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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program
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Read the story about this program in the August 2007 issue of Agricultural Research

The National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program (NFNAP) is a research program that is achieving long-sought improvements in the nutrient values in the National Nutrient Databank System (NDBS).  The project, directed by the Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL), Agricultural Research Service, USDA, was initiated in 1997 and recently renewed in collaboration with the NIH National Cancer Institute and the Office of Dietary Supplements, and other supporting NIH Offices, Institutes and FDA.  The primary outcome of the program will be a body of nutrient data with unprecedented analytical quality.  Research activities comprise five linked components, or Specific Aims:

    1. Institute a monitoring program for Key Foods and critical nutrients
      Key Foods are those frequently consumed foods and ingredients, which contributed, collectively, more than 75% of the intake of any specific nutrient for the U.S. population.  To date, approximately 1,400 foods have been sampled and analyzed.  The values generated provided a new baseline for nutrient composition of foods.  However, highly consumed foods, which include agricultural commodities as well as complex, processed or formulated foods, change rapidly in response to changes in consumer preferences, nutrition and fortification policy, food technology, and food source.  A monitoring program will be developed to determine and implement methodology for identifying and updating estimates for specific foods and their food components.  Nutrients identified by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee as "shortfall" (e.g., Vitamin D) and "excess intake" nutrients (e.g., trans fatty acids) continue to be targeted.
    2. Conduct a comprehensive analysis of selected Key Foods
      This principal aim will concentrate on those Key Foods, which were not previously examined.  These include selected poultry products, restaurant foods and items on FDA’s list of the most commonly consumed fruits, vegetables and seafood for nutrition labeling. 
    3. Develop databases for high priority foods consumed by U.S. ethnic subpopulations
      Latinos are one of the fastest growing minority groups.  Accordingly it is targeted first for the development of a specialized database.  Latinos living in the United States represent a diverse group of countries and locations (Mexico, Cuba, Caribbean islands, Central and South America, Puerto Rico), with a concomitant variety of foods.  Some of the foods to be sampled include prepared foods, unique ingredients, and sweets and beverages. This research will parallel the methods used for the development of the American Indians/Alaska Native Foods Database.  Other potential areas of interest are foods consumed by African-Americans, children and the elderly. 
    4. Develop and expand databases for selected bioactive components
      Selected bioactive components are of increased interest to the scientific community due to their potential role in diet and health.  Initial efforts will focus on the following components:
      1. Vitamin D - To meet rising scientific interest, NDL is collaborating with partners in government, industry and academia to update the database on vitamin D in foods.  The foods chosen to be sampled nationwide and analyzed for vitamin D content are: fortified orange juice, fluid milk, yogurt, sliced cheese and breakfast cereals and seafood.   Existing analytical methodology for vitamin D has been extensively tested and modifications made, when necessary, to achieve accurate results and consistency between analytical laboratories.  Quality control materials similar in food type and concentration to food samples have been prepared and characterized.  Vitamin D will be disseminated in the database as micrograms of vitamin D3, and/or vitamin D2, and as IUs of total vitamin D. 
      2. Trans fatty acids – With the mandatory labeling of trans fatty acids as of January 2006, many manufacturers have reformulated their products.  NDL will monitor the trans fatty acid content of those foods that have contained significant amounts and revise the values as needed.  These foods include margarine-like spreads, shortening, cookies and crackers, chips and snacks.
    5. Develop a validated database for ingredients in dietary supplements
      NDL, in cooperation with the Office of Dietary Supplements, is developing the Dietary Supplement Ingredient Database by: A) developing sampling plans to collect representative samples of dietary supplements for specific product categories; B) validating analytical methodology and optimizing programs for laboratory analysis of dietary supplement products; C) sampling and analyzing selected products; D) compiling and distributing supplement data to the scientific community and to the public; and E) developing and implementing a monitoring plan for database updates.

Approximately 1,400 items, representing nearly 60,000 nutrient values, in the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR) have been either added or updated, using NFNAP generated data.  NDL was able to add data on individual carotenoids, vitamin K, α-tocopherol and individual fatty acids, including trans and omega-3 fatty acids to SR.  Special interest databases on choline and proanthocyanidins were released.  Release 2 of the databases on fluoride and flavonoids were posted on the NDL web site in December 2005 and January 2007, respectively.

Better estimates of the mean nutrient content of foods and variance indicators will permit more accurate assessment of nutrient intake by individuals.   This will improve the ability to detect etiologic relationships, delineate biologic mechanisms, assess time trends in nutrient intake, and define populations at nutritional risk. 


Last Modified: 6/1/2012
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