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May 2007

Get the Facts: Hot Topics in Nutrition

On May 4, 2007, the Department of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University sponsored Get the Facts: Hot Topics in Nutrition. Nutrition research leads to many apparent controversies. This is true partly because the role of diet in health depends on the particular population being studied. Secondly, the public follows each new finding with interest rather than waiting for a consensus opinion from the scientific community. Several of the leading controversies of today and new areas of interest were addressed at this conference.

The NIH Women’s Health Initiative provided many surprises compared to earlier, smaller studies. The WHI is the largest clinical trial and observational study in history involving 161,808 generally health postmenopausal women. Dr. Connie Weaver discussed the overall findings that showed low dietary fat and calcium plus vitamin D interventions did not specifically reduce instance of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease or bone fractures and hormone therapy had undesirable side effects. However, subgroups that were compliant and had unhealthy baseline levels responded favorably. Continued follow-up may show benefits as chronic diseases have long latency periods.

Tea is the most popular beverage, second only to drinking water. Dr. Dorothy Morre connected the benefits of drinking green tea to cancer prevention, weight loss and cardiovascular health. Her basic work that shows green tea extracts can suppress tumor growth is now in clinical trials.

It is well understood in nutrition that the nutrient composition of foods, determined instrumentally, may not equal the concentrations of nutrients biologically available to the consumer.  Multiple mechanisms may be responsible.  In nutrition science, there is widespread awareness of factors that may influence the absorption of nutrients from the gastrointestinal tract and their distribution throughout the body.  This is referred to as bioavailability.  However, there is another set of important determinants that act at the level of release of nutrients from the food matrix.  These factors determine the bioaccessibility of nutrients.  Ultimately, it is the combined effects of these factors that determine the nutritional value of a food.  Dr. Peter Ellis from King’s College in London, provided an overview of bioaccessibility and described mathematical models his team is developing to predict the release of nutrients from different foods.  


The increasing prevalence of obesity and its attendant complications has prompted intensive research on the possible origins of the problem.  Many implicate dietary changes.  One shift that coincides with the rise of obesity is increased caloric beverage consumption.  Dr. Richard Mattes reviewed the literature on the link between ingestion of energy in fluid form, energy balance and weight gain.  He presented a case that beverages, in particular, were likely causally related to weight gain because they elicit very weak satiety and energy compensation.  Importantly, he emphasized that the association was strong with a variety of beverages thus implicating the food form rather than energy source (e.g., high fructose corn syrup).


Dr. James Fleet discussed how one’s genetic profile can influence the role of diet and health. Dr. Qing Jiang shared her latest research related to the cardiovascular benefits of Vitamin E. Dr. Kim Buhman clarified issues related to the effects of trans fatty acids on obesity and food labeling for packaged foods.

The conference closed with wise reflections by Karen Konzelman, former program director of EFNEP for Purdue Extension and former National Program Leader for Maternal and Infant Health. More information regarding Get the Facts: Hot Topics in Nutrition can be obtained by contacting Marleen Troyer at troyera@purdue.edu.

2007 Foods and Nutrition Hall of Fame Award

The Get the Facts: Hot Topics in Nutrition conference was held in conjunction with the annual Hall of Fame award reception. The Hall of Fame Award honors alumni of the Foods and Nutrition Department who have made a significant contribution to the varied fields of foods and nutrition and established a unique record in their work and life. The Hall of Fame also honors the careers of those who have contributed to the growth and prominence of the department. The Hall of Fame members for 2007 are: R. Paul Abernathy, Helen C. Clark, Karen L. Konzelman, Avanelle Kirksey and Barbara Shannon.

R. Paul Abernathy was head of the Department of Foods and Nutrition from 1974-1991.  During this period, the department greatly increased its emphasis on research as Dr. Abernathy fostered a climate of collegiality and respect that continues to this day.

Helen C. Clark is remembered as an internationally recognized and highly respected nutrition scientist and teacher.  She built the foundation for the current graduate program in the Department of Foods and Nutrition.

Karen Konzelman has been recognized for her ability to work between research and education to design effective nutrition interventions, communicate scientific results in consumer language and for evaluating programs-- especially for families with limited resources.   She is well known author of nutrition programs that have been taught in hundreds of communities and schools across the country.

Dr. Avanelle Kirksey is the Meredith Distinguished Professor of Foods and Nutrition Emeritus; the second female named a distinguished professor at Purdue. Her research program bridged the gap from basic science to human behavior and cognition.  In addition, she was an inspiring role model for students. 

Dr. Barbara Shannon received the Outstanding Alumni Service Award from Purdue University’s School of Consumer and Family Sciences and was named a Distinguished Alumni of that School.  Her research focused on eating behavior as it impacts on disease prevention and health promotion.

Olivia Wood’s Outstanding Teaching Contribution

Olivia Wood may be retiring, but her impact on dietetics education will continue to be felt in the classroom.  Olivia served the Foods and Nutrition Department as associate professor and director of the didactic program in dietetics for 34 years.  Olivia has received numerous professional awards and recognition for her role as an educator.  During her career, she received the Mary L. Matthews Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award an unprecedented four times. She also is included in Purdue’s Book of Great Teachers and is a founding fellow in the Purdue University Teaching Academy. 

Olivia has also been recognized by the American Dietetic Association with the Award for Excellence in the Practice of Dietetics Education in 2000 and the Medallion Award in 1995.  Several years ago Olivia collaborated with a computer technician to create computer-based lab tutorials for her students.  These tutorials gave students the opportunity to make critical care judgments about topics such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and renal disease without the risk to real patients.  This computer-based lab tutorial is now used in dietetic programs across the country. 

Olivia’s leadership, loyalty to Purdue, and tireless energy will be missed. Olivia is looking forward to traveling with her husband in her retirement.  To honor Olivia’s career a scholarship for undergraduate students in the Department of Foods and Nutrition has been created. Information about contributing to Olivia Wood’s scholarship can be found at: www.cfs.purdue.edu/pages/giving/Wood_scholarship.html

Spring Fest 2007 a Success!

Despite the inclement weather, Spring Fest 2007 was deemed a success for the Department of Foods and Nutrition!  Spring Fest is an annual and free event that takes place on the Purdue campus to educate and entertain members of the community about various

topics such as animals, art, and astronomy. Over the course of the weekend, hundreds of parents and children gathered in the Consumer and Family Sciences tent and participated in activities such as, posing for milk mustache photos, trying their luck at milk bottle ring toss for fun prizes and learning about their body mass index. 

A special thanks to Rachel Clark, Amy Mobley, Marleen Troyer, Hailey Lawyer and Katie Hill for managing the Spring Fest event.  In addition, numerous undergraduate students in the Department of Foods and Nutrition and Health and Kinesiology volunteered their time to assist with the festivities and educate the public on nutrition.  The Dairy and Nutrition Council of Indiana was kind enough to donate balloons, key chains, stickers and various dairy and nutrition education materials for the event.  We even had a special visit from “Buttercup” the Holstein cow to encourage attendees to drink their milk for calcium!  Save the date for Spring Fest 2008 which is scheduled for April 12 & 13th on the Purdue University campus.

Foods & Nutrition Department
Stone Hall, Room 213
700 West State Street
West Lafayette, IN

Phone: (765) 494-8228
Fax: (765) 494-0674

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