Spotlight Stories

Study completed in Ghana by UC Davis researchers shows that infants who consumed a fat-based nutrient supplement from 6 to 12 months of age showed no deficit in growth or motor development

Kathyrn Dewy Photo

Recent graduate of the UC Davis Graduate Group in Nutritional Biology Ph.D. Program, Dr. Seth Adu-Afarwuah (front row, second from right in photo at right) and Nutrition Department faculty member Dr. Kathryn Dewey (front row, third from right) have completed a study in Ghana that showed that infants who consumed Nutributter, a fat-based nutrient supplement, showed no deficit in either growth rate or gross motor development compared to international standards. Drs. Dewey and Adu-Afarwuah are shown at right with the study´s research staff in Ghana.


A nine month old child is weighed at her home.

In Ghana, UC Davis researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial of ~400 infants in 4 groups. One group received 20 g/day (108 kcal/day) of a fat-based nutrient supplement called "Nutributter", added daily to complementary foods given to children between 6 and 12 months of age. Results for this group were compared with those for groups who received daily a multiple micronutrient powder, a crushable multiple micronutrient tablet, or no intervention during the same period. Iron status and prevalence of anemia were improved in all three of the intervention groups, but only in the Nutributter group was there an impact on growth. In that group, there was no faltering in length gain between 6 and 12 months, whereas in the other groups there was the typical decline in relative length-for-age compared to WHO growth standards that one sees in most developing country populations.


Dr. Adu-Afarwuah explains details of the study to a mother.

The statistical analysis suggested that the effect on growth was largely due to the essential fatty acids provided by the Nutributter, not to increased calories. Motor development of the infants was assessed at 12 months. In the non-intervention control group, only 25% of the infants were able to walk independently at that age, which is half of what would be expected in a healthy population (50% should be walking at 12 months) and indicative of developmental delay in the general population. In all three intervention groups, there was a significant improvement in this outcome, but the percentage able to walk at 12 months was higher in the Nutributter group (49%) than in the two groups that received the micronutrient powder (39%) or tablet (36%). Thus, the Nutributter group showed no deficit in either growth or gross motor development compared to international standards, which is a remarkable outcome.

Results from the study were recently published in an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition titled "Randomized comparison of 3 types of micronutrient supplements for home fortification of complementary foods in Ghana: effects on growth and motor development." Dr. Adu-Afarwuah now works as aNutrition Specialist with UNICEF-Ghana, supporting the UNICEF Nutrition Officers in the planning and implementation of nutrition intervention activities in Ghana. His research interests include the development and evaluation of low cost interventions to improve nutrition and health of infants and children in low income populations.

Spotlight on Faculty Member Dr. Fawaz Haj

Photo - Haj Welcome Reception

Haj Welcome Reception 2007

After receiving his doctorate from Oxford, Dr. Haj spent six years as a post doctorial fellow at Harvard. Dr. Haj brings a wealth of experience with him to UC Davis especially in the area of cell signaling, which is viewed as one of the essential components (along with system analysis/metabolomics) for understanding nutrition-related mechanisms in a 21st century context.

Dr. Haj is currently conducting research to understand the molecular signals responsible for metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.  He is particularly interested in protein-tyrosine phosphatases, or PTPs, enzymes which up- or down-regulate intracellular signals via dephosphorylation.

Photo - Dr. Fawaz Haj

Dr. Fawaz Haj

"For a long time, these enzymes were ignored," Dr. Haj says.  "People had the misconception that phosphatases were boring." 

Each phosphatase has numerous substrates.  Studying such promiscuous enzymes, the thinking went, couldn´t possibly yield useful insight into metabolic regulation.  But then, two independent labs generated knockout mice deficient in protein-tyrosine phosphatase 1B.  Surprisingly, given that PTP1B has so many substrates, the two independently derived knockout strains shared the same phenotype of increased insulin sensitivity and resistance to diet-induced obesity.  PTP1B thus appeared to have very specific intracellular targets.  Additional work using knockout and RNAi approaches revealed the specificity of other phosphatases as well. 

"This raised the hope that you could inhibit PTP1B in humans to increase insulin response and energy expenditure," says Dr. Haj.  In 1999, he began exploring the workings of PTP1B as a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Harvard´s Dr. Benjamin Neel.  Now, as a recently appointed Assistant Professor of Nutrition, he´s bringing his research to UC Davis.  

To understand how phosphatases can be inhibited, Dr. Haj needs to understand their actions both at the whole-body level and within each cell.  "We´re using tissue-specific knockouts of PTPs to see what these enzymes do in a physiological setting," he says.  His team will test the PTPs´ regulatory roles in peripheral insulin-responsive tissues.  They´ve already demonstrated that the liver is a site of PTP1B action.  Future work will let them see the level of communication and redundancy between tissues with respect to these enzymes.

In close collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. Philippe Bastiaens in Germany, Dr. Haj is using fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) to examine PTP regulation inside each cell.  This technique will help determine how enzymes with many substrates target their actions.  "We know that localizing PTPs within the cell controls which substrates they can access," Dr. Haj says.  PTP1B is tethered to the endoplasmic reticulum, where it must wait for substrates to come to it.  This system of enzymatic regulation is rather like having sit-down service in a restaurant instead of a buffet.  FRET will show what "meals" arrive at the enzyme and which "waiters" bring them.

Although Dr. Haj is very busy with his research, he enjoys exploring sit-down and buffet service in Davis at the macroscopic level.  He grew up in Lebanon and has lived in the UK and Boston, so he eats "everything" – but sushi is his favorite. 

Shortly after joining the UC Davis Nutrition Department Dr. Haj was selected to be a 2008-2009 Hellman Fellow, which involves an award of funds to support his research on the role of protein-tyrosine phosphatase 1B in diabetes. The Hellman Family Foundation established the UC Davis Hellman Fellowship program to provide support and encouragement for the research of promising faculty at the Assistant Professor rank who exhibit potential for great distinction in their research.

By Erin Digitale

Clinical Nutrition Students at UC Davis Pursue an Undergraduate Degree Known for its Breadth and Rigor

Joan Frank and Francene Steinberg

Francene Steinberg and Joan Frank

"Dietetics is at the center of many overlapping domains of knowledge," says Dr. Francene Steinberg, Professor and Chair of the UC Davis Nutrition Department. With assistance from Joan Frank, Dr. Steinberg directs the Didactic Program in Dietetics, which forms the core of the Clinical Nutrition course work. The program, developmentally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education, is the first step toward becoming a Registered Dietitian, and covers nutrition science, food science, medical nutrition therapy, human physiology, public health and wellness, business and food service management, the social sciences and general education courses.

Future dietitians at Davis are taught by the country´s best nutrition scientists. "We place great emphasis on rigorous science courses," Dr. Steinberg says. "It’s a definite benefit of studying here."

Students especially enjoy their upper-division medical nutrition therapy classes. Using case histories based on real patients, they conduct nutrition assessments, plan diet modifications and nutrition education, and practice writing chart notes to communicate with other health professionals. "It’s a chance to integrate their knowledge from basic nutrition, physiology, and adult learning theory in the setting of disease pathology," Dr. Steinberg says. Outside the classroom, students are encouraged to find paid or volunteer positions in clinical nutrition, community nutrition, and food service management. Many students also gain hands-on exposure to nutrition science by working part-time in campus research labs.

The program attracts people from a wide variety of backgrounds. A few enter the major as freshmen, but the majority of Clinical Nutrition students are juniors and seniors, including many who transfer from other institutions. "We´re working hard to increase our program´s ethnic and cultural diversity as well," Dr. Steinberg says. "The population we serve as professionals is very diverse. It´s important to connect culturally with our clientele."

After leaving UC Davis, many graduates complete accredited internships in dietetics to qualify for the exam that certifies them as Registered Dietitians. Dr. Steinberg says that at this stage of their education, Davis students stand out. "Internship directors value the type of training we provide," she says. "We also hear from program graduates that they really come to appreciate the hard work we put them through." Graduates who chose not to become Registered Dietitians pursue educational and professional paths that include other health professions, graduate study, and work in the business world. Click here for a list of jobs held by alumni of the Clinical Nutrition major.

By Erin Digitale

Nutrition Educators Hope to Cultivate Better Eating Habits in Children

Photo - Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr

The garden based research program that Dr. Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr planted more than seven years ago has grown. A nutrition specialist in Cooperative Extension at UC Davis, Zidenberg-Cherr (shown at right) has done several studies centering on the use of school gardens in academic instruction to teach nutrition and promote better eating habits. Moving beyond school gardens, Zidenberg-Cherr has begun research on comprehensive nutrition services in schools. Her group is measuring the impact of a multi-faceted approach to nutrition education on changes in eating behavior.

Photo - children gardening

The program offers science-based classroom curricula, reinforced with hands-on experiences in instructional gardens, kitchen classrooms, and composting programs. Whenever possible, fresh fruits and vegetables from local growers are used to improve food selection in school cafeterias. Comprehensive school nutrition programs seek to help students make connections between food, health, agriculture, their community, and the environment. "They say it takes a whole village to raise a child—that´s really what is required to improve children´s nutrition," says Zidenberg-Cherr. "We want children to realize that it feels better to eat healthier foods and to exercise. We want to give them the tools to make changes for life. Simply changing the food selection at schools and forcing kids to eat it is not enough."

The need for nutrition education is pressing. In California, more than 25 percent of K–12 students are overweight or obese, and nearly 40 percent are considered physically unfit. Schools are excellent settings for nutrition education because large numbers of children can be reached in a systematic fashion. Children eat at least one or two meals daily on school grounds, and the food on campus can strongly influence their eating habits.

One of the main obstacles to teaching nutrition to schoolchildren is a shortage of instructional time. Nutrition is not a mandatory subject. California teachers are required to address the mathematics and language arts curricula for each grade level, so Zidenberg-Cherr and others have developed lesson plans that link nutrition to the state standards for core subjects.

