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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Food & Nutrition Research Briefs, January 2008

Table place setting with apple. Title: Food and Nutrition Research Briefs. Link to FNRB home page

January 2008


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Contents

Fast-Acting Carbs May Hasten Vision Loss Over Time

Eating Beans Helps Lower Cholesterol

Mineral Nutrition's Impact on Neonatal Development

Scientist Developing Bread Rich in Beta-Glucan

Diet for Brain Development, From the Beginning

New Campylobacter-Detecting Medium Licensed

Data on Food Antioxidants Released

Secrets of Fish Oil Compound Probed

When It Comes to Vitamins, More Is Not Always Better

U.S.-Thai Scientific Efforts Peg Guava's Nutritional Value

 


Fast-Acting Carbs May Hasten Vision Loss Over Time

 

Consuming higher-than-average amounts of so-called "fast carbohydrates" that cause blood sugar levels to spike and fall rapidly could be a risk factor for central vision loss with aging. Scientists supported by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and grants reported these findings this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Consuming a diet high in fast carbs is also suspected of being involved in the vision loss that sometimes occurs in people with diabetes.

Details

Scientific contact:
Allen Taylor, (617) 556-3156, ARS Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Boston, Mass.

Photo: Two photos of a pair of boys. The images simulate AMD-related vision loss (top photo) and normal vision.
Simulation of AMD-related vision loss (top) and normal vision. Images courtesy National Eye Institute.

 

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Photo: James Penland performs an electroencephalogram on a volunteer seated at a computer workstation. Link to photo information
Psychologist James Penland performs an electroencephalogram, which measures responses from a volunteer's brain.

Mineral Nutrition's Impact on Neonatal Development

 

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists now have described how adequate amounts of copper are important to brain function. Their animal model studies suggest that levels of copper intake are critical to the fetus during pregnancy—a concept called "nutritional programming." Study rats were fed low-copper diets during gestation, lactation, or both. Those rats' pups, when compared to pups born to mothers fed copper-sufficient diets, exhibited slowed development of the dentate gyrus and hippocampal areas of their brains.

Details

Scientific contact:
W. Thomas Johnson, (701) 795-8411, USDA-ARS Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, Grand Forks, N.D.

 

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Diet for Brain Development, From the Beginning

 

Studies looking into how diet and nutrition affect central nervous system development from birth are being conducted by Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-funded scientists. The scientists are using noninvasive tools to assess infant, toddler and school-aged children's psychological, neurological and physiological development, as well as other brain-related functions.

Details

Scientific contact:
Thomas M. Badger, (501) 364-2785, USDA-ARS Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center, Little Rock, Ark. badgerthomasm@uams.edu

Photo: A nutritionist weighs a baby as the mother looks on: Link to photo information
A baby is weighed for a long-term ARS study on developmental effects of different infant formulas.

 

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Photo: Display of fresh blackberries, strawberries and blueberries. Link to photo information
Many fruits can boost levels of antioxidants in blood and lead to lower risk of chronic degenerative disease.

Data on Food Antioxidants Released

 

Measures of the antioxidant capacities of 277 selected foods were released recently by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists. The new database provides easy access to antioxidant values for a wide variety of foods, many of which may be excellent sources of healthful compounds. Many of the fruits, nuts, vegetables and spices listed were analyzed for their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, known as ORAC. ORAC is one of a number of methods available to evaluate the antioxidant capacities of foods. The new release expands upon the 2004 data released by ARS on estimates of the antioxidant capacity of 171 foods.

Details

Scientific contact:
David Haytowitz, (301) 504-0714, USDA-ARS Nutrient Data Laboratory, Beltsville, Md.

 

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When It Comes to Vitamins, More Is Not Always Better

 

Scientists funded by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found an interesting association among seniors aged 60 and older whose vitamin B12 blood levels were low. Aging and taking stomach-acid blockers can contribute to a gradual lessening of B12 absorption in the body. People with high folate and low B12 status were found to be at a disadvantage when compared to those with normal folate and low B12 status; the former group was more likely to exhibit both anemia and cognitive impairment.

Details

Scientific contact:
Martha S. Morris, (617) 556-3302, ARS Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Boston, Mass.

