TAG: "Nutrition"

Brain development suffers from lack of fish oil fatty acids


UC Irvine researchers point to dietary link for proper pre- and postnatal neural growth.

By Tom Vasich, UC Irvine

While recent reports question whether fish oil supplements support heart health, UC Irvine scientists have found that the fatty acids they contain are vitally important to the developing brain.

In a study appearing today (April 15) in The Journal of Neuroscience, UCI neurobiologists report that dietary deficiencies in the type of fatty acids found in fish and other foods can limit brain growth during fetal development and early in life. The findings suggest that women maintain a balanced diet rich in these fatty acids for themselves during pregnancy and for their babies after birth.

Susana Cohen-Cory, professor of neurobiology & behavior, and colleagues identified for the first time how deficits in what are known as n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids cause molecular changes in the developing brain that result in constrained growth of neurons and the synapses that connect them.

These fatty acids are precursors of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which plays a key role in the healthy creation of the central nervous system. In their study, which used female frogs and tadpoles, the UCI researchers were able to see how DHA-deficient brain tissue fostered poorly developed neurons and limited numbers of synapses, the vital conduits that allow neurons to communicate with each other.

“Additionally, when we changed the diets of DHA-deficient mothers to include a proper level of this dietary fatty acid, neuronal and synaptic growth flourished and returned to normal in the following generation of tadpoles,” Cohen-Cory said.

DHA is essential for the development of a fetus’s eyes and brain, especially during the last three months of pregnancy. It makes up 10 to 15 percent of the total lipid amount of the cerebral cortex. DHA is also concentrated in the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eyes, where it accounts for as much as 50 percent of the total lipid amount of each retina.

Dietary DHA is mainly found in animal products: fish, eggs and meat. Oily fish – mackerel, herring, salmon, trout and sardines – are the richest dietary source, containing 10 to 100 times more DHA than nonmarine foods such as nuts, seeds, whole grains and dark green, leafy vegetables.

DHA is also found naturally in breast milk. Possibly because of this, the fatty acid is used as a supplement for premature babies and as an ingredient in baby formula during the first four months of life to promote better mental development.

The UCI team utilized Xenopus laevis (the African clawed frog) as a model for this study because it allowed them to follow the progression and impact of the maternal dietary deficit in the offspring. Because frog embryos develop outside the mother and are translucent, the researchers could see dynamic changes in neurons and their synaptic connections in the intact, live embryos, where development can be easily studied from the time of fertilization to well after functional neural circuits form.

They focused on the visual system because it’s an accessible and well-established system known to depend on fatty acids for proper growth and utility.

Miki Igarashi and Rommel Santos of UC Irvine contributed to the study, which was supported by the National Eye Institute (grant EY-011912).

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

A mother’s genes can influence the bacteria in her baby’s gut


Research may have applications for protecting preemies from range of intestinal diseases.

Zachary Lewis (left) and David Mills, UC Davis

By Phyllis Brown, UC Davis

Researchers at UC Davis have found that a gene, which is not active in some mothers, produces a breast milk sugar that influences the development of the community of gut bacteria in their infants. The sugars produced by these mothers, called “secretors,” are not digested by the infant, but instead nourish specific bacteria that colonize their babies’ guts soon after birth.

Mothers known as “non-secretors” have a non-functional fucosyltransferase 2 (FUT2) gene, which alters the composition of their breast milk sugars and changes how the microbial community, or microbiota, of their infants’ guts develop.

The research may have applications in a clinical setting for protecting premature infants from a range of intestinal diseases including necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a condition that is the second most common cause of death among premature infants in the United States.

The researchers emphasized that the finding does not suggest that breast milk from mothers without an active copy of the gene is less nourishing or healthy. Rather, it conveys the subtle and elegant choreography of one part of the human microbiome: The relationships between the mothers’ genetics, the composition of her breast milk and the development of their infants’ gut microbiota. It also reveals clues for enriching desirable bacteria in populations at risk of intestinal diseases — such as preemies.

“In no way is the nonsecretor mother’s milk less healthy, and their babies are at no greater risk,” said David Mills, Peter J. Shields Endowed Chair in Dairy Food Science at UC Davis and senior study author. “What this work does show us is that the mother’s genotype matters, and that it influences the breast milk, which clearly drives the establishment of microbes in the intestines of their babies.”

The research examining the differences in infant gut microbial populations arising from differences in human milk oligosaccharides (sugars), “Maternal Fucosyltransferase 2 Status Affects the Gut Bifidobacterial Communities of Breastfed Infants,” is published online today (April 9) in the journal Microbiome, a BioMedCentral journal.

Varieties of Bifidobacterium inhabit the gastrointestinal tracts and mouths of mammals and are one of the major genera of bacteria that make up the microbial community of the infant colon. The relationship between human genetics, breast milk and Bifidobacterium appears to have developed throughout mammalian evolution.

