Food supplements that alter gut bacteria could ‘cure’ malnutrition | Science

Food supplements that alter gut bacteria could ‘cure’ malnutrition | Science

  • April 7, 2021

In Bangladesh, a health care worker measures a child’s arm to monitor progress in a malnutrition supplementation study.

MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP via Getty Images

To save a starving child, aid workers have long used one obvious treatment: food. But a new study suggests feeding their gut bacteria may be as important—or even more important—than feeding their stomachs. In a head-to-head comparison against a leading treatment for malnutrition, a new supplement designed to promote helpful gut bacteria led to signs of improved growth and more weight gain, despite having 20% fewer calories. The study also highlights how important gut bacteria—the so-called microbiome—can be to human health.

“This is an exciting study that promises to bring hope to millions of acutely malnourished children,” says Honorine Ward, a physician scientist at Tufts University School of Medicine who was not involved with the work.

About 30 million children worldwide are so hungry that their bodies are wasting away. Their growth slows, their immune systems don’t work well, and their nervous systems fail to develop properly. To combat malnutrition, health clinics often administer prepackaged, ready-to-use supplementary food (RUSF), which is easy to store and turns into goo after kneading. But malnourished children’s health improvements are rarely permanent, and many never fully recover, even after they eat enough. “It’s a problem that previously didn’t have an available solution,” says Ruslan Medzhitov, an immunologist at Yale University not involved with the work.

For more than 10 years, Jeffrey Gordon, a microbiologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has studied the role the microbiome plays in malnutrition recovery. He and his colleagues discovered that 15 key bacteria are needed for normal growth in mice, pigs, and to some degree people, and that children whose microbiomes fail to “mature” to include these species do not recover from malnutrition as well as children whose gut bacteria do mature. “Current therapies do not repair this disrupted microbiome,” Gordon explains.

So he and Tahmeed Ahmed, a malnutrition expert scientist who heads the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Dhaka, Bangladesh, tried with colleagues to find out which of a half dozen combinations of easy-to-obtain foods most encouraged the growth of these healthy bacteria. In the new study, they tested their best performing candidate: a complex mixture of chickpea, banana, soy, and peanut flours and oils that they call microbiota-directed complementary food No. 2, or MDCF-2.

About 120 malnourished toddlers from a Dhaka slum received either MDCF-2 or the standard RUSF supplement twice a day for 3 months. Every 2 weeks during treatment, and again 1 month after treatment ended, the researchers weighed and measured the children, sampled their blood, and analyzed the bacteria in their feces.

Not only did MDCF-2 boost blood components linked to growth—such as proteins needed for the proper development of bones, the nervous system, and the immune system—but it also resulted in a growth rate twice as high, measured by change in a weight-to-length score, as in those receiving RUSF, the researchers report today in The New England Journal of Medicine. What’s more, 21 types of beneficial bacteria increased in abundance. Enhanced growth in children continued even after the treatment ended. “A small amount of this food supplement can actually cure malnutrition in children,” Ahmed concludes.  

But becoming standard treatment could take years, Ahmed says. First, the team needs to come up with a simpler formulation that can be stored for months—right now, the supplement is made fresh—and easy for mothers to obtain and use. Moreover, larger trials need to be conducted in other countries, with children followed for up to 5 years to see whether the beneficial effects persist, Ward says.

Meanwhile, the work offers tantalizing hints of how gut bacteria might alter growth. “Different bacteria are beneficial or detrimental at different stages of development,” Medzhitov says. For example, a bacterium linked to the beneficial effects of breast feeding, Bifidobacterium longum, was associated with less improvement in the children in the study. That finding paves the way for development of disease-specific interventions to shape the microbiome, Ward adds.

Until that happens, Gordon and Ahmed are continuing to refine their formulation, and they are eyeing other countries—and communities—for their studies. “I think the remaining challenges are mostly logistical,” Medzhitov says. Gordon agrees, adding that their findings still come down to a simple message: “Healthy children depend … on a healthy microbiome.”

For malnourished children, a new type of microbiome-directed food boosts growth – Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

For malnourished children, a new type of microbiome-directed food boosts growth – Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

  • April 7, 2021

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New food is designed to nurture healthy gut microbes

International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research

A new type of therapeutic food specifically designed to repair the gut microbiomes of malnourished children is superior to standard therapy in promoting growth, according to the results of a proof-of-concept clinical trial conducted in Bangladesh.

