Coming to Apple TV+: ‘Loot’ Season 2, ‘Sugar’, ‘Franklin’, ‘Dark Matter’, and more

Loot – Season two

The series returns for season two a year after Molly Wells’ (Maya Rudolph) very public divorce from tech billionaire John Novak (Adam Scott), where we find her thriving in her role as the head of her philanthropic organization the Wells Foundation. Focused mainly on her charity work, Molly has sworn off any new relationships with any new men. Fabulously single but not particularly independent, Molly’s trusty assistant Nicholas (Joel Kim Booster) remains by her side, diligently catering to her every whim…and occasionally feeding her a kale smoothie spiked with gin. 

Sofia Salinas (Michaela Jae Rodriquez), the no-nonsense executive director of the foundation, continues to run the Wells Foundation with compassionate efficiency, but her all-business ethos is thrown for a loop when she meets Molly’s charismatic architect friend Isaac (O-T Fagbenle). The series is created, written and executive produced by Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard.

Loot season two will debut with two episodes on Wednesday, April 3, followed by new episodes every Wednesday through May 29.

Sugar

Starring Academy Award-nominee Colin Farrell, the series is new a contemporary, unique take on one of the most popular and significant genres in literary, motion picture, and television history: the private detective story.

Farrell stars as John Sugar, an American private investigator on the heels of the mysterious disappearance of Olivia Siegel, the beloved granddaughter of legendary Hollywood producer Jonathan Siegel. As Sugar tries to determine what happened to Olivia, he will also unearth Siegel family secrets; some very recent, others long-buried. The series also stars Kirby, Amy Ryan, James Cromwell, Anna Gunn, Dennis Boutsikaris, Nate Corddry, Sydney Chandler, and Alex Hernandez.

The series is created by Mark Protosevich who also executive produces. Audrey Chon and Kinberg executive produce for Genre Films, marking their second series with Apple TV+ under Kinberg’s overall deal, following Invasion.

Sugar will make its global debut with the first three episodes on Friday, April 5 on Apple TV+, followed by one new episode weekly every Friday.

Girl State – Sundance Film Festival Selection

Directed and produced by award-winning filmmakers Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, and Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim’s Concordia Studio, the documentary follows 500 teenage girls from across Missouri gather for a week-long immersion in an elaborate laboratory of democracy, where they build a government from the ground up, campaign for office and form a Supreme Court to weigh the most divisive issues of the day.

In the documentary, the country is now deeper into democratic crisis, with civil discourse and electoral politics increasingly fragile under ever more extreme political polarization. As questions of race and gender equality in a representational democracy reach a fever pitch, these young women confront the complicated paths women must navigate to build political power.

Following its widely celebrated and acclaimed debut at the Sundance Film Festival, Girls State makes its global debut Friday, April 5 on Apple TV+.

Franklin – New limited series 

Starring and executive produced by Academy, Emmy and AFI Lifetime Achievement Award winner Michael Douglas, and based on Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff’s book, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, this is a new limited series that explores the thrilling story of the greatest gamble of Benjamin Franklin’s career. In December 1776, Franklin is world famous for his electrical experiments, but his passion and power are put to the test when – as the fate of American independence hangs in the balance – he embarks on a secret mission to France.

At age 70, without any diplomatic training, Franklin convinced an absolute monarchy to underwrite America’s experiment in democracy. By virtue of his fame, charisma and ingenuity, Franklin outmaneuvered British spies, French informers and hostile colleagues to engineer the Franco-American alliance of 1778 and the peace treaty with England in 1783. The eight-year French mission stands as Franklin’s most vital service to his country, without which America could not have won the Revolution. Diplomats and historians still regard it as the greatest single tour of duty by an ambassador in our nation’s history.

The drama also stars Noah Jupe as Temple Franklin, Thibault de Montalembert as Comte de Vergennes, Daniel Mays as Edward Bancroft, Ludivine Sagnier as Madame Brillon, Eddie Marsan as John Adams, Assaad Bouab as Beaumarchais, Jeanne Balibar as Madame Helvetius and Theodore Pellerin as Marquis de Lafayette .Emmy and DGA Award-winning director Tim Van Patten (Masters of the Air, The Sopranos) serves as director and executive producer.

Franklin will premiere globally on Apple TV+ with the first three episodes of its eight-episode season on Friday, April 12, followed by one new episode every Friday through May 17. 

