Group of neighbors having a southern backyard barbecue grill

Integrated Food &
Human Health System

Our Research Focus

Integrated food and health systems brings together researchers that work to improve human health and well-being by investigating the link between food quality, nutrition, safety and health, zoonotic diseases, toxins, and impact of pests/pesticides on the ecosystem.
 

Interdisciplinary Teams

  • Food safety, quality and integrated health (Team Leader: Christy Bratcher)
  • Rural economic and community development (Team Leader: Michelle Worosz)
  • Human nutrition and health (Team Leader: Ramesh Jeganathan)

Food safety, quality and integrated health

From producing quality crops and animals to transporting those products to buyers to ensuring that food is safe for human consumption, this team led by animal science professor Christy Bratcher takes a “farm-to-fork” approach to research. Team members with expertise in water quality, consumer choices and food safety collaborate to find answers to agricultural questions. Bratcher focuses on meat science and producing quality animal proteins. Some researchers are creating new, innovative foods and technologies. Others are identifying potential outside influences that could affect our food sources and then analyzing how to protect our food supply to continue to provide the most wholesome and widely available foods possible.

“I guess we’re that link between all of the systems and how do we get that onto consumer plates,” said Bratcher.

Rural economic & community development

Human thought and behavior are central to agriculture, with farmers, consumers and lawmakers, for instance, making choices every day about what and how food is grown, processed, regulated, purchased, marketed and eaten. Rural sociologist Michelle Worosz, team leader, said the group’sprojects are highly interdisciplinary and can include topics such as production costs and economics, risk analysis, food safety, governance and rural and community development. Team members include researchers in animal sciences and fisheries and Extension specialists who work directly with producers and consumers. Worosz is currently working on a research proposal looking at helping Alabama fish producers manage governance and resilience issues related to natural and man-made disasters. Another interdisciplinary project involves helping an agricultural producer community adopt technologies that will help them become more sustainable long term.

Human nutrition & health

This team’s research on human health is important for the people of Alabama, a state that has one of the highest obesity rates in the U.S. Scientists in this group study how diet, nutrition and lifestyle are related to health problems such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease and investigate the connection between obesity and high blood pressure, cardiovascular complications, cancer and other health issues it contributes to. On one project, team members are studying how genetic and metabolic factors are related to obesity in schoolchildren of different ethnic groups.

“Is there anything with the genetic factor, or diet, or anything behavioral—what time they go to bed, what time they get up, what kind of food they’re eating, what time they’re eating?” said team leader and nutrition professor Ramesh Jeganathan.

Other team members are researching the health benefits of the bioactive component resveratrol in red wine; the effects of greens, such as spinach, on cancer; and the Mediterranean diet.

“Our mission is to improve human health through better nutrition,” said Jeganathan. “That’s the big picture.”