Development of a healthy gut microbiota can have a lifelong effect on health, and early intervention in the establishment of that microbiota could have lifelong positive effects: The early establishment of bifidobacteria has been shown to be associated with improved immune response to vaccines, development of the infants’ immature immune system, and protection against pathogens.

Bifidobacterium are known to consume the 2′-fucosylated glycans (sugars) found in the breast milk of women with the fucosyltransferase 2 mammary gene. The study found that, on average, Bifidobacterium were established earlier and more frequently in infants fed by women with an active copy of the gene, the secretors, than without one, the non-secretors.

The authors found that the intestinal tracts of infants fed by non-secretor mothers are delayed in establishing a bifidobacteria-dominated microbiota. The delay, the authors said, may be due to difficulties in the infant acquiring a species of bifidobacteria that is geared toward consuming the specific milk sugar delivered by the mother.

The research was conducted using milk samples from 44 mothers in the UC Davis Foods for Health Institute Lactation Study and fecal samples from their infants at four different time points. The researchers determined the secretor status of the mothers: 12 were non-secretor and 32 were secretor mothers. They also measured the amount and type of breast milk sugars and the amount of lactate (a beneficial molecule produced by bifidobacteria) in the infant’s feces.

The researchers determined that more infants fed by secretor mothers had high levels of bifidobacteria — 60 percent of infants versus 37.5 percent at day 6 and 80 percent versus 50 percent at day 120 –- and that infants who had more bifidobacteria had lower amounts of milk sugars left over and higher amounts of lactate in their feces.

One question that remains is whether this pattern holds true in infants living in other places.

“We are beginning to observe that infants from different parts of the world have different patterns of colonization by microbes,” said lead study author Zachary T. Lewis, a postdoctoral fellow.

“The types and levels of bacteria encountered by infants in developing countries is different from the types and levels of bacteria encountered by the babies in our UC Davis cohort, and that might account for some of the differences,” he said.

Maternal secretor status is likely only one of the many factors that influence the infant gut microbiota, Lewis said. The researchers will explore this question further in future studies.

The researchers said that understanding the mechanism behind the observed secretor/non-secretor differences may prove critical to compensating for it in situations where the infants are vulnerable, such as by providing carefully chosen pre- or probiotics. For example, prebiotics and probiotics frequently are given to premature infants  to protect them against NEC, which causes portions of the bowel to necrotize, or die.

“This work significantly advances our efforts to decipher how human milk amazingly orchestrates colonization of the infant gut by helpful bacteria, which then protects and guides intestinal development in the early stages of life. Understanding this incredible sequence of events will provide examples for how to repair this process where it has been disrupted, such as in premature infants or colicky babies,” Mills said.

Other study authors include Jennifer T. Smilowitz, Evan Parker, Danielle G. Lemay and Carlito Lebrilla, all of UC Davis; Sarah M. Totten of UC Davis and Stanford University: Mina Popovic of University of Moedna and Reggio Emilia, Italy; and Maxwell Van Tassel Michael J. Miller and Young-Su Jin of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne.

The research was supported by the University of California Discovery Grant Program, the UC Davis Research Investments in the Sciences and Engineering (RISE) Program, the California Dairy Research Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, National Institutes of Health awards R01HD059127, R01HD065122, 8R01HD061923, R21AT006180, R01AT007079 and the Peter J. Shields Endowed Chair in Dairy Food Science.

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Improving school nutrition with 21st century strategies


UC researchers to use nearly $2M grant for childhood obesity prevention in SF schools.

Students who use the SmartMeal app to pre-order nutritious meals will be able to pick up food at an express location.

By Craig Noble, ANR

Researchers at the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Nutrition Policy Institute and UC Berkeley School of Public Health will use a nearly $2 million childhood obesity prevention grant from the U.S.  Department of Agriculture to evaluate a two-year school meal technology and design innovation project developed by the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). The project will measure the impact of 21st century student-centered strategies based on behavioral economics to increase student participation in the school lunch program, reduce plate waste, improve dietary intake and reduce obesity among low-income youth.

The “Technology and Design Innovation to Support 21st Century School Nutrition” project will assess the impact of using a “SmartMeal” technology platform, distributed points of sale and staff promotion of school meals at 12 SFUSD middle and high schools. Sixty percent of the district’s students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, as part of the National School Lunch Program, the country’s largest child nutrition program. The researchers say that improving dietary intake among low-income youth is essential to reducing obesity, and schools are arguably the most important venue for change.

“Improving school meals is critical for addressing social inequities to healthful food access, said Lorrene Ritchie, Ph.D., R.D., UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute director, Cooperative Extension specialist and co-primary investigator. “Poor nutrition is a primary cause of the obesity epidemic that threatens the health of American children, especially in low-income communities. We are targeting schools for interventions because most school-age children spend half of their waking hours and consume up to half of their daily calories in school.”

