Feb 23, 2021
In this episode, we talk with Dr. Sara Rosenkranz, associate professor in The Department of Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health at Kansas State University. Dr. Rosenkranz's primary research is focused on the influence of physical activity, sedentary behavior, nutrition and obesity on cardiovascular and metabolic clinical health outcomes. Her work has assisted in a successful application to the Food and Drug Administration to have resistant starches four added to its definition of fiber.
Focus on Nutrition, Behavior and Lifestyle with Dr. Sara Rosenkranz, associate professor in Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health.
If you're an expert in one area and not the others, it's important to have a strong team around you who can help understand the other behaviors because there's such an interaction between them. And if you're not accounting for those other behaviors in some way, shape or form, you actually may come up with an answer that's quite a bit different than where the truth actually lies. And so I always think having nutrition and physical activity in or you know, information or expertise on your team is really important, no matter if you're, you know, on one side or the other at that interaction.
Something to chew on is a podcast devoted to the exploration and discussion of Global Food Systems produced by the Office of Research Development at Kansas State University. I'm Maureen Olewnik, coordinator of Global Food Systems.
And I'm Colene Lind, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Kansas State. I studied the public's role in science and environmental policy.
And I'm Jon Faubion. I'm a food scientist.
Hello everyone and welcome back to the Kansas State University Global Food Systems podcast Something to Chew On. From an individual's perspective, all of the things that go into producing, transporting and distributing food is only supportive of what we consume. The food we eat directly affects our health and along with lifestyle food is a major component in influencing overall well being. In today's podcast we visit with Dr. Sara Rosenkranz. Dr Rosenkranz is an associate professor in the Department of Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health here at Kansas State University. She's a recent recipient of a Global Food System seed grant where she is studying the effect of fiber and resistant starch concentrations in food and their impact on the cardio metabolic outcomes in humans. Her broader area of interest includes behavioral aspects of lifestyle on health outcomes with a focus on nutrition and dietary intake. Sarah, thank you so much for joining us today. And welcome to the Global Food Systems podcast, Something to Chew On. Could you give us a little background on who you are and how you got interested in your area of teaching and research at K State?
Absolutely. So I feel like I've been around a long time at this point. And my background goes way way back in terms of where my interests kind of come from. So I'll try to give you the short version. But so I graduated from Manhattan High School here in Manhattan, Kansas, and basically did my undergrad in psychology and then did a master's degree here at K State in kinesiology and specifically kind of exercise physiology area. And there I got, you know, I became really interested in taking some nutrition courses and I had been an athlete pretty much all of my life. So between my master's degree and my PhD, I went to work for USA Triathlon, I traveled around and put on coaching education clinics, and my husband was involved in junior national team triathlon training. And so obviously, with sport, nutrition became a really critical topic. And so building off of my master's degree, I decided that I wanted to come back and actually get a PhD in human nutrition. So my two loves our exercise physiology and human nutrition. And my research really is exciting to me, because I often combine those two primary loves that I have so kind of looking at both mechanistic as well as applied approaches to understanding the influence of, of lifestyle, on the whole on cardio metabolic health outcomes. And so that's really kind of what drives the very large umbrella under which my research sits. Specific to this project. I was really, really fortunate that Dr. Mark Cobb was a mentor of mine for quite a long time and we knew each other speaking of small worlds that we were just talking about, he and I did triathlons together for a number of years and he helped to mentor me and he introduced me to this current collaboration that I've got going on sort of multi pronged across the grain sciences and industry, they bakery science and working with MGP ingredients. So we were really interested in looking at the effects of fiber consumption on cardio metabolic outcomes. And then we got really interested in this resistant starch kind of world. And again, this is all really I owe this connection, this collaboration to Dr. Hobbs. So I would be remiss if I did not mention that. And so really, some really exciting findings that we had led me to continue on in this work. And it was an opportunity to allow my graduate students to obtain training that was really transdisciplinary, which is also really exciting to me. And I think one of the real goals here is to help to train students to fulfill the industry needs at the end of the day. So understanding those connections between brain science and industry, and human nutrition, metabolic health out, and how that interfaces with the FDA and their regulatory processes, has been a really big learning experience, not only for myself, but for my students. So there's a very long winded short answer to your question.
