Field Notes

AHA: Farm Bill a Mix of Wins, Losses for Nutrition

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on the Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 recently passed by Congress:

“The passage of the Farm Bill ... has been long-anticipated and the American Heart Association is pleased that Congress has come to an agreement on this important legislation. While it took two long years of negotiations and a lot of hard work, we wish the final bill was less of an alphabet soup of wins and losses for health and nutrition programs.

“We are encouraged that multiple provisions in the bill promote healthy food consumption. Sustained funding for the SNAP-Ed program will help more Americans on limited budgets make better food choices. The legislation also expands the program to include physical activity education, which plays an important role in helping Americans maintain their health. In addition, the bill authorizes the Healthy Food Financing Program under the US Department of Agriculture. This program, which establishes grocery stores in underserved communities where none exist, will provide access to healthier foods and help boost local economies.

“However, we remain very concerned about the $8.6 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Any funding reduction to this program, which supports nutrition and food access, will make it more difficult for some of the most vulnerable Americans, including seniors and low-income families with children, to afford a healthy diet.

“We are also troubled that the legislation creates a pilot within the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program that expands eligibility beyond fresh produce to canned, frozen, and dried options. While the association believes that all whole fruits and vegetables regardless of their form are important for kids to eat, the current program plays a unique role by providing the poorest children in our country with much-needed exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables. We will closely monitor this pilot effort to ensure that it does not undermine the impact and integrity of this nutrition education program.

“As always, our association remains committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to the nutritional information and food choices they need to stay heart healthy.”

— Source: Voices for Healthy Kids


Genomics: Emerging Science With Potential to Influence Dietary Advice

The science of nutritional genomics is an emerging discipline and holds potential for targeting dietary intervention that may affect health, according to a new position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy). The paper was published in the February issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The Academy’s position is as follows: “Nutritional genomics provides insight into diet and genotype interactions to affect phenotype. The practical application of nutritional genomics for complex chronic disease is an emerging science, and the use of nutrigenetic testing to provide dietary advice is not ready for routine dietetics practice. Registered dietitian nutritionists need basic competency in genetics as a foundation for understanding nutritional genomics; proficiency requires advanced knowledge and skills.”

The genome is the entire set of genetic instructions needed to build and maintain a living organism. Nutritional genomics is the science of how nutrients and genes work together to influence health and disease risk.

According to the Academy’s position paper, chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are caused by multiple genetic and environmental factors, including diet. “Family history, biochemical parameters, and the presence of risk factors in individuals are relevant tools for personalizing dietary interventions.”

Nutritional genomics is still an emerging science, according to the position paper. Connections between nutrigenetic testing and dietary advice can be made once further research has been documented. However, “The use of nutrigenetic testing to provide dietary advice is not ready for routine dietetics practice. Applying nutritional genomics in clinical practice through the use of genetic testing requires that registered dietitian nutritionists understand, interpret, and communicate complex test results in which the actual risk of developing a disease may not be known,” according to the paper.

The practical application of nutritional genomics for complex chronic disease will require “an evidence-based approach to validate that personalized recommendations result in health benefits to individuals and do not cause harm,” according to the paper.

— Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics