Improve Nutrition and End Childhood Obesity

Research to help people eat healthy

How does dietary cocoa epicatechin promote health and postpone aging?

Microencapsulation-based technologies for effective delivery of micronutrients and nutriceuticals through fortified and functional foods

Farm distribution and supply for produce commodities in selected states in the U.S.: changes and trends, contributing factors, and implications for building local food systems

Nashville Children Eating Well for Health



How Does Dietary Cocoa Epicatechin Promote Health and Postpone Aging?
Dr. H. Si
Aging is associated with a greatly increased incidence of a number of degenerative conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cancer, all of which are the major causes of death among Americans 65 years of age and older. Therefore, preventing these chronic diseases is an essential strategy to promote healthy aging.
Because of dissatisfaction with high costs and potentially hazardous side-effects of medications for treating chronic diseases, it is an excellent alternative strategy to develop cost-effective, natural and safe therapeutic agents to decrease the morbidity and mortality of aging-related chronic diseases and thereby improving health.
Preliminary data show that dietary supplementation of epicatechin, a polyphenolic compound primarily derived from cocoa, significantly extended lifespan of obese diabetic mice, whereas food intake, body weight and blood glucose levels are not altered. The specific goal of this research is to determine whether and how dietary epicatechin intake improves health and extends lifespan. Given that the elevated oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin-like growth factor 1(IGF-1) are major contributors to the development of aging-related chronic diseases and process of aging, we hypothesize that epicatechin may extend lifespan by modulating inflammation, oxidative stress and IGF-1 signaling pathway.

Microencapsulation-based technologies for effective delivery of micronutrients and nutriceuticals through fortified and functional foods
Dr. Olive Li
Malnutrition and associated health problems are major issues contributing to a slowing of social and economic development worldwide. Food-based interventions, including micronutrient-fortified and functional foods, are highly cost-effective tools in addressing these issues. Innovative technologies are required to ensure the safe and effective delivery of micronutrients and nutraceuticals through the food production, distribution, and consumption processes. Based on a microencapsulation-based technology platform developed previously, I propose to explore the potential use of soluble dietary fibers such as beta-glucan, inulin, as well as oilseed protein isolates as coating materials for encapsulating selected vitamins and minerals, e.g., vitamin A, folic acid, iron and zinc. The delivery systems will be examined in food applications for designing value-added food products with functions in weight control/management, particularly for obese and diabetic populations, based on the desirable functionalities of dietary fibers and plant proteins in weight control/management. Successful delivery systems applicable to food fortification, particularly in meat, bakery, and beverage products, are expected to be readily scalable and commercialized. Since there is an abundance of cereal grains, legume and oilseed crops in North America, the development of value-added products utilizing these crops, as introduced in the later section of the proposal, should have far-reaching potentials to benefit the agri-food sector, consumers, and industrial collaborators.

Farm distribution and supply for produce commodities in selected states in the U.S.: changes and trends, contributing factors, and implications for building local food systems
Dr. Lan Li
This research characterizes trends and identifies significant changes in farm distribution and supply of produce commodities in selected states, and assesses potential factors that contribute to the growth of the produce industry, especially factors associated with market environment and marketing opportunities. The project will draw implications from the findings for building and strengthening local/regional farm systems and increasing affordability and accessibility of healthy and nutritious food for consumers. The research will provide valuable empirical evidence, insights, and perspective for policy makers, producers, businesses, and consumers. The knowledge gained will be constructive for stakeholders to effectively design and implement programs and policies that create market opportunities and access for producers and expand produce production. The research is of the foremost importance to stakeholders in Tennessee where small farms, in particular tobacco farms in transition, are prevalent, and the obesity rate is looming. The project is also pertinent to the graduate program and research field in agribusiness in the School of Agricultural and Consumer Sciences at Tennessee State University. The project is expected to contribute to the institutional capacity building, enhance field expertise, enrich curriculum, and instigate research opportunities for graduate students.

Nashville Children Eating Well for Health
V. J. Oates, B. A. Husaini, P. C. Hull, R. S Levine, J. S. Emerson, A. H.Muktar, R. J. Zoorob, C. J. Kihlberg
Nashville CHildren Eating Well (CHEW) for Health is a joint effort among Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College and community partners to address childhood obesity prevention through research, education and extension. Community partners include the Tennessee Department of Health, Metropolitan Public Health Department of Nashville/Davidson County, Progreso Community Center, McGruder Family Resource Center, Community Food Advocates, and a Community Advisory Committee, which includes community residents. Nashville CHEW for Health focuses on the USDA's federal WIC (Women, Infants and Children) supplemental nutrition program. The target population is low-income WIC participant families with children ages 2-5, with a focus on African American and Hispanic families, and the WIC-authorized grocers that serve this population. Nashville CHEW for Health has five main objectives: (1) Develop and test special nutrition education materials for African American and Hispanic WIC participants with children ages 2-5, with input and guidance from community partners, that can eventually be used in WIC programs in Tennessee; (2) Provide technical assistance to WIC-authorized vendors to expand in their stores the availability and marketing of healthy food items; (3) Conduct consumer education outreach to WIC participants, through in-store demonstrations and peer educators, to encourage their families to buy and eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products; (4) Add new teaching modules and hands-on activities for Meharry medical students, residents and practicing physicians to learn about child obesity prevention; (5) Add new teaching modules and hands-on activities for TSU students and post-doctoral fellows to learn about obesity prevention, nutrition-related chronic diseases and approaches to their prevention and management.


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