The project will use cutting-edge strategies reflecting scientific knowledge about behavior change among teens to increase school meal participation and reduce plate waste. For example, research has shown that convenience is a primary determinant of student behavior, and long meal lines and hectic cafeterias are a barrier to student participation. The project seeks to circumvent these hassles by giving students access to healthy foods in mobile food carts and vending machines outside the cafeteria. It also will feature a SmartMeal e-application that delivers nutrition education and school meal promotion to students on their smart phones and tablet computers provided by the district. Students who use the app to pre-order nutritious meals will be able to bypass long lines by going to an express food pick-up location.

“This project will test whether we can change behavior by addressing the reality of today’s adolescent lifestyles,” said Kristine Madsen, M.D., associate professor in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and co-primary investigator.

“Mobile phones are ubiquitous among teens from diverse economic backgrounds, which makes this technology an ideal tool for promoting healthful food choices and nutrition education.”

The Nutrition Policy Institute was created in 2014 by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, the division of the University of California charged with sharing research-based information with the public about healthy communities, nutrition, agricultural production and environmental stewardship. NPI seeks to improve nutrition and health in low-income communities in California and the nation by engaging in research and communications that inform, build and strengthen policy. SFUSD’s Future Dining Experience is funded by USDA and the Sara & Evan Williams Foundation.

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Milk protein comparison unveils nutritional gems for developing babies


UC Davis findings will provide better understanding of human breast-milk composition.

The study revealed the first comprehensive macaque milk proteome and newly identified 524 human milk proteins. (Photo by UC Davis)

By Andy Fell, UC Davis

Human babies appear to need more of a nutritional boost from breast-milk proteins than do infants of one of their closest primate relatives, suggests a study comparing human milk with the milk of rhesus macaque monkeys.

The research team, led by the University of California, Davis, came to this conclusion after developing a new technique for comparing the proteome — all detectable proteins — of human milk with the proteome of the rhesus macaque monkey.

The researchers expect the findings will provide a better understanding of human breast-milk composition and identify fundamental nutrients that should be included in infant formula.

The study, which revealed the first comprehensive macaque milk proteome and newly identified 524 human milk proteins, is reported online in the Journal of Proteome Research.

“Human milk provides a recipe for human nutrition during the neonatal period,” said principal investigator Danielle Lemay, a nutritional biologist at the UC Davis Genome Center. “But because so much remains to be understood about milk’s molecular composition, we developed a new technique for analyzing milk proteomics that overcomes earlier barriers,” she said.

Using this new method, Lemay and colleagues identified 1,606 proteins in human milk and 518 proteins in rhesus macaque milk. These included 88 milk proteins that were common to both species, but at different levels. Ninety-three percent of those shared proteins were more abundant in human milk than in macaque milk.

For example, the researchers found that human milk contained significantly higher levels of milk proteins that help in digestion of fat-like compounds; slow protein digestion; and potentially increase the absorption of iron, vitamin B-12, and vitamin D.

“The higher levels of these proteins in human milk are consistent with the well-established perspective that human babies, compared to other primate infants, are born at a slightly earlier stage of development and require higher levels of specific proteins that will nurture them as they mature,” Lemay said.

She noted that these proteins found at higher levels in human milk include specific proteins that are enriched in human brain tissues, suggesting that they may be involved in neurodevelopment.

“Proteins that appear to have neurodevelopmental significance for human babies will be key targets for future research focused on enhancing infant formula,” Lemay said.

Other researchers on the study were first author Kristen L. Beck, Darren Weber, Brett S. Phinney, Jennifer T. Smilowitz, Bo Lönnerdal and Ian Korf, all of UC Davis; and Katie Hinde of Harvard University.

Funding for the study was provided in part by the California National Primate Research Center (NIH P51RR000169) and the UC Davis Biotechnology Program (NIH T32-GM008799).

View original article

Related links:

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Necklace and smartphone app can help people track food intake


UCLA-developed app could help battle obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

WearSens rests loosely above the sternum and uses highly sensitive sensors to capture vibrations from the action of swallowing.

By Bill Kisliuk, UCLA

A sophisticated necklace developed by researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science can monitor food and drink intake, which could help wearers track and improve their dietary habits.

The inventors of the WearSens device say it could help battle obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other problems related to nutrition.

Majid Sarrafzadeh, a distinguished professor of computer science and co-director of UCLA’s Wireless Health Institute, led a team that created the device and an algorithm that translates data from the necklace, and tested it on 30 people who ate a variety of foods.

The researchers found that WearSens can differentiate between solids and liquids with 87 percent accuracy, between hot drinks and room-temperature drinks with 90 percent accuracy, and between food items with different textures with 80 percent accuracy. Researchers say those figures will improve as users calibrate the device based on their eating habits.

The research was published online by the IEEE Sensors Journal.

“Today, many people try to track their food intake with journals, but this is often not effective or convenient,” Sarrafzadeh said. “This technology allows individuals and health care professionals to monitor intake with greater accuracy and more immediacy.”

