Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Food & Nutrition Research Briefs, Oct. 2003

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

October 2003


FNRB Index | Search | Comments


 

Contents

Black Tea Lowers Blood Cholesterol, Study Shows

Nutrients May Help Counteract Cataracts

Pesticides in Fruit, Veggies Caught by New Method

Flavorful New Apricot, "Nicole," Ready for Growers, Backyard Gardeners

Pursuing the Allergen-Free Peanut

Better Way to Measure Vitamin B12 Offered

Special Form of Vitamin D May Fight Cancer

Smart Portion Sizes May Help Kids Avoid Obesity

Heart-Healthier Corn Oil, Margarines Ahead?

Boost Immunity With Low-Fat, Low-Calorie Meals

"Moon Cake"--Tasty, New Edamame Soybean

Contaminants on Poultry Detected by New Imaging System

Orange Rind "A-Peels" to Nutrition Researchers


Black Tea Lowers Blood Cholesterol, Study Shows

Next to water, tea is the most consumed beverage worldwide.

Drinking black tea and eating meals low in fat and cholesterol may help lower LDL cholesterol in the blood. LDL is the "bad" cholesterol implicated in increased risk of coronary heart disease.

In the United States, black tea is the most popular kind of tea. The nutrition research findings about this tea are from a study of seven men and eight women, aged 20 to 70, who volunteered for an investigation conducted by scientists at the ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center.

The study investigated the effects of three treatment beverages--black tea, tea-flavored water, and tea-flavored water with caffeine (in an amount similar to that in black tea). Throughout the study, the participants followed a regimen of meals that were moderately low in fat, varying only in the tea or tea-flavored beverage.

Scientists found that drinking black tea as part of a prudent diet significantly reduced total and LDL cholesterol (October 2003, Journal of Nutrition, vol. 133, pp. 3298S-3302S).

For more information, contact Joseph T. Judd, (301) 504-8306, USDA-ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Beltsville, MD.

Back to Contents


Pesticides in Fruit, Veggies Caught by New Method

Various grains, fruits and vegetables

Pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables can now be detected quickly and less expensively, thanks to a new laboratory procedure from an ARS chemist. This streamlined approach to extracting pesticide residues from food samples and preparing them for analysis is called "QuEChERS" --pronounced "catchers" and short for Quick, Easy, Cheap, Effective, Rugged and Safe.

QuEChERS could replace current methods that are time-consuming, expensive and labor-intensive. For example, costs of materials needed for a QuEChERS analysis are at least four times lower than those for traditional methods.

Today, more than half of the samples of produce tested in this country typically are free of measurable residues of pesticides. That's according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Washing, peeling or cooking produce can remove most residues. And, routine monitoring helps maintain America's high food safety standards.

For more information, contact Steven J. Lehotay, (215) 233-6433, USDA-ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, PA.

Back to Contents


Pursuing the Allergen-Free Peanut

Peanuts

The 1.5 million Americans who are allergic to peanuts may someday have an allergen-free peanut they can enjoy. ARS scientists at the agency's Southern Regional Research Center already have found a peanut variety that's free of one of the three major peanut allergens--proteins that can trigger an allergic reaction.

They did that by screening 300 different kinds of peanuts from a collection maintained by North Carolina State University.

In the laboratory, the researchers produced molecules called antibodies that seek out, bind to and signal the amount of the dangerous allergens. Now they are using those same detective molecules to find a second allergen-free peanut plant. Then, their two peanut plants could be used as parents to produce a safer peanut with reduced allergens.

The work is one of several approaches that ARS researchers are taking to tackle the peanut-allergy problem.

For more information, contact Soheila J. Maleki, (504) 286-4590, ext. 590, USDA-ARS Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans, LA.

Back to Contents


Special Form of Vitamin D May Fight Cancer

Physiologist prepares a tray of cow plasma extracts.

A form of vitamin D, discovered in laboratory studies by an ARS researcher, may help fight cancer. ARS and Bone Care International, Inc., Madison, Wis., share a patent on an experimental anti-cancer drug that's based on the compound.

Known as a metabolite, the vitamin D form is 1,24-dihydroxyvitamin D2. Though scientists had previously known of a vitamin D metabolite called 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D2, ARS was the first to uncover the 1,24 form.

Found mainly in plants, the parent compound--vitamin D2--is used as a dietary supplement. Both the 1,25 and the 1,24 forms activate vitamin D's ability to build strong bones and help prevent the weakening associated with osteoporosis.

