2020Results and achievements

1. Promotion of understanding of the relationship between food and health through menu simulation experience using IC tag-based food model system


Through a menu simulation experience using a food model that has a built-in IC tag that stores nutritional and functional ingredient information of Panax ginseng, which is a traditional ingredient, the purpose of this study is to support school children themselves to understand the relationship between nutritional function and the menu, and the formation of school lunch menus that utilize the functionality of Panax ginseng and acquire the practical methods to implement them.


In the food education SAT system, the nutritional value is automatically calculated instantly by the experiencer using the attached basic software “Combination Master” by “just freely selecting and placing the menu for one meal”, and the result is displayed on the screen at real time. According to the set goal for one meal, the “master degree” is displayed by the number of stars, and you can visually learn good or bad of the nutritional value of the menu created (simulated) by the experiencer himself.

[Results and Discussion]

Figure 1 shows the results of an awareness survey conducted after experiencing a menu simulation using a food model. It can be seen that the children who experienced it enjoyed working on the menu simulation. Throughout the whole, we can see that they understood the importance of nutritional balance in the diet and that it leads to their own health. On the other hand, the relationship between the function of nutrients (sugar /lipid = energy, protein = body, vitamins/minerals = condition) and the dietary menu tended to be with slightly lower understanding level. Furthermore, it was found that the relationship between the intake of sugar component (sugar) and salt component (salt), which are nutritional components related to the prevention of future lifestyle-related diseases, and the dietary menu was with low understanding level. Through classes at school, home education and various media, it can be inferred that they have learned that excessive intake of these nutritional components is not good for our health. However, since this way of interaction with information is mainly passive, it is necessary to take positive measures to establish more practical knowledge through active and voluntary activities such as this experience activity.


2. Promotion of understanding of body fat improvement by hands-on experience of physical index (body fat, daily activity) measurement by schoolchildren themselves.


The purpose of this business, started in 2018, is to confirm the current situation of the target children’s’ physical condition and daily living habits along with changes from the previous year, and to verify changes in health consciousness of children by giving them hands-on experiences of measuring their own physical indices (body fat, daily activity) by continuing to measure physical parameters of children and conducting dietary and lifestyle surveys at cooperating elementary schools.


2-1. Body index measurement using a body composition measuring device

Subject: 9 children (average age of 12 years old)
Measurement condition: The operation and measurement was carried out with the children using a portable body composition analyzer (Inbody 470, InBody Japan Inc.). The body index data such as body weight (BMI), muscle mass, body fat mass, etc. obtained through a body composition measurement were analyzed using a Lookin’Body software. The feedbacks about the measurement results were given to the participated children and their parents


2-2. Collection of the basic data on daily activities by an accelerometer device

Subject: 9 children (average age of 12 years old)
Measurement condition: Kenz Life Coder GS4 sec. version (SUZUKEN) (width 7.2 cm, height 4.2 cm, thickness 2.9 cm, weight 45 g, with hooks to attach) was attached to the waist of the subject. The daily activities were carried out as usual for 10 days from Friday to the next Sunday (after wakening up in the morning to bathing at night), and the activity amount was measured. The daily activity amount was analyzed based on the amount of time for moderate exercise and the number of steps, using a Lifelyzer 05 Coach software (SUZUKEN).


2-3. Research on eating behavior and lifestyle

Subject: 9 children (average age of 12 years old)
Measurement condition: A questionnaire survey on eating behavior & habit (BDHQ 15y, 2009 school) equivalent to five A4 sheets and another questionnaire survey on the daily life, health awareness and knowledge of traditional foods, equivalent to one A4 sheet, were conducted at the same time. These questionnaires were filled out by the participated children and their parents while discussing together at home and then submitted. The feedback on the diagnostic result of their eating behavior & habit based on the answers for the questionnaire was given to the participating children and parents


[Results and Discussion]

2-1. Body index measurement using a body composition measuring device

Based on the measurement results of the physical indicators (BMI, body fat percentage (%), muscle mass) of 9 children, Fig 2 shows the amount of change for 3 years from FY2018. BMI is expected to be different from that of adults because the subjects are 6th grade elementary school children who are in the process of growth and development. The height and weight of nine growing children are increasing. As in the last two years, there are still large individual differences in each physical index. No children are currently obese.

As a whole, muscle mass tends to increase with growth, but one child who had a slight increase in muscle mass compared with the increase in body weight and body fat percentage since last year, and one child whose body fat percentage have increased significantly while the muscle mass has decreased, are found. It is considered to correlate with the decrease in daily activity (described later). As muscle mass increases, basal metabolism rises accordingly, making it less likely to become obese. Therefore, it is necessary to carefully monitor not only body weight but also muscle mass and body fat percentage.