Photo - Marilyn Briggs

Another challenge for nutrition educators is that many children today, across all income levels, lack food preparation skills. Families eat out frequently or buy packaged food. Some have kitchens that aren´t even equipped with the basic tools to prepare food. "Maybe you could get them to buy a stalk of broccoli, but they really have no idea what to do with it," says Dr. Marilyn Briggs, the former deputy California State Superintendent of Public Instruction shown at right, now a researcher working with Zidenberg-Cherr. Dr. Briggs has begun work with Zidenberg-Cherr on a nutrition intervention in a rural school district near Redding, Calif. Over the course of three years, Zidenberg-Cherr´s group will measure the activity levels, food preferences, and food selection of the 300 middle school and high school students in the study to evaluate the effectiveness of a multi-component approach to nutrition education.

Zidenberg-Cherr and others recently established the UC Davis Center for Integrative Nutrition Environments in School Communities (CNS) to serve as a resource for schools and nutrition educators. To better inform students, CNS works with the California Department of Education to give teachers accurate nutrition information that incorporates the latest scientific findings from universities. The teacher training programs are sponsored in part by a UC Davis endowment established in the name of former dietitian Barbara Van Zandt by her daughter Karen (Van Zandt) Medford.

"We´re moving nutrition education beyond school gardens to the entire school community," says Dr. Briggs. "We want to define the determinants that really make positive improvements in children´s eating behaviors."

by Robin DeRieux, originally published in CA&ES Outlook Fall 2007

Teaching Nutrition with Technology : Students Can´t Get Enough. A profile of Dr. Liz Applegate

Photo - Liz Applegate

Dr. Liz Applegate, a nationally renowned expert on nutrition and fitness, is a faculty member of the Nutrition Department at the University of California, Davis.Her enthusiasm and informal style make her undergraduate nutrition classes the nation´s largest, with enrollments exceeding 2,000 annually.

"The thrill of interacting with students" is Dr. Applegate´s favorite part of her job."It´s exciting to get e-mails that say, ‘I lost 20 pounds after I took your course.´I think, wow, delivering this material made a difference."

Photo - Liz Applegate Lecture

UC Davis´s Nutrition 10 course, Discoveries and Concepts in Nutrition, is one of the country´s most popular undergraduate courses. The course covers the foundations of nutrition science, including nutrient digestion and metabolism, with special focus on areas relevant to college students, such as diet supplements, food labels and diet guidelines, the nutritional effects of alcohol, nutrition for athletes, and the links between nutrition and chronic disease risk.

"My emphasis is to cover basic nutrition in a way that interests students in science and brings in their own personal issues related to nutrition and health," says instructor Dr. Liz Applegate.

"If I pick up on what students really want to hear about nutrition, they learn the material much better than if they´re just memorizing facts. So I make the course as personable and applicable as possible."

Students give rave reviews to Dr. Applegate´s enthusiastic style and her extensive use of innovative classroom technologies.

Photo - Liz Applegate

"Using PowerPoint slides during lectures allows me to communicate complicated scientific concepts because students can see the concepts sequentially," Dr. Applegate says. She uses cartoons and animations to draw analogies between the body´s machinery and everyday life: antioxidants are firefighters, DNA encodes protein on a factory assembly line, and the body´s cholesterol transport system runs like a bus service.

Lecture podcasts are a popular recent addition to the course. Podcasting, a method of distributing digital media files over the Internet, has been used since 2005 to provide students with audio recordings of Nutrition 10 classes. Lecture recordings are posted on the course Web site after each class. Students can download and listen to lectures on their computers or MP3 players.

Lecture podcasts are extremely popular with students. Students recently gave the podcasts a rating of 4.8 of a possible 5 points on course evaluations."Podcasts are one way that we can accommodate different learning styles," says Dr. Liz Applegate, the instructor of Nutrition 10. "Podcasts let students review the parts of lecture that they didn´t understand. Students feel better in class knowing the podcast will be there."

Students whose schedules conflict with out-of-class activities such as the pre-exam review sessions also appreciate the podcasts. "Most of the class material is summarized in the review sessions," Dr. Applegate says. "Listening to a review via podcast is almost as good as being there live." She emphasizes, however, that although some students listen to the podcasts instead of coming to lectures, she doesn´t see them as a substitute for attending class. "There´s a lot to be gained in terms of engaging in the material through face-to-face instruction," she says.

In her classes, Dr. Applegate emphasizes that she doesn´t view individual foods as good or bad. "For example, I eat potato chips and In ‘N Out ­ in perspective with other foods," she says."Eating well isn´t about being perfect, but about finding out what food has to offer, and striking a balance between your needs, personal preferences, culture, and family experiences."

Her own balance includes lots of veggies ­ tomatoes are her favorite ­ and twice-a-day swimming, cycling or running workouts.

Dr. Applegate earned a B.S. in biochemistry and a Ph.D. in nutrition at UC Davis.During her student days, she could often be found prepping vegetables at her part-time Coffee House job.

As a faculty member, she has received the University of California´s prestigious Excellence in Education and Excellence in Teaching Awards. She is the author of several books and has written over 300 articles for national magazines.She speaks frequently at industry, athletic and scientific meetings and on international, national and local radio and television shows such as Good Morning America and the health segments on CNN and ESPN. She serves as a nutrition consultant to NBA and NFL individuals and teams and is currently the team nutritionist for the Oakland Raiders.She is also the director of sport nutrition for Intercollegiate Athletics at UC Davis.

By Erin Digitale

Graduate Student Patrice Armstrong and Dr. Charles Stephensen Study the Effects of Genes and Diet on Inflamation-mediated Heart Disease Risk Among African-Americans

Photo - Patrice Armstrong

Graduate student Patrice Armstrong and Dr. Charles Stephensen are studying the effects of genes and diet on inflammation-mediated heart disease risk among African-Americans. The body’s inflammatory response relies upon signal molecules such as leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and cytokines. Increased inflammation from these signals raises heart disease risk.

The project, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, is a collaboration between UC Davis, the USDA’s Western Human Nutrition Research Center, and researchers in Sacramento and Oakland.

The team is studying 5-lipoxygenase, a gene in the leukotriene biosynthesis pathway. Several variant forms of the 5-lipoxygenase gene are found in human populations. Some variants confer increased heart disease risk relative to the most common form of the gene, whereas others are associated with decreased risk. In addition, the 5-lipoxygenase gene is nutritionally responsive: its activity can be changed by changes in dietary fatty acid composition.

Photo - Patrice Armstrong

Patrice Armstrong, Jessical Luo

The research team is screening healthy African-American adults, aged 20 to 59, to see which variants of the 5-lipoxygenase gene are found in this population. The team hypothesizes that high-risk gene variants are common among African-Americans, and may contribute to their high rates of heart disease.

After screening, subjects with six variants of the 5-lipoxygenase gene that confer different levels of heart disease risk are being recruited for the study’s nutrition intervention. During the intervention, subjects consume an omega 3 fatty acid supplement (fish oil) or a placebo for 6 weeks. Omega 3 fatty acids have known anti-inflammatory effects, including reducing activity of the 5-lipoxygenase gene. The researchers are measuring a variety of inflammatory markers and heart disease risk factors both before and after the treatment. They anticipate that people with the gene variants that confer higher risk of heart disease may experience the greatest reductions in inflammation and thus benefit most from consuming fish oil supplements. If this hypothesis is correct, the study’s results could eventually be used to design individually-tailored diet plans aimed at preventing heart disease.

Recruitment for the study is ongoing. For more information about this study, please see under “Heart & Health Study.”

By Erin Digitale

Graduate Student Bethany Cummings and Dr. Peter Havel Study Impact of Nutritional Supplements on Type 2 Diabetes

Photo - Bethany Cummings

DVM/PhD student Bethany Cummings (show at right) and Associate Research Endocrinologist Dr. Peter Havel are testing whether certain nutritional supplements prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes arises from inadequate action of the sugar transport hormone insulin. The disease, which presently has no cure, significantly elevates individuals´ risk for heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and limb amputations. Cost-effective ways to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes are urgently needed.

The Havel lab is testing the preventive efficacy of three diet supplements: eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid; fish oil, which contains EPA; and the antioxidant lipoic acid. These supplements were chosen for their plausible mechanisms of action, low cost, and apparent lack of side effects. The supplements are being fed to a strain of diabetic rats developed by the Havel lab. The animals, known as UC Davis Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Rats, exhibit a disease syndrome very similar to human type 2 diabetes. Animals are eating one of three supplemented diets or a control diet and are being monitored for the elevated blood sugar levels characteristic of type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Havel´s team hypothesizes that EPA and fish oil stave off diabetes by activating the peroxisome proliferator-activated class of nuclear receptors (PPARs) to increase circulating adiponectin, a hormone made by fat cells, and to reduce circulating free fatty acid and triglyceride levels. These metabolic changes are linked to lower diabetes risk in humans and animals. Lipoic acid´s antioxidant activities are hypothesized to protect against oxidative changes that promote diabetes. For example, pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin, are very susceptible to oxidative damage and thus might be protected by lipoic acid.

The lab´s preliminary findings suggest that lipoic acid may delay diabetes onset. Additionally, EPA and fish oil appear to have positive effects on lipid metabolism in rats both before and after diabetes onset. The next phase of the project will test the mechanisms of lipoic acid action in an environment of diet-induced oxidative stress. The study is being funded by a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

By Erin Digitale

UC Davis Nutritional Biology Graduate Group Student Andrew Hall Studies Maternal Health and Pregnancy Outcomes Among Rural Vietnamese Women

Women in rural areas of Vietnam often suffer from poor nutrition, underweight and anemia. When they become pregnant, these women are at high risk for inadequate weight gain, complications of pregnancy, and unfavorable birth outcomes.


UC Davis Nutritional Biology Ph.D. student Andrew Hall (in adjacent photo seated at right) and Research Professor Dr. Janet King are developing a low-cost nutrition intervention designed to improve maternal health and pregnancy outcomes among rural Vietnamese women. Their study, currently in the pilot stage, will recruit approximately 500 women of childbearing age from 21 communes in rural Vietnam.