No, that's great. So the what you were talking about on the resistance starch is that the seed grant, the GFS seed grant that you're referring to are is more expensive than that. Okay.
Yeah, so the GFS seed grant is kind of the latest development in terms of that collaboration, because we've worked on a few different projects with the same team partners leading into the latest efforts for the seed grant, which the seed grant is really meant to examine the opportunity for making further health claims related to resistant starch for being able to meet the FDA regulatory guidelines for making such health claims and involve a little bit further work from from where we've been, which we were involved very, very recently, just within these last couple of years in helping to get Rs four resistant starch for designated as a fiber. And so that was sort of my introduction into this real regulatory world at the FDA. So I was really fortunate to have some strong partners who obviously had done that quite a bit before. So yeah, the GFS grant is kind of our next steps. So things that we started to talk about while we were doing some shorter term studies, while we're working on that fiber classification, kind of like, well, where are we going to go from here and say, we developed this collaboration together to work on the longer term consumption question and how that impacted cardio metabolic health and in more particularly, our bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, as well as blood pressure. So in terms of FDA regulations, those are the two primary outcomes that they're really in, they're really interested in in terms of being able to make that cardiovascular health claim.
That's fascinating. As I was reading through this, I was thinking back to the work I did over the past. I mean, I, in my past life, I did a lot of work with the food industry and with FDA on exactly what you're talking about here, and would be really interested in understanding how your interaction worked in getting that process in place in the classification. I, the discussions on fiber are ongoing with the food industry, as you probably learned in that activity. And interesting to know where the university fits in those kinds of discussions. And how about that piece work?
Yeah, absolutely. And so as a cereal chemist, you probably actually have a much more in depth knowledge in terms of some of the structure function interfaces when it comes to fiber. So part of our team, not only Dr. Mark Cobb, and myself but Dr. Ody Maningat who works with MGP ingredients and Atchison, Kansas, and he's their vice president for ingredients or research and development and he's their Chief Science Officer. He's a K State alum. And, and you guys probably already know him and then
Also classmates of both John and mine.
So that small world keeps cropping up again and again, doesn't it? Along with Ody or Dr. Maningat I should call him his formal title, but Dr. Paul Seib, who's also emeritus professor of grain science and industry and then Dr. Yong-Cheng Shi has been a part of our team as well. So sort of together with them. We're talking about it You know, things that are going to be beneficial to MGP ingredients that also are possible with the expertise that we have at K State. And certainly I defer to Dr. Seib and Dr. Shi and Dr. Maningat when it comes to understanding the ins and outs of the structure of those starches and how they intersect with human health. And my heart is really, as a clinical researcher, and I work exclusively with human subjects, I really haven't done much with rodent models, although a little bit on collaborative teams. So really kind of understanding how we would translate these questions into projects that are going to meet the requirements of FDA and what they're looking for. So I had the opportunity to sit in on some calls with the FDA with my whole team around and then and then we would be able to meet up afterwards and talk about what the primary concerns from the FDA perspective were based on the existing literature and why in the initial classification for resistant starch, really resistant starch types, one, two and three were indicated as fiber but resistance charge for was not and sort of understanding why the studies that had been done previously, were not enough to make the case for a fiber classification for that particular type of resistance starch. So my job really is working with Dr. Haub, who's the other human clinical researcher on the team to come up with ways that we could design a study that would allow us to assist MGP and grant scientists and industry in translating that work that they're doing based on crystalline structure based on processes that they use to create this resistant starch type that comes really from wheat, which obviously has a huge impact on on the state of Kansas, in more ways than one to translate that to a project that's going to be acceptable, according to the FDA criteria. And I don't know if that answered your question or not, but if not, I'm happy to follow up.
No, that's great. Thank you.
Yeah, sometimes when I'm talking with relatives, or friends, or people I don't even know. And they find out that I'm a food scientist, or cereal chemist or whatever. They'll ask me to de convolute some terms that we use all the time and understand and they don't have a clue. And one of them, you mentioned, I think about the second sense of your when you started speaking and it was a lifestyle. It's an umbrella term, but what are we actually saying? What components go together to make different lifestyle?
