ASU’s Panicker presents paper on fruit quality at symposium

Published 12:10 am Sunday, December 2, 2007

Dr. Girish Panicker, director for the Center for Conservation Research at Alcorn State University, presented a paper on the “effect of organic manures on fruit quality of Rabbiteye blueberries” at the second International Symposium on Human Health Effects of Fruits and Vegetables held in the Omni Houston Hotel, Texas, recently.

The symposium was organized by the International Society for Horticultural Science, Belgium, and hosted by the Texas A&M University. The objective of this symposium was to provide a forum for horticultural scientists,, nutritionists, food scientists, biomedical scientists, chemists, biochemists, medical professionals, and social economists to exchange information and bridge the communication gap between the agricultural sciences, nutrition, and health sciences. Scientists from 48 countries attended the symposium. The first symposium was held in Canada in 2005 and the third will be held in France in 2009.

Alcorn’s research on blueberries with worm castings increases the anthocyanin content of this fruit. Scientists are working all over the world to improve the quality of fruits and vegetables by genetic modifications and organic farming systems. “The outcome of this last five years research on blueberries is a boon to American blueberry growers and it will have great impact on human health,” said Dr. Panicker. “Alcorn will continue developing economically feasible organic farming systems for fruit and vegetable crops to improve the health of the inhabitants and the soil,” he added. This research was done in collaboration with Dr. James Spiers, research leader and director of the Thad Cochran Southern Horticultural Laboratory, USDA, at Poplarville, Mississippi, Dr. Frank Matta, professor of horticulture, and Dr. Juan Silva, professor of food technology at Mississippi State University.

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Blueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidant phytonutrients of the flesh fruits. Compared to other fruits, blueberries have a high level of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are phenolic compounds that possess antioxidant activities. Obesity is the number one public health problem in the world today. Globally, there are more than one billion overweight adults with at least 300 million of them obese. Mississippi has the highest rate of adult obesity in the nation for the third year in a row. Obesity is associated with hypertension, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidermia, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, and breast, endometrial, prostate, and colon cancers. Research results show that obesity can be prevented through diets rich in fruits and vegetables. Even though more than 50 percent of the Americans are aware of the need to eat more fruits and vegetables, research indicates that 96 percent children, ages 2-12, fall short of the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables. Research results show that people who consume good amounts of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases. Schools report that children eating more fruits and vegetables have improved cognition, longer attention spans, are less hungry throughout the day, visit the nurse less and have fewer behavioral problems.