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Date groups join forces on nutrition research

by | July 26, 2009
The California Date Administrative Committee and Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Association joined forces to commission new research to determine the extent of antioxidants and polyphenols in dates.

Early studies have indicated exceptionally high levels of the compounds, well above those for other fruits, prompting considerable excitement among growers and consumers alike.

Charlene Rainey, who has been at the vanguard for such studies on pomegranates, has been retained to oversee the date nutrition studies and serve as nutrition spokesperson for the California and Arizona date industries.

Ms. Rainey is president of Food Research Inc., a consulting firm specializing in nutrition as well as federal, state and international food laws and regulations. She participates in the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Codex Alimentarius Food Labeling Committee and the Special Dietary Needs Committee, and is the former secretary of the Food Laws Division of the Institute of Food Technologists.

The full scientific findings of the new studies will be presented at the annual conference of the American Dietetic Association, which is the policymaker for professional dietitians who treat patients for obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and other diseases.

"Dates are already known to contain dietary fiber and potassium, have no cholesterol, fat or sodium, as well as containing fluoride that retards tooth decay," Ms. Rainey said in a July 20 press release. "Dates are clearly a healthful food even without the antioxidant studies."

"Both California's and Arizona's date commodities will benefit from the study," Albert Keck, chairman of the committee and owner of Hadley's Date Gardens in Thermal, CA, added in the press release. "Whether Medjool or Deglet Noor, Khadrawy, Halawi or other varieties of dates, the good news coming out of the pilot nutrition studies is all part of the same positive story."

"We are excited about the potential dates may have in attracting many more consumers because of the preliminary antioxidant research results so far," Dave Mansheim, president of Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Association, added in the press release.

Recent studies at the University of Scranton by Joseph Vinson, professor of chemistry, found that two varieties of dates -- Deglet Noor and Medjools -- were ranked highest in antioxidant levels among the fruits tested. "This is roughly 2 percent per gram," Dr. Vinson said in the press release. "Dates are number one in antioxidant capacity by weight in a comparison of other fruits and vegetables."

Bard Valley signed on with the committee after studies done at the University of Scranton and independent testing done at Scientific Certification Systems indicated that dates contain the highest anti-oxidants of any whole fruit per weight.

"With new USDA dietary guidelines coming out in 2010, we want to be at the forefront to let the American public know that dates are a very healthy fruit and should be included as part of everyone's regular diet," said Ms. Rainey. "We are aiming to change the perception of dates armed with strong scientific evidence."