The study, conducted by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Dhaka, Bangladesh (icddr,b), was designed to supplement the diet of malnourished children with a formulation that contains locally available, culturally acceptable foods selected based on the ability of the ingredients to boost key growth-promoting gut microbes. The work supports the notion that healthy growth of infants and children is closely linked to healthy development of their gut microbial communities — or microbiomes — after birth.

The results of the study are published online April 7 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Childhood malnutrition is a major global health challenge, affecting over 150 million children under the age of 5 worldwide, with a disproportionate impact in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbating this problem. Numerous studies have shown that malnutrition is not due to food insecurity alone but instead reflects a combination of factors, including an important role for the gut microbiome, which fails to develop properly during the first 2 years of life in malnourished children.

“Malnutrition has proven extraordinary difficult to treat — standard calorie-dense therapeutic foods have been shown to prevent the deaths of malnourished children, but have been ineffective in overcoming growth stunting and other damaging effects of malnutrition, including impaired brain development, bone growth and immune function,” said senior author Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of the Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology at the School of Medicine. “In an attempt to address this problem, we are investigating whether repairing the poorly developed microbial communities of malnourished children will impact their growth. This is the first time that a microbiome-directed therapeutic food has been compared with a standard therapy in malnourished children; moreover, it produced a superior rate of weight gain, the key primary clinical outcome of the trial.”

An earlier, one-month long pilot clinical study conducted by the team in Bangladesh had provided evidence for the benefits of the microbiome-directed therapeutic food in a small number children who received it; however, the study was not sufficiently large or long enough to confirm the effects of the new food on growth. The current three-month long clinical trial, overseen by Tahmeed Ahmed, MBBS, PhD, executive director of the icddr,b, involved 118 children ages 12 to 18 months who lived in an urban slum called Mirpur in Dhaka, Bangladesh. All these children had been diagnosed with acute malnutrition, a condition in which the body consumes fat reserves and breaks down muscle, resulting in wasting, or weight loss. The immune system is also weakened, making these children more susceptible to other illnesses.

“This work is based on our studies that have shown that a derangement in the gut microbiome is responsible for malnutrition of children,” Ahmed said. “We have successfully used a food made of local ingredients to repair the deranged gut microbiome and thereby improve the growth of children receiving the food. In an era where we so sadly still have staggering numbers of children suffering and dying from malnutrition, our discovery of the microbiome-directed complementary food can be a game changer.”

Half of the children in the current study were randomly assigned to receive the microbiome-directed therapeutic food, and the other half received a standard therapeutic food that was not designed to repair the gut microbiome. The new microbiome-directed food contains a mixture of chickpeas, soy, bananas and peanuts, ingredients that the group had discovered in earlier pre-clinical models to repair the gut microbiome, among other components. The standard therapeutic food is rice- and lentil-based and contains about 20% more calories per serving than the microbiome-directed food.

The children received 25 grams of their assigned therapeutic foods twice daily for three months. The children’s height, weight and mid-upper arm circumference were measured at regular intervals throughout the intervention period and for one month after cessation of treatment. Blood and stool specimens were also collected at various times to assess changes in the levels of nearly 5,000 proteins in the blood, and to quantify the effects of the therapies on the representation of specific beneficial microbes in stool samples.

The researchers found that the rate of change in the children’s weight and their mid-upper arm circumferences were significantly greater in the group receiving the microbiome-directed food compared with the standard therapeutic food; this growth superiority was sustained even a month after the children had stopped receiving the nutritional intervention, which is the latest time point to be analyzed so far.

“When we look at the standard clinical measurement for assessing acute malnutrition — the weight-for-length z score — the difference between the two treatment groups was even more significant one month after we stopped the treatment,” said co-first author Robert Chen, a doctoral student in Gordon’s lab. “If this rate of growth was maintained for a year, we estimate an improvement in the weight-for-length z score of almost one full standard deviation.

“Children with acute malnutrition typically have declining or in the best case stable weight, so if this extrapolation holds up, it would be a major clinically relevant improvement in growth outcomes,” Chen added.

Said co-first author Ishita Mostafa, an assistant scientist at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research: “We continue to monitor and collect samples from these children; this is critical in order to determine if the effects of this new treatment are indeed durable over time, or whether the intervention needs to be sustained for longer periods.”