The Big Door Prize – Season two 

Based on M.O. Walsh’s novel, season two follows the residents of Deerfield as the Morpho machine readies them for the mysterious “next stage.” As everyone’s potentials are exchanged for visions, new relationships form and new questions are asked. Dusty and Cass decide to take time apart while Trina (Amara) and Jacob (Fourlas) learn that they can shed their old labels. Giorgio and Izzy each find romance while Hana and Father Reuben attempt to discover the purpose of the machine. The small town is once again left questioning what they thought they knew about their lives, relationships, potentials, and about the Morpho itself.

The season features an ensemble cast led by Emmy Award winner Chris O’Dowd, Gabrielle Dennis, Ally Maki, Damon Gupton, Josh Segarra, Crystal Fox, Sammy Fourlas, Djouliet Amara, and is produced by Skydance Television and CJ ENM/Studio Dragon. Read serves as showrunner and executive producer. Steven Tsuchida, Heather Jack, Jordan Canning, Satya Bhabha and Declan Lowney direct the series. 

Season two premieres globally on Apple TV+ on Wednesday, April 24 with three episodes, followed by one new episode every Wednesday through June 19.

Acapulco – Season three

In season three, the hit bilingual Apple Original comedy series starring and executive produced by Emmy and SAG-Award winner Eugenio Derbez, it’s time to reconcile past mistakes and exciting new beginnings. In the present story, older Maximo (Derbez) finds himself returning to a Las Colinas he no longer recognizes. While in 1985, younger Maximo (Enrique Arrizon) continues his climb up the ladder of success while potentially jeopardizing all the relationships he’s worked so hard to build.

In addition to Derbez and Arrizon, the returning ensemble cast includes Fernando Carsa, Damián Alcázar, Camila Perez, Vanessa Bauche, Regina Reynoso, Raphael Alejandro, Jessica Collins, Rafael Cebrián, Carlos Corona and Regina Orozco, with recurring guest stars Cristo Fernandez (Ted Lasso) and Jaime Camil (Schmigadoon). The series is created by Austin Winsberg, Eduardo Cisneros and Jason Shuman. Winsberg also executive produces with Sam Laybourne who serves as showrunner and executive producer.

Acapulco season three premieres globally with the first two episodes of its 10-episode season on Wednesday, May 1, followed by a new episode every Wednesday through June 26.

Dark Matter

This is a nine-episode, sci-fi thriller based on the blockbuster book by acclaimed, bestselling author Blake Crouch, and starring Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Connelly, Alice Braga, Jimmi Simpson, Dayo Okeniyi and Oakes Fegley.

Hailed as one of the best sci-fi novels of the decade, the series is a story about the road not taken. It will follow Jason Dessen (played by Edgerton), a physicist, professor, and family man who — one night while walking home on the streets of Chicago — is abducted into an alternate version of his life. Wonder quickly turns to nightmare when he tries to return to his reality amid the mind-bending landscape of lives he could have lived. In this labyrinth of realities, he embarks on a harrowing journey to get back to his true family and save them from the most terrifying, unbeatable foe imaginable: himself.

Crouch serves as executive producer, showrunner, and writer alongside executive producers Matt Tolmach and David Manpearl for Matt Tolmach Productions, and Joel Edgerton.

Dark Matter makes its global debut on Apple TV+ on May 8, premiering with the first two episodes, followed by new episodes every Wednesday through June 26.

Trying – Season four

This is Apple’s heart-warming critically acclaimed comedy starring BAFTA Award-nominee Esther Smith and SAG Award-nominee Rafe Spall. In this exciting new season, we fast-forward six years, discovering that Nikki (Smith) and Jason (Spall) are experienced adopters having built a lovely little nuclear family, enriched by an extraordinary support network.

However, as their teenage daughter, Princess (Rayner), starts to yearn for a connection with her birth mother, Nikki and Jason find themselves confronted with the ultimate test of their parenting skills. In addition to Smith and Spall, the cast includes Sian Brooke as Karen, BAFTA Award winner Darren Boyd as Scott and welcomes Scarlett Rayner as Princess and Cooper Turner as Tyler.

The series is created, written and executive produced by Andy Wolton and executive produced by BAFTA Award nominee Josh Cole, Sam Pinnell and Chris Sussman. The series is produced by BBC Studios.

Trying returns for its fourth season on Wednesday, May 22 on Apple TV+ with the first two episodes followed by new episodes every Wednesday through July 3. 

Presumed Innocent

This is a new eight-episode limited series starring and executive produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, hailing from David E. Kelley and executive producer J.J. Abrams, and based on The New York Times bestselling novel of the same name by Scott Turow. 

