News Service


Suzanne Hendrich, Food Science and Human Nutrition, (515) 294- 4272 or (515) 294-5980
Pat Murphy, Food Science and Human Nutrition, (515) 294-1970
Steve Jones, News Service, (515) 294-4778


AMES, Iowa -- A $490,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant will fund the work of two Iowa State University researchers investigating cancer-prevention and other healthful properties of food components.

Food and nutrition scientists Suzanne Hendrich and Patricia Murphy are part of a research team determining whether three phytochemicals -- isoflavones, saponins and phenolic acids -- in legumes are present in sufficient amounts to possibly block the development of cancer. Phytochemicals are non-nutrient chemicals found in plants including legumes such as soybeans.

Hendrich and Murphy, faculty members in ISU's food science and human nutrition department, believe the phytochemicals may have health benefits for humans. The goal of their research is to determine the effect the phytochemicals and encourage the consumption of foods containing the components.

"First we need to determine whether the body can absorb the phytochemicals," said Hendrich, the principal investigator of the research project. "Then we will establish methods to disseminate information on commonly eaten foods containing these components."

Hendrich said a database will be constructed to describe the phytochemical contents of popular foods consumed in the United States. In addition, information on the health effects of the phytochemicals will be made available to the public and to health and nutrition professionals.

The two ISU researchers have studied isoflavones for several years, but little research has been done on saponins and phenolic acids. Murphy said soybean products are the only foods in human diets that are a major source of isoflavones. Saponins and phenolic acids are found in all plants used for human consumption.

Studies suggest isoflavones may help block the damage caused by some chemical reactions in the body. It is believed that this damage may lead to the development of cancer and other diseases.

The other researchers in the project are Susan Cuppett, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Chunyang Wang, South Dakota State University, Brookings.


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