During the two-year study, women in control communes will receive nutrition education, while those in treatment communes will receive nutrition education and a daily food supplement. The supplement will consist of locally available animal-source foods such as chicken eggs, small shrimp, field crabs, and small fish. Animal-source foods are rich in nutrients needed for fetal development, including iron, zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. However, in rural Vietnam, social and economic obstacles and dietary taboos observed during pregnancy often limit women´s consumption of these foods.

The foods will be prepared by study cooks according to local tastes, and will be eaten by subjects at the study center. Some women will receive food supplements throughout the study, beginning before they become pregnant. Others will start receiving the supplements in the second trimester of pregnancy, the time when local customs dictate dietary changes for expectant mothers.

The research team anticipates that maternal health and infant birth weight and health will be improved more by the daily food supplement than by nutrition education alone. Because prior studies have shown strong effects of maternal nutrient status at conception on the offspring´s future health, they also expect that improving women´s diets before pregnancy will have greater benefits than waiting until pregnancy to initiate dietary changes. The researchers hope their findings will be used to develop sustainable, locally sourced, low-cost nutrition interventions that will improve maternal and child health in Vietnam and other developing countries.

By Erin Digitale

Diagnosing pneumonia: Getting it right

Doctors may soon be able to quickly and accurately diagnose the cause of pneumonialike symptoms by examining the chemicals found in a patient’s urine, suggests a new study led by UC Davis Nutrition Department faculty member Dr. Carolyn Slupsky.


Pneumonia is a lung infection that annually sickens millions of people in the United States, resulting in approximately 500,000 hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. A rapid, accurate diagnostic test for pneumonia could save lives by enabling doctors to begin appropriate treatment earlier.

Using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, the researchers identified a chemical “fingerprint” for the type of pneumonia caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, and compared this to the chemical fingerprints for other types of pneumonia and noninfectious lung diseases.

Findings from the study, conducted by Slupsky and colleagues in Canada and Australia, are discussed in a research profile in the December issue of the Journal of Proteome Research. A patent is pending on the diagnostic procedure.

“This is the first study to demonstrate that NMR-based analysis of metabolites in urine has the potential to provide rapid diagnosis of the cause of pneumonia,” said Slupsky, an assistant professor in UC Davis’ departments of Nutrition, and Food Science and Technology. She is also a faculty member in UC Davis’ Foods for Health Institute.

“It also shows that we can use this technology to quickly and easily monitor patient recovery,” Slupsky said. “The goal is a tool for rapid, accurate diagnosis so that patients can quickly begin treatment with the appropriate medication.”

Today, pneumonia is diagnosed by a combination of clinical symptoms, X-rays, and analysis of a patient’s blood or sputum by bacterial culture. Such tests usually take more than 36 hours to complete and tend to yield a high rate of false-positive results. Previous studies have shown misdiagnoses of pneumonia in more than 80 percent of patients admitted to hospitals, leading to delays in treatment with the appropriate antibiotic.

About pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection of the lower respiratory tract that causes symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, fever, chest pains and cough. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, and is difficult to diagnose because other noninfectious ailments can mimic pneumonia.

Streptococcus pneumonia is the major cause of community-acquired, rather than hospital-acquired, pneumonia. It can become life threatening in anyone, but is particularly worrisome in elderly patients, smokers and people with weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases.

Metabolomics study

In the new study, Slupsky and colleagues applied metabolomics — the study of the chemicals produced by the body’s metabolic processes — to develop a profile for pneumonia as it appears in a patient’s urine. To do this, they analyzed hundreds of urine samples collected from healthy individuals, and patients with a variety of pulmonary diseases or infections. In the process, the researchers measured 61 metabolites in urine samples using NMR spectroscopy.

They found that urine from patients infected with pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae had a telltale chemical profile that clearly distinguished those people from healthy individuals or patients with other ailments.

“By analyzing urine samples collected at various intervals during the patient’s hospitalization, we could actually observe sick patients recover because their recovery was reflected in the chemical composition of their urine,” Slupsky said.

She noted that the research team was surprised to find that most of the changes in metabolites related to infection by Streptococcus pneumoniae were caused by the body’s response to the infection rather than by the invading bacteria.

“In future studies, we hope to explore how bacteria and other microbes interact with the body of the individual they infect, and how these interactions alter metabolism in the body, resulting in unique metabolite profiles in the urine,” she said.

Slupsky conducted this research while at the University of Alberta. She joined UC Davis in July 2008. Her research focuses on interactions between the human body and bacteria, as they relate to health and disease conditions.

She collaborated on the study with researchers at the University of Alberta, University of Toronto and Austin Health in Australia.

Funding for the study was provided by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, the Lung Association of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, Western Economic Development, and Alberta Advanced Education and Technology.

By Pat Bailey, Originally published in Dateline, December 11, 2009

Tiny Packets of Hope - UC Davis leads efforts against malnutrition with a $16 million Gates Foundation grant


Photo by Steve Vosti, UC Davis

Images of mud huts, lush jungle growth and rust-colored soil flash across Steve Vosti’s computer screen as the UC Davis economist scans photos of some of his research sites. Interspersed are snapshots of young children with shy smiles — ­­ ­the hope and future of Africa and, Vosti says, among “the very poorest kids on the globe.”

If not born malnourished, many will be severely lacking in essential nutrients by the time they are 6-12 months old. Without intervention before age 2, their health, stature and thinking abilities may be forever damaged. Vulnerable to infectious diseases, they could be among the 5 million children around the world who will die each year of malnutrition.

But Vosti and a team of international researchers, led by UC Davis nutrition professor Kathryn Dewey, may have found something that can help in a soft, squeezable package about the size of a fast-food catsup packet.

The unlikely, but potent, remedy is a peanut butter-like nutritional supplement, rich in vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. French pediatric nutritionist André Briend, who until recently worked with the World Health Organization, developed the first version of a similar ready-to-eat paste more than a decade ago to treat severely malnourished children in Africa. In 2000, the Normandy-based firm Nutriset began producing the supplement under the commercial name Plumpy’nut.

Since then, it has been sold to and distributed by humanitarian aid organizations working in more than 50 developing countries. In 2004 alone, it was credited with saving the lives of more than 30,000 malnourished children in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The UC Davis researchers worked with Nutriset in 2003 to develop a more concentrated type of lipid-based nutrient supplement called Nutributter. It has the same food ingredients as Plumpy’nut but also includes all of the essential vitamins and minerals in a much smaller, 20-gram daily dose, equal to 4 teaspoons and containing about 110 calories. This is about one-tenth of the daily ration for treatment of severely malnourished children.

Nutributter, designed to prevent rather than treat severe malnutrition, is to be given starting at 6 months of age to enrich, not replace, local foods fed to infants and young children. It is full of calories and nutrients, doesn’t require refrigeration or clean drinking water, and can be made primarily from locally produced ingredients. Furthermore, kids love its flavor.

The first randomized trial using Nutributter was conducted by the UC Davis team in Ghana in 2004–2006, with promising results. It reduced anemia and eliminated faltering growth in children between 6 and 12 months of age and doubled the percentage of infants who were able to walk independently by 12 months. Another research team, working in Malawi with a similar type of supplement, found a large reduction in the number of children who became severely stunted in growth.

However, these lipid- or fat-based supplements still need to be refined into the most nutritious, effective and affordable formulations.

That’s the goal of the UC Davis team and its network of international research partners, whose vision last year captured the endorsement of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the form of a five-year, $16 million research grant. The funds will support one of the most comprehensive international nutrition research projects ever mounted.

Dubbed the “iLiNS” or International Lipid-Based Nutrient Supplements Project, the effort includes public and private institutions in Burkina Faso, Finland, France, Ghana, Malawi and the United States. Their task is to identify the most nutritious and cost-effective formulations of the supplements for children under age two and for pregnant and lactating women, and the best methods for distributing them.

To do this, the researchers will need the participation of nearly 7,000 African women and young children in Ghana and Burkina Faso in West Africa and Malawi in southeast Africa. Much of the project’s first year has been spent in planning and preparing to recruit participants, house-to-house and village-to-village.

Briend, the pioneer of the lipid-based supplements, is optimistic about the huge study.

“I wish the iLiNS team success in its project,” he said. “For prevention of malnutrition, we need to go back to the drawing board and formulate a supplement that provides, at minimal cost, just the nutrients that are missing in the local diet.

“This is a totally different problem than was addressed previously with either liquid diets or the existing paste-like supplements, and it requires extensive research and field testing in different settings,” Briend said. “I am glad to see these issues addressed by a large international consortium with a broad range of expertise in many different areas. Hundreds of millions of children who live in poor countries and do not receive a diet providing all of the nutrients that they need for their development may benefit from the outcome of the iLiNS research.”

Out of Davis, Into Africa


Photo by Steve Vosti, UC Davis

The project’s UC Davis team includes administrative, nutritional and economic components. Dewey, the project director and an authority on maternal and child nutrition, began working on nutrition intervention studies in Ghana in the mid-1990s. Her task is to keep all of the wheels of the mammoth research project spinning.

“The safety and security of our research teams always concerns me, as does the safety of our participants,” she said. “We have systems in place to safeguard participants’ health, but anytime you give someone something and ask them to eat it, you really want to make sure it is safe.”

She noted that the research team tries to be sensitive to the cultures in which they are working, and obtains approval from the tribal chief or other local authorities before recruiting participants. They also have found that in Africa it is critical to obtain the consent of the father, as well as the mother, before enrolling a child in a study.

In addition to Dewey, the project’s nutrition team at UC Davis includes Kenneth Brown and Lindsay Allen, both experts in international nutrition. Brown, also a pediatrician by training, is leading field studies with children in Burkina Faso to determine the optimal amount of zinc to include in the supplement. Zinc, a micronutrient, is critical to the proper growth and development of young children.

