Nutrition In The News: Link Between Rice And CO2 Levels

Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will reduce the nutritional value of rice, according to an international research team that analyzed rice samples from field experiments started by a University of Tokyo professor. Specifically, iron, zinc, protein, and vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 were reduced in rice grown under higher carbon dioxide concentrations expected in the second half of this century - 568 to 590 parts per million. "Rice is not just a major source of calories, but also proteins and vitamins for many people in developing countries and for poorer communities within developed countries," said Professor Kazuhiko Kobayashi of the University of Tokyo, co-author of the recent study and expert in effects of air pollution on agriculture.

Not all varieties of rice responded in the same way so future research projects may examine the possibility of finding varieties of rice that can remain nutritious despite the change in the atmosphere. The rice was grown at research sites in China and Japan using an open-field method where researchers built 56-foot-wide plastic pipe octagons elevated about one foot above the tops of plants within standard rice fields.

A network of sensors and monitors measured wind speed and direction to determine how much carbon dioxide is released out of the pipes to raise the local carbon dioxide concentration to the desired experimental level. The technique is known as Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment. "I first started using this technique in 1998, because we knew that plants raised in a plastic or glass house do not grow the same as plants in normal, open field conditions, Kobayashi said. This technique allows us to test the effects of higher carbon dioxide concentrations on plants growing in the same conditions that farmers really will grow them some decades later in this century."

Local wildlife has sometimes added an additional challenge to the research. "At our first field site, we learned we have to keep all of the pipes and tubes above the ground because raccoons kept chewing through everything and jeopardized the experiment," said Kobayashi. Researchers analyzed a total of 18 different varieties of rice for protein, iron, and zinc levels. Nine varieties of rice grown in China were used for the vitamin B1, B2, B5, and B9 analyses. Other common names for the vitamins are thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), pantothenic acid (B5), and folate (B9).

Six hundred million people primarily in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Madagascar consume at least 50 percent of their daily energy and/or protein directly from rice. This was also true in Japan during the 1960s, but current Japanese receive only about 20 percent of their daily food energy from rice. Populations in countries with both the highest rice consumption and lowest gross domestic product may experience more malnutrition as the nutritional value of low-cost staple foods like rice declines.

Can Adolescent Cooking Skills Predict Future Nutritional Well-Being

A study published recently in theJournal of Nutrition Education and Behaviorfound that developing cooking skills as a young adult may have long-term benefits for health and nutrition. Evidence suggests that developing cooking and food preparation skills is important for health and nutrition, yet the practice of home cooking is declining and now rarely taught in school. "The impact of developing cooking skills early in life may not be apparent until later in adulthood when individuals have more opportunity and responsibility for meal preparation," said lead author Jennifer Utter, Ph.D., MPH, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

"The strength of this study is the large, population-based sample size followed over a period of 10 years to explore the impact of perceived cooking skills on later nutritional well-being." Previous studies have linked deficiencies of micronutrients, including vitamin A, to hearing impairment. This is believed to be the first, however, to investigate the relationship between generalized undernutrition and hearing loss, and it is believed to be the first to identify early childhood nutritional status as a modifiable risk factor for later-life hearing loss.

Data was collected as part of the Project Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults longitudinal study conducted in Minneapolis-Saint Paul area schools. Participants reported on adequacy of cooking skills in 2002-2003 when they were 18 to 23 years old. Data was then collected in 2015-2016 on nutrition-related outcomes when participants were 30 to 35 years old. Questions assessed the perceived adequacy of cooking skills, how often they prepared a meal that included vegetables, how often they ate meals as a family, and how often they ate at a fast-food restaurant.

Most participants perceived their cooking skills to be adequate at age 18 to 23, with approximately one quarter of adults reporting their cooking skills to be very adequate. There were no differences in perceived cooking skills by sex, race or ethnicity, educational attainment, or age. Perceived adequacy of cooking skills predicted multiple indicators of nutrition outcomes later in adulthood including greater odds of preparing a meal with vegetables most days and less frequent consumption of fast food.

If those who perceived their cooking skills as adequate had families, they ate more frequent family meals, less frequent fast-food meals, and had fewer barriers to food preparation. "Opportunities to develop cooking skills by adolescents may result in long-term benefits for nutritional well-being," said Dr. Utter. "Families, health and nutrition professionals, educators, community agencies, and funders can continue to invest in home economics and cooking education knowing that the benefits may not be fully realized until young adults develop more autonomy and live independently."

Hearing Loss Linked To Poor Nutrition In Early Childhood

Young adults who were undernourished as preschool children were approximately twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss as their better-nourished peers, a recent study suggests. The study - led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published in theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition - analyzed the relationship between the hearing of more than 2,200 young adults in Nepal and their nutritional levels as children 16 years earlier. The findings suggest that nutritional interventions in South Asia could help prevent hearing loss, a condition which currently affects an estimated 116 million young people in the region.

