Glossary of Food Related Terms




acceptable daily intake (ADI) -
The amount of chemical that, if ingested daily over a lifetime, appears to be without appreciable effect.


acesulfame K -
Acesulfame K, or acesulfame potassium, is a low-calorie sweetener approved for use in the United States in 1988. It is an organic salt consisting of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, sulphur and potassium atoms. It is 200 times sweeter than sucrose, has a synergistic sweetening effect with other sweeteners, has a stable shelf-life and is heat stable. It is excreted through the human digestive system unchanged, and is therefore non-caloric.


additives (food additives) -
Any natural or synthetic material, other than the basic raw ingredients, used in the production of a food item to enhance the final product. Any substance that may affect the characteristics of any food, including those used in the production, processing, treatment, packaging, transportation or storage of food.


aerobic exercise -
Aerobic exercise refers to the kind of fast-paced activity that makes you "huff and puff." It places demands on your cardiovascular apparatus and, over time, produces beneficial changes in your respiratory and circulatory systems.


allergen (food allergen) -
A food allergen is the part of a food (a protein) that stimulates the immune system of food allergic individuals. A single food can contain multiple food allergens. Carbohydrates or fats are not allergens.


allergy (food allergy) -
A food allergy is any adverse reaction to an otherwise harmless food or food component (a protein) that involves the body's immune system. To avoid confusion with other types of adverse reactions to foods, it is important to use the terms "food allergy" or "food hypersensitivity" only when the immune system is involved in causing the reaction.


amino acids -
Amino acids function as the building blocks of proteins. Chemically, amino acids are organic compounds containing an amino (NH2) group and a carboxyl (COOH) group. Amino acids are classified as essential, nonessential and conditionally essential. If body synthesis is inadequate to meet metabolic need, an amino acid is classified as essential and must be supplied as part of the diet. Essential amino acids include leucine, isoleucine, valine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, methionine, threonine, lysine, histidine and possibly arginine. Nonessential amino acids can be synthesized by the body in adequate amounts, and include alanine, aspartic acid, asparagine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline and serine. Conditionally essential amino acids become essential under certain clinical conditions.


anemia -
Anemia is a condition in which a deficiency in the size or number of erythrocytes (red blood cells) or the amount of hemoglobin they contain limits the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the blood and the tissue cells. Most anemias are caused by a lack of nutrients required for normal erythrocyte synthesis, principally iron, vitamin B-12, and folic acid. Others result from a variety of conditions, such as hemorrhage, genetic abnormalities, chronic disease states or drug toxicity.


Anorexia Nervosa -
An eating disorder characterized by refusal to maintain a minimally normal weight for height and age. The condition includes weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight 15 percent below normal; an intense fear of weight gain or becoming fat, despite the individual's underweight status; a disturbance in the self-awareness of one's own body weight or shape; and in females, the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles that would otherwise be expected to occur.


antibiotics -
Antibiotics are used in animal agriculture for two reasons. First, to improve the rate of growth and the feed efficiency of animals so they produce more meat or milk on less feed. The second reason is to prevent and treat diseases, just as in humans.


antibody -
Protein produced by the immune system of humans and higher animals in response to the presence of a specific antigen.


antigen -
A foreign substance (almost always a protein) that, when introduced into the body, stimulates an immune response.


antioxidant -
Antioxidants protect key cell components by neutralizing the damaging effects of "free radicals," natural byproducts of cell metabolism. Free radicals form when oxygen is metabolized, or burned by the body. They travel through cells, disrupting the structure of other molecules, causing cellular damage. Such cell damage is believed to contribute to aging and various health problems.


antisense -
A piece of DNA that produces the mirror image, or antisense messenger RNA, that is exactly opposite in sequence to one that directs the cells to produce a specific protein. Since the antisense RNA binds tightly to its image, it prevents the protein from being made.


aspartame -
Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener used in a variety of foods and beverages and as a tabletop sweetener. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Aspartame is made by joining two protein components, aspartic acid and phenylalanine.


asthma -
Asthma is a chronic medical condition, affecting approximately 10 million Americans (3 to 4 percent of the population). Asthma results when irritants (or trigger substances) cause swelling of the tissues in the air passage of the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Typical symptoms of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing.


atherosclerosis -
A condition that exists when too much cholesterol builds up in the blood and accumulates in the walls of the blood vessels.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) -
Commonly called "hyperactivity," Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a clinical diagnosis based on specific criteria. These include excessive motor activity, impulsiveness, short attention span, low tolerance to frustration and onset before 7 years of age.



bias -
Bias occurs when problems in study design lead to effects that are not related to the variables being studied. An example is selection bias, which occurs when study subjects are chosen in a way that can misleadingly increase or decrease the strength of an association. Choosing experimental and control group subjects from different populations would result in a selection bias.


