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Eating nuts may lower cholesterol levels, study finds

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK A pooled analysis of 25 trials found that nut consumption may improve blood cholesterol levels.

The findings — which were published in the May 10 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine — noted that nuts contain plant proteins, fats (especially unsaturated fatty acids), dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and other such compounds as antioxidants and phytoesterols.

Joan Sabate, M.D., Dr.P.H., of Loma Linda University in California, and colleagues pooled primary data from 25 nut consumption trials conducted in seven countries and involving 583 women and men with high cholesterol or normal cholesterol levels. All the studies compared a control group with a group assigned to consume nuts; participants were not taking lipid-lowering medications.

Participants in the trials consumed an average of 67 grams (about 2.4 oz.) of nuts per day. This was associated with an average 5.1% reduction in total cholesterol concentration, a 7.4% reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) and an 8.3% change in ratio of LDL cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol). In addition, triglyceride levels declined by 10.2% among individuals with high triglyceride levels (at least 150 milligrams per deciliter), although not among those with lower levels.

“Nuts are a whole food that have been consumed by humans throughout history,” the authors wrote. “Increasing the consumption of nuts as part of an otherwise prudent diet can be expected to favorably affect blood lipid levels (at least in the short term) and have the potential to lower coronary heart disease risk,” noting that different types of nuts had similar effects on blood lipid levels.

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Private-label sales spell success for stores, customers

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK Customers seeking a good deal in a weak economy are looking no further than private-label brands, according to a recent report by Nielsen.

In his report “Store Brands Flex Muscle in Weak Economy,” Nielsen’s SVP consumer and shopper insights Todd Hale said U.S. store brands have garnered more sales, including a 17.3% of share dollars, in addition to 21.9% share of units by March 2010 — up 2.1 and 1.9 points, respectively, since 2007.

Additionally, the customer profiles driving such sales are not who you think. Hale said both young women and middle-class families represent those customers seeking more bang for their buck. And with tiered offerings, including organic and one-of-a-kind items, store-brand purchases may soon become the norm across all customer profiles.

Hale added that store brands demonstrated its power by capturing a 20 unit share or higher in 48-of-the-117 categories analyzed by Nielsen. Last year, Nielsen found that private-label brand sales grew by 7.4% to $85.9 billion within food, drug and mass-merchandisers (including Walmart), with shares recorded at 16.9%.

“In most countries, the concentration of a few dominant retailers correlates well with higher store-brand share, but there are exceptions,” Hale wrote. “This is also true in the U.S. where higher store brand shares in markets are served by a few dominant retailers. With the likelihood of continued consolidation of U.S. retailing in the years to come, expect to see continued growth in store brand shares.”

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Odwalla expands protein beverage line

BY Allison Cerra

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. Natural health beverage company Odwalla has added a new flavor to its Protein Monster drink line.

The newest addition to the Protein Monster line blends strawberries and soy and dairy protein. Odwalla Strawberry Protein Monster packs 25 grams of protein in every bottle.

“We know that the active people who love Odwalla are looking for an on-the-go protein smoothie that doesn’t compromise on taste,” said Jason Dolenga, brand manager, for Odwalla. “By combining 25 grams of protein with creamy deliciousness in every bottle, new Strawberry Protein Monster continues the Odwalla tradition of mixing great nutrition and extraordinary flavor.”

Odwalla Strawberry Protein Monster is available in 450 mL (15.2 fl. oz.) recyclable plastic bottles and can be found in natural food stores, select supermarkets and specialty outlets.

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