The researchers also found that a group of 23 bacterial strains found in stool samples correlated with the increased rate of weight gain observed in the children receiving the microbiome-directed food. Twenty-one strains were positively correlated — meaning having more of these gut bacteria was linked to increased growth. And two strains were negatively correlated — meaning that having fewer of these gut bacteria was linked to increased growth. The microbiome-directed food was found to increase levels of the 21 positively correlated strains and reduce levels of the two strains that were negatively correlated.

Further, the researchers found 70 proteins in the blood samples that were positively correlated with increased weight, with greater improvements in their levels occurring after the microbiome-directed treatment compared with the standard intervention.

“These proteins are key regulators of bone biology, neurodevelopment and immune function,” Gordon said. “We discovered that this food can nurture and expand the abundance of beneficial microbes, with accompanying boosts in the levels of beneficial proteins in their human hosts that have impactful effects on growth.

“The rate of improvement in the weight of the children receiving the new therapeutic food designed with healthy gut microbes in mind was significantly greater even though its caloric density was 20% lower than the standard food,” Gordon added. “This suggests that the repair of the gut microbiome, and not just additional calories, is key to healthy growth in these children.”

The teams led by Gordon and Ahmed, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, plan to initiate further studies into whether therapeutic foods that nurture beneficial gut microbes can help malnourished children in other parts of the world. This involves a program of developing microbiome-directed foods that contain distinct but functionally “biosimilar” ingredients that are readily available, affordable and culturally acceptable to parents and children living in these other countries. Also, Gordon and his colleagues plan to investigate whether repairing dysfunctional gut microbial communities at younger ages and over longer timeframes could have an even greater impact.

“After the six-month period of breastfeeding recommended by the World Health Organization, we think there may be an early window to introduce these types of microbiome-directed therapeutic foods and potentially have a bigger effect,” said co-author Michael J. Barratt, PhD, an associate professor of pathology and immunology and executive director of the Center for Gut Microbiome and Nutrition Research at Washington University.

The researchers also are planning studies to investigate the benefits of microbiome-directed therapeutic foods during pregnancy to determine whether they can not only improve the gut microbiomes of the malnourished mothers but also foster the transmission of healthy gut microbial communities to their infants and thus help break the devastating intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.

Added Gordon, “We are also exploring the possibility of bringing a clinical trial of this new therapeutic food to children who would benefit from a nutritional intervention here in St. Louis. We are at the earliest stages of this process, beginning to engage with members of the local community. We can’t begin one of these trials without making sure community leaders, community members, parents and caregivers are fully engaged with the process.”

This work was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant numbers DK30292, F30DK124967 and GM007200.

Chen RY, et al. A microbiota-directed food intervention for undernourished children. The New England Journal of Medicine. April 7, 2021.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, consistently ranking among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

The New Lawton "Farmer's Market" is Under Construction

The New Lawton “Farmer’s Market” is Under Construction

  • April 7, 2021

Well they didn’t make the opening goal of 2020 obviously, but the new Lawton Farmer’s Market is under construction and will hopefully be open Summer 2021 if not sometime this year. The new Farmer’s Market will be located near the corner of Gore Blvd. and 4th street across from the police department, near library plaza in downtown. They broke ground on the new site back in November of 2020 and have been busy ever since getting the land ready to build on. I passed by today and they’re now pouring concrete and working on the foundation. Once they start framing it’ll go pretty quick, looking forward to seeing it opened up.

The new location will be around 7,600 square feet and will feature both a covered outdoor patio and sales area, plus indoor space and facilities. The funds needed to build are being provided by donations and grants and will cost close to 3 million to complete. It’ll take them awhile to get it all finished but once it’s done the new Lawton Farmers Market will be incredible. Plus, it’ll be nice that it will be in a permanent location. Right now, it moves from the Great Plains Coliseum outside parking lot in the Summer time to inside Cameron University’s Plant Sciences building in the winter.

With having a permanent home and building this will allow the farmers market to open and operate year-round. It’s a great location and soon you’ll be able to stop in and get all your favorite fresh vegetables and fruits right here in downtown Lawton. Originally, they were going to start construction last year, but were delayed due to the pandemic.

Already looking forward to shopping at the new farmers market and having it in downtown Lawton in the Ware District. Just think someday once all this COVID-19 stuff is done we can get back to all the downtown activities, events and festivals we use to have like Ware on C, Open Streets and more. With the Farmer’s Market being right there in downtown on 4th Street I’m sure they’ll be involved in all the fun as well!