On the other hand, the body fat percentage has remained at a generally constant level over the past two years, but increased significantly in FY2019 (red arrow). In addition to normal changes due to improvement in physique during the growth period, there may be an increase in body fat that deviates from normal by a decrease in daily activity due to the epidemic of COVID-19 infection and changes in eating habits. Since the target children will go on to junior high school, it is expected that continuous acquisition and comparative analysis of body measurement data will be difficult, so we need to call attention to continue to observe children’s physical changes, especially body fat percentage and muscle mass, at the individual level.


2-2. Daily activity amount of children

Based on the measurement results of the average daily activity (steps, total activity time, moderate activity time) of 9 children in daily life, Fig 2 shows the amount of change for 3 years from FY2018. It turned out that the average daily activity in terms of steps, total activity time and moderate activity time has dropped significantly in all of the overall average, maximum and minimum values ​​in FY2020 compared to the past two years. (red arrow). As in the past, bipolar differentiation has occurred among children for all activities, and the difference is even more pronounced in FY2020. There is no doubt that the cause is the restriction of daily activities associated with the epidemic of COVID-19 infection. Since it is expected that daily activities will continue to be restricted in the future, specific measures to secure moderate exercise time, which is considered to be most related to the burning of body fat in relation to obesity, is required.


2-3. Eating behavior and lifestyle

Figures 3 to 7 show the changes over the three years from FY2018 based on the results of the questionnaire survey on eating behavior and habits of nine children and the questionnaire survey on daily life, health consciousness and traditional foodstuff knowledge. Regarding the intake of nutrients, the intake of calcium, which is a nutrient that must be watched for deficiency, has become more appropriate than when the survey started two years ago (Fig 3, blue star). Since it is an essential nutrient for bone growth for growing children, it is expected to lead to normal physique improvement. On the other hand, with regard to the intake of iron, which is a nutrient for which deficiency must be noted, the deficiency tendency has not improved since the start of the survey (Fig 3). Salt, which is a nutrient that requires attention to overdose, has been overdose since the start of the survey until this year (Fig 4). Excessive salt intake is a factor that surely raises blood pressure and although it is not a major problem at present, there is a concern that the establishment of salty taste may cause health problems in the future. This year as well, we provided feedback on the results and improvements to parents regarding these points.

Figure 5 shows the results of daily nutrient intake. While protein is with proper intake, about half of the children overdose fat. So far, it has been recognized that fat intake tends to be optimized, but this year the change toward optimization was not sufficient. Also, for the first time this year, about half of the children were found to be deficient in carbohydrate intake. Various stresses associated with COVID-19 epidemic may have an impact, resulting in changes in children’s diets. Carbohydrate intake during the growth period is an energy source that is the basis for maintaining the original function of other nutrients, so we need to remind of the proper intake of carbohydrates in order to maintain healthy growth.

Figure 6-1 and 6-2 show changes in the daily dietary balance. Looking at the dietary balance of nine children, there was a tendency for the intake of staple foods to improve in FY2019, but the proportion of children who took appropriate amounts of staple foods, main dishes, and side dishes, which was determined at the time of each survey was less than half even there was a fluctuation, and it was observed that the dietary balance was not appropriate compared with the intake of individual nutrients throughout the three years. This year, the tendency of overdose of main dishes and the tendency of underdose of side dishes are particularly remarkable. In addition, the intake of sweets such as milk, dairy products and sweets continues to be excessive. On the other hand, there is almost no fruit intake. Considering that Fukushima Prefecture is one of the leading producers of fruits in Japan, it is expected that the lifestyle of children who will be responsible for the future industry of Fukushima Prefecture will not consume fruits on a daily basis, and there is no choice but to have great concern about maintaining fruit production. Fruits are excellent foods that contain a lot of functional ingredients that are beneficial to the body, such as dietary fiber. We believe that establishing this in the diet of children is necessary for the health of children and for fruit tree production, which is one of the core industries of Fukushima Prefecture. Thus, specific measures will be required.

Figure 7-1, 7-2, and 7-3 show the results of the daily life questionnaire survey. Over the last three years, it is said that the knowledge that overdose of sweets increases body fat, that exercise can reduce fat, and the correct way to eat that helps reduce fat, have been properly established. On the other hand, the activity measurement results clearly show that the activity time of children has been shortened significantly in FY2020. It is assumed that this is mainly due to the self-restraint of activities in various appearances accompanying the epidemic of COVID-19 infection, which accelerated the tendency. It can be said that, as in the past, or even more, all children consume excessive amounts of sweets and fats such as sweets on a daily basis, and there are still situations in which correct knowledge does not lead to correct behavior. Through this research, we have created an opportunity to get to know traditional vegetables close to us by providing school lunches using Panax ginseng, which is a traditional vegetable of Aizu. This year, it was found that all the surveyed children learned about Aizu traditional vegetables, and more than half had the experience of actually eating them.


