Dr. Kathleen Hill Gallant Lab Spotlight
Research Team Members:
Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Dennis Cladis
Graduate Student Kendal Schmitz
What are you Driven to Discover™?
I am Driven to Discover nutritional strategies to prevent adverse bone and cardiovascular outcomes, reduce mortality, and improve quality of life in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD).
What is the impact of your research in your field?
We fill a rather niche area of studying mineral metabolism in CKD using controlled feeding and metabolic balance studies. These studies provide very detailed physiological information at the whole-body level that is a useful component to inform clinical practice and other research.
How can people see the impact of your research on everyday life?
Our research is helping shape the dietary approaches used with patients with chronic kidney disease. The most recent estimate is that 37 million US adults have CKD, though most (about 90%!) are unaware they have the disease – which is why CKD goes widely unrecognized as the major public health problem that it is. Nutrition is a powerful strategy for primary and secondary prevention of CKD, as well as its two most common causes: diabetes and hypertension.
What drew you to your field of study?
As an undergraduate dietetics student at the University of North Dakota, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work at the USDA-ARS Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center where I was exposed to the field of bone and mineral research as well as controlled feeding, metabolic balance studies. I absorbed the enthusiasm for this area of research from my mentor there, Dr. Fariba Roughead. I continued working in mineral nutrition during my PhD training at Purdue, then, during my postdoc at IU School of Medicine, I merged my interest in mineral nutrition with what had been my favorite topic during my dietetics education – kidney disease.
What is your favorite research/lab tool and why?
My favorite tool is the use of isotopic tracers and metabolic balance studies for studying whole-body mineral metabolism. Balance studies were popular in nutritional research half a century ago, but are not often used today – However, these “old school” methods (as I often refer to them) are critical for understanding whole-body physiology in regard to mineral metabolism. There are really only a handful of such studies that have been done in patients with kidney disease. This leaves so many unanswered questions such as how various diets or medications affect mineral absorption and retention in these patients.
What do you consider to be your greatest research accomplishment?
One of the most exciting accomplishments of our research to date is the inclusion of our work as rationale for a 2017 revision to the international clinical guidelines for calcium intake in patients with kidney disease.
What is your favorite food science or nutrition fact?
It actually has little to do with my research area at all! My favorite nutrition fact is that you don’t have to (and really shouldn’t) have food battles with your kids – let them decide how much they are going to eat from what you bring into your house and provide at meals. There are so many things to stress out about as a parent, it’s magical to let this one go – and it’s actually in the best interest of developing happy, healthy eaters!