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Food Science and Human Nutrition Department

Food Science and Human Nutrition Department

Henken Laboratory

The goal of the Henken lab is to develop novel approaches that examine dietary modulation of gastrointestinal and immune function in the maintenance of overall health and wellbeing of children and adults. Animal studies demonstrate that immune function can be modulated by dietary intake; however, these effects are subtle and difficult to measure in healthy humans. Stressful periods of life, such as during academic exams or advanced age, are times when diet-induced changes in gastrointestinal and immune function may be more easily measured. Current studies examine the impact of select nutrients, fiber, and probiotics on intestinal and immune health.

  • About Dr. Henken
    Dr. Langkamp-Henken graduated with a B.S. in Clinical Dietetics and Biology from Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After working for six years as a clinical dietitian, primarily in the area of nutrition support, she pursued a doctorate from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in physiology. She then completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in immunology in the departments of Microbiology & Immunology and Surgery at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the V.A. Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee. At this time, Dr. Langkamp-Henken is a Professor in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at the University of Florida where she has a 50% teaching and 50% research appointment.
  • Research Program

    Initial studies from this laboratory demonstrated that malnutrition in elders assessed by the Mini Nutrition Assessment (MNA) was associated with impaired immune function. Malnourished seniors with pressure ulcers had lower lymphocyte proliferative responses, neutrophil burst, and delayed-type hypersensitivity to skin test antigens [1]. Subsequent studies examined whether dietary supplementation of the amino acid arginine could be used to improve immune responses. Arginine supplementation above that found in a typical diet appeared to enhance immune function in aged mice [2], but did not have similar effects in aged nursing home residents [3, 4]. Dietary arginine supplementation up to 20 g per 100 g of protein appeared to be well tolerated, but in mice, 30 g of arginine per 100 g protein was associated with impaired growth and other potential adverse effects [3-5].

    Subsequent studies examined whether a nutritional supplement with elevated levels of antioxidants (vitamins E, C, and β-carotene), selenium, zinc, fermentable fiber (fructo-oligosaccharides [FOS]), and structured lipids could enhance immune function in elders. Seniors who consumed this nutritional formula were less likely to be treated for fever and had fewer days of cold and flu symptoms. Improved antibody responses to influenza vaccination, T-cell activation, altered cytokine production, and immune cell changes pointed toward the immune benefit [6, 7].

    Current studies examine the effect of fermentable fibers and probiotics on modulation of gastrointestinal and immune function in the maintenance of overall health and wellbeing of children and adults [8, 9]. Animal studies demonstrate that immune function can be modulated by dietary intake; however, these effects are subtle and difficult to measure in healthy humans. Stressful periods of life, such as during academic exams [10], or advanced age are times when diet-induced changes in gastrointestinal and immune function may be more easily measured [11].

    An acute psychological stress is associated with gastrointestinal distress and impaired immune function. It is hypothesized that these effects are mediated through the brain-gut-enteric microbiota axis. Using an academic stress model (i.e., fall semester final exams) we showed that daily stress was positively related to diarrhea, indigestion, and reflux syndromes and cold/flu symptom intensity scores in university undergraduate students [10]. Students who received 2.5 g of a fermentable fiber, galactooligosaccharides, during the time before, during, and after fall final exams had lower gastrointestinal and cold/flu symptom scores than those who received the placebo [10]. Ongoing studies examine the effects of probiotics on health outcomes.

    1. Hudgens J, Langkamp-Henken B, Stechmiller JK, Herrlinger-Garcia KA, Nieves C, Jr.: Immune function is impaired with a Mini Nutritional Assessment score indicative of malnutrition in nursing home elders with pressure ulcers. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr 28:416-422, 2004.
    2. Lewis B, Langkamp-Henken B: Arginine enhances In vivo immune responses in young, adult and aged mice. J Nutr 130:1827-1830, 2000.
    3. Langkamp-Henken B, Herrlinger-Garcia KA, Stechmiller JK, Nickerson-Troy JA, Lewis B, Moffatt L: Arginine supplementation is well tolerated but does not enhance mitogen-induced lymphocyte proliferation in elderly nursing home residents with pressure ulcers. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr 24:280-287, 2000.
    4. Stechmiller JK, Langkamp-Henken B, Childress B, Herrlinger-Garcia KA, Hudgens J, Tian L, Percival SS, Steele R: Arginine supplementation does not enhance serum nitric oxide levels in elderly nursing home residents with pressure ulcers. Biological research for nursing 6:289-299, 2005. 6/4/289 [pii] 10.1177/1099800405274732
    5. Nieves C, Jr., Sitren HS, Herrlinger-Garcia KA, Langkamp-Henken B: Pharmacologic levels of dietary arginine in CB6F1 mice increase serum ammonia in the healthy state and serum nitrite in endotoxemia. JPEN. Journal of parenteral and enteral nutrition 31:101-108, 2007.
    6. Langkamp-Henken B, Bender BS, Gardner EM, Herrlinger-Garcia KA, Kelley MJ, Murasko DM, Schaller JP, Stechmiller JK, Thomas DJ, Wood SM: Nutritional formula enhanced immune function and reduced days of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection in seniors. J. Am. Geriatr. Soc. 52:3-12, 2004.
    7. Langkamp-Henken B, Wood SM, Herrlinger-Garcia KA, Thomas DJ, Stechmiller JK, Bender BS, Gardner EM, DeMichele SJ, Schaller JP, Murasko DM: Nutritional formula improved immune profiles of seniors living in nursing homes. J. Am. Geriatr. Soc. 54:1861-1870, 2006.
    8. Dahl WJ, Wright AR, Specht GJ, Christman M, Mathews A, Meyer D, Boileau T, Willis HJ, Langkamp-Henken B: Consuming foods with added oligofructose improves stool frequency: a randomised trial in healthy young adults. J Nutr Sci 3:e7, 2014. 10.1017/jns.2014.6
    9. Langkamp-Henken B, Nieves C, Jr., Culpepper T, Radford A, Girard SA, Hughes C, Christman MC, Mai V, Dahl WJ, Boileau T, Jonnalagadda SS, Thielecke F: Fecal Lactic Acid Bacteria Increased in Adolescents Randomized to Whole-Grain but Not Refined-Grain Foods, whereas Inflammatory Cytokine Production Decreased Equally with Both Interventions. J Nutr 142:2025-2032, 2012. 10.3945/jn.112.164996
    10. Hughes C, Davoodi-Semiromi Y, Colee JC, Culpepper T, Dahl WJ, Mai V, Christman MC, Langkamp-Henken B: Galactooligosaccharide supplementation reduces stress-induced gastrointestinal dysfunction and days of cold or flu: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial in healthy university students. Am J Clin Nutr 93:1305-1311, 2011. 10.3945/ajcn.111.014126
    11. Langkamp-Henken B. 2012. Assessing Immune Health Outcomes Following Dietary Interventions in Healthy Adults - A Model Using Galactooligosaccharides. In Dietary Fiber and Health, ed. SS Cho, N Almeida, pp. 157-168. Boca Raton: CRC Press
  • Publications
  • Lab Members

    Matt Beke, MS, RDN, LDN

    Matt Beke is a Masters-trained Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and current Nutritional Sciences doctoral student at the University of Florida. He began working with Dr. Henken as an undergraduate student in 2015. As a master’s student, Matt worked to validate a novel nutrition quality of life tool, the Digestion-associated Quality of Life Questionnaire (DQLQ). In addition to his coursework and research, Matt serves as a dietitian at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health. “Having the privilege to care for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer's disease, Huntington’s Disease, Multiple System Atrophy, and other conditions is exceptionally gratifying.”

    His current research interests include evaluating nutrition interventions that may improve the quality of life and the gastrointestinal function of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease through a focus on gastrointestinal physiology.

    Matt is grateful for the opportunity to push nutrition research forward while caring for people with neurological disorders.


    Taylor Combs

    Taylor Combs graduated from the University of Florida in May of 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition with an emphasis in Nutritional Sciences. Taylor joined Dr. Henken’s lab in 2014 and has worked with her on several clinical trial projects as a Team Leader. During her undergraduate career, Taylor was accepted into the University Scholars program, where she conducted research to determine the effects of the menstrual cycle on gastrointestinal function using validated measures. Taylor completed her master’s degree in Nutrition and examined the effect of probiotics on intestinal permeability with an NSAID challenge. Now entering her doctoral program in Nutrition, Taylor wishes to continue her work on women’s health while furthering her knowledge in other areas of interest such as the brain-gut pathway, probiotics, and polyphenols. For her future career plans, Taylor is interested in women’s health and proactive medicine and disease prevention through the use of nutritional interventions.


