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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Copper - a "Brain Food"

Imagine yourself in the 1930's as the owner of a sheep station in Western Australia. It has been one of the best lambing seasons in many years and because of the large number of newborn lambs you are expecting to have a very profitable year. But something is wrong. Many of the lambs are uncoordinated to the point that they are stumbling and falling down. Some of the lambs appear swaybacked. Eventually, the sickened lambs die. You are very alarmed because your profits are disappearing and the veterinarian doesn't know how to help the lambs. Now, what promised to be a very good year is turning into a disaster. (more...)

Dietary Supplements Made from Plants

When it comes to dietary supplements, the American public does not know what it is doing and how can it? So said a well known nutrition commentator and consumer advocate at a recent open conference on dietary supplements organized by the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP). What the public gained in freedom when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was prohibited from regulating dietary supplements, it lost in protection. (more...)

Zinc Nutrition and Mental Performance of Children

Zinc deficiency was first described in Egyptian and Iranian adolescents more than 30 years ago and continues to be a common health problem for children living in both developing and developed countries. As many as 70 percent of school-aged children in Thailand and 34 percent of Chinese preschool children may be zinc deficient. Zinc deficiency in the United States is much less common, with studies showing that about 6 percent of girls and 10 percent of boys are zinc deficient. Such deficiency is known to impair immune function and to retard growth in children. But its impact on brain function and mental performance has been demonstrated only recently. (more...)

Vanadium - an element of concern.

Health and supplement stores now have a large number of powders, beverages and formulas containing vanadium, a mineral element unfamiliar to many consumers. The products are being sold as muscle, strength or performance enhancers, or found in supplements to improve glucose metabolism and prevent diabetes. Although there is some evidence that a little vanadium is beneficial for health, the amounts found in these products is alarming and may have toxic consequences. (more...)

Nutrition Research...Some Incidental Findings Learned Along the Way

Women like vegetarian diets. Men don't mind eating diets low in meat. There are advantages to eating a research diet. And volunteers in the Grand Forks area are highly conscientious people. These are some of the incidental findings from my research at the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center. Yes, much of our work is highly quantitative...we weigh the food, measure the nutrients and statistically analyze the results. But as we work with volunteers in human nutrition studies, there are also plenty of observations that can't be MEASURED. (described in numbers and figures.) (more...)

It Takes More Than Calcium to Keep Bones Healthy

Remember the Amazing Drumstick Knot Trick in your Junior Magician's Guide that was supposed to you bring instant fame? It called for two chicken drumsticks and soaking one of them in vinegar for two weeks. At the big show in the backyard, you were to let the admiring audience examine the stiff untreated bone, then take it back, and secretly switch it with the pre-soaked bone. Finally, with the sound of a drum roll in the background, you were to tie the soaked bone in a knot, an amazing feat indeed. (more...)

Where have all the nutrients gone?

The lead ABC news story for April 6 was, that for the first time, a major medical group has recommended nutritional supplements for healthy adults. Although the recommendation was quite narrow (folate and vitamin B12 for specific groups), ABC news seemed to imply more. The causal listener may have thought they heard a recommendation for supplements in general. Moreover, some listeners may have also thought they heard that supplements were recommended because food no longer contained nutrients in sufficient quantities for optimal health. (more...)

Think Zinc!

When we hear the word "zinc", we older folks more than likely think of it in terms of galvanized water pipes for our houses and watering bins for our animals, not as a nutrient. Indeed, zinc is an essential nutrient that humans and animals cannot live without. (more...)

A Healthy Diet Decreases Cancer Risk

Cancer is a disease that is dreaded by many people. Over 70 percent of human cancer is believed to be related to lifestyle. Two factors, tobacco usage and diet are especially important. Tobacco-related products are associated with about 30 percent of all cancers. However, diet is the single greatest contributor to human cancer, possibly accounting for 35-45 percent of the disease. Certain common types of cancer that appear to be influenced by diet include colon, breast, prostate and lung cancer. (more...)

Copper? You Bet Your Heart!

Copper is essential to life. Plants growing in soil containing too little copper fail to thrive. Animals that graze on plants that have too little copper, or laboratory animals fed diets restricted in copper become ill and may die, usually of damage to the heart and blood vessels. Copper's importance to human health is obvious from the severe health consequences in malnourished infants supported only on cows' milk (which is low in copper); in patients receiving intravenous feeding with copper inadvertently omitted; and in people who have a hereditary inability to absorb and metabolize copper. Fortunately, such severe deficiency is rare among people because we eat a varied diet. But some researchers and health professionals hold that mild copper deficiency is common and may contribute to diseases of aging, such as coronary heart disease. (more...)

Working Off the Holidays!

    Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa bring an anticipation of family gatherings, gift giving and sharing of tasty treats. It's also the season of overindulgence in those treats. (more...)

Last Modified: 7/30/2009