biopesticide -
A biopesticide is any material of natural origin used in pest control derived from living organisms, such as bacteria, plant cells or animal cells.


biotechnology -
The simplest definition of biotechnology is "applied biology." The application of biological knowledge and techniques to develop products. It may be further defined as the use of living organisms to make a product or run a process. By this definition, the classic techniques used for plant and animal breeding, fermentation and enzyme purification would be considered biotechnology. Some people use the term only to refer to newer tools of genetic science. In this context, biotechnology may be defined as the use of biotechnical methods to modify the genetic materials of living cells so they will produce new substances or perform new functions. Examples include recombinant DNA technology, in which a copy of a piece of DNA containing one or a few genes is transferred between organisms or "recombined" within an organism.


blind (single or double) experiment -
In a single blind experiment, the subjects do not know whether they are receiving an experimental treatment or a placebo. In a double blind experiment, neither the researchers nor the participants are aware of which subjects receive the treatment - until after the study is completed.


Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) -
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, is also known as "mad cow disease." It is a rare, chronic degenerative disease affecting the brain and central nervous system of cattle. Cattle with BSE lose their coordination, develop abnormal posture and experience changes in behavior. Clinical symptoms take 4-5 years to develop, followed by death in a period of several weeks to months unless the affected animal is destroyed sooner.


rBST (bovine somatotropin) -
Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) is virtually identical to a cow's natural somatotropin, a hormone produced in its pituitary gland that stimulates milk production. Treatment with rBST can increase a cow's milk production by 10 percent to 15 percent.


Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) -
One of the most common microorganisms used in biologically-based pesticides is the Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt bacterium. Several of the proteins produced by the Bt, principally in the coating the bacteria forms around itself, are lethal to individual species of insects. By using Bt in pesticide formulations, target insects can be controlled using an environmentally benign, biologically-based agent. Bt-based insecticides have been widely used by home gardeners for many years as well as on farms.


Bulimia Nervosa -
An eating disorder characterized by rapid consumption of a large amount of food in a short period of time, with a sense of lack of control during the episode and self-evaluation unduly influenced by body weight and shape. There are two forms of the condition, purging and non-purging. The first type regularly engages in purging through self-induced vomiting or the excessive use of laxatives or diuretics. Alternatively, the non-purging type controls weight through strict dieting, fasting or excessive exercise.



calorie -
A calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one milliliter (ml) of water at a standard initial temperature by one degree centigrade (C).


caffeine -
Caffeine is a naturally-occurring substance found in the leaves, seeds or fruits of over 63 plant species worldwide and is part of a group of compounds known as methylxanthines. The most commonly known sources of caffeine are coffee and cocoa beans, cola nuts and tea leaves. Caffeine is a pharmacologically active substance and, depending on the dose, can be a mild central nervous system stimulant. Caffeine does not accumulate in the body over the course of time and is normally excreted within several hours of consumption.


carbohydrate -
Carbohydrates are organic compounds that consist of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They vary from simple sugars containing from three to seven carbon atoms to very complex polymers. Only the hexoses (sugars with six carbon atoms) and pentoses (sugars with five carbon atoms) and their polymers play important roles in nutrition. Carbohydrates in food provide 4 calories per gram.
 Plants manufacture and store carbohydrates as their chief source of energy. The glucose synthesized in the leaves of plants is used as the basis for more complex forms of carbohydrates. Classification of carbohydrates relates to their structural core of simple sugars, saccharides. Principal monosaccharides that occur in food are glucose and fructose. Three common disaccharides are sucrose, maltose and lactose. Polysaccharides of interest in nutrition include starch, dextrin, glycogen and cellulose.


caries -
see dental caries


Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -
The CDC, composed of 11 Centers, Institutes and Offices, aims to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury and disability.


cholesterol (dietary) -
Cholesterol is not a fat, but rather a fat-like substance classified as a lipid. Cholesterol is vital to life and is found in all cell membranes. It is necessary for the production of bile acids and steroid hormones. Dietary cholesterol is found only in animal foods. Abundant in organ meats and egg yolks, cholesterol is also contained in meats and poultry. Vegetable oils and shortenings are cholesterol-free.


cholesterol (serum, or blood) -
High blood cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. Most of the cholesterol that is found in the blood is manufactured by the body, in the liver, at a rate of about 800 to 1,500 milligrams a day. By comparison, the average American consumes 300 to 450 milligrams daily in foods.


cholesterol (different types) -
Blood cholesterol is divided into three separate classes of lipoproteins: very-low density lipoprotein (VLDL); low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which contains most of the cholesterol found in the blood; and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
 LDL seems to be the culprit in coronary heart disease and is popularly known as the "bad cholesterol." By contrast, HDL is increasingly considered desirable and known as the "good cholesterol."


chromosome -
Thread-like components in the cell that contain DNA. They make proteins. Genes are carried on the chromosomes.


clinical trials -
Clinical trials undertake experimental study of human subjects. Trials may attempt to determine whether the finds of basic research are applicable to humans, or to confirm the results of epidemiological research. Studies may be small, with a limited number of participants, or they may be large intervention trials that seek to discover the outcome of treatments on entire populations. The "gold standard" clinical trials are double-blind, placebo-controlled studies which employ random assignment of subjects to experimental and control groups unknown to the subject or the researcher.


confounding variable or confounding factor -
A "hidden" variable that may cause an association which the researcher attributes to other variables.


