Boy gazing at glass of soda.

2018 Research Highlights: Health and Nutrition

     Research reported under this program focuses on improving the mental and physical health of Minnesotans. A particular focus is placed on identifying and overcoming barriers pertaining to children making more nutritious food choices and the health and wellbeing of the state's growing number of seniors.

2018 highlights include:

  • A NIFA-supported biochemist assisted scientists at the Hormel Institute in identifying a biomarker for the early diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer. They have completed a mice study and a pilot human clinical trial is underway. 
  • Researchers compared 25,000 switches for genes common to 131 mammal species, including primates and humans. Four percent of the switches displayed a clear pattern--the longer the mammal's lifespan, the more strongly these switches exhibited a particular feature of DNA that helps it resist wear and tear. Targeting these genes could lead to ways to control them as we age. 
  • A study on vegetable liking of 9 to 12-year-old children from low-income families found that over 50 percent of children who had tried a vegetable (of the 35 studied) considered it acceptable. Corn was the most liked vegetable, closely followed by potatoes, lettuce and carrots. Artichoke had the lowest mean liking, followed by onion and beets. Overall, the study found children liked a wide variety of vegetables, which offers counter evidence to the commonly held perception that children dislike vegetables.
  • Researchers at the Wearable Technology Lab have designed a patient controlled dynamic therapeutic compression tension garment. This novel garment provides patients with independent control of compression and offers hands-free power switching for constant pressure. 
  • The Third Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition was attended by 577 people, from 38 states, Washington DC and American Samoa; four Canadian provinces, and New Zealand and Ecuador. Fifty-six percent of registrants stated a Native American affiliation, representing over 100 tribes across the Americas. 
  • Several animal studies were conducted looking at the effect of different wheat (red, white, whole, refined, etc.) on reducing colon cancer risk. The results strongly show that the color of wheat, not the state of refinement, influences colon cancer risk and, specifically, that red wheat, the type used in making breads, reduces colon cancer risk. 
  • Researchers from the CDES and CEHD are collaborating to bring museum exhibits to people living in senior care facilities via virtual reality experiences. Research has previously shown residents living in senior care facilities feel happier, more relaxed and more positive when using virtual reality.