Applied Science

The Grains for Health Foundation mission for practical applied science is focused on leveraging research funds to address weak links in the grain supply chain, assuring the development and distribution of healthier grain-based foods as well as the consumption by consumers.

We’re committed to making available current research, publications and projects that forward our mission.

The range of resources available here are monitored and updated as new materials are available. We aim to complement further study and encourage global communication around whole grain science.

Thinking in Systems: A Primer

Meadows begins by highlighting the reductionist approach against a holistic approach. A reductionist approach has been beneficial through the Industrial Age for moving technology and mankind forward. A next step to understanding how to live successfully in our world will be by viewing it through systematic approach or holistic approach. An essential part of any system is understanding the feedback loops that drive behaviors and production within it. When responsibility is placed outside of the individual or organization the feedback loop is interrupted. Each individual and organization must own their responsibility for the feedback loop and ultimately the system to work efficiently and in order to make real, sustained changes.

Meadows, D. H. (2008). Thinking in Systems: A Primer. White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing Company.

The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact

Food waste contributes to excess consumption of freshwater and fossil fuels which, along with methane and CO2 emissions from decomposing food, impacts global climate change. Here, we calculate the energy content of nationwide food waste from the difference between the US food supply and the food consumed by the population. The latter was estimated using a validated mathematical model of metabolism relating body weight to the amount of food eaten. We found that US per capita food waste has progressively increased by ,50% since 1974 reaching more than 1400 kcal per person per day or 150 trillion kcal per year. Food waste now accounts for more than one quarter of the total freshwater consumption and 300 million barrels of oil per year.

Hall, K., Guo, J., Chow, C., & Dore, M. (2009). The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact. PLoS ONE, 4(11), e7940.

Americans Do Not Meet Federal Dietary Recommendations

A longstanding goal of dietary surveillance has been to estimate the proportion of the population with intakes above or below a target, such as a recommended level of intake. However, until now, statistical methods for assessing the alignment of food intakes with recommendations have been lacking. The purposes of this study were to demonstrate the National Cancer Institute’s method of estimating the distribution of usual intake of foods and determine the proportion of the U.S. population who does not meet federal dietary recommendations. Data were obtained from the 2001-2004NHANES for 16,338 persons, aged 2 yrs and older. Quantities of foods reported on 24-h recalls were translated into amounts of various food groups using the MyPyramid Equivalents Database. Usual dietary intake distributions were modeled, accounting for sequence effect, weekend/weekday effect, sex, age, poverty income ratio, and race/ethnicity. The majority of the population did not meet recommendations for all of the nutrient-rich food groups, except total grains and meat and beans. Concomitantly, overconsumption of energy from solid fats, added sugars, and alcoholic beverages (“empty calories”) was ubiquitous. Over 80% of persons age $71 y and over 90% of all other sex-age groups had intakes of empty calories that exceeded the discretionary calorie allowances. In conclusion, nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations. These findings add another piece to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation’s diet in crisis.

Krebs-Smith, S. M., Guenther, P. M., Subar, A. F., Kirkpatrick, S. I., & Dodd, K. W. (2010). Americans Do Not Meet Federal Dietary Recommendations. The Journal of Nutrition, 140(10), 1832-1838.

Dietary Sources of Energy, Solid Fats, and Added Sugars Among Children and Adolescents in the United States

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this research was to identify top dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among 2- to 18-year-olds in the United States.

METHODS: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a cross-sectional study, were used to examine food sources (percentage contribution and mean intake with standard errors) of total energy (data from 2005-2006) and energy from solid fats and added sugars (data from 2003-2004). Differences were investigated by age, sex, race/ethnicity, and family income, and the consumption of empty calories-defined as the sum of energy from solid fats and added sugars-was compared with the corresponding discretionary calorie allowance.