Allen, who directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Human Nutrition Research Center at UC Davis, also studies micronutrient deficiencies and will be visiting the field sites in Malawi. Her center helped design the micronutrient composition of the supplement and will perform many of the biochemical assays of serum and breast milk samples from Africa in order to monitor the micronutrient status of the study participants.

She is particularly interested in determining the best time to give the supplement to young children and mothers.

“Is it best to give the supplement to women during pregnancy to improve development and micronutrient status of the fetus or would it be better to give it to the mothers during lactation so that the breast milk that their young infants consume has more micronutrients?” she said. “Or do you give it directly to older infants and young children? Or, perhaps, for the best results, should you provide it during all three of these time periods?”

And then there is the economic branch of the study, directed by economist Vosti of UC Davis’ Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. As social scientists, his team will have multiple tasks in each of the three countries.

“We need to know what factors determine what people eat and why,” he said. “For example, if there are no perceived benefits associated with consuming a lipid-based nutrient supplement product — if people are not willing to pay for the supplement — we are lost. Then, you’ve got another potential miracle that just sits on the shelf.”

The Bottom Line

To do this, the researchers will use a set of economic tools, including “economic experiments.”

“We’ll bring the participants together and give them each, say, $5 if they will listen to us talk about this new nutritional supplement,” Vosti said. “Afterward, they will be free to spend their $5 on anything they want, including the supplement. But of course they will also start thinking about how they could spend it on goats and shoes and eyeglasses.”

Once the optimal nutritional content for the supplement is determined, the economists will put the product on the market in Africa and see what sells and at what price.

“The research project will be incomplete if you only find out what supplement works nutritionally,” Vosti said. “We need to help the policymakers understand what types of policy changes are needed to make sure this nutritionally effective product gets into the mouths of the children and women who need it.”

The researchers hope to develop supplements that can be sold for as little as 5 cents per packet but realize that for some of the people, many living on just $1 per day, even that minimal cost might be too much.

“Some people will never be able to afford the supplement, regardless of how inexpensive we make it,” Vosti said. “So for those people, we’ll tell the policymakers, ‘Hey, give it away — this is your investment in the future. Punto finale!’”

Eye on Prevention

Lipid-based nutrient supplements have mostly been used in treating malnutrition but the iLiNS researchers want to take them to the next level and prevent malnutrition in women and children.

Mother and baby

Photo by Steve Vosti, UC Davis

“Some people think of such supplements as a temporary fix until families have enough money to be able to feed their children the foods that they need,” Dewey said. “But this may not be just a temporary solution. Fortified products for children between 6 and 24 months of age probably need to be a permanent part of the food system.”

She noted that many of us have a skewed view of our nutritional history and don’t realize that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed a very nutrient-rich diet and were taller and healthier than most modern-day populations in developing countries.

“Their diets were much higher in vitamin and nutrient content than what we eat today — and more than eight times higher in iron than what people in developing countries eat,” Dewey said. “That’s why iron deficiency is so common in children around the world.”

Furthermore, hunter-gatherers ate almost no cereal grains, which now contribute at least 50 percent of the calories consumed by children in developing countries, she said.

“Between the ages of 6 and 12 months, you see a dramatic faltering in growth of children in developing countries,” Dewey noted. “The main problem is usually not insufficient calories but that the available foods don’t provide all of the nutrients that infants require for rapid growth and development.

“They need a high-quality diet that includes all of the necessary micronutrients such as zinc and iron,” she added. “And since infants don’t eat very much, they need very nutrient-dense foods to complement what they obtain from breast milk.”

The researchers hope to stave off malnutrition in both moms and their babies by providing the lipid-based nutrient supplements to pregnant women, as well as children. And as the infants are introduced to complementary solid foods — usually just a watery, grain-based porridge containing only a fraction of the necessary nutrients — the supplement will make up for the lacking nutrients.

“Their Skin Shines Brighter”

In Africa, study participants are being recruited through door-to-door visits and at health clinics. So far, the local residents have been pleased with the supplements that will be evaluated, Dewey said.

“We’re not the first ones to show up with new ideas, so there is some skepticism,” Vosti said. “It’s tricky because it’s not as if we’re delivering fertilizer that will generate obvious benefits in a few months. Many of the benefits of the nutrient supplements will be long-term, and many of those benefits will be societal rather than private benefits.”

Dewey says that mothers are mostly motivated by having healthier children, and they are remarkably willing to do whatever they think will make that happen, if they can afford it.

“The mothers may not notice that a child’s growth is improving, but they say things like ‘their skin shines brighter’ or that they look healthier.”

The Vision

As the iLiNS team enters the second year of the massive project, the researchers find themselves caught between the urgent and the enduring aspects of their work. Ensuring adequate nutrition for women and children is truly a matter of life and death in developing countries and it is a long-term investment in Africa’s future.

Team members also are touched by both the scientific and the humanitarian potential of the project.

“As researchers, our main goal is to get results that we have confidence in and to publish those results. We report what we find,” Dewey said. “In addition, we have other objectives such as training graduate students and distributing technical information.

“But then there is the grandiose dream,” she said. “In the long run, if the results are positive, I’d like to see lipid-based nutrient supplements become widely accessible and affordable, and to be coupled with educational information on optimal feeding of infants and young children and on the need for ensuring adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.”

There is a very real sense that the researchers are in this for the long haul — far beyond the initial 5-year scope of the project.

“My guess is that we will be following these children for the rest of their lives,” Vosti said with a smile. “It’s really rare to have the opportunity to isolate and track the effects of an intervention over the long term.

“We’ll be old and grey, but our students will be tracking the effects of these supplements on the lives of the children for years to come.”

By Pat Bailey, Originally published in UC Davis Magazine,Winter, 2010

Nutritionist Kenneth Brown receives Prince Mahidol Award for zinc deficiency work

Prince Mahidol Award

UC Davis nutritionist and pediatrician Kenneth Brown is one of five researchers and physicians from around the world recently named to receive the prestigious Prince Mahidol Award in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the fields of medicine and public health.

The awards, each including a medal and $50,000 prize, will be presented by His Majesty King Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand during a January ceremony. The Prince Mahidol Award Foundation of Thailand annually bestows these awards in honor of the late Prince Mahidol of Songkla, who modernized medical services and education in Thailand and is known as the country’s "Father of Modern Medicine and Public Health."

Brown, one of three recipients to receive the award this year in the field of public health, has devoted much of his career to generating information and developing programs to improve nutrition and health, particularly among young children and women in developing nations. His work has had a special focus on controlling and preventing zinc deficiency, a major contributor to childhood illness, death and impaired physical growth.

"I am deeply honored to be selected by the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation to receive what is widely considered to be the most prestigious international recognition for contributions to global public health," said Brown. "And I am grateful that the foundation has taken this opportunity to draw worldwide attention to the critically important public health issue of zinc deficiency."

Prince Mahidol Award

"Our studies, and those of other scientists, have shown that poor zinc nutrition increases the risk of diarrhea and pneumonia, the two major killers of young children worldwide, probably through its impact on immune function," Brown said. "We estimate that intervention programs to reduce zinc deficiency could save several hundred thousand lives each year and reduce the global prevalence of stunted growth."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year in the developing world, diarrheal illness from contaminated food and water causes 2 million deaths in young children, and a similar number is caused by pneumonia. In an effort to prevent those deaths and illnesses, the World Health Organization and UNICEF now recommend that all childhood diarrhea cases be treated with zinc supplements, as well as oral rehydration, through programs that have been implemented in more than 40 countries around the world.

In addition, nearly one-third of children worldwide suffer from restricted physical growth, which also places them at greater risk of infection and reduces their future earning capacity as adults, Brown said, noting that programs to reduce child morbidity, mortality and undernutrition have been included among the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals.

Studies by Brown and his research team have shown that additional zinc supplementation helps to decrease the incidence and severity of diarrhea and pneumonia, especially in children living in developing countries. The researchers also have examined the best methods for assessing the risk of zinc deficiency and have evaluated various intervention strategies, including programs for fortifying foods with zinc and providing zinc preventive zinc supplements to children who are vulnerable to zinc deficiency.

Brown currently is helping to conduct studies in Bangladesh and several countries in West Africa, and is serving as the regional adviser for nutrition and child survival for Helen Keller International in Africa, where he is involved in the design and evaluation of large-scale nutrition intervention programs.

Prince Mahidol Award

He also plays a key role is in the International Zinc Nutrition Consultative Group, which helps interpret the policy implications of zinc-related scientific research and develop strategies to control zinc deficiency.

Brown, a faculty member in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition since 1989, has received numerous other professional awards, including the International Award for Modern Nutrition, the Kellogg International Nutrition Research Prize, the E.B. McCollum Award of the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, and the UC Davis Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award.

Other recipients of the 2010 Prince Mahidol Award include, in the field of public health, Ananda S. Prasad of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and Robert E. Black of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, and, in the field of medicine, Nicholas J. White of Mahidol University and the University of Oxford, and Kevin Marsh, also from the University of Oxford. - UC Davis News & Information Nov. 24, 2010

UC Davis students compete at the 9th Annual Nutrition College Bowl

NCB Competition

UC Davis students competing at NCB 2011

UC Davis clinical nutrition majors Stephanie Ong, Chi Lee, Emily Elliott, and Nancy Guardino recently earned 2nd place in the 9th Annual Nutrition College Bowl competition.  The Nutrition College Bowl (NCB) gives nutrition and dietetics students a way to demonstrate their knowledge through competition, while encouraging a spirit of teamwork, enthusiasm for learning, and a sense of community among participants.

This year's competition was held on April 16th, 2011 and was hosted by the Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition, and Dietetics at California State University, Northridge.   Fifteen teams participated from more schools than ever before: Arizona State University, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CSU Chico, CSU Fresno, CSU Long Beach, CSU Los Angeles, CSU Northridge, CSU San Bernardino, Central Washington University, Pepperdine University, Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego State University, Seattle Pacific University, UC Berkeley, and UC Davis.

