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.
UC Santa Barbara professor co-authors paper that examines global impact of what we eat.
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.”
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.
UC Davis researchers also will study if friendly bacteria can prevent it.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded a $2.7 million grant to UC Davis researchers to investigate how the so-called Western diet, which is high in fat and sugar, increases the risk of developing liver and gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. In addition, the researchers will study whether bifidobacteria, a common family of bacteria in the human gut, can be enriched to prevent cancer.
“We know that people who are obese or diabetic have increased risk for GI cancer,” said Yu-Jui Yvonne Wan, one of three principal investigators and vice chair for research in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “But we need to have a better understanding of how these conditions lead to cancer and how to prevent it.”
Other principal investigators on the study are professors Carolyn Slupsky and David Mills, both in the Department of Food Science & Technology and members of the Foods for Health Institute.
The study’s first goal will be to understand how the Western diet affects metabolism, bile acid and friendly bacteria (microbiota). While researchers already have learned that diets high in fat and sugar generate toxic bile acid, which causes inflammation and damages DNA, the mechanisms of this process are poorly understood.
Perhaps most importantly, the researchers also will investigate whether specific bifidobacteria species can mitigate the Western diet’s negative effects. The team will test whether a combination of complex milk sugars and bifidobacteria can reduce inflammation and short-circuit the mechanisms that generate cancer.
“When we talk about gastrointestinal health, we have to think about microbiota,” said Wan. “We believe that enriching the gut with anti-inflammatory bifidobacteria can protect against GI cancer.”
Juice-drinking mice also show improved levels of glucose, insulin, UC Berkeley study finds.
New research in mice suggests that grapefruit juice could stem weight gain from a high-fat diet.
Fad diets come and go, but might there be something to the ones that involve consuming grapefruit and grapefruit juice? New UC Berkeley research suggests that a closer look at grapefruit juice is warranted.
A new study published today in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, found that mice fed a high-fat diet gained 18 percent less weight when they drank clarified, pulp-free grapefruit juice compared with a control group of mice that drank water. Juice-drinking mice also showed improved levels of glucose, insulin and a type of fat called triacylglycerol compared with their water-drinking counterparts.
If these findings sound somewhat familiar, it may be because the link between grapefruit juice and weight loss – or just decreased weight gain – has been touted before in Hollywood diets. However, the earlier studies behind those claims were often small, not well-controlled and contradictory, according to Andreas Stahl and Joseph Napoli, the two UC Berkeley faculty members who led the new research.
This latest work was funded by the California Grapefruit Growers Cooperative, but the UC Berkeley researchers emphasized that the funders had no control or influence over the study design or research findings. Both Stahl and Napoli said they went into this research with some skepticism.
“I was surprised by the findings,” said Stahl, associate professor of nutritional sciences and toxicology. “We even re-checked the calibration of our glucose sensors, and we got the same results over and over again.”
Napolli added that “we see all sorts of scams about nutrition. But these results, based on controlled experiments, warrant further study of the potential health-promoting properties of grapefruit juice.”
First study to examine relationship between maternal iron intake, having a child with autism.
Mothers of children with autism are significantly less likely to report taking iron supplements before and during their pregnancies than the mothers of children who are developing normally, a study by researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute has found.
Low iron intake was associated with a fivefold greater risk of autism in the child if the mother was 35 or older at the time of the child’s birth or if she suffered from metabolic conditions such as obesity hypertension or diabetes.
The research is the first to examine the relationship between maternal iron intake and having a child with autism spectrum disorder, the authors said. The study, “Maternal intake of supplemental iron and risk for autism spectrum disorders,” is published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Rebecca Schmidt, UC Davis
“The association between lower maternal iron intake and increased ASD risk was strongest during breastfeeding, after adjustment for folic acid intake,” said Rebecca J. Schmidt, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and a researcher affiliated with the MIND Institute.
The authors of the current study in 2011 were the first to report associations between supplemental folic acid and reduced risk for autism spectrum disorder, a finding later replicated in larger scale investigations.
“Further, the risk associated with low maternal iron intake was much greater when the mother was also older and had metabolic conditions during her pregnancy.”