Continuing Survey of Food Intake of Individuals (CSFII) -
A part of the National Nutrition Monitoring System which was the first nationwide dietary intake survey designed to be conducted annually. The survey is conducted by the USDA.


control group -
The group of subjects in a study to whom a comparison is made in order to determine whether an observation or treatment has an effect. In an experimental study it is the group that does not receive a treatment. Subjects are as similar as possible to those in the test or treatment group.


controlled experiment -
In this type of research, study subjects (whether animal or human) are selected according to relevant characteristics, and then randomly assigned to either an experimental group, or a control group. Random assignment ensures that factors known as variables, which may affect the outcome of the study, are distributed equally among the groups and therefore could not lead to differences in the effect of the treatment under study. The experimental group is then given a treatment (sometimes called an intervention), and the results are compared to the control group, which does not receive treatment. A placebo, or false treatment, may be administered to the control group. With all other variables controlled, differences between the experimental and control groups may be attributed to the treatment under study.


correlation -
An association, or when one phenomenon is found to be accompanied by another. A correlation does not prove cause and effect. Correlation may also be defined statistically.



dental caries -
Popularly known as cavities, dental caries occur when bacteria in the mouth feed on fermentable carbohydrates and produce acids that dissolve tooth enamel. Various conditions affect this process, such as heredity and the composition and flow of saliva. Any fermentable carbohydrate (starches and sugars) can serve as food for cavity-causing bacteria. The amount of carbohydrate is not as important as how often these foods are eaten and how long they stay in the mouth. Widespread use of fluoride in water supplies and oral health products is credited with the dramatic decline in dental caries among children and adults alike over the past 20 years. Also, see "fluoride."


diabetes -
Diabetes is the name for a group of medical disorders characterized by high blood sugar levels. Normally when people eat, food is digested and much of it is converted to glucose -- a simple sugar -- which the body uses for energy. The blood carries the glucose to cells where it is absorbed with the help of the hormone insulin. For those with diabetes, however, the body does not make enough insulin, or cannot properly use the insulin it does make. Without insulin, glucose accumulates in the blood rather than moving into the cells. High blood sugar levels result.


Also known as Deoxyribonucleic acid. This is the molecule that carries the genetic information for most living systems. The DNA molecule consists of four bases (adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine) and a sugar-phosphate backbone, arranged in two connected strands to form its characteristic double-helix.


double-blind, placebo-controlled study -
In a double-blind, placebo controlled study, neither the researchers nor the participants in the study are aware of which subjects receive the treatment under study and which subjects receive the placebo until after the study is completed. The study design is intended to remove bias on the part of both researcher and study subject.



E. coli: O157:H7 -
The bacteria Escherichia coli: O157:H7 is a type of E. coli associated with foodborne illness. Healthy cattle and humans can carry the bacteria. It can be transferred from animal to animal and animal to human, and from animal to human on food. Transmission from person to person through close contact is a potential problem, especially among young children in daycare.


Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -
The EPA's mission is to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment - air, water and land - upon which life depends. Through regulation, EPA tries to ensure the human population and the environment are protected from environmental risks and exposures.


epidemiology -
The study of distribution and determinants of diseases or other health outcomes in human populations. It seeks to expose potential associations between aspects of health (such as cancer, heart disease, etc.) and diet, lifestyle, habits or other factors within populations. Epidemiological studies may suggest relationships between two factors, but do not provide the basis for conclusions about cause and effect. Possible associations inferred from epidemiological research can turn out to be coincidental.


experimental group -
The group of subjects in an experimental study which receives a treatment.



fats (dietary fats) -
Fats are referred to in the plural because there is no one type of fat. Fats are composed of the same three elements as carbohydrates -- carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, However, fats have relatively more carbon and hydrogen and less oxygen, thus supplying a higher fuel value of nine calories per gram (versus four calories per gram from carbohydrates and protein).
 One molecule of fat can be broken down into three molecules of fatty acids and one molecule of glycerol. Thus, fats are known chemically as triglycerides.
 Fats are a vital nutrient in a healthy diet. Fats supply essential fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, which is especially important to childhood growth. Fat helps maintain healthy skin, regulate cholesterol metabolism and is a precursor of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that regulate some body processes. Dietary fat is needed to carry fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and to aid in their absorption from the intestine.