So obviously, that's a great question. And I appreciate that so much, because I think as a researcher, we sometimes forget how much we know and how specific our research vernacular is. So when I say lifestyle, I've got something really, really specific in mind. And they're really a compilation of different behaviors, that definitely have strong research support behind them in terms of their ability to impact health outcomes, and in particular, health outcomes that are, you know, non communicable chronic diseases that are really in the top 10 or so of our most prevalent causes of death. And so I am really talking about physical activity or exercise. I'm talking about your dietary intake, talking about sleep, I'm talking about, you know, some of the cancer preventative behaviors, like wearing your seatbelt, not smoking, using your sunscreen. And so if we kind of take a look at those things together, then that's what we're really kind of trying to look at is what are the effects of these behavioral aspects on really important health outcomes? And obviously, I've focused primarily on the nutrition or dietary intake, and then I, I still dabble quite a bit with physical activity and exercise and the interactions that are specific to those two key critical energy balance related lifestyle factors.
Excellent. So there's no single, one single definition and if the researcher developed that, in the best way to utilize it to to get the answers that they hoped there were to get the answers they're testing for.
I suppose. Yeah, it's a great point because I think if you're an expert in one area and not the others, it's important to have a strong team around you who can help understand the other behaviors because there's such an interaction between them. And if you're not accounting for those other behaviors in some way, shape or form, you actually may come up with an answer that's quite a bit different than where the truth actually lies. And so I always think having nutrition and physical activity in or you know, information or expertise on your team is really important, no matter if you're, you know, on one side or the other at that interaction. Great. Thanks.
Sara, if I could follow up, I had a similar question to John, as I reviewed your data and your research, a term kept coming up that occurred to us a couple of times already, and that's cardio metabolic outcomes. I frankly, I thought about that a lot. And I thought I don't know what those are now, I've heard you mentioned them. And I'm getting an idea LDL and HDL levels, blood pressure, could you talk a little bit more and maybe provide a few more concrete examples of what cardio metabolic outcomes are? And maybe that will provide a chance to sort of talk a little bit even more about the interaction of nutrition and exercise in relationship to our cardio? Cardio metabolic?
Absolutely. Another really great question and, and friendly reminder to me that I need to not speak in the way that I speak sometimes, and I apologize for that.
No, no, you don’t apologize. I just, you know, for someone who doesn't deal with these issues every day, it's pretty understandable that we come up with specialized languages, right?
We all fall prey to that. It's more efficient.
Yes, that's exactly right. And I know that I'm speaking to a whole bunch of very knowledgeable people. So for me, cardiometabolic is, is kind of, if you speak with young people, today, they have this term, it's probably already out of vogue at the moment called shipping, where you're kind of putting two things together. And that's exactly what I'm doing. And that is, you know, cardiovascular risk factors, and then metabolic risk factors. And so we know that there is a lot of shared risk when you're talking about people who have cardiovascular disease. And people who have diabetes mellitus type, type two diabetes is a one that we're most familiar with. And so cardiometabolic risk factors for me are ones that we would understand from the research literature can help to predict risk for cardiovascular mortality, or cardiovascular morbidity or sort of complications related to cardiovascular disease. And we know that people with type two diabetes mellitus often have stronger, much stronger risk of death from cardiovascular disease related issues as compared to people without type two diabetes mellitus. And so these risk factors that I think about are you know, you go to your doctor and you get your blood test, and you get screened for your total cholesterol, your bad cholesterol, your your healthy cholesterol, your HDL, your triglyceride levels, they'll test your fasting glucose, which definitely is related to not only cardiovascular disease, but also to that diabetes mellitus issue, blood pressure, would be another one that crosses over quite a bit. And then we think about things like body composition, or waist circumference, BMI. And then, you know, really, there's some specialized things that I've looked at a lot with my research, and that is markers of inflammation. And we know, for example, that C reactive protein is a global marker of inflammation. And that inflammation in the body is sort of what connects the risk for a lot of these different chronic diseases, which are big causes of death for us in terms of the United States and other westernized types of countries. And I think the other one that I look at often is things like insulin, and that's probably familiar to most people as it relates to diabetes and you know, controlling blood glucose. So insulin and glucose outcomes would be definitely sitting more primarily in that metabolic world, but certainly crossover into cardiovascular disease too. So the reason I kind of combine those into one term is because there's so much commonality there. So those would be really the primary things that we look at is insulin, glucose, inflammation or oxidative stress, and then our lipids and blood glucose, blood pressure, and other things related to the metabolic syndrome, which again, crossover between cardiovascular disease and And the more metabolic types of disorders or diseases that we have.
