Category Archives: Food

Rising oceanic CO2 levels damage brains of fish

The latest research on the consequences of the gunger for fossil fuels, via the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science:

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University showed that increased carbon dioxide concentrations alters brain chemistry that may lead to neurological impairment in some fish.

Understanding the impacts of increased carbon dioxide levels in the ocean, which causes the ocean to become more acidic, allows scientists to better predict how fish will be impacted by future ocean acidification conditions.

“Coral reef fish, which play a vital role in coral reef ecosystems, are already under threat from multiple human and natural stressors,” said lead author of the study Rachael Heuer, a UM Rosenstiel School alumna which conducted the study as part of her Ph.D. work. “By specifically understanding how brain and blood chemistry are linked to behavioral disruptions during CO2 exposure, we can better understand not only ‘what’ may happen during future ocean acidification scenarios, but ‘why’ it happens.”

In this study, the researchers designed and conducted a novel experiment to directly measure behavioral impairment and brain chemistry of the Spiny damselfish, (Acanthochromis polyacanthus) a fish commonly found on coral reefs in the western Pacific Ocean.

During a three-week period, the scientists collected spiny damselfish from reefs off Lizard Island located on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The fish were separated into two groups–those exposed to ordinary CO2 “control” conditions and those exposed to elevated CO2 levels that are predicted to occur in the near future, but have already been observed in many coastal and upwelling areas throughout the world. Following the exposure, the fish were subjected to a behavioral test, and brain and blood chemistry were measured.

The unique behavioral test, employed a two-choice flume system, where fish were given the choice between control seawater or water containing a chemical alarm cue, which they typically avoid since it represents the smell associated with an injured fish of its own species.

The researchers found that the damselfish exposed to elevated carbon dioxide levels were spending significantly more time near the chemical alarm cue than the control fish, a behavior that would be considered abnormal. The measurements of brain and blood chemistry provided further evidence that elevated CO2 caused the altered behavior of the fish.

“For the first time, physiological measurements showing altered chemistry in brain and blood have been directly linked to altered behavior in a coral reef fish,” said UM Rosenstiel School Maytag Professor of Ichthyology and lead of the RECOVER Project Martin Grosell, the senior author of the study. “Our findings support the idea that fish effectively prevent acidification of internal body fluids and tissues, but that these adjustments lead to downstream effects including impairment of neurological function.”

“If coral reef fish do not acclimate or adapt as oceans continue to acidify, many will likely experience impaired behavior that could ultimately lead to increased predation risk and to negative impacts on population structure and ecosystem function,” said Heuer, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of North Texas. “This research supports the growing number of studies indicating that carbon dioxide can drastically alter fish behavior, with the added benefit of providing accurate measurements to support existing hypotheses on why these impairments are occurring.”

The study, titled Altered brain ion gradients following compensation for elevated CO2 are linked to behavioural alternations in a coral reef fish,  [open access]was published in the Sept. 13 online issue of the journal Scientific Reports. The study’s co-authors include: Rachael Heuer; Martin Grosell; Megan J. Welch and Jodie L. Rummer and Philip L. Munday from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

The National Science Foundation, a University of Miami Koczy Fellowship, and the ARC Centre of Excellence provided funding support for the study. Heuer was also funded by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to conduct the research.

Map of the day: Coral reef danger hot zones

From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch website, regions of the world’s oceans where rising water temperatures pose a threat to the reefs that provide breeding grounds for many of the word’s food fish:


More from NOAA:

The NOAA Coral Reef Watch program’s satellite data provide current reef environmental conditions to quickly identify areas at risk for coral bleaching, where corals lose the symbiotic algae that give them their distinctive colors. If a coral is severely bleached, disease and partial mortality become likely, and the entire colony may die.

Continuous monitoring of sea surface temperature at global scales provides researchers and stakeholders with tools to understand and better manage the complex interactions leading to coral bleaching. When bleaching conditions occur, these tools can be used to trigger bleaching response plans and support appropriate management decisions.

Climate change threatens world fishery devastation

From a new report from Canadian scientists, a look at ocean regions where food supplies from fish are expected the be hit by the impacts of climates change. The map shows the projected percentage change in global maximum catch potential [MCP] and fisheries maximum revenue potential [MRP] in the 2050’s from current levels:

Impacts of climate change on MCP and MRP by the 2050 s (average between 2041–2060) relative to the 2000 s (average between 1991–2010): (a) mean percentage change in projected maximum catch potential (MCP) of 280 Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and mean percentage change in projected MRP of 192 fishing nations in the 2050 s relative to the level in the 2000 s under RCP 8.5 scenario; (b) differences in percentage change in MCP and MRP between RCP 8.5 and RCP 2.6 scenarios in the 2050 s; (c,d) latitudinal zonal average of mean percentage change in fisheries MRP in different fishing countries under RCP 8.5 (c) and RCP 2.6 (d).

