TAG: "Nutrition"

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.

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

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

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

Is life in America hazardous to immigrants’ health?


Over time, the health status of immigrant groups tends to decline.

By Dan Gordon, UCLA

America is a nation of immigrants drawn from all parts of the world by the promise of freedom and a good life. But a substantial body of evidence suggests that for the newly arrived, life in the United States can be hazardous to their well-being.

When they get here, immigrants are on average healthier than their native-born American counterparts. But the longer they stay, the worse they fare on measures such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and mental health.

Faculty at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health are working on identifying factors contributing to the declining health status of immigrant groups that’s occurring over time and through the generations.

Part of it has to do with an unfamiliarity with U.S. society and its complicated health care system. Many immigrants lack health insurance. But Marjorie Kagawa-Singer, a professor at the Fielding School who focuses on the delivery of care that appropriately considers a patient’s culture, notes that it’s more than just cost.

“If someone is new to this country, doesn’t speak the language and has to learn to navigate our system, it’s like plopping us in the middle of Siberia and expecting us to figure out what we need,” she said.

For example, many immigrants across the educational and cultural spectrum hold beliefs about disease and how the body works that diverge from the biomedical model practiced in the U.S., Kagawa-Singer added, and many health care practitioners are uneducated on those differences.

“When you have problems in both health literacy among patients and cultural competence among practitioners, you get this ‘perfect storm’ of people who will not be able to utilize the health care system even when it’s offered,” said Kagawa-Singer.

Since 2000, Kagawa-Singer has headed the Los Angeles site of the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training, the first federally funded cancer prevention and control research initiative focusing on Asian Americans. In lectures and short courses on cultural competence, Kagawa-Singer advises health professionals to demonstrate their trustworthiness and compassion.

“It’s not the health problem you’re treating, it’s the person,” she said. “When patients recognize you’re making the effort and respecting their dignity, they’re going to be much more forgiving and willing to teach and learn.” The challenge, she noted, is that the U.S. health care system is designed for short encounters, despite the fact that it may take longer to get to know and understand patients from different backgrounds.

Adopting the American diet

Public health experts have postulated that immigrants decline in health as they assimilate and adopt the health habits of their new communities — including high-fat diets and processed foods, along with reduced physical activity. To some extent, though, that equation has changed with globalization of the food supply, said May C. Wang, a Fielding School professor who focuses on early childhood obesity.

“Most low-income countries now have access to the processed foods we’ve been eating for the past few decades,” Wang noted. But even when immigrants’ tastes are similar to those of non-immigrants, immigrants with minimal financial means face considerable challenges to eating well. “Education alone doesn’t work in a community that doesn’t have the ability to access healthy food,” Wang said. “And in the very poorest communities, trying to change the environment by placing healthier foods where people live, work and go to school is challenging.”

The problem is compounded for immigrant groups, she explained, because they tend to have fewer social ties, are constricted by language barriers and often lack the know-how to pursue resources that could help them.

Wang works closely with the Public Health Foundation Enterprises Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, the largest local WIC agency in the country. It serves 300,000-plus families a year, the vast majority of them non-English-speaking immigrants. The overall childhood obesity rate has plateaued or declined in the U.S. in recent years, Wang noted, but the obesity rate among the mostly immigrant Latino children remains substantially higher than for other groups. Among the low-income, preschool-aged Latino children enrolled in L.A. County’s WIC program in 2011, nearly 22 percent were obese.

To better understand the impact of various strategies to improve diet and reduce early childhood obesity, said Wang, “We are examining the social and physical environments in which immigrants live and how these affect their ability to put into practice nutrition knowledge they acquire from participation in the WIC program.”

The work aligns with the University of California Global Food Initiative, which seeks to harness the resources of all 10 UC campuses to address a critical issue of our time: How to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025.

Read more

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

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Online tool helps parents, pediatricians assess newborn weight loss


Study shows some newborns lose weight much faster than previously recognized.

Valerie Flaherman, UC San Francisco

By Juliana Bunim, UC San Francisco

Using weights obtained from over 100,000 Northern California babies, a new study is the first to detail the weight loss patterns of exclusively breastfed newborns.  The results show that some breastfed babies lose weight faster and for a longer period than was previously recognized.

The investigators have captured their findings in an online tool that is the first of its kind to help pediatricians determine whether exclusively breastfed newborns have lost too much weight in the first days of life. The research is published today (Dec. 1) in the journal Pediatrics.

