Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BHNRC) » Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center » Nutrient Data Laboratory » Research » Research Project #426560

Research Project: USDA National Nutrient Databank for Food Composition

Location: Nutrient Data Laboratory

2018 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The mission of the Nutrient Data Laboratory is "To develop authoritative food composition databases and state of the art methods to acquire, evaluate, compile, and disseminate composition data on foods and dietary supplements available in the United States." The following three objectives and nine sub-objectives provide the infrastructure for completing planned research over the next five years and the guiding principles for accomplishing the research with a clear, scientific focus. Objective 1. Develop and expand the USDA-ARS food composition databases to represent the dynamics of the U.S. food supply, including increased use of commercially packaged foods, restaurant foods, school foods, and ethnic foods. Sub-Objective 1.A. Update the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR) to represent the dynamics of the current U.S. food supply, including increased availability and variety of commercially packaged, restaurant, school, and ethnic foods. Sub-Objective 1.B. Expand and update existing food yield and nutrient retention factor tables to reflect current food preparation methods and food products. Sub-Objective 1.C. Provide nutrient composition data for use in the national survey, What We Eat In America (WWEIA), NHANES. Sub-Objective 1.D. Monitor sodium and related nutrients in commercially processed and restaurant foods in the U.S. food supply. Objective 2. Develop authoritative food composition databases for non-nutritive components that may promote health; examples include isothiocyanates and other sulfur-containing compounds. Expand existing databases, including flavonoids, to include more foods, variability estimates, and other information (cultivar, weather, growing conditions, etc.), which impact the nutrient values. Sub-Objective 2.A. Expand and update accurate representative values for a number of bioactive compounds in raw, processed, and prepared foods in different Special Interest Databases (SID). Sub-Objective 2.B. Develop a new Special Interest Database (SID) on the content of sulfur-containing bioactive compounds in selected foods, with special emphasis on variability and factors, e.g., cultivar, location, and growing conditions, which potentially could influence variability. Sub-Objective 2.C. Determine the effect of various preparation methods on the content of various bioactive compounds in selected foods. Objective 3. Identify, evaluate, and develop new methods for the acquisition, evaluation, compilation, and dissemination of food composition data from diverse sources through modernization of existing and development of new, robust information technology. Sub-Objective 3.A. Provide easy-to-use, web-based mechanisms for data submission. Sub-Objective 3.B. Enhance dissemination routines in the National Nutrient Databank System (NDBS) via automated methods to expand the types of data formats available on NDL’s web site.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Multiple methods for obtaining data will be used (e.g., nationwide product sampling and analysis, collaborations [food manufacturers, agricultural scientists], and publicly available information). The National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program (NFNAP) generates high-quality, analytical data for U.S. foods and includes a rigorous scientific process to develop nationally representative estimates of means and variability, under USDA analytical oversight. The 5 aims are: a) identify/prioritize foods/nutrients for analysis; b) devise/implement nationally based sampling plan(s); c) analyze food samples; and d) review, compile, and disseminate data. Beef data will be evaluated by nutrient and cut and compared across primals (chuck, brisket, etc.) and cooking methods. New meat data processed through the National Data Bank System (NDBS) will support calculations of cooking yield and retention factors (means, variances, and associated 90% or 95% confidence intervals). NDL will identify SR foods to be added or updated; this list will be provided to FSRG to prioritize foods needed in WWEIA (e.g., commercially processed and restaurant foods to replace home recipes), ensuring WWEIA adequately represents respondent reports. For important new foods, NFNAP sampling may include analytical data available for the next survey-SR dataset; standardized NDBS imputation procedures will be used to calculate missing values. NDL analyzed each Sentinel Food (SF; 2010-2013) for all nutrients; they will be reanalyzed every 4-8 years depending on budget and priority using the Principal Axis Factoring (Factor Analysis): consumption frequency in WWEIA, NHANES, 2009-10; potential for reduction (New York City’s National Salt Reduction Initiative targets); and history of change in the market. NDL will obtain and disseminate data for sulfur-containing bioactive compounds, detailing other factors (cultivars, location, weather, growing conditions) which impact concentration and focusing on genus Brassica, Allium; samples will be obtained through NFNAP and analyzed by ARS-Food Composition and Methods Development Laboratory (FCMDL) and sources and magnitudes of variability studied. Food selected for analysis for non-nutritive components will be based on flavonoid content, lack of analytical data, and potential for developing retention factors for related foods. The proanthcyanidin database will be expanded using formulations (linear regression techniques) developed for SR, to provide values to FSRG for foods reported in WWEIA-NHANES. Standardized, user-friendly databases will be released; collaboration with ILSI North America/Agricultural Technology Innovation Partnership (ATIP) Foundation and the food industry will be explored to expand the number of brand name foods. ATIP will develop/manage a new portal to facilitate submission of food manufacturers’ brand name nutrient data, strengthening NDL database for policy makers, researchers and the public. In parallel, NDL will work with other partners to identify infrastructure improvements to the NDBS.

