Surfing for Folate, Selenium and Other NutrientsBy
Want to know how much folate (folic acid) you're getting from foods, now
that millers and bakers are fortifying breads, flour, cornmeal, rice, pasta and
other enriched grain products with the vitamin?
Just take the World Wide Web to the home page of the
Agricultural Research Service's Nutrient
Data Laboratory: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp.
There, you'll find the latest update of the main source of food composition
data in the United States, technically known as Nutrient Database for Standard
Reference, Release 12, or SR-12 for short.
The database has values for as many as 81 nutrients in 6,000 foods among 22
food groups. It's the only such database worldwide that's free.
SR-12 includes newly revised folate values for enriched grain products and
foods in which they are ingredients. Also new are selenium values for many food
items. An essential nutrient in the body's antioxidant functions, selenium has
gained attention for its purported anti-cancer properties.
Some 8,000 visitors access the web site each month. Many arrive there via
one of 400 web sites around the world with links to the USDA nutrient database,
according to research leader Joanne Holden in Riverdale, Md.
The database will undergo a major update beginning this year. Laboratory
personnel and researchers with the National Institutes of Health and
agricultural commodity groups are collaborating on a 5-year program to ensure
nutrient data with unprecedented analytical quality for the 1,000 foods that
contribute most to the nation's nutrient intake. The program is expected to
cost $15 million.
Researchers are rating the analytical quality of the existing data so they
can identify what most needs improvement and what is lacking altogether. They
are also ranking the foods that contribute most to nutrient intake, based on
public health and research priorities as well as on consumption and production
patterns. Then they will use state-of-the-art methods to collect representative
samples of these key foods nationwide and oversee their analyses in contract
Scientific contact: Joanne M. Holden, Nutrient Data Laboratory,
Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Riverdale, MD 20737, phone (301)
734-8491, fax (301) 734-5643, email@example.com.