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McNair Scholar 2015Jonathon Swan

Jonathon Swan is a senior at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and is majoring in nutrition science. His research interests involve learning more about the human gut microbiome and exploring the connection between both gut health and overall dietary habits and risk for chronic disease. Mr. Swan’s goal is to pursue a master’s in public health (MPH) before becoming a physician.

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My dream is to combine my interest in microbiology and public health to be an educator and a healer in my community. I want to be a part of the development of understanding the human gut microbiome and the implications it will have on future medical discoveries.

Research project

Beneficial Effects of Selenium on the Human Gut Microbiome

Abstract: The benefits of dietary fiber on human health has been shown to include reduction of risk for cardiovascular disease, diarrhea, diverticulitis, lowering serum cholesterol, and serving as a prebiotic for bacteria of the human gut microbiome. Currently the average American consumes about 17 grams of fiber daily, which is half of the daily recommended intake for fiber. The primary objective of this study was to observe the change in gut bacteria diversity in human-derived gut microorganism samples combined with partially hydrogenated guar gum (PHGG) as a result of exposure to differing amounts of Selenium. The secondary objective of this study included recording the gas production and short-chain fatty acid synthesis of the gut bacteria and comparing these results to other sources of fiber. Genomic sequencing of the gut bacteria was identified using 16s rRNA sequencing performed with miSEC Illumina at the University of Minnesota Genomics Center. Results showed greater gas production by bacteria samples that were exposed to Selenium and more gas production after 24 hours of fermentation than after 0 and 12 hours of fermentation. Data suggests that consuming adequate amounts of dietary fiber supports optimal growth of gut bacteria, and adding partially hydrogenated guar gum to one's diet can contribute to reduced risk of certain chronic diseases. Download poster. [PDF]

Faculty profile

Joanne Slavin is a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota. Slavin received her MS and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and has since then become one of the world-leading experts on dietary fiber. Slavin has achieved numerous teaching awards, including the Atwater Lectureship award, and she has published over 300 scientific articles on her findings. Her research interest involves the role of fiber and other macronutrients on overall health. This is Slavin’s second year as a faculty mentor for the McNair Scholars program.