There is a new weapon
in the war against obesity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made its National Nutrient Database
free for download onto handheld personal digital assistants (PDAs).

“Easy access to nutrient information on thousands of foods provides a new tool to help consumers follow a healthy diet,” said Secretary of Agriculture
Ann Veneman.

“Consumers, health professionals and educators seeking user-friendly nutrient data will no longer be limited to using the USDA’s premier nutrient database while online,” added Phyllis Johnson, director of the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, which manages the database.

With this portable version of the National Nutrient Database, consumers and health professionals alike can be aided in making the most nutritious selections in any food environment or situation. PDA users can simply use their styluses to scroll through alphabetical lists of the various food categories for nutrient data. Rick Hall, MS, RD, a frequent speaker on nutrition, notes that the database contains information on the fat, carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals in more than 6,000 foods, including processed foods and foods found in fast food restaurants. It even provides information on obscure foods such as roasted raccoon meat!

The program can not only provide nutrient information for specific foods but also recommend foods rich in specific nutrients. In addition, it can adjust the nutrient data for foods to account
for varying portion sizes.

Owners of PDAs using the Palm operating system (Palm OS) can download the National Nutrient Database at www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/srch/search.htm. A PDA must have approximately 2 megabytes of available memory to download it.