NCB Team and Coaches

The 2011 UC Davis NCB team with their coaches (from left: Chi Lee, Nancy Hudson, Stephanie Ong, Emily Elliott, Dustin Burnett, and Nancy Guardino)

In addition to building students’ knowledge in the fields of nutrition, dietetics, and food science and management, the Nutrition College Bowl strives to promote teamwork and leadership, and to enhance critical thinking.

 “Competing in the Nutrition College Bowl was a highlight of my senior year," said 4th year Clinical Nutrition student Stephanie Ong. "My favorite part was the closeness and bond formed between the teammates." Ong noted that the UC Davis team prepared for the competition with 2 practices a week, which helped to create the strong sense of team spirit that she felt contributed to their success.

Ong's goal is to become a Registered Dietitian and to be able to work with children or maternity patients. She hopes to become a board certified lactation consultant at some point in her career.

Ong was joined by three other exemplary UC Davis students who are majoring in Clinical Nutrition.

Nancy Guardino is a clinical nutrition major in her final year at UC Davis. Nancy has a passion for both clinical nutrition and nutrition research, and is very interested in maternal and infant nutrition. Currently, she is an intern at the Western Human Nutrition Research Center and at the UC Davis Human Lactation Center. Nancy also studied nutrition while abroad for a semester, at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. "NCB was a great experience," says Nancy. "Our team had a lot of spirit and camaraderie. We had fun getting together to practice and study and had incredible help and support from Dustin Burnett and Nancy Hudson."

Emily Elliott is a senior clinical nutrition major and the Co-President of UC Davis’s Student Nutrition Association. Her passion for nutrition has not only improved the quality of her life but also her family’s, and for that, she feels so fortunate. Her career goal is to become a Registered Dietitian and work in a hospital where she can help patients cope with their illnesses through nutrition.

Chi Lee is a senior of clinical nutrition at UC Davis. He set as his goal to become a Registered Dietitian specialized in pediatrics or sports nutrition. He also wishes to make a successful career in any field of dietetics.

Stephanie Ong Nancy Guardino Emily Elliott Chi Lee

UCD NCB Team Members:Stephanie Ong, Nancy Guardino, Emily Elliott, and Chi Lee

The students were coached by Nancy Hudson, Lecturer and Assistant Program Director for Dietetics at UC Davis, and Dustin Burnett, Manager of the Metabolic Kitchen and Human Feeding Lab at the USDA Western Human Nutrition Research Center at UC Davis. 

"I am incredibly proud of their achievement, " commented Hudson. "The "can do" attitude of this year's Nutrition College Bowl team - supplemented by 6 weeks of hard work reviewing the entire dietetics curriculum - earned the Aggies 2nd place in this year's competition."

"Practicing to win at the NCB is like any other competition: it tests one's ability to quickly apply knowledge and skills. A unique feature of our students was their cohesion and respect not only for each other, but also for the competitors at the event," says Burnett.  "Although the team studied relentlessly on their own and met twice each week at the Western Human Nutrition Research Center for rehearsing practice questions with me, what impressed me most about these students was their willingness to give up a table to one of the competing teams at event when there were not enough tables for everyone.  In the end, that gesture led to other teams rooting for UC Davis when it came down to the finals. This really is not only an excellent way to refresh the basics, but it is a powerful means of showing other universities what it means to be an Aggie!"

Nancy Hudson Dustin Burnett

UCD NCB Coaches: Nancy Hudson and Dustin Burnett

Townsend selected for 2011 Excellence in Research award

Dr. Marilyn Townsend has been selected as the recipient of the 2011 UC Davis Academic Federation Award for Excellence in Research.  This prestigious award recognizes the vital role an Academic Federation researcher has played in developing the growing reputation for research at UC Davis. The award is intended to recognize meritorious achievement by an Academic Federation faculty member in their research program through an innovative approach to a research topic, effective dissemination of research, or significant achievement in acquiring extramural funding for research.

Research created innovative tools for evaluating low literate groups

Marilyn TownsendDr. Townsend's work targets nutrition in low-income American communities and for the past five years her research program has been primarily focused on the development and validation of assessment tools for use by the USDA food and nutrition assistance program participants.  Approximately 80% of these program participants are considered to be marginally or low literate and while statistically relevant, these groups are often invisible because of the lack of effective assessment instruments.

While several research groups publish in the area of behavioral assessment tool development and validation, Dr. Townsend's group stands out as the only one focusing on tools for those with minimal literacy skills, which requires very creative approaches to their development and validation. She has also been a leader in developing and evaluating a diet and physical activity curriculum for low-income adolescents. "Dr. Townsend's work is truly innovative in nature" says Dr. Francene Steinberg, Nutrition Department Chair. 

Paper on food insecurity marked paradigm shift in obesity research

Dr. Townsend's Journal of Nutrition paper was the first to document food insecurity as a risk factor for obesity among women in the U.S.  "Her contribution in this new research field resulted in a paradigm shift," notes Dr. Judith Stern, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at UC Davis.   Prior to Dr. Townend's research, university nutrition and public health departments instructed students that food insecurity was a risk factor for underweight as one would logically assume.  

Dr. Townsend has continued to work on issues of food insecurity in Latino households, in collaboration with Nutrition department colleague Dr. Lucia Kaiser. Findings from these studies were used by the US Dept. of Labor Statistics in designing the food security component for the 2012 wave of the NLSY (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth).

Changing USDA's Food Stamp Program (now SNAP) is seen by Dr. Townsend as a means of improving diet quality of SNAP children with the ultimate goal of reducing childhood obesity. With a $50 billion annual budget, this program has a major presence in every low-income community in the US. She proposed a redesign of SNAP to support the purchase of foods meeting the US Dietary Guidelines. She first proposed this redesign in an invited paper in Journal of the American Dietetics Assoc.

Dedicated to health promotion through program development

Dr. Townsend's work in the area of health promotion interventions has had a wide impact, especially on children and adolescents in California.  She was recently funded to continue her applied research on a behavioral strategy developed at UC Davis for adolescents, ‘guided goal setting', expanding now to low-income adults. This work is supported by NIFA NRI with new funding from NIFA AFRI Obesity for further work.

Dr. Townsend has been recognized for her work as a recipient of the USDA's Jeanne M. Priester Award for innovative health education programming, the National Health Information Award, the Dannon Institute's Award for Excellence in Community Nutrition, the Excellence through Research Award sponsored by the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (western states), and the UC ANR Distinguished Service Award. Her work is featured in 2010 national/international nutrition education/dietetics undergraduate and graduate textbooks.

Since 1995, the health promotion interventions developed under her leadership have been used by more than 250,000 children and adolescents in California. Because of her innovative research and extensive experience in program development, Dr. Townsend is now a recognized expert in program evaluation frequently consulting at the request of federal, state and local professionals.

Dr. Townsend joins the list below of past UC Davis Academic Federation Award for Excellence in Research recipients:

2000, Marilyn Olmstead, Chemistry
2001, Ramon Vogt, Physics
2002, John Reuter, Environmental Science & Policy
2003, Peter Havel, Nutrition
2004, William Reisen, VM: Center for Vector-borne Disease Research
2005, Mari Golub, MED: Internal Medicine
2006, Frank Mitloehner, Animal Science
2007, Gregory Lanzaro, Entomology
2008, Christoph Vogel, Environmental Toxicology
2009, Alison Van Eenennaam, Animal Science
2010, Koen Van Rompay, California National Primate Research Center
2011, Marilyn Townsend, Nutrition

Walnut diet delivers promising results in mice with prostate cancer


Mice genetically programmed to develop prostate cancer had smaller, slower growing tumors if they consumed a diet containing walnuts, UC Davis researchers report in the current issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.

UC Davis researchers, with colleagues at the USDA Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif., assessed tumor size in mice fed different diets for 9, 18 and 24 weeks. They found that the mice that consumed the human equivalent of 2.8 ounces of whole walnuts daily, gained weight at the same rate as mice fed a soybean oil diet formulated to match the nutrients, fat levels and fatty acid profiles of the walnut diet. At 18 weeks, however, the tumor weight of the walnut-fed group was approximately half that of the mice consuming the soybean oil diet. Overall, the rate of tumor growth was 28 percent lower in the walnut-fed mice.

A low-fat diet is frequently recommended for reducing a man's risk for developing or slowing growth of existing prostate cancer, but the UC Davis study suggests that excluding walnuts, which are high in fat but rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, antioxidants and other plant chemicals, may mean foregoing a protective effect of walnuts on tumor growth.

Paul Davis

Paul Davis

"If additional research determines that walnuts have the same effect in men as they do in mice, adhering to a diet that excludes walnuts to lower fat would mean that prostate cancer patients could miss out on the beneficial effects of walnuts," said lead author Paul Davis, a research nutritionist in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis and researcher with the UC Davis Cancer Center.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men. One in six men will be diagnosed with the cancer, most commonly in later life. But relatively few -- one in 36 -- will die from the disease because most tumors do not spread beyond the local site, according to the National Cancer Institute.
"These characteristics of prostate cancer make adding walnuts to a diet attractive as part of prostate cancer prevention," Davis said.

Davis added that some studies have hinted that walnuts may prevent the actual formation of tumors. "But more immediately, our findings suggest that eating a diet containing walnuts may slow prostate tumor growth so that the tumor remains inside the prostate capsule. If proven applicable in humans, men with prostate cancer could die of other causes -- hopefully old age."

The researchers found no single constituent responsible for the beneficial effects of walnuts. For example, the study found effects on multiple signaling and metabolic pathways related to tumor growth and metabolism and that walnut-fed mice had lower blood insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), a protein strongly associated with prostate cancer.

Walnut-fed mice also had lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). High LDL is an established heart disease risk factor, and has more recently been linked to tumor growth, suggesting that the same food that promotes a healthy heart can be helpful to patients with prostate cancer. Finally, distinct differences were noted in the way the liver, a major source of IGF-1 and cholesterol, metabolized the walnut diet compared with the soybean oil diet, despite the diets' nutritional similarities.

