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New Lecture Video: The Science and Magic of Changing Food Behavior, by Prof. Karen Chapman-Novakofski

As part of the FSHN Graduate Student Association’s Spring 2015 Pioneer Seminar Series, on April 27, 2015, Prof. Karen Chapman-Novakofski presented the lecture “The Science and Magic of Changing Food Behavior,” which overviews her research on osteoporosis, diabetes, and calcium-rich foods, as well as online tools and other media meant to help teens and others manage their food behaviors.

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Gene mapping reveals soy’s dynamic, differing roles in breast cancer

New research by doctoral candidate Yunxian (Fureya) Liu and nutrition professor William Helferich suggests that soy’s breast cancer preventive properties may stem from eating soy-based whole foods across the lifespan. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer. Click photo to enlarge.

4/28/2015 | Sharita Forrest, News Editor | 217-244-1072; slforres@illinois.edu

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Scientists have mapped the human genes triggered by the phytonutrients in soy, revealing the complex role the legume plays in both preventing and advancing breast cancer. 

Researchers at the University of Illinois found that the compounds in minimally processed soy flour stimulate genes that suppress cancer, while purified soy isoflavones stimulate oncogenes that promote tumor growth. The paper, available online, was accepted for publication in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.

Yunxian (Fureya) Liu, a graduate researcher in the laboratory of nutrition professor William G. Helferich, investigated more than 22,680 gene expressions in tumors collected from mice. The mice were injected with MCF-7 human breast-cancer cells and fed one of four diets – including one based on soy flour that contained mixed isoflavones, and another diet based on a purified isoflavone mixture. 

Each of these diets contained 750 parts per million of genistein equivalents, an amount comparable to that consumed by women eating a typical Asian diet. Genistein is the primary isoflavone in soy, and recent studies have raised concerns about its long-term effects and potential role in carcinogenesis.

Asian women’s risks for breast cancer tend to be three to five times lower than those of women in the U.S., which some researchers have attributed to Asian women’s consumption of soy-based whole foods, such as tofu and soy flour, across their lifespans. However, it’s unclear whether post-menopausal women in the West achieve similar protective benefits by consuming purified isoflavone supplements later in life.

In the current study, the mice’s ovaries had been removed to simulate post-menopausal women, and Liu found that the soy flour and purified isoflavone diets had differing effects on their cells’ expression of genes associated with breast cancer.

The mice that consumed soy flour exhibited higher expression of the tumor-suppressing genes ATP2A3 and BLNK, each of which is associated with suppressed tumor growth. These mice also expressed lower levels of oncogenes MYB and MYC, which researchers have found to be critical to tumor growth during early stage breast cancer, and associated with the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells, respectively.

“Most important, we found that the soy flour strengthened the whole immune function, which probably explains why it does not stimulate tumor growth,” said Liu, who is completing both a doctorate in human nutrition and a master’s degree in statistics.

Conversely, the purified isoflavones stimulated tumor growth by activating oncogenes MYB and MYC, while suppressing both immune function and antigen processing, the body’s natural process of seeking out and destroying cancer cells.

Liu correlated the gene expression of the tumor cells with that of women with breast cancer. She found that the purified isoflavones promoted the expression of two kinesin family genes, KIF14 and KIF23, each of which has been associated with shorter survival rates – i.e., less than five years. Accordingly, the isoflavone diet also decreased expression of zinc finger protein gene 423, also called ZNF423, which has been linked with survival rates of five years or greater among breast cancer patients.

Liu’s findings also support a hypothesis called the soy matrix effect, a theory that soy’s cancer preventive properties are derived from the interactions of complex bioactive compounds – other than isoflavones – within whole foods, such as soy flour.

“There was a difference in the biological responses of mice that consumed the soy flour and those that consumed isoflavone supplements, although both diets contained the same amount of the phytoestrogen genistein,” Liu said. “The findings suggest that it’s advisable for women with breast cancer to get isoflavones from soy whole foods, rather than isoflavone supplements.”

Helferich, a co-author on the paper, said purified isoflavones behave similarly to estrogens such as estradiol, which prior studies have linked with the growth and proliferation of breast cancer cells.

“The gene array data for the isoflavones look very similar to estradiol, which turns on many of the same genes, while the array data for the soy flour look somewhat like the negative control,” said Helferich, who has been studying the effects of soy for more than 20 years. “When the estradiol is removed, the tumors regress and almost become non-detectable. But with the soy flour, the tumors don’t grow or regress, so they’re not exactly like the negative control.” 

In another new study at Illinois, researchers found that soy isoflavones enhanced the growth of bone micro-tumors in mice with estrogen-responsive breast cancer, causing the tumors to metastasize more aggressively from bone to lung. Xujuan Yang, an associate researcher in Helferich’s laboratory, led that project. 

The mice that consumed an isoflavones diet had triple the number of tumors – and had larger tumors – on their lungs, compared with their counterparts in the control groups, Yang found. A paper on the study was published in the April issue of Clinical and Experimental Metastasis. 

“The main take-home message is, if you have breast cancer, isoflavone dietary supplements are not recommended,” Helferich said. “However, consuming soy from a whole food – along with other legumes – is likely safe.”

Editor’s note: To contact Yunxian Liu, call 217-265-50781 or e-mail yliu89@illinois.edu
To contact William Helferich, call 217-244-5414; e-mail helferic@illinois.edu

Original story by Sharita Forrest, University of Illinois News Bureau, found here:

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Scientists tackle our addiction to salt and fat by altering foods’ pore size, number

URBANA, Ill. – Two University of Illinois food scientists have learned that understanding and manipulating porosity during food manufacturing can affect a food’s health benefits.

Youngsoo Lee reports that controlling the number and size of pores in processed foods allows manufacturers to use less salt while satisfying consumers’ taste buds. Pawan Takhar has found that meticulously managing pore pressure in foods during frying reduces oil uptake, which results in lower-fat snacks without sacrificing our predilection for fried foods’ texture and taste.

Both scientists are experts in food engineering and professors in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences’ Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

Regarding salt, Lee said, “Six in 10 American adults either have high blood pressure or are on the borderline of this diagnosis largely because they eat too much salt. Overconsuming salt is also associated with the development and severity of cardiovascular and bone diseases, kidney stones, gastric cancer, and asthma.”

Because 70 percent of the salt Americans consume comes from processed foods, Lee began to study the relationship between the microstructural properties of these foods and the way salt is released when it is chewed.

“Much of the salt that is added to these foods is not released in our mouths where we can taste it, and that means the rest of the salt is wasted,” he said. “We wanted to alter porosity in processed food, targeting a certain fat–protein emulsion structure, to see if we could get more of the salt released during chewing. Then food manufacturers won’t have to add as much salt as before, but the consumer will taste almost the same amount of saltiness.”

Increasing porosity also changed the way the foods broke apart when they were chewed, exposing more surface area and increasing saltiness, he said.

“When foods crumble easily, we further reduce the amount of salt that is needed. Changing the number or size of pores in the food’s surface can help us to accomplish this,” he said.

Takhar said that his porous media approach to understanding the behavior of water, oil, and gas during frying will help create strategies that optimize the frying process, reduce oil uptake, and produce lower-fat foods.

The articles Takhar publishes in academic journals feature page after page of complex mathematical equations that describe the physics involved in the transport of fluids and in textural changes in foods. These equations then guide the simulations that he performs in his laboratory.

“Frying is such a complicated process involving more than 100 equations. In a matter of seconds, when you put the food in the fryer, water starts evaporating, vapors form and escape the surface, oil penetration starts, and heat begins to rise while at the same time there’s evaporative cooling off at different points in the food. Some polymers in the food matrix may also change their state, and chemical reactions can occur. It’s not an easy set of changes to describe,” he said.

Within 40 seconds of frying, the texture of gently fried processed foods like crackers is fully developed, the scientist said. “That’s the cracker’s peak texture. Any longer and you’re just allowing more oil to penetrate the food.

“A lot of frying research has focused on capillary pressure in the oil phase of the process, but we have found that capillary pressure in the water phase also critically affects oil uptake,” Takhar said.

Capillary pressure makes overall pore pressure negative, and that negative pressure tends to suck oil from inside. His simulations show when that pressure is becoming more negative.

“The trick is to stop when pore pressure is still positive (or less negative)—that is, when oil has had less penetration. Of course, other variables such as moisture level, texture, taste, and structure formation, must be monitored as well. It’s an optimization problem,” he noted.

When this exquisite balance is achieved, lower-fat, healthier fried foods are the result, he added.

“Temporal Sodium Release Related to Gel Microstructural Properties—Implications for Sodium Reduction” was published in a recent issue of Journal of Food Science. Lee and Wan-Yuan Kuo are co-authors of the study, which will continue to be funded by USDA. “Modeling Multiscale Transport Mechanisms, Phase Changes, and Thermomechanics during Frying” was published in a recent issue of Food Research International. Co-authors are Takhar and Harkirat S. Bansal of the U of I and Jirawan Maneerote of Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Thailand. The Takhar study was funded by USDA and the Royal Thai Government.