fatty acid -
Fatty acids are generally classified as saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. These terms refer to the number of hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atoms of the fat molecule. In general, fats that contain a majority of saturated fatty acids are solid at room temperature, although some solid vegetable shortenings are up to 75 percent unsaturated. Fats containing mostly unsaturated fatty acids are usually liquid at room temperature and are called oils. Also, see "fats", or "hydrogenation."


fiber -
Dietary fiber generally refers to parts of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes that can't be digested by humans. Meats and dairy products do not contain fiber. Studies indicate that high-fiber diets can reduce the risks of heart disease and certain types of cancer. There are two basic types of fiber - insoluble and soluble. Soluble fiber in cereals, oatmeal, beans and other foods has been found to lower blood cholesterol. Insoluble fiber in cauliflower, cabbage and other vegetables and fruits helps move foods through the stomach and intestine, thereby decreasing the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum.


5 A Day -
Refers to the dietary recommendation to consume five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. The tagline, 5 A Day, became a promotional message in campaigns to increase fruits and vegetable consumption.


fluoride -
Fluoride is a natural component of minerals in rocks and soils. Widespread use of fluoride in water supplies and oral health products is credited with the dramatic decline in dental caries among children and adults alike. All water contains fluoride, but it is sometimes necessary to add it to some public supplies to attain the optimal amount for dental health. Fluoride makes tooth enamel stronger and more resistant to decay. It also prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and interferes with converting fermentable carbohydrates to acids in the mouth.


folic acid -
Folic acid, folate, folacin, all form a group of compounds functionally involved in amino acid metabolism and nucleic acid synthesis. Good dietary sources of folate include leafy, dark green vegetables, legumes, citrus fruits and juices, peanuts, whole grains and fortified breakfast cereals.
 Recent studies show, if all women of childbearing age consumed sufficient folic acid (either through diet or supplements), 50 to 70 percent of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord could be prevented, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) Folic acid is critical from conception through the first four to six weeks of pregnancy when the neural tube is formed. This means adequate diet or supplement use should begin before pregnancy occurs.
 Recent research findings also show low blood folate levels can be associated with elevated plasma homocysteine and increased risk of coronary heart disease.


Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -
The Food and Drug Administration is part of the Public Health Service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the regulatory agency responsible for ensuring the safety and wholesomeness of all foods sold in interstate commerce except meat, poultry and eggs (which are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture). FDA develops standards for the composition, quality, nutrition, safety and labeling of foods including food and color additives. It conducts research to improve detection and prevention of contamination. It collects and interprets data on nutrition, food additives and pesticide residues. The agency also inspects food plants, imported food products and feed mills that make feeds containing medications or nutritional supplements that are destined for human consumption. And it regulates radiation-emitting products such as microwave ovens. FDA also enforces pesticide tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency for all domestically produced and imported foods, except for foods under USDA jurisdiction.


Food Guide Pyramid -
The Food Guide Pyramid is a graphic design used to communicate the recommended daily food choices contained in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The information provided was developed and promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


foodborne disease -
Disease, usually gastrointestinal, caused by organisms or their toxins carried in ingested food. Also commonly known as "food poisoning."


food irradiation -
The exposure of food to sufficient radiant energy (gamma rays, x-rays and electron beams) to destroy microorganisms and insects. Irradiation is used in food production and processing to promote food safety.


fructose -
Fructose is a monosaccharide found naturally in fruits, as an added sugar in a crystalline form and as a component of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).


fruit -
Fruit is the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant, especially one having a sweet pulp associated with the seed.


functional foods -
Foods that may provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Examples include tomatoes with lycopene, thought to help prevent the incidence of prostate and cervical cancers; fiber in wheat bran and sulfur compounds in garlic also believed to prevent cancer.



gastronomy -
The study and appreciation of good food and good eating, and a culture's culinary customs, style and lore. Any interest or study of culinary pursuits as relates essentially to the kitchen and cookery, and to the higher levels of education, training and achievement of the chef apprentice or professional chef.


generalizability -
The extent to which the results of a study are able to be applied to the general population of people that is comparable to the population studied.


genome -
The total hereditary material of a cell, containing the entire chromosomal set found in each nucleus of a given species.


glucose -
A sugar, most commonly in the form of dextroglucose, that occurs naturally, has about half the sweetening power of regular sugar and does not crystallize easily. Glucose comes from grape juice, honey and certain vegetables, among other things.


glutamate -
Glutamate is an amino acid. It is necessary for metabolism and brain function, and is manufactured by the body. Glutamate is found in virtually every protein food we eat. In food, there is "bound" glutamate and "free" glutamate. Glutamate serves to enhance flavors in foods when it is in its free form and not bound to other amino acids in protein. Some foods have greater quantities of glutamate than others. Foods that are rich in glutamate include tomatoes, mushrooms, parmesan cheese, milk and mackerel.


glycerol -
A colorless, odorless, syrupy liquid - chemically, an alcohol - that is obtained from fats and oils and used to retain moisture and add sweetness to foods.


grains -
Grains are the seeds or fruits of various food plants including cereal grasses. The examples of wheat, corn, oats, barley, rye and rice provide a partial list. Grain foods include foods such as bread, cereals, rice and pasta.


GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) -
GRAS is the regulatory status of food ingredients not evaluated by the FDA prescribed testing procedure. It also includes common food ingredients that were already in use when the 1959 Food Additives Amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was enacted.



HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) -
The underlying approach under HACCP for preventing foodborne illness and promote quality is to identify the danger spots and try to avoid them. Instead of putting the burden on government to discover that a food safety problem exists, HACCP shifts responsibility onto the industry to ensure that the food it produces is safe. Food producers will have to prevent bacterial contamination from occurring in the first place. HACCP works by the following principles:


herbicides -
Herbicides are a class of crop protection and specialty chemicals used to control weeds on farms and in forests, as well as in non-agricultural applications such as golf courses, public tracts of land and residential lawns.


high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) -
HFCS are formulations generally containing 42 percent, 55 percent or 90 percent fructose (the remaining carbohydrate being primarily glucose) depending on the product application. HCFS are used in products such as soft drinks or cake mixes.


hydrogenation -
Hydrogenation is the process of adding hydrogen molecules directly to an unsaturated fatty acid from sources such as vegetable oils to convert it to a semi-solid form such as margarine or shortening. Hydrogenation contributes important textural properties to food. The degree of hydrogenation influences the firmness and spreadability of margarines, flakiness of pie crust and the creaminess of puddings. Hydrogenated oils are sometimes used in place of other fats with higher proportions of saturated fatty acids such as butter or lard.


hyperactivity -
See Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).


hypertension -
Hypertension is the persistently elevated arterial blood pressure. It is the most common public health problem in developed countries. Emphasis on lifestyle modifications has given diet a prominent role for both the primary prevention and management of hypertension.



incidence -
The number of new cases of a disease during a given period of time in a defined population.


insecticide -
Insecticides are a class of crop protection and specialty chemicals used to control insects on farms and forests, as well as non-agricultural applications such as residential lawncare, golf courses and public tracts of land.


integrated pest management (IPM) -
Integrated pest management is the coordinated use of pest and environmental information along with available pest control methods, including cultural, biological, genetic and chemical methods, to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage using the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property and the environment.


intense sweeteners -
see low-calorie sweeteners





lactose -
A sugar naturally occurring in milk, also known as "milk sugar," that is the least sweet of all natural sugars and used in baby formulas and candies.


lactose intolerance -
Lactose intolerance is an inherited inability to properly digest dairy products, due to a deficiency in the amount of the enzyme, -galactosidase in the small intestine. This enzyme is necessary for the hydrolysis of lactose (a disaccharide) into its constituent monosaccharides, glucose and galactose. Symptoms of lactose intolerance, including abdominal cramps, flatulence and frothy diarrhea, can increase with age.


listeria -
Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive bacterium, found in at least 37 mammalian species, as well as 17 species of birds and possibly some fish and shellfish. The bacteria can be isolated from soil, and is resistant to heat, freezing and drying.
 Listeria has been associated with foods such as raw milk, soft-ripened cheeses, ice cream, raw vegetables, raw and cooked poultry, raw meat and raw and smoked fish. Unlike other pathogenic bacteria, such as salmonella, listeria can survive and grow at temperatures as low as 5C (41F).
 Acute infection with listeria may result in flu-like symptoms including persistent fever, followed by septicemia, meningitis, encephalitis, and intrauterine or cervical infections in pregnant women. Possible gastrointestinal symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, alone or couple with other symptoms (mentioned above).


low-calorie sweetener -
Low-calorie sweeteners are non-nutritive sweeteners, also referred to as intense sweeteners. Low-calorie sweeteners can replace nutritive sweeteners in most foods at a caloric savings of approximately 16 calories per teaspoon. Thus, caloric reduction may be achieved when low-calorie sweetened foods and beverages are substituted for their full-calorie counterparts. Examples of low-calorie sweeteners in use in the U.S. food supply are saccharin, aspartame and acesulfame K.


lycopene -
Lycopene is a carotenoid related to the better known beta-carotene. Lycopene gives tomatoes and some other fruits and vegetables their distinctive red color. Nutritionally, it functions as an antioxidant. Research shows lycopene is best absorbed by the body when consumed as tomatoes that have been heat-processed using a small amount of oil. This includes products such as tomato sauce and tomato paste. Also, see functional foods.



Mad Cow Disease -
See BSE (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy).


meta-analysis -
A quantitative technique in which the results of several individual studies are pooled to yield overall conclusions.


