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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

A Plant-Based Diet is a Healthy Choice

What is a plant-based diet? Currently, there are two major sources of food in our diets-plants and animals. A primarily plant-based meal should be made up of plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, grain (especially whole grains), tubers and legumes. It should be pointed out, however, that a plant-based diet is not the same as a vegetarian diet, and it can include a wide range of eating styles between the extremes of either traditional American diets, abundant in meat, or strict vegetarianism. (more...)

Selenium-Enriched Foods: Tapping into North Dakota's Potential

A symposium, to be held Nov. 3 & 4 in Grand Forks, will examine one of the most promising developments in the area of functional foods. "Emerging Markets in Selenium-Enriched Foods" will bring together leaders in science, industry and production agriculture to discuss whether marketing a food for its ability to improve health represents added-value agriculture. More specifically they will discuss whether increasing the content of selenium in agricultural plants and animals will lead their subsequent commodities to be sold at a premium. (more...)

World Food Day is Not Just About Food

In the Ling household, my brother, sisters and I were not allowed to leave the table until we had eaten every morsel of food on our plates. Our mother often said, "Think of all the starving children in China!" For me and most people in America, China was just someplace half a world away. But my mother, who had survived through years of famine in the old country, understood that the next meal was not always forthcoming. She understood the hunger that more than 840 million of the world's people have to deal with every day. (more...)

Local Volunteers Help Determine the Effects of Nature and Nurture on Iron Nutrition

Three years ago in a column similar to this, I wrote of the dual impact of diet and genetics on our health, and solicited volunteers from the local community to participate in a study to determine if a common DNA characteristic (mutation) influences dietary iron absorption. My collaborator, Dr. Huawei Zeng, and I are grateful to 359 local volunteers who helped to determine that the approximately 10% of us that carry a single copy of this DNA mutation need not worry about absorbing too much iron. (more...)

What's in a Name?

An Asian minister of health once remarked to me how difficult he found the job of convincing his government to invest in solving problems caused by shortages of "micro-nutrients." The term, he implied, belied their importance to good health. "Couldn't we come up with a better name?" he asked. (more...)

Folic Acid: For Women & Men

Most people, especially women, associate folic acid as a vitamin needed during pregnancy. The need for this vitamin is crucial during pregnancy. However, folic acid has numerous beneficial actions and is needed at all times regardless of age, by both female and male. A high folic acid intake is considered heart healthy. Recently folic acid has been in the news as needed to help prevent osteoporosis. The reason for these claims is that folic acid lowers homocysteine. (more...)

Vitamin D: Good for Your Bones

The problem is closer to home than we may think. Locally, as a part of the screening processes for our nutrition studies, we exclude about 20% of the female applicants because they do not meet the criteria for normal bone mineral density. Most of these women have not had a bone scan prior to coming to us, and therefore do not know the status of their bones. If left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks, typically, in the hip, spine, and wrist. Of special concern are fractures of the hip and spine. A hip fracture almost always requires hospitalization and major surgery. It can impair a person's ability to walk unassisted and may cause prolonged or permanent disability or even death. Spinal or vertebral fractures also have serious consequences, including loss of height, severe back pain, and deformity. (more...)

Eat North Dakota Beef; It's Good for You

The Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center is seeking volunteers for a study of the benefits of consuming beef raised in special areas of our region. Living in North Dakota affords a healthy lifestyle in terms of the state's clean air, un-crowded cities, open landscapes, and healthy Dakota foods. But what is so special about Dakota-produced foods? It could be that if more people consumed some of our local specialties, they would cut their risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. (more...)

Metabolic Syndrome: You May Have It and Not Know It

Metabolic Syndrome--what a sinister sounding name for a medical condition! Unfortunately, this particular medical problem lives up to its name and you and I have a significant chance of coming down with it. Scientists estimate that approximately 47 million Americans (22%) now have Metabolic Syndrome. For persons 60-69 years of age, the prevalence rises to 42%. Please consult with your physician to determine your personal medical status. Metabolic Syndrome (also called Syndrome X) is defined as the simultaneous presence of 3 of the following 5 risk factors: (more...)

Searching For a Good Carbohydrate

A few days ago as I was taking a break and eating a banana at my desk, a coworker came in to my office to ask a question. As she was leaving my office she pointed at the banana and said, "You know that banana has 25 grams of carbohydrate." Until then I had never given much thought to how much carbohydrate was in a banana, but her statement made think twice. Eating a banana did not seem particularly harmful, because bananas are a low fat, low sodium food that supplies potassium fiber, vitamin A and folate. In view of the recent publicity regarding the health benefits of low carbohydrate diets, I think my coworker's comment for bananas was based on the general concept that carbohydrates are bad as presented in magazines, newspapers, some popular diet books and television. (more...)

The Atkins Diet: Worthwhile or Worthless?

By now, almost everyone has heard of the Atkins diet (Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, 1998). This is the diet that promotes weight loss through the consumption of foods low in carbohydrates and quite high in fat and protein contents, but not necessarily low in calories. It was the brain-child of Dr. R. C. Atkins who claimed that it would initiate a greater weight loss than a conventional, low calorie diet composed of a "balance" of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. In addition, it was supposed to be friendly to those prone to diabetes because of the low intake of carbohydrate; it might reduce the body's need for insulin. This diet concept is diametrically opposed to that used for years by traditional nutritionists and medical specialists. (more...)

Vision Quest: American Indian Nutrition Research

The leading health problems in the United States are cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, depression, and accidents. American Indians experience these problems in disproportionately greater numbers. For example, the incidence of diabetes among American Indians is about 3 times that of the U.S. population as a whole. In the Dakotas, about 40% of American Indians over the age of 45 years have been diagnosed with diabetes. Long-term effects of diabetes include heart disease, stroke, hypertension, blindness, kidney disease, amputation, dental disease, and complications of pregnancy. Genetics, nutrition and physical activity play an important role in the development of diabetes and its complications. (more...)

Last Modified: 7/30/2009
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