News Sources:
Youngsoo Lee, 217-333-9335
Pawan Takhar
, 217-300-0486

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Two University of Illinois food scientists receive USDA food safety grants

URBANA, Ill. – Two University of Illinois professors have received $861,714 in grant money from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to fund research that will improve the nation’s food quality.

A four-year grant for nearly $500,000 was awarded to Pawan Takhar, a U of I associate professor of food engineering, to study damage to foods caused by ice recrystallization during freeze-thaw cycles. Shyam S. Sablani, associate professor of biological systems engineering at Washington State University, is a co–principal investigator on the project.

“Millions of dollars’ worth of food products are damaged during shipping and storing due to moisture migration and ice crystal growth caused by freeze-thaw cycles. Data generated from our physics-based mathematical modeling and experimentation will help the food industry improve the operation and design of its freezing units,” Takhar said.

Youngsoo Lee, a U of I assistant professor of food science, was awarded a USDA NIFA grant for over $360,000 for research that will enable food manufacturers to design solid food systems that will enhance saltiness and achieve sodium reduction in a broad range of products.

“Six in 10 American adults either have high blood pressure or are on the borderline of this diagnosis largely because they eat too much salt,” he explained.

Because 70 percent of the salt Americans consume comes from processed foods, Lee studies the relationship between the microstructural properties of these foods and the way salt is released when it is chewed.

“Much of the salt that is added to processed foods is not released in our mouths where we can taste it, and that means the rest of the salt is wasted,” he said. “We want to alter porosity in these foods to see if we can get more of the salt to be released during chewing. Then food manufacturers won’t have to add as much salt as before, but the consumer will taste almost the same amount of saltiness.”

Soo-Yeun Lee, a U of I associate professor of food science, and Jan Ilavsky, a physicist at Argonne National Laboratory, are co–principal investigators on Lee’s grant-funded research.

News Sources:
Youngsoo Lee, 217-333-9335
Pawan Takhar
, 217-300-0486

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U of I researchers receive USDA grant to develop childhood obesity intervention programs

URBANA, Ill. – University of Illinois researchers have been awarded a USDA grant that aims to decrease childhood obesity rates in Hispanic populations.

The grant, funded under the 2014 Farm Bill through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) for nearly $500,000, intends to continue support up to five years for a total of $3.4 million.

The program, Abriendo Caminos, is a six-week workshop series that promotes healthy dietary behavior patterns and basic knowledge of nutrition; positive family interactions, including shared family mealtimes; and active living in low-literacy, low-income Hispanic families. It specifically targets 6- to 18-year-old children of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage in five locations across the country.

Abriendo Caminos was developed by two faculty members in the U of I’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. The program is directed by Margarita Teran-Garcia, a U of I assistant professor of nutrition and Extension specialist for Hispanic health programs. Angela Wiley, a U of I associate professor in family studies, co-directs the project.

Affiliated with Abriendo Caminos at other sites are Amber Hammons at California State University, Fresno; Kimberly Greder of Iowa State University; Maria L. Plaza and Nancy J. Correa at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez; and Sylvia Crixell of Texas State University.

The research team intends to generate a diverse community of scholars who will develop and disseminate programs to decrease gaps in health inequality, including Hispanic university students, who will meet the specific needs of this population.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, in announcing the funding, said that one-third of American children are overweight or obese, making this issue one of the greatest health challenges facing our nation.

Teran-Garcia stressed that Spanish-speaking families are at increased risk of obesity and its associated metabolic diseases. “Abriendo Caminos has been successful in changing the behaviors that lead to childhood obesity in this growing segment of the U.S. population,” she said.

“Our preliminary findings indicate that participants in Abriendo Caminos eat more fruits and vegetables and drink less sugary beverages after participating in the program,” Wiley said.

News Sources:
Margarita Teran-Garcia, 217-244-2025
Angela Wiley, 217-265-5279

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“Jailbreaking” yeast could amp up wine’s health benefits, reduce morning-after headaches

URBANA – University of Illinois scientists have engineered a “jailbreaking” yeast that could greatly increase the health benefits of wine while reducing the toxic byproducts that cause your morning-after headache.

“Fermented foods—such as beer, wine, and bread—are made with polyploid strains of yeast, which means they contain multiple copies of genes in the genome. Until now, it’s been very difficult to do genetic engineering in polyploid strains because if you altered a gene in one copy of the genome, an unaltered copy would correct the one that had been changed,” said Yong-Su Jin, a U of I associate professor of microbial genomics and principal investigator in the Energy Biosciences Institute.

