Spring 2018 Grantees

University Faculty Research Grant Program

Title: Antibiotics, food safety and socio-cultural practices: Assessing antibiotic use and resistance in food animals in pastoralist communities in Kenya

PI(s): Kimberly VanderWaal (Ph.D.), Assistant Professor, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM)

Co-Investigator(s): Michael Oakes (Ph.D.), Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health; James Johnson (M.D.), Professor, Division of Infectious Disease and International Medicine, Medical School; Dominic Travis (DVM, MSc), Associate Professor, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Adjunct Associate Professor, Environmental Health, School of Public Health; Noelle Noyes (PhD, DVM), Assistant Professor, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM); George Omondi (DVM), PhD student, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).

Amount Awarded: $100,000.00

Length of Project: 2 years

Abstract: Agricultural use of antibiotics in food animals has contributed to the global emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is among the most urgent issues facing human health and food safety in this century. Lack of regulation of antibiotics in Africa has led to widespread mis-use of antibiotics in food animals. Such practices select for AMR and compromise the efficacy of antibiotic treatment of animal and human pathogens, creating food safety and security concerns. In pastoral regions of Kenya, humans live in close contact with their livestock. Rarely is milk boiled prior to human consumption, and thus humans may be exposed to resistant bacteria or residues of antibiotic drugs through this staple food. The frequency and contexts in which antibiotics are used to treat food animals is not well understood in East Africa, and rarely is the occurrence of AMR in food animals linked to epidemiological factors that could influence antibiotic usage (e.g., presence of clinical disease) or exposure (e.g., communal water sources, proximity to villages). Therefore, our goal is to evaluate decision-making processes related to antibiotic usage in livestock and investigate the epidemiology of AMR in food animals in pastoralist ecosystems. Specifically, we will 1) Determine the prevalence of AMR and antibiotic residues in livestock and milk through phenotypic and metagenomic approaches; 2) Investigate drivers of resistance in food animals, with a focus on potential zoonotic pathogens transmitted through milk (bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis); and 3) Evaluate factors that contribute to human decision-making in regards to antibiotic use in food animals by using a discrete choice experiment questionnaire. Outcomes of this project will enhance understanding of the risks associated with AMR in food animals and how pastoralists make decisions about antibiotic use, which will aide in developing strategies to alter behaviors associated with overuse and misuse of antibiotics.


Title: Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Pennycress Meal and Extracted Protein

PI(s): Baraem Ismail, PhD, Associate Professor, Food Chemistry, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota.

Co-Investigator(s): Daniel D. Gallaher, PhD, Professor, Nutrition, Department of Food Science and Nutrition; David Marks, PhD, Professor, Genomics/germplasm, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, College of Biological Sciences.

Amount Awarded: $100,000.00

Length of Project: 2 years

Abstract: As our society becomes more health conscious and at the same time concerned for the environment, the demand for plant protein sources is on the rise. This has created a need not only to develop novel plant proteins, but also to seek environmentally sustainable sources. Pennycress, a crop high in oil and protein, shows great potential to be developed for food use, and provides sustainable environmental benefits. However, farmers will be reluctant to plant it without a strong market, and this market pull cannot be established unless the crop is characterized with unique benefits. Advances guided by sequencing the pennycress genome and assembling its transcriptome have aided in the development of new pennycress lines that exhibit different levels of protein, oil, and glucosinolates. Currently, concerted efforts are focused on characterizing the protein component and determining functionality for food applications. However, in order to secure a competitive place in the market, nutritional value and health benefits of this crop must be evaluated. Accordingly, we propose to evaluate the protein digestibility of pennycress meal and protein concentrate, and to evaluate their potential health benefits. Pennycress samples rich in protein and with varying levels of glucosinolates will be processed to produce a defatted meal and a protein concentrate. Protein digestibility, potential decrease in adiposity, and reduction in colon cancer risk will be evaluated using animal models. This project is unique in terms of evaluating the nutritional as well as the potential health benefits of a novel crop. Findings of this work will provide valuable phenotyping data to breeders that will aid in the development of successful pennycress lines. Furthermore, the results of this proposed project will be of broad interest and application to a variety of disciplines and potentially generate future synergism amongst nutritional scientists, food scientists, agronomists, farmers, and environmental scientists.


Graduate and Professional Research Grant Program

Title: Determining the impact of a gradual sugar reduction on acceptability of sugar- sweetened beverages


PI(s): Loma Inamdar, Master’s Degree Candidate, Food Science

Advisor(s): Zata Vickers, Food Science & Nutrition

Amount Awarded: $10,000.00

Length of Project: 1 year

Abstract: Overconsumption of sugar has been of great concern because of its association to health risks like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Surveys conducted by the National Institute of Health show sugar-sweetened beverages as the primary contributors to increased sugar consumption. In this proposal we address two aims: Aim 1 will determine if a gradual reduction of sugar in sweetened iced tea will maintain liking ratings. Aim 2 will determine whether the gradual reduction of sugar will decrease participants’ ideal level of sugar in iced tea. Methods: This study will have 3 stages: an initial taste test, 12-week longitudinal stage, and a final taste test. At the initial and final tastes participants will be served teas differing in sugar content. During the 12-week longitudinal stage participants will be placed into either the control or gradual group. The control group will receive a sugar-sweetened beverage that does not change in the amount of added sugar; the gradual group will receive iced tea reduced weekly in 10% sucrose increments. Participants will drink their assigned tea at least three times per week. Data analysis: Analyses of the gradual and control group will be performed to determine whether liking ratings were maintained throughout the 12-week period. We will compare participants’ ideal sweetness levels between from the initial and the final taste tests. Results: We will determine if a gradual reduction of sugar maintains liking, and we will determine if a gradual reduction of sugar will decrease the participants’ ideal level of sugar in tea.


