Houston, Texas, is hosting a symposium on the functionality of fruits and vegetables this week, set to provide a forum for academia and industry to exchange ideas on how to tailor phytonutrients for health.
Sponsored by Texas A&M University's Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center (VFIC) and the Center for Obesity Research and Program Evaluation (CORPE), the Second International Symposium on Human Health Effects of Fruit and Vegetables is focusing on cultural and genotypic factors affecting the content of bioactive compounds in fruits and vegetables, as well as the nutrition and human health aspects of fruits and vegetables.
The objective behind the symposium is to provide a unique opportunity for a very varied list of specialists in the field - from horticultural scientists, to nutritionists, to food scientists, to social economists - to bridge a communication gap between the agricultural sciences and nutrition and health sciences.
Along this chain of expertise, horticultural scientists can devise new strains of fruit according to the needs of consumers, as identified by industry and nutrition scientists.
A large portion of the presentations at the symposium, being held from October 9 to 12, are on the anti-cancer and cancer-fighting potential of fruit. Other topic categories include the impact of phytonutrients on brain and eye health; the prevention of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes; skin protection; wine and health; as well as the potential for fruit and vegetable programs to curb malnutrition in developing countries.
Increasing efforts to get the message to consumers to eat fruits and vegetables seems futile as it in fact the one essential message of good nutrition that consumers generally do understand. Instead, they often chose not to follow the daily recommended rations due to either taste obstacles or time constraints.
The US Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid food guide for consumers makes it very clear that there is little argument that fruits and vegetables are the backbone of a health diet:
"Eating vegetables provides health benefits - people who eat more fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Vegetables provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body."
Food manufacturers can step in where consumers are not getting their phytonutrients, by fortifying their products with these compounds. Though such goods do not count as a serving of fruit or vegetables, as research into the bioavailability of isolated phytonutrients increases, further nutrition roadblocks could be overcome.