Plants are capable of producing a great diversity of relatively small organic chemicals that are called “secondary”, or, more recently, “specialized” metabolites, because they are not involved in central metabolism (Gang, 2005; Weng and Noel, 2012). Currently, well over 200,000 distinct molecules are known to be produced by plants and found to serve many important roles. As pigments, scents, and flavors they attract pollinators and seed dispersers (Gang, 2005).
The incidence and prevalence of some chronic diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), obesity, and other inflammation-related human disorders, have risen dramatically in recent decades in United States and other countries. These alarming trends suggest that it is of critical importance to develop novel strategies for preventing these chronic diseases.
The results of this project will directly impact industries that handle foods most commonly implicated in foodborne disease outbreaks, including low-moisture foods (especially spices, nuts, and dried fruits); fresh, minimally, and shelf-stable processed produce; dairy; fresh and further processed seafood, meat, and poultry products (including fully cooked and ready-to-eat products subject to post-process contamination), as well as other multi-component and processed foods.
House flies are the major vector of numerous food pathogens (e.g., Escherichia coli). It has been suggested that the fly crop is the major reservoir for the pathogen and also that this is where horizontal transmission of antibiotic resistance occurs. The salivary glands of most flies involved in vectoring pathogens are also involved in pathogen transmission and their nutrient and pathogen uptake while feeding. We know very little about those factors involved in the regulation of both crop filling and emptying.
There is a strong association of chronic inflammation with various types of diseases.
The safety of the food supply is a continuing issue for agriculture, with an estimated 81 million instances of food borne illnesses in the USA annually, with an estimated cost of $152 billion dollars per year to the US economy. The Center for Disease Control and prevention estimates that 46% of these illnesses were due to produce - thus food safety is very much an agricultural issue.
The profile of dietary lipids in humans has changed dramatically as agricultural practices have advanced. This change has resulted in major changes in the consumption of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Our ancestors ingested concentrations of these two classes of fatty acids in a 7:1 ratio (comparing dietary omega-6 to omega-3). In Western cultures, the ratio in currently 25:1. This change in dietary lipids is problematic since humans are not able to interconvert (convert from one to the other) omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Dietary factors are important predictors of long term health and the incidence of chronic disease. Laboratory methods will be employed, primarily in vitro models, such as in vitro digestion and tissue cultures, which will be used to evaluate the bioactivity of nutrients and other food bioactives to understand the mechanisms. The investigator will seek to advance the science of defining the role of bioactive dietary constituents for optimal human health. This will provide fertile grounds for ongoing collaborations and future collaborative research and grant proposal development.