April is research month at Friedman

Dear Sprout readers,

This month, we congratulate the students at Friedman for their accomplishments in social and laboratory science research. Support your colleagues and classmates as they present their work at the 7th annual Future of Food and Nutrition Conference here on campus. Kari Kempf gives us a preview of what to expect at this year’s student-led conference, which takes place on Saturday, April 6. Kate Hebel interviews alumni Chris Hillbruner, one of the co-founders of this now annual event during his time at Friedman.

With research on our minds, we write about studies and laboratory work that takes place around the corner at the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. When is the best time of day to eat a big meal? What are the links between bone health and diet? And if you missed the Forum on Food Labeling while studying for mid-terms, Ashley Carter explores this important policy topic through the eyes and work of panelists at this year’s forum hosted by the Harvard Law School Food Law Society.

We had some fun, too. Amy Elvidge spent part of her March break taste-testing clam chowder all over town while Lisa D’Agrosa was perfecting an asparagus frittata recipe. Both share their secrets in this month’s issue. Mimi DelGizzi traveled to Washington, D.C., and passes along job-hunting and other advice gleaned from alumni working in the field of nutrition. Also this month, read about Friedman students who will combine fitness and charity endeavors, running the Boston Marathon and participating in the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life.”

April promises to be a good stretch. The worst of Boston’s winter weather is behind us and final exams are still a month away. Enjoy!

Your editors,

Natalie Obermeyer and M.E. Malone

2013 Future of Food and Nutrition Conference, Everyone at the Table: Multi-Sectoral Approaches to Malnutrition, By Kari Kempf: Don’t miss this opportunity to see your classmates and colleagues present their latest research work.

Putting the Label on the Table, By Ashley Carter: Ever wonder about the claims companies put on their products? Do they ever seem bogus or unfounded? Find out what the experts had to say about food labeling, health claims and front-of-package labels at the Harvard Food Law Society 2013 Forum on Food Labeling.

Eating Earlier in the Day may Help You Lose Weight, By Natalie Obermeyer: A new study by the HNRCA at Tufts suggests that eating your main meal earlier in the day may help you lose weight more than eating your main meal later in the day.

Establishing the link: From lab work to the daily diet, By M.E. Malone: Establishing a link between healthy bone and muscle aging may take time, but early efforts show promise.

A short primer on the HNRCA: It’s hard to get to Friedman without passing by this acclaimed research center, but what goes on inside?

‘Golden rice’ study inquiry continues: The university is still working to determine if proper study procedures were followed in 2008 study in China.

Fighting for a World with Less Cancer and More Birthdays, By Sheryl Lynn Carvajal: The American Cancer Society has been making strides to fight cancer for 100 years!  Join the ACS and fellow Friedman-ers at Relay for Life to stand up to cancer.

Taking the “grueling” out of the Boston Marathon, By M.E. Malone: Tufts Marathon team members get ready for the 26.2 mile-race, Gummi Bears included.

Alumni Spotlight on FEWS NET Advisor Chris Hillbruner, By Kate Hebel: A Friedman alum talks about his work on early warning information and technical support for countries with acute food security issues.

Sixth Annual Alumni Networking Trip Draws 19 students, 32 Alumni, By Mimi DelGizzi: Friedman alums spent two days talking to students about the perks of being a Friedmanite in DC.

Best of Boston: Chowda Chowda Chowda, By Amy Elvidge: Reviews on the “best bowl of clam chowder in the city” for all the restaurants claiming the throne.

Whip up a springtime brunch frittata, By Lisa D’Agrosa, RD: Now that spring is finally here in New England, take advantage of asparagus season by baking up this simple and delicious frittata.

April Calendar of Events: There’s always something interesting going on at Friedman, from conferences to an annual brew-off.

 

 

 

 

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2013 Future of Food and Nutrition Conference: Everyone at the table

By Kari Kempf

Student Group Spotlight

Spring is finally arriving in Boston and likewise, nutrition students from across the country will soon make their way to Jaharis. On April 6, the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy will host the 7th annual Future of Food and Nutrition Conference.

The theme of this year’s keynote panel is “Everyone at the Table: Multi-Sectoral Approaches to Malnutrition,” a nod to the diverse and overlapping areas of research that contribute to the fight against malnutrition. Last year, more than 200 graduate and doctoral students from 28 schools were contributors to the poster and oral presentations or attended the conference.

The keynote panel this year will feature three experts who have worked in nontraditional sectors, approaching malnutrition from a unique point of view or bridging gaps among diverse groups in the interest of reaching a common goal. Panelists are: Emily Broad Leib, director of Harvard Law School’s Center for Health and Policy Innovation; James Harrison, North Shore regional director of The Food Project, a local organization dedicated to building sustainable food systems; and Jason M. Reed, director of strategy and corporate partnerships at Hunger-Free Minnesota.

Together, the panel represents agencies that bring particular strengths to the discussion – food law and policy formation alongside agricultural expertise, local food and fitness council activism, and an agenda striving to eradicate hunger through a measurable, concrete goal. The combination is expected to make for an enlightening discussion about the myriad ways to approach the issue of malnutrition.

We asked Friedman student and conference organizer, Brooke Smith, for more details about the conference and the involvement of Friedman students, many of who are looking forward to this unique opportunity to share their hard work with peers and nutrition professionals.

Who sponsors and organizes this event?

The event is entirely organized and run by Friedman students.  This year, the Student Research Conference Committee has generous support from the vice-provost for research at Tufts, the deans of Policy and Science, and the Friedman Student Council.

The panel discussion topic of this year’s Student Research Conference is “Everyone at the Table: Multisectoral Approaches to Malnutrition.” How is this theme reflected in the diversity of presentations this year?

The panel theme reflects an interest among committee members to learn more about innovative ideas and programs to address domestic malnutrition that are coming from some of the sectors we may talk a little less about at Friedman, like law and NGO/corporate partnerships.

The student research presentations and posters come from a much broader call for abstracts that includes a wide variety of topics related to food and nutrition: nutrition science, food policy, social science, domestic and international nutrition programs, etc.  We support a unique program here at Friedman and the conference aims to bring together all of our diverse, but related, interests.

A presentation at last year's conference

A presentation at last year’s conference

What are some of the exciting features of this year’s conference?

An exciting new feature we are trying this year is a post-conference networking event in order to encourage the conversation to continue after all the presentations and the keynote. We have invited some local Friedman alums, and we hope it will give students the chance to connect with people in other programs and outside of Friedman. The event will take place after the panel presentation Saturday at a local restaurant, Trade, on Atlantic Avenue near South Station.

Many of our own Friedman students are featured in the presentation sessions. What research areas can we expect to learn about from our classmates?

One really great thing about the conference is the chance to hear from your Friedman classmates in different programs.  We are all here together, but with so much time dedicated to our own classes and programs, it’s really hard to learn deeply about what other people are researching. For instance, as an AFE student I am really excited about the session entitled “Molecules, Genes, and Metabolism,” which will highlight the research of three BMN [Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition] students.  Students who won’t have the chance to take any agriculture courses at Friedman might be interested in the session on “Issues and Perspectives in Agricultural Land Use.”

Is there any additional information you would like to share?

The committee really believes in the Future of Food and Nutrition Conference as an opportunity for students to bring their research outside the classroom and a chance to show prospective students (it coincides with admitted students weekend!) as well as other students and professionals in nutrition what Friedman is about. We hope you will join us on April 6th!

Register for the Future of Food and Nutrition Conference here or on the day of the conference. Check out the event schedule for the conference here.  For more information, please email studentconference@tufts.edu.

Kari Kempf is a first-year Friedman student in the Nutrition Communication program. In her free time, she enjoys cycling, hiking, walking, and other outdoor spring activities .

2013 Forum: Putting the label on the table

By Ashley Carter

Food Policy

“All Natural.” “Reduces risk of heart disease.” “Promotes healthy cell growth.” “Good source of potassium.” “Cheat death.”

You’ve probably seen similar claims printed on food packages.  And if you are a typical consumer, you’ve probably been confused and misled by what these labels mean, whether you know it or not.

In early March, I had the opportunity to attend the 2013 Forum on Food Labeling: Putting the Label on the Table, hosted by the Harvard Food Law Society.  I was excited about this forum, as we have been discussing the history behind and implications of food labeling in Dr. Tillotson’s Policy of Health Claims class at the Friedman School.

There are three main types of claims on foods, all of which are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Nutrient content claims identify the level of a certain nutrient in a food, such as “low fat” or “contains 100 calories.”  Structure/function claims describe how nutrients affect normal structure or function in the human body, such as “calcium builds strong bones.” Health claims characterize the relationship between a nutrient or substance and a disease or health-related condition, such as “soluble fiber may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Food companies constantly push the limits of what claims can be made on food packages in an effort to market their products.

A panel on Friday afternoon, called “From Nutrition Facts to Front-of-Pack: What is the Ideal Food Label,” addressed front-of-pack (FOP) labeling. Claims made on the front of packaging are the most common, most visible, and likely most controversial type of labeling. The panel comprised three experts in the food labeling arena, and each was given the chance to express her view on the ideal front-of-pack labeling system.

Rebecca Goldberg, an attorney for the FDA Office of Chief Counsel expressed that “the legal landscape that companies have to navigate in order to label on packages is very complex.” Goldberg emphasized that issues related to First Amendment freedom of speech complicate matters. In thinking about “the Perfect Food Label,” the push to remove confusing labels from foods to make labels simpler for consumers could be considered “a serious infringement on freedom of speech.”

Jennifer Pomeranz, director of Legal Initiatives for the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, spoke second. Her primary concern was added sugars in products. Lots of products contain artificial sweeteners, and Pomeranz believes the FDA should require a disclosure on the front of packages if a product contains them. Studies show that most parents do not want added sugars or artificial sweeteners in the foods they buy. However, these ingredients are often listed in the ingredient list under names we don’t recognize, so consumers are not aware of exactly what they are purchasing.

However, Pomeranz believes that “we should not remove total sugar from the label because then it can look to consumers like there is less sugar in the product,” even though products containing natural sugar often have more total sugar than comparable products with added sugar. According to Pomeranz, both added and total sugars are key pieces to the obesity epidemic.  For this reason, she believes that “certain levels of added sugar (and trans fat) should disqualify products from being able to make health claims and nutrient-content claims.” For these products, the positive claims can overshadow the negative perception of added sugars.

The final member of the panel was Helen Falco, director of Nutrition & Health Policy for The Coca-Cola Company. Her philosophies, which aligns with those of The Coca-Cola Company, are that all foods can fit in a healthy lifestyle, that physical activity is important, and that all calories count, no matter where they are coming from. Falco supports fact-based nutrition labeling, such as “contains 120 calories,” and objects to interpretive systems that identify “superior quality” because she views them as judgmental and confusing. “Don’t provide too much information or too complex information, or the consumer will be overwhelmed.” In her opinion, calorie information should be the priority, and additional information should be provided on websites and other forums.

Goldberg and Pomeranz disagree. Both feel that calorie awareness is important for consumers, but that it should not be the primary focus for labeling. Pomeranz believes that focusing primarily on calories would be a huge step back, as “calories are not a good indicator of health and the calorie discussion is old science.” Her comment that “almonds have more calories than potato chips, but we would never recommend someone eat potato chips instead of almonds” drew applause from the audience.

Falco also emphasized that education is a key element to ensure that nutrition labeling is understood and used appropriately, which both other members of the panel agreed with. “We need to teach people about nutrition labels so they can use the tool; this allows people to make the choice themselves, and to make the right choice for him- or herself.”

As expected, Falco’s position and motivations were questioned during the panel because of her position within Coca-Cola.  In response, Falco cited the extensive nutrition education available on the Coca-Cola website, as well as the 200 or more education programs that they sponsor.

Urvashi Rangan Ph.D, director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability Group at Consumer Reports, presented next as the keynote speaker. Consumer Reports surveys and educates consumers about meaningful labels and the practices underlying labeling, files labeling complaints with government agencies, and testifies to Congress about better labeling practices.

Rangan’s talk was entitled “Modern Labels: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and Why We Need Them,” and she addressed a variety of issues inherent in current food labeling practices. Dr. Rangan first discussed the premise behind why consumers need credible labels to begin with. Labels create a market demand for sustainable practices and they give consumers the opportunity to make value-added purchasing decisions at the point of purchase. They also provide consumers with reassurance that, if they pay more, the products they buy will meet their health, safety and environmental expectations.

Rangan emphasized that “bad labels are usually not a mistake – they are used to purposefully undermine truthful and non-deceptive business practices.” She questions why the myriad claims that do not actually mean anything, such as “natural” and “hypoallergenic,” are allowed. “They don’t have distinct definitions… and anyone can put them on labels.” These are called “general claims” and, according to Rangan, they simply add confusion to the labeling landscape.

Rangan does not believe that government has set appropriate minimum requirements for using labels that are truthful, transparent and trustworthy. For example, a law pertaining to “substantial transformation” requires companies to label a product when it has been substantially transformed, such as smoked or homogenized. Given that law, Rangan questions why GMO labeling is not required for GMO seeds, which are substantially transformed, particularly when Consumer Reports surveys indicate that 90% of the public wants GMO labeling.