Starring Gyllenhaal in the lead role of chief deputy prosecutor Rusty Sabich, the series takes viewers on a gripping journey through the horrific murder that upends the Chicago Prosecuting Attorneys’ office when one of its own is suspected of the crime. The series explores obsession, sex, politics, and the power and limits of love, as the accused fights to hold his family and marriage together. The star-studded ensemble cast of the new thriller also includes Ruth Negga, Bill Camp, Elizabeth Marvel, Peter Sarsgaard, O-T Fagbenle and Renate Reinsve. 

The series hails from Bad Robot Productions and David E. Kelley Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television, where Bad Robot is under an overall deal. Abrams and Rachel Rusch Rich executive produce for Bad Robot. Kelley serves as showrunner and executive produces the series. Anne Sewitsky serves as executive producer and directs the first two episodes and episode eight.

Presumed Innocent will make its global debut on Apple TV+ with the first two episodes on Friday, June 14 followed by a new episode every Friday through July 26.

Land of Women

This is is a new six-episode dramedy shot in both English and Spanish starring Golden Globe nominee Eva Longoria, who also serves as executive producer, alongside legendary film and television star Carmen Maura. 

It stars Longoria as Gala, a New York empty nester whose life is turned upside down when her husband implicates the family in financial improprieties, and she is forced to flee the city alongside her aging mother (Maura) and college-age daughter. To escape the dangerous criminals to whom Gala’s now vanished husband is indebted, the three women hide in the same charming wine town in northern Spain that Gala’s mother fled 50 years ago, vowing never to return. The women seek to start anew and hope their identities will remain unknown, but gossip in the small town quickly spreads, unraveling their deepest family secrets and truths.

Inspired by award-winning author Sandra Barneda’s best selling novel of the same name, Land of Women is directed by Iris Award winner Carlos Sedes. Hailing from Apple Studios, the series is produced by Bambu Studios.

Land of Women will make its global debut on Apple TV+ this summer.

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Don’t use sugar substitutes for weight loss, World Health Organization advises | CNN



CNN
 — 

Don’t use sugar substitutes if you are trying to lose weight, according to new guidance from the World Health Organization.

The global health body said a systematic review of the available evidence suggests the use of non-sugar sweeteners, or NSS, “does not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children.”

“Replacing free sugars with non-sugar sweeteners does not help people control their weight long-term,” said Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s department of nutrition and food safety. “We did see a mild reduction of body weight in the short term, but it’s not going to be sustained.”

The guidance applies to all people except those with preexisting diabetes, Branca said. Why? Simply because none of the studies in the review included people with diabetes, and an assessment could not be made, he said.

The review also indicated that there might be “potential undesirable effects” from the long-term use of sugar substitutes such as a mildly increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

However, “this recommendation is not meant to comment on safety of consumption,” Branca said. “What this guideline says is that if we’re looking for reduction of obesity, weight control or risk of noncommunicable diseases, that is unfortunately something science been unable to demonstrate,” he said. “It’s not going to produce the positive health effects that some people might be looking for.”

Non-sugar sweeteners are widely used as an ingredient in prepackaged foods and beverages and are also sometimes added to food and drinks directly by consumers. WHO issued guidelines on sugar intake in 2015, recommending that adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. Following that recommendation, interest in sugar alternatives intensified, the review said.

“This new guideline is based on a thorough assessment of the latest scientific literature, and it emphasises that the use of artificial sweeteners is not a good strategy for achieving weight loss by reducing dietary energy intake,” said nutrition researcher Ian Johnson, emeritus fellow at Quadram Institute Bioscience, formerly the Institute of Food Research, in Norwich, United Kingdom.

“However, this should not be interpreted as an indication that sugar intake has no relevance to weight-control,” Johnson said in a statement.

Instead, one should cut back on using sugar-sweetened drinks, and try to use “raw or lightly processed fruit as a source of sweetness,” Johnson added.

Dr. Keith Ayoob, scientific adviser for the Calorie Control Council, an international association representing the low-calorie food and beverage industry, told CNN via email the WHO’s “insistence on focusing only on prevention of unhealthy ‎weight gain and non-communicable diseases is at the very least, misguided.”

Robert Rankin, president of the Calorie Control Council, said “low- and no-calorie sweeteners are a critical tool that can help consumers manage body weight and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.”