Researchers use breast milk to show correlation between dietary fats and academic success.
Steven Gaulin, UC Santa Barbara
You are what you eat, the saying goes, and now a study conducted by researchers at UC Santa Barbara and the University of Pittsburgh suggests that the oft-repeated adage applies not just to physical health but to brain power as well.
In a paper published in the early online edition of the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, the researchers compared the fatty acid profiles of breast milk from women in over two dozen countries with how well children from those same countries performed on academic tests.
Their findings show that the amount of omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a mother’s milk — fats found primarily in certain fish, nuts and seeds — is the strongest predictor of test performance. It outweighs national income and the number of dollars spent per pupil in schools.
DHA alone accounted for about 20 percent of the differences in test scores among countries, the researchers found.
On the other hand, the amount of omega-6 fat in mother’s milk — fats that come from vegetable oils such as corn and soybean — predict lower test scores. When the amount of DHA and linoleic acid (LA) — the most common omega-6 fat — were considered together, they explained nearly half of the differences in test scores. In countries where mother’s diets contain more omega-6, the beneficial effects of DHA seem to be reduced.
“Human intelligence has a physical basis in the huge size of our brains — some seven times larger than would be expected for a mammal with our body size,” said Steven Gaulin, UCSB professor of anthropology and co-author of the paper. “Since there is never a free lunch, those big brains need lots of extra building materials — most importantly, they need omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA. Omega-6 fats, however, undermine the effects of DHA and seem to be bad for brains.”
‘Health halo’ around popular drinks obscures risks to children.
A new report by UC Berkeley researchers questions the health claims of popular energy, sports, tea and fruit drinks on the market.
In a report released today (Aug. 6), the authors evaluated 21 popular drinks with health claims — from immune boosters to energy enhancers — on their labels and in their marketing materials.
“We often see labels on energy and sports drinks that tout health benefits, but the sugar levels in these products rival that of sodas,” said lead author Patricia Crawford, director of the Atkins Center for Weight and Health and UC Berkeley adjunct professor of nutritional sciences and toxicology. “They are essentially sodas without the carbonation, but they give the misleading impression that they are healthy.”
The report, “Looking Beyond the Marketing Claims of New Beverages,” was commissioned by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. Click here to access the full report, fact sheets and press release.
German and his team have spent 10 years decoding the mechanisms of human breast milk. Their discoveries are surprising and significant, and could lead to supplements that boost immunity for cancer patients, the elderly and children in the developing world — and enhance health for us all.
Nobel laureate joins board aimed at increasing scientific and technological research.
Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner, who discovered an unprecedented class of pathogens that he named prions, has been appointed to the board of directors for a newly created federal organization called the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research.
Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner, M.D., professor in the UCSF Department of Neurology and director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, has been appointed to a 15-member board of directors for a newly created federal foundation, aimed to leverage public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships. The goal of the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR) is to boost America’s agricultural economy. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement about the creation of FFAR and its board on July 23.
Authorized by Congress as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the foundation will operate as a nonprofit corporation seeking and accepting private donations in order to fund research activities that focus on problems of national and international significance. Congress also provided $200 million for the foundation which must be matched by non-federal funds as the Foundation identifies and approves projects.
“Studies have shown that every dollar invested in agricultural research creates $20 in economic activity,” said Vilsack. “Investments in innovation made over the past several decades have developed new products and new procedures that have been critical to the continued growth of American agriculture. We must continue to make strategic investments in research and technology if we are to remain leaders in the global economy.”
UC system united in effort to help put world on path to sustainably, nutritiously feed itself.
UC President Janet Napolitano plants oregano with Matt Orke in the student-run community garden at UCLA. (Photo by Reed Hutchinson, UCLA)
By Alec Rosenberg
University of California President Janet Napolitano and chancellors from all 10 campuses are joining forces on an audacious and far-reaching goal: harnessing the collective power of UC to help put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself.
President Napolitano unveiled the UC Global Food Initiative today (July 1) over the course of three events, starting at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, followed by a presentation to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture in Sacramento, and finally at the UCLA community garden in the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center.
The initiative brings together the university’s research, outreach and campus operations in an effort to develop and export solutions throughout California, the United States and the world for food security, health and sustainability, Napolitano said during the morning briefing.
