Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Ithaca, New York » Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture & Health » Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research » Research » Research Project #437310

Research Project: Advancing the Nutritional Quality of Staple Food Crops for Improved Intestinal Function and Health

Location: Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research

Project Number: 8062-52000-003-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Sep 27, 2019
End Date: Sep 26, 2024

Objective:
Objective 1: In collaboration with plant breeders, utilize in vitro, in vivo, and analytical techniques to evaluate Fe bioavailability in staple food crops (beans, wheat, maize) for the purpose of developing crops that serve as an improved source of Fe. [NP107, C1, PS1A] Sub-objective 1.A. Collaborate with breeders to develop bean varieties with enhanced Fe bioavailability that can deliver more absorbable Fe and be a highly sustainable source of dietary Fe. Sub-objective 1.B. Characterize the potential genotype x environment (GxE) interactions that influence Fe content and Fe bioavailability in beans; and determine if either content, bioavailability or both can be sustainable approaches to improve Fe nutrition from beans. Sub-objective 1.C. Collaborate with breeders to characterize Fe bioavailability and Fe concentration from the different components of the maize and wheat grain, and search for QTL for enhanced Fe bioavailability and content of these components. Objective 2. Characterize the individual and interactive effects of dietary minerals (Fe and Zn), phytochemicals and prebiotics common to staple foods (chickpea, bean, wheat, lentil) on the intestinal microbiome and intestinal brush border membrane functionality. [NP107, C3, PS3B] Sub-objective 2.A. Evaluate the effect of natural prebiotics and phytochemicals extracted from staple food crops on mineral (Fe, Zn) dietary bioavailability and absorption in vivo (Gallus gallus).

Approach:
As iron and zinc deficiencies are affecting approximately 30% of the world’s populations, including about 15% of the US population, the focus of this research plan is to improve iron bioavailability in staple food crops and to further increase their consumer appeal. Further, we aim to characterize the individual and interactive effects of dietary minerals (Fe and Zn), phytochemicals and prebiotics common to staple foods (chickpea, bean, wheat, lentil) on the intestinal microbiome and intestinal brush border membrane functionality. This will be done in order to evaluate the effect of natural prebiotics and phytochemicals extracted from staple food crops on mineral (Fe, Zn) dietary bioavailability and absorption in vivo (Gallus gallus). In addition, as the newly accepted body “organ”, the intestinal microbiome plays a vital role in the functionality, absorption and digestion capabilities of the intestine; hence, we aim to characterize the microbiome response to dietary plant origin bioactive compounds that may contribute to intestinal functionality and overall health. To accomplish the above, we will employ our established screening tools of an iron bioavailability bioassay and a poultry model that reflects human nutrition. In conjunction, we will make use of techniques such as mass spectroscopy, marker assisted molecular breeding, our Zinc Status biomarker, gene expression, microscopy, and state of the art microbial profiling techniques. With this unique combination of tools, we expect to develop staple food crops with enhanced iron nutrition and elucidate factors that can improve zinc nutrition from staple food crops, and thereby contribute to alleviation of two of the leading micronutrient deficiencies in the world. We will also expand knowledge of how the intestinal microbiome is affected by dietary iron, zinc, phytochemicals and prebiotics. Overall, this knowledge will further contribute to food innovations with enhanced nutrition and improve human health both domestically and abroad.