Rangan then discussed how little it takes to become a label: “natural” does not have any particular definition, yet Consumer Reports found that many people think that products labeled with the word “natural” are superior. “Free range,” “cage free,” fresh” and other meat marketing claims are misleading to consumers because they do not necessarily mean what they imply. “Pure” does not have to mean it’s purely anything, “fragrance free” does not mean it has no fragrance, “formaldehyde free” can contain trace amounts of formaldehyde, and “trans fat free” can contain up to 0.5 g of trans fat.

As for organic, Rangen believes that Consumer Reports and the community at large needs to show their support for organic labeling if we are concerned with sustainability. “The organic label is the key label that leads the sustainability movement,” says Rangen, and if it fails, it will be hard to label products related to sustainability with any sort of credibility.

If all of this seems disheartening, have faith. Consumer Reports is bringing these issues into the spotlight. The ultimate goal of the publication is to find out what consumers want and what value labels can bring – and to bring these issues to the government’s attention. One of Rangan’s primary concerns is the fractured oversight of labeling. According to Rangan, “government agencies do not communicate enough, they do not call each other out, and there are cracks between the agencies that are supposed to be regulating these products that companies can slip through.” Rather than attacking companies, Consumer Reports aims to address the government agencies and their regulatory methods in an attempt to make the whole system function more effectively. Consumer Reports’ position is that one government agency should deal with labeling to maximize consistency and effectiveness of labeling for consumers.

“We need a more cooperative and collaborative approach in general,” said Rangan. I think that those of us involved in trying to figure out the most effective way to communicate health and nutrition information to consumers would agree with Rangan that collaboration and communication must guide the future of labeling.

Author’s note: On Saturday, Jesse LaFlamme from Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs presented on “The Voluntary Food Labeling Process From Conception to Approval,” Carter Dillard, director of Litigation for the Animal Legal Defense Fund presented on “Litigation and Other Tools for Tackling Misleading Marketing Claim: Preventing Humanewashing,” and a panel of experts discussed “Organic, All-Natural, Heart Healthy: How toRegulate Marketing Claims on Food Packages to Better Serve and Protect Consumers.” I was sadly unable to attend these presentations.

Ashley Carter is a second year master’s student in Nutrition Communication at the Friedman School. She is an avid skier and outdoor enthusiast. She is very interested in food labeling as it pertains to consumer understanding and misunderstanding of health information.

Eating earlier in the day may help you lose weight

By Natalie Obermeyer

Research

We constantly receive information on what and how much to eat. But, have you ever thought about when we should eat? A recent study by researchers of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University suggests that eating your main meal earlier in the day may facilitate more weight loss than eating the meal later in the day.timing

Jose Ordovas of the HNRCA’s Nutritional Genomics Laboratory collaborated with researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the University of Murcia in Spain to track the weight of 420 men and women in Spain who were enrolled in a weight loss program. They found that people who ate their main meal earlier in the day lost 2.3% more body weight (21.8 lbs as compared to 16.9 lbs). Even though both early-eaters and late-eaters had equivalent calorie intakes, energy expenditures, and ate similar foods, the early-eaters lost more weight.

Interestingly, the researchers found no significant associations between timing of smaller meals and weight loss. The predictor of weight loss differences was the timing of the main meal, which in Spain is lunch and provides approximately 40% of daily energy intake. However, late-lunch eaters generally ate less for breakfast or were more likely to skip it altogether. Thus, eating a nutritious breakfast may also play a role.

This study was the first prospective, longitudinal study to show that timing of meals predicts weight loss effectiveness in humans. However, multiple animal studies have shown that timing of food intake predicts weight gain. For example, feeding nocturnal mice a high-fat diet during the day (when they usually sleep) causes them to gain more weight than feeding the mice a high-fat diet during the night, even though the mice’s calorie consumption and activity levels are the same.

Additionally, there is evidence emerging that adipose (fat) tissue contains a circadian clock inside it. For example, certain genes in fat tissue are expressed at certain times of the day. The temporal expression of these genes may cause the cells to be more susceptible to storing or mobilizing fat at certain times. Thus, eating a large meal when adipose tissue is in a more fat-storing mode may increase weight gain.

