Comparative Animal Nutrition



The research in our laboratory integrates the interdisciplinary fields of animal nutrition, immunophysiology, and neuroscience, including the ability of nutrients to impact metabolic, immunologic, and developmental patterns. We focus on comparative animal nutrition, with an emphasis on biochemical aspects of proteins and amino acids, but also strive to integrate immunological and behavioral outcomes as related to overall animal health. One notable project in our lab is the use of a translational piglet model for studying the impact of nutrient intake and infection during the neonatal period on brain development and cognitive function (i.e., learning and memory). Overall, research projects in this laboratory can be broadly categorized into two areas: 1) practical nutrition issues facing animal agriculture, and 2) fundamental nutrition questions studied using translational animal models to improve human/animal health and well-being.

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Better early nutrition, better brains: Study discusses model for understanding nutrition and brain development

January 20, 2017 by
  • In a recent review article published in Advances in Nutrition, Ryan Dilger, a U of I animal scientist and Austin Mudd, a doctoral student in the neuroscience program, provide background for the work they do with nutrition and neurodevelopment using the piglet as a model.

  • The new paper highlights several studies on pediatric nutrition of which brain development outcomes were the primary interest. The paper also describes technologies, including advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), that are being used to assess brain development, as well as outlines areas for future nutrition and neurodevelopment research.

  • Original Press Release

  • Advances in Nutrition Publication:

Choline deficiency during pregnancy influences milk composition in sows

October 21, 2016 by
  • Choline, an essential nutrient, is used by the body in many ways, including in the makeup of cellular membranes and neurodevelopment.
  • Choline deficiency during pregnancy has been shown to delay brain development in pig studies.
  • A new study shows choline deficiency during pregnancy also affects the nutrient composition of sow milk up to 19 days after birth.
  • The study also shows similarities in choline metabolites in sow and human milk composition.
  • Original Press Release
  • Journal of Nutrition Publication:

Novel combination of ingredients may offer greater support for infant brain development

February 24, 2016 by
  • Study looks at effects of using a combination of dietary prebiotics, milk fat globule membrane, and lactoferrin on brain development.
  • Results of neuroimaging show that supplementation of these ingredients positively influenced postnatal brain development in the piglet model; a potentially important finding to consider when developing new pediatric nutrition products. 
  • Original Press Release
  • Frontiers Publication: