Health and Fitness

Fighting World Hunger By Mapping The Soybean Genome

In 2009, soybeans represented an almost $30 billion industry in the U.S. alone, making soybeans the second-most profitable crop next to corn. Worldwide, soybeans have been used in human foods and livestock feed for centuries and have been a key component in industrial products, such as plastics and soy biodiesel, an environmentally friendly fuel. A team of researchers, including University of Missouri researchers, recently completed a study identifying 1.1 million base pairs of DNA in the soybean genome, including more than 90 distinct traits that affect plant development, productive characteristics, disease resistance, seed quality and nutrition, which could lead to extensive crop improvements. "The genome sequence will be a new tool for plant breeders, industrial engineers, geneticists, biochemists, technologists, nutritionists and anyone else who uses soybeans worldwide, " said Henry Nguyen (pronounced "wynn"), director of the National Center for Soybean Biotechnology at the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Benefits Outweigh Risks Associated With Newborn Screening For Metabolic Disorder

Newborn screening for a metabolic disorder could lead to false positives -- adding stress to parents, costing money and possibly subjecting a baby to unnecessary follow-up treatment and dietary restrictions. But the benefits of diagnosing these children early and preventing the risk of mental retardation, disability or death outweigh the costs of a false positive, according to new U-M research published in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics. "Published studies of expanded newborn screening in a U.S. setting have resulted in favorable cost-effective ratios for screening for this illness but did not include primary data for quality of life effects for a false positive screen, " says Lisa Prosser, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor in the Division of General Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Health System and the study's lead author. "Our results show that newborn screening remains cost-effective after accounting for the measured loss in quality of life associated with a false positive screen.

Consumption Of Whole Grain Falls Short Of Guidelines

Three daily servings of whole grains are recommended for prevention of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and excess weight gain. Yet few adolescents or young adults follow these guidelines, according to national survey data. In a study published in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers from the School of Public Health, University of Minnesota report that young people are consuming less than 1 serving of whole grains per day. The study took an in-depth look at influencers, modifiable factors, and interventions that are critical for successfully addressing this gap. Using the results of Project EAT (Eating Among Teens)-II, researchers analyzed the consumption of whole grains by 792 adolescents and 1, 686 young adults between the ages of 15 and 23. There were 1, 110 males (44.8%) and 1, 368 females (55.2%) in the sample. Demographic characteristics were also collected to identify factors associated with daily intake of whole grains.

USDA Grant To Create Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development Center In Arkansas

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is awarding $900, 000 to the Wallace Center at Winrock International, Little Rock, Ark., to run the Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development (HUFED) Center. This center will work to increase access to healthy, affordable foods, including locally produced agricultural products to underserved communities. "This ambitious effort will create a national center to help establish local and regional food systems and get healthy food into low-income communities, which are important components of USDA's 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative, " said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Congress created the HUFED Center in the 2008 Farm Bill. The center is designed to respond to the need to redevelop a food enterprise structure in the United States to make more healthy, affordable food available in low-income areas; to improve access for small and mid-sized agricultural producers;

The Season Affects Multiple Sclerosis Risk

Previous studies have shown multiple sclerosis (MS) patients are more often born in spring than in any other season, indicating that there is an environmental risk factor for the disease. A paper in the journal Neurology, reviewed for f1000 Medicine by Emmanuelle Waubant and Ellen Mowry, now suggests that this seasonal effect is mediated by the gene HLA-DRB1. In many European populations, the HLA-DRB1*15 allele of this gene is associated with an increased risk of MS, and the large-scale study of MS patients from Canada, Sweden and Norway now shows that this allele is more common among patients born in the spring. Waubant and Mowry said the study was "unique in its attempt to understand how genes and environment interact in MS". However, even though there is a correlation between birth month, genetics and risk of MS, it is not yet clear how this is regulated. One likely contender is vitamin D, which influences expression of the HLA-DRB1*15 allele. Since vitamin D production fluctuates with the seasons, a vitamin D deficit in pregnant mothers could be related to the increased risk of MS among spring births, but this requires further investigation.

