research

Cultured Beef is Here

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So that lab-grown burger thing finally happened.

Cultured Burger
(Photo by David Parry/PA Wire)

Three months and 20,000 muscle fibers later, Dutch researchers, led by Mark Post, managed to grow some meat in a petri dish. They’re calling it cultured beef, and this burger began as merely a few stem cells extracted from a cow’s shoulder, and now look!

At the unveiling event Monday, the meat was cooked in sunflower oil and butter and sampled by chosen tasters, Austrian food scientist Hanni Rützler, and Josh Schonwald, a Chicago-based journalist and author of The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches From The Future of Food.

So wow. This is both weird and cool and…well, really weird. What I’m curious to know is whether it has the same nutrient profile as ground beef. At this point, the in vitro meat is all muscle, and while a fat-free meat patty might sound like a great idea, you do have to consider the flavor factor. Curious to see how long that research takes.

I do like the idea that this technology could eventually offer an alternative to the massive scale of animal slaughter and its impact on human health and on the planet. Because it’s derived from animal cells, though, I’m curious to hear how people who follow vegan and vegetarian diets feel about it.

While I like the idea, I can’t say I’d be up for trying it yet. It’s sort of how I (still) feel about laser eye surgery—I’d rather wait until it becomes more mainstream with advances in technology so it’s not, like, “Hey, let’s do this crazy new thing in your eyeball!” Except the meat equivalent. I know laser vision correction is no longer new, but for the sake of illustrating a point…

Would you try cultured beef? 

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Could rebates on healthy foods boost sales?

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I wonder if dark chocolate would be on the "healthy foods" list. A gal can dream...
I wonder if dark chocolate would be on the “healthy foods” list. A gal can dream…

A conversation I feel like I have all the time usually involves one of us saying at some point, “It’s not that healthy foods are too expensive, it’s that crappy food is too cheap!” And then we talk about farm subsidies and wax on about how nice it would be if fruits & veggies were subsidized by the government or if consumers were offered some sort of incentive to buy more good-for-you stuff, since potential prevention of chronic disease doesn’t exactly seem to be selling, like, apples.

A South African study where members of Discovery Health, the country’s largest private health insurance company, are provided rebates of 10% or 25% on healthful foods has shown some promise.  The program involves 800 supermarkets and 260,000 households. Researchers are finding that lowering the cost on items such as produce, whole grains, nonfat dairy items (a ~6,000-item list drawn up by nutritionists, doctors and others), purchase of these nutrient-dense foods increased. These foods are marked in grocery stores so consumers can locate them.

Roland Sturm, a study co-author and a senior economist at the nonprofit research organization Rand, noted that changes were proportional to the price changes, but said in a statement. “When there is a large gap between people’s actual eating behaviors and what nutritionists recommend, even a 25% price change closes just a small fraction of that gap.”

Cheers to that. While there’s no evidence that participating in the program reduces incidence of obesity, it’s still encouraging. While I’d encourage anyone to work toward a healthy body weight for their height and frame, it’s still better to be well-nourished than not.

Man, I wish my insurance company offered me rebates on produce. I realize this is the second post in, like, 3 days in which I wistfully mention something I’d like my insurance to help out with. I know I should be thankful I have it at all, but sometimes I feel like some suit in an office somewhere is laughing at me.

Do you think rebates on healthy food would be effective here? If you have it, what do you wish your health insurance covered? 

How I Spent My Snow-Weekend

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Whenever it snows, I want to call all those people who ever rolled their eyes about the way I dig my heels into Manhattan (“Your rent is soooo high! Don’t you want more space? Wouldn’t you love to have a car/a dog/children one day?”) and say, “Have fun shoveling your car out, b****.”

To those of you with cars and driveways and babies and furry critters who have never tut-tutted to me about my city life, I hope the stormy weather was kind to you and that if you did have to shovel snow, you enjoyed a good workout, followed by some well-deserved comfort food this weekend 🙂

I took advantage of the excuse to stay put and channeled any and all cabin fever into kicking the ass of my to-do list. For example, I did an RD exam practice test…IMG_1614

And wrote a research proposal.

I also cooked and ate some nice things…

IMG_1604
soup & toast with hummus & roasted eggplant
quinoa (soaked before cooking) with chickpeas, roasted veggies, hummus, and goat cheese
quinoa (soaked before cooking) with chickpeas, roasted veggies, hummus, and goat cheese

…and drank something good once it was “safe” to venture outside. All snark/snarky-ness (?) aside, when it does snow in NYC, I truly appreciate the folks busting their asses to clear the sidewalks and streets. Without you, I would be that tiny girl with the big shovel polluting the virgin ears of children making snowmen nearby. Their mothers would thank you too if they knew what they were being saved from.

Lambrusco—one of my favorites
Lambrusco—one of my favorites

For those of you who got some snow this weekend, how did you spend your time? What are your favorite things to eat after shoveling snow? 