“It is a commitment to apply a laser focus on what UC can do as a public research university — in one of the most robust agricultural regions in the world — to take on one of the world’s most pressing issues,” Napolitano said.
The Edible Schoolyard is a 1-acre garden and kitchen classroom at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, founded by Chez Panisse chef and owner Alice Waters. It has become a model for teaching children how to grow and eat a healthy, sustainable diet. It features vegetables, herbs, vines, berries, flowers, fruit trees and chickens.
UC President Janet Napolitano (right) tours the Edible Schoolyard at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School with founder and restaurateur Alice Waters. (Photo by Robert Durell)
Waters gave Napolitano a tour of the garden and then at a press conference gave her a basket of eggs from the garden’s chickens, quipping that she was “putting all her eggs” in Napolitano’s basket.
“I’m extremely excited and very hopeful because I know that she believes as I do that public education is the best way to solve the problems of the world,” said Waters, a UC Berkeley alumna.
Vision and leadership
Napolitano received an equally warm reception from state agricultural leaders.
“There is no better time to launch this initiative than today,” said board President Craig McNamara. “Count on us at the State Board of Food and Agriculture. We are your partners.”
The initiative will harness UC’s leadership in the fields of agriculture, medicine, nutrition, climate science, public policy, social science, biological science, humanities, arts and law, among others.
It comes at a crucial time, Napolitano said. A billion people — most of them in the developing world — suffer from chronic hunger or serious nutritional deficiencies. More than half a billion — primarily in the industrialized nations of the world — are obese. Against this backdrop, climate change and population growth fuel additional uncertainty and urgency about how to sustainably feed the world.
“This initiative shows great vision and leadership from President Napolitano and the University of California,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “Climate change and population growth will greatly strain our ability to provide healthy food to people here and around the world.
“President Napolitano’s proposal to leverage the strategic assets of the entire UC organization makes it a valuable partner in addressing the significant challenges and opportunities for our production agriculture and food system.”
Napolitano said that she and campus chancellors decided to launch the Global Food Initiative after recognizing that the university system is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in addressing the related challenges of nutrition and sustainability.
Playing to strengths
Henry Brady, dean of UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, was among a half dozen UC leaders and members of the university’s Food Initiative Working Group to join Napolitano at the Edible Schoolyard. Also in attendance were UC Santa Cruz professor Daniel Press, executive director of the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at that campus, and Ann Thrupp, executive director of the Berkeley Food Institute at UC Berkeley.
Brady said that the initiative’s strength comes from the depth of work and research across the 10-campus system. Each location brings its own area of expertise, he noted.
“We at the Berkeley Food Institute are trying to see how we can transform the food system to be more sustainable and we want to do it through good science, good policy, good thinking,” Brady said.
Press echoed Napolitano’s sentiment that UC’s involvement comes at a crucial moment.
He said that UC Santa Cruz had long been the “mothership” of organic agriculture in California and the U.S.
“We feel a lot of what people are talking about with sustainable agriculture and justice in the food system — these are things we’ve been working on for 40 years,” Press said. “Now the world is much more receptive.”
Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis, talks with reporters in Sacramento. (Photo by Robert Durell)
Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis, who joined Napolitano at the meeting with the state board, said that people at UC Davis are particularly excited about the initiative because it aligns so well with work already under way at the campus.
UC Davis last year launched the World Food Center to focus on transformative research at the intersection of food, agriculture, health and public policy.
“We’re already the No.1 agricultural school in the nation and the world,” Dillard said. “Having the UC system focusing on this really plays to our strengths.”
At UCLA, Napolitano was joined by UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh; Wendy Slusser, associate vice provost for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative; students who manage the garden; and Los Angeles and Riverside school district officials.
UCLA’s initiative is an integrated effort aimed at making the campus the healthiest university in the country, promoting health and wellness of students, faculty and staff, and helping other communities achieve the same objectives. The Healthy Campus Initiative was envisioned and supported by philanthropists Jane and Terry Semel. Jane Semel was present for the announcement.
Napolitano toured the garden with members of the student group DigUCLA. She also planted an oregano plant and learned about gardening basics from the students.
