FCS center to join Plant Sciences

Connie Pettinger

Researchers hope people will live longer, healthier lives due to joining of two research centers. The Center for Designing Foods to Improve Nutrition (CDFIN) recently joined the Plant Sciences Institute. CDFIN became the ninth research center under auspices of the institute. Diane Birt, director of the center, said it provides a human link for research being done at the institute. “Researchers at CDFIN look at plants fed to animals and how that affects the animal tissue used as human food, or plants fed directly to humans and how that affects human nutrition,” said Birt, professor and chairwoman of food science and human nutrition. “We have always known that a diet high in fruits and vegetables contributes to good health,” she said. Birt said researchers are looking to increase the amount of those vitamins valuable to human health in certain foods. Researchers also are introducing compounds known to prevent such ailments as cancer and heart disease in foods that people eat, she said. Colin Scanes, interim director for the Plant Sciences Institute, said both the center and the institute will benefit from the new association. He said plant research at the institute goes beyond what currently is known about nutrition. “Researchers at the institute are trying to find ways to promote good health, as opposed to just being alive,” he said. As an example, Scanes said people take products like garlic and St. John’s Wort to promote wellness. The majority of these health-promoting products are plant materials, he said. “We want to do things that are safe, healthful for people and acceptable by people,” Scanes said. “It has to taste good and make you feel good and hopefully lead to people having longer healthy lives.” When researchers at the institute develop plants with characteristics that promote good human nutrition, CDFIN looks for ways to introduce these characteristics into foods that people will eat, he said. Scanes said researchers are using both traditional plant breeding methods and genetic modification. In addition to joining with the institute, the center will continue its association with the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. FCS has administered the center since 1990.