Title: Evaluating Alternative Plant-Based Dietary Patterns as Predictors of Future Risk for Diabetes in US Young Adults: Redesigning Dietary Guideline for Healthy Populations


PI(s): Yuni Choi, Ph.D. Student, Nutrition Graduate Studies, Department of Food Science and Nutrition.

Advisor(s): David Jacobs Jr PhD, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health; Nicole Larson, PhD, MPH, RDN, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, Department of Food Science and Nutrition.

Amount Awarded: $10,000.00

Length of Project: 1 year

Abstract: Diet is a modifiable factor for type 2 diabetes prevention, but dietary guidelines for prevention suffer from inconsistent findings for specific food groups. Dietary guidelines recommend an increase in fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, various protein-rich foods and low added sugars, trans fats, saturated fat, and sodium intake. However, the current evidence is ambiguous for increasing fruits, vegetables, and protein foods intake as a mode of diabetes risk reduction. Despite growing evidence that plant-based diets improve cardiovascular health, parallel data for prevention of diabetes is limited. Our goal is to add new knowledge about long-term diabetes prevention.

Community-University Partnership Planning Grant Program

Title: Electronic Delivery of Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs to Latino Fathers 

Community PI(s): Milena Nunez Garcia, SNAP-Ed Educator, Olmsted County Extension Office; Roxana Linares, Centro Tyrone Guzman

University PI(s): Francine Overcash, PhD, MPH, Post-Doctoral Associate, Food Science and Nutrition; Marla Reicks, PhD, MPH, Professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition

Amount Awarded: $9,672.00

Length of Project: 6 months

Abstract: The purpose of this proposed planning grant is to create an effective community-university partnership with key agencies in the Twin Cities metro area that work to improve health and well-being of Latino communities. The goal of the partnerships is to develop and execute a strategic plan to collect preliminary data that will be used for a larger grant submission. This proposal addresses the Healthy Food, Healthy Lives grant category of prevention of obesity and diet-related disease. 


Title: Strengthening Research Collaborations to Investigate the Effect of Aqueous Sulfate Level on Nutritional Content of Manoomin or Wild Rice (Zizania palustris) 

Community PI(s): Nancy Schuldt (Co-Investigator), Water Projects Coordinator, Fond du Lac Environmental Program, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

University PI(s): Emily Onello MD, Assistant Professor (Principal Investigator), Department of Family Medicine and Biobehavioral Health, University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus

Co-Investigator(s): Professor John Pastor PhD (Co-Investigator), Biology Department, Swenson College of Science and Engineering

Amount Awarded: $10,000.00

Length of Project: 6 months

Abstract: Evidence suggests that wild rice is an impressively cardio-beneficial food source that is worth protecting from potential environmental degradation. As our nation grapples with lifestyle-related diseases of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity, experimental models describe wild rice’s anti-atherogenic and cardio-metabolically protective properties.

For many of Minnesota's Native Americans, wild rice is described as a sacred food valued for its life-giving properties; "Manoomin, or wild rice, is a gift given to the Anishinaabek from the Creator, and is a centerpiece of the nutrition and sustenance for our community". Given the health disparities found in Minnesota’s Native American communities, the preservation of a treasured food source is essential for the physical, mental and spiritual health of many tribal members.

Historically, aspects of academic research involving wild rice in Minnesota have been problematic. Early wild rice research at the University of Minnesota resulted in a modified native wild rice which ultimately birthed the paddy rice industry. While university research efforts ushered in a new form of agriculture and economic prosperity for paddy rice growers in our state, the rise of this industry resulted in profound and enduring negative cultural and economic consequences for many members of our tribal communities. Further, the promotion of paddy rice, or domesticated wild rice, created a legacy of mistrust and anger between many tribal members and the university research establishment.

Mindful of this painful schism, this proposed collaboration moves deliberately to answer scientific questions shared by tribal and academic researchers while fostering a relationship of mutual respect and support. A critical shared question is how aqueous sulfate impacts the nutritional content of manoomin or wild rice (Zizania palustris), an annual aquatic plant. Sulfate levels are typically low in Minnesota’s rice lakes, but anthropogenic sources of sulfate release can accompany a variety of human endeavors, including agricultural runoff, municipal services (e.g. water treatment facilities) and industrial operations (e.g. hard rock mines, tanneries, paper pulp mills).

Currently, it is unknown how the nutritional composition of wild rice is affected by increasing sulfate exposure during the plant’s growth. However, an expanding body of research does reveal a complex relationship between wild rice growth and aquatic sulfate. In the 2017 article by Co-I Pastor PhD and colleagues, research demonstrated a decline in wild rice seedling emergence, seedling survival, biomass growth, viable seed production, and seed mass with sulfate additions.

If sulfate has a negative effect on these aspects of the rice plant's life cycle, it likely impacts the nutritional content of the wild rice seeds. And if the nutritional content is changed, how might this affect the nutritional benefits of eating wild rice for humans? The published literature on the nutritional value of wild rice describes the effect of wild rice on various human health-related parameters, such as cholesterol or inflammatory mediators. But notably, the literature does not describe how the physiological and biochemical effects of eating wild rice may be altered by ingesting rice grown under different sulfate conditions. Our new, interdisciplinary research partnership is well positioned to begin to approach this timely question. This partnership builds on successful collaboration between Pastor and Schuldt by adding Dr. Onello to pursue this new and innovative research direction.