A lot has happened in the nutrition field since 2002, when healthy eating billionaire David Murdock had his Dole Food Co. sponsor “The Encyclopedia of Foods,” a traditional, general-interest coffee table nutrition book.

The popularity of so-called “superfoods,” which can range from Dole’s trademark pineapples to trendy South American grains like quinoa, which the Westlake Village company doesn’t grow, have exploded on the nutrition scene.

In addition, studies linking good nutrition to improvements in diabetes and heart disease have made people more interested in learning how they might be able to avoid taking prescription drugs for the rest of their lives.

So the Dole Nutrition Institute’s latest hardcover, the “Dole Nutrition Handbook,” is organized around how to eat foods that minimize the occurrence or severity of diseases from diabetes to cancer.

“This book is much more devoted to the next frontier in nutrition,” said Jennifer Grossman, the longtime Dole vice president who oversees the institute’s publications.

The octogenarian Murdock was godfather of the more-than-two-year project and wrote its introduction, but much of the research and writing went to Grossman and the company’s nutrition research and labeling manager, Nicolas Gillitt.

The book also takes advantage of the scientific relationships that Murdock has nurtured though his sponsorship of the North Carolina Research Campus affiliated with the North Carolina State University. Each chapter includes interviews or short articles by the likes of Bruce Ames, a leading researcher in the links between poor nutrition and DNA damage.

The two-week Dole Diet at the end the book reflects much of Murdock’s views on healthy eating – a regime of fish, fruits and veggies – but expands menu options to include some chicken and occasional low-fat dairy products.

“It’s very much written for the Oprah audience, the man on the street,” said Grossman.

Despite frequent appearance of the Dole name throughout the book, Grossman and Gillitt said the project’s team worked hard to make the work more of an objective nutrition resource and less a 352-page advertisement for Dole food products.

“Our marketing people certainly didn’t think we promoted the company enough, so we think we were able to strike the right balance,” Gillitt said.

Amgen’s Advances

Most attention on Amgen Inc.’s fourth quarter earnings release last week focused on continued lagging sales of Thousand Oaks’ biotech’s flagship anemia franchise, where once soaring Aranesp sales have been hobbled by safety scares.

But the company also is starting to see stronger sales of colon cancer drug Vectibix. After a shaky launch in 2006, sales have been steadily growing after the company took steps to repackage the antibody-based medicine as a specialty therapy for patients with a certain genetic makeup.

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