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UF/IFAS study: When it comes to gluten-free diets, unfounded beliefs abound

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

Gluten free food products.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – While necessary for some, many people eat gluten-free diets because they believe they’ll gain certain health benefits, but these beliefs are not all supported by research, a University of Florida nutrition expert says.

Those with celiac disease, or about 1 percent of the U.S. population, must follow a gluten-free diet because it’s the only treatment for their condition, said Karla Shelnutt, a UF assistant professor in family, youth and community sciences. But gluten-free diets can lack essential nutrients if a person does not eat a balanced diet and/or take a multivitamin supplement.

Unlike their conventional counterparts, refined gluten-free foods, for the most part, are not enriched or fortified with essential vitamins and minerals.

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Kids’ ‘community’ knowledge from Internet leaves UF/IFAS researcher hopeful

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, IFAS, Research

GAINESVILLE ─ Parents sometimes link the Internet to negative social behavior, but some children use the Web to learn about their communities, a new University of Florida study shows.

While most research on young people’s media use focuses on negative effects, UF Professor Rosemary Barnett sees it as a good thing.

“Two key factors to consider are the nature of the content and how it is used,” said Barnett, who teaches in the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “The ability to tap into a phenomenal amount of information so easily and quickly on a variety of topics has allowed the Internet to enhance education for children.”

After a 12-year-old Lakeland girl who endured cyber-bullying committed suicide in September 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its media exposure policy. The group now recommends children use media for entertainment no more than two hours each night. They make an exception for online homework.

While the UF/IFAS study gave clues to children’s general Internet use, it focused on how students use the Internet to learn about their communities.

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New videos from UF/IFAS Communications

Topic(s): Announcements, Finances, Food Safety, Landscaping, Research, Uncategorized

UF/IFAS Communications has a slew of new videos that can be used for Extension or other educational purposes. Here is a roundup:

Vacation on a Budget -  (3:31) A fun family vacation does not have to break the bank – University of Florida/IFAS Financial Expert Dr. Michael Gutter explains how to have fun in the sun without going in the red.

Scallop Harvesting 101 (3:00)  Scallop season is underway in Florida. Betty Staugler with UF/IFAS Sea Grant Extension, has some tips to help get you started.

Operation: Protect Our Pets – When Fleas Attack - (5:11) In this installment, UF/IFAS Entomologist Faith Oi addresses the different stages of the flea life cycle while UF Veterinarian Dunbar Gram demonstrates using a flea comb to look for fleas. (more …)

With a little help, citizen scientists can be good proxies, research shows

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, Lawn & Garden, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Anyone can collect ant data as accurately as experts, if they have a bit of guidance and the right tools: cookies, index cards and plastic zip-top bags.

In a joint project between the University of Florida and North Carolina State University called the School of Ants, participants collected the insects at their homes, work or school. Using cookies to lure the insects, they bagged them, froze them, then sent them to labs so that ant experts could identify them and incorporate them into a national ants map.

Researchers at UF and N.C. State examined participants’ errors against mistakes of researchers trained in an N.C. State lab. Data from the two groups were virtually the same. Scientists say the similar findings came because the lay people followed their system.

The finding boosts the field of what’s called citizen science, a rapidly expanding area of data collection, said Andrea Lucky, an assistant scientist in entomology and nematology at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Lucky started the School of Ants in 2011, while a postdoctoral researcher at N.C. State, and brought the project with her to UF. The project is still going at both universities.

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Offer kids whole grains; they’ll eat them, UF/IFAS study shows

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, Nutrition

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many parents presume their children will shun whole grains because they think they don’t like them, a University of Florida researcher says, but a new UF study may start to debunk that idea.

If whole grains are offered, kids eat them, according to a new study by researchers at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Specifically, former graduate student Allyson Radford and two faculty members found children ate whole- and refined-grain foods in equal amounts.

“We tried to choose foods we thought kids would enjoy, such as cereal bars, macaroni and cheese and SunChips and found that they ate the ready-to-eat snack foods the most,” said Radford, one of the study’s authors. “We were interested to see if they would eat the whole-grain foods as much as the refined-grain foods, and so we were pleasantly surprised that they would eat the same amount whether the food was whole or refined.”

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Online tool lets Florida producers, customers find each other

Topic(s): Economics, Families and Consumers, New Technology, Nutrition

From farm gate to dinner plate, consumers are looking for more local food options.  According to the latest USDA Census of Agriculture, industry estimates put local food sales at $7 billion in 2011, reflecting the market’s growing importance.

A revamped online tool, called Florida Food Connect, at www.floridafoodconnect.com, offers agricultural producers an easy-to-use way to reach new customers and offers consumers an easy way to find local growers of the freshest foods.

Florida Food Connect offers large and small producers and growers opportunities to diversify sales and build profitable relationships.

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UF/IFAS-tested treatment retains avocado taste, smell while keeping it fresh

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, Nutrition

Avocados growing on a tree.  Avocado fruit.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new liquid treatment may keep a Florida avocado hybrid fresh longer, a finding that could expand the avocado’s marketability, a University of Florida study shows.

Former UF doctoral student Marcio Eduardo Canto Pereira used ethylene as well as liquid and gaseous forms of 1-methylcycloprene on Booth 7 avocados, a combination of West Indian and Guatemalan varieties. Ethylene is a natural plant hormone produced by fruits and can be applied to speed the ripening process ─ as is done commonly with bananas and tomatoes ─ while 1-methylcycloprene slows the process.

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UF/IFAS study shows promise for antioxidants extracted from grape seeds, skin

Topic(s): Agriculture, Nutrition

Maurice Marshall.  Professor, PhD.  Food Science and Human Nutrition.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Soaking muscadine grape seeds or skins in a solution of enzymes can boost antioxidants extracted from the fruit, creating possible new uses for grape leftovers, which are loaded with nutrients, a University of Florida study shows.

After making wine, a producer typically sends the grape seeds and skins to a landfill, said Maurice Marshall, a UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition professor and study co-author. But by using cellulase, pectinase and glucosidase, scientists found the grape seeds and skin aren’t just a waste product. The enzymes increase the antioxidant activity, from the grape seeds and skins. New uses could include food additives or nutritional supplements.

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UF/IFAS study: Some consumers confuse ‘local’ with ‘organic’ food

Topic(s): Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, Food Safety, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With more people buying local and organic food, consumers should know the difference between the two so they recognize what they’re buying, but nearly one in five still confuse the terms, a University of Florida researcher says.

Newly published research, done in partnership with three other universities, aims to help local and organic food producers and sellers target their marketing messages to reinforce or dispel consumers’ perceptions. The organic-food industry has spent millions of dollars building brand awareness, only to see some consumers confuse “organic” food with “local” food products, said Ben Campbell, a University of Connecticut extension economist and the study’s lead author.

Hayk Khachatryan, a UF food and resource economics assistant professor, worked with Campbell and others to survey 2,511 people online in the U.S. and Canada in 2011 and found 17 percent thought the terms were interchangeable, the study said.

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Planning trumps indecision – prepare now for hurricane season, expert says

Topic(s): Disaster Preparedness, Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Waiting too long to make a decision in the face of disaster is in itself a decision – and rarely a good one, a University of Florida expert in community development says.

Michael Spranger, a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences professor and Extension specialist, says deadly indecision can be trumped by one thing: Planning.

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