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Nutrition

The etiology of breast cancer is complex and varied. Many of the major risk factors for breast cancer, including age, reproductive history, and family history of cancer, are not modifiable. There is a great need to provide women with evidence based advice on how they can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. Research has shown that compounds in fruits and vegetables have anti-cancer properties and most people agree that a diet rich in nutritious fruits and vegetables may help prevent breast cancer. However, the ways in which such a diet reduces risk remain unknown.

Low fruit and vegetable intake is recognized as a significant risk factor for poor health outcomes including an increased risk of overweight and obesity and subsequent co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake serves as a protective factor against obesity and chronic disease. The overall goal of this project is to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables in a target community by integrating expertise in Agriculture, Food Access, and Nutrition Education programming.

The quantitative aspects of microbial inactivation and growth, and of chemical and biochemical changes in foods, play an important role in food safety, quality, stability and nutritional value. These aspects have become even more important now, as new preservation technologies are being developed and concern about the safety of foods in the United States is growing. Safety, nutrition and quality issues also strongly affect the economics of food production, processing and handling.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus has increased by about 33% over the past decade in the United States, generating higher health care costs, and is related to obesity. Some women undergoing menopause gain belly fat and may have a tendency to develop diabetes. The researchers have shown that a daily soy supplement containing phytoestrogens (weak estrogen-like chemicals) reduces the amount of belly fat in women after menopause compared to a milk shake placebo. Most fat reduction is superficial, but there is also some reduction of deeper belly fat located near abdominal organs.

Cancer is a leading cause of human death around the world. It was estimated that 30-70-percent of all cancer cases might be preventable by dietary modification, depending on the dietary components and specific type of cancer. Epidemiological evidence indicates that a diet abundant in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer in some individuals, and this effect has been attributed to bioactive components present in these foods. Many bioactive food components have been studied intensively for possible cancer preventive effects.

The food industry in the United States is a major consumer of energy, with the majority of energy consumption related to food handling and storage. Many Americans experience food insecurity and depend on food banks, which must attempt to minimize food spoilage and expenses. Energy costs are a major expense for food banks, so reductions in energy use are critical to increasing the availability of food for the most vulnerable.

Over the past 30 years obesity rates have doubled for young children (6-11 year olds) and quadrupled for adolescents (12-19 years) to 18% and 21%, respectively, with the latest figures indicating more than a third of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese. These obese children are more likely to become obese adults and are at increased risk for developing health conditions normally seen in adulthood, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Accumulating evidence suggests that, due to possible synergistic interactions, the intake of combined bioactive dietary components may provide enhanced cancer preventive effects relative to the intake of an isolated pure compound. Thus, utilization of combinations of bioactive dietary components is an attractive strategy for cancer prevention. However, there is currently only relatively limited understanding of the interactions among different bioactive dietary components and their collective manifestations on bioactivity.

A key aspect of food markets are their vertical structures: products move along supply chains from manufacturers (or farmers) to wholesalers to retailers or food service operators to consumers. Interactions among firms in these chains give rise to a variety of economic issues that are no less important than those studied in horizontal interaction (i.e. firms competing for the same end consumer), yet previous work has tended to focus on the latter.

The food industry is under transformation due to some important changes in consumer preferences. With a trend towards a healthier lifestyle, food quality, nutrition, and safety are increasingly important to consumers today. There is an increasing demand for more information about the nutritional content of food, for food considered healthy and health-enhancing. However, at the same time, obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise and so do health care costs as a result.

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