledge to go non-GE, consumers' commitment to sustainability, Washington's proposed water quality rule, and Monsanto's new GE soybeans.