WearSens rests loosely above the sternum and uses highly sensitive piezoelectric sensors to capture vibrations from the action of swallowing. Piezoelectric sensors produce voltage based on the mechanical stress — or movement or pressure — that is applied to them.

When the wearer eats or drinks, skin and muscle motion from the lower trachea trigger the sensors, and the necklace transmits the signals to a smartphone, where the UCLA-developed algorithm converts the data into information about the food or beverage. The phone displays data about the volume of food or liquid consumed and can offer advice or analysis; for example, that the wearer is eating more than in previous days or that the person should drink more water.

With the WearSens device, the sensor information is translated using a spectrogram, which offers a visual representation of vibrations picked up by the sensors. Spectrograms are often used in speech therapy and seismology, among other applications.

“The breakthroughs are in the design of the necklace, which is simple and does not interfere with daily activity, and in identifying statistical measures that distinguish food intake based on spectrogram images generated from piezoelectric sensor signals,” said Nabil Alshurafa, a graduate student researcher at UCLA who is a co-inventor of the device and the first author of the research.

The study’s other authors are co-inventor Haik Kalantarian, a graduate student researcher; Shruti Sarin and Behnam Shahbazi, also graduate student researchers; Jason Liu, who was a UCLA graduate student at the time he worked on the research; and postdoctoral researcher Mohammad Pourhomayoun.

The team is continuing to refine the algorithms and the necklace’s design. The researchers hope WearSens will be available to the public later this year.

The technology is available for licensing via the UCLA Office of Intellectual Property and Industry-Sponsored Research, which facilitates the conversion of UCLA research to benefit the public.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Student projects dig deep into campus, community food issues


UCLA expands gardens, films documentaries as part of UC Global Food Initiative fellowships.

UCLA student Ian Davies (in the foreground) is working with three other students to install two new campus community gardens. Their project was funded by the UC Global Food Initiative, which was announced by UC President Janet Napolitano during a visit to UCLA last July.

By Rebecca Kendall, UCLA

Vanessa Moreno knows what it’s like to feed a family on a tight budget. The fourth-year international development studies major watched her own mother, a single parent, do it when she was temporarily unemployed. Moreno is now chronicling on video the story of a single mother of five as she struggles to meet the same challenge.

Fellow UCLA senior Sanna Alas, a human biology and society major, knows the value that urban gardening can bring to a community. She is helping students at Jordan High School in Watts tell their story through film as they turn an abandoned plot of land into a community garden for their school.

Alas and Moreno, who started these projects in the fall quarter when they were taking a class on filmmaking for social change, are now expanding their documentaries, thanks to a $2,500 fellowship that each student received from the UC Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Program.

“This fellowship supports our project beyond the classroom,” said Alas. “We want to build upon it, make it bigger and include the voices of more people.”

The University of California Global Food Initiative, launched in July 2014, is a systemwide commitment to harness UC resources to sustainably and nutritiously feed the world’s population by 2025. Moreno and Alas are two of 16 UCLA undergraduate and graduate students to receive funding from this initiative to support four projects.

Other funded UCLA ventures include a research project to evaluate the impact and sustainability of farmer hubs in California that sell to large institutions — such as school districts and universities — and the creation of two new student-run vegetable gardens at UCLA that will be used to educate others about the benefits of a campus garden. A raised bed garden is scheduled to be built at Hershey Hall this winter, with an amphitheater garden to be installed at the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center in the spring.

Additionally, matching funds for two of these projects — the documentary being produced by Moreno’s group and the community garden project — were provided by the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, which is funded by generous support from Jane and Terry Semel.

“I want to congratulate the inaugural class of Global Food Initiative student fellows,” said UC President Janet Napolitano in a statement. “These are outstanding students who are passionate about this important global topic and will be able to make valuable contributions to this initiative through these fellowships. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of their projects.”

As a member of Mentors for Academic and Peer Support, one of 29 organizations operated through the UCLA Community Programs Office, Alas, along with two other UCLA students, is making a short documentary to tell the story of the Jordan High students and that of other urban gardeners in L.A.

“We chose to work on urban gardening because we believe that it strongly connects with current issues regarding health, food access and social justice throughout L.A.,” said Alas.

Alas’ documentary will also feature a weekend gardener at Wattles Farm community garden in Hollywood and a Native-American woman who incorporates her ancestral beliefs into a gardening class she teaches at the Autry Museum’s Southwest Museum. In the next phase of production, Alas plans to allow the Jordan High students to shoot their own footage as they turn neighborhood blight into a neighborhood asset.

“We want to put the camera into the students’ hands and have them take ownership,” Alas said. “We want them to tell the story of their own community.”

