Description of Research Program:
Dr. Glahn’s research program focuses on the bioavailability of trace minerals, specifically iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn). His expertise is on the factors and practices that influence the intestinal absorption of these micronutrients. He utilizes a physiological approach, employing in vitro techniques (ie. cell culture) and animal models (poultry, rats and piglets) to determine factors, interactions and food components that affect the ability of the intestine to absorb these minerals. Once the in vitro and animal models have identified products or refined experimental objectives that warrant testing, he partners with other nutritionists to conduct more definitive studies in human subjects.
Deficiencies in iron and zinc bioavailability are believed to affect a third of the world population, especially children and women of child bearing age. Consequences of deficiency of these minerals are poor growth and development, poor cognitive development, reduced resistance to disease, reduced work performance and increased In many areas of the world, the lack of resources to afford a diverse diet leads to overconsumption and dependence on the more affordable staple crops such as beans, rice, maize and wheat. Therefore, the diet of these populations is primarily made up of foods with relatively low iron and zinc bioavailability, thus making these individuals at risk of deficiency of these key nutrients. To combat deficiency of these micronutrients, Dr. Glahn works with plant breeders from various universities and international agencies to improve lines of staple food crops for bioavailability (ie. absorbability) of these minerals. This process is known as biofortification, which essentially means using breeding and agricultural practices to enhance the nutritional quality of food crops.
In addition to his work on biofortification, Dr. Glahn also works with food companies on fortification of foods with Fe and development of supplements to treat iron deficiency anemia. He has worked on products such as breakfast cereals, snack bars, infant formula, human breast milk additives for pre-term infants, infant foods and iron supplements for treatment of anemia. His research program includes many domestic and international collaborations with academic, government and industrial partners.