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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Food & Nutrition Research Briefs, January 2006

Table place setting with apple. Title: Food and Nutrition Research Briefs. Link to FNRB home page

January 2006


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Contents

Local Fall and Winter Strawberries? For Mid-Atlantic States, Yes!

Compounds Counteract Campylobacter in Chickens

Peanut-Allergy-Fighter: Apple Protein!

Cows' Ability To Break Down Perchlorate Documented

New Way To Fight Cancer: Let Broccoli Go to Seed?

From Milk: An Edible, Water-Resistant Coating

Estrogen and Exercise: Similar Aids to Leanness

Trackable Kale Carotenoids Yield Clues to Their Destiny

Savvy Site for Healthier School Meals

Pumpkin's Carotenoid Cornucopia Scrutinized


Photo: Horticultrist Fumiomi Takeda checks hydroponic strawberries. Link to photo information
Horticulturist Fumiomi Takeda, show here in earlier experiments with hydroponically grown strawberries, has developed strawberry plants for the Mid-Atlantic states that will bear delicious fruit not only in spring but also in late fall and early winter.

Local Fall and Winter Strawberries? For Mid-Atlantic States, Yes!

Strawberry lovers in mid-Atlantic states may soon be able to buy baskets of freshly harvested, locally grown fruit well into December. That's thanks to an Agricultural Research Service scientist's success in developing a new method that coaxes June-bearing plants to produce sweet, delicious berries not just in spring, but in fall through early winter, as well.

The approach requires harvesting small plants called "runner tips" from mother plants in early July, putting them into small containers, misting them with water so they will root, then transplanting them to berry fields in early September, when they are eight-week-old transplants. An article scheduled for the April 2006 issue of HortScience has more details.

For details, contact: Fumiomi Takeda, (304) 725-3451, ext. 212; USDA-ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station, Kearneysville, W.Va.

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Peanut-Allergy-Fighter: Apple Protein!

Photo: Peanuts. Link to photo information
More than a million Americans suffer from peanut allergies, but ARS researchers are working to reduce the allergenicity. The U.S. produces about 3 to 4 billion pounds of peanuts annually; 40 percent goes into processed foods.

Apples may hold the key to reducing the allergenicity of peanuts--great news for the estimated 1.5 million Americans and other folks worldwide who suffer from peanut allergies.

Agricultural Research Service scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans, La., discovered that adding a natural compound from apples--polyphenol oxidase, or PPO--to extracts from chopped-up peanuts alters the allergenic properties of some peanut proteins.

Plans call for lab-animal studies to confirm the apple protein's allergen-fighting actions. Other tests will determine PPO's effects on peanut flavor and shelf life (Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, volume 85, pages 2631 to 2637). The scientists caution that simply eating apples won't control peanut allergens.

For details, contact: Si-Yin Chung, (504) 256-2077; USDA-ARS Southern Regional Research Center, c/o Arkansas Children's Nutrition Research Center, Little Rock, Ark.

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Photo: Research associate and geneticist plant a broccoli crop. Link to photo information
Research associate Anna Hale and geneticist Mark Farnham plant a broccoli crop.

New Way To Fight Cancer: Let Broccoli Go to Seed?

Broccoli seeds may become an economical source of a cancer-fighting compound known as glucoraphanin. Extracting glucoraphanin from the seed--for pharmaceutical purposes–would be easier, and less expensive, than using broccoli heads.

Scientists at ARS' U.S. Vegetable Laboratory, Charleston, S.C., intend to breed broccoli plants that are prolific producers of seed rich in the compound (HortScience, volume 40, pages 50 to 53).

Already, the researchers have produced relatively high-glucoraphanin broccoli plants, some of which form seed without the help of insect pollinators.

For details, contact: Mark W. Farnham, (843) 402-5300, ext. 5327; USDA-ARS U.S. Vegetable Laboratory, Charleston, S.C.

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Estrogen and Exercise: Similar Aids to Leanness

Smiling older woman, towel around neck, who has just finished her swimming workout.
Estrogen and exercise help the body use fat in similar ways.

Estrogen, a hormone in both males and females, works in ways similar to exercise to help the body use fat, a 40-day study with laboratory mice indicates.

Agricultural Research Service-funded scientists at ARS' Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Boston, Mass., found that estrogen replacement in the mice reduced lipids, or fats, by breaking down stored fat; inhibiting fat storage in liver, muscle and fat tissue; and activating pathways that promote fat-burning in muscles (Journal of Biological Chemistry, volume 28, pages 35983 to 35991).

When estrogen was present in liver, muscle and fat cells, expression of genes that promote fat-burning in muscles was increased.

For details, contact: Andrew S. Greenberg, (617) 556-3144; ARS Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, Mass.

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Savvy Site for Healthier School Meals

Photo: Dietitians explain nutritional information to visiting students. Link to photo information.
Dietitians Desiré Stapley (left) and Corey Scarpero use educational materials to explain nutritional information to students.

Chefs in some parts of the United States visit school cafeterias to give food service pros some ideas for adding pizzaz--and more nutritional value--to kids' meals. A list of these culinary wizards is among the hundreds of resources available through the "Healthy School Meals Resource System."

