Location: Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research
Project Number: 1907-42520-004-00
Start Date: Jan 29, 2009
End Date: Jan 28, 2014
This project seeks to improve the bioavailability of iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) in plant foods by two distinct strategies. First, a multidisciplinary, genomics-based approach will be used to identify the genes and chemical factors that modulate Fe bioavailability in maize grain, using maize as the model to demonstrate proof of concept for this work. The second approach defines how prebiotic (non-digestible carbohydrates) and polyphenolic compounds in plant foods influence Fe and Zn bioavailability and thereby enhance absorption of Fe and Zn from plant foods in the intestine. Maize Fe Bioavailability: The goal here is to improve the nutritional quality of maize with respect to Fe via identifying the genetic factors that contribute to improved seed-iron concentration and bioavailability. This will be accomplished by building on current genetic mapping of maize seed-Fe bioavailability using a simulated intestinal digestion/Caco-2 cell assay. Animal models will then be used to confirm the cell culture results before definitive testing in humans. By identifying the genes that contribute to seed-iron accumulation and bioavailability, plant breeders will be able to improve the nutritional quality of maize. Prebiotics, Beneficial Bacteria, Polyphenols and Fe/Zn Bioavailability: The gastrointestinal microflora is increasingly becoming recognized as a major factor in human health via systemic effects on gut health and nutrient absorption. Prebiotic compounds such as inulin dramatically alter the profile of intestinal microflora and this alteration may enhance absorption of Fe and Zn. Therefore, one of the goals here is to determine if prebiotics enhance Fe and Zn absorption via changes in gut microflora. The second subobjective is to determine if polyphenolic compounds play a significant role in Fe absorption in long term feeding trials. This will be accomplished via animal feeding trials and cell culture models, whereby foods will be compared that have low and high amounts of prebiotics (eg. inulin, raffinose, stachyose) and polyphenols (e.g., kaempferol, quercitin, chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid). In these studies Fe and Zn absorption from these foods will be measured, as well as their effect on the bacterial profile. By understanding the role of prebiotics and polyphenols in the absorption of these two essential minerals, plant foods and food products can be improved to provide more optimal nutrition.