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Hair Study Reveals Dietary Trend, High Levels Of Corn

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Video published October 26, 2009 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: KPBS reporter Joanne Faryon gives an update on the "Food" documentary. Dr. Steve Macko, a professor at the University of Virginia, can reveal what a person's diet consists of by measuring isotopes in hair. We had him test the hair of several KPBS employees.

Did you know your hair is actually a record of your diet? While researching our food series, we met Dr. Steve Macko, an environmental sciences professor at the University of Virginia. Dr. Macko uses organic chemistry to measure isotopes in hair and can detect some of what we’ve been eating using this methodology.

Corn is prevalent in many diets because so much of our food system relies on corn. Cattle, chickens, and even farm-raised fish eat corn. Macko’s work was featured in the documentary King Corn.

We asked Dr. Macko to examine hair from some KPBS employees. It turns out that our corn ratios were low compared to others he studied. Reporter Amita Sharma had the lowest corn ratio at 20 percent, nearly the lowest Dr. Macko has ever seen -- and that’s a good thing. Dr. Macko says diets high in fructose corn syrup, a common sweetener, are linked to obesity and diabetes.

You can hear the complete results of Dr. Macko’s tests on These Days, KPBS Radio's morning talk show.


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