One thing and again, reading through some of the background that you've got in your training, the Bs in psychology or BA in psychology has me intrigued to understand where that fits into what you're currently teaching how you're doing, how you approach the work that you're doing.
Now, what a great question. And something that I often talk to my students about. And, you know, that is, my path toward where I am now has been quite circuitous is how I would describe it. I definitely didn't follow that trajectory of, you know, bachelor's to Master's, straight on to PhD and on into my academic career, I've traveled a lot and had a lot of experiences, but my BA in psychology is still foundational to the things that I do, and I think allows me to understand not only the mechanistic or physiological side of the work that I do, but also the behavioral aspects. And so I think, for me, I think about, for example, I used to teach a class called exercise testing and prescription when I was a student within the Department of Kinesiology. And one of the things that I would often mention to my students was that I could write the perfect exercise training program that would, you know, be almost guaranteed to get somebody the results that they wanted. But if they didn't do it, then it was literally worthless. And, you know, similarly, that holds true for a diet, like if I prescribe somebody or write a specific diet for somebody to follow, but it's impossible for them to adhere to, or they're unwilling to, or unable to, for some reason, then it's not worth anything at the end of the day. And so when I was getting my undergraduate degree, I really had in the back of my mind, that I wanted to work with people with eating disorders. And I had some opportunities to do that I was involved in running an eating disorder support group and had some experiences that are somewhat sort of seared into my brain, that made me realize that it was not work that I felt that I could do without really negatively impacting my own mental well being. And I really got involved with some coursework, as well as some research that had to do more with behavioral modification, and specific specifically around cigarette smoking cessation, and had an opportunity to really kind of get into some of the behavioral world around those lifestyle factors that we were talking about earlier. And so that, you know, that is really still a big part of what I do. And it's kind of cool, because I am, I described myself as the jack of all trades and the master of none. And that means that I can walk in both worlds in terms of behavioral research, but more that mechanistic and physiological research as well. And I think it's really important to be able to do that, while still having a strong team of expertise around you. But it allows me to get into some of this real transdisciplinary or interdisciplinary work. And, you know, I love that people have started to get away from silos and reductionist kind of thinking, and more into thinking about systems and thinking about how one thing might impact another because that's kind of the way my brain likes to think. And maybe it has something to do with my background. And Maureen, did that answer your question?
It did. Thank you. Yeah, it's in looking at it. It seems that it would be you call it foundational, and I could see how that would be the case with the kinds of things that you work on and that you're building on, it makes perfect sense. That would be quite a great add to some to it to a technical degree that you're that you ended up with, with your PhD to have something like that to help keep you focused on the for the personal side of things, or the, you know, the human side of making sure that understanding and kinesiology understanding of nutrition, those types of things make sense to people?
Yeah, I think too. I would just add to that, that it's kind of about that translation issue as well. And so the application part, you know, so one of the questions that was sort of drilled into me at an early age in my academic career was, will so what, why do we care about this, and how would we apply it? And that's always I think, a really important background question to have in mind.
Sara, as I look at some of the work that you've done recently, I'm really intrigued by the fact that your research seems to span and perhaps even speak to, maybe you can speak to this more the the interaction between personal behaviors on health and health outcomes, as well as sort of the social systems that we find ourselves in. I mean, I, you know, look at some of these work you've done recently on sugary drinks and the outcome that that has in terms of personal health, but then you've also got the articles about nutritional levels of middle school food, it's different districts around Kansas. And it's recently, a commentary about the amount of activity the schoolchildren have, and how that can have a direct impact on their academic Well being a little bit about both from a standpoint of an expert in health and health outcomes about interaction between those two personal and social systems. And then how do you approach that, as a researcher? Do you? Do you find yourself pulled in those two directions? Or do you feel like it's important for you to be able to say things about both of those?