RESULTS: The top sources of energy for 2- to 18-year-olds were grain desserts (138 kcal/day), pizza (136 kcal/day), and soda (118 kcal/day). Sugar-sweetened beverages (soda and fruit drinks combined) provided 173 kcal/day. Major contributors varied by age, sex, race/ethnicity, and income. Nearly 40% of total energy consumed (798 of 2,027 kcal/day) by 2- to 18-year-olds were in the form of empty calories (433 kcal from solid fat and 365 kcal from added sugars). Consumption of empty calories far exceeded the corresponding discretionary calorie allowance for all sex-age groups (which range from 8% to 20%). Half of empty calories came from six foods: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.

CONCLUSIONS: There is an overlap between the major sources of energy and empty calories: soda, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk. The landscape of choices available to children and adolescents must change to provide fewer unhealthy foods and more healthy foods with less energy. Identifying top sources of energy and empty calories can provide targets for changes in the marketplace and food environment. However, product reformulation alone is not sufficient-the flow of empty calories into the food supply must be reduced.

Krebs-Smith, S. M., & Reedy, J. (2010). Dietary Sources of Energy, Solid Fats, and Added Sugars Among Children and Adolescents in the United States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110(10), 1477-1484.

Energy Allowances for Solid Fats and Added Sugars in Nutritionally Adequate U.S. Diets Estimated at 17-33% by a Linear Programming Model

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has recommended that no more than 5-15% of total dietary energy should be derived from solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS). The guideline was based on USDA food pattern modeling analyses that met the Dietary Reference Intake recommendations and Dietary Guidelines and followed typical American eating habits. This study recreated food intake patterns for 6 of the same gender-age groups by using USDA data sources and a mathematical optimization technique known as linear programming. The analytic process identified food consumption patterns based on 128 food categories that met the nutritional goals for 9 vitamins, 9 minerals, 8 macronutrients, and dietary fiber and minimized deviation from typical American eating habits. Linear programming Model 1 created gender- and age-specific food patterns that corresponded to energy needs for each group. Model 2 created food patterns that were iso-caloric with diets observed for that group in the 2001-2002 NHANES. The optimized food patterns were evaluated with respect to MyPyramid servings goals, energy density [kcal/g (1 kcal = 4.18 kJ)], and energy cost (US $/2000 kcal). The optimized food patterns had more servings of vegetables and fruit, lower energy density, and higher cost compared with the observed diets. All nutrient goals were met. In contrast to the much lower USDA estimates, the 2 models placed SoFAS allowances at between 17 and 33% of total energy, depending on energy needs. J. Nutr. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.131920.

Maillot, M., & Drewnowski, A. (2011). Energy Allowances for Solid Fats and Added Sugars in Nutritionally Adequate U.S. Diets Estimated at 17-33% by a Linear Programming Model. The Journal of Nutrition, 141(2), 333-340.

Food Science Challenge: Translating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to Bring About Real Behavior Change

Food scientists and nutrition scientists (dietitians and nutrition communicators) are tasked with creating strategies to more closely align the American food supply and the public’s diet with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). This paper is the result of 2 expert dialogues to address this mandate, which were held in Chicago, Illinois, and Washington, D.C., in early October 2010 between these 2 key scientific audiences. It is an objective that has largely eluded public health experts over the past several decades. This document takes the perspective of food scientists who are tasked with making positive modifications to the food supply, both in innovating and reformulating food products, to respond to both the DGA recommendations, and to consumer desires, needs, and choices. The paper is one of two to emerge from those October 2010 discussions; the other article focuses on the work of dietitians and nutrition communicators in effecting positive dietary change.

Rowe, S., Alexander, N., Almeida, N., Black, R., Burns, R., Crawford, P., et al. (2011). Food Science Challenge: Translating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to Bring About Real Behavior Change. Journal of Food Science, 76(1), 29-37.

Translating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 to Bring about Real Behavior Change

Since they were first introduced to consumers in 1980, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) have aimed to provide the public with science based nutrition recommendations to build a healthy diet and prevent diet related chronic disease. In the following decades, dietary lifestyles have not noticeably improved in the United States. So-called lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis have become more prevalent and overweight and obesity rates have risen dramatically. Although the dietary guidance has become increasingly evidence-based and rigorously researched by the DGAC, there seems to be an ever-widening gap between the science and consumer behavior. The need for integration and translation of the evidence has truly never been greater, nor has the need for appropriate communications to the public been more important.