Impacts of climate change on MCP and MRP by the 2050 s (average between 2041–2060) relative to the 2000 s (average between 1991–2010): (a) mean percentage change in projected maximum catch potential (MCP) of 280 Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and mean percentage change in projected MRP of 192 fishing nations in the 2050 s relative to the level in the 2000 s under RCP 8.5 scenario; (b) differences in percentage change in MCP and MRP between RCP 8.5 and RCP 2.6 scenarios in the 2050 s; (c,d) latitudinal zonal average of mean percentage change in fisheries MRP in different fishing countries under RCP 8.5 (c) and RCP 2.6 (d).

The University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries reports:

Global fisheries stand to lose approximately $10 billion of their annual revenue by 2050 if climate change continues unchecked, and countries that are most dependent on fisheries for food will be the hardest hit, finds new UBC research.

Climate change impacts such as rising temperatures and changes in ocean salinity, acidity and oxygen levels are expected to result in decreased catches, as previous research from UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries has found. In this study, the authors examined the financial impact of these projected losses for all fishing countries in 2050, compared to 2000.

“Developing countries most dependent on fisheries for food and revenue will be hardest hit,” said Vicky Lam, a postdoctoral fellow at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, and the study’s lead author. “It is necessary to implement better marine resource management plans to increase stock resilience to climate change.”

While many communities are considering aquaculture, also known as fish farming, as a solution to ease the financial burden of fishing losses and improve food security under climate change, when researchers examined the growing industry, they found it may exacerbate the negative impact on revenues.

“Climate adaptation programs such as aquaculture development may be seen as a solution,” said William Cheung, associate professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and a study co-author. “However, rather than easing the financial burden of fishing losses and improving food security, it may drive down the price of seafood, leading to further decreases in fisheries revenues.”

The researchers used climate models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to examine the economic impact of climate change on fish stocks and fisheries revenues under two emission scenarios. In a high emission scenario, the rates continue to rise unchecked, while a low emission scenario meant ocean warming is kept under two degrees Celsius.

“Global fisheries revenues amount to about $100 billion every year,” said co-author, Rashid Sumaila, professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and Liu Institute for Global Studies. “Our modeling shows that a high emissions scenario could reduce global fishing revenue by an average of 10 per cent, while a low emissions scenario could reduce revenues by 7 per cent.”

The researchers found the countries that rely highly on fish are the most vulnerable, including island countries like Tokelau, Cayman Islands and Tuvalu. Meanwhile, many developed countries, such as Greenland and Iceland, could see revenue increases as fish move into cooler waters.

The study was published in Scientific Reports [open access].

Fish pee’s a key to keeping coral reefs healthy

Yes, you read that right.

Fish urine, especially that of larger fish, plays a critical nutritional role in keeping the globe’s imperiled coral reefs healthy at a time when they are threatened by climate change and ocean acidification.

There’s only one problem: Those same fish are being netted up in growing numbers to feed the planet’s human population, as well as its pets.

From the University of Washington:

Coral reefs wouldn’t be the same without their beautiful fish.

A diversity of colorful, beautifully patterned species lives in tandem with coral reefs around the world, having adapted their appearance, body structure and lifestyle to take refuge in the folds of spiny, spongy, slippery reefs.

Recent studies suggest that coral reefs, however, are just as dependent on these fish for key nutrients that help coral grow. When fish urinate, they release phosphorus into the water. This phosphorus, along with nitrogen excreted as ammonium through the gills of fish, is crucial to the survival and growth of coral reefs.

A new study[open access] appearing Aug. 16 in Nature Communications takes this a step further, finding that in coral reefs where fishing occurs, nearly half of these key nutrients are absent from the ecosystem.

The main reason? Fewer large-bodied and predator fish to pee nutrients into the water, the study found.

“Part of the reason coral reefs work is because animals play a big role in moving nutrients around,” said lead author Jacob Allgeier, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

“Fish hold a large proportion, if not most of the nutrients in a coral reef in their tissue, and they’re also in charge of recycling them. If you take the big fish out, you’re removing all of those nutrients from the ecosystem.”

Paper co-authors Abel Valdivia at the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco and Courtney Cox at Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, Florida, surveyed 143 fish species at 110 sites across 43 Caribbean coral reefs that varied in the amount of fishing pressure sustained — ranging from marine preserves that banned all fishing to heavily fished reefs where large predator fish are almost gone.

The researchers found that reefs with more large, predator fish had healthy levels of nutrients, while reefs depleted of large fish had nearly 50 percent fewer nutrients, including phosphorous and nitrogen, essential to their survival.

Lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Proof: Ads manipulate children’s food choices

And as the second entry in this post reveals, those choices can have serious consequences.

First up, news of a new study [we’d title it “This is your brain on sugar”], reported by Elsevier — and in a rarity, the full report is available for free from the global academic study giant:

Food advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry, with approximately $1.8 billion annually aimed at children and adolescents, who view between 1,000 and 2,000 ads per year. Some studies have shown that there is a relationship between receptivity to food commercials and the amount and type of food consumed.  In a new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers studied the brain activity of children after watching food commercials and found that the commercials influence children’s food choices and brain activity.

Twenty-three children, 8-14 years old, rated 60 food items on how healthy or tasty they were. Dr. Amanda Bruce and researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center and University of Missouri-Kansas City then studied the children’s brain activity while watching food and non-food commercials and undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). According to Dr. Bruce, “For brain analyses, our primary focus was on the brain region most active during reward valuation, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.” During the brain scan, children were asked whether they wanted to eat the food items that were shown immediately after the commercials.

The researchers found that, overall, the children’s decisions were driven by tastiness rather than healthfulness.  However, taste was even more important to the children after watching food commercials compared with non-food commercials; faster decision times (i.e., how quickly the children decided whether they wanted to eat the food item shown) also were observed after watching food commercials.  Additionally, the ventromedial prefrontal cortices of the children were significantly more active after watching food commercials.

Food marketing has been cited as a significant factor in food choices, overeating, and obesity in children and adolescents.  The results of this study show that watching food commercials may change the way children value taste, increasing the potential for children to make faster, more impulsive food choices.  Notes Dr. Bruce, “Food marketing may systematically alter the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms of children’s food decisions.”

A second study reveals the costs of obeying those ads

Few products are as aggressively advertised as soft drinks sweetened with that nasty high fructose corn syrup [previously and ominously].

Yet the costs of indulging in that commercially nurtured sweet tooth can result in a lifetime of misery, as demonstrated in a new study from a Virginia Tech nutritional epidemiologist.

From Virginia Tech:

Think one little sugary soda won’t make a difference on your waistline? Think again.

If people replace just one calorie-laden drink with water, they can reduce body weight and improve overall health, according to a Virginia Tech researcher.

“Regardless of how many servings of sugar-sweetened beverages you consume, replacing even just one serving can be of benefit,” said Kiyah J. Duffey, an adjunct faculty member of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and independent nutrition consultant.

Consuming additional calories from sugary beverages like soda, energy drinks, and sweetened coffee can increase risk of weight gain and obesity, as well as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Duffey’s findings, which were recently published in Nutrients, modeled the effect of replacing one 8-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage with an 8-ounce serving of water, based on the daily dietary intake of U.S. adults aged 19 and older, retrieved from the 2007-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Map of the day: Where folks eat the most meat

From Views of the World, the blog of Benjamin Hennig, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford University:

Cartogram showing countries resized according to their tgotal excess meat consumption compared to the global average per capita consumption. Countries with below average consumption don’t appear.

Cartogram showing countries resized according to their total excess meat consumption compared to the global average per capita consumption. Countries with below average consumption don’t appear.

Coca-Cola: A proud sponsor of the Nazi Olympics

Corporations are, if nothing else, emphatically devoid of conscience, marketing their wares wherever the promise of profit glimmers.

By 1936, anyone who kept up with the news knew that Hitler’s Germany was the most transgressive the modern world had ever seen, openly breaching the limitations on its military mandated by the Treaty of Versailles and ruthlessly purging Jews and other ethnic minorities from the public sphere, with dark hints of things to come.

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, planned the Nazi Olympics as a public spectacle to confirm the glorious nature of his regime, and luring corporations from across the Atlantic as corporate sponsors of his masterpiece.

"Visit the Olpmipc Games in Berlin. . .Drink CocaCola, always ice cold."

“Visit the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin. . .Drink CocaCola, always ice cold.”

One eager participant was that most iconic of brands, Coca-Cola, seeing the games as an opportunity to forge an identity with the regime.

Coke laid out the cash and flooded Germany with billboards and other forms of promotion.

One of the least controversial ads featured a German sprinter leading the pack, a reminder that a nice cold drink was the perfect antidote to the  summer heat in Berlin and enjoy the massive stadium built by Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer.

Playing up to the Nazis

How better to identify itself with the Hitler regime than to appropriate one of its most infamous slogans: Ein Volk. Ein Reich. Ein Fuhrer [One People, One Empire, One Fuhrer]. In Coca-Cola’s own version, it became One People, One Empire, One drink, adding the familiar international motto, “Coke is it.”