Slusser said that she was excited to learn that the Healthy Campus Initiative served as a starting point for what has grown into a larger and stronger UC-wide effort. “On a personal note, the initiative is bringing me back to my roots since food has been the driving force in my medical and academic career, and also my father is a fourth-generation California rancher. So thank you, President Napolitano, and thank you to all our UCLA and community partners for working so hard in making us stronger together to promote health, wellness and happiness through food.”
UC is California’s land-grant university and has played a key part in helping California become the nation’s leading agricultural state. UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources has experts in every county in California, helping farmers, ranchers and others cope with tough issues like drought.
But UC’s leadership goes beyond agriculture. Students, faculty and staff have turned UC’s campuses into living laboratories for sustainable food practices. UC also is on the frontlines of addressing issues of food inequality and health, from developing flood- and drought-resistant crops to developing a highly efficient cookstove that addresses food security issues posed by displaced persons in Darfur.
Napolitano noted that the Berkeley Food Institute is studying the relationship between pest control, conservation and food safety on Central Coast farms; the World Food Center at UC Davis stands with 26 other centers dedicated to food and agriculture on that campus; students and faculty at UC Santa Cruz are transforming the field of agroecology; and the cutting-edge Healthy Campus initiative at UCLA taps all members of the campus community.
“We do much,” Napolitano said, “but, together, we can do more.”
Examples of projects that will be undertaken in the first phase of the UC Global Food Initiative include:
Expanding experiential learning, including demonstration gardens;
Creating a course catalogue of all food-related courses available on UC campuses;
Leveraging food purchasing power to encourage sustainable farming practices to serve nutritious fare in dining halls and cafeterias;
Data mining of existing information to help develop insights and action plans for agriculture and responses to climate change;
Organizing food pantries, so that food reaches hungry mouths instead of going to waste; and
Developing policies to better enable small growers to become suppliers.
Supporting student involvement
To support student engagement, Napolitano also announced the creation of the President’s Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Program. The Office of the President will provide $7,500 to each UC campus to be used for three fellowships of $2,500 each. At the campuses’ discretion, these fellowships will go to undergraduates or graduate students, to fund student-generated research, related projects or internships that focus on food issues.
Keith Gilless, dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources, said he was excited to see the system collaborate on such an important goal.
“I’ve been working my whole career to see how does the UC system as a whole come together so the sum is greater than its parts,” Gilless said. “The time is right to mobilize the university’s resources both to advance science and practices and to raise public consciousness about food issues broadly.”
Many students didn’t even eat a bite of new, healthier items added to school lunch menus.
Cajoling, pleading, even blackmail — just a few of the tactics parents have used when their children refuse to eat vegetables they haven’t tried before. Now it appears that the nation’s second largest school district is facing the same problem.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, which serves more than 650,000 meals each day, has become a national leader in offering healthy foods to its students. In September 2011, LAUSD launched a new lunch menu that features a variety of more wholesome food items, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, vegetarian items and a range of healthy ethnic foods.
Two months after the new menu was introduced, researchers from UCLA and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health wanted to understand how students were responding to the new offerings. Their research, conducted at four Los Angeles schools, found that many children didn’t eat even a bite of the new, healthier items.
William McCarthy, a professor of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and colleagues, measured the quantities of food left unselected in cafeteria food lines and the amount of food left over on students’ lunch trays. Almost 32 percent of students in the cafeteria lines did not select fruit, and almost 40 percent did not select vegetables. Among those who did select a fruit or vegetable, 22 percent threw away the fruit and 31 percent tossed vegetable items, without eating a single bite. Boys consistently threw away more fruit and vegetables away without tasting them than did girls.
The results appear in the current online edition of the journal Preventive Medicine.
“Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables every day is essential for optimal health, and implementing changes to school menus, as has been done by the LAUSD, is an important first step to increasing students’ repertoire of acceptable fruits and vegetables,” said McCarthy, the study’s co-senior author. “But increasing students’ consumption of fruits and vegetables is clearly a challenging task. Given the rising rates of obesity among children in this country, getting students to expand their range of acceptable fruits and vegetables is an important goal.”