MSG (monosodium glutamate) -
MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid. Glutamic acid, or glutamate, is one of the most common amino acids found in nature. (see glutamate)
 In the early part of the century, MSG was extracted from seaweed and other plant sources. Today, MSG is produced in many countries around the world through a fermentation process of molasses from sugar cane or sugar beets, as well as starch and corn sugar.


morbid obesity -
This is a state of adiposity or overweight, in which body weight is 100 percent above the ideal and a body mass index of 45 or greater.



Nationwide Food Consumption Survey (NFCS) -
A survey conducted by the USDA roughly every ten years that monitors the nutrient intake of a cross-section of the U.S. public.


National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) -
A series of surveys that include information from medical history, physical measurements, biochemical evaluation, physical examination and dietary intake of population groups within the United States. The NHANES is conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approximately every five years.


neural tube defect -
In simple terms, a neural tube defect (NTD) is a malformation of the brain or spinal cord (neurological system) during embryonic development. Infants born with spina bifida, where the spinal cord is exposed, can grow to adulthood but usually suffer from paralysis or other disabilities. Babies born with anencephaly, where most or all of the brain is missing, usually die shortly after birth. These NTDs make up about 5 percent of all U.S. birth defects each year.
 According to the CDC, the use of sufficient folic acid is enough to eliminate the risk of NTDs. (see folic acid)


nitrite -
Nitrite is a safe food additive that has been used for centuries to preserve meats, fish and poultry. It also contributes to the characteristic flavor, color and texture of processed meats such as hot dogs. Because nitrite safeguards cured meats against the most deadly foodborne bacterium of all, Clostridium (C.) botulinum, its use is supported by the public health community.
 The human body generates much greater nitrite levels than are added to food. Nitrates consumed in foods such as carrots and green vegetables are converted to nitrite during digestion. Nitrite in the body is instrumental in promoting blood clotting, healing wounds and burns, and boosting immune function to kill tumor cells.


nitrosamines -
Nitrosamines are a digestive reaction-product of nitrite, a food additive used to preserve meats, fish and poultry. (Also see nitrite.)


nutraceuticals -
One term used to describe substances in or parts of a food that may be considered to provide medical or health benefits beyond basic nutrition, including disease prevention. Research indicates this term might not appeal to consumers. Also, see "functional foods."



obesity, or overweight -
Although precise definitions vary among experts, overweight has been traditionally defined as 10 percent to 20 percent above an optimal weight for height derived from statistics. Obesity is defined as body weight being 20% above normal. Some scientists argue that the amount and distribution of an individual's body fat is a significant indicator of health risk and therefore should be considered in defining overweight. Abdominal fat has been linked to more adverse health consequences than fat in the hips or thighs. Thus, calculations of waist-to-hip ratio are preferred by some health experts to help determine if an individual is overweight.


organic -
Organic defines agricultural products that are grown using cultural, biological and mechanical methods prior to the use of synthetic, non-agricultural substances to control pests, improve soil quality an/or enhance processing. The USDA is currently addressing the issue of organic products, and aims to have official rules for what may be considered organic ready for the 1999 spring planting season.
 Currently organic defines an agricultural process in which farmers use techniques such as crop rotation, cultivation, mulching, soil enrichment and the "encouragement" of predators and microorganisms which naturally keep pests away. The now widely accepted definition allows farmers to use natural pesticides, but nothing synthetic.


osteoporosis -
Osteoporosis is a skeletal disease in which the bones lose mass and density, the pores in bones enlarge, and the bones generally become fragile. Osteoporosis often is not diagnosed until a fracture occurs, most commonly in the spine, hip or wrist. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that about 1.5 million such fractures occur each year in the United States, at an estimated annual cost of $14 billion in 1995.
 Osteoporosis is four times more common in women, whose bones are naturally thinner and less dense, than in men. Women start losing bone mass and density at an earlier age, and the process is accelerated by menopause, causing osteoporosis to manifest itself between the ages of 50 and 60. Research has shown that in addition to regular exercise, calcium intake during childhood, adolescence and early-adulthood helps build a "bone bank" of calcium stores. While bone length is established by age 20, bone strength and density continue to develop through age 30.


outcomes research -
A type of research increasingly used by the health industry which provides information about how a specific procedure or treatment regimen results: the subject (clinical safety and efficacy), the subject's physical functioning and lifestyle, and economic considerations such as saving/prolonging life and avoiding costly complications.



pesticide -
A broad class of crop protection chemicals including four major types: insecticides used to control insects; herbicides used to control weeds; rodenticides used to control rodents; and fungicides used to control mold, mildew and fungi.
 In addition consumers use pesticides in the home or yard to control termites and roaches, clean mold from shower curtains, stave off crab grass on the lawn, kill fleas and ticks on pets and disinfect swimming pools, to name just a few "specialty" pesticide uses.


