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

January 2021

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Contents

Software for Teasing Out Food Compound Benefits

Micronutrient-Packed Bar Improving Metabolic Health Goes Commercial'

ARS Research Shows Balanced Carbohydrate and Fat Intake Can Prevent Certain Diseases

New Blackberries: Eclipse, Galaxy, and Twilight

 

Software for Teasing Out Food Compound Benefits

New ARS software PhyteByte leverages the power of machine-learning technology to speed the identification of health-promoting compounds in food. The chemical make-up and dietary importance of essential nutrients like vitamin A and riboflavin are well-defined. However, there are thousands of other food compounds whose biological activity and effects in the human body over a lifetime of exposure through diet are poorly understood. PhyteByte uses machine-learning algorithms and sophisticated decision trees to predict the biological activity of these mystery food compounds from masses of database information. It taps into two databases. The first, FooDB, currently contains a catalog of 70,926 compounds in food thought to confer health benefits. The second database, ChEMBL, stores information on the chemical properties of nearly 2 million molecules.

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Laurence Parnell sitting in front of a computer
Computational biologist Laurence Parnell and colleagues created machine-learning software called "PhyteByte" to help identify food compound benefits. Photo courtesy of Deb Dutcher, Tufts University.

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ARS Research Shows Balanced Carbohydrate and Fat Intake Can Prevent Certain Diseases

Consuming a high level of carbohydrates regulates a gene in the body that can reduce your risk of obesity, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic diseases, according to ARS research. This is good news for most people. The bad news, however, is that high fat intake reduces this protection and may lead to health problems for those who regularly consume fatty foods. This involves an important, but single gene called CPT1A. Dietary habits can influence CPT1A gene activity level. A balanced intake of carbohydrate and fat may be the best way to prevent metabolic diseases.

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Hamburger and french fries
ARS research now shows that high carbohydrate intake is associated with lower levels of the gene, while high fat intake is associated with higher levels.

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Micronutrient-Packed Bar Improving Metabolic Health Goes Commercial

A new micronutrient- and fiber-packed bar that improves a host of metabolic biomarkers is now on the market under the name Healright bars. The new health bar is based on a unique formula developed by ARS and the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute. It has been licensed to Advanced Micronutrition LLC of Orlando, Florida. The idea behind the bars is to fill in the micronutrient gaps in the typical diet and diminish the impact of deficiencies on metabolic health. Eating two bars a day for eight weeks without being asked to make any other changes in their diet or exercise saw metabolic indicators shift significantly in positive directions in both lean and overweight or obese groups. There were improvements in cardiovascular health (cholesterol, triglycerides, diastolic blood pressure and heart rate), insulin resistance, obesity indicators (weight and waist circumference) and others.

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Three macronutrient bars surrounded by blueberries, cherries and a lemon.
A micronutrient-packed health bar based on an ARS-developed formula improves metabolic markers from cholesterol to blood sugar to waist circumference is now on the market. Photo by Advanced Micronutrition.

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New Blackberries: Eclipse, Galaxy, and Twilight

The best of eastern erect-cane blackberry and western trailing blackberry genetics were melded into three new blackberry varieties released by ARS: Eclipse, Galaxy and Twilight. ARS' Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon, working in cooperation with the Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, developed the thornless semi-erect cane blackberries to fill new niches in the fresh berry market. Eclipse inherited one of its progenitor's—Triple Crown—outstanding sweet, fruity flavor with hints of root beer and spice but with a firmer skin. Galaxy's taste has hints of blueberry, mint and grape. Tasters of Twilight have remarked on its complex, deep blackberry jam flavor, with floral and honey notes.

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Photo: A new ARS-developed, starch-based coating makes paper water resistant.
New blackberry variety Twilight.

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