The guidance is meant for government health organizations in countries who may wish to use the scientific analysis to implement policy changes for their citizens, Branca said.

“That will likely depend on the way that which sweeteners are consumed in a specific country,” he said. “For example, in a country where consumption patterns are high, those countries might decide to take action in a way or another.”

A total of 283 studies were included in the review. Both randomized controlled trials, considered the gold standard of research, and observational studies were included. Observational studies can only show an association, not direct cause and effect.

Results from randomized trials found the use of non-sugar sweeteners had a “low” impact on reducing body weight and calorie intake when compared with sugar, and no change in Intermediate markers of diabetes such as glucose and insulin, according to the report.

Observational studies also found a low impact on body weight and fat tissue, but no change in calorie intake. However, those studies found a low increase in risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and death from heart disease, the report noted. A very low risk was also found for bladder cancer and an early death from any cause.

WHO said that the recommendation was “conditional” because the identified link between sweeteners and disease outcomes might be confounded by complicated patterns of sweetener use and the characteristics of the study participants.

In an emailed statement, the International Sweeteners Association, an industry assocation, said “it is a disservice to not recognise the public health benefits of low/no calorie sweeteners and is disappointed that the WHO’s conclusions are largely based on low certainty evidence from observational studies, which are at high risk of reverse causality.”

However, observational studies that follow people over time are important, Branca said. “To show that overweight people can reduce their body weight requires a long-term study. And we’re not seeing that impact from the research we have.”

The recommendation included low or no calorie synthetic sweeteners and natural extracts, which may or may not be chemically modified, such as acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives and monkfruit, the report said.

“Stevia and monkfruit are newer sweeteners so so there’s less published research in the scientific literature,” Branca said. “However they probably work in the body with a similar physiological mechanism as other sweeteners. We cannot say they are different from the others based on the data we have — they play the same role.”

Many people consider stevia products to be more “natural,” since they are derived from the stevia plant. Some natural and artificial sweeteners add bulking sugars to their products to cut their sweetness and add bulk to the product for baking.

A recent study by researchers at the US-based Cleveland Clinic found erythritol — used to add bulk or sweeten stevia, monkfruit and keto reduced-sugar products — was linked to blood clotting, stroke, heart attack and early death.

People with existing risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, were twice as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke if they had the highest levels of erythritol in their blood, the study found.

Just as many people have learned to eat and cook without salt, they can learn to reduce their dependence on free sugars and non-nutritive sweetners, Branca said.

“We need to target children in early life,” he said. “For example, why do parents typically use sweeteners as a reward for children and after almost every meal? We need to recommend to parents to avoid building that sweetness Interest in young children — that’s a very important action to take.”

Even if you are a true sugar “addict,” the good news is that you can tame your sweet tooth, registered dietitian Lisa Drayer said in an article for CNN. She provides the following steps:

Train your taste buds. If you gradually cut back on sugar — including artificial sweeteners — and include more protein and fiber-rich foods in your diet, that can help you crave less sugar, Drayer said.

“When we consume protein and fiber, it slows the rise in blood sugar if we consume it with a sugar-containing food. It can help satisfy us and help us reduce our sugar intake as well,” she said in a previous interview.

Choose no-sugar-added foods and avoid all sugar-sweetened drinks. For example, choose whole-grain cereal or Greek yogurt with no sweeteners. The sugar-sweetened drinks to take off your grocery list should include sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks and fruit punch. Choose water instead.

“If you like sweet carbonated beverages, add a splash of cranberry or orange juice to seltzer or try flavored seltzers. You can also flavor your own waters with fruit slices for natural sweetness or try herbal fruit teas,” Drayer said.

Drink coffee and tea with no or fewer sugars. Be careful at coffee shops, Drayer suggested. All those lattes and flavored coffees can have as much sugar as a can of soda, or more.

Enjoy fruit for dessert. Try cinnamon baked apples, berries or grilled peaches instead of cookies, cake, ice cream, pastries and other sweet treats, Drayer said.

Watch for stealth sugars. Added sugars are often present in foods that you might not think of as “sweet,” like sauces, breads, condiments and salad dressings, Drayer said.

“Pre-packaged sauces — like ketchup, BBQ sauce and tomato sauce — tend to be some of the biggest offenders of hidden added sugars in the diet,” Kristi King, senior pediatric dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital and a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Drayer in a prior interview.

Check nutrition facts labels. All foods and beverages must list the amount and kind of sugar on the label.

