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National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program

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The National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program (NFNAP) is a research program that is achieving long-sought improvements to the National Nutrient Databank (NNDB) through a comprehensive revision of scientific concept and technical approach. The project was initiated in 1997 and recently renewed for another 5 years. It is directed by the Nutrient Data Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, USDA in collaboration with NIH/National Cancer Institute and other supporting NIH Offices and Institutes and other agencies. Research activities comprise five linked components, or Specific Aims:
  1. Institute a monitoring program for Key Foods and critical nutrients
    Key Foods are those frequently consumed foods and ingredients, which contributed, collectively, more than 75% of the intake of any specific nutrient for the U.S. population. As a result of NFNAP, Phase I nearly 1000 foods were sampled and analyzed over a seven-year period. The values generated provided a new baseline for nutrient composition of foods. However, highly consumed foods, which include agricultural commodities as well as complex, processed or formulated foods, change rapidly in response to changes in consumer preferences, nutrition and fortification policy, food technology, and food source. A monitoring program will be developed to determine and implement methodology for identifying and updating estimates for food components. Nutrients identified by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee as "shortfall" (e.g., Vitamin D) and "excess intake" nutrients (e.g., trans FA) will be targeted
  2. Conduct a comprehensive analysis of selected Key Foods
    This principal aim will concentrate on those Key Foods, which were not previously examined. These include selected poultry products, restaurant foods and items on FDA’s list of the most commonly consumed fruits, vegetables and seafood for nutrition labeling.
  3. Develop databases for high priority foods consumed by U.S. ethnic subpopulations
    Latinos are one of the fastest growing minority groups. Accordingly it is targeted first for the development of a specialized database. Latinos living in the United States represent a diverse group of countries and locations (Mexico, Cuba, Caribbean islands, Central and South America, Puerto Rico), with a concomitant variety of foods. Some of the foods to be sampled include prepared foods, unique ingredients, and sweets and beverages. It will parallel the methods used for the development of the nutrient database for American Indians Alaskan Natives. Other potential areas of interest are foods consumed by Asian Americans, African-Americans, children and the elderly.
  4. Develop databases for new bioactive components
    Selected bioactive components are of increased interest to the scientific community due to their potential role in diet and health. Initial efforts will focus on the following components:

    A. Vitamin D - To meet rising scientific and medical interest, NDL collaborate with partners in government, industry and academia to update the database on vitamin D. The level of vitamin D will be determined in food samples representing different food matrices. These foods will then be sampled nationwide, prepared and sent for analysis at qualified analytical laboratories.

    B. Glucosinolates/isothiocyanates – Cruciferous vegetables may have unique chemopreventative properties largely due to the glucosinlate content. However, the ability to test hypotheses evaluating the association between glucosinolates in the diet and incidence of cancer is limited due to the lack of a database on the glucosinolate content of foods. To address this need, NDL had begun a collaboration to develop a Special Interest Database on glucosinolates/isothiocyanates.

    C. Trans fatty acids – With the mandatory labeling of trans fatty acids in January 2006, many manufacturers are reformulating their products. NDL will monitor and update the trans fatty acid content of those foods that contain significant amounts. These include margarine-like spreads, shortening, cookies and crackers, chips and snacks.

    D. Conjugated Linoleic Acids - With the interest in the anticarcinogenic effects of conjugated linoleic acids as well as possible benefits in relationship to other chronic conditions such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, and immune disorders, there is a need to identify and quantify the individual CLA isomers present in ruminant meat and in milk.

    E. Fluoride - The assessment of fluoride intake in children, especially very young children, is important since fluoridosis may be a problem. Children’s foods and infant formulas should be monitored for fluoride content. New data will be disseminated through an update of the fluoride database, released in 2004.

  5. Develop a validated database for ingredients in dietary supplements
    The planned steps for the development of the Dietary Supplement Ingredient Database are: A) to develop sampling plans to collect representative samples of dietary supplements for specific product categories; B) to validate analytical methodology and optimize programs for laboratory analysis of dietary supplement products; C) sample and analyze selected products; D) to compile and distribute supplement data to the scientific community and to the public; and E) to develop and implement a monitoring plan for database updates.

For each Specific Aim, the process includes the identification of foods for analysis, the development of unique statistically based sampling plans, and the application of validated analytical chemistry. The primary outcome of the program will be a body of nutrient data with unprecedented analytical quality.

Better estimates of the mean nutrient content of foods and variance indicators will permit more accurate assessment of nutrient intake by individuals. This will improve the ability to detect etiologic relationships, delineate biologic mechanisms, assess time trends in nutrient intake, and define populations at nutritional risk.

Recently a new interagency agreement with the NIH has been signed. Specific funds have been targeted to support the development of a Latino Database (Aim 3), while other funds support the remaining aims. As a result of the first phase of NFNAP over 500 items in the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR) have been either added or updated. NDL was able to add data on individual carotenoids, vitamin K, α-tocopherol and individual fatty acids, including trans and omega-3 fatty acids to SR. Special interest databases on choline, fluoride, and proanthocyanidins were released. Work is underway on updating the database on flavonoids, which is scheduled for release later this year.

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