Rowe, S., Alexander, N., Almeida, N., Black, R., Burns, R., Crawford, P., et al. (2011). Translating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 to Bring about Real Behavior Change. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(1), 28-39.

Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study

BACKGROUND: Dietary fiber has been hypothesized to lower the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. However, little is known of the effect of dietary fiber intake on total death and cause-specific deaths.

METHODS: We examined dietary fiber intake in relation to total mortality and death from specific causes in the NIH (National Institutes of Health)-AARP Diet and Health Study, a prospective cohort study. Diet was assessed using a food-frequency questionnaire at baseline. Cause of death was identified using the National Death Index Plus. Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate relative risks and 2-sided 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

RESULTS: During an average of 9 years of follow-up, we identified 20 126 deaths in men and 11 330 deaths in women. Dietary fiber intake was associated with a significantly lowered risk of total death in both men and women (multivariate relative risk comparing the highest with the lowest quintile, 0.78 [95% CI, 0.73-0.82; P for trend, .001] in men and 0.78 [95% CI, 0.73-0.85; P for trend, .001] in women). Dietary fiber intake also lowered the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases by 24% to 56% in men and by 34% to 59% in women. Inverse association between dietary fiber intake and cancer death was observed in men but not in women. Dietary fiber from grains, but not from other sources, was significantly inversely related to total and cause-specific death in both men and women.

CONCLUSIONS: Dietary fiber may reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases. Making fiber-rich food choices more often may provide significant health benefits.

Park, Y., Hollenbeck, A., Subar, A., & Schatzkin, A. (2011). Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 171(12), 1061-1068.

Whole- and Refined-Grain Intakes are Differentially Associated With Abdominal Visceral and Subcutaneous Adiposity in Healthy Adults: the Framingham Heart Study1-5

BACKGROUND: Observational studies have linked higher intakes of whole grains to lower abdominal adiposity; however, the association between whole- and refined-grain intake and body fat compartments has yet to be reported. Objective: Different aspects of diet may be differentially related to body fat distribution. The purpose of this study was to assess associations between whole- and refined-grain intake and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) and visceral adipose tissue (VAT).

DESIGN: Cross-sectional associations between whole- and refined grain intakes, waist circumference measures, and abdominal SAT and VAT volumes were examined in 2834 Framingham Heart Study participants (49.4% women; age range: 32-83 y). Dietary information was assessed with the use of a semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire.

RESULTS: Whole-grain intake was inversely associated with SAT (2895 compared with 2552 cm3 in the lowest compared with the highest quintile category, P for trend , 0.001) and VAT (1883 compared with 1563 cm3, P for trend , 0.001), after adjustment for age, sex, current smoking status, total energy, and alcohol intake. In contrast, refined-grain intake was positively associated with SAT (2748 compared with 2934 cm3, P for trend = 0.01) and VAT (1727 compared with 1928 cm3, P for trend , 0.001) in multivariable models. When SAT and VAT were evaluated jointly, the P value for SAT was attenuated (P = 0.28 for whole grains, P = 0.60 for refined grains), whereas VAT remained associated with both whole grains (P , 0.001) and refined grains (P , 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Increasing whole-grain intake is associated with lower VAT in adults, whereas higher intakes of refined grains are associated with higher VAT. Further research is required to elicit the potential mechanisms whereby whole- and refined-grain foods may influence body fat distribution.

McKeown, N. M., Jacques, P. F., Hoffmann, U., Troy, L. M., ODonnell, C. J., & Fox, C. S. (2010). Whole- and Refined-Grain Intakes are Differentially Associated With Abdominal Visceral and Subcutaneous Adiposity in Healthy Adults: the Framingham Heart Study1-5. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92(5), 1165-1171.

Creating Shared Value: How to Reinvent Capitalism-and Unleash a Wave of Innovation and Growth

In recent years business increasingly has been viewed as a major cause of social, environmental, and economic problems. The legitimacy of business has fallen to levels not seen in recent history.