3. Creating School lunch menus using Panax ginseng


3-1. Cream stew

The rich aroma and taste of white cream softens the unique odor and bitterness of Panax ginseng. When simmered with colorful and nutritious vegetables such as carrots and broccoli, it can be expected to warm the body, especially in the cold winter season.


3-2. Kara-age with sweet soy sauce

Panax ginseng goes well with chicken meat. Even if you mix it with Kara-age batter, you can eat it even more deliciously by mixing it with a slightly sweet soy sauce. When sesame seeds are added, the sesame aroma and taste soften the peculiar smell and bitterness of Panax ginseng.


3-3. Steamed bread containing sweet potatoes

The sweet scent of sweet potatoes and steamed bread combined with the unique scent of Panax ginseng creates a delicious scent. The sweetness of steamed sweet potatoes makes it delicious to eat with almost no bitterness of Panax ginseng.


4. Summary

Since 2018, we have continued to measure children’s physical indicators and daily activities at a cooperative  Elementary School. From the results, it was found that the improvement of physique such as height and weight tended to converge to the standard range. From the start of the survey in FY2018, the amounts of daily activities of the subject children tended to decrease as a whole, but it decreased even more significantly in FY2020. The downward trend in the amount of activity as a whole up to last year was thought to be due to the progress of bipolar differentiation between children who maintain high activity and children who have low activity. But this year, in addition to the polarization, the amount of activity was significantly reduced overall. There is no doubt that the main reason is that the measures to prevent the epidemic of COVID-19, which began with the national emergency declaration in April 2020, severely restricted children’s daily activities. In fact, this is also shown by the results of questionnaires on daily life. Under the current lifestyle based on infectious disease countermeasures, there is a concern that children’s physical activity habits in daily life other than attending school will be lost.

From the results of the eating habits and activities of daily living survey conducted at the same time as the measurement of physical indicators and activities of daily living, the proportion of children who have correct knowledge about eating habits and eating life has increased from the previous year according to this study, and it is evaluated that the results of the efforts are appearing. On the other hand, as in the previous year, it has become clear that correct knowledge about individual dietary balance, nutrient items (minerals) and dietary intake items (staple food, side dishes, fruits, sweets and the like), etc. would not lead to correct eating habits and eating life. This point indicates that further practical intervention is required to raise the awareness necessary to reach the correct eating habits and eating life of children, which is the purpose of this study. It was suggested that practical activities related to meals based on voluntary activities utilizing the food model system that we worked on this year could be an effective tool for correct behavior change of children. Regarding some of the nutrients that have been properly ingested so far, it was newly confirmed that about half of the children were in short of the ingestion this year. Various stresses associated with COVID-19 epidemic may have affected this and resulted in changes in children’s eating habits.

Panax ginseng has a unique bitterness and aroma, and it is difficult to eat it raw. In this study, in addition to Panax ginseng powder, we worked on creating a practical school lunch menu using the beard root, which is relatively easy to cook. As a menu, we created cream stew, fried chicken with sweet sauce and steamed sweet potato bread with a new dessert perspective. These are compatible with Panax ginseng powder and the beard root in terms of taste and flavor, and the characteristic seasoning of the dish could alleviate the unique flavor of Panax ginseng. As it was familiar for children who were accustomed to eating it, we were able to create examples of menus suitable for a large-scale cooking site such as school lunch.

With a research grant from the Fukushima Prefectural Academic Education Promotion Foundation and the full cooperation of an Elementary School, this research has been conducted for 3 years with the aim of conducting experience activities for improving body fat using functional traditional ingredients for children, and developing human resources who can voluntarily work on health promotion in the future through these activities.

Throughout the whole research period, we believe that we were able to convey knowledge about traditional ingredients in the Aizu area to children through experience. In addition, by creating opportunities for children to acquire knowledge about dietary and lifestyle behaviors necessary for maintaining human health, such as improving body fat, we could improve children’s awareness of dietary and health promotion more compared with the start of the investigation. On the other hand, this effort could not sufficiently transform the knowledge gained by children to voluntarily change their eating and living behavior in the right direction. It is thought that a more practical approach that utilizes the food model as implemented in FY2020 would be an effective approach.


5. Cooperation with a school lunch provision business at Aizuwakamatsu city elementary and junior high schools

Content: In cooperation with the Aizu Regional Development Bureau, Fukushima Prefecture, during the period from January 27 to March 12, 2021, we collaborated with 26 elementary and junior high schools in Aizuwakamatsu City district to provide meals using Panax ginseng. Menus which were suggested by a student of a seminar ran by the project implementation representative, such as “Panax ginseng cream stew”, “Panax ginseng Kara-age” and “Panax ginseng steamed bread” were served to approximately 10,100 children and students in the city for lunch.