3. Progress Report:
Objective 1A - Updating and expanding USDA-ARS food composition databases: Analytical studies: Fifty-one foods from fast-food and casual dining restaurants were sampled and analyzed under NFNAP through collaboration with FDA. These included mainly components of menu items such as burger buns, bacon, pizza crust, etc. Analytical studies were completed on the nutrient content of six processed egg product types (American Egg Board collaboration). Analysis of four types of milk (whole, 2%, 1%, and fat-free) with samples from 24 retail locations was completed to evaluate nutrient content and variability (in collaboration with the National Dairy Council). A paper on the nutrient composition of different forms of processed raspberries (frozen, juice concentrate and puree), analyzed in collaboration with National Processed Raspberry Association is under preparation. Human milk: The state of current knowledge, research needs and challenges for obtaining good quality human milk composition data were reviewed and summarized. A webinar and a 1-day NIH workshop called “Human Milk Composition – Biological, Environmental, Nutritional, and Methodological Considerations” was organized jointly with the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in fall 2017. The objective was to gather information on data needs and methodological challenges, and to develop visions for a research program to develop a human milk composition repository. Efforts are underway to initiate activities for a comprehensive research plan, including prioritizing nutrients, forming working groups, etc. A manuscript on the workshop is under preparation. Iodine research: In this study funded by the Office of Dietary Supplements, approximately 200 foods from NDL’s archived samples under the NFNAP as well as new samples such as table salt, retail milk (all fat levels), and industrial frozen and dried egg products, were analyzed for their iodine contents. These data and data from the FDA’s Total Diet Study are being prepared for inclusion in USDA Food Data Central for researchers’ use. In addition, Phase 2 of this study is being planned which will coordinate mapping of new iodine data to foods formerly in SR which are used in the What We Eat In America (WWEIA) national survey (NHANES). This research includes analysis of iodine in select dietary supplements. Objective 1C - Expanding nutrient composition data for Survey: New and updated data from the analytical studies and from sodium monitoring were made available to FSRG as part of SR Legacy database to determine nutrient intakes of survey respondents in WWEIA. Objective 1D - Sodium monitoring: As part of an interagency agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NDL finalized nutrient content of ~300 highly consumed sodium-contributing foods monitored using nutrient data obtained through websites or labels. Nutrient data from chemical analysis of 40 Sentinel Foods and label reviews were used to assess changes in the content of sodium and other nutrients. In addition, NDL collaborated with FDA to sample and analyze 51 restaurant foods and their components. Objective 2A – Update Special Interest Databases for bioactive compounds: Flavonoid compounds in different cranberry and raspberry products were further processed and verified. The data either filled knowledge gaps or provided more accurate and representative information on these products. Data were added/updated in two Special Interest Databases – Flavonoids and Proanthocyanidin Databases, which were released as new versions on March 2018. Isoflavones and their metabolites were analyzed in selected egg samples through collaboration with the American Egg Board, and data will support a more accurate assessment of isoflavone intake in the U.S. A new HPLC method to accurately quantify A-type proanthocyanidins in cranberries and cranberry products was developed by working with collaborators, and the manuscript is under revision for resubmission. Additional research on the functions of other bioactive compounds, such as fatty acids in royal jelly, was conducted through collaborations. Objective 2B – Evaluate and process data for glucosinolates for manuscript and database: Continuous efforts were made to obtain and analyze data to develop a new Special Interest Database on dietary glucosinolates. Additional literature data (published 2016-2018) have been obtained. All available data were processed and evaluated. The glucosinolate contents in foods collected in the U.S. and other countries, as well as in edible plants vs. inedible plants were analyzed and compared. Database development is in the final stage. One manuscript on the development of the glucosinolates database is under preparation. Objective 2C – Analyze the effects of various processing/preparation on the retention of certain bioactive components: Additional data were obtained to evaluate the cooking effects on flavonoids and glucosinolates to determine retention factors of these compounds. Different ways to calculate retention factors were evaluated. The data will provide more accurate information in calculating dietary intakes of these bioactive compounds, and will help interpret their health benefits from epidemiological studies. One manuscript on the cooking effects on broccoli flavonoids was submitted for approval for publication. Objective 3A - Information technology modernization for web-based data submission: Procedures for submitting brand-name data have been developed at the National Agricultural Library and the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, University of Maryland. The USDA Branded Food Products Database (BFPDB) now contains over 250,000 food items and is updated and expanded continuously. This database is the result of a Public-Private Partnership between 1) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA; 2) International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) North America; 3) GS1 US; 4) 1WorldSync; 5) Label Insight; and 6) the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, University of Maryland. Additionally, development of an independent data portal to receive NDL analytical data is largely complete (McWest Corporation contract), automating the formatting and importing of analytical data into the USDA Food Data Central. Work on a portal for handling data from other sources is underway. Objective 3B - Enhanced NDBS data dissemination systems: The existing NDBS will be replaced by the internal “NDL” side of the new USDA Food Data Central portal and processing system, which will update and expand upon the functionality of the current system. This system integrates with a new website for the public-facing USDA Food Data Central, currently under development. The new website allows frequent releases and transparency, interconnectivity among the databases, links to external, related databases, and will improve provider and user functionality.

