College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Nutrition & Food Science

How ‘Bout Them Apples?

High school senior researches nutrient loss in apples with help of AGNR faculty, facilities.
Oluwatobi Aderotoye, Eleanor Roosevelt High School senior, picking apples at the Western Maryland Research and Education Center.
Image Credit: 
Frank J. Allnutt

The saying goes: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But does it matter how long ago that apple was picked?  

Oluwatobi Aderotoye, a senior in the Science and Technology Program at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George’s County, is conducting research at the University of Maryland’s Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) to determine the rate at which nutrients depreciate in an apple.

“In the Science and Technology Program, senior year, each student must conduct a research project,” Aderotoye said. “My project's purpose is to determine the rate at which vitamin C depreciates in an apple, as an indicator of the amount of nutrients that also depreciates.”

Aderotoye began her project this summer, asking Dr. Janie Dubois, research associate and laboratory manager of JIFSAN, to guide her research.

“Tobi is interested about the broader questions of socio-economics and politics associated with scientific findings, that’s what interested me,” Dubois said.

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) also helped Aderotoye get in touch with Frank Allnutt, Director of three of the College’s Research and Education Centers, to obtain apples for her study from one of the research farms.

“On the farm I was given a nice review about the apples that I was collecting and the opportunity to speak to apple experts,” Aderotoye recalled. “I learned that apples can be stored up to 13months!”

Upon learning this, Aderotoye decided to focus her research on the vitamin C content of apples in the six- to eight-month age range, the age of most apples when they are purchased. She used a process called titration to determine the ascorbic acid content of freshly picked, weeks-old, and months-old apples.

“The reality of our food supply is often not known to the public,” Dubois said. “Fruits and vegetables are just expected to be available all year round in fresh form, no matter when they actually grow.”

Dubois continued, “It is important to keep in mind that apples are not a good source of vitamin C to start with, so this doesn’t have an important health impacts for the population. This eye-opener, however, may lead others to look at what happens in fruits that are our main sources of vitamin C.”

Interested in both chemistry and the humanities, as well as potentially becoming a UMD Terrapin next year, Aderotoye hopes to combine both of these interests and someday work with international policy regarding the advancement of the sciences.

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