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USDA Launches New Virtual Nutrition Center of Excellence

Photo of of fresh food in heart-shaped bowl
Policymakers are responding to a growing recognition of food as medicine. udra11/Shutterstock.com

US Department of Agriculture

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced its new Agricultural Science Center of Excellence for Nutrition and Diet for Better Health (ASCEND for Better Health) in support of President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot effort to end cancer as we know it.

This new virtual center will accelerate research on diet-related chronic diseases, including cancer. A long-term goal of the center is to translate research into impactful solutions that improve public health and wellbeing, particularly in underserved communities.

“ASCEND will bring together scientists, partner organizations, and communities to develop and deliver science-based solutions that improve the health and well-being of all Americans, particularly in underserved communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The virtual center will connect existing resources, including people and programs, to leverage expertise and increase coordination and cooperation.”

Photo of scientists working
YurolaitsAlbert / Getty Images

USDA is enhancing its research focus on precision nutrition science to allow us to better understand the needs of underserved communities. This research complements our programmatic efforts to advance food and nutrition security – which means consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe and affordable foods essential to optimal health and well-being.

As part of today’s announcement, USDA convened a panel of experts that discussed the role that nutrition plays in improving overall health and reducing risks for diet-related chronic diseases.

Photo of baby on picnic blanket with fresh fruit
Image by dhanelle from Pixabay

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, 30-50% of all cancer cases are preventable by following a healthy diet and lifestyle. USDA is applying an equity lens to our ongoing and new research as we work to understand the connections between diet and diseases like cancer across different populations.

This effort delivers on a commitment made in the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030 – all while reducing disparities. The National Strategy was released in conjunction with the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health in over 50 years, hosted by President Biden on September 28, 2022.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean-energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

Press Release
Release No. 0260.22

Contact: USDA Press
Email: press@usda.gov


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.

This article was originally published on USDSA.gov; you can read the original article hear.

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We’re told to ‘eat a rainbow’ of fruit and vegetables. Here’s what each color does in our body

Photo of fresh produce in a basket

We’re told to ‘eat a rainbow’ of fruit and vegetables. Here’s what each color does in our body

Evangeline Mantzioris, University of South Australia

Nutritionists will tell you to eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables. This isn’t just because it looks nice on the plate. Each colour signifies different nutrients our body needs.

The nutrients found in plant foods are broadly referred to as phytonutrients. There are at least 5,000 known phytonutrients, and probably many more.

So what does each colour do for our body and our overall health?


Red vegetables and fruit
Red fruit and veg contain antioxidants. Forgotten what they do? Me too.

Red fruits and vegetables are coloured by a type of phytonutrient called “carotenoids” (including ones named lycopene, flavones and quercetin – but the names aren’t as important as what they do). These carotenoids are found in tomatoes, apples, cherries, watermelon, red grapes, strawberries and capsicum.

These carotenoids are known as antioxidants. You will have heard this name before, but you might not remember what it means. It has something to do with “free radicals”, which you’ve also probably heard of before.

Free radicals are formed naturally in our body as a byproduct of all our usual bodily processes such as breathing and moving, but they also come from UV light exposure, smoking, air-pollutants and industrial chemicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage proteins, cell membranes and DNA in our body. This natural but damaging process is known as oxidation or oxidative stress. This contributes to ageing, inflammation and diseases including cancer and heart disease.

Importantly, antioxidants “mop up” the free radicals that form in our body. They stabilise the free radicals so they no longer cause damage.

Increasing antioxidants in your diet lowers oxidative stress and reduces the risk of many diseases including arthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.


Orange fruits and veggies.
Your parents didn’t lie about carrots: orange fruits and veggies are good for our eyes and sight.

Orange fruits and vegetables also contain carotenoids, but slightly different ones to red veggies (including alpha and beta-carotene, curcuminoids, and others). These are found in carrots, pumpkins, apricots, mandarins, oranges and turmeric.

