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Le Zhu

Le Zhu

Associate Professor

LS 450


Human Biology (Nutritional Sciences/Dietetics & General).

Research Interests

My research revolves around iron. More specifically, I am interested in understanding mechanisms involved in the interaction of iron and ingredients in the food matrix that might decrease iron bioavailability (the absorption and utilization of iron in the body), ultimately resulting in iron deficiency. Iron deficiency is the most prevalent micronutrient deficiency in the world. In the United States, the prevalence of iron deficiency ranges from 9% to 12% among toddlers and women of childbearing age. Consequences of iron deficiency include impaired work performance, delayed physical and mental development, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Many food components can affect iron bioavailability. It is well established that vitamin C enhances the bioavailability of nonheme iron, whereas tannins and phytate inhibit iron uptake in cell culture models. On the other hand, tannins and phytate are found in foods that are high in antioxidants. So, are we putting our iron status at risk by increasing consumption of antioxidants? We are still looking for answers. Other areas of research interest include effects of cooking conditions on iron bioavailability, effects of probiotics and prebiotics on iron absorption in the body, and biofortification of vitamins and minerals.


M.S. UW-Milwaukee, Ph.D. Cornell University