Food News Today transcripts for the week of September 10th, 2012

September 14, 2012

Dim the lights and play soft music for a healthy dinner, an environmental update from Brazil and can exercise improve brain power?

Good morning, Food News Today is sponsored by ConAgra Foods, who shares with me the desire to provide the most current, interesting, and unbiased food news.

It’s not news that our country is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. And while the efforts to get American’s eating healthier can be seen and heard in almost every venue – getting us to move more is similarly important, and has an interesting impact on our brain health.  Not only do American adults need to exercise more, kids are picking up those sedentary habits from their parents and not moving nearly as much as they should. Only one in four children get 30 minutes of exercise per day, and by the time they’re teenagers, only 12 percent are getting the recommended amount.


Exercise has been shown to improve memory, release brain-derived neurotrophic factor - a protein that improves the health of your neurons, and has been shown to potentially increase the size of your hippocampus--the part of the brain responsible for memory and spatial recognition.

>Next up Rebecca is going to give us the environmental update in Brazil

REBECCA: Thank you Phil, With the world's largest arable land area, fifth largest population base, and a strong record of agricultural production and exports, Brazil has come to be viewed as the latest model of global agriculture. As our global population continues to climb towards 7 billion and will likely reach 9 billion by 2050, global demand for food will sky rocket. To meet this demand, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reckons grain output will have to rise by around half but meat output will have to double by 2050. Changing diets as well as overall demand will also increase because city dwellers tend to eat more meat. Now if you had to describe the perfect agricultural producer for such demand one select a country that has boosted output a lot and looks capable of continuing to do so; one with land and water in reserve; one able to sustain a large cattle herd; and one that is productive without massive state subsidies. This is the exact makeup of Brazil’s agricultural sector. This was made possible by utilizing a “system approach”, as Brazilian scientists call it: that involved carefully crafted soil, seed, and harvesting improvements. It is likely that the world will and should look to Brazil in the coming decades as an example of how to grow for an ever expanding population. 

PHIL: Thanks Rebecca, sounds like Brazil is on the right track.

>Marketers are constantly at work and here’s another way our choices will be influenced by ambiance – this time it’s at restaurants - and making small changes could actually positively impact our health.  Researchers at Cornell, recently found that the lighting and music in a restaurant can affect the portion size of food consumed, time spent dining, and overall enjoyment. The study was recently published in Psychological Reports 

Lead author Brian Wansink, professor of marketing and director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University – said they found that softer music and lighting led diners to eat 175 fewer calories and enjoy their food and eating experience more.

Brian and his team found that a restaurant’s atmosphere can cause people to feel stimulated and overeat or eat faster; for example, bright lights, loud noise, and glowing colors at fast-food restaurants can make you feel hectic. They also found that a softer ambiance leads people to stay longer and order dessert, even if they hadn’t planned to do so when they first arrived.

Investigators originally thought that diners would eat more food, order more dishes, and stay longer in a restaurant with relaxed music and dim lighting. However, the results showed that study participants consumed less and ate for a longer period than those who were eating in the fast food portion of the restaurant. These diners were also less likely to order more food and rated the food as more enjoyable.

Real life implications? Fast feeders can adjust their ambiance if they want diners to enjoy their food more - and eat healthier portions. A more relaxed environment seems to increase satisfaction and decrease consumption.  At home, try using softer music and lighting; create a calm relaxed environment in which you enjoy your meals.

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