phytochemical -
Phytochemicals are substances found in edible fruits and vegetables that may be ingested by humans daily in gram quantities and that exhibit a potential for modulating the human metabolism in a manner favorable for reducing risk of cancer. (see functional foods)


placebo -
Sometimes casually referred to as a "sugar pill," a placebo is a "fake" treatment which seems identical to the real treatment. Placebo treatments are used to eliminate bias that may arise from the expectation that a treatment should produce an effect.


prevalence -
The number of existing cases of a disease in a defined population at a specified time.


prion -
A prion is a rogue protein, that appears to cause Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).


prospective study -
Epidemiological research that follows a group of people over a period of time to observe the potential effects of diet, behavior and other factors on health or the incidence of disease. In general, this is considered a more valid research design than retrospective research.


protein -
Chemically, a protein is a complex nitrogenous compound made up of amino acids in peptide linkages. Dietary proteins are involved in the synthesis of tissue protein and other special metabolic functions. In anabolic processes they furnish the amino acids required to build and maintain body tissues. As an energy source, proteins are equivalent to carbohydrates in providing 4 calories per gram. Proteins perform a major structural role in all body tissues and in the formation of enzymes, hormones and various body fluids and secretions. Proteins participate in the transport of some lipids, vitamins and minerals and help maintain the body's homeostasis.




randomization, or random assignment -
A process of assigning subjects to experimental or control groups in which the subjects have an equal chance of being assigned to each group. Randomization is used to control for known, unknown and difficult-to-control-for variables.


random sample -
A random sample is a procedure to select subjects for a study in which all individuals in a population being studied have an equal chance of being selected. using a random sample allows the results of the study to be generalized to the entire population.
 The term random also applies to assignments within controlled studies, or the division of subjects into groups. Random assignment ensures that all subjects have an equal chance of being in the experimental and control groups, and increases the probability that any unidentified variable will systematically occur in both groups with the same frequency. Randomization is crucial to control for variables that researchers may not be aware of or cannot adequately control, but which could affect the outcome of an experimental study.


random sampling -
A method by which subjects are selected to participate in a study in which all individuals in a population have and equal chance of being chosen. This helps to ensure the generalizability of the study results.


rapid assays -
These diagnostic tests use emerging technology to identify and remove impurities from foods before they reach the consumer. There are two major types of rapid assays.
 Antibody-based assays link a "familiar" characteristic on a pathogen's surface (the antigen) to a substance known as an antibody. When this connection is made, the test registers "success." Similarly, nucleic acid-based assays use the unique genetic materials of the cells to detect a pathogen.


recombinant DNA (rDNA) -
The DNA formed by combining segments of DNA from different organisms.


reliability -
Whether a test or instrument used to collect data, such as a questionnaire, gives the same results if repeated on the same person several times. A reliable test gives reproducible results.


research design -
How a study is set up to collect information, or data. For valid results, the design must be appropriate to answer the question or hypothesis being studied.


residual confounding -
The effect that remains after one has attempted to statistically control for variables that cannot be measured perfectly. A particularly important concept in epidemiological studies because knowledge of human biology is still developing. Unknown variables could exist that could significantly change conclusions made on the basis of epidemiological research.


retrospective study -
Research that relies on recall of past data, or on previously recorded information. Often this type of research is considered to have limitations, because the number of variables that cannot be controlled, and because memory is not infallible.


risk -
A term encompassing a variety of measures of the probability of an outcome. It's usually used in reference to unfavorable outcomes such as illness or death. Be certain to distinguish between absolute and relative risk.


risk factor -
A risk factor is anything statistically shown to have a relationship with the incidence of a disease, however it does not necessarily infer cause and effect.


Also known as ribonucleic acid. RNA is a molecule similar to DNA that functions primarily to decode the instructions carried by genes for protein synthesis.



saccharin -
Saccharin, the oldest of the non-nutritive sweeteners, is currently produced from purified, manufactured methyl anthranilate, a substance occurring naturally in grapes. It is 300 times sweeter than sucrose, heat stable and does not promote dental caries. Saccharin has a long shelf life, but a slightly bitter aftertaste. It is not metabolized in the human digestive system, is excreted rapidly in the urine and does not accumulate in body.


salmonella -
Salmonella is a Gram-negative bacterium, occurring in many animals, especially poultry and swine. In the environment, salmonella can be found in water, soil, insects, factory and kitchen surfaces, animal fecal matter, and raw meats, poultry (including eggs) and seafood.
 Acute symptoms of the illness caused by the Salmonella species include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and fever.


spina bifida -
Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the infant is born with the spinal cord exposed. These children can grow to adulthood although they often suffer from paralysis and other disabilities. Also, see "neural tube defects (NTDs)."


statistical power -
A mathematical quantity that indicates the probability a study has of obtaining a statistically significant effect. A high power of 80 percent, or 0.8, indicates that the study - if conducted repeatedly - would produce a statistically significant effect 80 percent of the time. On the other hand, a power of only 0.1 means there would be a 90 percent chance that the research missed the effect - if one exists at all.


