Prevention of Diet-related Chronic Disease and Obesity

Title: Measuring Nutrition Quality in the Emergency Food System

Marilyn S. Nanney (Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Program in Health Disparities Research, Medical School)
Robert P. King (Department of Applied Economics, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences)
Co-Investigators: Susan Basil King (Twin Cities Hunger Initiative), Lori Kratchmer (Emergency Foodshelf Network), Amy Maheswaran Lopez (Greater Twin Cities United Way), Jayson Palm (Intercongregation Communities Association), Rob Zeaske (Second Harvest Heartland)

Amount Awarded: $99,986
Timeframe: July 2013 – July 2014

Abstract: Ensuring that healthy foods are available shelf segment of the emergency food system is important for the families served because of the disparity in diet-related health outcomes experienced by this vulnerable population. In addition, there is a national movement to measure food shelf performance beyond the traditional "pounds of food" distributed and establish a metric for reporting the amount of healthy and local food distributed. One approach to address this practical need is the application of the USDA's Healthy Eating Index (HEI) to quantify the emergency food environment. The purpose of this project is to develop an automated HEI calculation tool that can be used to measure the nutritional quality of food shelf orders placed with food banks. A team of interdisciplinary Co-Principal Investigators (Drs. Nanney and King) along with the leaders in hunger relief, food access and food banking in Minnesota propose research aims that will (1) calculate the HEI for each order made by a randomly selected cohort of 100 food shelves over a nine month period; (2) identify relationships between food shelf characteristics and HEI measures; and (3) determine whether provision of HEI information to food shelves stimulates them to improve the HEI for their bulk purchases. This project takes a first and scalable step towards developing a metric that measures the variety and nutritional value of food purchased by food shelves. It is expected that the findings from this project will identify several meaningful avenues for future research including measuring the impact of healthier food availability upon the satisfaction, diet patterns and health of families served.

Title: Exploring playful, creative design as a means of increasing children's vegetable consumption

Zata Vickers (Department of Food Science and Nutrition, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences) and
Barry Kudrowitz (project leader) (Department of Design, Housing and Apparel, College of Design)
Co-Investigators: Marla Reicks (Department of Food Science and Nutrition, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences)

Abstract: This new collaboration between CFANS Department of Food Science and Nutrition and the CDES Product Design program to explore how playful design can be used to entice children to eat healthier, specifically consuming more vegetables in meals. In this study, playful design can refer to a novel preparation, presentation, or interaction with a vegetable. Recently Co-PI Kudrowitz has been working with local chefs on understanding creative design process in the food service industry and Vickers and Reicks have been exploring ways of enticing children to eat more vegetables. This project plans to encourage children to eat more vegetables by using evaluative conditioning (the pairing of vegetables with people and situations that the child likes) with the goal of transferring the liking of the situation to the liking of the food. Such transfer has been documented in past studies. The project combines researchers' skills and research interests in an effort to improve eating behaviors of children to address the obesity epidemic, a problem of national importance. This project also provides the basis for preparing a grant proposal to continue our collaboration by further exploring the use of the processes found to be effective in this study in settings reaching a far greater number of children.

Title: Hypoallergenization of Soy Protein Using a Combination of Enzymatichydrolysis and Spontaneous Maillard Conjugation

Baraem (Pam) Ismael (Food Science and Nutrition)
Co-Investigators: P. Srirama Rao (Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences), Malcolm Blumenthal (Medicine and Pediatrics)