Added sugars can go by other names such as “agave, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, fruit nectar, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, maple syrups, raw sugar, sucrose, trehalose and turbinado sugar,” Drayer said.

The higher up these added sugars are on the ingredients list, the greater the amount of added sugar in the product, she said.

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Let your pantry work for you with these easy kitchen organization tweaks | CNN

Sign up for CNN’s Eat, But Better: Mediterranean Style. Our eight-part guide shows you a delicious expert-backed eating lifestyle that will boost your health for life.



CNN
 — 

Home organization shows can be simultaneously uplifting and deflating with rows of matching containers on every shelf of the pantry and cabinets. Typically they’re in a gleaming white kitchen, no less.

Let’s leave the aesthetics aside for a moment, because I will be honest and tell you that I do not own a gorgeous kitchen. It is downright ugly in many respects, but it is functional. And function is the reason I’m making the argument that you should store your pantry ingredients in containers.

Even if you’re not using matched sets of brand-new modular storage or bins (and I’m not suggesting that you do), decanting ingredients from their bags and other packaging into containers is a smart move. Here’s why I do it and why I believe everyone should start containing their ingredients.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for pantry storage because every kitchen layout has its own specific challenges. However, a general rule of thumb is that containers are simpler to store in cupboards and on shelves than bags.

Instead of piling bags and digging through the stack to find what you’re looking for, containers are stackable and easily movable. One wrong grab can send a cascade of snack bags or granola bars crashing to the floor, but containers keep food in check.

Both glass and plastic are durable, though families with kids frequently prefer plastic containers because of the weight and breakability factor. As for round versus square containers, “round ones don’t maximize the space in between” as effectively as square or rectangular containers do, said Shara Kay, a Los Angeles-based certified professional organizer and owner of SK Organizing.

My pantry storage situation includes a mix of airtight plastic rectangular containers, glass mason jars, larger restaurant-style food storage bins and repurposed containers — all from various brands in various sizes. Some are ingredient-specific, such as those for my brown sugar and granulated sugar, and others are generic containers.

For those with deep pantry shelves, a hybrid solution — aka “containers for your containers” — might be necessary. Open-top or open-front pantry storage bins can help group similar items together and allow you to pull out one large container rather than a lot of small jars or canisters. This works well for keeping ingredients such as baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract and other baking-related items together.

If your shelves are less than 12 inches deep, according to Kay, you may not want to double up on bins. But if you have a deeper reach-in pantry, “you probably do, because things will get lost in the back.”

In my pantry, I have a mix of purchased bins and repurposed open box-style containers, including a few old letter trays from my office that hold small mason jars of my granola, dried fruit and other breakfast snacks.

Clear containers can help people visualize what they have immediately, Kay said, making it easy to see if there’s enough penne in the pantry for tonight’s dinner or if it’s time to restock the black bean stash. If you always end up buying an extra box of pasta because you can’t remember what you have on hand, containers may help with overbuying.

Airtight containers also keep snacks and other loose items from losing their crunch too quickly. “If you’re taking a long time to consume things and they’re going stale,” Kay said, “that’s a good instance to decant.” Bag clips can’t maintain an airtight seal, but if you store your half-open bags of Cheez-Its in a sealable container, you’re winning the war.

Clear containers can help people keep track visually of what ingredients they have on hand.

However, you’ll still need to do routine pantry maintenance to make sure you’re not leaving foods in bins for too long. It’s smart to use the first-in, first-out rule with your ingredients, whether they’re in the pantry, fridge or freezer.

I personally don’t buy so much food that I won’t use it before it goes stale or past its expiration date, but if that’s an issue in your house, keep track with writable stickers on your containers and bins. And if you have a few handfuls of ingredients left, Kay said, “when you’re decanting, use up the stuff at the bottom before adding to the top.”

No one wants to believe they could get pests in their pantry, but it’s better to think about this situation before it happens. And as someone who lives in a century-old home, I’m here to give you the news firsthand: The pests will take the smallest opportunity to invade every single time.

Whether plastic or glass, sealed containers are the best line of defense against rodents and insects. Kay’s rule is “the more airtight, the better,” but I’ll go one further. Containers beat bags every time because I have yet to meet a mouse, ant or moth that can penetrate a rigid container. And I unfortunately can’t say the same for store packaging — even sealed cardboard boxes.

As convincing as my argument for containers may be, it doesn’t mean you have to buy out your local home goods store immediately. Start with the containers you have on hand, such as mason jars or plastic bins. Or if you need to buy a set of containers, “start with five and see how it goes,” Kay said. “If it’s working for you, then acquire more.”