Women do not immediately produce high volumes of breast milk in the first days after childbirth. Instead, mothers at first secrete small amounts of colostrum, which contains high concentrations of nutrients and antibodies for the baby. During this period, almost all babies experience some initial weight loss, which can cause concern from new parents and sometimes even pediatricians.

According to the researchers, most newborns tolerate this initial period of weight loss. However, some do develop complications such as dehydration and hyperbilirubinemia – jaundice caused by too much bilirubin in the blood – which are the two most common causes of newborn hospital readmission. Mothers sometimes believe this weight loss means their baby is not getting enough breast milk, leading them to supplement their baby with infant formula, a practice pediatricians hope to avoid when possible.

The Newborn Weight Tool, or Newt, was developed using a sample of hourly birth weights from more than 100,000 breastfed newborns at Northern California Kaiser Permanente hospitals between 2009 and 2013. The tool plots a baby’s weight percentile at any given time in the first few days following birth and compares it with the large sample of newborns.

Until now, there was no graphical depiction or “growth chart” of early weight loss for exclusively breastfed newborns to help inform mothers visually of how normal it is for babies to lose weight, but now mothers and pediatric health care providers have a tool to demonstrate normal weight loss patterns. An individual mother can see how her newborn compares with these normal patterns, which in most cases will be reassuring.

“For parents who are concerned about their newborn’s weight loss, they can be shown how their baby compares to the study sample, and whether they fall into a dangerous zone,” said Valerie Flaherman, M.D., a pediatrician at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco and lead author of the study. “It also provides a tool for pediatricians to determine which babies are at high risk, addressing a major clinical gap because there are no current criteria for newborn weight loss.”

Newt was developed by the study’s senior author, Ian Paul, M.D., professor of pediatrics and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine and pediatrician at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital and Eric Schaefer, M.S., a statistician at Penn State College of Medicine, along with researchers at UCSF and Kaiser Permanente.

The tool is available for free, and health care providers can bookmark it on their computers, smartphones and tablet devices. It was designed for health care professionals to share the information with parents similar to the way growth charts are used now.

Read more

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

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Bitter food but good medicine from cucumbers


UC Davis research could have applications in treating cancer, developing other food crops.

High-tech genomics and traditional Chinese medicine come together as researchers identify the genes responsible for the intense bitter taste of wild cucumbers. Taming this bitterness made cucumber, pumpkin and their relatives into popular foods, but the same compounds also have potential to treat cancer and diabetes.

“You don’t eat wild cucumber, unless you want to use it as a purgative,” said William Lucas, professor of plant biology at the University of California, Davis, and co-author on the paper published Nov. 28 in the journal Science.

That bitter flavor in wild cucurbits — the family that includes cucumber, pumpkin, melon, watermelon and squash — is due to compounds called cucurbitacins. The bitter taste protects wild plants against predators.

The fruit and leaves of wild cucurbits have been used in Indian and Chinese medicine for thousands of years, as emetics and purgatives and to treat liver disease. More recently, researchers have shown that cucurbitacins can kill or suppress growth of cancer cells.

Bitterness is known to be controlled by two genetic traits, “Bi” which confers bitterness on the whole plant, and “Bt,” which leads to bitter fruit. In the new work, Lucas, Sanwen Huang at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and colleagues employed the latest in DNA sequencing technology to identify the exact changes in DNA associated with bitterness.

They also tasted a great many cucumbers. “Luckily this is an easy trait to test for,” Lucas said. “You just chomp on a cucumber leaf of fruit and your tongue gives you the readout!”

They were able to identify nine genes involved in making cucurbitacin and show that the trait can be traced to two transcription factors that switch on these nine genes, in either leaves or the fruit, to produce cucurbitacin.

The new research shows how domestication tweaked cucumber genetics to make the fruit more edible. Understanding that process might open up approaches to developing other food crops based on plants that are naturally either inedible or poor in nutrition, Lucas said.

It could also make it much easier to produce cucurbitacins in large enough quantities to use in clinical trials and potentially in medicine, Lucas said. For example the anti-malarial drug artemisinin, originally derived from traditional Chinese medicine, is now being produced either as a precursor molecule in yeast or through synthetic biology systems.

Other collaborators on the study included researchers at the Institute of Vegetables and Flowers, Beijing; Agricultural Genomics Institute, Shenzhen, China; Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing; Hunan Agricultural University, Changsha; Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing; Hunan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Changsha; Wuhan University, Wuhan; Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing; Nihon University, Tokyo, Japan; and Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

$6.9M funds studies of health-boosting compounds in cow’s milk


UC Davis research could lead to benefits for human health and the U.S. dairy industry.