Recently scientists have developed a “genome knife” that cuts across multiple copies of a target gene in the genome very precisely—until all copies are cut. Jin’s group has now used this enzyme, RNA-guided Cas9 nuclease, to do precise metabolic engineering of polyploid Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains that have been widely used in the wine, beer, and fermentation industries.

The possibilities for improved nutritive value in foods are staggering, he said. “Wine, for instance, contains the healthful component resveratrol. With engineered yeast, we could increase the amount of resveratrol in a variety of wine by 10 times or more. But we could also add metabolic pathways to introduce bioactive compounds from other foods, such as ginseng, into the wine yeast. Or we could put resveratrol-producing pathways into yeast strains used for beer, kefir, cheese, kimchee, or pickles—any food that uses yeast fermentation in its production.”

Another benefit is that winemakers can clone the enzyme to enhance malolactic fermentation, a secondary fermentation process that makes wine smooth. Improper malolactic fermentation generates the toxic byproducts that may cause hangover symptoms, he said.

Jin stressed the genome knife’s importance as a tool that allows genetic engineers to make these extremely precise mutations.

“Scientists need to create designed mutations to determine the function of specific genes,” he explained. “Say we have a yeast that produces a wine with great flavor and we want to know why. We delete one gene, then another, until the distinctive flavor is gone, and we know we’ve isolated the gene responsible for that characteristic.”

The new technology also makes genetically modified organisms less objectionable, he said. “In the past, scientists have had to use antibiotic markers to indicate the spot of genetic alteration in an organism, and many persons objected to their use in foods because of the danger of developing antibiotic resistance. With the genome knife, we can cut the genome very precisely and efficiently so we don’t have to use antibiotic markers to confirm a genetic event.”

The research was reported in a recent issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Co-authors of “Construction of a Quadruple Auxotrophic Mutant of an Industrial Polyploid Saccharomyces cerevisiae Strain by Using RNA-Guided Cas9 Nuclease” are Guochang Zhang, In Iok Kong, Heejin Kim, Jingjing Liu, and Yong-Su Jin, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Jamie H.D. Cate of the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The research was funded by the Energy Biosciences Institute.

The Energy Biosciences Institute is a public-private collaboration in which bioscience and biological techniques are being applied to help solve the global energy challenge. The partnership, funded with $500 million for 10 years from the energy company BP, includes researchers from UC Berkeley; the University of Illinois, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The research was conducted in the Energy Biosciences Institute, a public–private collaboration funded by the energy company BP. The EBI includes researchers from UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Details about the EBI can be found on the website: www.energybiosciencesinstitute.org .

News Source: Yong-Su Jin, 217-333-7981

Original story from FSHN website publised March 16, 2015 and found here: http://fshn.illinois.edu/news/jailbreaking-yeast-could-amp-wines-health-benefits-reduce-morning-after-headaches

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New Faculty Lectures Online

Two lectures from FSHN faculty members Hao Feng and Juan Andrade, as presented at the February 2015 “Food Systems for Food Security Symposium” symposium on the University of Illinois campus, are now available:

“Food Dehydration Reduction of Postharvest Losses” by Dr. Hao Feng. Lecture slides are here.

“Innovations to Achieve Nutrition Security in Low-income Countries” by Dr. Juan Andrade. Lecture slides are here.


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Food Dehydration Reduction of Postharvest Losses – Prof. Hao Feng, February 10, 2015

“Food DehydrationReduction of Postharvest Losses,” Hao Feng, Ph.D, Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (fshn.illinois.edu), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Lecture slides:

Event: Food Systems for Food Security Symposium
February 10, 2015, ACES Library, Information and Alumni Center, Urbana, Illinois

Sponsor: International Food Security at Illinois
College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

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Innovations to Achieve Nutrition Security in Low-income Countries, Prof. Juan Andrade, Feb. 10, 2015

“Innovations to Achieve Nutrition Security in Low-income Countries,” Juan Andrade, Ph.D, Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (fshn.illinois.edu), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Lecture slides: 

Event: Food Systems for Food Security Symposium
February 10, 2015, ACES Library, Information and Alumni Center, Urbana, Illinois

Sponsor: International Food Security at Illinois
College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

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U of I study describes behaviors, preferences of picky eaters

URBANA, Ill. – Although there’s no scientific definition of picky eating, parents say they know it when they see it. Now a University of Illinois study shows that picky eaters do exhibit definable preferences and mealtime behaviors.

Why is this important? “If we better understand the behaviors that parents associate with picky eating, we can develop specific recommendations targeted at those behaviors. Not all picky eaters are created equal,” said Sharon Donovan, a U of I professor of nutrition.

