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Moody Perceptions on Functional Foods

Brenda Milot authored the HerbClip review of "Consumer Perceptions of Mood-enhancing Functional Foods." This is a review of an article by Williams E, et al. entitled "A Qualitative Analysis of Consumer Perceptions of Mood, Food and Mood-enhancing Functional Foods," first published in Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional & Medical Foods. 2004;4:61-83.

Functional foods were first introduced in Japan but now represent a multibillion dollar industry in Japan, Europe, the U.S. and Australia. Despite the popularity of functional foods, the functional food market has experienced product failure primarily because of marketing difficulties, ambiguous health claims and shortfalls in sensory quality. Thus, research to determine consumer perceptions and requirements of functional foods is critical to the successful development and marketing of functional foods, especially with regard to mood-enhancing products. The goal of this study was to "generate hypotheses for further research into food and mood with a view to the development of functional foods"? that will form the basis of a questionnaire intended for the solicitation of consumer views on these products.

Thirty-one subjects (n=15 men and 16 women) were allocated to focus groups consisting of approximately six to eight persons each. The sample was cross-cultural, and six of the subjects were vegetarian or did not eat red meat. The groups were presented with scenarios based on Watson and Clark's theory of mood (1988) to prompt discussion of the following topics: impact of mood on food choice, use of food to modify mood, comfort foods, food cravings, factors determining choice of mood-enhancing foods and issues related to the development of mood-enhancing functional foods. The data were transcribed and analyzed by two analysts.

The participants perceived themselves to eat more healthfully when they were in a good mood; conversely, the participants reported a desire to eat "bad"? foods when they were in a bad mood. Bad foods were shown to be consumed to provide comfort during stressful times, and the women were shown to seek comfort foods more often than did the men. The comfort foods of choice for men were high-fat foods and for women were "sweets."? Comfort food choices were possibly linked to childhood experiences and reward systems. Physical activity tended to motivate more healthy eating behaviors. The women reported having more cravings than did the men, and the cravings tended to be for sweets, especially chocolate. The men's cravings tended to be for meat or home-cooked foods. Smell appeared to be a factor in mood-food interactions because some of the commonly craved foods had strong aromas (e.g., fresh coffee, garlic and fresh-baked bread).

Functional foods were generally not perceived to be healthy, and the participants appeared to be skeptical about using foods as medicine. However, the participants did express an interest in consuming foods that would combat stress. Convenience seemed to be crucial in the selection of foods that would improve mood, and price was less important than efficacy, convenience or taste. A considerable cross-cultural difference in preferences for functional foods was observed. In contrast with consumers in the U.S., 30% of whom would prefer to take a non-prescription pill rather than a food product to enhance health, the study participants (mostly European) unanimously expressed a preference for functional benefits to be achieved through the consumption of foods rather through pill taking. The participants in this study suggested that manufacturers of functional foods should target women, because women tend to purchase most of the foods for their families.

The scenario-building design was considered successful "in focusing discussions upon past experiences of mood-driven food choices," and the findings contribute to an understanding of how consumers perceive food-mood interactions. The authors conclude that mood clearly affects food choices, and mood enhancement is an important function sought from food. A successful functional food should provide a benefit (e.g., comfort) and be safe, highly palatable, pleasant smelling, light and small in size, clearly labeled and convenient. Functional foods have the potential to motivate healthier eating if they effectively enhance mood and thereby dissipate food cravings. The preliminary findings indicate a need for additional research on consumer-perceived concerns and requirements for functional food products.

Women and Alternative Medicine Studies

Mariann Garner-Wizard authored the HerbClip review of  "Recent Alternative Medicine Therapy Research for Women's Health. "This is a review of an article by T. Hudson "Alternative Medicine and Women's Health Issues,"? first published in Alternative & Complementary Therapies. 2003; June:136-138.

In this article, the author describes several recent studies in alternative medicine with particular impact on women's health. Three reports from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS), a long-term study of female nurses in the U.S., are among those highlighted. In Cancer 2002;92:2318-2316, Hankins, et al. reported no significant relationship between consumption of antioxidants in foods or supplements and incidence of ovarian cancer. However, women who had consumed at least 2.5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily as adolescents had a 45% reduction in ovarian cancer risk. It is postulated that a chemoprotective benefit of phytochemicals may occur during early reproductive development. Jiang, et al. in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) 2002;288:2554-2560, reported that regular consumption of nuts or of peanut butter was inversely related to the risk for developing diabetes over the NHS study period of 14 years. Peanuts and nuts are high in unsaturated fats, which improve insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, women with higher nut intake tended to weigh less than women who ate fewer nuts.

Also from the NHS, Feskanich, et al. report (JAMA 2002;288:2300-2306) that walking improves bone density, thus helping prevent hip fractures after menopause. Even a small amount of regular walking can have a significant protective effect. Hip fractures are a very dangerous hazard for elderly men and women. Women who walked as their only activity for four hours weekly had a 41% lower risk of hip fracture than those who walked less than one hour weekly. Another study on bone mineral density (BMD) in the elderly (Villareal, et al. Clinical Endocrinology 2000;53:561-568) focused on the role of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in maintaining healthy BMD and "body composition" fat mass, fat-free mass and total body mass. DHEA, a steroid hormone produced by the body, declines in the body with aging. In this prospective trial, subjects who received 50mg per day of DHEA showed increased BMD in the lumbar spine, body mass increase, fat mass decrease, and fat-free increase after six months.

Promensil[r] (Novagen, Stamford, Conn.), a standardized red clover (Trifolium pratense) extract, turned in a strong showing in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 30 postmenopausal women with more than five hot flashes per day, according to a report by Van de Weijer, et al. in Maturitas 2002;42:187-193. The group receiving the isoflavone supplement experienced a decrease in hot flashes of 44% compared with placebo. Scores on the Green Climacteric Scale, a measure of menopausal discomfort, decreased by 13% in the treatment group and were unchanged with placebo. At least two previously published studies of Promensil's effects on menopausal symptoms did not, Hudson writes, show a difference in groups treated with red clover compared with placebo, "perhaps as a result of poor controls for dietary isoflavones in the placebo group."Still, this is important corroborating work, especially in light of the number of women who have discontinued hormone replacement therapy (HRT) following the early dissolution of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study. Hudson writes that the WHI study "revealed no benefit"? from HRT; indeed, reports when the study ended indicated that "menopausal women taking hormones for an average of five years had higher rates of heart attack, stroke, breast cancer and blood clots than women who did not, and lower rates of colon cancer and broken bones. The balance of harm-vs.-benefit with HRT 'tipped slightly toward harm'." (HC 100525.226).

In a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2002;76:187-192), Nesby-O'Dell, et al. found vitamin D deficiency in 42.4% of African-American women and 4.2% of Caucasian women--a tenfold differential. In the study, 1,546 African-American and 1,426 Caucasian women were examined for serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Hypovitaminosis D in African-American participants was independent of consumption of milk or cereal less than three times weekly, no use of vitamin D supplements, season, urban residence, low bone mass and no use of oral contraceptives. Even among African-American subjects taking more than 200 international units of vitamin D daily, 30% had low serum concentrations. While commenting that clinicians should counsel African-American women to "take extra care regarding nutrition, supplementation, exercise and exposure to sunlight,"? nothing is said here about a potential cause for this selective deficiency, especially among women who seem already to be following such recommendations. NS

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Note: The cover photo, courtesy of Organic Valley, shows Dr. Alan Greene, father of four and one of the nation's foremost pediatricians and children's environmental health advocates, sharing an organic snack with his 10-year-old son, Austin.