Health, food access and social justice are also at the root of the documentary being produced by Moreno and her team of four. The film, which draws attention to the relationship between food advertising and childhood obesity, follows single mother Stefani Gilmore as she tries to feed her family of six nutritionally, using the federal Special Supplement Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

Moreno’s team hopes to raise awareness of the issues faced by low-income and single parents and help motivate policymakers tighten up restrictions on advertising that markets food to children.

“I know what it’s like to be constrained monetarily and nutritionally,”` said Moreno. “It surprises me that more people are not aware of the realities faced by people in their own neighborhoods.” It’s not true that poor people eat fast food because they’re lazy and don’t want to cook for themselves, she said.

“They eat fast food because it’s the cheapest thing they can afford, and it’s readily available,” Moreno said. “When you’re working more than 40 hours a week, or not working at all, and taking care of a large family, you don’t have that much time to think about what’s for dinner. You’re just trying to survive.”

View original article

Related link:
Dozens of UC students awarded Global Food Initiative fellowships

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Study taps into healthy drink choices


Low-quality water in rural immigrant communities could be prompting kids to drink sugary beverages.

The water study is part of a five-year project investigating whether community-based intervention can help prevent childhood obesity.

By Jeannette Warnert, ANR

Having established a link between obesity and sugary beverages, doctors and nutritionists recommend that children instead drink plain tap water. In virtually all of the United States and California, tap water is the best drink available for good health.

However, a team of UC Cooperative Extension and UC Davis scientists have found that low-quality tap water in some rural immigrant communities could be an obstacle to making this healthy dietary change.

The study was conducted in conjunction with a five-year research and outreach project underway in Firebaugh and San Joaquin, small communities in the San Joaquin Valley with high Mexican-American populations. The researchers are investigating whether a community-based intervention – involving nutrition education, a monthly voucher of $25 to purchase fruit and vegetables, and a physical activity program – can help prevent childhood obesity in Californians of Mexican descent living in low-income rural communities. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis were recipients of a $4.8 million National Institute for Food and Agriculture grant to carry out this research.

Twenty-seven mothers in the study shared with the researchers whether they use tap water and gave their perceptions of tap water quality. In addition, the researchers assessed local water quality by the frequency of violations reported by Cal EPA and contaminant-level data from the California Department of Public Health.

Contamination concerns

All 27 mothers said they avoid drinking tap water due to unpleasant taste, dirty or yellow appearance, excessive iron or general “contamination.” Most of the women rely instead on bottled, and to a lesser extent, home filtered water for drinking and cooking.

“This cost is an extra burden for these families, many of whom have limited incomes,” said Lucia Kaiser, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis.

The mothers shared in interviews that at least 38 percent of their children aged 3 to 8 years old drank sugar-sweetened beverages – such as soda, energy drinks, powered drink mixes or fruit punch – more than two or three times per week.

“The children may be drinking sugar-sweetened beverages so frequently because of real or perceived low quality of water coming from their taps,” Kaiser said. “I’m not surprised. One time I was in our Firebaugh office and turned on the tap and the water came out brown. “

Two state-regulated water systems serve the majority of people in Firebaugh and San Joaquin. The rest rely on at least 11 small public or private systems. All of the 13 systems have had monitoring violations in the last 12 years. Two have had reporting violations, indicating that they either did not test for contaminants or did not report their findings.

Seeking solutions

The mothers’ perception that tap water was unappealing or contaminated was confirmed when the researchers took a close look at regulatory analyses reports from previous years. There were low-levels of arsenic detected, which fell above the benchmark for safe drinking water in the U.S. The analyses also detected high levels of manganese and iron, which are considered secondary contaminants and do not have enforceable limits set by the EPA. However, the World Health Organization has set health benchmarks for manganese, which were exceeded in some samples.

“The neurotoxic effects of manganese and chronic exposure to low levels of arsenic warrant further study,” Kaiser said. “Even if it’s not dangerous, the high level of manganese and iron can give the water an off taste.”

Regardless, removing the contaminants may not matter if perceptions and drinkability are not improved. A possible solution is better communication.

“A simple step could be sending easy-to-understand water quality reports to all residents,” Kaiser said. “Sending reports to renters in addition to property owners and in Spanish as well as English will help raise awareness about the safety of local tap water.”

The study was funded in part by the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, which developed a two-page policy brief outlining the research findings. UC Davis doctoral student Caitlin French was the main author. Other contributors, in addition to Kaiser, were postdoctoral researcher Rosa Gomez-Camacho, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor Cathi Lamp and UC Davis nutrition professor Adela de la Torre.

In the policy brief, the authors included some additional suggestions to address the issue:

  • Increase state funds to agencies working to identify who is at risk in order to bring more water systems into compliance
  • Provide subsidies for home water filters
  • Provide subsidies to private well owners in exchange for testing reports
  • Step up outreach to owners of targeted private water systems in known problem areas
  • Provide funding for additional research to inform outreach messages about substituting tap water for sugar-sweetened beverages

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

UC leading effort asking USDA to add water to MyPlate


UC nutritional policy leaders join with other experts to promote water as beverage of choice.