Brand-new containers aren't necessary. Start with what you have, such as mason jars or plastic bins.

Similarly, “don’t go decanting every single snack in your pantry on the first go-round,” Kay added. She recommends starting with baking staples such as flour and sugar as well as other items that are usually scooped and measured incrementally rather than all at once. Rice or grains and dried beans are ideal candidates, as are nuts and dried fruit.

For those who still want to keep ingredients in their bagged packaging, you have two options. One is to store your open bags of snacks in larger sealable containers, as mentioned earlier, and the second is to stack your bags in open-top bins.

“My family won’t eat some food if it’s not in the original packaging because they’re drawn to the original packaging,” Kay admitted. As you start transitioning to the container method of pantry storage, you’ll find the right balance for your family as well.

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Zero-calorie sweetener linked to heart attack and stroke, study finds | CNN



CNN
 — 

A sugar replacement called erythritol – used to add bulk or sweeten stevia, monkfruit and keto reduced-sugar products – has been linked to blood clotting, stroke, heart attack and death, according to a new study.

“The degree of risk was not modest,” said lead study author Dr. Stanley Hazen, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute.

People with existing risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, were twice as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke if they had the highest levels of erythritol in their blood, according to the study, published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine.

“If your blood level of erythritol was in the top 25% compared to the bottom 25%, there was about a two-fold higher risk for heart attack and stroke. It’s on par with the strongest of cardiac risk factors, like diabetes,” Hazen said.

Additional lab and animal research presented in the paper revealed that erythritol appeared to be causing blood platelets to clot more readily. Clots can break off and travel to the heart, triggering a heart attack, or to the brain, triggering a stroke.

“This certainly sounds an alarm,” said Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health, a hospital in Denver, who was not involved in the research.

“There appears to be a clotting risk from using erythritol,” Freeman said. “Obviously, more research is needed, but in an abundance of caution, it might make sense to limit erythritol in your diet for now.”

In response to the study, the Calorie Control Council, an industry association, told CNN that “the results of this study are contrary to decades of scientific research showing reduced-calorie sweeteners like erythritol are safe, as evidenced by global regulatory permissions for their use in foods and beverages,” said Robert Rankin, the council’s executive director, in an email.

The results “should not be extrapolated to the general population, as the participants in the intervention were already at increased risk for cardiovascular events,” Rankin said.

The European Association of Polyol Producers declined to comment, saying it had not reviewed the study.

Like sorbitol and xylitol, erythritol is a sugar alcohol, a carb found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. It has about 70% of the sweetness of sugar and is considered zero-calorie, according to experts.

Artificially manufactured in massive quantities, erythritol has no lingering aftertaste, doesn’t spike blood sugar and has less of a laxative effect than some other sugar alcohols.

“Erythritol looks like sugar, it tastes like sugar, and you can bake with it,” said Hazen, who also directs the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Microbiome and Human Health.

“It’s become the sweetheart of the food industry, an extremely popular additive to keto and other low-carb products and foods marketed to people with diabetes,” he added. “Some of the diabetes-labeled foods we looked at had more erythritol than any other item by weight.”

Erythritol is also the largest ingredient by weight in many “natural” stevia and monkfruit products, Hazen said. Because stevia and monkfruit are about 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar, just a small amount is needed in any product. The bulk of the product is erythritol, which adds the sugar-like crystalline appearance and texture consumers expect.

The discovery of the connection between erythritol and cardiovascular issues was purely accidental, Hazen said: “We never expected this. We weren’t even looking for it.”

Hazen’s research had a simple goal: find unknown chemicals or compounds in a person’s blood that might predict their risk for a heart attack, stroke or death in the next three years. To do so, the team began analyzing 1,157 blood samples in people at risk for heart disease collected between 2004 and 2011.

“We found this substance that seemed to play a big role, but we didn’t know what it was,” Hazen said. “Then we discovered it was erythritol, a sweetener.”

The human body naturally creates erythritol but in very low amounts that would not account for the levels they measured, he said.

To confirm the findings, Hazen’s team tested another batch of blood samples from over 2,100 people in the United States and an additional 833 samples gathered by colleagues in Europe through 2018. About three-quarters of the participants in all three populations had coronary disease or high blood pressure, and about a fifth had diabetes, Hazen said. Over half were male and in their 60s and 70s.

