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Elsewhere in ag utilization

Editors note: As a service to our readers, we provide news about the work of others in the ag utilization arena. Often, research done elsewhere complements AURI’s work. Please note that ARS is the USDA’s research arm.

Better bones, not breath

Swiss researchers have found that onions may be good for bones. A peptide in onions called GPCS appears to retard bone loss. University of Bern scientists made the discovery after laboratory rats treated with GPCS showed a significant decrease in bone loss. That could be good news for those fighting bone-wasting diseases such as osteoporosis. Human trials are next.

From: Food Navigator, April 6, 2005

Cosmetic beans

Soy-processing waste is being used to tone and soften the skin of Japanese women. Bernet International, in cooperation with Osaka Prefectural University, designed technology to extract a moisture-rich substance from okara — a soybean leftover from the tofu-making process. The “soyfun” ingredient, used in cosmetics and soaps, has been registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

From:, March 29, 2005

Not just for ducks

Japanese scientists are turning bread waste into energy. Using new technology, Sapporo Breweries, Shimadzu Corp. and Hiroshima University have been operating a system for six months that produces sulfur-free hydrogen and methane from waste. Besides bread, the group has used forestry and agricultural waste.

From: BioCycle magazine, March 2005

Honey for the tummy

Complex sugars found in a New Zealand honey variety appear to have some functional-food traits. These prebiotic carbohydrates promote gut health by feeding beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, and could be used as a food ingredient. Researchers in the United Kingdom and Spain found that honey oligosaccharides significantly increased the population of several strains of helpful bacteria.

From:, March 29, 2005

Better chocolate

The more cocoa in chocolate, the better for your health, ARS scientists have found. They evaluated the antioxidant levels of six chocolate and cocoa products: natural (unsweetened) cocoa powder, Dutch-processed cocoa powder, unsweetened baking chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate baking chips, dark chocolate and milk chocolate.

Cocoa beans contain hefty quantities of natural antioxidants called flavonoids. Natural, unprocessed 100-percent cocoa powder contains the highest level of the flavonoid procyanidin; processed cocoa has less. The higher the cocoa-content in chocolate, the higher the antioxidant levels, so dark chocolate contains more than milk chocolate. Antioxidants are thought to be effective in helping to prevent cancer, heart disease and stroke.

From: USDA-ARS, April 4, 2005

Light as a plastic feather

ARS researchers have developed a method to turn chicken feathers into plastics. The technology involves cleaning and separating the feathers into chopped fibers and quill pieces. They then can be converted into plastics similar to polyethylene and polypropylene. The lightweight, biodegradable and moldable plastic can be used alone or in composites. About 4 billion pounds of feathers are generated each year from poultry processing; most is treated as waste.

From: USDA-ARS, Feb. 24, 2005

Mussel muscle from soy

New wood adhesives have been developed by mimicking the mussel. Oregon State University researchers developed the adhesives after analyzing the tiny threads that mussels use to attach to rocky surfaces. Called byssus, the threads help mussels stay put even in pounding surf. The researchers were able to copy the mussel-glue protein by adding certain amino acids to soy protein. The new adhesives could replace some of the chemical-based adhesives used to make plywood, oriented strand board, particle board and laminated-veneer lumber products.

From:, April 12, 2005

Corn composites


A large Japanese paper mill is starting to produce and market a composite made from used paper and corn-based plastic. The composite is formed into pellets, which can then be used to make items such as tableware. The paper is primarily scrap and the plastic is derived from corn starch.

From:, February 10, 2005