Earlier work, done elsewhere, pointed to vitamin D's potential anti-cancer activity. But high doses of the vitamin can have toxic effects. The 1,24 metabolite may offer a way to safely provide doses that are nontoxic yet high enough to fight cancer.

Bone Care International expects to begin clinical trials this year to learn more about the 1,24 metabolite.

For more information, contact Ronald L. Horst, (515) 663-7312, USDA-ARS National Animal Disease Center, Ames, IA.

Back to Contents


Heart-Healthier Corn Oil, Margarines Ahead?

Geneticist and food science professor examine a vial of oil.

Unique kinds of corn from ARS and Iowa State University scientists may provide cooking oils and margarines that are healthier for the heart than today's selections.

Some of the 14 new corn varieties yield oils with 60 to 70 percent oleic acid–-a monounsaturated fat. In contrast, most corn oils contain only 20 to 30 percent oleic acid.

Products high in oleic acid may help reduce blood levels of low-density lipoprotein, the cholesterol linked to heart attacks and strokes

The researchers are patenting the promising corn lines and are seeking corporate partners. Collaborations could speed the search for products that can use the new, high-oleic lines, and could hasten cross-breeding of the new lines with existing corn varieties.

Interestingly, parents of the high-oleic corn include eastern gamagrass, a hardy native that is a distant relative of corn.

For more information, contact Linda M. Pollak, (515) 294-7831, USDA-ARS Corn Insects and Crops Genetics Research Unit, Ames, IA and Susan A. Duvick, (515) 294-9375, USDA-ARS North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station, Ames, IA.

Back to Contents


"Moon Cake"--Tasty, New Edamame Soybean

Thomas Devine inspects a Moon Cake soybean plant.

When cooked and lightly salted, the pea-like beans inside "vegetable" soybeans make a protein-rich addition to salads, casseroles, soups, snacks, mixed or stir-fried vegetables and other foods.

ARS scientists have now bred a new vegetable soybean called "Moon Cake." It gets its name from the Chinese Moon Cake Festival in which delicacies made with soybean paste, and shaped like the full moon that the festival celebrates, are enjoyed.

Also known as edamame (pronounced eh-dah-MAH-may) vegetable soybeans are a high-value specialty crop typically sold in Asian or health food stores.

Moon Cake grows to 6 feet tall under the right conditions, making it the world's first giant vegetable soybean. Its height helps shade out weeds. That's a boon for organic farmers who--by law--can't use conventional herbicides.

For more information, contact Thomas E. Devine, (301) 504-6375, USDA-ARS Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory, Beltsville, MD.

Back to Contents


Orange Rind "A-Peels" to Nutrition Researchers

Citrus fruits.

The carbohydrates in orange peels have intriguing, potentially health-promoting properties. But, more research is still needed, scientists report.

Pectin, a type of carbohydrate in orange peels and in certain other fruits and vegetables, increases the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. Pectin fragments also help keep the intestine healthy by acting as natural "anti-adhesives." In that role, they are thought to undermine the ability of food-borne pathogens to attach to, and proliferate in, the intestine.

ARS scientists with the Eastern Regional Research Center demonstrated these properties of orange peel pectin for the first time. They collaborated with researchers from the University of Reading in Reading, U.K.

Pectin today is used as a gelling agent in jelly products and as a stabilizer in dairy products.

For more information, contact Arland T. Hotchkiss, (215) 233-6448, USDA-ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, PA.

Back to Contents


Nutrients May Help Counteract Cataracts

Allen Taylor views films that show that oxidative stress damages eye lens proteins.

Eating fruits, vegetables and certain grains that are rich in antioxidant compounds could be the most practical and least expensive way to delay formation of cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the eye's lens, which interferes with the passage of light and impairs vision. About half of all Americans aged 75 and over develop this condition.

In ongoing research, ARS-funded scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University are discovering more about the relation, over time, between eating habits and healthy eyes. They examined food questionnaires completed over 13 to 15 years by 478 nondiabetic women volunteers, aged 53 to 73. The researchers also examined the volunteers' eyes. All of the volunteers had been recently diagnosed with cataracts.

Volunteers who had a history of consuming more vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, folate, beta-carotene, lutein or zeaxanthin had a lower prevalence of cloudiness in certain lens areas than did volunteers with the lowest intakes of those nutrients. Scientists already know that certain antioxidant nutrients inside the lens help maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eye.

The volunteers were selected from among participants in the long-term, federally funded Nurses' Health Study.