More Boys Than Girls Among Undernourished Cameroon Teens

There are major differences in how well nourished Cameroonian teenagers are. Differences between city/countryside, boys/girls, and among individuals with high and low socio-economic status are described by Leonie Nzefa Dapi in the dissertation she is defending at Umea University in Sweden. Cameroon's population are changing their eating habits. Instead of traditional diets they are consuming more and more processed, sweet, and fat foods. The rapid shift in dietary habits is taking place at the same time as people are getting less and less physically active. This has resulted in a rather high incidence of overweight individuals, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and type-2 diabetes. Nutrition is important during the adolescence period for growth, health, cognitive development, and school achievement. The aim of the dissertation is to estimate boys and girls dietary intake, body measurements, and physical activity in various social groups and to study how teenagers, in cities and in the countryside, perceive food.

SNA Applauds President Obama's Proposed 1 Billion Increase For Child Nutrition Programs

Following the release of President Barack Obama's Fiscal Year 2011 budget, which incldes a $1 billion increase for child nutrition programs, the School Nutrition Association (SNA) applauded the President and First Lady Michelle Obama for their commitment to strengthening the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. President Obama's budget increase for school meals and First Lady Michelle Obama's new childhood obesity initiative highlight the importance of school nutrition issues just as Congress prepares to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act. "The President and First Lady recognize how crucial school meals are to the health and academic success of America's children, and school foodservice professionals commend the Administration's commitment to strengthening under-funded school nutrition programs, " said School Nutrition Association President Dora Rivas, MS, RD, SNS, and executive director of Food and Child Nutrition Services for the Dallas Independent School District in Texas.

More Details On Obama's Global Health Strategy Expected Along With Budget Release, Wall Street Journal Reports

"The Obama administration is expected to propose in its fiscal 2011 budget Monday new funding to combat preventable and tropical diseases, malnutrition and other conditions afflicting the world's poor, as part of a strategy to broaden its approach to global health, " the Wall Street Journal reports. "The new policy, details of which the administration plans to release along with the budget, retains HIV/AIDS as the administration's top funding priority, but will devote new funding to reducing deaths from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, poor nutrition and common treatable illnesses that kill millions every year, particularly women and children, according to people familiar with the new plan, " the newspaper writes. The strategy will also focus on working with individual countries on strengthening their health systems. "The details of the new plan will fill in a pledge by President Barack Obama in May to request $63 billion between 2009 and 2014, including $51 billion to combat HIV/AIDS, [ tuberculosis ] and malaria, and $12 billion for other priorities, including maternal and child health, " the newpaper writes.

Study Recommends Better Handling Of Milk In Restaurants

One-third of samples of milk and dairy products analysed in various restaurants exceed the microbe contamination limits set by the European Union, according to a study carried out by researchers from the University of Valencia (UV). The experts advise against keeping milk in jugs and suggest that these foodstuffs need to be better handled. "Out of all the dairy products we analysed, 35% of the samples exceeded the maximum contamination levels established by EU law for enterobacteriaceae, and 31% exceeded the limits set for mesophilic aerobic microorganisms (which grow at an optimum temperature of between 30 and 45В C)", Isabel Sospedra, a researcher at the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health of the UV and one of the authors of the study, tells SINC. The scientists examined 265 batches of milk and ready-to-use milk derivatives in a range of bars and restaurants in Valencia, and checked whether their microbial quality fell into line with European Union regulations.

West Africa's Sahel Belt Could Face Famine In 2010

The European Commission's humanitarian aid department warned Thursday that West Africa's Sahel belt could face famine this year, with millions potentially affected, Reuters reports (John, 1/29). "We are already into what looks like a period of extreme vulnerability and extreme difficulty for the most disadvantaged of the population, " according to Brian O'Neill, regional sector head of European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), Agence France-Presse writes. He said, "erratic rains in the 2009/2010 agricultural season have resulted in an enormous deficit in food production" in countries such as Niger, Chad, northern Burkina Faso and northern Nigeria. "If we work fast enough, early enough, it won't be a famine. If we don't there is a strong risk" (1/28). According to O'Neill, an estimated $220 million is required to avert a crisis in Niger alone. He "acknowledged that donors could struggle to raise money after digging into reserves for the Haiti earthquake aid effort, " Reuters writes.

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