Declining nutrient contents in produce over time

One of Greenleaf Communities main concerns is soil health. We understand how important it is to have healthy soils to provide nutritious food. We wish to decrease the impact that poor nutrition has on human health. Our research program, From the Ground Up, focuses on the effect that soil has on our health. Recently, Psychology Today covered the topic of declining nutrient contents in produce based on research conducted by Dr. Donald Davis. This research compared nutrient levels from 1950 to those in 1999. It discovered a reduction in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin, and ascorbic acid in the 1999 testing. This was potentially caused by selective breeding for size, yield or uniformity rather than nutritional levels. Learn More about Dr. Davis’s study. Another issue with current conventional farming techniques is tilling the soil, which can negatively impact soil microbes, erosion and loss of organic matter. Healthy soils are important for maintaining productive and healthy crops. No-till agriculture can keep essential plant nutrients in the soil, support growth and aid in producing productive crops. It has other economic benefits for farmers including reducing the amount of labor and the amount of additional fertilizer. Read more on soil health and other benefits of no-till farming from the NRCS. Greenleaf is working with Dr. Britt Burton-Freeman and Dr. Janet Hock on the issues of nutrition and human health. Source: Psychology Today January/February...

Reducing the impacts of arsenic-contaminated soils

Soil contamination is a major concern for Greenleaf Communities. We strive to learn more about how to reduce the impact contaminants have on human health. An emerging issue is the level of arsenic found in our food, water and soil. Research underway is improving out understanding of the impacts of arsenic in food sources and developing practices to reduce the amount of arsenic in food. Arsenic comes in two forms, organic and inorganic, with inorganic arsenic being the more harmful to human health. Inorganic arsenic is formed when arsenic combines with other elements (not including carbon). Exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic can be detrimental to human health and has been shown to increase the likelihood of developing certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. Exposure to arsenic can occur from ingestion of arsenic-contaminated soil, drinking contaminated water, and applying pesticides that contain arsenic. Arsenic can also be found in certain foods like rice, which can contain small amounts of inorganic arsenic. [1] Arsenic in Soil Arsenic occurs naturally in the soil in many areas around the world, but has also contaminated soils through its past use in wood treatment, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Copper-chromated arsenic (CCA) had been used as a wood preservative in residential and commercial structures. It has since been phased out in residential settings but can still be found in older structures. Lead arsenate was a commonly used arsenical insecticide beginning in 1892. The most common use of lead arsenate was used to control moths in apple orchards. Therefore, on land that was previously used for an orchard, it is important to conduct soil testing before...

The Many Benefits of Community Gardens

Greenleaf Communities believes that urban agriculture can be beneficial to the environment, and to the health and wellbeing of community members. The introduction of community gardens may be able to reduce the impact of food deserts in low-income areas and allow residents greater access to nutritious food that is necessary to live a healthy life. Community gardens can mitigate some of the problems that plague urban areas. They can be a beneficial addition to many communities by increasing the availability of nutritious foods, strengthening community ties, reducing environmental hazards, reducing food miles and creating a more sustainable system. Community gardens can help reduce negative environmental impacts by promoting sustainable agriculture; reducing food transportation costs and reducing water runoff. Humans, plants and animals can all benefit from urban agriculture since it creates habitats and improves the ecology of the area. Community gardens: Help improve air and soil quality [1] Increase biodiversity of plants and animals Reduce “food miles” that are required to transport nutritious food Can replace impervious structures and improve water infiltration [2] Can reduce neighborhood waste through composting [3] Positively impact the urban micro-climate [4] Poor nutrition and obesity are both challenges to low-income neighborhoods. Low accessibility to nutritious foods can cause health problems to residents located in food deserts. The addition of gardens to these areas may improve nutrition and increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Community gardens: Increase access to fresh foods Improve food security [1] Increase physical activity through garden maintenance activities Improve dietary habits through education Increase fruit and vegetable intake Reduce risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases Improve mental health and promote...

Issues with poor health and obesity

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007-2008, 68% of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese and 17% of children (2-19 years old) are obese. This has serious implications for long-term and chronic illnesses. For example, cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, colon, breast, endometrium, kidney, thyroid and gallbladder are all associated with obesity. It was estimated that about 4% of new cancer cases in men and 7% of new cancer cases in women were related to obesity. This increased risk of has been attributed to a few possible mechanisms. Fat tissue produces higher amounts of estrogen, which can increase the risk of breast and endometrial cancer. The increased levels of insulin in the blood may promote the growth of tumors. Obese people often have chronic low-level inflammation, which has also been associated with increased cancer risk. Studies by the NIH on weight loss and its impact on health found that losing weight reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases and cardiovascular disease. Patients who underwent bariatric surgery to lose weight have shown lower rates of obesity-related cancers than obese adults that did not undergo the surgery. [1] Western diets that are high in fat or refined sugars have induced oxidative stress, or damage to tissues and cells, which can lead to cancer and other diseases. Diets that are high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and can reduce oxidative stress. Studies on the food consumption habits of children and adolescents (ages 2-19) from 1997 found that 16% of children did not meet any of the food recommendations laid out by the USDA...

Strong Greenleaf representation at arsenic symposium

Greenleaf Communities was well represented at the Arsenic Contamination of Food and Water symposium on April 10 at the 245th American Chemical Society’s National Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans. Through the work of our partners and board members and their colleagues, research into a Greenleaf priority on Healthy Soils is being advanced, and our awareness and understanding of this critical threat to human health is growing. Greenleaf service partner and frequent collaborator on healthy soils work, Dr. Darrell Norton, presented on the Potential for soil amendments to reduce concentrations of As in soils and waters. Dr. Norton spoke on using methods similar to removing phosphorous from waters (see Greenleaf’s Healthy Soils work to learn more) to reduce the mobility of As in soils.  He also spoke about the distribution of As in soils and sediments around the United States in the context of risk assessment for humans.  Dr. Norton said, “the most important point made at the symposium was raised by a number of researchers, who showed that certain types of agricultural practices, such as not growing rice under flooded conditions, can dramatically reduce the arsenic levels in food supplies.” As a soil scientist with the USDA and former head of the National Soil Laboratory at Purdue University, Dr. Norton has done much to develop and refine our understanding of how certain amendments to agricultural lands can improve soil health and structure, reduce runoff of harmful pollutants, and prevent the uptake of toxins, such as arsenic, by crops. His participation in Greenleaf’s research into gypsum use as a soil amendment has proven invaluable to the collaborative team we engage....