KEEP READING: See 25 natural ways to boost your immune system

Photo: Mint

Nutrition, health to stay key goals for food firms

  • April 7, 2021

When Mark Bunn, managing director of nutrition food brand Futurelife talks of the newly cemented partnership with Haldiram’s in India, he claims South Africa and India share many similarities in terms of natural beauty and delectable food. However, for now, his focus is on making Indians healthy. South African Futurelife and Indian snacks and restaurant company Haldiram’s in February announced a joint venture to launch a range of the former’s nutritional range in the country.

Haldiram’s noted that the JV reflected a growing commitment to health and nutrition by India’s younger generation, and its increased willingness to add more non-traditional food to its diet. Bunn agreed that this traction towards healthier products accelerated Futurelife’s move into the country with a partner that understands food, the Indian palate, procurement and distribution. “We really understand nutrition. So it is a great partnership,” he said.

The company has already launched its oats, granola bar and high protein products on marketplaces like Big Basket, Milk Basket and Amazon. To be sure, Haldiram’s is not the only company expanding its portfolio to cover health foods. In February, Tata Consumer Products Ltd said it was acquiring a 100% stake in Kottaram Agro Foods, which makes Soulfull brand of breakfast cereals and millet-based snacks.

Wipro Consumer Care Ventures, the venture capital arm of Wipro Consumer Care and Lighting, has also put money behind a health and nutrition products brand, Onelife, which was launched in 2013. In the last few months, Marico Ltd, too, increased focus on its health and immunity portfolio by entering the chawanprash and honey categories. The developments indicate the interest even legacy companies have in the health food category.

Experts in the fast-moving consumer goods sector said health food companies are a hot pick in the time of covid, when consumers are sharply focused on better nutrition to boost immunity. As consumers pivot to health snacks and immunity boosters, companies’ appetite for investment in such firms and products is growing.

Legacy companies are taking the acquisition route to enter the category may be because some of these products are high-tech. “You need the technical know-how to make nutrition-based foods. There is a science behind it,” said Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner and national leader, consumer products and retail, EY.

Agreed Amit Adarkar, chief executive officer at research firm Ipsos India: “Technology and research offered by international health food companies are critical to Indian companies developing and owning health proposition.”

The increased number of deals reflects the hurry the companies are in as they figure that the health food trend is here to stay. “All our surveys have shown that health as an agenda is very critical,” said Mishra. When the pandemic hit, companies that lacked an omni-channel sales strategy suffered. These firms do not want to miss the bus on the nutrition trend, he added.

Adarkar agreed that post-pandemic, the country has seen heightened consumer interest in health and wellness products and health foods in particular. “Traditionally health foods had a niche appeal, partly linked to ‘low on taste’ perceptions and partly due to premium price”, he said. After the pandemic, three things have changed. First, preventive health consciousness and immunity boosting have become more mainstream. Second, the tendency to experiment with food has gone up during and after the lockdown, as purchase baskets changed. And third, rising e-commerce adoption has led to increased awareness and trial of health foods, which may not enjoy prime shelf space in general trade, he explained.

“We are reaching a stage where a large or mass foods manufacturer cannot neglect this high-growth segment, especially if one wants to win in top metros,” he added.

With Haldiram’s, Futurelife is looking forward to serving healthy and nutritious food to Indians, Bunn said. The long-term target is to have its food on their menu.

He said Futurelife cereals have had clinical study published, which shows they improve people’s immune system and energy. EY’s Mishra pointed out that with all these deals and their fetish for health foods, companies will eventually have to demonstrate outcomes. “They have to be something more tangible beyond just a marketing plank,” he added.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff

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Five easy ways to boost your immune system with food

Five easy ways to boost your immune system with food

  • April 7, 2021
eat lots of vitamin c rich berries to boost your immune system

Jacky Parker PhotographyGetty Images

Vitamin C

High levels of vitamin C have been associated with enhanced antibody response and neutrophil (a type of white blood cell) function. This vital vitamin has even been used in some intensive care units to help treat Covid-19. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, understood to protect the immune system against oxidative stress generated during infections. It will also help combat running-induced free-radical damage.

Eat it: Oranges, peppers, leafy greens, broccoli, berries and tomatoes are all good sources of vitamin C.

Supplement it:

Liposomal Vitamin C

531 Reviews


Vitamin D

As well as playing important roles in bone and muscle health, vitamin D is needed
for a healthy immune system. It is understood to regulate inflammation and increase macrophage (a white blood cell) function. However, vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly common in the UK. Sunlight is our primary source of vitamin D, so while a regular run in daylight will help you, it may not be enough. Evidence suggests vitamin D supplementation may prevent upper respiratory infections, so it’s worth taking a daily dose.