The new study showed that kids deemed picky eaters by their parents did react differently to common foods and behaved differently at mealtime than kids whose parents said their kids weren’t choosy. The differences were significant and occurred across 16 assessed behaviors, according to U of I sensory scientist Soo-Yeun Lee.

The two-week study investigated differences in picky eaters’ and non-picky eaters’ behaviors and food selections. Parents of 170 two- to four-year-olds observed their children’s responses to five standardized meals brought into participants’ homes, evaluating their behavior in real time, not from memory. At the beginning of the study, 83 children were described by their parents as picky eaters; 87 children were not.

Significant differences existed between the two groups, with the behavior of picky eaters ranging from simple suspicion of an unfamiliar food to cringing, crying, and gagging, Lee said.

“Non-picky eaters on average were perceived by their parents to have consumed more of the meal and had higher acceptance scores for most of the foods evaluated. They also displayed significantly fewer negative behaviors—they were more ‘willing to come to the table to eat’ and ‘participate in mealtime conversation,’” she said.

Lee explained that picky eaters can be divided into four groups: (1) Sensory-Dependent Eaters, who reject a food because it’s mushy, slippery, bitter, or lumpy; (2) Behavioral Responders, who cringe or gag when food’s not prepared in the “right” way or refuse to come to the table at mealtime; (3) Preferential Eaters, who won’t try new foods and avoid foods that are mixed or have complex ingredients; and (4) General Perfectionists (by far the largest group), who have very specific needs, little variety in their diet, and may insist that foods not touch each other.

Are there strategies parents can use to broaden their child’s eating horizons? “A parent’s response to pickiness can determine how bad the behavior will be and how long it will persist. Don’t let every meal become a battle,” Donovan said.

Lee too cautioned against mealtime strategies that may aggravate the behavior. “Requiring kids to eat their broccoli before they can have dessert may simply give the child negative feelings about broccoli in the long run. The child then regards broccoli as something he has to get through to get a reward.”

Donovan said that food preferences are established early in life. “Studies conducted at the U of I in the 1980s showed that exposing kids to different flavors, textures, and food groups was linked to better acceptance of those foods,” she said.

The researchers suggest serving a new item with a food the child likes and taking apart combined foods like sandwiches and casseroles to show what the dish contains.

“Some parents give up on a food if their child rejects it two or three times, but we encourage parents to keep exposing the child to the food. Don’t pressure them to eat it but show them that parents and siblings are eating the food and enjoying it,” Donovan said.

Also, realize that a certain amount of this behavior can be attributed to a toddler’s developmental stage, Donovan said.

“Picky eating peaks between two and three, and at this age, children simply don’t like new things. They’re afraid of strangers, and they’re also less accepting of new foods,” she said.

Lee added, “There’s a continuum here, and one parent may deem a certain behavior picky while another parent would not. When you slot your child into a negative category, the way you approach that issue is so different than if you accept the behavior as part of the child’s normal development.”

Although picky eating behaviors are not the same in each child, the study suggests that patterns are emerging that can be used to characterize different types of picky eaters. The researchers’ long-term goal is to develop specific strategies for the different types of behaviors for parents to try, Donovan explained.

“In the meantime, trust your child’s ability to eat what and how much they need,” she added. “The best thing parents can do is be gatekeepers over what food comes into the house, then let the child decide what she is going to consume, and allow for the occasional treat.”

“Mealtime Behaviors and Food Consumption of Perceived Picky and Nonpicky Eaters through Home Use Test” appears in the November 2014 issue of the Journal of Food Science. The U of I’s Mandy Boquin, Sarah Smith-Simpson, Sharon M. Donovan, and Soo-Yeun Lee co-authored the article.

“Defining Perceptions of Picky Eating Obtained through Focus Groups and Conjoint Analysis” describes the development of the scientists’ classification method for picky eaters and was published in the Journal of Sensory Studies. Co-authors are Mandy M. Boquin, Sharon M. Donovan, and Soo-Yeun Lee of the U of I and Howard R. Moskowitz of Moskowitz Jacobs Inc., White Plains, N.Y.

Funding was provided by Nestlé/Gerber Nutrition and the U of I Family Resiliency Center’s Food and Family Program supported by the Christopher Family Foundation.


News Sources:
Sharon Donovan, 217-333-2289
Soo-Yeun Lee, 217-244-9435

Original story from FSHN website found here: http://fshn.illinois.edu/news/u-i-study-describes-behaviors-preferences-picky-eaters

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