What I Ate Wednesday #93

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Well, well, well. Another week, another What I Ate Wednesday. As always, thanks to Jenn for hosting the weekly link party. To see more WIAW from other bloggers, visit Peas & Crayons.

Hope you’re having a good week! I’m spending mine in a bionutrition lab, pouring formula, analyzing recipes, and learning about study protocols—not my calling, but certainly interesting. With graduation planning in full swing and some writing projects on my plate, I’ve been really busy.

Here’s what I ate on Monday…

Breakfast: zucchini bread oatmeal 

Lunch: pork tenderloin and string beans, a few sips of milk (it was either this or a sad, picked-over salad-bar selection)

Dinner: mixed greens with roasted peppers, avocado, and balsamic; whole wheat rotini with leftover warm brussels sprouts salad (loosely inspired by this recipe, but with turkey bacon instead of pork and no almonds) ; red wine; an unpictured square of dark chocolate

Snack:  Greek yogurt with berries and cereal

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten this week? 

Say something once, why say it again?

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Because it’s important! Naturally, I’m talking about breakfast. And yes, I may have just referenced the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” Why not?

one of my favorite breakfasts—oatmeal in an almost-empty peanut butter jar

As a dietitian-in-training, it’s basically my (unpaid) job to tell people to eat some f***ing breakfast, but it’s for good reason. Studies have repeatedly shown that eating a morning meal helps rev the metabolism and boost work and school performance. It’s also been shown that eating breakfast can help prevent overeating later in the day.

A new study using MRI brain scans showed that when participants skipped breakfast, they had a variation in the pattern of activity in their orbitofrontal cortex, an area of the brain linked to the reward value and pleasantness of food. Pictures of high-calorie foods were shown to trigger that area, suggesting that those who wait until later in the day to eat may be more susceptible to cravings for unhealthy items.

Nothing new, but still interesting, no?

Do you eat breakfast? Why or why not? If you do, what are some of your favorite breakfast foods? 

No clear link between organic food, penile defect

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First off, let me say that I love being a girl.

Pesky double standards and all, I’d never trade for a penis. I mean, yes, it would be kind of cool to be able to pee against a wall and to make more money than my female counterparts, but, well, they’re just plain weird, even the good ones. Whoever made up that whole “pretend it’s a lollipop” thing had obviously never tried candy and had no idea what they were talking about. Or was a toothless turtle. Or they could have been the same kind of person who tells kids that raisins are chocolate.

Obligatory “sad weiner” pic

Anyway, another thing is that sometimes things go wrong with the penis (not that things can’t go wrong with the female anatomy, but bear with me). About one in every 200 newborn boys is affected by a birth defect called hypospadias, where the opening of the urethra is on the underside of the penis instead of the tip. There appears to a genetic component, and incidence seems to be higher with obese mothers and those who are older than 35.

Researchers in Denmark, led by Jeppe Schultz Christensen of Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, were curious to find out whether prenatal consumption of organic foods could possibly be linked (positively or negatively) to the defect because they don’t contain as much pesticide residue (and the so-called endocrine-disrupting chemicals) as conventional foods. However, their study showed no clear link. The only exception was that high intake of non-organic butter and cheese was shown to be associated with an increased risk.

Experts warn against immediately drawing a cause-and-effect conclusion, though.  “I’d be very cautious in interpreting these results,” said Suzan Carmichael, an associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.who has studied potential environmental risk factors for hypospadias and other birth defects. She added, “I think the main finding is that most non-organic foods were not associated with the risk,” acknowledging that other factors in diet, lifestyle, or environment could be at work.

Said Tina Jensen, one of the researchers on the study, “I think that the organic choice is probably related to general healthy lifestyle and behavior, and that may be an explanation to the findings.”

So I guess the takeaway would be, if you’re pregnant, do what you and your doctor feel works best for you and your baby. Eat healthy foods (maybe lay off the non-organic American cheese, just in case), be active, get enough rest, try to reduce stress, and hope your baby’s penis is normal. If it’s not, well, there’s a surgery for that

Did anyone ever tell you that certain foods were actually something else when you were a kid? What do you think about organic foods and birth defects? 

Apparently, I’m Boring

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Is anyone else ever impressed by the amount and/or ridiculousness of spam they get in the comments section on their blog? I have to admit, it’s amazing the way you get messages comprised of snippets of text from your own post regurgitated back to you. Sometimes it’s even in complete sentences! Sometimes, though, it’s pretty random or even in, like, robot-Dutch. Other times it’s just weird.

Today a piece of spam told me I was boring. Nice.

So while I could adopt an “I’m rubber, you’re a robot” stance, I could also post some interesting things from around the web this week for you to check out. Have fun!

Also, I wanted to share a quick pic of yesterday’s lunch, which was delicious. Something tells me that egg-white veggie scrambles will be making a regular appearance in my kitchen-it’s the roasted eggplant and roasted broccoli, plus the addition of garlic and red pepper flakes that make it fantastic. I’m also loving toast with ricotta and heirloom tomato. 

Any interesting or fun news you want to share? Favorite meal lately? Do you ever get crazy spam?