After spending more than a decade decoding breast milk’s important health-promoting constituents, a team of researchers in the Foods for Health Institute at UC Davis is now doing the same for cow’s milk, with potential benefits both for human health and the U.S. dairy industry.

Focusing on a group of naturally occurring milk compounds called “glycans,” the researchers are identifying molecules that — like those in mom’s milk — interact with beneficial bacteria in the infant gut to ease digestion, prevent inflammation and even fight cancer.

Their research, which has had a long funding history, received two more votes of confidence from the National Institutes of Health in the form of a $4.2 million grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and a $2.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.

The first grant is led by David Mills, a professor and Peter J. Shields Endowed Chair in Dairy Food Science in the Department of Food Science and Technology, and the second is led by Yu-Jui Yvonne Wan, a professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine of the UC Davis Health System.

“We’re working to better understand all of the bioactive molecules in milk, particularly those that promote growth of naturally occurring microbes in the intestine and, in general, boost human health,” said Mills, who is collaborating on both grants.

Mills and colleagues are concentrating on glycans because they selectively feed beneficial intestinal bacteria and block disease-causing microbes from gaining a foothold.

“In babies, these milk compounds interact with very specific infant-borne bacteria, called bifidobacteria, to reduce inflammation, boost immunity and restore calm to these very fragile infant intestines, especially in preemies,” Mills said.

He noted that knowledge of the mechanisms involving how these compounds function also will have tremendous applications for other life stages and health circumstances, including during chemotherapy treatments, obesity management, and dealing with irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowl disease.

Implications for the dairy industry

“Given that we are working with cow’s milk as a source of these bioactive molecules, there is the opportunity to scale up this process, especially with molecules that are derived from whey and other dairy byproducts,” Mills said.

In these two NIH-funded projects, the researchers are working with Hilmar Cheese Co., a California manufacturer of both cheese and whey proteins, to obtain specific bioactive compounds from cow’s milk in a scale large enough for animal studies. Findings from these studies will help determine if cow’s milk glycans provide the same protective functions — functions that would be helpful to a range of fragile intestines.

“As a company focused on delivering the nutrition in milk, we fully support research that will help further identify and understand the bioactive components of milk,” said Tedd Struckmeyer, vice president for engineering at Hilmar Cheese Co.

The research team is hopeful that findings from these studies of milk-based compounds can be rapidly developed into products capable of enhancing human health.

“Given that milk is already a food, development of health-promoting compounds from milk would not involve the years of testing that are required when developing new therapeutic drugs,” Mills said.

He noted that the research also will likely benefit the U.S. dairy industry, by identifying and increasing value in whey and other milk byproducts.

For an overview of related milk products research see: http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10985.

Collaborating with Mills and Wan on these two projects at UC Davis are Helen Raybould of the School of Veterinary Medicine; Carlito Lebrilla of the Department of Chemistry; and Bruce German, Carolyn Slupsky and Daniela Barile of the Department of Food Science and Technology. These faculty members are also members of the new Center of Health for Advancing Microbiome and Mucosal Protection.

View original article

Related links:

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative helps inspire nationwide college program


Partnership for a Healthier America launches Healthier Campus Initiative.

An “instant recess” at UCLA dovetails with the Healthy Campus Initiative.

By Rebecca Kendall, UCLA

Less than two years after UCLA launched its groundbreaking Healthy Campus Initiative, a prominent organization is introducing a national health and wellness program for colleges and universities.

The Partnership for a Healthier America, which works with the private sector and Michelle Obama to make healthier choices easier, announced its Healthier Campus Initiative today (Nov. 16) in New Orleans at the American Public Health Association’s annual conference. UCLA is one of 20 colleges and universities that are part of the program, which will reach more than 500,000 students and 126,000 faculty and staff. UCLA is the only postsecondary institution in California that is participating.

According to the organization’s CEO, UCLA was one of the important inspirations for the program. “The Healthier Campus Initiative was born out of a collaboration between the Partnership for a Healthier America and the nation’s leading nutrition, physical activity and campus wellness experts, including leaders at UCLA,” said Lawrence Soler.

“Over the past few years, UCLA has become a leader in the movement to create a healthier environment for its students, faculty and staff, and this initiative would not have been possible without UCLA’s early insights, input and support.”

UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative is a campuswide effort that draws upon the campus’s world-renowned research and teaching to find new and innovative ways to promote healthy living at UCLA and share that education and research with other communities.

Each of the participating universities has pledged to adopt guidelines for food and nutrition, physical activity and programming over the next three years.

“The PHA agreement gives us an opportunity to help evaluate our progress toward our goals,” said Dr. Wendy Slusser, associate vice provost for the HCI and a clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “It will also introduce us to other university leaders across the U.S. and enhance our learning of best practices and our ability to leverage resources to promote health and wellness on our campuses and in our communities.”

Slusser attended the announcement joined by UCLA colleagues and philanthropist Jane Semel, who with her husband, Terry Semel, envisioned and supported UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative.

PHA’s Healthier Campus Initiative comprises 23 guidelines, many of which UCLA has already implemented as part of its campus mandate. Others were new initiatives prompted by PHA discussions. Among them are offering a minimum of one “wellness meal,” which meets nutritional guidelines set by PHA, at each mealtime; offering a minimum of five types of fruits, five types of vegetables and two 100 percent whole grain products at both lunch and dinner; and implementing a program at dining venues to encourage healthier food consumption.

UCLA has also moved to add more local and sustainable food as part of its commitment to the PHA program. Currently, UCLA serves 17 percent locally sourced food in its dining operations; the campus’s goal is to achieve 20 percent by 2020.

The focus on healthy, sustainable food at UCLA is in line with the University of California Global Food Initiative, which was also shaped in part by leaders of UCLA’s HCI. The systemwide initiative was introduced by UC President Janet Napolitano in July at an event held at UCLA’s student-run community garden.

View original article

CATEGORY: SpotlightComments Off

Eating walnuts slows prostate cancer growth, study finds


UC Davis research finds health benefits in walnuts.

Paul Davis, UC Davis

Researchers at UC Davis and other institutions have found that diets rich in whole walnuts or walnut oil slowed prostate cancer growth in mice. In addition, both walnuts and walnut oil reduced cholesterol and increased insulin sensitivity. The walnut diet also reduced levels of the hormone IGF-1, which had been previously implicated in both prostate and breast cancer. The study was published online in the Journal of Medicinal Food.

“For years, the United States government has been on a crusade against fat, and I think it’s been to our detriment,” said lead scientist and research nutritionist Paul Davis. “Walnuts are a perfect example. While they are high in fat, their fat does not drive prostate cancer growth. In fact, walnuts do just the opposite when fed to mice.”

Davis and colleagues have been investigating the impact of walnuts on health for some time. A previous study found that walnuts reduced prostate tumor size in mice; however, there were questions about which parts of the nuts generated these benefits. Was it the meat, the oil or the omega-3 fatty acids? If it was the omega-3 fats, the benefit might not be unique to walnuts. Since the fatty acid profile for the soybean oil used as a control was similar, but not identical, to walnuts, more work had to be done.

In the current study, researchers used a mixture of fats with virtually the same fatty acid content as walnuts as their control diet. The mice were fed whole walnuts, walnut oil or the walnut-like fat for 18 weeks. The results replicated those from the previous study. While the walnuts and walnut oil reduced cholesterol and slowed prostate cancer growth, in contrast, the walnut-like fat did not have these effects, confirming that other nut components caused the improvements – not the omega-3s.

“We showed that it’s not the omega-3s by themselves, though, it could be a combination of the omega-3s with whatever else is in the walnut oil,” Davis said. “It’s becoming increasingly clear in nutrition that it’s never going to be just one thing; it’s always a combination.”

While the study does not pinpoint which combination of compounds in walnuts slows cancer growth, it did rule out fiber, zinc, magnesium and selenium. In addition, the research demonstrated that walnuts modulate several mechanisms associated with cancer growth.

“The energy effects from decreasing IGF-1 seem to muck up the works so the cancer can’t grow as fast as it normally would,” Davis said. “Also, reducing cholesterol means cancer cells may not get enough of it to allow these cells to grow quickly.”

In addition, the research showed increases in both adiponectin and the tumor suppressor PSP94, as well as reduced levels of COX-2, all markers for reduced prostate cancer risk.

Read more

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

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Global dietary choices show disturbing trends


UC Santa Barbara professor co-authors paper that examines global impact of what we eat.

David Tilman

The world is gaining weight and becoming less healthy, and global dietary choices are harming the environment.

