There’s evidence that whole grains can help prevent chronic disease, but there aren’t accurate tools to measure beneficial compounds from whole grains in the body. To better understand the effects of whole grains on health, biomarkers for their exposure and effects are needed.

Shengmin Sang, Ph.D., a food scientist with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, has received a $2.8 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institutes of Food and Agriculture to change that. He will work with his research partners to identify biomarkers for whole grain wheat and oats.

“At the completion of these studies, our expectation is that we will have identified markers to reflect whole grain wheat or oat intake,” said Sang, a professor and lead scientist for functional foods at the university’s Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis. “Our findings will establish the basis for future studies of the role whole grains play in health and eventually lead to more individualized nutrition.”

This project could help answer a host of questions, such as whether obesity, age and gender affect the body’s response to whole grains. It could help explain the impact of gut microbiota on the metabolism of whole grain phytochemicals and could lead to a more individualized, and more effective, approach to nutrition.

Originally published Sept. 4, 2018.