Amount Awarded: $99,984
Timeframe: March 2011 - March 2013

Abstract: Consumption of soy protein was found to have positive correlation with several health benefits. However, one of the major drawbacks for the expanded use of soy proteins is their allergenicity. Soybean is now recognized by the FDA as one of "the big eight" food allergens. While it is hard to eliminate soybean allergy as a crop, it is possible to reduce the allergenicity of soy protein ingredients, which are used in many food applications, by modifying the protein structure. This project will combine two mechanisms, proteolysis and Maillard conjugation, under controlled and mild conditions and monitor the synergistic effect on reducing allergenicity of soy protein. Utilizing mild conditions is hypothesized to have minimal effect on quality, digestibility and nutritional value. Soy protein will be subjected to enzymatic hydrolysis by Alcalase followed by induced Maillard conjugation using glucose. Response surface methodology will be employed to jointly optimize enzymatic hydrolysis conditions and Maillard conjugation parameters. Degree of hydrolysis will be monitored to ensure minimal hydrolysis, because excessive hydrolysis is known to have detrimental effect on sensory and functional properties of the final product. Maillard conjugation will be monitored to ensure minimal propagation of the reaction to unwanted Maillard products. Protein profiling and characterization will be done following various electrophoretic techniques. Soy IgE immunoreactivity will be monitored using ELISA and western blot techniques while utilizing sera from soybean allergic donors. Digestibility and amino acid profiles of selected hypoallergenic soy protein products will be determined using established methods. The allergic responses of both the native and the modified protein will be determined in a mouse model post oral ingestion. Data generated will support a longer-term study aiming at the production of safe and healthy soy protein ingredient that can be utilized in a wide range of food applications, acceptable by the end consumers.

Title: Mother-Infant Feeding Interactions and Infant Physical and Cognitive Development: A Transdisciplinary Research Collaboration

Stephanie M. Carlson (Institute of Child Development), Ellen W. Demerath (Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health),Michael K. Georgieff (Center for Neurobehavioral Development)
Co-Investigator: Danielle M. Beck (Department of Psychology, Simpson University)

Amount Awarded: $100,000
Timeframe: January 2010 – June 2012

Abstract: Obesity is associated with severe health risks and has become an epidemic in many developed nations. The most marked increases in obesity over the last three decades have occurred in children. Research is needed by multidisciplinary teams to extend current understanding of links between infant nutrition, maternal perceptions of infant hunger and feeding practices, and the neurocognitive factors associated with obesity, especially in early childhood. The proposed research, spanning three departments and disciplines, aims to develop a valid questionnaire on maternal perceptions of infant hunger and satiety; examine relations between these perceptions/feeding practices and parent attributes including executive function (self-control of thought and action); and investigate a mediation model in which parent attributes influence infant feeding practices, which in turn influence infant/child growth and weight status and executive function. Preliminary data suggest these links exist, but no prior study has examined these factors in conjunction. The project will take place over a 2-year period and include at least 125 mother-infant dyads. It will have a significant short-term impact on measurement tools available to obesity researchers, offer a novel direction for research on the neurocognitive bases for the development and maintenance of child obesity, and provide a springboard for external funding on a larger scale.

Title: Preventing Obesity in the Worksite: A Multi-Message, Multi-"Step" Approach

Jennifer Feenstra Schultz (Department of Economics, UMD) and Lara LaCaille (Department of Psychology, UMD)
Co-Investigators: Rick LaCaille (Department of Psychology, UMD), Ryan Goei (Department of Communication, UMD), Rebecca de Souza (Department of Communication, UMD), Amy Versnik Nowak (Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, UMD)

Amount Awarded: $99,994
Timeframe: January 2010 – June 2012

: Over one-third of Americans are now considered obese. Efforts to prevent obesity involve changing the individual behaviors that contribute to obesity, mainly healthful eating and physical activity, as well as the social and physical context in which those behaviors take place. Due to their existing networks and available resources, worksites are a logical place to help individuals make healthy choices through health promotion efforts. The purpose of this project is to partner with a community hospital to plan, implement, and evaluate a multi-component obesity prevention program in their workplace. The prevention program will target individual and interpersonal determinants of eating behavior and physical activity, as well as the context in which these behaviors take place. It is hypothesized that simultaneously offering individual tools, providing information and persuasive messaging, and changing the social environment will lead to healthier eating, increased participation in physical activity, and reduced risk for obesity. Our research team's established relationship with St. Luke's hospital, the willingness of their employees to participate in prior research studies, and a corporate culture that is supportive of innovation offer an ideal environment to test a novel worksite obesity prevention program. This intervention will include four integrated components: (1) nutrition labeling in the worksite cafeteria, (2) distributing pedometers to employees, (3) persuasive media messaging, and (4) the use of "influentials" to address social norms around eating and physical activity behaviors. A quasi-experimental design will examine the effectiveness of this multi-component worksite obesity prevention program.