The research was funded by the California Walnut Board. Together with the American Institute for Cancer Research, the board is currently funding a follow-up mouse study to validate the findings and further explore the possible reasons for the beneficial effects of walnuts.

UC Davis Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute- designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its top specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 9,000 adults and children every year, and offer patients access to more than 150 clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program includes more than 280 scientists at UC Davis and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The unique partnership, the first between a major cancer center and national laboratory, has resulted in the discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Through the Cancer Care Network, UC Davis is collaborating with a number of hospitals and clinical centers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California regions to offer the latest cancer-care services. For more information, visit

- UC Davis Health System News Service (1/24/2012)

An Excerpt from Dr. Grivetti's Last Lecture, "From Dinosaurs to Chocolate: Taking the Road Less Traveled"

Is it conceivable that the geographical distribution of a plant could determine human freedom vs. slavery or human life vs. death? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

Consider the Pistacia lentiscus tree with a native habitat throughout the Mediterranean basin - you can even find it in the UC Davis arboretum if you choose to search for it. When farmers cut its trunk and branches a resin called mastic is exuded. This resin, with important culinary and economic value, has been highly regarded for more than 2,500 years.

Grivetti at Mastic Tree

Grivetti studying resin droplets

Although the tree grows in the region from Portugal on the west eastward to Turkey, and across North Africa into the Middle East, the resin can be harvested only in one small geographical area: the Greek island of Xios. Furthermore, a geo-botanical line may be drawn across the island from west to east, one that separates the southern third from the northern districts of the island. Below this line to the south, the resin hardens: above the line and throughout the Mediterranean basin, the mastic resin remains soft and sticky. "So what," you say: sticky vs. hard? Why is this even worth mentioning? Here is why -

Mastic Resin

Pistacia lentiscus: resin droplets

Prior to 1822 Xios was the island jewel of the Mediterranean. Many European nations had their embassies here. Xios was the western terminus of the Silk Rout that linked China with the Ottoman Empire. The island was wealthy because of mastic production and the vast bulk of the harvested resin was sent to the Ottoman Caliph in Constantinople. In 1822 the Xians joined other Greek revolutionaries and revolted. The Caliph was displeased at the interruption of his mastic supply and ordered Xian islanders to be dealt an object lesson!

The Caliph sent Turkish troops to invade the island in order to secure a continuous supply of the mastic resin. Islanders living above the geo-botanical line were expendable since none were resin harvesters. Many individuals north of the line fled the advancing soldiers and took shelter inside the monastery of Neo Moni but those who sought refuge inside this holy place were seized … and what followed is unthinkable.


Skulls of executed Xians displayed at Nea Moni Monastery, Greek island of Xios: Victims of the 1822 massacre

The evidence cannot be denied. This view reveals just part of the remains of Xians who were executed; their bodies have been exhumed and the bones today are locked inside these cases – lest anyone forget and say such things never happened. The skull below provides forensic evidence for a scimitar thrust through the head. Others were executed by gunshot wounds to the head, leaving entry and exit wounds. Most of these skulls, however, show no overt bone-related injuries. Those unfortunates without such head trauma were executed using the procedure called khazouk – where captives were lifted, dropped, and impaled through the anus upon pointed stakes planted in the ground – a horrifying execution technique that extended suffering for several days before death.


Skull showing result of execution by scimitar thrust

The villages were pillaged north of the geo-botanical “mastic line” where the resin did not harden. This is one such site, the village of Anavatos. When the male defenders were killed, the surviving women – knowing that they would be raped and carted off into slavery – made a collective decision: together, the women with their small children climbed to the precipice at the top of the village, and holding their babies and children in their arms – they jumped to their deaths. The mothers chose the freedom of death, instead of a life of degradation and slavery.

So why mention this historical unpleasantry tonight? What possible lesson is to be learned from this tragic event? In my case the lesson is personal: my wife’s ancestors and immediate family are from Xios Island. Our ancestral island village is Vessa located just south of the geo-botanical mastic line. At Vessa today, the mastic resin still is collected. And less than a quarter mile north of the village … the resin does not harden. In 1822 the invaders allowed my wife’s distant relatives to survive – because they grew and tended the trees that produced mastic resin. In my case the lesson is personal: the fact that my wife and our daughter were even born was determined by the geographical distribution of a sub-set of unique mastic trees – simply because our family happened to originate from a village located geographically south of the line where the resin hardened.

Resin Collection

Xian couple using tools to cut the tree branches to obtain the resin droplets. Space under the tree is cleared of detritus and covered with a fine chalk dust. The resin droplets fall to the ground and harden; they are collected and transported to island warehouses where the droplets are cleaned, graded, and sorted

When I worked on Xios I wrote following passage in my field notebook at the time after staring at these cases of bones:

What have you learned by standing here,
Midst ancient bones from yesteryear?
What are the lessons you can share,
With peaceful peoples everywhere?
We must recall our distant past,
If truly we want peace to last,
But then forgive – and build on trust,
Then work for peace, a peace that's just.

- Louis E. Grivetti, Ph.D.

In review: Professor Grivetti presents an emotional lecture

The Last Lecture Series event offers an inspirational and fascinating look at one professor’s journey

We can all look back on our lives and pinpoint a key moment or decision that changed the course of our lives and led us to where we are now. This was Professor Louis Grivetti’s main message in his Last Lecture titled "From Dinosaurs to Chocolate: Taking the Road Less Traveled."

His lecture on Tuesday, April 28th 2012 was part of ASUCD’s Last Lecture Series, hosted by the Academic Affairs Commission (AAC). This honors the late Dr. Randy Pausch, the professor at Carnegie Mellon who gave his last lecture called "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," which was subsequently turned into a book called The Last Lecture. This book is an inspiration to millions of people and has inspired UCD’s Last Lecture Series.

"We aim to provide students with the opportunity to get acquainted with and learn from professors in an unconventional, no-textbook-required way and we striveto honor exceptional professors on the UC Davis campus," said Annemarie Stone, chair of the Academic Affairs Commission and junior English major. "So my favorite portion of the event is when I see that both of these goals are being met. Since this university is so huge, I think that feelings of alienation and apathy are common, and this event strives to check that issue of a growing gap between students and professors."

Professor Grivetti’s lecture was promising from the start. After the professor himself came down the aisle to thank everyone for attending, baskets of chocolate were passed around for everyone to take samples. Anything involving chocolate must be good so naturally this had audiences even more intrigued.

Matthew Lange and Louis Grivetti

Matthew Lange and Dr. Grivetti

Graduate student Matthew Lange introduced his mentor noting the impact Dr. Grivetti had on him both professionally and personally. "Dr. Grivetti encouraged me to think broadly as a scholar. His stories of adventure in Botswana, Egypt, and Vietman took me places in my mind and inspired me to go after my dreams. His stories of Peace Corps projects going wrong and his ability to find humor in the face of things that might otherwise be considered tragic was actually quite heroic for me."

After the AAC and a former student introduced Professor Grivetti, the lecture began.

Professor Grivetti began his talk by saying that there is nothing more important than the "willingness to take risks," because that is how he has gotten to where he is today. He began the lecture by describing his childhood dream of studying dinosaurs and his efforts in his undergraduate years toward achieving this.

"There are two basic life lessons here especially for both undergraduates and graduate students attending tonight: first, do not be discouraged in your job search you have no reason to complain until you have been turned down by more than 100 potential employers. And when the next rejection letter arrives - do not despair - keep pushing forward - the next letter that follows may be the one that meets your aspirations and professional goals. The second lesson is this: doors of opportunity open and close daily - it may be chance that a door of opportunity opens to you - but chance is not the issue: you must recognize the opportunity and decide to step through that door."

His recollections about his college days were very entertaining. In particular, he described the importance of general education courses, saying to all the undergraduates, "Never underestimate the value of G.E. classes." Of course we hear people say this all the time, but now Professor Grivetti has given a real example.

He then went on to talk about a job he landed in Egypt which changed the course of his life. This new job was not about dinosaurs - it had to do with nutrition - something very different than what he had studied as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. It just goes to show that we can never predict anything. During this portion of his career, Grivetti describes his experience of being an American in Egypt during the Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel. He very smoothly tied in important historical events with the course of his own life so we got a real sense of his experience. This was just one of many instances that had an impact on his life. It gave a sense of how much we are impacted by the world around us.

"Several critical events shaped my life while working in Egypt. The first drew me away from any future interests in micropaleontology and single-cell organisms, and ultimately into the integrated fields of geography, health, medicine, and nutrition. One morning while working at Sindion two boys approached me with a concern regarding their friend. One of the boys said to me: Mr. Louis, we are worried about our friend. Why, I asked in return? Because, Mr. Louis, when the three of us go down to the canal and piss, his piss is always yellow or white, and as you know, Mr. Louis, the true color of piss is red!"

"Hematuria - or blood in the urine - is one of the classic physical signs of shistosomiasis or bilharziasis, a debilitating parasitic disease where worms enter the body through contact with irrigation water; the worms mate inside the body; the females lay eggs with sharp spines; these eggs then pass through the human host’s urinary system and rip and tear tissue causing extensive blood loss that passes out with the urine. After just two urine tests, 95% of the students at the Sindion school tested positive for shistosome eggs and/or hematuria. The lesson I learned from these two perceptive Egyptian village boys was that health is relative. I would expect that any of you - if you looked down in the toilet bowl later this evening and saw blood in YOUR urine that you immediately would make an appointment to see your doctor. But not so at this time in Egypt: to these Egyptian boys bloody urine was considered normal. The oddity was NOT having red urine. This event was so pivotal in my life that I renewed my contract with Vanderbilt University, and I made the professional commitment to remain in a health, medical, nutritional field and to work internationally."