The UC Nutrition Policy Institute would like MyPlate to include an icon for water, such as the one shown above.

By Jeannette Warnert, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources

The brightly colored divided plate that lays out the USDA’s model for healthy eating needs one little tweak, says Lorrene Ritchie, director of the UC Nutrition Policy Institute. Don’t take anything away, but add H20.

Ritchie has joined with dozens of nutrition and health professionals around the country to ask that the USDA put water onto MyPlate.

“We don’t have all the answers to overcoming obesity, but the research on sugar-sweetened beverages is very clear,” Ritchie said. “When you drink beverages like soda, sports drinks or punch, the sugar gets absorbed very rapidly and the body doesn’t recognize the calories. The result is excess calories and weight gain.”

The USDA introduced MyPlate in 2011 to reflect the message of its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Federal law requires that the guidelines be reviewed, updated and published every five years.

“USDA officials say that, in order to change MyPlate, there must be more information in the dietary guidelines about water,” Ritchie said. “We are working through the public comment process to ask the advisory board to promote water as the beverage of choice.”

The ultimate goal – a new water icon on MyPlate – is important because of its high visibility. MyPlate is found on elementary school classroom walls and cereal boxes, at community gardens, and the grocery store produce aisle.

In preparing for a visit with USDA officials at their Washington, D.C., headquarters, Christina Hecht, UC Nutrition Policy Institute coordinator, asked UC Cooperative Extension specialists in California for input on MyPlate. Their enthusiasm was unanimous.

“They see MyPlate as the face of the dietary guidelines and are very supportive of using the image as a teaching tool,” Hecht said. “They also supported the idea of adding a symbol for water.”

She shared the California educators’ thoughts on MyPlate with her USDA contacts. “When they get a story from the field, it really matters to them,” Hecht said.

Ritchie and her colleagues around the country submitted a “Best of Science” letter to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee imploring them to strengthen the language for drinking water.

“Current research indicates that children, in particular, are subject to ‘voluntary dehydration’ from low intake of plain water,” the letter says. “Between 2005 and 2010, more than a quarter of children aged 4 to 13 years old in the U.S. did not have a drink of plain water on two consecutive days.”

Instead, they are drinking sugary beverages. National surveys in the early 2000s found that, on any given day, 84 percent of 2- to 5-year-old children drank sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, sports drinks and fruit punch. The calories amounted to 11 percent of the children’s total energy intake.

Since the 2010 Dietary Guidelines were issued, knowledge about the magnitude of risk and extent of adverse effects from sugar-sweetened beverages has increased. The Best of Science letter outlines for the advisory board many of the proven consequences of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in America:

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages – including sodas, juice drinks, pre-sweetened tea and coffee drinks, and fortified or energy drinks – are among the top sources of calories for children and adolescents.
  • Between the late 1960s and early 2000s the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages doubled.
  • While the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men, the average U.S. consumption is 17 teaspoons per day.
  • Low-income populations have higher intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages and Latino children drink more of them than white children.
  • Cardiovascular disease, present in more than one-third of American adults, is now understood to be exacerbated by the inflammatory effects of excess sugar consumption.
  • Excess sugar consumption is a risk factor for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a precursor to diabetes.

View original article

Related link:
“Best of Science” letter

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Cloudy water, even if it is safe, affects rural immigrants’ health


UC Davis researchers examine connection between water quality, childhood obesity.

Cloudy tap water may have a greater effect for California’s rural immigrants than merely leaving behind a bad taste, according to a new policy brief released by the Center for Poverty Research at the University of California, Davis.

Researchers looked at the connection between water quality and childhood obesity in two poor immigrant communities in California’s Central Valley — San Joaquin and Firebaugh. Poor-quality tap water, or even a perception that the water is bad, combined with environmental factors such as lack of access to healthy foods and nutrition education, likely contribute to health disparities in these communities, the study finds.

“If the tap water that comes out looks dirty or has a poor taste, they’re not going to have a lot more confidence in the drinking system here,” said Lucia Kaiser, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis and the study’s co-principal investigator. “The immigrant populations in these communities come from Mexico, where they may have experienced unsafe drinking water in rural areas,” she said.

Kaiser interviewed 27 mothers from these communities after giving a class on the health effects of sugar-sweetened beverages. Most of the women reported relying on purchased and, to a lesser extent, home-filtered water for drinking and cooking. Kaiser said that the additional cost represents an extra burden on these low-income families.

“In these communities, more than a third can’t afford to put enough food on their table, and now they have to buy drinking water, too. Every expense really matters,” said Kaiser.

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

54 UC students awarded Global Food Initiative fellowships


$2,500 fellowships, selected by UC campuses, will fund student-generated research.

The University of California announced today (Dec. 9) that 54 UC students have been awarded UC Global Food Initiative fellowships, funding projects that will address issues ranging from community gardens and food pantries to urban agriculture and food waste.