Hearing loss is the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide, and an estimated 80 percent of affected individuals live in low and middle-income countries. Prevalence estimates of hearing impairment among children and young adults in South Asia range from 14 to 28 percent of the population. Our findings should help elevate hearing loss as a still-neglected public health burden, and one that nutrition interventions in early childhood might help prevent, says Keith West Jr., a professor of International Health at the Bloomberg School and the principal investigator of the study. The lead author was Susan Emmett, MD, MPH, an otolaryngologist who conducted the analysis and wrote the paper as a postdoctoral fellow at the Bloomberg Schools Center for Human Nutrition.

From 2006 to 2008, researchers tested the hearing of more than 2,200 young adults. All study participants had been part of a nutrition trial conducted between 1989 and 1991 in the District of Sarlahi in Nepal that collected information to assess their nutritional status.Results of the auditory tests show that young adults who were stunted in childhood were nearly twice as likely to show signs of hearing loss. Stunting, or being too short for ones age, is a chronic condition of undernourishment that often starts before birth, which is a critical time for the development of auditory function. Researchers suspect that impeded inner ear development caused by undernutrition, especially in the womb, may contribute to the increased risk of hearing loss found in the study.

Participants who were too thin as children were also at a twofold increase of hearing loss. Being too thin for ones age is typically caused by acute malnutrition, defined as shorter, more severe periods of undernutrition. Acute malnutrition raises childrens susceptibility to infections, including in the ear. Repeated ear infections can lead to hearing loss. Our findings are not only important for low-resource areas of Nepal, but also for much of South Asia, says West. The study site in Nepal is representative of much of the Gangetic region of South Asia. There are over 160 million undernourished children in this region, putting them at high risk for a range of health and developmental problems. We now have evidence that addressing this nutritional burden might also prevent hearing loss later in life.

Good Nutrition, Physical Training And Mental Exercises Reverse Frailty In Elderly

A four-year study conducted by researchers from the National University of Singapore showed that a combination of nutritional, physical and cognitive interventions can reverse physical frailty in elderly people. Physical frailty is common among the elderly and is strongly associated with cognitive impairment, dementia and adverse health outcomes such as disability, hospitalization, and mortality. Associate Professor Ng Tze Pin, lead researcher from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said that earlier research findings by his team from the Singapore Longitudinal Aging Studies showed that physically frail elderly persons compared to their robust counterparts are eight times as likely to be cognitive impaired at the same time. If they are not cognitively impaired, they are more than five times at risk of becoming cognitively impaired on follow up three years later.

"In addition, physically frail elderly persons are two to 10 times as likely to become functionally disabled on daily living activities, hospitalized and die earlier than their robust counterparts. When physical frailty and cognitive impairment are present together in the same individual, he or she is more than 20 times as likely to become disabled, hospitalized or die earlier. With such compelling evidence, if it is possible to reduce or even reverse physical frailty in the elderly, we could greatly improve their quality of life," Tze Pin explained.

The team conducted a four-year trial between 2010 and 2013, involving 250 community-living older persons in Singapore who were 65 years old and above and who showed signs of frailty. "Our study shows that it is feasible to identify pre-frail and frail older persons in the community and primary care settings and provide them with lifestyle interventions to reverse frailty, Tze Pin said. We found that better nutrition, physical training and mental exercises can reverse frailty, enhance muscle strength and gait speed, reduce depressive symptoms and improve cognitive functioning. As such, these interventions can go a long way to reducing the high prevalence of physical disability, hospitalization and mortality in an aging society like Singapore."

Fighting Frailty

Participants for the trial were recruited from October 2009 to August 2012 from various senior activity centers in Singapore. They were randomly allocated to receive lifestyle interventions in one of five groups for a period of six months. Three groups of participants were provided with either physical training, nutritional enhancement or cognitive training, while the fourth group received a combination of all three interventions. The last group was a control group which did not receive any intervention. The trial was conducted in collaboration with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and St Luke's Hospital.

Assessment of the participants' frailty and other outcomes were made before the start of intervention. During the six-month trial, the participants' progress was measured after three months and six months. A follow-up assessment was also conducted six months after the trial. The NUS researchers found that the three types of intervention, as well as a combination of all three approaches, were able to reduce frailty and depressive symptoms, and improve cognitive functioning of the elderly.

"The important message from our studies is that frailty is not an inevitable part of aging, Tze Pin said. There is much that older people can do for themselves to avoid becoming frail and disabled, so it is vital that they pay attention to good quality diet and nutrition, engage in physical exercise, and participate in socially and cognitively stimulating activities."

Following the trial findings, the research team is working with the Geriatric Education and Research Institute and social service organizations to develop and implement pilot frailty screening and multi-domain lifestyle intervention community programs. They hope the programs when successfully scaled up for mass intervention can help improve the physical, psychological and cognitive well-being of large numbers of senior citizens.

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