Photo: Martha Morris and Jacob Selhub examine computer display of data. Link to photo information
Epidemiologist Martha Morris and biochemist Jacob Selhub examine apparent associations between B vitamin status and cognitive test results.

 

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Photo: Pinto beans: Link to photo information
Pinto beans.

Eating Beans Helps Lower Cholesterol

 

Consuming as little as one-half cup of cooked dry beans every day helped volunteers lower their total cholesterol levels in an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) study in North Dakota. These results, published in the November issue of the Journal of Nutrition by the ARS scientists and their colleagues, add to a growing—and convincing—body of evidence that beans are a heart-healthy food choice.

Details

Scientific contact:
Philip Reeves, (701) 795-8497,
USDA-ARS Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, Grand Forks, N.D.

 

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Scientist Developing Bread Rich in Beta-Glucan

 

An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist is baking soft white bread that resembles any store-bought loaf, except for a key difference: its beta-glucan content. Research suggests that, when ingested, this soluble fiber helps the body regulate blood glucose and lower "bad" cholesterol, diminishing the risk of coronary heart disease. The bread owes its 0.75 grams of beta-glucan per serving to C-TRIM, a barley- and oat-bran-based powder developed at the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill.

Details

Scientific contact:
Abdellatif Mohamed, (309) 681-6331, Cereal Products and Food Science Research Unit, Peoria, Ill.

Drawing: Bread loaf and wheat plants

 

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Photo: Scanning electron microscope image of Campylobacter jejuni cells and related structures. Link to photo information
Scanning electron microscope image of Campylobacter jejuni.

New Campylobacter-Detecting Medium Licensed

 

A quicker, simpler way to distinguish between Campylobacter species has now been licensed for manufacture by two U.S. companies: Becton Dickinson and Co. of Franklin Lakes, N.J., and Neogen Corp. of Lansing, Mich. An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist began working with Polish scientists in 1987 to develop the new medium, which was patented in 1999. The new culture medium, called Campy-Cefex, is specifically designed to detect and differentiate C. jejuni and C. coli mixtures of food-contaminating microbes. These two bacteria are important causes of foodborne illness. Campy-Cefex selects for Campylobacter among competing flora in a sample, cultivating colonies that resemble tiny water droplets. From these, microbiologists can estimate the level of Campylobacter contamination in the sample.

Details

Scientific contact:
Norman J. Stern, (706) 546-3516, Poultry Microbiological Safety Research Unit, Athens, Ga.

 

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Secrets of Fish Oil Compound Probed

 

A compound found in oil-rich fish such as salmon reshaped the blood lipid profiles of volunteers in an Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-led study. Blood samples taken after fasting, and within eight hours after meals, showed that DHA reduced the number of small LDL (low-density lipoprotein) particles by 22 percent. LDLµs small particles are the size most harmful to the cardiovascular system. The research, reported earlier this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is likely the first to analyze—in high-triglyceride males—DHA's effects on both fasting and post-meal triglycerides, and on quantities and sizes of different types of cholesterol particles.

Details

Scientific contact:
Darshan Kelley, (530) 752-5138, ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center, Davis, Calif.

Photo: Bagel sandwich with salmon.
Salmon, often eaten with bagels, contains a healthful omega-3 fatty acid.

 

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Photo: Holly Sisson and Elizabeth Baldwin use a blender to homogenize fresh guava slices. Link to photo information
Technician Holly Sisson (left) and horticulturist Elizabeth Baldwin homogenize guava for antioxidant and pigment analyses.

U.S.-Thai Scientific Efforts Peg Guava's Nutritional Value

 

A cooperative study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Thai scientists has shown that guava fruit is high in antioxidants, adding it to the list of other antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries, black beans and broccoli. In the study, guava's antioxidant content ranked just below that of blueberries, which is No. 1 in antioxidant activity. Other fruits ranking surprisingly high were carambola, lychee, mango and papaya.

Details

Scientific contact:
Elizabeth A. Baldwin, (863) 293-4133 ext. 120, Citrus and Subtropical Products Research Laboratory, Winter Haven, Fla.

 

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Last Modified: 1/3/2008