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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Finding Your Match Online?

Interpersonal communications is not what it used to be. At least, that is, in terms of how people meet, greet, and stay in touch. Technology has opened up a world of advanced possibilities for finding, connecting and communicating – whether with friends, colleagues, fellow hobbyists, vendors, sales prospects, or others. While the variety of new channels can make interaction less personal, it certainly enables communication to be more precisely targeted than ever before.

The same holds true for job hunting. While online search has been around for some time, more avenues are being opened up for highly targeted matches between job seekers and employers. Professional associations are hosting job boards that link job seekers and positions within the functions or industries they serve. Many organizations also enable job seekers to register and apply directly on their websites. Other, independent job search services collect jobs in the arts, philanthropic organizations, public interest, and other special targets.

But, there has never been a job board targeted to coffee professionals – until today. The National Coffee Association has just launched the NCA Career Center. It’s an interactive job board that zeroes in on coffee industry companies, professionals and related disciplines. It’s a resource that will cover all professional roles – from barista to commodities trader, roast master to packaging chemist, food service professional to logistics executive, and so on – as long as there is a genuine connection to coffee.

The NCA Career Center will be available both to NCA members and non-members to reach qualified candidates from a highly targeted talent pool. Employers can post jobs online, search for qualified candidates based on specific job criteria and create an online resume agent to email qualified candidates daily. Employers can also access online reporting, which provides job activity statistics to track each job posting’s Return on Investment (ROI).

For job seekers, the NCA Career Center is a free service, delivering access to employers and jobs across all industry sectors, roles and related functions. Job seekers can browse and view jobs using criteria they choose to align with their individual career goals. They can also upload their resumes confidentially to the site. Also, they can search anonymously by creating a Job Agent that notifies them via email when jobs matching their criteria are posted. That eliminates the need to check their accounts daily to track new postings.

So, are you a professional in a coffee-related role, or do you know one? Are you looking for a highly qualified individual with targeted skills and experience, but the resumes you’re finding are all over the map?

Then, the NCA Career Center gives you a new channel, dedicated to the connections you want to make. Bringing technology to a new target audience, it’s not only a new way to communicate but also a better way to connect. Whether job seeker or job poster, the process will be easier and more effective.

Will you find your match online? “Yes” has just become a more likely answer.

The GMO Mojo

Voters in Washington state Tuesday rejected a ballot initiative that would have required the labeling of food and beverage products made with genetically modified food ingredients (GMOs). The measure was defeated by a 55 to 45 percent split, ending a move that would have made Washington the nation’s first state to require GMO labeling. A similar measure, Proposition 37, was defeated in California last year.

Currently, 70-80% of the nation’s food and beverage products include ingredients produced using genetic modification (GM) technology. These products have been part of the food supply for over 20 years. Essentially, farmers and food manufacturers use GM technology to add desirable traits from one plant to another without adding unnatural substances or chemicals.

Nationally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets standards for food labeling based on extensive scientific review. The FDA does not require GMO foods to be labeled because it has found neither health risks nor any material difference between GM and non-GM foods. Other U.S. regulatory agencies that study and monitor food safety concur, and many scientific bodies, such as the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences, have also concluded that foods and beverages containing GM ingredients are materially no different than foods without them.

State Initiatives
However, several states have introduced ballot initiatives to create state-based labeling requirements, which could conflict with FDA standards. In addition to the Washington and California proposals, efforts are underway for a 2014 measure on the ballot in Oregon. One state, Connecticut, has actually passed a labeling measure, but it is severely limited by a requirement that its provisions cannot go into effect unless similar measures are passed in several contiguous states.

Of course, state-by-state measures would be a special burden on commerce. If requirements differ from state to state, packaging would need to vary across state lines. Federal legislation that would create a national standard, with the FDA as the chief safety arbiter, would be a better alternative.

European Union
In the EU, all GMOs are deemed “new foods,” which must go through an extensive, case-by-case evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), roughly equivalent to the FDA in the US. EFSA’s recommendations must go to the European Commission, which then drafts proposals for granting or refusing authorization. The proposals, in turn, are submitted to the Commission’s standing committee on food safety. If accepted, the authorization can be adopted by the EC outright or through a review and vote by its Council of Agricultural Ministers.

Each EU member state also has the right to restrict or prohibit the use or sale of GMOs within their borders. In each case, the EC is then required to investigate the matter. Further adjudication, if needed, is completed by state or EU courts. The EU has approved about 50 GMOs foods so far.

For GMO foods entering the EU, regulations are aimed at providing freedom of choice to consumers. All food containing greater than 0.9% of approved GMOs must be labeled.

Sipping Your Risk Away?

A cascade of scientific studies has linked coffee with a reduced risk of diabetes for more than a decade. Scientists in China recently used a strong, representative sample to pull it all together. They culled data from over a million individuals, and integrated and re-examined results to yield an even larger picture. In technical terms, the process is called a “meta-analysis” but, in practice, it’s like doing a new study that is much wider in reach and broader in scope.

