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USU Professor Earns Grant to Study Western Diet; Green Tea's Effects

Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014

USU faculty member Abby Benninghoff

Abby Benninghoff, research project director and assistant professor of animal, dairy and veterinary sciences at USU.

USU faculty member Abby Benninghoff in lab with graduate student

Benninghoff with student graduate Stephany Monsanto who worked on the project generating the preliminary data for the grant. She graduated in summer 2013 with a master's in toxicology.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded almost $500,000 of grant money to a Utah State University College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences professor studying the western type diet and its effects on colon cancer.

The study will address two key questions, said Abby Benninghoff, project director and assistant professor of animal, dairy and veterinary sciences. The first is whether or not exposure to a western type diet over multiple generations will influence cancer risk in offspring. The second question asks whether or not foods that act as cancer fighting agents, specifically green tea, will benefit those with colon cancer.  

“Simply put, if your grandmother ate a poor diet, will green tea be beneficial for you or not,” Benninghoff said.

With these questions in mind, Benninghoff and her two collaborators, Korry Hintze and Robert Ward, both associate professors of nutrition, dietetics and food sciences, have developed the Total Western Diet for nutrition studies using animal models. This diet includes core components of the American diet. In this case, rodents with cancer will be studied, which will allow Benninghoff to look at the effects of the diet on multiple generations in a short period of time.

Benninghoff predicts that green tea will have a greater benefit to the mice that are exposed to the western diet than to those on a healthy diet. She also believes that the more generations exposed to the western diet, the greater the risk of colon cancer in the offspring.

“In the end, what we’re hoping is to be able to determine if there are certain populations that would benefit from a diet modification — an increase consumption of green tea,” Benninghoff said.

She also hopes the consequences of the diet will be better understood for the benefit of future generations.

Related links:

USU Department of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences

USU College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences

Contact: Abby Benninghoff, 435-797-8649,

Writer: Allie Jeppson Jurkatis, 435-797-7406,

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