BLOG Nazi coke


A wartime embargo leads to a new brand

When the war began, German bottlers couldn’t import the coca and cola nuts needed to produce the brown beverage, so at Keith’s command, company chemists came up with a substitute, using, among other things, whey powder derived from the leavings of cheesemakers and the residue from apple cider presses.

BLOG FantaStuck for a name for his new beverage, Keith turned to his employees for suggestions, telling them to let their Fantasie [fantasy] run wild.

One salesman, knowing that the best way to please a boss is to feed him back his own idea, came up with the winner. The company came up with a bottle similar to the Coke original, but with out the characteristic profile.

And thus a brand was born.

Early last year, on Fanta’s 75th anniversary, German television featured a commemorative ad, celebrating those “good old times” when Germany’s innovators created such a marvelous beverage.

The ad didn’t sit too well with countless Germans and countless others who lost parents, grandparents, spouses, and siblings during those “good old times,” and the ad was pulled and the requisite apology issued.

Still, major American corporations [including GM and IBM] and banks [including the one which George H.W. Bush’s father helped set up and profited from] made lots of money off the Third Reich. Indeed, it was IBM’s mechanical computers that enabled to Nazis to keep track of Jews in Germany and lands the Nazis conquered and send them on their ways to death camps, where more records were compiled by IBM’s Hollerith machines.

A more detailed look at Coke’s Nazi connection

During his tenure as a lecturer at Harvard Law School, food and drug public interest attorney Peter Barton Hutt wrote a very perceptive essay about the relationship between Coke’s German subsidiary and the Hitler regime. [Though the essay is no longer on the Harvard server, the KillerCoke website has reposted it.]

As the time Coca-Cola GmbH was headed by a German national, Max Keith, who worked hard to develop strong ties to the Nazi regime.

Hutt writes:

It has been suggested that Coke’s success was directly related to the “striking parallels” between Coca-Cola GmbH and the nation at large. Hitler was a proponent of American mass-consumption and welcomed America’s efficient methods of production (although he was anti-American in all other respects). Interestingly enough, Keith’s looks and personality have been compared to those of Hitler, and Keith’s enthusiasm for Coke was seen by some of his employees, who were often overworked, as evidence of his fanatical tendencies. It seems that Company and government interests overlapped. The Nazis regarded mass-production and mass-consumption as crucial building blocks of their new society, and they must have been impressed by Coca-Cola’s modern means of producing a uniform product. Additionally, Coke’s advertising strategies reflected values central to the Nationalist-Socialist society.

Keith supplied Coca-Cola for the athletes and visitors at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where Hitler was the proud host to the nations of the world, and where Woodruff was a guest. An abundance of Coke’s advertising supported the Third Reich. Keith zeroed in on special events (as Woodruff had done in America) to further Coke’s image, not as an American drink this time, but as a German drink in Nazi Germany. For example, Coca-Cola appeared at Hitler youth rallies, as “Coca-Cola trucks accompanied the marchers, hoping to capture the next generation.” In 1937, at a “Working People” Exhibit displaying the accomplishments of the German worker during the first five years of Hitler’s rule, Coca-Cola set up a miniature bottling plant “with a miniature train carting Kinder beneath it…at the very center of the fair, adjacent to the Propaganda Office.” In March of 1938, when Hitler’s troops went into Austria, Keith convened the annual concessionaire convention, with 1,500 people in attendance. Keith sat at the main table (a large swastika draped in front of him), and encouraged his workers to continue their “march to success.” The ceremony ended with a “Sieg-Heil” to Hitler. In April of 1939, at the tenth anniversary of the German Coca-Cola business, Keith gloated that the past year had been historic because Hitler had annexed Austria and Sudentland; yet the spread of Coca-Cola during 1938 was a close second. This strategy of direct association with Nazi leaders and of lending support to events propagandized by Nazi ideology sent a powerful message to the German consumers and government by signaling that Coca-Cola was on Germany’s side.

This show of support for Nazis was perhaps an aggressive advertising technique designed to combat slander against the company. In 1936, Herr Flasch, who manufactured an imitation drink called Afri-Cola, began circulating flyers depicting Coca-Cola bottle caps from the U.S. with Hebrew inscriptions. Although the inscriptions were nothing but an indication that Coke was kosher, the flyers claimed to prove that Coca-Cola was a Jewish company. Sales plummeted, and Nazi party headquarters cancelled their orders. Keith denounced the accusations in The Stuermer, the official Nazi publication renowned for its vicious attacks against Jews. Coke was able to survive the fiasco, probably through the aggressive marketing techniques described above. Again, ironically, the Coke bottles in question pronounced that they were kosher to appeal to the American Jewish population at home; yet here was Keith, denying that Coca-Cola was a Jewish company, because to be a Jewish company would be a terrible thing.