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Study Finds Possible Link Between Mushrooms, Hardening of Arteries

May 02, 1985|DANIEL P. PUZO | Times Staff Writer

While researching a possible link between mushroom consumption and cancer in laboratory animals, a University of Nebraska research team found some troubling results apart from formation of cancer cells.

Researcher Bela Toth said that an unusually high percentage of mice were dying during an animal feeding study designed to investigate potentially carcinogenic substances in common or button mushrooms.

When researchers investigated the fatalities they found the rodents died because of hardened arteries, Toth told the American Chemical Society's annual convention this week in Miami.

Toth, who is a cancer research specialist, said 50% of the mice who were administered a mushroom compound with their water died. Seventy-five percent of this group were found to have "arteriosclerotic lesions, or hardening of the arteries."

Toth and his research partner, Donald Nagel, tempered their findings by stating that the animals received especially high doses of the mushroom compound in the study. They also indicated that a number of other tests need to be conducted before mushrooms could be associated with arteriosclerosis.

However, the scientists felt that the information is worth review because mushroom consumption in the United States has increased 15% each of the past three years and that this was the first time that one particular compound had been linked to hardening of the arteries.

A Stable Sweetener--Another research project presented to the chemical society's gathering involved a new artificial sweetener with some characteristics better than aspartame, which is trademarked as NutraSweet and Equal.

Called "RTI-001," the substance was developed by the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina. It is 58 times sweeter than table sugar and half as sweet as aspartame.

The new sweetener does not break down, or lose its sweetness, after about six months in a diet soft drink, as does aspartame. RTI-001 has no undesirable side tastes such as are found with saccharin and does not cause cavities, according to the information provided by Research Triangle Institute. Next on the agenda is a new name.

Antibiotic Backpedaling--The continuing concern about the use of antibiotics in animal feed has led to a recommendation from the National Cattlemen's Assn. that tetracycline be discontinued as a growth stimulant in beef cattle.

The Denver-based organization will inform its members that the use of this drug for animals should be discontinued pending resolution of the antibiotics issue by the Food and Drug Administration. Further use of the drug to promote animal growth may erode consumer confidence in the safety of beef, a representative for the group stated.

The presence of antibiotics in animal feed has been criticized as unnecessary by consumer advocates for years. Some scientists feel that feeding drugs, such as tetracycline and penicillin, to livestock and poultry may produce a bacteria that would prove resistant to treatment. If such a bacteria were transferred to humans, the medical world would be at a loss to fight the infection.

Another reason the cattlemen's association is opposing the use of this particular antibiotic for beef cattle is that "there is little, if any, use of tetracyclines in feedlots for growth promotion and feed efficiency," the group stated.

Right Idea; Wrong Fish--A well-meaning New York newspaper editorial recently discussed ideas to remedy the significant trade imbalance between Japan and the United States. The paper's position was that this country should increase exports to Japan that would readily fit into that nation's life style rather than forcing unfamiliar items upon the Japanese.

Along those lines the paper suggested the United States should increase its exports of "brook trout, smoked salmon and caviar . . ." to the Japanese for use as sashimi.

The only problem with the idea is that consumption of raw fish, whether in the Orient or in North America, infrequently involves freshwater fish. The reason is that non-seafaring species, such as trout, are more likely to be vehicles for harmful bacteria than their ocean-based counterparts. An increased consumption of raw brook trout in anyone's diet may lead to something as unpleasant as tapeworm.

For instance, an outbreak of 59 tapeworm cases on the West Coast (including 10 in Los Angeles County) in 1981 was linked to consumption of raw or undercooked salmon. Salmon is an anadromous fish that spends part of its life cycle in fresh water and the remainder in the ocean.

During the 1981 outbreak, local health officials said most cases of tapeworm were normally linked to freshwater fish from the Great Lakes region and recommended that these fish be thoroughly cooked before consumption.

Another tapeworm incident in 1981 did involve game fish from Minnesota, such as trout, and brought another warning from health officials that fish from the inlands waters of Minnesota, Canada and Alaska be cooked.

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