    Carley Rusch, MS, RDN, LDN

    Carley Rusch, MS, RDN, LDN graduated with a B.S in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida. She went on to complete her internship through the UF Master of Science and Dietetic Internship program. During her time as a student, Carley worked four years as a research study coordinator in the lab of Dr. Henken where she helped facilitate clinical trials investigating pre- and probiotics and their role on gastrointestinal and immune health. She has been a co-author on publications related to health benefits of fiber and probiotics. After becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Carley has spent the last 2 years working as a clinical dietitian in Orlando, FL primarily in the role of oncology and nutrition support. Carley is excited to come back to UF to work towards a doctoral degree in nutritional sciences while facilitating an innovative nutrition program coordinated with the Fixel Center for Neurological Diseases. Her research focus will be related to the role of diet and gastrointestinal health in Parkinson’s disease.


    Rebecca Solch

    Becca is a third year Nutritional Sciences doctoral student. She has been a study coordinator with the Henken Lab since 2014. She completed her undergrad at the University of Florida, earning a B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition in 2016. After graduation, she continued her research as a full-time research assistant in the lab of Dr. Henken before entering the Ph.D. program in Spring of 2017. Her dissertation work involves evaluating probiotics on stress-associated gastrointestinal and immune function in undergraduate university students. Outside of the lab, Becca enjoys riding horses and running with her dog. In the future, she would like to conduct clinical research studies focusing on the differing associations between the most abundant genera of the fecal microbiome and sex, fiber intake score, stress, stool consistency and BMI in healthy young adults.


    Caitlin McDermott

    Caitlin is originally from New Jersey. She graduated from Florida Southern College with her Bachelor of Science in Biology in May 2016. In 2017 she came to the University of Florida to begin her master's degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition in Dr. Robin da Silva's lab. Her research involved the relationship between one-carbon metabolism and NAFLD in mice. She finished her degree in the Summer of 2019, and then began her PhD in Fall 2019 with Dr. Henken's Lab. Caitlin is excited to learn more about clinical research and the microbiome. Her research project will focus on the effects of probiotics on endurance in runners during treadmill testing. She is looking forward to increasing her knowledge in food science and human nutrition through coursework, and how to efficiently run clinical trials in the lab. 

  • Laboratory Personnel

    CJ Nieves - Senior Biological Scientist 

    CJ received his Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition from UF in 2000. As an undergraduate CJ participated in the University Scholars program, which enabled him to complete a project on L-arginine supplementation in mice and its effect on polyamine synthesis, after which he completed his Master of Science degree under Dr. Henken in FSHN with a concentration in Nutritional Sciences in 2004. During his masters, CJ’s thesis work involved providing mice enteral arginine supplementation post lipopolysaccharide challenge and measuring serum arginine/arginine metabolite concentrations. Following his graduation, from 2004 – 2006 CJ worked as head coordinator for Dr. Sue Percival’s UF, GNC University program. Since 2007, CJ has been the Senior Biological Scientist for the Henken Lab. His duties include acting as general lab manager, accountant, developing lab procedures and coupling them with novel data collection techniques, and all else necessary to maintain a successful and functional laboratory. CJ’s future career goals include helping the lab move toward real-time data collection in an effort to bridge the gap between technology and traditional laboratory-type procedures.


    Samantha Matott

    Samantha graduated from the University of Florida in May 2019 with a B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition. She began as a study coordinator in the Henken lab in 2017, assisting in clinical trials evaluating probiotics on stress-associated gastrointestinal and immune function in university students. She is now in the process of applying to medical school and is continuing on in the Henken lab as a head research assistant on a clinical study examining the effect of cranberry fiber on intestinal permeability. Outside of the lab, Sam loves cooking, baking, and playing with her dogs.


