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Virginia State University scientists studying health benefits of ginger

virginia state university college of agricultureResearchers at Virginia State University are expanding their study on the health benefits of ginger in combating obesity and other chronic diseases with a $600,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The grant was recently awarded to Dr. Rafat Siddiqui, project director and scientist at the Agricultural Research Station at VSU. “We are grateful for the funding which will help expand on our initial research that shows that certain micronutrients and antioxidants in ginger have important health benefits for fighting diseases,” Siddiqui said. “Our early findings showed that “baby ginger” that is locally grown and harvested while young has two to three times more anti-oxidation activity than mature ginger found in most grocery stores. The more antioxidants mean the higher the health benefits.”

Obesity is a growing problem in the United States, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, 42.4% of U.S. adults from age 20 to over 60 were considered obese in a 2017-2018 study. Obesity also puts people at risk for other diseases, and places them at higher risk of having negative outcomes from the COVID-19 virus.

“Our study will serve as an innovative model with a translational approach that links farm production and laboratory research in order to benefit farmers, healthcare workers and consumers,” Siddiqui said.

The funding will help VSU researchers build capacity to explore what varieties of ginger have the most medicinal benefits and how Virginia farmers can cultivate this potentially profitable, niche crop. Scientific data from the study will provide evidence-based information about the health benefits of ginger to farmers, healthcare workers and consumers.

The study addresses two key NIFA priority areas identified in the 2018 Farm Bill: “human health, obesity as it relates to nutrition and human sciences” as well as “Rural communities for the 21st century,” an effort to expand opportunities for small businesses and small farms.

Siddiqui will collaborate on the project with Dr. Reza Rafie, horticulture Cooperative Extension specialist, and Dr. Theresa Nartea, marketing and agribusiness Cooperative Extension specialist, at Virginia State University and also with Dr. Victoria Volkis, natural science associate professor, at the University at Maryland-Eastern Shore.

The three-year study begins this month and runs through March 2024.

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