Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: January 15, 2008
Publication Date: March 13, 2008
Citation: Holden, J.M. 2008. The evolution, integration, and impact of food composition research. Elsie Widdowson Lecture, March 13, 2008, Norwich, UK. Technical Abstract: For many years scientists in the United Kingdom, the United States, and various other countries have supported the generation and compilation of food composition data. Those data for foods have been maintained in national repositories (e.g. USDA’s National Nutrient Data Bank) to provide authoritative and current estimates of nutrients and other biologically active components in commonly consumed foods. In the U.S. the data form the foundation for most other U.S. food composition database applications including the databases for the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): What We Eat in America and for epidemiological applications. Recently, the USDA, in collaboration with the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, initiated the development of a database for dietary supplements composition to complement the databases for food composition. Together these data are a critical part of the process for the assessment of total nutrient intake. Other applications include development of U.S. food and nutrition policy, product development, and the conduct of clinical and metabolic studies. In fact, Drs. McCance and Widdowson were among the first scientists to recognize the essential role of food composition in the study of human nutrient requirements and in the treatment of diet-related health conditions. Food composition data are also required to develop a national food labeling program and to support food trade. Values for nutrients and other dietary components may be derived from chemical analysis of representative samples of the foods (and supplements), obtained from the food industry or scientific literature, or calculated from data for similar foods or products. Through a collaboration with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, USDA has developed the National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program to generate original analytical data for important foods. The challenging process of maintaining a dynamic reservoir of accurate, current, and specific estimates for components in foods and dietary supplements requires continuous support for food composition research, data generation, including studies of variability and data compilation. Today, it is essential that the internet and other state-of-the art technologies be used to disseminate food composition data. As an example, USDA's data are released via the internet website www.ars.usda.gov/nutrientdata. Cooperation with the food and dietary supplements industries, the scientific community, and government agencies is essential to this process.