In all three populations, researchers found that higher levels of erythritol were connected to a greater risk of heart attack, stroke or death within three years.

But why? To find out, researchers did further animal and lab tests and discovered that erythritol was “provoking enhanced thrombosis,” or clotting in the blood, Hazen said.

Clotting is necessary in the human body, or we would bleed to death from cuts and injuries. The same process is constantly happening internally, as well.

“Our blood vessels are always under pressure, and we spring leaks, and blood platelets are constantly plugging these holes all the time,” Hazen said.

However, the size of the clot made by platelets depends on the size of the trigger that stimulates the cells, he explained. For example, if the trigger is only 10%, then you only get 10% of a clot.

“But what we’re seeing with erythritol is the platelets become super responsive: A mere 10% stimulant produces 90% to 100% of a clot formation,” Hazen said.

“For people who are at risk for clotting, heart attack and stroke – like people with existing cardiac disease or people with diabetes – I think that there’s sufficient data here to say stay away from erythritol until more studies are done,” Hazen said.

Oliver Jones, a professor of chemistry at RMIT University in Victoria, Australia, noted that the study had revealed only a correlation, not causation.

“As the authors themselves note, they found an association between erythritol and clotting risk, not definitive proof such a link exists,” Jones, who was not involved in the research, said in a statement.

“Any possible (and, as yet unproven) risks of excess erythritol would also need to be balanced against the very real health risks of excess glucose consumption,” Jones said.

In a final part of the study, eight healthy volunteers drank a beverage that contained 30 grams of erythritol, the amount many people in the US consume, Hazen said, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which examines American nutrition each year.

Blood tests over the next three days tracked erythritol levels and clotting risk.

“Thirty grams was enough to make blood levels of erythritol go up a thousandfold,” Hazen said. “It remained elevated above the threshold necessary to trigger and heighten clotting risk for the following two to three days.”

Just how much is 30 grams of erythritol? The equivalent of eating a pint of keto ice cream, Hazen said.

“If you look at nutrition labels on many keto ice creams, you’ll see ‘reducing sugar’ or ‘sugar alcohol,’ which are terms for erythritol. You’ll find a typical pint has somewhere between 26 and 45 grams in it,” he said.

“My co-author and I have been going to grocery stores and looking at labels,” Hazen said. “He found a ‘confectionery’ marketed to people with diabetes that had about 75 grams of erythritol.”

There is no firm “accepted daily intake,” or ADI, set by the European Food Safety Authority or the US Food and Drug Administration, which considers erythritol generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

“Science needs to take a deeper dive into erythritol and in a hurry, because this substance is widely available right now. If it’s harmful, we should know about it,” National Jewish Health’s Freeman said.

Hazen agreed: “I normally don’t get up on a pedestal and sound the alarm,” he said. “But this is something that I think we need to be looking at carefully.”

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Proposed changes to school lunches aim to reduce sugar and sodium, but flavored milk stays | CNN



CNN
 — 

If new US Department of Agriculture school food guidelines stand as proposed, chocolate milk is in, but for the first time ever, at least some added sugars will be out – and sodium levels will be reduced gradually.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack publicly announced the changes on Friday.

“The purpose of this is to improve the health and welfare of our children. And I think everybody who comes to this issue shares that goal and hopefully, collectively, we can make sure it happens,” Vilsack told CNN in an interview Thursday ahead of the announcement.

The federally assisted school meal program provides nutritionally balanced meals at school at low or no-cost.

More than 15.3 million kids every day get breakfast at school in the US and 29.6 million get a school lunch, Vilsack said. The numbers were higher earlier in the pandemic, when meals were offered free to all children regardless of their family’s income, but in June, Congress did not extend the Covid-19 pandemic waivers that had expanded the program.

While school meals are paid for by local and federal funding, the standards for what goes on a kids’ cafeteria tray are set by the USDA. The agency’s job is to make sure any meal served at school is nutritious and falls in line with the US Dietary Guidelines.

Flavored milk with “reasonable limits on added sugars” would be allowed under the proposal. Vilsack said school meal administrators tell the USDA that kids just won’t drink much no-fat skim milk or unflavored milk. “That’s not what they get at home,” Vilsack said. “We want to encourage kids to drink milk because there are there’s tremendous nutritional value in milk.”

However, the proposed standards would limit added sugar in certain high-sugar products like prepackaged muffins, yogurt, and cereal. Eventually, the guidelines would then limit added sugars across the weekly menu.