All 10 UC campuses plus UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are participating in the UC President’s Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Program. The $2,500 fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students, selected by the campuses, will fund student-generated research, related projects or internships that focus on food issues. Also, plans are being developed for student fellows to convene in spring 2015.

“I want to congratulate the inaugural class of Global Food Initiative student fellows,” UC President Janet Napolitano said. “These are outstanding students who are passionate about this important global topic and will be able to make valuable contributions to this initiative through these fellowships. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of their projects.”

Napolitano, together with UC’s 10 chancellors, launched the Global Food Initiative in July in an effort to help put UC’s campuses, the state and the world on a pathway to sustainably and nutritiously feed themselves. The fellowships will support the work of the initiative’s early action teams and the initiative’s overall efforts to address food security, health and sustainability.

Fellowship projects will examine urban agriculture, sustainable campus landscapes, agricultural waste streams and biological pest control, among other topics. Some projects will enhance experiential learning, such as constructing new vegetable gardens. Others will support food pantries. Yet other projects will document research through films and social media.

The bulk of the fellowship funding comes from the UC President’s Initiative Fund, with several campuses augmenting the funding to support additional student fellowships. At UCLA, funding for the student fellowship program was supplemented by a matched donation from Jane and Terry Semel.

In addition to the initial 54 student fellowships, further fellowships will be supported at UC Davis by a private donation from Craig McNamara, president and owner of walnut-producing Sierra Orchards, and his wife, Julie; and at UC Berkeley by donations from Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards, and Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters and the Edible Schoolyard Project. UC continues to reach out to the community for financial support of the fellowship program.

The initial student fellows and their projects include:

UC Berkeley

  • Kate Kaplan, experiential learning
  • Miranda Everitt, leveraging research for policy change
  • Vanessa Taylor, food pantries and food security

UC Davis

  • Ryan Dowdy, food system sustainability: converting food waste into electricity
  • Sophie Sapp Moore, food security for the Papaye Peasant Movement in Haiti
  • Jessica West, pest management of the spotted wing drosophila

UC Irvine

  • Victoria Lowerson Bredow, inclusive food systems: immigrants, indigeneity and innovation
  • Alexander Fung, food pantry initiative
  • Sally Geislar, local food access and advocacy: cultivating town and gown synergies
  • Crystal Hickerson, grow your own food campaign
  • Ankita Raturi, modeling the environmental impact of agricultural systems

UCLA

  • Sheela Bhongir, Kayee Liu, Vanessa Moreno and Robert Penna, “A Recipe for Change”: a short documentary film about the effects of food marketing in early childhood obesity
  • Sanna Alas, Phoebe Lai and Claudia Varney, “Down to Earth: Stories of Urban Gardeners in Los Angeles,” an ethnographic documentary film about Los Angeles County residents who grow food in community gardens
  • Hayley Ashbaugh, Lucie Dzongang, Adrienne Greer, Logan Hitchcock and Lindsey Jagoe, evaluation of impact and sustainability of farmer hubs selling to large institutions
  • Ian Davies, Kaylie Edgar, Steven Eggert and Ashley Lopez, curricula/food literacy garden project — constructing two new vegetable gardens

UC Merced

  • Hoaithi Dang, hydroponic farming
  • Erendira Estrada, evaluating the effects of a mobile grocery in addressing the lack of access to fresh foods in rural communities
  • Rebecca Quinte, sustainable agriculture in Central Valley food crops
  • Megan Schill, prions and food safety
  • Emily Wilson, endophytes and sustainable agriculture
  • Andrew Zumkehr, farmland mapping project

UC Riverside

  • Dietlinde Heilmayr, community gardens
  • Darrin Lin, California Agriculture and Food Enterprise website development
  • Daniel Lopez, on-campus food pantry

UC San Diego

  • Jancy Benavides, urban agriculture on brownfields
  • Hayden Galante, sustainable campus landscapes
  • Jane Kang, improving food and water security through urban ecology and participatory design
  • Danielle Ramirez, urban agriculture and civic engagement

UC San Francisco

  • Jacob Benjamin Mirsky, exploring patient perspectives on food insecurity to optimize the San Francisco General Hospital Therapeutic Food Pantry
  • Jonathan Schor, reinterpreting nutritional facts: a tool to inform consumer choices in the short term and food policy in the long term

UC Santa Barbara

  • Kathryn Parkinson and Emilie Wood, post-consumer food waste reduction
  • Rachel Rouse, food security and accessibility

UC Santa Cruz

  • Alyssa Billys, experiential learning and agroecological production
  • Joanna Ory, food equity and California Higher Education Food Summit engagement support
  • Crystal Owings, California Higher Education Food Summit planning support and planning to establish the Swipes program at UC Santa Cruz

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Jacqueline Chang, UC Berkeley, hunger survey of UC students
  • Kevi Mace-Hill, UC Berkeley, graduate student preparedness for Cooperative Extension
  • Samantha Smith, UC Davis, scientist interviews

Berkeley Lab

  • Kripa Akila Jagannathan, UC Berkeley, alignment of climate model outputs to farmers’ information needs
  • Michelle Stitzer, UC Davis, genomic annotations of maize
  • Gus Tolley, UC Davis, effects of prolonged drought on hydrologic conditions

Media contact:
University of California Office of the President
(510) 987-9200

Related links:

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

2 UCSF-led programs receive funding to tackle S.F. health issues


Hellman Foundation supports fruit and vegetable voucher program, kids’ oral health program.

A woman shops for fresh produce at UCSF Parnassus' farmers market.

By Leland Kim, UC San Francisco

Two UC San Francisco-sponsored programs beat out more than 80 others to win major funding to help advance meaningful solutions to local health issues in San Francisco.

The Hellman Foundation announced the award of the first Hellman Collaborative Change Initiative grants to the EatSF Fruit and Vegetable Voucher Program and the Children’s Oral Health Collaborative. Each program will receive $400,000 — coupled with strategic support from the Hellman Foundation — to strengthen their partnerships and support their efforts to improve lives in San Francisco.

The EatSF Fruit and Vegetable Voucher Program is creating a San Francisco where underserved communities can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables from their local market.

Diets low in fresh fruits and vegetables are associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.  But many low-income families simply do not have access to these vitally important foods. By creating a citywide network where vouchers are redeemable at local vendors for fresh fruits and vegetables, EatSF is improving nutrition for San Franciscans most in need.

“In 2012, it is estimated that San Francisco’s underserved population had to scramble to afford 67.8 million meals. That is appalling in a city that is as wealthy as ours,” said Hilary Seligman, M.D., an associate professor in the UCSF School of Medicine, who is leading the EatSF Fruit and Vegetable Voucher Program. “We are committed to finding strategies that allow all members of our community to eat the healthy foods that prevent the development of chronic disease.”

The Children’s Oral Health Collaborative is committed to eradicating health disparities in childhood tooth decay, with the aim of making San Francisco cavity-free. The program is co-led by UCSF’s Lisa Chung, D.D.S., M.P.H., and San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Margaret Fisher, R.D.H.A.P.

Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. In San Francisco, emergency department visits for preventable dental problems are higher than that for asthma and diabetes combined, and untreated tooth decay is two to three times more common for children of color.

“Our success is due to many dedicated partners, some individuals who have spent much of their careers to combat tooth decay, a pervasive health problem that all too often goes unacknowledged and untreated in children,” said Chung, an associate professor in the UCSF School of Dentistry’s Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences.

“Our collaboration recently formed thanks to the coordination and strong support from UCSF SF HIP (San Francisco Health Improvement Partnership) and SF DPH (San Francisco Department of Public Health), and funding from the Metta Fund. We hope this support from Hellman will bring greater awareness to the problem, our work to address it, and more partners to join us in our efforts.”

In choosing from an impressive array of active collaborations, the Hellman Foundation focused on cross-sector partnerships that had strong leadership, targeted a significant San Francisco challenge, and had the potential to make a real difference.

To learn more about the EatSF Fruit and Vegetable Voucher, please email eatsfvoucher@gmail.com. To get more information about the Children’s Oral Health Collaborative, please read its strategic plan.

Established in 2011, the Hellman Foundation finds and supports the creative change-makers improving the lives and livelihoods for all who call the San Francisco Bay Area home. For more information, visit its website.

Editor’s note: Content from the Hellman Foundation was used in this story.

View original story

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Study: Even those who know better find junk food irresistible


UC Davis findings could be important in shaping healthy eating campaigns.

Credit: iStock

By Jeffrey Day, UC Davis

People who know that certain foods are bad for them still respond positively when confronted by a picture of a burger, fries and soda, according to a University of California, Davis, study.

In the study, participants who self-reported they were nutritionally knowledgeable, but who didn’t have healthy eating habits, reacted more positively to images of “junk food” than images of healthy food. The positive response was followed by a negative one, but the former often won out.

“They know the consequences of eating unhealthy foods,” said the study’s author, Narine Yegiyan, an assistant professor of communication. “They are almost there in terms of willingness to give them up, but they are biologically struggling with it.”

She said the findings are important in shaping healthy eating campaigns aimed at these people who are prime candidates for eating behavior change.

Because this group initially responds positively to junk food images, healthy eating messages must be carefully crafted to prevent a “boomerang effect,” she said.

“Showing a picture of chips and saying ‘these are bad for you’ may just make them grab a bag of chips,” she said. “Encouraging them to eat healthy food like broccoli and carrots would be more effective. If images of junk food are going to be used they need to be accompanied by a very strong message stating why this is bad for you.”

Otherwise such images may “transfer into an increased desire to consume the unhealthy product,” the study states.

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off