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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Compositional Variability in the Food Supply Resulting from Food Production Practices: Potential Impact on Human Health

Location: Food Components and Health Laboratory

2012 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
1. Determine the impact of agricultural/food production variables (e.g., plant/animal genotype, production system, fertilizer/water use, animal feeding regimen, geographical location, soil and climate conditions, slaughter conditions, post-harvest processing) on the chemical/nutritional/bioactive composition of foods important to human health.

2. Determine relevant health, nutritional, and clinical outcomes in humans in response to food production-induced variability in the chemical/nutritional/ bioactive composition of foods.

3. Utilize appropriate experimental models to examine specific physiologic/ biochemical responses in the consumer that may be altered by food production-induced variability in food composition; determine genomic and metabolomic profiles that may help define why some individuals respond whereas others do not.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Agricultural production has a great, although poorly understood, impact on the nutritional quality of the food supply. Many agricultural practices (including post-harvest technologies) either intentionally or unintentionally alter the nutritional value of foods. Similarly, animal feeding regimens have been devised to increase the concentration of healthy fats while slaughter/post slaughter practices have been developed to maintain quality and enhance shelf life of animal food products. Few such practices or alterations actually have been demonstrated by well-designed studies to have an impact on human physiology and/or health. Both plant- and animal-based foods provide the broad range of nutrients and health-promoting non-nutritive components that optimize and promote health. Specific chemical constituents of food may affect individual consumers differently (resulting in divergent health outcomes) depending on their specific genetic/metabolic profiles. Clarification is needed regarding the amounts of food components that will impact health-associated risk factors given the genetic diversity among humans.

Understanding and developing solutions to the above issues requires an integrated knowledge of, and close alliance between the disciplines of human nutrition and production agriculture. Appropriately designed human studies of diet and health reinforced by studies in animals and cell systems are needed to identify agricultural production practices that truly alter the nutrient value of foods. This program is designed to foster the cooperation and interdisciplinary approaches needed to address such concerns.

Examples of possible questions to be addressed include (but are not limited to): Do animal selection-induced changes in fat composition of beef affect blood lipids in humans? What is the effect of climate and cultivar-induced changes in anthocyanin profiles of blueberries on measures of cognition in humans? Are there nutrient gene interactions resulting from blackberry consumption? What is the effect of plant selection-induced changes in glucosinolate composition of crucifers on activation of nrf2-regulated antioxidant genes? Do diet-induced changes in omega 3: omega 6 ratios in farmed salmon affect pro- or anti-aggregatory prostaglandin production?


3.Progress Report:
We quantified blueberry polyphenols (anthocyanin, proanthocyanidin, and chlorogenic acid) concentrations in wild blueberry fruit exposed to a variety of postharvest storage practices relevant to consumers and to industry. Additionally, we analyzed the bioactive potential of wild blueberries subjected to common culinary preparations such as baking, boiling, and microwaving. These blueberry polyphenols can serve as antioxidants or can help to reduce inflammation in people. These studies help us understand how storage or cooking might alter the levels of health-beneficial compounds in wild blueberry fruit.

We investigated the treatment of human hepatocarcinoma (HepG2) cells with low and high concentrations of blueberry polyphenolic extracts. We found that these extracts induced a non-linear response in cell proliferation with lower proliferation observed at higher concentrations, without differences in cell death (apoptosis). These findings provide insight into the molecular mechanisms associated with concentration-specific alterations induced by blueberry polyphenols upon cell growth and proliferation.


Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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