The Center for Nutritional Physiology and Metabolism

The Animal and Veterinary Sciences Department is very excited about the launch of the Center for Nutritional Physiology and Metabolism (CNPM). The CNPM is part of the Clemson University Veterinary Initiative and is the first of five research and teaching centers to be developed.
The CNPM will focus on enhancing food animal production by

  • improving the efficiency of forage and nutrient utilization
  • preventing metabolic disease
  • enhancing animal growth
  • altering end-product composition

Research in these areas will translate into solving problems of nutrition and obesity, and will lead to production of novel nutraceuticals. This research is directly aligned with the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s new priority areas for keeping American agriculture competitive while ending world hunger, improving nutrition and ending childhood obesity.

The Center for Nutritional Physiology and Metabolism is lead by Dr. Susan Duckett and a has team comprised of Dr. Tom Jenkins, Dr. John Andrae, and Dr. Scott Pratt. There are several research projects going on at this time that support the objectives of the CNPM. These projects will provide a unique opportunity to undergraduates who are interested in a Creative Inquiry project and to graduate students who would like to pursue research in one of these areas. Please contact Susan Duckett (sducket@clemson.edu) for more information about the Center for Nutritional Physiology and Metabolism and if you are interested in a research opportunity.

Below is more information on the specific research projects that are being conducted with CNPM.

Impacts of Tall Fescue Toxicosis on Livestock Production
John Andrae and Scott Pratt

Tall fescue is the primary pasture grass in the eastern U. S., occupying more than 35 million acres. This species has been called the most important cultivated pasture grass in the US and its popularity is likely related to establishment ease, excellent grazing persistence and long grazing season. Many of these desirable agronomic attributes are due to the presence of a fungus, which lives within the plant and is transmitted via seed. Unfortunately, the presence of this fungus and its toxicity to the animal results in decreased gains and reproductive rates, which cost the beef industry over $1 billion. Reproductive rates are negatively impacted by toxic tall fescue with a 41% decrease in beef cow pregnancy rate. The results from this research will be directly applicable to livestock producers and help them manage fescue toxicosis to alleviate or minimize these problems.

Legume Incorporation for Forage-Finished Livestock Systems
John Andrae and Susan Duckett

In the last ten years, approximately 9 million acres of farm land was lost in the U. S. and small family farms are currently under severe economic distress due to size of scale, low commodity prices and land development pressure. Typical marketing systems have a narrow profit margin and producers are not rewarded for genetic or management inputs. Promotion of livestock finishing systems that maximize the use of available forages are important for promoting sustainable, environmentally friendly production opportunities for small farmers to increase profitability. Forage finished meat products have greater concentrations of nutraceutical compounds like conjugated linoleic acid, a potent anticarcinogen, and alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid involved in lowering the risk of atherogenesis, compared to beef from traditional grain-finished cattle. Meat from animals finished on pasture containing grasses and legumes have been shown to higher alpha-tocopherol, polyunsaturated fatty acids and tenderness. The results from this research will be directly applicable to livestock producers for enhancement of end-product quality, efficiency of production, and sustainability.

Enhancing Nutraceutical Content of Meat and Milk
Tom Jenkins

Current interest in omega-3 fatty acids in cattle is to enhance their concentration in milk for value-added opportunities (nutraceuticals for human health), and to enhance their concentration in body tissues for enhanced animal performance. Conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) are produced naturally in ruminant animals during the biohydrogenation of dietary fatty acids. A number of metabolic and physiologic roles for CLA have been identified including cancer inhibition by reducing cell proliferation and inducing apoptosis, enhance immune function, and animal growth and development by decreasing body fat accumulation and increasing lean body mass. The results from this research will identify novel nutraceuticals in milk and meat that enhance its acceptability for human consumption.

Reducing Adiposity in Meat Producing Animals and Obesity in Humans
Susan Duckett and Scott Pratt

Excess fat deposition in meat animal production reduces efficiency of feed utilization and consumer acceptability of the resulting end product. The 2000 National Beef Quality Audit estimated that roughly $1.3 billion dollars or 43% of the total quality losses in the beef industry are attributable to excess external fat on beef carcasses. Health professionals and consumers are increasingly concerned about saturated fatty acids in animal products. Currently over 33% of adults and 16% of children in the U.S. are obese. Estimates are that obesity-related health care costs totaled an estimated $117 billion dollars in 2000 alone. Results will advance our understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying fat deposition and obesity, and enhance nutrient composition of animal products.