EAST GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA, U.S. — Shengmin Sang, PhD, 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. The funding will be used by Sang and his fellow researchers 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.”

The researchers believe the project could help answer questions as to what impact obesity, age and gender have on the body’s response to whole grains. The project also may help explain the impact of gut microbiota on the metabolism of whole grain phytochemicals and could lead to a more individualized approach to nutrition, the researchers noted.

The USDA’s Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics will collaborate on the research.

Sang received support for his project after submitting a proposal to the National Institutes of Health in response to the program entitled “Food Specific Molecular Profiles and Biomarkers of Food and Nutrient Intake, and Dietary Exposure (R01),” which is co-sponsored by the NIH and the USDA.

A year ago, Sang received NC A&T’s Intellectual Property Award for his research investigating the potential of bioactive components from functional foods and herbal medicines to prevent chronic diseases. He has patented compounds comprising aspirin and ginger derivatives that have shown promise for preventing and treating cancer, and he studies bioactive compounds in tea, apples, rosemary and other foods.