Nutrition Info While On the Go
Using a personal digital
assistant, Vincent de Jesus,
a nutritionist with the
ARS Nutrient Data Laboratory
in Beltsville, Maryland,
tests the new nutrient
database program under
Picture, for example, a female health enthusiast cruising a grocery
store's seafood counter. She wants to make sure she gets her recommended
dietary allowance of protein. She whips out her personal digital assistant,
or PDA, and up comes a searchable version of USDA's flagship nutrient
database of more than 6,000 food items.
Our health enthusiast wants to see how much protein she'll get out
of that tuna steak she's been eyeing. So she pulls out her stylus, skips
the "Browse by Food Groups" option, and uses the search feature
to go straight to "tuna." Hmmm, a 3-ounce portion of cooked
tuna steak has 25 grams of protein. With that choice, our 135-pound
enthusiast will get half her recommended daily intake of dietary protein
in one sitting. Not bad.
The new, portable version of USDA's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference is now available for download free of charge onto hand-held PDAs running the Palm operating system (Palm OS) by going to www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp. The download takes about 30 seconds and requires about 2 megabytes of available memory on PDAs.
Using a personal digital
assistant, Vincent de Jesus,
a nutritionist with the ARS
Nutrient Data Laboratory in
Beltsville, Maryland, uses
the portable database to find
the nutrient content of bell
ARS and HealtheTech, Inc., of
Golden, Colorado, worked together to provide the service through a cooperative
research and development agreement (CRADA). ARS has entered into more
than 1,000 CRADAs since federal technology transfer legislation was
enacted in 1986. That legislation helps the federal government's research
findings reach and benefit U.S. consumers and industry.
The PDA application was developed by scientists at ARS' Nutrient Data
Laboratorypart of the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center,
located in Beltsville, Marylandand HealtheTech, which develops
and markets medical devices and software that measure and monitor important
The unique product blends a custom-made searchable software application with the nutrient database. "Consumers, health professionals, and educators seeking user-friendly nutrient data will no longer be limited to using the USDA's premier nutrient database only while online," says Phyllis E. Johnson, director of ARS' Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.
Assembled by food groupings, the database allows users to search by
food name or browse a given category by scrolling through foods listed
alphabetically. Has the dietitian suggested you eat more high-calcium
foods? Try scrolling through the "Dairy and Egg" food group
and point to options that look appealing. Within seconds, the nutrient
report with a calcium quantity in milligrams appears to hone your healthy
choice. Did your doctor say you're not getting enough potassium? Try
the "Fruits and Fruit Juices" group as well as the "Vegetables
and Vegetable Products" group.
Another friendly option of the program is the "Portion Modifier."
If the portion size listed isn't what you plan on eating, you can adjust
it up or down. The modified portion's nutrient content pops up to help
you make a final decision.
The system provides information on about 30 nutrients for each food
listed. This user-friendly searchable software application will soon
be available for download onto personal computers, as well.By
Rosalie Marion Bliss,
Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
This research is part of Human Nutrition, an ARS National Program
(#107) described on the World Wide Web at www.nps.ars.usda.gov.
Rena Cutrufelli and Vincent de Jesus are with the USDA-ARS Nutrient Data Laboratory, 10300 Baltimore Ave., Bldg. 005, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350; phone (301) 504-0693 [Cutrufelli], (301) 504-0691 [de Jesus], fax (301) 504-0692.
Nutrient-Database Upgrades Coming Soon
The Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL)part of ARS' Beltsville (Maryland)
Human Nutrition Research Centerprovides the USDA National Nutrient
Database for Standard Reference (SR) for public use. The database lists
up to 117 nutrients for 6,220 food items and has been hailed by users
as the major authoritative source of food composition in the United
While the PDA version may be the best thing since sliced bread for
hand-held-computer techies, other upgrades soon to come will appeal
equally to educators, consumers, and health professionals.
Those who continue to use the original version of SR via the Internet
will find new search capabilities added to enhance their on-line experience.
After keying in a food term, the user will not only trigger a listing
of every item in the database containing that food term, but also a
listing of which food groups contain that term. Users who want to narrow
their search further can re-search within the food groups presented.
For example, a user searching for carrots may want to pursue carrots
only in the "Baby Foods" group, bypassing the "Meals,
Entrees, and Side Dishes" group.
Also new to the on-line version will be a "Portion Modifier"
option. After clicking on "Carrots, raw," you'll be able to
choose from a variety of standard portion sizes. But if you'd prefer
to increase or decrease those portionsessentially customizing
your measurea box will allow you to do just that. Also new, the
Boolean search term "not" will be added, allowing users to
exclude unwanted foods, for example, "Carrots, not raw."
The new "Ground Beef Module" will be exclusive to the on-line
version and allows users to trigger data to match specific lean-to-fat
percentages offered regionally. While ground-beef data appears for five
standard lean-to-fat ratios, ranging from 95 percent lean/5 percent
fat to 75 percent lean/25 percent fat, local butchers could offer different
ratios. With the "Ground Beef Module," the user can choose
the percentage of lean meat content versus fat content, for example,
92 percent lean/8 percent fat, and nutrient data will be provided accordingly.
The upgrades will soon be available at www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp.
Lastly, a new PC-download version will also launch soon. The NDL, working with HealtheTech, Inc., of Golden, Colorado, through a cooperative research and development agreement, has enabled users to download a searchable version to their PC hard drives for their own use free of charge. The application runs on Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows 98, or Windows ME. After the download is complete, Internet connectivity will no longer be required. This version will include the portion-size modifier and the Boolean "not" capability described above as well as the option to search the entire database at once or, more narrowly, by food group(s) alone. The PC-download version will also be available at the web address provided above.By Rosalie Marion Bliss, ARS.
"Nutrition Info While On the Go" was published in the March 2003 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.