Improving human nutrition without artificial fortification of food or use of supplementary mineral nutrients is important in reducing malnutrition. Malnutrition from deficiencies of mineral elements is reported to be on the rise worldwide, even in the United State; it is estimated that half of the world population suffers from mineral nutrient deficiencies, limiting their physical, intellectual, and mental health activities. The deficiencies appear to derive from diminished contents of mineral nutrients in foods of plant (vegetables, fruits) or animal (meats, milk, cheese) origins. With fruits and vegetables, the decline in dietary nutrients is related in part to depletion of nutrients from soils without adequate replenishment through soil fertilization. In addition, some of the diminished nutrient contents in fruits and vegetables may be related to genetics of new cultivated varieties of produce.
Research is needed to develop systems of food crop production that will supply adequate mineral nutrition directly through crop-related foods and from meats and dairy products from livestock and poultry that are provided with adequate mineral nutrition. This project will provide a foundation of data obtained through library and laboratory research to enable the investigators to pursue studies in planning sustainable food systems for human nutrition and crop production. The research will allow the investigators to obtain data that will help to ascertain if the nutrient content of vegetables and fruits can be enhanced through selection of crop varieties and improved nutrition of crops. The research also will assess the dietary habits of consumers and examine how these habits affect mineral nutrition of humans.