Grivetti and African women and children

Grivetti with children at Qara Oasis,
Western Desert of Egypt, Spring, 1966

After this, Grivetti elaborated on his career after he returned from Egypt and the path that led him to Davis. He initially came to Davis as a doctoral student in geography and was later hired as an Assistant Professor in both the geography and nutrition departments. This path eventually led him to study the history of chocolate, and so the journey from dinosaurs to chocolate finally makes sense.

"Doors of opportunity open - and they close; opportunities are presented once - and sometimes never again; what you decide to do when presented with a door of opportunity - is up to you. Be prepared for the next door that opens for you!"

He showed a particular enthusiasm for presenting the work of his graduate students and presented several exceptional projects. This accounts for the nearly-full auditorium of the ARC Ballroom, where the lecture took place.

"I am very proud of my graduate students…Cassius Lockett worked in eastern Nigeria among both pastoral and settled Fulani nomads and made the important observation that Fulani women commonly walked 24 miles/day round trip from home to sell food for cash or to barter at local markets, whereas their husbands rode bicycles to the same destination. This gender difference was because Fulani men considered it culturally inappropriate for Fulani women to ride bicycles. So when you go shopping later this weekend in Woodland, don't be a wimp: walk from Davis to COSTCO and then carry what you bought back to Davis with you - that is essentially what these women did!"

Louis Grivetti

Dr. Louis Grivetti

Just from hearing this Last Lecture, it is clear that Professor Grivetti is an exceptional professor with a passion for his work and students. His eloquence and sense of humor made the event very enjoyable and inspirational.

"Building upon the Theseus Project, Antonia-Leda Matalas and I studied how Greeks living in urban Athens secured their food during the Nazi occupation of the city during World War II and the terrible winter of 1941-1942 when approximately 300,000 Athenians starved because the Nazis restricted food imports and most residents were forbidden to leave the city. Those who survived relied heavily upon edible wild plants and a variety of what today would be called "lesser" animal foods (birds, cats, dogs, insects, mice, and various frogs and snakes)."

" The lessons learned from this research also were critical: events such as wars, wide-spread civil unrest, and occupation by foreign powers - happen quickly. For months during and after such events, food supply systems are destroyed. Consider your own case: would you know how to feed yourself and your family in Davis if food supplies from the outside were cut off? After the Davis supermarket and local market shelves have been looted of all remaining food items, and electricity to most sections of town cut off, what would you do to feed your family? Do you know what is edible and growing in your neighborhood and what is not? Could you differentiate between safe and toxic plants and animals? Would you eat laboratory mice; what about pet dogs and cats; what about the fish and turtles in Putah Creek near Mrak Hall? Do you know how to raise food in your backyard? Where would you get seeds? How long does it take to grow food? If you answered "no" or "I don't know" to these questions - perhaps you should have a 6 month's supply of non-perishable food in your dorm room, apartment, house, or garage. But also consider that even if you amass this emergency food supply, are you going to share it or not? If yes, share it with whom; if not, how will you protect your food supply from roving gangs of vandals and thieves? My students and I have learned through the years that these and similar questions are posed and answered daily throughout the world today in the 21st century. If you have not experienced or considered them, then truly you are among the lucky."

Professor Grivetti ended the lecture on an amusing note, in which he presented a dinosaur bone he found when he was very young and invited audiences to come and touch it.

"Professor Grivetti was so excited about his lecture and demonstrated so much enthusiasm for it and his work that I knew it was going to be a great event," said Stephanie Johnson, sophomore political science major and a member of the Academic Affairs Commission.

dinosaur bone and cocoa

Professor Grivetti’s last slide summed up the awestruck and inspirational sentiment of the evening: "We stand on the shoulders of giants; we owe our careers to those who went before us."

Original article written by PAAYAL ZAVERI , Arts Writer, Published on March 1, 2012, The California Aggie

Nutrition Students Collaborate with
Facebook Group

Faceboook Snapshot

About using a Facebook Group for Nutrition 114, student Nancy Xuan He noted:

"I really like the way of using Facebook as an outside classroom. It provides a great opportunity for students to learn, communicate and exchange new ideas from a whole new perspective. Facebook changes how people communicate and allows students and professors to connect more frequently. We posted information related to lecture topics from various online sources -- YouTube, online journal, website, etc. Not all of these sources are correct and valid, but from here, we can discuss and use our knowledge from class to examine this information."

Facebook Snapshot


Visualizing Science: Incorporating Imaging and Technology in the Classroom

In Nutrition 114 (Nutrition and Development), Drs. Keen and Lanoue introduce fundamental concepts of embryology, developmental biology, and teratology as well as basic nutrition knowledge. Students learn the importance of nutrition during pregnancy and its effects on the development of the embryo, the fetus and the neonate, with a closer look at the embryonic period, a critical phase of development when insults can lead to major birth defects.

Nut 114 Slides

Students also acquire a basic understanding of the scientific method because the information provided to them is taken from experimental animal and human clinical studies.

“Since I’ve been teaching this class with Dr. Keen”, says Dr. Lanoue, “I find that the class can be a challenge for many students, although they clearly enjoy the material we teach.”

Dr. Lanoue continues, “We felt that providing students with the opportunity to visualize embryos at specific stages of development would provide them with a unique appreciation of the complexity of the developmental process, the tremendous rates of transformation in size, morphology and cellular identity that occur in utero, that can be derailed through select nutritional insults; and also improve their understanding of the scientific method used in research and in the data collection process.”

To better facilitate learning, Drs. Keen and Lanoue created a Facebook group for the course to encourage students to communicate with each other and the instructors. Students responded enthusiastically, posting links to numerous articles and videos relevant to topics covered in lectures. It was a very interactive tool, and provided real time communication among students and instructors.  

“I was very pleased with the level of participation by the students on the Facebook group site,” says Dr. Lanoue. “This resource provided students with an opportunity to ask and answer questions and to share resources and information with other students, which they did very actively, especially before exams!” The Nutrition 114 Facebook Group can be viewed online by Facebook users.

Microscope ScreenDr. Louise Lanoue received an Undergraduate Instructional Improvement Program grant from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for imaging software that made it possible to incorporate microscope work in the Nutrition 114 class. Students had a unique opportunity to participate in workshops and observe Dr. Lanoue perform a rat embryo dissection at the stage of neural tube closure, and to look at motility proteins in embryonic neural crest cells.

Students described and analyzed their experience on the class Facebook page. Student Debbie Fetter added “I was really excited when we were given the opportunity to observe a rat embryo dissection, so I jumped at the chance to participate. Sitting in lecture and listening to teachers while looking at lecture slides is one thing, but the real learning takes place with hands-on experience.” Other students posted videos of the dissection on YouTube and Facebook.

Kathryn DeweyDr. Kathryn Dewey partners in $8.3 million effort to fight childhood malnutrition

May 14, 2012

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, will join in an international research effort to develop new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent malnutrition in infants and children around the world.

The Breast Milk, Gut Microbiome and Immunity Project is funded by $8.3 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and will be led by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. UC Davis will receive $1.1 million of the total.

The UC Davis researchers who will participate in the project are nutritionist Kathryn Dewey and microbiologist David Mills.

Severe malnutrition has long been thought to stem simply from a lack of adequate food. But now scientists understand the condition is far more complex and may involve a breakdown in the way gut microbial communities process various components of the diet.

The community of intestinal microbes and its vast collection of genes, known as the gut microbiome, is assembled right from birth and influenced by babies’ early environments and the first foods they consume, such as breast milk.

Through the Breast Milk, Gut Microbiome and Immunity Project, scientists will evaluate the relationship among first foods, the developing community of microbes in the intestine, and the developing immune system.

The new research builds on ongoing clinical studies in Africa, South Asia and South America of malnourished and healthy infants and children and their mothers; the Gates Foundation also funds those studies.
“This multidisciplinary project will allow us to expand our understanding of how to prevent infant malnutrition, which is a major focus of the UC Davis Program in International and Community Nutrition,” Dewey said. “The results of these experiments will provide critical information about whether the lipid-based nutrient supplements that we are evaluating in ongoing research have an influence on the collection of microorganisms in the human gut, which will help us understand the impact of our interventions on child growth."

As director of the International Lipid-Based Nutrient Supplements Project, Dewey is involved with two projects in Malawi that are providing biological samples for the newly funded research consortium. More information about the lipid-based nutrient supplement project is available at:

As part of the new project, Mills and his colleagues at the UC Davis Foods for Health Institute will examine the complex, protective sugars in breast milk and characterize specific bacteria in the guts of these infants. The researchers also will look for similar protective sugars in existing dairy products.

“This project will identify specific milk components from commercial dairy streams, which -- in combination with milk-responsive bacteria -- may extend the natural protection of mother's milk past weaning to a fragile population of children who desperately need that protection,” Mills said.

“The opportunity to deliver diet-based solutions in the near term – sourcing from commercial milk operations – is truly exciting, ” he said.

More information about the UC Davis Foods for Health Institute is available at
The overall project will be led by Jeffrey I. Gordon at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Article by Pat Bailey, originally published on UC Davis News

Media contact(s):

Alumna Erica Harris wins 2nd place in 2012 Big Bang! Business Plan Competition

Erica Harris

Second prize in this year's UC Davis business plan competition went to Erica Harris (Clinical Nutrition, class of 2008).  Erica is the creator of Happy Baby vending machines, which provide on-the-go access to diapers, organic snacks and other baby products.

While she was studying Clinical Nutrition at UC Davis, Erica worked as a peer advisor in the Nutrition Department and started the Junior Investors & Entrepreneurs organization, which sponsored financial literacy workshops for students (this program ran from 2004-2008). She also participated in the Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy in 2008, where her team won Best Viable Business for their business plan. 

Since graduating Erica worked at a wellness-focused non-profit in Los Angeles, then an organic restaurant, and lastly for FedEx.  “While at these jobs, I was forming Happy Baby Vending and doing research on infants and toddlers,” says Erica.  She established Happy Baby Vending in October 2010 after participating in the Business & Entrepreneur Services & Training Program at Pasadena Community College, where she formalized her ideas into a working business plan. 

