G.F.F. briefs caucus on acculturation and diet

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The Grain Foods Foundation, along with members of the March of Dimes, the American Bakers Association and the North American Millers’ Association, on Wednesday briefed members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on new research that addresses the relationship between acculturation and diet among Latinos in the United States. The research was led by Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, M.S., R.D. and co-author of the study, which was published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Speaking before the caucus, Ms. Melendez-Klinger, who is also a member of the Grain Foods Foundation scientific advisory board, said the Hispanic community is more at risk for suffering the impacts of poor diets as compared to other racial/ethnic groups for a variety of reasons, including food insecurity, lack of access to healthy foods and low socioeconomic status.

"The combination of cultural isolation, which many Hispanics experience, coupled with the fact that many parents are working multiple jobs equates to poor eating and exercise habits," Ms. Melendez-Klinger said. "These families have less time to prepare nutritious foods and may not have access to traditional foods."

The research also found that in addition to increased instances of diabetes, coronary heart disease and lactose maldigestion, the Hispanic community has a greater likelihood of having a child born with a neural tube defect. With that in mind, the March of Dimes briefed the group on the lack of awareness for folic acid in the Hispanic community. Folic acid helps to prevent neural tube defects, which are 50% more likely to occur in the Hispanic population.

"This is an important time to examine dietary issues unique to the Hispanic community," Ms. Melendez-Klinger said. "It is equally critical that we promote and provide solutions to the problem that include nutrition education in Spanish and programs directed in these at-risk communities."

Judi Adams, M.S., R.D. and president of the G.F.F., said that while the foundation’s public service campaign has been successful in reaching women of child-bearing age, it must continue to strengthen its mission of educating consumers, particularly Hispanic women, about the importance of eating healthfully, which includes enriched grains.

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