The conclusions confirmed what many scientists have been saying all along – that there is an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and the risk of developing diabetes. In laymen’s terms, that means that as coffee consumption goes up, the risk of diabetes comes down.

Pooling data from 30 studies, the Qingdao University team concluded that, on average, coffee appears to reduce the risk of developing diabetes by about one-third. Put another way, they affirmed a 12% decrease in risk for every two cups of coffee consumed.

The Chinese study’s unique contribution is a conclusion based on high-quality studies and a very large subject pool. Reviewing only “prospective studies,” which examine behaviors and outcomes going forward rather than recording past events, the team eliminated risks of hazy recall and subject selection bias that other types of studies allow. That makes the outcomes a broad confirmation of what many scientists have found individually since about 2002.

Decade of Evidence
The literature from which the new study was drawn is extensive. Scores of studies from around the world have all come to the same conclusion – that coffee appears to have a protective effect against diabetes that has something to do with the sugar uptake system in the body. The specific “pathways” vary, but they now appear to point to the same chemical source – the chlorogenic acids found naturally in coffee.

The link between coffee and reduced diabetes risk dates back to a Dutch study done in 2002. Scientists at Vrije University in Amsterdam found that men and women who drank seven cups of coffee a day were half as likely to develop the disease as those who drank two cups or fewer. In 2003, a Harvard study confirmed the findings, finding that men who drank six or more cups of coffee a day had a 54% lower risk of becoming diabetic, while those who drank four or more cups showed a 29% lower risk. At this stage in the research history, scientists looked to caffeine as the source, citing the effect it has on human energy expenditure. But, they also noted that other coffee compounds, including potassium, niacin and magnesium, might positively affect sugar metabolism.

In 2004, a Finnish study found that men who drank three to four cups of coffee a day reduced their diabetes risk by 27%, while women did so by 29%. The more they drank, the higher was the protection, too – men who drank 10 or more cups reducing their risk by 55% and women by 80%. Later that year, a Swedish study also found a lower diabetes risk among heavier coffee drinkers. Men who drank five or more cups a day showed a 40% lower incidence than those who consumed two or fewer cups. For women, the risk reduction was 74% for those who drank five or more cups versus two or less.

The next year found NCA joining with European colleagues to fund two studies to dig deeper into the intriguing data. The American study explored glucose uptake in rats, with results showing that the risk reduction was unique to coffee and not caffeine, with decaf demonstrating the same protective effect. In the European study, coffee’s effect on human glucose tolerance and gastrointestinal hormones was studied, and results showed a positive effect on blood glucose levels that was linked to the availability and chemical action of chlorogenic acids in coffee.

The University of Minnesota was next with a study that found diabetes risk reduction among postmenopausal women – 22% for six or more cups, 16% for four to five cups, and 4% for one to three. Decaf results were even stronger, suggesting that a unique coffee compound was at work. Those drinking six plus cups of decaf saw a 34% reduction in risk, 41% at four to five cups and 2% at one to three. Caffeine alone yielded no protective effect. The researchers now looked to chlorogenic acid as the root of the protection, reducing glucose absorption or inhibiting liver hormone activity. The scientists also pointed to other powerful antioxidant properties , which can protect certain pancreatic cells from damage or promote insulin sensitivity, thereby delaying or preventing diabetes onset.

Later that year, a study at the University of California at San Diego expanded evidence by finding a risk reduction among pre-diabetic subjects that was even stronger than for those with normal fasting blood sugar levels. Pre-diabetics exhibited a 69% reduced risk of developing diabetes, while those with normal sugar levels showed a 62% reduced risk.

Other, more recent studies, have added to the body of evidence. In 2011, researchers at Nagoya University in Japan found that coffee and caffeine improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance in rats whose glucose tolerance had been impaired by diet. The findings enhance prior evidence that coffee and caffeine help regulate hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, in spontaneously diabetic animals.

Earlier this year, Brazilian scientists concluded that coffee reduces blood sugar and cholesterol levels associated with diabetes. The study looked at the impact of coffee on diabetic and non-diabetic rats, finding that the rats who drank coffee had lower levels of glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, creatinine, uric acid and other metabolic markers – for example a 40% decrease in levels of triglycerides and 31% for urea. Looking at the mechanisms behind the protection, the researchers cited the inhibition of sugar transporters by chlorogenic acid and sodium, and other compounds that impact glucose levels. They also noted that coffee is packed with polyphenols, strong antioxidant compounds that reduce the cellular damage by free radicals which, in turn, plays a role in the development of insulin resistance and diabetes.

So, just like the Chinese scientists, if you put all this data together, you come up with a very intriguing conclusion. While the root cause is still not totally understood, the consensus on the impact is extensive. So, next time you’re sipping your coffee, think about the time, effort, energy, talent, and even geographic reach of the work that’s been done, and how all the evidence leads to the same place. The force of science is with you if think you’re sipping your risk away.

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