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New Healthy Beverage Index may help consumers improve cardiometabolic health

There may be a better way to think about daily drinking habits that impact health conditions such as obesity and diabetes, according to a new study by Virginia Tech researchers.

The researchers have developed the Healthy Beverage Index — a scoring system to evaluate the healthiness of what and how much people drink each day. They found that a higher index score correlates to better cholesterol levels, a lower risk of hypertension, and, in men, lower blood pressure.

In the future, consumers and health care practitioners may be able to access the index online or as a mobile app to evaluate beverage intake quality.

“The goal was to develop an index that would help consumers by providing specific information about the types and amounts of beverages that could be consumed to promote optimal health,” said Brenda M. Davy, a professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and an affiliated faculty member in the Fralin Life Science Institute.

Davy developed the index with colleague Kiyah J. Duffey, an adjunct faculty member in human nutrition, foods, and exercise and director of global scientific affairs at LA Sutherland group.

“With various recommendations for beverage intake and recent attention on sugar-sweetened beverages, we thought consumers might be wondering what they should be drinking,” said Davy, who is also an affiliated faculty member in the Fralin Translational Obesity Research Center. “We know that consumers want guidelines that are specific to the types and amounts of foods and drinks to consume.”

Using the index as a guide, consumers can earn up to 100 points by engaging in healthy activities such as consuming water for at least 20 percent of their daily fluid intake or consuming less than 10 percent of their daily calories in drinks. Overall, a higher score indicates a healthier beverage pattern and, ultimately, better health.

Davy and Duffey developed the index based in part on the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which include recommendations for total daily energy coming from drinks, daily fluid requirements, and limits for various kinds of drinks, like milk, juice, soda, coffee, and tea.

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College helps drone industry take off

A drone flies over Kentland Farm in Blacksburg, Virginia.

A drone flies over Kentland Farm in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Kentland Farm has many of the traditional features you might find at an agricultural research facility. Researchers work on rows of crops to develop better ways to grow a host of vegetables, and cows meander on the hillsides above the brand new Dairy Science Complex. But in the air above them, a new frontier of agricultural science is buzzing.

Drones — also called unmanned aerial vehicles — are a common site at the farm where the Kentland Experimental Aerial Systems Laboratory is located. There, Associate Professor David Schmale flies drones that are sampling microbes floating high above the Earth. Some of these microbes have the potential to cause devastating plant diseases.
Kentland Farm and Schmale are part of Virginia Tech’s mission to be a leader in
the burgeoning drone industry.

Introducing commercial unmanned aerial vehicles to U.S. skies could add more than $13.6 billion to the national economy by the end of the decade.

Virginia Tech: Microorganisms on atmospheric waves from VirginiaTech on Vimeo.

The university is part of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, which is developing infrastructure for private companies and other organizations to develop unmanned aircraft.

Introducing commercial unmanned aerial vehicles to U.S. skies could add more than $13.6 billion to the national economy by the end of the decade, with totals reaching as high as $82.1 billion by 2025, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

“We are transitioning new types of aircraft into the nation’s skies that have tremendous potential to help people and create new industry,” said Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands. “Unmanned aircraft will be useful for agriculture, search-and-rescue missions, disaster response, research, and innovations. With the onset of a new technology, industries are born and new infrastructure evolves — the economic impacts will be enormous.”

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