The main goals of the Dietary Assessment and Epidemiology Research Program are directed to better define the dietary patterns and nutritional status of elderly groups; explain how socio-cultural factors affect the health and nutritional situation of elders; and examine the relation between dietary behavior and health. Recent emphases have been on Hispanic elders, and on the importance of nutrition to bone mineral density and to cognitive function.
Our current research focuses on micronutrient intakes and dietary patterns in relation to bone loss and fracture risk with aging; the importance of B-vitamins and fatty acid intakes to cognitive function and mood; the identification of subgroups of older adults in the United States with inadequate dietary intakes, and the extent to which inadequate intakes are associated with poor nutritional status; the relationship between dietary patterns and heart disease risk factors, including obesity, among older adults; the role of genetic polymorphisms in interaction with dietary intake on risk of heart disease, cognitive function and bone status; and the investigation of whether cumulative environmental stress is modified by nutritional factors to affect risk of obesity, diabetes, depression, cognitive decline, physical disability and bone health in the Puerto Rican population living in Massachusetts.
The program currently includes the Boston Puerto Rican Center on Population Health and Health Disparities and is conducting a longitudinal study of the effects of diet, stress and genetics on the development of chronic health conditions. Collaborations with several other studies on aging, including the Framingham Heart Study cohorts, the Normative Aging Study, the Jackson Heart Study, and the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging, are ongoing. In addition, we work internationally in Panama, Ecuador and with CeSSIAM in Guatemala.
The Dietary Assessment and Epidemiology Research Program collaborates extensively with other HNRCA laboratories, assisting with dietary assessment collection, analysis and interpretation.
The facility is equipped to collect and process dietary records, 24-hour dietary recalls and food frequency questionnaires; to conduct statistical analyses to describe the food and nutrient intake of groups; and to link dietary and nutritional data to health outcomes. A license with the Nutrition Coordinating Center (NCC) for the Minnesota Nutrient Data System (NDS) includes state of the art software for data entry and calculation of intakes for 93 nutrients. This software is used to collect dietary data via telephone or in-person 24-hour recalls. This system uses a multiple-pass approach with prompts displayed throughout the interview to assist in data collection and review. We also work with the USDA national survey database program, which allows flexibility for additional foods and nutrients for specialized projects. We analyze national survey data from both the USDA Continuing Survey of Food Intake for Individuals (CSFII) and from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), using appropriate statistical software to adjust sampling weights and variances. We have an OpScan 5 Scanner, optical mark reader (OMR) from National Computer Systems, Inc. (NCS). The scanner has an information dual-side, reflective read head for faster two-sided document scanning, and is set up for automated processing of food frequency questionnaires. Using NCS scannable forms, data are quickly and accurately scanned and then linked to our nutrient database for processing to nutrient information.