statistical significance -
The probability of obtaining an effect or association in a study sample as or more extreme that the one observed if there was actually no effect in the population. Based on the hypothesis that if there truly is no effect, the results of a study are unlikely to have occurred. A P value of less than five percent (P<0.05) means the result would occur less than five percent of the time if there were no effect, and is generally considered evidence of a true treatment effect or a true relationship.


sucralose -
Sucralose is the only low-calorie sweetener that is made from sugar. It is approximately 600-times sweeter and does not contain calories. Sucralose is highly stable under a wide variety of processing conditions. Thus, it can be used virtually anywhere sugar can, including cooking and baking, without losing any of its sugar-like sweetness.
 Currently, sucralose is approved in over 25 countries around the world for use in food and beverages. In the US, the FDA has been petitioned to approve the use of sucralose in 15 different food and beverage categories.


sucrose -
Sucrose, a type of sugar, is a diglyceride composed of glucose and fructose. Also, see "carbohydrates."


sugar -
Although the consumer is confronted by a wide variety of sugars -- sucrose, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup -- there is no significant difference in the nutritional content or energy each provides, and therefore no advantage of one nutritionally over another. There also is no evidence that the body can distinguish between naturally occurring or added sugars in food products.



trans fats -
Trans fats occur naturally in beef, butter, milk and lamb fats and in commercially prepared, partially hydrogenated margarines and solid cooking fats. The main sources of trans fats in the American diet today are margarine, shortening, commercial frying fats and high-fat baked goods.
 Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils were developed in part to help displace highly saturated animal and vegetable fats used in frying, baking and spreads. However, trans fats, like saturated fats, may raise blood LDL cholesterol levels (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) - but not as much as the saturates do. At high consumption, levels may also reduce the HDL or "good" cholesterol levels.



umami -
In addition to the four main taste components (sweet, sour, salty and bitter), there is the additional taste characteristic called "umami" or savory. One of the food components responsible for the umami flavor in foods is glutamate, an amino acid. Also, see "glutamate" and "MSG."


U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) -
The United States Department of Agriculture comprises of many agencies charged with different tasks related to agriculture and our food supply. Among these is ensuring a safe, affordable, nutritious and accessible food supply. The USDA also enhances the quality of life for the American population by supporting production of agricultural products; caring for agricultural, forest and range lands; supporting sound development of our rural communities; providing economic opportunities for farm and rural residents; expanding global markets for agricultural and forest products and services; and working to reduce hunger in America and throughout the world.



validity -
The extent to which a study or study instrument measures what it is intended to measure. Refers to accuracy or truthfulness in regard to a study's conclusion.


variable -
Any characteristic that may vary in study subjects, such as gender, age, body weight, diet, behavior, attitude or other attribute. In an experiment, the treatment is called the independent variable; it is the factor being investigated. The variable that is influenced by the treatment is the dependent variable; it may change as a result of the effect of the independent variable.


vegetarian -
According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, less than 1 percent of Americans are true vegetarians. Such people never eat meat, fish or poultry, although they may eat foods derived from animals such as dairy products and eggs (lacto-ovo vegetarians). There are even fewer vegans, strict vegetarians who avoid all animal-derived foods -- even honey.


vitamins -
Vitamins are organic compounds that are nutritionally essential in small amounts to control metabolic processes and cannot be synthesized by the body. Vitamins are usually classified by their solubility, which to some degree determines their stability; occurrence in foodstuffs; distribution in body fluids, and tissue storage capacity.
 Each of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K has a distinct and separate physiologic role. Several have antioxidant properties to depress the effects of metabolic byproducts called free radicals, which are thought to cause degenerative changes related to aging.
 Most of the water-soluble vitamins are components of essential enzyme systems. Many are involved in the reactions supporting energy metabolism. These vitamins are not normally stored in the body in appreciable amounts and are normally excreted in the urine. Thus, a daily supply is desirable to avoid depletion and interruption of normal physiologic functions.



water -
Although deficiencies of energy or nutrients can be sustained for months or even years, a person can survive only a few days without water. Experts rank water second only to oxygen as essential for life. In addition to offering true refreshment for the thirsty, water plays a vital role in all bodily processes. It supplies the medium in which various chemical changes of the body occur, aiding in digestion, absorption, circulation and lubrication of body joints. For example, as a major component of blood, water helps deliver nutrients to body cells and removes waste to the kidneys for excretion.


Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Established in 1972, the WIC program provides food and nutrition education to improve the nutritional status of medically high-risk pregnant and lactating women and children up to 5 years of age from low-income families. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.



xenobiotics -
Synthetic chemicals believed to be resistant to environmental degradation. A branch of biotechnology called bioremediation is seeking to develop biological methods to degrade such compounds.