This diminished trust in business leads political leaders to set policies that undermine competitiveness and sap economic growth.

A big part of the problem lies with companies themselves, which remain trapped in an outdated approach to value creation that has emerged over the past few decades

Government and civil society have often exacerbated the problem by attempting to address social weaknesses at the expense of business.

Companies must take the lead in bringing business and society back together. The recognition is there among sophisticated business and thought leaders, and promising elements of a new model are emerging. Yet we still lack an overall framework for guiding these efforts, and most companies remain stuck in a “social responsibility” mind-set in which societal issues are at the periphery, not the core.

The solution lies in the principle of shared value, which involves creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges. Businesses must reconnect company success with social progress. Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success.

A growing number of companies known for their hard-nosed approach to business-such as GE, Google, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé, Unilever, and Wal-Mart-have already embarked on important efforts to create shared value by reconceiving the intersection between society and corporate performance.

Realizing it will require leaders and managers to develop new skills and knowledge-such as a far deeper appreciation of societal needs, a greater understanding of the true bases of company productivity, and the ability to collaborate across profit/nonprofit boundaries.

Government must learn how to regulate in ways that enable shared value rather than work against it.

The moment for a new conception of capitalism is now; society’s needs are large and growing, while customers, employees, and a new generation of young people are asking business to step up.

Perhaps most important of all, learning how to create shared value is our best chance to legitimize business again.

By Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer Harvard Business Review January-February 2011, pgs. 63-77. Find the Full Article at:

Porter, M. E., & Kramer, M. R. (January, 2011). Creating Shared Value: How to Reinvent Capitalism-and Unleash a Wave of Innovation and Growth. Harvard Business Review, 63-77.

Developing and Delivering Healthier Grain-Based Foods

Government agencies, scientific and trade organizations, and numerous health-interested groups in the United States and in nations around the globe are asking for changes in the food supply to promote improvements in human health. With disease rates escalating and greater dollars being spent on health care costs, improving the health of the population is becoming critical. Recommendations by organizations and authorities, such as Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid, suggest Americans consume a healthier diet with greater emphasis on fiber-rich plant foods – fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; less total fat and saturated fat; and fewer calories overall to work toward reducing the incidence of obesity and achieving better health for the population. To attain better health, all disciplines (scientists, food companies, government agencies, and trade organizations) must come together and collaborate to create a vision and strategic plan for human health promotion. Making gradual changes to shift the food supply and proactively engaging all grain-based disciplines can help facilitate success. Allowing time for consumers to adapt to changes to food products is a positive way to foster the success of healthier foods in the marketplace. Shifting research dollars and focus to include different perspectives within the supply chain can help in the development and delivery of healthier grain-based foods. The Grains for Health Foundation, a new model for shifting the food supply, seeks to facilitate collaboration across the supply chain, to create tasty healthier grain-based foods that will help consumers meet public health objectives such as the Dietary Guidelines.

Rosen, R. A., Hauge, D., Maschoff, B., Haymond, A., McCurry, S., & Marquart, L. (2011). Developing and Delivering Healthier Grain-Based Foods. Nutrition Today, 6(2), 68-74.

Geographic Differences in the Relative Price of Healthy Foods

Although healthy foods can be affordable, if less healthy foods are cheaper, individuals may have an economic incentive to consume a less healthful diet. Using the Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database, we explore whether a select set of healthy foods (whole grains, dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, whole fruit, skim and 1% milk, fruit juice, and bottled water) are more expensive than less healthy alternatives. We find that not all healthy foods are more expensive than less healthy alternatives; skim and 1% milk are less expensive than whole and 2% milk and bottled water is generally less expensive than carbonated nonalcoholic drinks. We also find considerable geographic variation in the relative price of healthy foods. This price variation may contribute to geographic variation in diet and health outcomes.

Leibtag, E., Todd, J., & Penberthy, C. (2011). Geographic Differences in the Relative Price of Healthy Foods. Economic Information Bulletin, EIB(78), 40.