Those are among the findings of a paper co-authored by David Tilman, a professor in the UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, and Michael Clark, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, where Tilman also is a professor. In “Global Diets Link Environmental Sustainability and Human Health,” published today (Nov. 12) in the journal Nature, the researchers find that rising incomes and urbanization around the world are driving a global dietary transition that is, in turn, diminishing the health of both people and the planet.

“These dietary shifts,” they write, “are greatly increasing the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and other chronic non-communicable diseases that lower global life expectancies.”

The paper is the first to show the global links among the elements of what Tilman refers to as the “tightly linked diet–environment–health trilemma.”

“Previous analyses have looked at the effects of diet in individual countries, but we are the first to examine the global impacts on both human health and the environment of diet as it is now and as it is becoming,” he says. “We gathered information on dietary trends and environmental impacts for 90 percent of the global population. Our data let us see how diets, health and the environment have been changing and where they are going.”

“Some of what we found is not surprising, but the global implications are frightening,” Tilman adds. “Most of us have heard that some diets are healthier, that eating too many calories is bad for you and that red meat harms the environment. We were surprised at how rapidly and consistently diets were changing around the world, how massively this would impact global health and how much it would increase global greenhouse gas emissions and the destruction of tropical forests and other ecosystems.”

Unhealthful diets linked to urbanization

The links between urbanization, increased wealth and unhealthful diets are clear, Tilman explains. When a country industrializes, the transition from a traditional rural diet to one that includes more processed meats and more empty calories can occur quickly. “People move to cities, leaving behind their own gardens where they grew fruits and vegetables,” Tilman said. “They’re working in a factory 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, so they need food that’s cheap and fast. The cheapest, fastest food you can get is filled with starch, sugar, fat and salt. Almost overnight, they go from a healthy diet to one that has way too many calories and leads to diabetes and heart disease.”

Also, because people tend to eat more meat as they become wealthier, much of the expected 100-percent increase in crop production that will be required by 2050 would be used to feed not humans but livestock. To do that, much more land will need to be cleared, with the result that more habitat will be lost, more species will likely become extinct and increased runoff of agricultural fertilizers and pesticides will degrade streams, rivers, lakes, groundwater and oceans.

Alternative diets offer health benefits

Tilman suggests that hope — and help — lie in the widespread adoption of alternative diets that offer substantial health benefits and could reduce global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, reduce land clearing and resultant species extinctions and help prevent a variety of diet-related chronic noncommunicable diseases.

Comparing conventional American omnivorous diets to the Mediterranean diet, a pescetarian diet (in which fish is the only animal protein) and a vegetarian diet, the compiled research showed that the three alternatives to the omnivorous diet decreased Type 2 diabetes by 16 to 41 percent, cancer by 7 to 13 percent and morality rates from coronary heart disease by 20 to 26 percent. Moreover, the authors show that these alternative diets could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions from food production by about 40 percent below what they would be if dietary trends continued.

To reach their conclusions, the researchers gathered all published life-cycle assessments covering “cradle to farm gate” greenhouse gas emissions for production systems of food crops, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture — some 500 studies, of which about 220 were useful. They also gathered 50 years of data for 100 of the world’s more populous nations to analyze global dietary trends and their drivers, using that information to forecast future diets should past trends continue.

To quantify the effects of alternative diets on mortality and on Type 2 diabetes, cancer and chronic coronary heart disease, they summarized results of eight major long-term studies on diet and health. Finally, they combined those relationships with projected increases in global population to forecast global environmental implications of current dietary trajectories and calculate the environmental benefits of diets associated with reduced rates of chronic noncommunicable diseases.

“Better diets are the solution to these big problems,” Tilman says. “Only better diets can prevent a massive global epidemic of chronic noncontagious disease. These same diets would also protect the environment. Since big food companies produce so much of what is eaten, we need them to be part of this solution. By developing, producing and advertising foods that are healthy and tasty, these companies can help their customers, the earth and their bottom line. It is a niche waiting to be filled.”

Tilman wonders if unhealthy foods laden with fats or sugars might grow into a health issue somewhat like smoking. “Throughout history, foods that tasted good were almost always healthy but scarce. Now we have thousands of inexpensive manufactured foods that taste good because of an overabundance of sugar, fat or salt but are bad for us. What is the ethics of selling such foods now that we know how bad they are for heath and the environment?”