Wow, as that's quite a question, is great question. And the reality is that you hit on something that's really often on my mind. And that is, you know, this juxtaposition really between, you know, individual or personal level functioning, and, and the systems in which we sit and, and that balance between mechanisms, outcomes, a lot of the work that I do, and, and then the so wet question that I just mentioned before, and I do think it's important to be able to talk about both of those things I so often see in, I'll just say people in general, but in particular, in my students, oftentimes, early on, when they come to their undergraduate career, for example, they might be very, very strongly in the camp, that personal responsibility is, is where everything is that if you are, for example, and well, or if you're overweight or obese, then you really just need to exercise more and eat less, for example. And then I think, throughout their time at K State in one of our degree programs, they're likely to get a little bit more information a little bit more opportunity to, to see the impact that systems or the environment around them can can really have on those things and, and get away from this idea that things are quite so simple. You know, if you've got somebody who's a working adult, maybe they're a single parent, and they've got two or three different jobs, and their priorities are really around, you know, making sure that their kids are clothed and fed and well educated, then they may not really have in terms of their their hierarchy of needs, or in terms of their priorities, their own personal exercise, physical activity or dietary intake, for example, and would you then condemn them for that? Or could it be something that would be potentially understandable, and of course, it's the latter and my students always, inevitably get there. But I think it's it's a really common error that we make not only about others, but also about ourselves, you know, in terms of blaming ourselves for these behaviors or sort of not understanding maybe that impact of the real ability to choose some of these things that we do, and the overall impact of the people around you, the household maybe that you live in the community that you live in your opportunities for access to healthy foods, or healthy physical activity behaviors. And in COVID, it's a really interesting time right now, we actually have got a new study going on right now, where we're working with K State research participants who are now largely working from home. And they are, you know, we've had given them the opportunity to work on their sedentary behavior. Many of us are now you know, in a system, whereby we've changed our work environments, and we become largely quite sedentary and that research data suggests that we have done that and that some people are resilient and they will schedule in all of these different opportunities to get outside and go for walks and walk their dogs and fix healthy meals, etc. But other people are not faring quite as well in the COVID environment. And so this study is really all about, about that, you know, that switch from the way that we normally work. So I do think it's incredibly important to understand not only the individual level factors that predict these really important health outcomes, but also the systems and the larger context in which people work and you know where their priorities might be. And I probably got really sidetracked and answered your question in a way that was not what you intended. But yeah, you've hit on something that's so incredibly important to me. I remember vividly my PhD defense. And I was sitting outside in the hallway waiting for them, the people on my committee to come back out and tell me yes or no, did I pass my doctoral prelims or not? And I remember sitting out in the hallway, and I could just hear laughing, coming from the room, and I was just like, what are they laughing at? What did I say that was so funny, and I was feeling oh, my God, I failed. And I went back in the room. And really what came out of all of that discussion was that I passed, unfortunately, but that they really felt that I needed to find my specialization that I needed to be known for something. And so I've resisted that. I thought about it. I nodded. I agree. And I think that is important, because that's how you get grant funding. That's how you get published. That's how you get recognized as being an expert. But at the same time, there was this poll, as you described in your question, originally, for me, because I definitely think both, or all sides of that are incredibly important. And what you'll see in my Vita is really interesting, back and forth. Sometimes between work, what you'll see is just a reflection of my varied interests, how it's really difficult for me sometimes to just pick one path and go down it. So I've tried very, very hard to pick some lines of research that are things that are interesting, compelling, important, help to develop strong collaborations, etc. And then dabbling in areas where I still have a lot of interest, like, for example, the school foods, menus, dietary quality question that you were talking about before, and oftentimes, honestly, it's my students who lead me down some of these kind of different pathways. And I'm happy for that to happen. Because I did that as a student, I led my major professor down a path that he probably would not have otherwise traveled. And so as long as it's something I'm interesting, interested in, and I think it's important, and it helps me to push one or more of these lines of research forward, then I'm happy to be led, I guess, off the beaten path a little bit, I want students to..
We all struggle with these questions of how should we specialize? How specialized should we be? Should we ignore this interesting path? Should we stay with this one. So I appreciate hearing you reflect on how to try and balance those. And I really appreciate your story about your students, and you know, where they start and where they end up. Because I deal with political discourse. I'm often frustrated by the fact that most people see this as an either or question, our health and our well being as a consequence of what we do period, or our health and well being as a consequence of where we find ourselves in the system period. And of course, both are true. And both can be true and are true at the same time. But that's not that's not an easy answer. Either way isn't, but it's closer to the truth. So I appreciate that it's not an easy way to engage researchers to think about those in tension with each other at the same time.