Alpha and beta-carotene are converted to vitamin A in our bodies, which is important for healthy eyes and good eyesight. Vitamin A is also an antioxidant that can target the parts of your body made of lipids (or fats) such as cell membranes.

The vitamin A targets the free radicals building up around our cell membranes and other areas made of lipids, reducing the risk of cancers and heart disease.


Yellow fruits and vegetables
Yellow fruits and veggies protect your eyes from sun damage (but you should probably still wear sunnies)

Yellow fruit and vegetables also contain carotenoids, but they also contain other phytonutrients including lutein, zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin, viola-xanthin and others. These are found in apples, pears, bananas, lemons and pineapple.

Lutein, meso-zeaxanthin and zeaxanthin have been shown to be particularly important for eye health and can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, which leads to blurring of your central vision.

These phytonutrients can also absorb UV light in your eyes, acting like a sunscreen for the eyes and protecting them from sun damage.


Green fruits and veggies.
Your parents were right again. Greens are good for, well, lots. Read on.

Green fruits and vegetables contain many phytonutrients including chlorophyll (which you probably remember from high school biology), catechins, epigallocatechin gallate, phytosterols, nitrates and also an important nutrient known as folate (or vitamin B9). These are found in avocados, Brussels sprouts, apples, pears, green tea and leafy vegetables.

These also act as antioxidants and therefore have the benefits as described above for red veggies. But this group also provides important benefits in keeping your blood vessels healthy, by promoting something called “vasodilation”.

These phytonutrients help make our blood vessels more elastic and flexible allowing them to widen or dilate. This improves blood circulation and reduces blood pressure, reducing our risk of heart and other vessel complications and disease.

Folate is recommended before pregnancy because it helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) in babies. Folate helps the development of the foetal nervous system during the first few weeks of pregnancy, as it has been shown to promote healthy cell division and DNA synthesis.

Blue and purple

Blue and purple fruit and vegetables
Forgotten where you put your keys? You haven’t been eating your blueberries.

Blue and purple produce contain other types of phytonutrients including anthocyanins, resveratrol, tannins and others. They are found in blackberries, blueberries, figs, prunes and purple grapes.

Anthocyanins also have antioxidant properties and so provide benefits in reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke, as explained under red fruit and veg.

More recent evidence has indicated they may also provide improvements in memory. It is thought this occurs by improving signalling between brain cells and making it easier for the brain to change and adapt to new information (known as brain plasticity).

Brown and white

White vegetables.
Garlic: may ward off bacteria as well as vampires.

Brown and white fruits and vegetables are coloured by a group of phytonutrients known as “flavones”, this includes apigenin, luteolin, isoetin and others. These are found in foods such as garlic, potatoes and bananas.

Another phytonutrient found in this colour of vegetables, particularly in garlic, is allicin. Allicin has been shown to have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

Most of this research is still at the lab-bench and not many clinical trials have been done in humans, but lab-based studies have found it reduces microorganisms when grown under laboratory conditions.

Allicin has also been found in systematic reviews to normalise high blood pressure by promoting dilation of the blood vessels.

How can I get more veggies in my diet?

Coloured fruit and vegetables, and also herbs, spices, legumes and nuts provide us with a plethora of phytonutrients. Promoting a rainbow of fruit and vegetables is a simple strategy to maximise health benefits across all age groups.

However most of us don’t get the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables each day. Here are some tips to improve your intake:

1. when doing your fruit and vegetable shopping, include a rainbow of colours in your shopping basket (frozen varieties are absolutely fine)

2. try some new fruit and vegetables you haven’t had before. The internet has tips on many different ways to cook veggies

3. buy different colours of the fruit and vegetables you normally eat like apples, grapes, onions and lettuces

4. eat the skins, as the phytonutrients may be present in the skin in higher amounts

5. don’t forget herbs and spices also contain phytonutrients, add them to your cooking as well (they also make vegetables more appealing!)The Conversation

Evangeline Mantzioris, Program Director of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Accredited Practising Dietitian, University of South Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Counteracting the effects of sitting all day

