Eighty seven percent of people in the US do not eat the USDA recommended four to five cups of fruits and vegetables per day. What if there was a way to help solve that problem by getting more of the natural goodness of produce into more of the foods people do eat?
The NC State Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI) is planning on doing just that using a $1 million Seeding Solutions grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit established in the 2014 Farm Bill. The investment is actually doubled to $2 million with matching funds provided by NC State University and NC Research Campus corporate partners Dole Food Company and Standard Process, Inc. The grant will allow PHHI to partner with food companies to improve products by increasing the delivery of health-promoting nutrients and compounds found in fruits and vegetables like blueberry, banana and spinach.
Choline is an important and essential nutrient for human health, playing a key role in brain development, and liver and muscle function. A recent national diet survey by the US Centers of Disease Control reported that 90 percent of adults in the US do not achieve the recommended intake for choline. The problem is that doctors do not have a practical way to determine a person’s choline nutritional status.
To change that, Steven Zeisel, MD, PhD, director of the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis on the NC Research Campus, will apply a $2.6 million federal grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), one of the National Institutes of Health, to develop a laboratory test that can assess a person’s choline level.
Dr. Zeisel explained, “We need a better lab test that health professionals can use to assess a person’s choline status given the narrow range for healthy intake of choline, the three-fold variation in dietary intake in the US, and the effects of common genetic variants on requirements for choline. With the recent establishment by the Food and Drug Administration of a Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of choline, awareness of this critical nutrient is growing and health professionals will need diagnostic tools to help consumers make good choices for health.”
Foods that contain high levels of choline include many beans, chickpeas, eggs and salmon.