Eat it: Vitamin D can also be found in eggs and salmon, as well as mushrooms grown in sunlight.

Supplement it:

BetterYou Dlux 3000 Vitamin D Oral Spray 15ml



This essential mineral supports innate and adaptive immune system functions. Those who are zinc deficient have an increased risk of a variety of infections; supplementation has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of illness, to help heal wounds and to fight infection.

Eat it: Increase your intake with zinc-rich foods, including seafood (especially oysters), organic red meat, beans and nuts.

Supplement it:

Solgar Zinc Picolinate 22 Mg Tablets, Pack of 100



Beneficial bacteria

An estimated 70-80 per cent of our body’s immune system is in the gut, in the form of beneficial ‘good’ bacteria. These probiotic bacteria line the gut wall and they have been shown to stimulate the production of immune cells, including IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells (really!). Studies have found that supplementation reduces the frequency and severity of respiratory infections.

Eat it: Probiotics occur naturally in fermented soya products such as miso and tempeh. Try adding Clearsprings Brown Rice Miso Paste (£4.79 for 300g, to soups, stews, bean dishes and sauces to boost flavour and give your gut a bacteria boost.

Supplement it:

Symprove Live & Active Bacteria

3362 Reviews



Elderberry extract has been used as a natural anti-viral for centuries. Studies have found that supplementation works to increase inflammatory cytokine production, a healthy response from our immune systems when viruses are present. Their dark-purple colour is the result of beneficial compounds known as anthocyanins, powerful plant chemicals with antioxidant effects.

Eat it: Elderberries can be found in abundance in hedgerows, between July and October, depending on where you are in the UK.

Supplement it:

Viridian Elderberry Extract 100ml



Kim Pearson is a nutritionist with over 10 years’ experience.

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Got (first) milk? Bovine colostrum firm targets food & beverage as immunity trend gathers pace

Got (first) milk? Bovine colostrum firm targets food & beverage as immunity trend gathers pace

  • April 7, 2021

The stuff lactating mammals produce just after giving birth, colostrum is packed with immunoglobulins and other nutrients that help support a newborn’s immune system and seed a healthy gut microbiome in the first few days of life.

But if bovine colostrum is designed for newborn cows, how do we know that it confers any benefit to, say, adult humans?

According to leading bovine colostrum supplier PanTheryx​ – which sources its colostrum from 1,000 dairy farms in the US it says ensure calves first get their fair share – there is a growing body of human clinical data showing benefits to digestive and immune health, two of the hottest areas in functional food and beverage right now, at dosages of 400mg – 3g.

Structure/function claims backed by human clinical trials include everything from ‘supporting the gut’s natural repair process, restoring normal function,’ to ‘helps relieve occasional digestive upsets,’ to ‘helps your child’s digestive system function better,’ to ‘supports the immune system,’ ‘supports respiratory health,’ to sports-related claims such as ‘helps improve recovery from exercise,’ Mike Weiser, Ph.D, director of innovation at PanTheryx, told FoodNavigator-USA.

‘There are over 250 functional components in colostrum’

So what’s in colostrum, and what’s the mechanism of action for some of the above claimed benefits?

There are over 250 functional components in colostrum​, but it’s very rich in immunoglobulins, which are basically antibodies that will bind to things like pathogens, a whole host of different types of bacteria like E Coli, strep and staph, and even viruses like influenza and rhinovirus​,” said Weiser.

Common food preservative may harm the immune system

Common food preservative may harm the immune system

  • April 2, 2021

inside of a bag of chipsShare on Pinterest
A new study investigated food preservatives and the immune system. Irina Marwan/Getty Images
  • A recent study has assessed the harmful effects of chemical food additives and food contact substances on the immune system.
  • The study compared laboratory toxicology testing (ToxCast) results with data from previous animal tests and epidemiological studies.
  • The ToxCast results and available animal study data confirmed that a common food preservative called tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) might negatively affect immune system functioning.
  • The study affirmed the need for updated research and a thorough Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review of chemical food additives and food contact substances to assess immune system toxicity and protect public safety.

Various common chemicals may harm the immune system, causing it to malfunction. This is known as immunotoxicity. These harmful effects may be temporary or permanent.