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Researchers have long known that sitting at your desk hour after hour is an unhealthy habit. Morsa Images/Digital Vision via Getty Images

Sitting all day is terrible for your health – now, a new study finds a relatively easy way to counteract it

Keith Diaz, Columbia University

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

To reduce the harmful health effects of sitting, take a five-minute light walk every half-hour. That’s the key finding of a new study that my colleagues and I published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

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As viral infections skyrocket, masks are still a tried-and-true way to help keep yourself and others safe

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Masks are an easy and low-cost way to reduce the amount of virus entering the air and spreading to others. william87/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Emily Toth Martin, University of Michigan and Marisa Eisenberg, University of Michigan

The cold and flu season of 2022 has begun with a vengeance. Viruses that have been unusually scarce over the past three years are reappearing at remarkably high levels, sparking a “tripledemic” of COVID-19, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. This November’s national hospitalization levels for influenza were the highest in 10 years.

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How the James Webb Space Telescope has revealed a surprisingly bright, complex and element-filled early universe – Podcast

Photo of multiple galaxies taken by the James Web Space Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope is providing astronomers with images and data that reveal secrets from the earliest era of the universe. NASA/STScI

Daniel Merino, The Conversation and Nehal El-Hadi, The Conversation

If you want to know what happened in the earliest years of the universe, you are going to need a very big, very specialized telescope. Much to the joy of astronomers and space fans everywhere, the world has one – the James Webb Space Telescope.

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Increase in Pediatric Invasive Group A Streptococcal Infections

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Image by press 👍 and ⭐ from Pixabay

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is issuing this Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Advisory to notify clinicians and public health authorities of a recent increase in pediatric invasive group A streptococcal (iGAS) infections. In November 2022, CDC was notified of a possible increase in iGAS infections among children at a hospital in Colorado.

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Toilets spew invisible aerosol plumes with every flush – here’s the proof, captured by high-powered lasers

Phto of toilet flush mist illuminated by a green lazer
Aerosol plumes from commercial toilets can rise 5 feet above the bowl. John Crimaldi/Scientific Reports, CC BY-NC-ND

John Crimaldi, University of Colorado Boulder

Every time you flush a toilet, it releases plumes of tiny water droplets into the air around you. These droplets, called aerosol plumes, can spread pathogens from human waste and expose people in public restrooms to contagious diseases.

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6 feet of snow in Buffalo: What causes lake-effect storms like this?

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Parts of the Buffalo area saw more than 6 feet of snow over three days in November 2022. AP Photo/Joshua Bessex

Michael A. Rawlins, UMass Amherst

It’s hard for most people to imagine 6 feet of snow in one storm, like the Buffalo area saw over the weekend, but such extreme snowfall events occasionally happen along the eastern edges of the Great Lakes.

The phenomenon is called “lake-effect snow,” and the lakes play a crucial role.

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COVID, flu, RSV – how this triple threat of respiratory viruses could collide this winter

Adam Kleczkowski, University of Strathclyde

As the days get shorter and the weather colder in the northern hemisphere, health officials have warned of a perfect storm of infectious respiratory diseases over the winter months.

Outbreaks of seasonal diseases like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are already putting pressure on the overburdened NHS. If surges of these illnesses collide with another large COVID wave, we could be facing a public health disaster. Some have called this threat a “tripledemic”.

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COVID-19 rapid tests can breed confusion

Photo of a mom conducting a nasal swab
Technique matters when it comes to getting a sufficient amount of virus for a rapid test. Images By Tang Ming Tung/Digital Vision via Getty Images

COVID-19 rapid tests can breed confusion – here’s how to make sense of the results and what to do, according to 3 testing experts

Nathaniel Hafer, UMass Chan Medical School; Apurv Soni, UMass Chan Medical School, and Yukari Manabe, Johns Hopkins University

As fall temperatures set in, cold and flu season gets into full swing and holiday travel picks up, people will undoubtedly have questions about COVID-19 testing. Is this the year people can finally return to large gatherings for traditional celebrations? What role does testing play when deciding whether to go out or stay home?

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