Food News Today Transcript for June 1st, 2011

June 03, 2011

Does anxiety originate in the gut, more with Charles Spence - this week it's about health and food technology tricks, it is time to update the supermarket in the year 2000 and our first FNT contest! For the week of May 30th, 2011.

Good Morning, immediately following Food News Today, we continue with a live discussion in our chat room below. Please sign in and join us. Food News Today is sponsored by ConAgra Foods, who shares with me the desire to provide the most current, interesting and unbiased food news.


In health and wellness," it’s all in your head" might not be as true as we are led to believe. And that “gut feeling” may be truer than ever. A new study recently published in the journal Gastroenterology, from researchers at McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, found that bacteria in the gut can influence brain chemistry and behavior. In recent years, researchers have increasingly identified the role the gut can have on mood and behavior, leading many scientists to nickname the gut as the ‘second brain’.

A little bit about the gut: Our digestive system (or gut) in a healthy body contains around 1,000 trillion bacteria, as well as around 100 million neurons (nerve cells). Neurons in our digestive system also use serotonin to send signals to the brain – 95 percent of all serotonin in the body is actually in our gut!Researchers worked with mice and altered the bacteria in their guts, by administering antibiotics. They found that after giving the mice antibiotics there was a marked change in behavior- the mice became less cautious or anxious. The researchers also noted an increase in brain derived neurotrophic factor- a chemical linked to depression and anxiety. When antibiotics were discontinued, the mice returned to their normal behavior and brain chemistry as their digestive system bacteria returned to normal. To test their results, researchers colonized “normal” mice with bacteria taken from mice with a different behavioral pattern. They found that when the mice with a genetic background associated with passive behavior were colonized with bacteria from mice with higher exploratory behavior, they became more active and daring. The same results were observed for the reverse situation.

Building from there, researchers have found conclusive evidence that conditions such as anxiety can actually begin in the gut instead of the brain. The research also indicates that while many factors determine behavior, the nature of the bacteria in the gut appears to influence behavior and disruptions may produce behavioral changes. Maintaining a healthy digestive system, including a healthy intestinal flora mix, could be a key in helping to prevent and control anxieties. By the way, lets not forget that many foods, in addition to yogurts and other dairy products contain probiotics including: homemade sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, raw miso and kombucha.

Back to Oxford to chat with Charles Spence - an experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford's Crossmodal Research Laboratory. Listen how our senses influence our perception of a foods’ healthfulness and how brands are using this information to influence or change what we buy.

Xtreme Retail: our update on the Supermarket in the year 2000 - but first our contest. Here’s a painting created by Frederick Hofer after he read my predictions of just how a supermarket would look and what their offerings might be in the year 2000. Here's the contest, it's fashioned after Where's Waldo - and let me say up front - this is not my idea! Find me in the market and you can win, a copy of Healthy Wealthy & Wise, a copy of our public television special Food Sense on DVD and a SupermarketGuru tote bag. All of those that correctly identify my location on the photo will be entered to win through a random drawing. So look close, and carefully, i might not be who you first think, I could be sitting, standing, driving or even serving a customer from behind a counter. Just email me at with the coordinates of the location you believe I am in to be entered.

So back to the year 2000, in 1988, 23 years ago, I imagined how the concept of the Supermarket would change for the new millennium. It may have taken over 10 years longer than I thought, but we are now starting to see evidence of this evolution becoming mainstream.

One example is a Fox News story which featured the growing food cart phenomenon in Portland, Oregon where since 2007 the number of gourmet food vendors meeting up in “food pods” has doubled. The city has over 200 carts operating at any given time, and food enthusiasts can obtain maps to navigate through the choices. It’s an economical way for budding chefs, restaurateurs, and food entrepreneurs can set up show with little overhead and little to no staff, and city permits are cheap. It’s a food experience.

Another adventurous food experience is in San Francisco, and spreading to other cities, where chefs and food vendors meet up in underground markets at night for what the New York Times describes as an “indie food rave.” And like we’ve seen with food trucks, Twitter, Facebook, and food blogs are the vehicle for getting the word out about locations and times.

Shopping must offer both a great experience as well as excitement within the store. The fact that farmers markets in the US have grown 214 percent since 2000 is even more evidence that shoppers love a place where shoppers can stroll from a smokehouse, where they can watch a live highly skilled butcher prepare fresh meats and then cruise on over to a sommelier hosting wine tastings, or make a stop at by a sushi chef’s counter and then browse a selection of local artisanal cheeses. It is time to celebrate our foods!

For Food News Today, I’m Phil Lempert, thanks for joining us. If you have a colleague in retailing, the media or a blogger who would like to also receive our advance email - please send them to to sign up.