Possible immunotoxic effects include:

  • hypersensitivity
  • chronic inflammation
  • immunosuppression, or an impairment of the body’s ability to fight off infections
  • immunostimulation, which can cause tissue damage through immune responses
  • autoimmunity

In particular, if an immunotoxic substance causes the body to produce fewer antibodies, it can have an effect on the fight against active infections and the protection against future ones.

The FDA currently require immunotoxicity testing for food additives. However, most food additives received approval decades ago, and the FDA do not mandate updated testing on previously approved additives.

TBHQ is a common preservative that manufacturers use to prolong their products’ shelf lives.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), it is present in almost 1,250 processed foods, including Cheez-It crackers, Pop-Tarts, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Little Debbie Swiss Rolls.

However, this chemical has had immunotoxic effects in animal studies.

Chemicals may also leach from packaging or food processing equipment into food. Some bags, boxes, and food wrappers are coated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS-based materials are also common in non-stick coatings on cookware, gaskets in food processing equipment, and repeat-use plastics.

The FDA require immunotoxicity testing only for food contact substances with a high daily exposure. The immunotoxicity of many food additives and food contact substances is largely unknown.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) use high throughput in-vitro testing in their ToxCast program. This type of testing exposes living cells, proteins, or biological molecules in a laboratory environment to chemicals to assess and identify any potential toxic effects. This potentially limits the need for animal testing.

The sparsity of current immunotoxicity data prompted the researchers from the EWG to conduct a study to evaluate the immunotoxic effects of common food additives and food contact substances. They also assessed the utility of ToxCast data in screening for immunotoxicity.

Lead study author Dr. Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG’s vice president for science investigations, emphasizes the urgency of this research:

“The pandemic has focused public and scientific attention on environmental factors that can impact the immune system. Before the pandemic, chemicals that may harm the immune system’s defense against infection or cancer did not receive sufficient attention from public health agencies. To protect public health, this must change.”

The researchers analyzed a total of 63 direct food additives present on more than 10 product labels sold in the U.S. in 2018–2020. They also specifically assessed nine identified PFAS that migrate from food packaging to food.

The findings now appear in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The study evaluated these substances, concentrating on those with the highest number of active ToxCast assays. It focused further analyses on those substances with activity toward multiple immune-related targets and proteins involved in immune response, inflammation, and defense mechanisms.

The study compared the results of high throughput ToxCast data with available data from animal and epidemiological studies.

Strong data from both ToxCast testing and immunological laboratory animal studies indicate that TBHQ may cause immune functioning changes.

However, ToxCast screening yielded data that did not always agree with existing data: There were cases wherein ToxCast data conflicted with previous data or indicated risks that previous data had not found.

Three different situations happened with the food colorant FD&C Red 3 and PFAS such as perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnDA) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

In the study, the ToxCast data indicated that FD&C Red 3 affected multiple immune parameters, but the researchers did not find reference to any animal or epidemiological study into the immunotoxicity of this food colorant.

ToxCast, laboratory animal, and human study data demonstrated that PFUnDA affected multiple immune parameters and increased immune suppression risk.

However, the ToxCast data did not show strong activity for immune targets with PFOA, whereas animal and human studies demonstrated immunosuppressive effects.

The study attributed the lack of consistency in the findings to a lack of understanding of the exact mechanism of PFAS toxicity. The limitations of currently available high throughput testing to capture the full extent of the potential mechanism for immunotoxicity may also have had an impact.

The researchers conclude that both ToxCast and study data suggest that chemicals indirectly or directly added to foods, such as THBQ and PFAS, may adversely affect immune system functioning.

The EWG stress that the FDA should prioritize and integrate updated immunotoxicity testing to identify harmful chemicals into standard safety assessments to protect public health and well-being.

Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the EWG, adds, “Food manufacturers have no incentive to change their formulas. Too often, the FDA [allow] the food and chemical industry to determine which ingredients are safe for consumption.”

“Our research shows how important it is that the FDA take a second look at these ingredients and test all food chemicals for safety.”

Boost your immunity with these food items amid pandemic

Boost your immunity with these food items amid pandemic

  • April 1, 2021

New Delhi: It is our immunity that protects us from viruses and foreign invaders of our body that try to infect us. Especially in the times of Covid-19, it has become very important for us to boost our immunity from within to fight the deadly virus. Here are some food items that you can stack in your shelves to improve your immunity:


This fruit is rich in vitamin A, B, C, and K. It is an excellent immunity booster and keeps your heart healthy. Raw papaya pulp contains 88 per cent water and 11 per cent carbohydrates. Papaya fruits provide 43  kilocalories. Papaya leaves can also be used for the treatment of Malaria, Abortifacient and Purgative.


