Summer 2017

Tufts Nutrition Top 10

HNRCA science that soars to new heights.

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Based on the abundance of articles its researchers have published in top-tier journals, Tufts University was recently named No. 4 for nutrition and dietetics out of more than 26,000 institutions around the globe by the Center for World University Rankings. To celebrate, we present some of the most powerful contributions to nutrition science by the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts (HNRCA).

Seniors have special needs

Recognizing that seniors have distinct nutritional needs and challenges, HNRCA researchers adapted the U.S. Dietary Guidelines to create MyPlate for Older Adults, a widely used at-a-glance reference for making healthy choices. The latest iteration was released in conjunction with AARP in 2016.

What you eat can save your eyesight

HNRCA researchers have shown that swapping processed grains, such as white bread, for complex carbs will reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in people over 50. (Read more on this research)

Genes and diet work together

HNRCA scientists were among the first to demonstrate the ways that different genotypes react to the same diets, particularly when it comes to heart disease. For example, people who carry a particular variant of the gene APOA5 may have elevated risk for heart disease, but only if they eat high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. Eventually, researchers hope to provide individuals with dietary guidance tailored to their genotype.

A diet should be colorful

The neurological benefits associated with eating dark berries, such as blueberries, strawberries and blackberries, were first discovered at the HNRCA in 1999. HNRCA scientists continue to investigate ways berry antioxidants can help slow memory loss and improve coordination.

You can have too much of a good thing

Consuming enough dietary folate protects against colorectal cancer. But too much supplemental folic acid, HNRCA scientists found, may actually increase the risk of developing it.

Strength training is important at any age

In 1989, the HNRCA coined the term sarcopenia to describe the natural muscle loss that happens as we get older. Since then, the center’s research has proven that the right workouts can help people at any age and health level maintain muscle and reduce the risk of falls.

Bones need calcium and vitamin D in the right amounts

The center helped set the national adequate intakes for these micronutrients, thanks to its trials on calcium and bone density in older adults, and how well supplements increase vitamin D in the blood—taking it with some fat in your meal is best—and help prevent fractures.

We are experts at measuring nutrients

HNRCA labs regularly analyze food samples for the USDA Food Composition Database, the go-to source to find out what nutrients are in our food. The center has the only U.S. lab that measures the vitamin K in what we eat.

Nutrition strengthens your immune system

The HNRCA led the way in demonstrating how important nutrition is to a well-functioning immune system. Research showed that losing excess weight can boost immune response and vitamin E supplements can improve older people’s ability to fight off infection.

Body fat is not just excess baggage

Once considered inert, fat cells actually generate hormones that send signals throughout the body, causing inflammation and wreaking other havoc. The HNRCA’s groundbreaking work on the biologically active lipid droplets in cells—and the proteins associated with them—has jump-started the understanding of storage and breakdown of intracellular fat, with big implications for weight-loss and diabetes treatment.

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