Sadie Hafer, Professor Diana L. McGuire and Professor Nora K. Nyland
Guided by Professors Diana L. McGuire (STANDING) and Nora K. Nyland (FAR RIGHT), dietetics majors like Sadie Hafer design health presentation kits, then use them to teach individuals how to improve their health.

Nutritional Outreach: Teaching the community to eat better

When it comes to community outreach, the dietetics program's Nutrition Education Kits (NEKs) are hard to beat. A simple online request form is all that stands between community members and a top-notch health fair display or health presentation by dietetics majors.

Recognizing the value of such programs, four students designed the health presentations during the 2005-2006 academic year, with funding from a mentoring grant. Under the direction of Professors Nora K. Nyland and Diana L. McGuire, they combined their knowledge and creativity to create a series of 30- and 60-minute presentations that fellow dietetics majors now use to teach individuals and organizations. The kits are complete with lesson plans, handouts, and props; consequently, two volunteer students, armed with NEKs, can easily fill a request for a health presentation.

Dietetics major students
Students Janae Richey, Mary Curtis, Sadie Hafer, Melissa Johnson, Mariah Goselin, and Denise Goslyn practice their lessons on the USDA’s MyPyramid.
Health fair displays are the newest kit on the block. Similar to the health presentations, each health fair kit comes with backdrop, handouts, display items, and props, such as body fat analysis tools, to allow for an interactive display.

"We get many requests from both on and off campus for health presentations and health fairs," McGuire says. "They provide a great opportunity for students to practice their skills as they perform a valuable community service."

The requests come from organizations such as the Relief Society, on-campus housing, and even large companies such as Kennecott. The number and diversity of organizations requesting presentations continue to increase, an indication of the need for and effectiveness of the program.

Wagna da Rocha and Lana Holden
Wagna da Rocha (LEFT) reviews the materials in her health fair display with Lana Holden, the new Health Fair Co-coordinator for the Student Dietetic Association.
Junior Janelle Connell, who currently serves as a Health Fair Co-coordinator, says that the NEKs "give students the opportunity to practice teaching without the stress of having to plan a lesson. They also ensure that students teach accurate information."

Senior Wagna da Rocha, who was involved in the initial development of the kits, says that making and using the kits helps her apply what she has learned in class and communicate it in lay language. "It also made me more confident in my creativity."

Connell agrees. "I get to use my judgment and creativity when designing health fair displays. It's a great way for me to apply my knowledge."

Dr. William W. Winder with students
Dr. William W. Winder with (L-R) Jacob Brown, David M. Thomson, Dr. Jeffery R. Barrow, Natasha Fillmore, and Hoon Kim, fi ve of his six co-authors of a paper that explains how the enzyme AMPK triggers an increase in muscle mitochondria to improve endurance.

Creating Muscular Power Plants:
A case for more exercise

Most people understand that exercise improves endurance; now Life Sciences researchers have pinpointed the enzyme that kick-starts the process. This finding is important to efforts to increase the benefits of exercise and to extend those benefits to people suffering from diabetes and heart disease.

Muscles rely on mitochondria, molecular power plants that provide energy during exercise. The more power plants a muscle has, the longer and harder it can work and the more fat and glucose it can burn.Scientists knew that repeated exercise increases the amount of mitochondria in muscles, but they didn't know why.

Thanks to exercise scientist William W. Winder, Professor Jeffery R. Barrow, postdoctoral researcher David M. Thomson, and three BYU undergraduate students, they now know. By repeatedly injecting mice with a chemical, the team stimulated the enzyme AMPK. As a result, the mice's muscles developed more mitochondria because AMPK modified and activated CREB, a protein that serves as a master switch that, when turned on, increases muscle mitochondria. "Everyone knows that exercise is good for you; we wanted to find out why the more you do it, the better you get at it," Winder says. "We were looking for the molecular signals that translate muscle contraction into a better capacity to exercise and a better lifestyle."

Even those who may not be able to exercise might benefit from Winder's discovery. For example, if diabetics can generate more mitochondria and burn more fats, they may also increase their muscles' sensitivity to insulin and therefore burn more glucose as well. Burning fat could also have implications for heart disease in which the buildup of lipids over time in the heart can cause blockages.

Future implications aside, Winder emphasizes that "this [finding] is simply another reason you should exercise. Exercise is the best way to improve and maintain health."