4. Accomplishments
1. Improving USDA food composition databases. USDA food composition databases are used by a diverse user community to make policy decisions, investigate the impact of diet on health, develop new foods, advise patients on improving their diet, and address the general need for more information on what is in the food we eat. The USDA Branded Food Products Database was expanded several times within the last year and now contains approximately 240,000 foods, improving coverage of the foods we eat. The USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference – Legacy was released in April 2018. This release included data updates generated as part of the sodium monitoring project and excluded food items that duplicated those in the USDA Branded Food Products Database.

2. Sodium monitoring. Too much sodium in the diet can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and stroke. Most Americans consume more sodium than recommended for a healthy diet, and most of the sodium in the diet comes from commercially processed and restaurant foods. ARS researchers at Beltsville, Maryland, collaborated with CDC and FDA to track sodium levels in these foods. The researchers updated the sodium estimates with current nutrient data and reported on changes in sodium content of top sodium-contributing foods from baseline (2010-2013), at the National Nutrient Databank conference. Furthermore, in a post-hoc analysis, they published a comparison of label and laboratory sodium values in popular sodium-contributing foods in the United States. The majority of the label to laboratory values agreed, although there were some differences by brand type (national, private-label) and source (store, restaurant (fast-food, sit-down). CDC and FDA will use the information to study the appropriateness of their monitoring methods, the impact of current public health efforts, and to plan new strategies to lower the amount of sodium that Americans get from food.

3. Dietary bioactive compounds. Dietary bioactive compounds are of great interest for researchers and consumers due to their health benefits. The USDA Nutrition Data Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, developed three special interest databases on dietary flavonoids to meet the demands from federal agencies and the research societies. The databases require constant updating for more complete, accurate and current data. Analytical data of flavonoid compounds (anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and other flavonoids) in certain berries and berry products were added to two Special Interest Databases, which were released as new versions on March 2018.

Review Publications
Phillips, K.M., Tarrago-Trani, M., Rasor, A., Mcginty, R.M., Haytowitz, D.B., Pehrsson, P.R. 2018. Season plays a role in variability in vitamin C content of fresh fruits and vegetables in a local retail market. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

Roseland, J.M., Nguyen, Q.V., Douglass, L.W., Patterson, K.Y., Howe, J.C., Williams, J.R., Thompson, L.D., Brooks, J., Woerner, D.R., Engle, T.E., Savell, J.W., Gehring, K.B., Cifelli, A.M., Mcneill, S.H. 2017. Fatty acid, cholesterol, vitamin, and mineral content of cooked beef cuts from a national study. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis.

Ershow, A., Skeaff, Merkel, J., Pehrsson, P.R. 2018. Development of databases with iodine in foods and dietary supplements. Nutrients.

Saldanha, L.G., Dwyer, J.T., Andrews, K.W., Brown, L.L., Costello, R.B., Ershow, A.G., Gusev, P.A., Hardy, C.J., Pehrsson, P.R. 2017. Is nutrient content and other label information for prescription prenatal supplements different from nonprescription products? Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Roseland, J., Phillips, K.M., Patterson, K.Y., Pehrsson, P.R., Taylor, C.L. 2017. Vitamin D in foods: an evolution of knowledge. In: Feldman, D., Pike, J.W., Bouillion, R., Giovannucci, E. Vitamin D (4th Edition). New York, NY: Elsevier. p. 41-77.