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October 24, 2003

Research shorts

Project fights malnutrition
ISU researchers will help develop corn with a high beta-carotene content to reduce malnutrition in Africa. The project is part of a global research initiative to fight malnutrition in developing countries.

The Iowa State research will address vitamin A deficiency, a serious cause of malnutrition in developing countries that can result in blindness, poor immune function and even premature death.

Iowa State's portion of the research will be conducted by plant molecular biologist Steve Rodermel, nutritional scientist Wendy White and molecular geneticist Kan Wang.

The three will help develop corn with enhanced beta-carotene, the substance that human bodies convert into vitamin A. The researchers also will conduct studies to determine how much beta-carotene is absorbed and converted into vitamin A to meet daily requirements.

The vitamin A maize technology will be shared freely.

Effects of media violence on children
Doug Gentile, assistant professor of psychology, looks at how media -- such as movies (especially movies containing violence), television, video games and advertising -- can affect children.

One of Gentile's studies looks at the physiological affects of violent video games on youth. Youth who play such games have more aggressive thoughts and behaviors, and increases in heart rate, adrenaline and blood pressure.

Gentile also studies video game violence against women, how advertising affects preschool-age children and the effect of more realistic, virtual reality-style video games.

Gentile admits that media violence isn't the only factor that determines aggressive behavior in individuals, including children.

"Poverty, abuse, drugs, gang influence, the neighborhood you live in -- it all has an impact," he said. "But media violence is the easiest to control."

Enrollment up in ag ed
The number of Iowa high school students enrolled in agricultural education programs has nearly doubled in the last 12 years, despite a decrease in the number of Iowa farms and farmers.

Researchers in the agricultural education and studies department have collected data on Iowa's high school agricultural education programs for more than a decade. The most recent survey shows there are 16,000 students studying agriculture in 240 Iowa high schools this year, compared to 9,000 students in 1990.

"Curriculum changes have broadened the scope of agricultural education classes," said department chair Robert Martin. "We're getting more into the science of agriculture. Now we're teaching students topics that include marketing, processing, biotechnology."

The research shows 29 percent of the students are female and that they are almost equally split between rural and non-rural residences.

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