That was very, very well said. And I could not have said it better, for sure, very succinctly. But exactly where my mind was meandering, I tend to be an external processor. So sometimes I'm thinking as I'm talking, but I love the way that you just worded that.
You should do more podcasts, because I think that's what they're all about is external processing.
That is exactly the case. That is true. Well, and some of the discussion that was just had here, I think points back to the complexity of, you know, I'll say the complexity of the global food system, because that's what I'm representing. But the way all of these things interact with one another is incredibly complex. And you can't, you can't look at things in a silo or from a unit direction, unidirectional perspective, things interact, and there is no black and white to most any of the questions that we have.
Absolutely. Just another little quick anecdote. I most recently, the most recent semester where we got our teaching evaluations, I had a student to reflected that I said sort of too much when I was answering questions, and I sort of laughed while see I said it again, I laughed out loud when I read that evaluation, because I do I rarely give concrete answers to anything. It's always well, there's no black or white, there's no Yes or No, there's no either or. And as scientists, I think we do that because we understand the lack of certainty, and the complexity around the different answers to questions that we might give. But it's often dissatisfying to the audience or to our students as well. So another balance point to be had there.
I think, you know, you've really touched on one of the central dilemmas of five communication, which is, many audiences, for understandable reasons, expect concrete direct answers to guide behavior. And that's not certainly what science is about producing, right. So it’s..
We often produce more questions than we do answers.
Truly what science is about, that is exactly what it's about, you know, parting comments that you met want to make sure the listener has in mind.
You know, I really don't think when particular food is gonna be the answer to all of our woes. And so I continually see people trying to find one specific thing, I think, kind of reductionist, and I would just encourage people to kind of use what we've just been talking about, and understand the bigger picture of the overall quality of their diet, the overall influences of their lifestyle behaviors, especially right now in this very difficult time that we have going on right now, with the COVID pandemic, and everything else that we've been facing in this year of 2020. And think about the bigger picture and how these critical pieces fit together. And I suppose give yourself some grace would be how I would put it just hang in there. Hopefully, there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and things will get better.
And honestly, what you stated was Global Food Systems related. Yeah, it's what I really hope that the listeners pick up and that the faculty that we visit with pick up and learn from this as a Global Food Systems is not a group of singular activities that are happening here. And there. It's just this incredibly complex interaction of things that are touched by I think everything that we do on the K State campus one way or the other. Whether it's humanities, engineering, human nutrition, or agriculture, all of those areas have an impact. And so, you know, when, hopefully, as we work through this, and people pick up and listen to more of these, and one of the outcomes of this I'm hoping to, is to get more faculty members just to talk with one another, learn what each other is doing. And understanding how that computer engineer has a direct impact on nutrition. There are things where those two areas of study, come together and overlap with one another. And those are just two that I pulled off the top of my head, but I think you understand maybe what I'm getting at.
Absolutely 100% agree. And I would just like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today. And for all of the great thoughtful questions. Even though I was externally processing a bit, I really, really appreciate it and I agree with you Maureen regarding the potential for collaborations is probably beyond what many of us had imagined they would be. So hopefully, we'll continue to work in teams and across disciplines. And really, I think that's how problems are going to get solved is to get out of our silos and talk to one another, and collaborate with one another in meaningful ways.
I agree this whole conversation is made me think, Hmm, the next time I teach persuasion, how can I hit up Sara and get her expertise and help communication questions that invariably come up in persuasion class? So thanks, thank you for your time and your expertise there. And thanks for that. Shout out for just a little bit of grace. I think we that's a great way to go in this pandemic, when so many things are uncertain. So thank you for that.
Absolutely. Thank you.
Thank you. Thanks, everyone. Thank you. Bye bye.
If you have any questions or comments you would like to share check out our website at https://www.k-state.edu/research/global-food/ and drop us an email.
Our music was adapted from Dr. Wayne Goins’s album Chronicles of Carmela. Special thanks to him for providing that to us. Something to Chew On is produced by the Office of Research Development at Kansas State University.