The research generated a number of nuanced findings about the environmental impacts of various dietary choices. The following are among them:

  • While the difference in greenhouse gas emissions for animal-based versus plant-based foods is well known, emissions per gram of protein for beef and lamb are about 250 times those of legumes; pork, chicken, dairy, and fish have much lower emissions;
  • Twenty servings of vegetables have fewer greenhouse gas emissions than one serving of beef.
  • Fish caught by trawling, which involves dragging fishnets along the ocean floor, can have three times the emissions of fish caught by traditional methods.
  • And among cereal grains, rice has five times the emissions per gram of protein as wheat.

These and other facts demonstrate that there are many diets that are both good for the environment and healthy.

While Tilman does not expect to see quick societal changes in diet, he hopes that the paper will be seen by the right people who can influence the food supply and that it “can encourage people to think about this challenge and have a dialogue it.”

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

UCSF sugar science initiative launched


Researchers highlight strong links between sugar and chronic disease.

By Kristen Bole, UC San Francisco

Researchers at UC San Francisco have launched SugarScience, a groundbreaking research and education initiative designed to highlight the most authoritative scientific findings on added sugar and its impact on health.

The national initiative is launching in partnership with outreach programs in health departments across the country, including the National Association of City and County Health Organizations and cities nationwide.

Developed by a team of UCSF health scientists in collaboration with scientists at UC Davis and Emory University School of Medicine, the initiative reflects an exhaustive review of more than 8,000 scientific papers that have been published to date on the health effects of added sugar.

The research shows strong evidence of links between the overconsumption of added sugar and chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and liver disease. It also reveals evidence linking sugar to Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, although the team assessed that more research is needed before those links can be considered conclusive.

Laura Schmidt, UC San Francisco

“The average American consumes nearly three times the recommended amount of added sugar every day, which is taking a tremendous toll on our nation’s health,” said Laura Schmidt, Ph.D., a UCSF professor in the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and the lead investigator on the project. “This is the definitive science that establishes the causative link between sugar and chronic disease across the population.”

The initiative aims to bring scientific research out of medical journals and into the public domain by showcasing key findings that can help individuals and communities make informed decisions about their health. For example, SugarScience.org cites research showing that drinking just one can of soda per day can increase a person’s risk of dying from heart disease by nearly one-third, and can raise the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes by one-quarter.

More than 27 million Americans have been diagnosed with heart disease, which is the nation’s leading cause of death. Another 25.8 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes, caused by the body’s resistance to the hormone insulin coupled with the inability to produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. Of greatest concern is the rising number of children suffering from these chronic diseases.

Kristen Bibbins-Domingo, UC San Francisco

“Twenty years ago, Type 2 diabetes was unheard of among children, but now, more than 13,000 children are diagnosed with it each year,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, M.D., Ph.D., a UCSF professor of medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics, and director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. “Diabetes is a devastating disease and we know that it is directly related to the added sugar we consume in food and beverages.”

Another rising concern is the impact of added sugar on Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), which affects 31 percent of adults and 13 percent of children, and can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.

“As pediatricians, we had evidence of the connection between sugar and diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease for years, but we haven’t had this level of definitive scientific evidence to back up our concerns,” said Robert Lustig, M.D., M.S.L., a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco and a member of the SugarScience team. “Our goal is to make that science digestible to the American public, and take the first step toward a national conversation based on the real scientific evidence.”

Robert Lustig, UC San Francisco

While there are no federal recommended daily values for added sugar, the American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 6 tsp. (25 g) for women and 9 tsp. (38 g) for men. Guidelines for children depend on caloric intake, but range between 3-6 tsp (12-25 g) per day. Americans currently consume 19.5 tsp. of added sugar, on average, every day.

Added sugar is defined as any caloric sweetener that is added in food preparation, at the table, in the kitchen or in a processing plant. It can be difficult for people to know how much sugar they are consuming, since roughly 74 percent of processed foods contain added sugar, which is listed under at least 60 different names on food labels.

The 12-member SugarScience team will continue to monitor scientific research about added sugar and will track findings at SugarScience.org. The initiative harnesses the power of UCSF’s extensive health sciences enterprise, which ranges from basic laboratory research to clinical, population and policy sciences, with an emphasis on translating science into public benefit. All four of UCSF’s graduate schools – dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy – lead their fields in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, reflecting the caliber of their research. It also is aligned with the UC Global Food Initiative, which seeks to harness UC resources to address global food needs.

SugarScience is made possible by an independent grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. It is supported by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF.

View original article

Related links:

CATEGORY: NewsComments (1)