Nutrition experts with the Agricultural Research Service's National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, Md., manage the system's comprehensive, easy-to-use website. Authoritative books, videotapes, CD-ROMs, reports and studies listed there are available for either downloading or borrowing from a library through interlibrary loan.

Principals, school nurses, school food service professionals, teachers, librarians and others should find the site invaluable, especially those who are developing the "wellness standards" newly required for the nearly 100,000 schools participating in the USDA School Lunch Program.

For details, contact: Desiré Stapley, (301) 504-6366; USDA-ARS National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, Md.

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Photo: Two chickens. Link to photo information
Bacteriocins, proteins, produced by bacteria, might be used to combat Campylobacter in chickens.

Compounds Counteract Campylobacter in Chickens

Proteins called bacteriocins, produced by bacteria, can reduce Campylobacter to very low levels in chicken intestines, possibly helping to lessen our exposure to this foodborne pathogen.

In a chicken, the bacteriocins produced by Bacillus circulans or Paenibacillus polymyxa, for example, kill a significant amount of Campylobacter in the bird's gut (Journal of Food Protection, volume 68, pages 1450 to 1453).

ARS scientists at the Richard B. Russell Research Center in Athens, Ga., and colleagues from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere, have expanded upon these discoveries by boosting production of bacteriocins. The experiments yielded quantities suitable for commercial testing as potential replacements for certain antibiotics.

For details, contact: Norman J. Stern, (706) 546-3516; USDA-ARS Richard B. Russell Research Center, Athens, Ga.

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Cows' Ability To Break Down Perchlorate Documented

Photo: Dairy cow. Link to photo information
Dairy cow in pasture.

Dairy cows can break down up to 80 percent of perchlorate that they ingest, according to new research about this chemical (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, volume 102, pages 16152 to 16157). The findings suggest that this natural "filtering" process may occur in the rumen, the second of four compartments in a cow's complex stomach.

Perchlorate--which exists naturally in the environment--has shown up at very low levels in some milk. In this research, levels in the milk of cows given various doses of the compound increased slightly as the dosage increased. But the levels did not rise in direct proportion to the increased dosage, according to the ARS scientists at Beltsville, Md., who performed the study.

Work by others has already shown that perchlorate does not accumulate in bovine tissue.

For details, contact: Anthony V. Capuco, (301) 504-8672; USDA-ARS Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, Md.

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From Milk: An Edible, Water-Resistant Coating

Photo: Cheeses. Link to photo information
An edible, water-resistant film made with an ARS process might be used to enhance the quality and shelf-life of cheese and other foods.


Cheese and other dairy-case foods might someday be coated with a thin, flexible film made from casein, a milk protein. The coating--edible and water-resistant--could comprise part of the wrapper for cheese or the lining of cottage cheese or yogurt containers, for instance. That could enhance the quality of these foods and extend their shelf life.

What's more, flavorings, vitamins or minerals could easily be added to the coating to increase flavor and nutritional value. That's according to scientists at ARS' Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa., who developed the film and are seeking a patent for the process to make sheets or rolls of it (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, volume 52, page 1190 to 1195).

For details, contact: Peggy M. Tomasula, (215) 233-6703; USDA-ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, Pa.

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Trackable Kale Carotenoids Yield Clues to Their Destiny

Photo: Two bunches of kale.
Scientists introduced safe, stable isotopes to tag the beta-carotene and lutein in kale for a nutrition study of these carotenoids. Photo courtersy Pioneer Valley Growers Association, South Deerfield, Mass.

Exactly how our bodies use beta-carotene and other carotenoids may now be easier to determine, thanks to a pioneering method developed by ARS researchers at the Beltsville (Md.) Human Nutrition Research Center. Scientists used their technique to introduce safe, trackable stable isotopes to two kinds of carotenoids in green, leafy kale plants grown for the research.

Both carotenoids act as antioxidants, protecting cells and tissues from damage caused by naturally occurring molecules called oxygen free radicals.

A preliminary study with seven adult volunteers who ate the specially-tagged kale revealed that absorption, in the intestine, of beta-carotene is related to absorption of lutein, and that the intestine is better at absorbing lutein than beta-carotene (Journal of Lipid Research, volume 46, pages 1896 to 1903).

In addition, the research is revealing more clues about how our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A.

For details, contact: Beverly A. Clevidence, (301) 504--8367; USDA-ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Beltsville, Md.

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Photo: Pumpkin pie. Link to photo information
Pumpkin pie is loaded with a healthful phytonutrient called beta-carotene.


Pumpkin's Carotenoid Cornucopia Scrutinized

Pumpkin for making into a delicious pie or hearty soup, for instance, is rich in healthful beta-carotene. Now food processors and plant breeders can benefit from a new technique to accurately determine the amount of beneficial carotenoids in pumpkins--and other squashes (Journal of Chromatography A, volume 1073, pages 371 to 375).

The simple and environmentally friendly carotenoid assay relies on two well-established techniques--supercritical fluid extraction and reversed-phase liquid chromatography--to provide rapid, reliable and reproducible results.

Scientists at the ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center, Davis, Calif., developed the test.

For details, contact: Betty J. Burri, (530) 752-4748; USDA-ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center, Davis, Calif.

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Last Modified: 2/14/2007
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