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Mobile Unit Accelerates Nutrition Study
Rosalie Marion Bliss
January 27, 2003
Individuals, young or old, who aren't easily able to visit a
research facility rarely get involved in nutrition studies. The problem is
worse in large areas marked by very low population density. As a result,
studies may fall short of including at-risk population segments.
But a newly outfitted mobile research unit has been acquired by
the Agricultural Research Service's
Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center (GFHNRC) in North Dakota.
Psychologist James G. Penland,with the center's Mineral Nutrient Functions
Research Unit, is a principal investigator and designer of the mobile unit,
which actually brings lab studies to population segments formerly underserved.
The mobile lab is a 40-foot bus, custom-equipped to evaluate the
nutrition and health of volunteers in home, work, school and other settings. On
the bus, lab scientists evaluate volunteers' dietary intake, nutritional
status, physical health, body composition and psychological function.
Costly major health problems that are improved with sound
nutrition include diabetes, depression, cancer, cardiovascular disease and
osteoporosis. The mobile unit supports the center's outreach programs to
evaluate the relationship between sound nutrition and health. Four separate
studies are now under way.
One ongoing study aims to extend the lab's previous zinc studies
showing young childrens' attention, memory and reasoning improved with only 20
milligrams of supplemental zinc daily. Preliminary data indicate that increased
zinc is also likely to benefit memory in adolescent boys and girls.
Another study surveyed three of the four American Indian
reservations in North Dakota. Dietary intake data were collected and
nutritional, fitness and mental health assessments were conducted. The
researchers plan to use study results as a basis for interventions to improve
nutrition, and ultimately the quality of life, among American Indians.
Read more on this in the
January issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.