“I was very intentional about the focus of this company. It had to be environmentally friendly and very health conscious. Obesity among children 0-5 years old is a tragic issue.  I did not want to add to that.  So, as a trained nutritionist from UCD, I wanted to do my part to somehow positively impact this problem, even just by offering healthy snacks.”

Big Bang 2012 WinnersErica said the idea for Happy Baby Vending came from an incident a few years back when she ran into a woman in need of a diaper for her baby. The woman ended up leaving a cheerleading competition, in which another child was participating. “I thought: There should be a better way for mothers to do this — there should be vending machines,” Harris said.

“I don’t have children, so I asked my mother, my aunts, my friends, and they all agreed it was a good idea,” said Harris.

In two years, with the help of her mother as primary investor, Harris has installed four Happy Baby Vending machines at shopping malls in the Los Angeles area, with plans to expand to Ventura County in July and to have 180 vending machines statewide in five years. Erica collaborated with another UC Davis Alum, Dennis Robinson (Class of 2008) of DennisEdward Designs to create her branding.

Each year, the Big Bang! competition brings together interdisciplinary teams of students, university researchers and faculty, with mentors from the region’s business community. Some of Northern California’s largest employers, venture capitalists and law firms provide the prize money, coaching and volunteer judges. The Big Bang! has produced many teams that have become successful start-ups since its founding in 2000.

“The Big Bang Competition was an awesome experience,“ says Erica, “I discovered the competition while looking for ways to raise more funding for my company.  I did an online search for business competitions and UC Davis came up.  I entered immediately! “ 

 Erica and Vita“The competition was tough,” she says.  “We submitted an executive summary, then did a presentation, then submitted my business plan, and then presented 2 more times; finally, we did our last presentation last night! It was a journey, let me tell you.  I was pushed to my limits in this competition, but it was all for the best.  It taught me some serious time management and multitasking! I am very happy to have had the opportunity to compete and place in this amazing competition.”

At the awards ceremony in May Erica was presented with a check for $4,500.  Vita Cooper, Erica's former supervisor and staff advisor in Nutrition, attended the awards ceremony honoring Erica and the other Big Bang! winners. "I'm so proud of her," said Vita, "I am honored I was able to be her advisor and still be a part of her life!"

Original article by Karen Nikos, UC Davis News

Liz ApplegateOne World, One UC Davis - Liz Applegate

Selected for her almost 30 years of excellence in teaching in which she has reached over  50,000 students,  Liz  Applegate is featured as one of the “Phenomenal Faculty” in the “One World, One UC Davis” campaign.   

In Dr. Applegate's One World story she acknowledges the role of her own UC Davis mentors, including her major professor, Dr. Judith Stern, in helping her reach her career goals. She also credits UC Davis staff artist, Steve Oerding,  who has worked with her for almost 20 years helping to enhance her teaching with the use of his "wonderful drawings and animations."

She notes that she hopes her students “will take to heart that each of us has one body to care for — our own — and if you take good care by eating well and being active, our bodies will serve us well.”

Look for Dr. Applegate’s “One World, One UC Davis” campaign banner along Hutchison Drive.

Kathryn Dewey selected as recipient of the 2014-2015 McCollum International Lectureship in Nutrition Award

Kathryn Dewey

Dr. Kathryn Dewey has been selected as the recipient of the 2014-2015 E.V. McCollum International Lectureship in Nutrition Award by the American Society for Nutrition. The E.V. McCollum award is intended to provide a means to encourage sound advancements in nutritional science and their application for improving the health and well-being of people worldwide and to commemorate the life and contributions of E. V. McCollum.

Dr. Dewey was nominated for this award in recognition of her dedication and service to the field of International Nutrition. As the award recipient Dr. Dewey will deliver lectures at the ASN Scientific sessions as well as in an international setting. An awards ceremony is scheduled for April 27th in San Diego where Dr. Dewey will be honored for her career and accomplishments.



Carl Keen: McCormick Science Institute Research Award

Carl KeenProfessor Carl Keen of the Department of Nutrition has been selected to receive the 2014 McCormick Science Institute Research Award in recognition of research contributions that have advanced the understanding of the potential health benefits of culinary herbs and spices.

Keen will receive the award from the American Society for Nutrition at the society’s annual meeting later this month in San Diego. His research program includes studies of the influence of diet on age-related chronic disease, especially vascular disease. Keen and his lab colleagues are particularly interested in potential benefits for cardiovascular health of diets that are rich in plant foods.



Shaping Healthy Choices Program - school-based nutrition education program results in fewer overweight and obese children

SHCP Garden ActivitySimply offering healthy options is not enough to motivate children to make healthy choices. Moreover, imposing restrictions rather than providing children with options to make healthy choices has long-term negative implications. With recent estimates of childhood obesity showing that approximately 32 percent of children are overweight or obese, it is clear a program that addresses multiple, obesity-related factors is necessary to successfully target this complex issue.

The UC Davis Center for Nutrition in School’s Shaping Healthy Choices Program (SHCP) is a multi-component, school-based intervention composed of five components: 1) nutrition education and promotion, 2) family and community partnerships, 3) integration of regional agriculture, 4) foods available on the school campus, and 5) school wellness policies. Using pre- and post-test measurements, we determined if schools utilizing the program have improved student outcomes compared to controls.

As part of the program, a UC Davis and UC Cooperative Extension team provided 1) a standards-based curriculum with interactive classroom nutrition, garden, and physical activity education for fourth-grade students, 2) healthy cooking activities that link agriculture, food preparation and nutrition, 3) experiential nutrition and health-related activities at school events, 4) school garden technical support, 5) local grower and distributor connections to encourage regional sourcing, 6) support for increased fresh produce in the school cafeteria, and 7) the implementation of committees to integrate SHCP program activities into the school wellness initiatives.

Results provided a base for state and national dissemination of a school-based multi-component program to prevent childhood obesity. Preliminary analyses show that children classified as overweight or obese dropped from 56 percent to 38 percent during the one year SHCP was implemented in Sacramento County.

Using school sites for the SHCP components allows students, families, school personnel, health partners, and community members to cultivate excitement and acceptance of nutrition and health behaviors that positively impact the school environment and the community. The success of the SHCP to promote health and prevent obesity enabled participating schools to sustain lasting improvements for the school community.

Clientele Testimonial

  • "My students shared things they learned about safe food handling and safety in cooking … parents said their children want to help in preparing meals at home." SHCP teacher
  • "Parents shared with me that their children are voicing input on meals, and asking if they can add fruit to their salads." SHCP teacher
  • "I tried zucchini and yellow squash when I was little and didn't like it, but now I tried it and I love it!" SHCP student, age 9
  • "My daughter is more interested in trying new foods and eating more fruits and vegetables. She often surprises the family by making a 'surprise salad snack' for everyone." SHCP parent

Rachel Scherr, Jessica Linnell, Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr and The Shaping Healthy Choices team, Center for Nutrition in Schools, Department of Nutrition and UC Cooperative Extension, UC Davis; (530) 752-3387
Taken from ANR UC Delivers
SHCP Website:



UC Davis Center for Nutrition in Schools – It takes a village

Students eating lunch"They say it takes a whole village to raise a child—that´s really what is required to improve children´s nutrition," says CNS Co-Director, Dr. Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr. “We want children to realize that it feels better to eat healthier foods and to exercise. We want to give them the tools to make changes for life. Simply changing the food selection at schools and forcing kids to eat it is not enough.”

Co-Directors Drs. Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr and Marilyn Briggs established the Center for Nutrition in Schools at UC Davis to support the school community by providing research-based nutrition education programs and resources that improve student health and assist students in achieving their full potential academically, socially, and physically.

A wide variety of resources developed by CNS researchers are available on their website.  These resources emphasize the following:

  • Lessons that empower students to understand connections between food choices, health, and the environment
  • Activities that include basic food preparation and development of social skills in group dining experiences
  • Science experiments that explore influences on food selection and the development of eating habits
  • Service learning that involves food systems and environmental stewardship
  • The role of agriculture in providing access to fresh, seasonal, locally-grown foods
  • Curriculum and instructional materials for child nutrition professionals in schools and child development programs, as partners in nutrition education

CNS Website:


Barbara Schneeman: Fellow of the American Society for Nutrition

Barbara SchneemanProfessor Emeritus Barbara Schneeman, Department of Nutrition, has been named a fellow of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN). It is the highest honor given by the society, for significant discoveries and distinguished careers in the field of nutrition. Schneeman is one of 10 ASN fellows named this year, and will be honored at the society’s annual meeting later this month in San Diego.

Schneeman is an internationally known leader in the development of dietary guidelines and nutrition policy. She joined the UC Davis faculty in 1976, and served in several administrative roles on campus, including chair of the Department of Nutrition, CA&ES dean (1993–1999), and associate vice provost for University Outreach (2001–2004). She also served at the FDA as the director of the Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements for more than eight years.
Schneeman is recognized for her work on dietary fiber, gastro-intestinal function, development and use of food-based dietary guidelines, and policy development in the area of food and nutrition.

Robert Hackman Receives honorary Ph.D. in Medical Sciences from Thammasat University

Carl Keen

Research Nutritionist Dr. Robert Hackman was awarded an honorary PhD in Medical Sciences by Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand in recognition of his efforts to build collaborative research and scholarly exchanges between UC Davis and Thammasat University.

Dr. Hackman joins a long list of luminaries to receive honorary PhDs from Thammasat, including 13 prime ministers and presidents, 8 members of royal families, and leading scholars in political science, engineering and agricultural sciences.  The degree was presented on August 6, 2014 by the Crown Prince of Thailand.

Dr. Hackman’s research at UC Davis focuses on the role of foods, nutrients and plant extracts in enhancing human health and performance.  His collaborative work with Thammasat University includes studies on tea seed oil and on traditional Thai botanical mixtures.