Finally, it is important to realize this was an observational study. While the study found a significant association between timing of food intake and weight loss, this does not necessarily mean that eating meals earlier in the day directly causes more weight loss. The association is novel and important, but more studies need to be done to determine if meal timing does indeed play a causal role in weight loss. Nevertheless, the study certainly suggests that it is important to factor in meal timing, in addition to food content, when planning weight-loss strategies.

Natalie Obermeyer is a first year student in the Nutrition Communication and Masters of Public Health programs. When she is not studying, reading, or writing, she loves to run, hike, ski, play outdoors in the sunshine, and experiment in the kitchen

Establishing the link: From lab work to the daily diet

By M.E. Malone

Research

To move from a scientific hypothesis to actionable medical advice is a process that can take many years, particularly when the subject is human nutrition. A case in point is work currently underway at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging on how best to adjust out diets to lower the risk of fractures and muscle loss as we age.

While the role of calcium and vitamin D in stemming bone loss later in life has been fairly well-established, more recent research performed at the HNRCA Bone Metabolism Laboratory has been connecting the dots between diet, pH balance in the body, and bone and muscle health.

As part of the metabolic process, proteins and starchy carbohydrates – such as bread and pasta – release acids into the bloodstream. In older adults with declining kidney function, excess acid slowly accumulates and begins to break down bone and muscle.

While evidence is not conclusive that cutting back on fusilli will lead to fewer bone fractures in older individuals, Bess Dawson-Hughes, director of the Bone Metabolism Laboratory and principal investigator on the project, believes the work is promising. “There are a number of contributing causes” to declining muscle function and continual bone loss in older adults and pH balance may well play a role, she said. At the same time, there are other important protections against bone and muscle loss, including daily physical activity.

The lab’s current inquiry: just how much alkali is needed to neutralize acids produced metabolizing proteins and carbohydrates? Over the next 3-plus years, under a grant from the National Institutes of Health, Dawson-Hughes said her lab hopes to establish the optimal amount of alkali to neutralize acid using short-term intermediate markers that gauge the decline in bone and muscle health. Longer term, Dawson-Hughes said the aim is to test that “dose” in a clinical trial. About 270 individuals will participate in the current study

The work done to date may be yet another reason to be sure to get enough fruit and vegetables in the diet. Fruits and veggies, – even citrus fruits that we consider “acidic” – actually produce alkali when metabolized, helping to keep the body’s pH in balance.

“The acid/base control system in our body is quite elaborate and quite elegant,” Dawson-Hughes said, and adding to the knowledge about its role in bone and muscle health has been “intellectually interesting.” More importantly, she said, is the guidance for daily meal decisions that may stem from the work. “There won’t be a single golden parachute,” to protect against bone loss and muscle wasting later in life, she cautioned, “but this is exciting work.”

The PRAL (potential renal acid load) value is a measure of a food’s acidity once digested. Four ounces or chicken or lean beef, for example, have PRAL values of close to 12. A ½-cup of rice is 2.4, 1 cup of cooked oats is 4.3. Most fruits and vegetables have negative PRAL values: ¼ cup raisins has -8.4, a pear’s tally is -4.8 and spinach is valued at -11.9. Orange juice has a negative PRAL value as well. Most fats and sweets are considered neutral when it comes to post-metabolism acidity loads.

The PRAL (potential renal acid load) value is a measure of a food’s acidity once digested. Four ounces or chicken or lean beef, for example, have PRAL values of close to 12. A ½-cup of rice is 2.4, 1 cup of cooked oats is 4.3. Most fruits and vegetables have negative PRAL values: ¼ cup raisins has -8.4, a pear’s tally is -4.8 and spinach is valued at -11.9. Orange juice has a negative PRAL value as well. Most fats and sweets are considered neutral when it comes to post-metabolism acidity loads.

A short primer on the HNRCA

Research

The Student Research Conference promises a wide range of fascinating work in both the social and biological sciences. In addition to faculty members at Friedman, students often cite as their inspiration the Jean Myer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, or HNRCA for short.

More than 49 students and post-docs are currently working on cutting edge research or providing support for ongoing projects, according to the center’s communications specialist Deb Dutcher.

Recent findings from HNRCA researchers that made news include:

  • The ability to breed mice without a gene that some refer to as “the obesity gene.” Without it, it turns out that mice can eat a high-fat diet without getting fat.
  • Evidence that eating the main meal of the day earlier in the day helps with weight loss efforts. (See accompanying story.)
  • Workplace-based weight loss programs that include lunch-hour counseling along with advice on healthy eating habits can make a difference in efforts to shed the pounds.

