Not too long ago, I had the luck of joining a small group of food scientists in touring P.F. Chang’s headquarters, in Scottsdale, Ariz. We were led through a maze of test kitchens and that’s where I came to appreciate how the restaurant company decides what ends up on their menus. Our tour guide was the senior product development manager for the company’s “fast casual” spinoff Pei Wei Asian Diner. He gave us a brief look into his job traveling through countries like China, Vietnam, and Thailand looking for the “best of the best” of ingredients. “It all began with the sauce,” he said, “flavor was king.” Then came the decision of what food items (e.g. chicken) on which to place the sauce. Once a novel concept was thoroughly developed came sensory analysis testing with trained focus groups and, finally, pilot runs at a handful of restaurants. Collecting pilot data was a critical step to be sure a product wouldn’t fail once launched. He gave examples of some of his successes and that’s when I became curious.
When Mark Pendergrast was a boy, his mother refused to allow Coca-Cola in the house. She told him it would rot his teeth, disturb his sleep, and pollute his body with chemicals. Her warnings backfired, however, only making “something mysterious and enticing about the dark, bubbly liquid.” He’d go on to sneak a sip of the forbidden drink at a friend’s house, a moment he describes as when “nothing has ever tasted so sinfully good.”
The soft drink was far from the witches’ brew he was led to believe, although there was some wickedness in it. As another surreptitious Coke drinker described it, Pendergrast writes, “the effervescence was boldly astringent and as clean as a knife; the flavor suggested the corrupt spices of Araby and a hint, perhaps, of brimstone.” Continue reading
A while back, I interviewed a plant geneticist who expressed extreme frustration over the measly funds that were available for research into biotechnology.
The scientist’s own research was quite exciting in and of itself because of its potential to profoundly improve current agricultural problems across the world by improving yield, while reducing fertilizer overuse.
Intrigued, I asked the scientist about possibilities of commercializing the plant varieties soon. In response, I was told there were only a few companies motivated to invest in the research and there was little chance of raising public funds — given wide sentiment against genetic engineering.
The only hope, the plant researcher said, was that Monsanto would be interested and, then, the scientist suggested — off the record — to me that, “maybe Monsanto likes it that way.” Without competition from other companies or public funds, the company basically had cornered the market on opportunities regarding agricultural biotechnology. Continue reading
Crack open any physiology textbook and chances are you’ll learn that after eating any normal meal, the release of insulin from the pancreas then signals the shutdown of the release of fatty acids from adipose (body fat) tissue and the increase of fatty acid uptake.
Because of this well-known role of insulin, one of the more puzzling explanations offered by some – including a few respected scientists and medical professionals — for weight gain is that elevated insulin is to blame because of its involvement in “fat storage”. In addition, they argue that the reason why a diet lower in carbohydrates works for weight loss is because of reduced levels of the peptide hormone.
It’s an easy conclusion to make. The logic goes that carbohydrates through their stimulation of insulin are fattening beyond their contribution of energy as kilocalories. It doesn’t matter how much you eat, so long as you avoid carbs to lose weight.
“It’s too late, David. I’m dying,” she told me.
“No. No. That’s impossible,” I said. “You’re only 24.”
Less than 0.1 percent of all breast cancers occurred in women under 30 years of age from 1975 to 2000, according to the National Cancer Institute. In comparison to older women, those young women who were diagnosed had lower survival rates. My former girlfriend, Angie, was one of these young women and I couldn’t believe it. She didn’t deserve (nor does anyone) her diagnosis. She could not have played any role in causing the cancer anymore than anyone else. She had no family history of breast cancer. And I’d challenge anyone’s absurd assertion that its etiology had anything to do with more than just the fickle finger of fate.
When light enters the human eye it passes through the cornea, pupil, and lens to focus on an area of light-sensitive tissue called the retina. Near the center of the retina of the eye is a light yellow spot called the macula. It’s here where lutein and zeaxanthin concentrate to form macular pigment to filter out excess blue and ultraviolet light — acting much like a pair of sunglasses would — and protecting the macula’s high concentration of rods and cones responsible for central vision from their possible degradation. Here is a short story about how lutein and zeaxanthin gained the limelight for eye health:
Blazing the trail dressed in yellow
In the Fall of 1996, a couple of oddly dressed men caused quite the stir when they dropped in on the first day of the American Association of Ophthalmology annual meeting taking place in Chicago. The pair showed up wearing bright yellow blazers that made them appear more like members of musical group than attendees of a scientific conference. Continue reading
Now that a week of science at Experimental Biology 2013 has ended, I’ve taken a look around to see what others found that I may have missed while I was in Boston. Again, as mentioned in my preview of the conference, the American Society for Nutrition’s Scientific Sessions alone had more than 1,900 abstracts and dozens of symposia this year. It was the largest to date!
Fortunately, there were other writers at the conference who were able to catch a few of the other sessions. Below is a roundup of blog posts and other coverage that I found from other meeting bloggers and through connections from Twitter. Continue reading