Almonds are rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fiber, so there are a number of health benefits of consuming these nuts. Almonds are a good source of calcium and antioxidants as well. Consuming almonds daily will surely improve your health as they are also high in Vitamin E, which helps to support the pulmonary immune system.


Ginger helps in decreasing inflammation and in dealing with stomach issues amongst other things. Ginger can also be used for medicinal purposes because of its rich nutritional properties. It also has  anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help in fighting infections. It contains vitamin B6 and minerals like magnesium and manganese. Raw ginger has around 79 per cent water, 18 per cent carbohydrates, 2 per cent protein and and 1 per cent fat.

Green Tea:

Green tea is filled with nutrients and antioxidants properties. It also keeps your blood sugar level in control and also improves your metabolism rate. Green tea contains amino acid, vitamin C, vitamin B2 and vitamin E. It also contains minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, manganese etc.


Broccoli is a stock house of vitamins and minerals. This vegetable is also rich in fiber and antioxidants. Broccoli contains many nutrients, including fiber, iron, potassium, and vitamin K.


You can never go wrong with Haldi. These roots are extremely beneficial in boosting immunity. Turmeric contained 3-5 per cent of curcumin, a photo-derivative, which contains healing  properties. It also has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.


Packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene which increase the infection-fighting ability of the immune system. It contains a high amount of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E which help to prevent infection and fill up blood cells to give a boost to the immune system.

Citrus fruits:

Consuming citrus fruits containing vitamin C is immensely good for our health and our immune system. It produces white blood cells, which are necessary to fight infection. Some popular varieties of citrus fruits are sweet oranges, lemons, grapefruit, lime etc.

Bowl of salad.

How Health Will Feed Into Larger Food Trends in 2021

  • March 31, 2021

While health and wellness are always top of mind for most around the New Year, the events of 2020 have all but guaranteed that consumers will place an extreme emphasis on immune health in 2021. As consumers navigate the New Year hyper focused on their health, many will be looking for creative, affordable ways to benefit their immune system, including incorporating health-boosting foods into their diets. With this shift in attention leaning towards nutrient-packed foods, the food industry should brace for consumers who will adjust their buying habits accordingly.

Consumers will turn to food for immune health

Last year, in addition to following CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19, many consumers looked for additional ways to protect themselves and turned to the internet for tactics to stay healthy and boost their immune health. Vitamins and supplements are one approach, but we’ve also seen consumers shift towards more natural options like food and dietary changes to support their health. Because of the pandemic, consumers are staying at home and cooking more often, making it easier than ever to introduce immune boosting foods into their diet. By making smart decisions about the foods and ingredients they consume, consumers can easily and naturally promote and encourage strong immune health. As this year progresses, we’ll see consumers leverage these simple adjustments to their diets to incorporate certain foods like sourdough bread, citrus fruits, and vegetables that support their natural defenses.

The rise of sourdough as an obvious food choice for immune conscious consumers

Bread once again experienced a resurgence in 2020 with many home cooks experimenting in the kitchen and trying their hand at creating their own sourdough starter. Additionally, many artisan bread brands saw increased sales last year as more consumers were shopping at the in-store bread aisle at local grocery stores. Sourdough has always been recognized as a healthier alternative, so it is a popular choice for many shoppers to begin with, and the added gut health benefits have swayed consumers even more during these times. Many of these health benefits stem from sourdough’s starter, which is a naturally fermented mix of flour and water that produces natural yeast. The end product is packed with natural prebiotics which have proven benefits for digestive health, and since about 70% of our immune system lives in our gut, a healthy gut can have a huge impact on overall health. Further, the lactic acid bacteria produced during the sourdough fermentation process provides a wealth of benefits to consumers.