HNRCA is a collection of 20 laboratories focused in four distinct “clusters:” cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammation/immunity/infectious diseases, and obesity. More than a dozen of the labs have “nutrition” or “metabolism” in their names. It is one of six such human nutrition research cites in America supported by Agriculture Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The 15-story nondescript building at the corner of Kneeland and Washington streets that houses the labs gives away little about the  work that takes place inside. Here is a sampling of some of the projects currently underway:

  • The development of a stable isotope method to better detect frailty in the elderly, by the Body Composition lab.
  • The effects of plant-based diets on healthy aging in the Nutritional Epidemiology lab.
  • The role of gender in adipose tissue metabolism and metabolic disorders in the Obesity Metabolism lab.
  • A better understanding of how dietary vitamin K is converted for use in certain tissues by the Vitamin K lab.
  • An assessment of the potential usefulness of the glycemic index and glycemic load when giving dietary guidance to the public by the Cardiovascular Nutrition lab.
  • A deeper look at the long-term effect of vitamin D plus calcium on physical function and the risk of falling in older adults by the Bone Metabolism lab.
The HNRCA recently acquired a new mass spectrometer called the QTOF, or quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometer. Tens of thousands of compounds can be pulled out of a single sample with this machine. Photo courtesy of HNRCA.

The HNRCA recently acquired a new mass spectrometer called the QTOF, or quadruple time-of-flight mass spectrometer. Tens of thousands of compounds can be pulled out of a single sample with this machine. Photo courtesy of HNRCA.

Behind the scenes at HNRCA is a great deal of support work to ensure that studies are conducted in a systematic way. Franciel Dawes, a second year DI/MS student, was kind enough to give us some insight into her work-study duties with the Dietary Assessment Unit at HNRCA, where she provides support to researchers in many different labs. While her daily tasks may not garner headlines, they are critical to studies involving analysis of the human diet. She assists with dietary data collection and entry, often helping older adult participants over the phone or in person to recall their meals and snacks over the course of the prior 24 hours. She has even developed recipes for use by study participants and says she’s learned a lot about attention to detail while working at the unit. “I thought of myself as more of a policy person. This job [and a prior internship] has shown me that I can do research too.”

Students interested in learning more about current and recent laboratory projects can visit the HNRCA website and follow links to each lab. A warm re-telling of the research center’s history can be found in this Journal of Nutrition article. You can also visit the HNRCA on Facebook.

–       Compiled by M.E. Malone

Golden rice study inquiry continues

Update

A research study probing the potential benefits of so-called golden rice, which sparked controversy last year, remains under review by Tufts, according to a spokeswoman for the university. The 2008 study, conducted in China by HNRCA scientists and colleagues, tested the efficacy of using the genetically modified rice to boost levels of vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A deficiencies affect more than 250 million children worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

After results of the study  were published last summer in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Greenpeace International alleged that the parents of children who participated in the study in China were not fully informed about the GM rice product. Greenpeace actively campaigns against the inclusion of GM products in the food system.

In the months following the allegation, reviews of the study protocol and activities were launched by Chinese public health officials as well as officials at Tufts. In December, three individuals in China associated with the study lost their jobs. Friedman students received a letter from Simin Meydani, director of USDA-HNRCA and professor of nutrition and immunology at Friedman, acknowledging the actions in China, but reiterating that Tufts was committed to a review by a 5-member panel that includes “distinguished academics from leading universities in the United States.” Dr. Meydani’s correspondence noted that the panel has two charges: “to determine whether the study was in compliance with Chinese, U.S. and Tufts University requirements for scientific research,” as well as to “examine Tufts’ institutional policies and practices to determine if they are appropriate to ensure full compliance with the laws and regulations of other countries in which we are engaged in research.”

When asked for an update on Tufts’ investigation of the matter, Andrea Grossman, assistant director of public relations for the university, provided a written statement. “When questions were raised about whether the study adhered to all appropriate scientific protocols, Tufts University initiated a full review to determine whether proper study procedures were followed. Our process, which includes an external review panel and an inquiry by the Tufts Medical Center and Tufts University Health Sciences Institutional Review Board followed by deliberations, is ongoing. We are unable to provide additional information or comment at this time.” The statement also reiterated the university’s commitment “to the highest ethical and scientific standards in research.”

 – M.E. Malone