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World Food Day 2023 – Recent research at PLOS ONE

World Food Day is celebrated each year on October 16. This year’s theme is “Water is life, water is food. Leave no one behind”. This year, PLOS ONE looks back at some of our recent publications on various aspects of food in society, including food security, food science, agriculture, nutrition and shopping habits.

More regular eating patterns may improve sleep in infants

Mühlematter C, Nielsen DS, Castro-Mejía JL, Brown SA, Rasch B, Wright KP Jr, et al. (2023) Not simply a matter of parents—Infants’ sleep-wake patterns are associated with their regularity of eating. PLoS ONE 18(10): e0291441.

A recent study by an international team of researchers from Switzerland, Denmark, The Netherlands and the USA provides support for the idea that regular eating patterns may improve sleep regularity in infants. They followed 162 infants in Switzerland in a longitudinal study, and developed an Eating Regularity Index (ERI) to measure eating habits, and utilised five sleep composites from 32 sleep variables. They found that eating more regularly is correlated with lower variability in day-to-day sleep patterns, earlier bedtimes, and less fragmented nighttime sleep.

The diet of pre-Columbian Caribbean cultures may have included cotton

Reynoso-García J, Santiago-Rodriguez TM, Narganes-Storde Y, Cano RJ, Toranzos GA (2023) Edible flora in pre-Columbian Caribbean coprolites: Expected and unexpected data. PLoS ONE 18(10): e0292077.

Researchers at the University of Puerto Rico, California Polytechnic State University and Diversigen, Inc. analysed human coprolites (mummified feces) for two cultures, the Huecoid and Saladoid, in pre-Columbian Vieques, Puerto Rico, and found that their diet consisted of maize, sweet potatoes, chili peppers, peanuts and papaya. Surprisingly, they also found traces of cotton, which leads to further questions about why cotton would be a part of their diet, and in which form it was consumed. The authors hypothesize that cotton seeds may have been used as either additives or as a source of oil, or that cotton fibers may have been ingested during the weaving process when weavers may have used saliva to prepare the yarn.

Nine out of ten female college students reported overeating during university COVID-19 closures

Constant A, Fortier A, Serrand Y, Bannier E, Moirand R, Thibault R, et al. (2023) Emotional overeating affected nine in ten female students during the COVID-19 university closure: A cross-sectional study in France. PLoS ONE 18(8): e0286439.

A team of researchers at the University of Rennes conducted an online survey of female students at their university aged 18-24 on their eating habits in early 2021. 302 respondents completed the Emotional Overeating Questionnaire (EOQ), which measures eating in response to six emotions: anxiety, sadness, loneliness, anger, fatigue and happiness. Nine out of ten respondents reported emotional overeating, and the multi-variate analysis conducted for this study suggests that overeating could be related to inability to partake in interesting activities or social stimulation.

Small farms contribute up to one fifth of food produced in Mexico

Ibarrola-Rivas M-J, Orozco-Ramírez Q, Guibrunet L (2023) How much of the Mexican agricultural supply is produced by small farms, and how? PLoS ONE 18(10): e0292528.

In this study, researchers from the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) looked at the contribution of small farms to the total amount of agricultural production within Mexico. They used existing data from the 2019 Mexican National Survey of Agriculture, and characterise small farms as those that have less than 5 hectares of cropland, 16 pigs or less, 26 cows or less, or 500 chickens or less. They found that small farms produce 19% of Mexico’s agricultural production and constitute 15% of Mexico’s agricultural supply when including imports and exports. The authors point out that small farms may be important to achieving food sovereignty and could have important social and environmental benefits.

Labels on food that indicate the Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent may be useful to consumers in avoiding high-calorie food

Daley AJ, Kettle VE, Roalfe AK (2023) Implementing physical activity calorie equivalent (PACE) food labelling: Views of a nationally representative sample of adults in the United Kingdom. PLoS ONE 18(9): e0290509.

A study of 4,000 adults in the United Kingdom, led by researchers at the University of Loughborough, attempted to clarify the views of the public around PACE labelling for foods. PACE stands for Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent, and includes information on the label about the energy expenditure conversion of the calorie content of the food item. For instance, this could mean a label on a drinks can which illustrates that the calorie equivalent of this drink is 26mins of walking or 13mins of running. Although most participants reported favoring the more common traffic-light system for labels, the majority of participants also indicated that PACE labels were more likely to catch their attention and to stop them buying food or drinks that were high in calories. The study provided support for using PACE labels on discretionary foods such as cakes and chocolates rather than everyday food items such as pasta, bread, fruit and vegetables.

Further reading:

Check out these additional recent studies on food-related sciences at PLOS ONE:

Knowles J, Codling K, Houston R, Gorstein J (2023) Introduction to the programme guidance for the use of iodised salt in processed foods and its pilot implementation, strengthening strategies to improve iodine status. PLoS ONE 18(10): e0274301.

Hoving-Bolink RAH, Antonis AFG, te Pas MFW, Schokker D (2023) An observational study of the presence and variability of the microbiota composition of goat herd milk related to mainstream and artisanal farm management. PLoS ONE 18(10): e0292650.

Skinner D, Blake J (2023) Modelling consumers’ choice of novel food. PLoS ONE 18(8): e0290169.

Lee K, Capps O Jr (2023) Habitual behavior of household food expenditure by store type in the United States. PLoS ONE 18(9): e0291340.

Hill CM, Chi DL, Mancl LA, Jones-Smith JC, Chan N, Saelens BE, et al. (2023) Sugar-sweetened beverage intake and convenience store shopping as mediators of the food insecurity–Tooth decay relationship among low-income children in Washington state. PLoS ONE 18(9): e0290287.

del Prado A, Lindsay B, Tricarico J (2023) Retrospective and projected warming-equivalent emissions from global livestock and cattle calculated with an alternative climate metric denoted GWP*. PLoS ONE 18(10): e0288341.

Brown TW, Park GW, Wittry B, Barclay L, Person M, Relja B, et al. (2023) SARS-CoV-2 surface contamination in metro-Atlanta grocery stores. PLoS ONE 18(9): e0291747.

Joseph S, Friedrich H (2023) Analyzing drivers of organic food sales–A pooled spatial data analysis for Hamburg (Germany). PLoS ONE 18(10): e0285377.

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