Health concerns will lead to a change in food buying habits; Brand loyalty is everything

With consumers being more conscious of how and where they spend their money during the pandemic, it’s become clear that brand loyalty is at an all-time high. Shoppers took a closer look at how brands, like La Brea Bakery, evolved and what changes companies made over the course of 2020, specifically paying attention to new processes and guidelines aimed to keep both employees and consumers safe. The industry saw companies pivoting to repackage food products in single-serve and individually wrapped options to limit exposure, and consumers reacted accordingly. Many food brands found that consumers, who are normally driven by price were being persuaded by how brands adapted to the changing environment. As a result, many artisan bakeries adjusted their processes. In September, in an effort to keep up with consumer demand for our Take & Bake breads, La Brea Bakery enhanced its automation process. Since then, these breads have continued to be so popular with consumers that we have plans for launching new flavors within this portfolio later this year.  To stay aligned with consumer demand we’ll likely see brands continue to adjust select foods and portfolios to keep safety the number one priority and when possible, introduce new foods that will appeal to health seeking consumers. 

There’s a lot of uncertainly around what 2021 will bring to the larger foodservice industry when it comes to trends, but two things are certain: Transparency from brands will be crucial to retain consumer trust; and foods with immune boosting ingredients will have a major impact on what consumers buy.

Christine Prociv is the SVP of Marketing, Innovation and R&D at La Brea Bakery. Prior to joining Aryzta North America, Ms. Prociv was co-founder and president of Innovation Station. Before founding Innovation Station, Ms. Prociv spent 17 years at Kraft Foods in a variety of roles, including senior director of new product development and strategy and senior brand manager and category business director. Christine received a bachelor’s degree in economics at Barnard College in New York and a master’s degree in marketing and finance at Harvard Business School.

5 medicinal mushrooms that could supercharge your health | Feast and Field: Food Begins in the Field

5 medicinal mushrooms that could supercharge your health | Feast and Field: Food Begins in the Field

  • March 31, 2021

Medicinal mushrooms might seem like the latest wellness fad, but they’ve actually been used for their healing properties for centuries in China, Russia and Japan. Modern studies have confirmed many of the traditional therapeutic uses of mushrooms. They point to possible new health applications, from treating diabetes and boosting the immune system to improving cognition and fighting cancer.

An increasingly popular way to take medicinal mushrooms is in the form of a concentrated powder, which can be easily blended into smoothies and lattes, added to hot tea, baked into pastries or sprinkled on top of cereal and desserts.

Although some medicinal varieties can be foraged in the wild and processed at home, they’re also available from commercial growers like R&R Cultivation in Roseville, Minnesota. R&R grows organic lion’s mane and sources locally foraged chaga that are both processed and sold in powder form. “Lion’s mane has been proven to restore neurological pathways,” says owner Nick Robinson. “That’s why a lot of people are so adamant about it.”

R&R Medicinal

Here are a few of the most common varieties of medicinal mushrooms that you might want to consider to supercharge your health. However, always consult with your physician before adding any supplements to your diet.

1. Lion’s mane has been shown to support the nervous system and stimulate brain cells, leading to improved cognition, memory and focus. Lion’s mane can be used in cooking — its flavor and texture are similar to lobster — and can also be ingested as a tincture or powder supplement.

2. Chaga is one of the best natural sources of antioxidants, the chemical compounds that help defend cells from damage caused by the unstable molecules known as free radicals. An imbalance in our bodies between free radicals and antioxidants can lead to chronic inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease and cancer. Eating antioxidant-rich foods helps reduce these health risks. Originally used to treat stomach ailments in Russia, chaga is now available as a tincture, extract or powder supplement that can be added to coffee, tea and protein shakes.

R&R Maitake

Maitake mushrooms

3. Maitake mushrooms, according to early studies, might support the immune system by stimulating lymphocytes, the white blood cells that are critical to the human body’s defense system. Available in fresh, dried and extract form, maitake have also been shown to help control high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

4. Turkey tail has undergone FDA-approved clinical studies by researchers in the U.S. to examine unique compounds that could be highly effective in preventing the growth of cancer cells and boosting the immune system after cancer treatment. In Japan, a compound derived from turkey tail has even been approved for use as an anti-cancer prescription drug. Turkey tail is also thought to be a powerful prebiotic food that could help improve gut health. Although technically edible, turkey tail is extremely chewy and most often taken in capsule or tea form.

5. Shiitake mushrooms, known in China and Japan as “elixir of life,” contain a number of healing properties that are believed to lower bad cholesterol, boost immunity and reduce inflammation. Packed with fiber, vitamins and essential amino acids, shiitakes can also serve as a meat substitute in vegetarian diets.

Note that these uses are provided for informational purposes only and have not been approved by the FDA. Be sure to speak with your doctor or other qualified health professionals before adding medicinal mushrooms to your diet.