Title: Kava as a chemopreventive agent against colorectal tumorigenesis

Chengguo Xing (Masonic Cancer Center, Academic Health Center)
Co-Investigators: Daniel Gallaher (Food Science and Nutrition), Michael G. O'Sullivan (Veterinary Medicine)

Amount Awarded: $50,000
Timeframe: January 2009 - December 2009

Abstract: Colorectal cancer is one of the major malignancies in the United States with around 160,000 new cases and 55,000 mortalities annually. The lifetime risk of diagnosis with colorectal cancer in the U.S. is about 5.9% for men and 5.5% for women. Colorectal tumorigenesis develops through a multi-step process characterized by the transition from normal mucosa to adenoma and then to carcinoma. This process spans, on average, 15-20 years. Such a sequential, protracted process provides the opportunity for chemoprevention to be a potential strategy to help control colorectal tumorigenesis. In fact, it is believed that 50-80% of colorectal cancers are potentially preventable. Based on literature reports and the results of our preliminary studies, kava is one potential dietary component that may prevent colorectal tumorigenesis. The goal of this study is to establish the chemopreventive activity of kava in an accepted colorectal tumorigenesis animal model and to establish the safety of kava.

Results: Extracts of kava were fed to rats given a chemical to specifically induce colon cancer. After 15 weeks the colons were examined for markers of cancer risk. Rats fed an extract of kava that mimicked the beverage consumed by humans had a statistically significant reduction in the markers of colon cancer. No detectable liver lesions were found that could be ascribed to kava usage, suggesting that kava is safe to consume. Results suggest that consuming kava may be a useful dietary approach to reducing colon cancer risk and should be further studied in this regard.

Title: Identifying Bioactive Food Components with Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Obesogenic Effects

Doug Mashek (Department of Food Science and Nutrition) and David Bernlohr (BMBB, College of Biological Sciences)
Co-Investigators: Xiaoli Chen (Department of Food Science and Nutrition), Howard C. Towle (BMBB, College of Biological Sciences)

Amount Awarded: $300,000
Timeframe: March 2008 - February 2011

Abstract: The goal of this research is to facilitate the discovery of novel food-derived compounds that affect adipose (i.e. fat) tissue metabolism. Specifically, we will screen thousands of compounds isolated from herbs and other foods with medicinal properties that posses the ability to decrease inflammation and accumulation of adipose tissue. By doing so, we hope to identify food components that may be used to prevent or treat metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

Results: Given the prevalence of obesity, identification of "functional" foods that can help treat or prevent this disease is important. Their research has evaluated the effectiveness of herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat obesity. In these studies, they screened thousands of herbal extracts for their ability to reduce fat accumulation in adipocytes (fat cells). Through this screen, they identified 5 specific extracts from 4 herbs that decrease fat accumulation. They have further explored the question of how these extracts influence fat and hope to continue these studies to determine their effects on animal models of obesity and eventually their therapeutic use in humans.

Title: Reduction in Colon and Liver Cancer Risk by Combined Consumption of Cruciferous and Apiaceous Vegetables

Sabrina Peterson (Food Science and Nutrition) and Dan Gallaher (Food Science and Nutrition)
Co-Investigators: Joellen Feirtag (UMN Extension), Myron Gross (Medical School), Will Thomas (School of Public Health)

Amount Awarded: $297,834
Timeframe: March 2008 - February 2011

Abstract: Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed. Liver cancer rates have been increasing in the United States. We will be studying how the carrot-family of vegetables (carrots, celery, parsnips, etc.) and the broccoli-family of vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.) may prevent colon and liver cancer. Each vegetable family contains a different group of natural compounds that influence two different processes for detoxifying cancer-causing toxins. Using rats, we will determine if the combination of purified compounds from both vegetable groups is more protective against toxins than one group. We will also compare if intact, whole food sources of the compounds are more protective than the purified compounds.