For more information, contact Allen Taylor, (617) 556-3155, ARS Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA.

Back to Contents


Flavorful New Apricot, "Nicole," Ready for Growers, Backyard Gardeners

Nicole, a new gourmet apricot from ARS treefruit breeders in California, is superb for making jams, marmalade or fillings for baked goodies. This apricot keeps its exceptionally sweet flavor, delightful fragrance and attractive, deep-orange color when processed into these products.

Scientists singled out Nicole from other experimental apricots in 1992, tested the trees in their research orchards, and examined hundreds of apricots produced by those experimental trees before offering the new variety to growers and breeders this year.

Nicole should flourish in any area where commercial apricots are currently grown. Trees will produce a bountiful supply of two-ounce fruit, a typical size for today's apricots.

For more information, contact Craig A. Ledbetter, (559) 596- 2817, USDA-ARS San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center, Parlier, CA.

Back to Contents


Better Way to Measure Vitamin B12 Offered

Cheese

Now there's a new, improved technique for measuring the amount of vitamin B12 in foods and in supplements such as vitamin pills. This nutrient, found in meat and dairy products, is essential for proper growth and for healthy cells.

The new approach from ARS scientists is faster than the most commonly used laboratory assay. And, the new technique can be used to individually detect all the various forms of vitamin B12, called cobalamins.

The improved assay should enhance research aimed at learning how our bodies take up and use cobalamins. The B12 test uses either of two standard techniques--capillary electrophoresis or micro-high-performance liquid chromatography--for separating samples into the various individual cobalamins. This is combined with a technique, called inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, which measures how much of each form of vitamin B12 is present.

For more information, contact Nancy Miller-Ihli, (301) 504-8252, ext. 252, USDA-ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Beltsville, MD.

Back to Contents


Smart Portion Sizes May Help Kids Avoid Obesity

Providing children with opportunities to select, for themselves, appropriately-sized portions at meals may help reduce the growing problem of childhood obesity in the United States. That's indicated by a six-month study by researchers at the ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center and at The Pennsylvania State University.

The scientists worked with 30 youngsters, aged three to five. Overall, the kids ate about 25 percent more of a macaroni-and-cheese entree in a series of lunches when they were served excessively large portions than when they were served a suitably sized portion.

When the kids were allowed to serve themselves, they served less and ate less than when served large portions (May 2003 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 77, pp. 1164-1170).

For more information, contact Jennifer O. Fisher, (713) 798-6766, USDA-ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX.

Back to Contents


Boost Immunity With Low-Fat, Low-Calorie Meals

A low-fat, low-calorie regimen may not only help Americans lose weight, but may also boost the health of their immune systems. Scientists documented those results in a study with 10 men and women aged 35 or older. The volunteers had high cholesterol, high triglycerides or both. Those conditions can increase the risk of heart or other diseases.

The volunteers showed significantly better immune response after completing a 12-week, low-calorie stint during which fat made up no more than 15 percent of each day's total calories. That regimen was the last in a series of four test phases. Skin patch tests and blood tests were used to assess immune response.

Cholesterol levels were significantly reduced after all the fat-restricted phases of the study.

ARS-funded scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University reported these findings in the April 2003 Journal of the American College of Nutrition (vol. 22, pp. 174-182).

The researchers plan more studies, with larger groups of volunteers, to learn more about the effects of low-calorie regimens on cholesterol levels and the immune system.

For more information, contact Simin N. Meydani, (617) 556-3129, ARS Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA.

Back to Contents


Contaminants on Poultry Detected by New Imaging System

Small, hard-to-find particles, perhaps hidden in shadowed areas on poultry carcasses at the processing plant, may now be easier to detect. A newly patented, high-tech imaging system uses what's known as hyperspectral imaging to scan poultry carcass surfaces to find contaminants.

That's according to laboratory tests in which the ARS inventors of the sophisticated system operated it at a test speed of 140 birds per minute--approximately the processing speed used today in U.S. poultry plants.

The researchers, based at the Richard B. Russell Research Center, have now entered into a cooperative research and development agreement with Stork Gamco, Inc., Gainesville, Ga. The purpose? To develop and test the system for use in commercial poultry or meat processing plants.

The detection system is expected to more reliably locate potential food safety problems, reduce processing delays and save processing expenses.

For more information, contact W. Robert Windham, (706) 546-3513, USDA-ARS Richard B. Russell Research Center, Athens, GA.

Back to Contents


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at 202-720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call 202-720-5964 (voice or TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.


Last Modified: 2/14/2007