Horner, Terrance N., Jr., Human Ecology Forum
Is it true that eating spaghetti/pasta the day before an athletic competition/event will help increase your energy and performance?
- Curious About Pasta
This is just one of the many questions posed to the College of Human Ecology's Nutriquest team last spring on their Web site. Since it began six years ago, the site has become more and more popular as a resource for answers about nutrition and diet. During last spring's semester, more than 1,000 people from around the world sent inquiries on everything from how to handle a chocolate addiction to the nutritional value of chewable papaya enzyme to special diets for children with lead poisoning.
"When we started Nutriquest in 1991, we got maybe six questions a month," says postdoctoral research associate Terry Horner. "And since everything was done over the Cornell mainframe, they all came from within the university."
The popularity of e-mail and the World Wide Web has changed all that. Today Nutriquest gets questions from every continent, including Antarctica.
"We got a question from a scientist at a research station there," says Horner. "He hadn't been able to take all his books, and he was looking for some specific information."
The questions presented to Nutriquest are answered by a team of ten volunteer undergraduates. The team changes every semester, and the students receive credit for their work. Homer distributes questions among the team members, and they have a week to come up with the answers. He and Division of Nutritional Sciences lecturer Amy Fisher edit and check their information and then post the answers on the Nutriquest Web site. New questions and answers appear every Thursday.
"One of the great things about Nutriquest is the education it gives the student volunteers," points out Horner. "Many of them say they've spent more time in the library researching Nutriquest questions than doing homework for any of the courses they've taken."
After six years of steadily increasing inquiries, last year was the first time the team was unable to answer every question it received. …