The standards would reduce sodium limits, but that would happen gradually over several school years.

“The [US Food and Drug Administration] provided some insight and direction by suggesting that it is easier for people to accept and adopt to reduced sodium if you do it over a period of time in small increments,” Vilsack said.

A gradual reduction would also give industry time to reformulate their products, said Dr. Lauren Au, an assistant professor at UC Davis’ Department of Nutrition who studies the effectiveness of school nutrition programs.

The guidelines would also place a bigger emphasis on whole grains, but still leave options open for an occasional non-whole grain product.

“Maybe a biscuit can be instituted for a little variety, or grits can be provided where that may make sense from a geographic standpoint. You are sensitive to cultural demands and needs,” Vilsack said.

The proposed rule would also strengthen the Buy American requirements encouraging schools to use more locally grown food.

The USDA will invest $100 million in the Healthy Meals Incentives initiative which offers farm-to-school grants and grants to buy equipment. In the 1980s, schools around the country tore out kitchens and bought prepackaged processed food. To make more nutritious meals, schools have had to rebuild or update kitchens.

“A lot of schools have outdated ovens, freezers, fridges, and that puts limitations on how they can prepare food, so grants that have helped with equipment have been really successful,” Au said.

The money would also reward schools that do a good job providing nutritious meals. Grants would also be aimed at small and rural districts and training.

Vilsack said the USDA created these proposed standards after the USDA received thousands of comments and held 50 listening sessions with parents, school food administrators, the food industry, public health and nutrition experts.

“Establishing these standards are difficult because you have to follow the science you have to follow the dietary guidelines, but you also have to understand that they need to be implemented in the real world which is which is which is tough,” Vilsack said in an interview with CNN.

Real world circumstances are tough already with the higher cost of food, staff shortages and supply chain problems.

Au hasn’t seen all of the proposed policies, but she said what she has seen look good.

“It’s a step forward in terms of promoting healthy nutrition in schools,” Au said. The reduction of added sugar, she added is a big deal.

“Reducing added sugars for this age range is so important,” AU said.

Megan Lott, deputy director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program Healthy Eating Research, said that the policies seem to be heading in the right direction.

“There are a couple of things we would probably like to see strengthened, but it also seems like there are plans to do that over time,” Lott said.

The sugar standard is a good start, she said, but she’d prefer the proposal instead say that no more than 10% of calories should come from added sugars across the meal plan.

“But we recognize that schools might need a little bit of time for implementation,” Lott said.

Lott had also hoped they would take flavored milk off the menu. Research shows that schools that have gotten rid of flavored milk show a drop in milk consumption for a year or two, but milk sales eventually rebound.

School food has become a proverbial hot potato.

After decades of bipartisan support for school meals, the program has been politicized in about the last 10 years Lott says, meaning there is bound to be some pushback.

Friday’s proposed changes would be the first large scale reform of school meal standards since President Barack Obama signed the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law.

The law that went into effect in 2012, championed by first lady Michelle Obama, really did improve US kids’ diet, studies show. The law raised the minimum standards and required schools to serve more whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and fat-free and/or low-fat milk more frequently and serve fewer starchy vegetables and foods high in trans fat and sodium.

Meals that were eaten by students – not just served to students and then tossed into garbage cans – were much healthier and had better overall nutritional quality, the study showed. Students who didn’t participate in the national program did not see an improvement in their diets.

Despite the program’s success, in 2018, the Trump administration announced a proposal to roll back many of the policies in the name of “flexibility,” including ones that involved sodium and whole grains. Trump’s policy would essentially create a loophole letting schools sell more burgers, pizza and french fries and reduce the fruit and vegetables sold. A federal court struck down the rule in April 2020.

During the pandemic, some of the polices were relaxed, like for whole grains, because it was difficult to find products, Lott said.

Studies show kids who eat meals at school ate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy, compared with those who ate at school less frequently.

Better nutrition can help prevent obesity. About 20% of the US population ages 2 to 19 live with obesity, which can cause kids to have high blood pressure, breathing problems and type 2 diabetes, and lead to lifelong health problems, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hungry kids have a hard time paying attention in class. Students who ate healthy meals at school scored better on end-of-year academic tests, studies have shown.

The new standards are just a proposal. The USDA will ask for additional feedback.

Vilsack is hopeful the standards will incentivize more schools to offer more healthy options.

“In terms of future of this program,” Vilsack said, “we want to see more and more school districts push themselves not only to meet the standards, but in some cases to exceed them.”

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