Health and Wellness

logo of a heartOur researchers improve health and wellness for humans and animals, making transformational discoveries in disciplines ranging from Alzheimer’s to zinc digestibility. In short, ACES is committed to advancing health.

These impacts are made possible through public and private investments, legislator support, multi-institutional partnerships, and the dedication of faculty and student scholars. 

Below, we showcase a fraction of our world-class research in the area of health and wellness. You can also view a pdf version and subscribe to one of our ACES e-newsletters to stay abreast of new developments in ACES research. 

Avocados are good for your gut

Avocado graphic with tape measure

Avocados are rich in nutrients, including dietary fiber and monounsaturated fat. They also improve gut health, a team of ACES scientists say. The researchers, who specialize in dietary modulation of the microbiome and its connections to health, studied how avocado consumption impacts gastrointestinal microbiota. They found people who ate avocado every day as part of a meal had a greater abundance of gut microbes that break down fiber, produced more metabolites that support gut health, and had greater microbial diversity than a control group of people who ate similar, but avocado-free meals. In another study, they also showed an avocado a day can redistribute belly fat in women by reducing deeper, visceral abdominal fat. The researchers concluded daily avocado consumption promotes gut health by feeding the gut microbes that help us break down dietary fibers.

ACES researchers:
Hannah Holscher, Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN), Division of Nutritional Sciences (DNS)
Sharon Thompson, DNS
Melisa Bailey, DNS
Andrew Taylor, FSHN
Jennifer Kaczmarek, DNS
Annemarie Mysonhimer, FSHN
Caitlyn Edwards, DNS
Nicholas Burd, DNS
Naiman Khan, DNS
Bridget Hannon, DNS
Barbara Fiese, Human Development and Family Studies

Funding:
The Hass Avocado Board, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and the ACES Division of Nutritional Sciences.

Related news stories:

Avocados change belly fat distribution in women, controlled study finds

An avocado a day keeps your gut microbes happy

Bedtime routines improve young children’s sleep

Graphic of woman reading to child

Getting young children to sleep at night can be a challenge for parents and caregivers. But developing consistent habits can help, according to ACES researchers. The research team studied how bedtime routines affect sleep outcomes for children during the first two years of life. They found reading books and cuddling with caregivers can make a big difference, if done consistently. Beginning these routines when infants are 3 months old promote better sleep habits through age 2. And when caregivers engaged in more bedtime-related activities with their infants at 12 months, the children slept longer and had fewer sleep problems at ages 18 months and 24 months. The research was part of STRONG Kids 2, a program within the Family Resiliency Center promoting nutrition and healthy habits in families with young children.

ACES researchers: 
Barbara Fiese, Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS)
Kelly Bost, HDFS
Tianying Cai, HDFS

Funding:
The Christopher Family Foundation, the National Dairy Council, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Related news stories:

Consistent bedtime routines in infancy improve children's sleep habits through age 2

Loss of taste in cancer survivors

Graphic of taste zones on tongue

Loss of taste is a frequently underappreciated but serious side effect of disease—or disease treatment—that can diminish the desire to eat and affect quality of life. Most survivors of squamous cell head and neck cancers report their sense of taste is changed or lost during radiation treatment and many complain of taste dysfunction long after treatment is completed. ACES researchers found the tips of the tongues of head and neck cancer survivors were significantly less sensitive to detect or identify bitter, salty, or sweet tastes than those in a control group who had never been diagnosed with cancer. This suggests certain taste bud cells or a branch of a facial nerve carrying signals from the tip of the tongue to the brain—may have been damaged during radiation therapy. 

ACES researchers:
M. Yanina PepinoFood Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN)
Anna E. Arthur, FSHN

Funding: 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at U of I

Related news story:

Cancer survivors' tongues less sensitive to tastes than those of healthy peers

Post-natal stress hits male piglets hard

graphic of pregnant pig

When sows get sick during critical stages of pregnancy, the offspring are at risk of developing neurological disorders that may make them less successful in production settings. And when these piglets experience a second stressful event early in life, they're even more prone to abnormalities in the brain. That's especially true for male piglets, according to recent research from ACES animal scientists. The finding is relevant to swine producers aiming to raise the healthiest possible herds, but it also could shed light on human neurological disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. ACES scientists are global leaders in the development of the domestic pig as a biomedical research model, having mapped the pig genome, analyzed behavioral patterns, detected biomarkers of health and production, and more.

ACES researchers:
Sandra Rodriguez-Zas, Animal Sciences (ANSC)
Rod Johnson, ANSC
Laurie Rund, ANSC
Adrienne Antonson, ANSC
Marissa R Keever-Keigher, ANSC
Haley Rymut, ANSC

Funding: 
National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Dual Purpose for Dual Benefit” program

Related news stories:

Illinois researchers receive $1.6 million to study effects of maternal infection on offspring brain development

Male piglets less resilient to stress when moms get sick during pregnancy