    Lily Tucciarone

    Lily Tucciarone is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics at the University of Florida and will graduate in May of 2021. Lily joined the Henken Lab in May of 2019 when she was accepted into the UF/IFAS Summer Undergraduate Research Internship Program. She worked as an intern for a clinical study on the Mediterranean diet and intestinal permeability in Parkinson's Disease. She also acted as a Study Coordinator for a study investigating cranberry juice consumption and gastrointestinal function in obese individuals. Lily is currently working on her honors thesis research to determine the effect of diet quality on intestinal permeability in Parkinson's Disease. After her undergraduate career, Lily wishes to continue her studies of dietetics in a M.S. Dietetic Internship Program to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Lily is interested in dietetics in neurology as a result of her research experience, and she also enjoys learning about sports nutrition. 


    Valeria Barreto

    Val joined the Henken lab in the summer of 2019 as a study coordinator for a clinical trial investigating the effect of a cranberry beverage on the intestinal permeability of individuals with a BMI greater than or equal to 30. She will receive her Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Sciences in May 2020, at which point she will join the lab full-time as a lead study coordinator. Val plans to attend osteopathic medical school in 2021 and is interested in women’s health and integrative medicine.

  • Previous Doctoral Students

    Alyssa Burns

    Dr. Burns received her Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition, with an emphasis in Nutritional Sciences, at the University of Florida in May 2013. She completed her doctorate in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Florida in the Spring of 2018. Her dissertation research focused on the effects of dietary and functional fibers on gastrointestinal health and diet quality.


    Jennifer Dennis-Wall

    Dr. Wall completed her PhD in nutritional sciences with Dr. Henken in the spring of 2018. Her research explored gastrointestinal and immune health outcomes in probiotic and prebiotic interventions. As an undergraduate student at the University of North Texas, she studied oxygen-related stress responses in C. elegans in Dr. Pamela Padilla's lab, garnering a research scholarship and two poster presentations.


    Dr. Brandon J. Lewis

    When Dr. Brandon Lewis was an undergraduate student at the University of Florida, he was one of Dr. Henken’s first advisees. Upon graduation Dr. Henken successfully talked him into joining her lab as a masters student where he completed and published his research on arginine and immune function in young, adult, and aged mice. Brandon then moved on to Dr. Robert McMahon’s laboratory where he worked on his doctoral research investigating the metabolic alterations of free and protein-bound biotin in rats during dietary biotin manipulation and endotoxin exposure. Dr. McMahon left the University of Florida before Brandon finished his research; consequently, he ended up finishing his doctorate under the direction of Dr. Henken. Dr. Brandon Lewis is now Senior Scientist at Kemin Health in Des Moines, Iowa.


    Dr. Stephanie-Anne Girard

    Dr. Girard received her Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology and Immunology at McGill University in 2005. She obtained her master’s degree in Pharmacology from Université de Montréal. She then moved from Montréal to Gainesville and completed her doctorate in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Florida in the summer of 2012, focusing on oligosaccharides and their effect on mucosal immunity and health outcomes in healthy aged adults.

    Tyler Culpepper, MD, PhD

  • Henken Lab in the News
    • Two members of the Henken Lab, Doctoral Candidate Rebecca J. Solch and Doctoral Student Carley Rusch, MS, RDN, LDN were named as Emerging Leaders in Nutrition Science Finalists, a program of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) to recognize the highest quality research presented by students and young investigators at NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE. More than 1,000 abstracts were submitted by students and postdoctoral fellows and the Emerging Leaders in Nutrition Science program aims to recognize the top 15% highest scoring abstracts as finalists. Ms. Solch’s abstract is titled “Differing Associations Between the Most Abundant Genera of the Fecal Microbiome and Sex, Fiber Intake Score, Stress, Stool Consistency and BMI in Healthy Young Adults”. Ms. Rusch’s abstract is titled “A Study Protocol to Determine the Effect of a Mediterranean Diet Intervention on Improving Gastrointestinal Function in Parkinson’s Disease”. “Through this activity, the American Society for Nutrition celebrates the achievements of our rising stars,” stated Richard Mattes, PhD, MPH, RD, President, American Society for Nutrition. “The Society looks forward to watching their future contributions to advance our understanding of nutrition science and practice.”

    • Allergies?  Probiotic combination may curb your symptoms, new study finds.  UF News.  Posted March 1, 2017. (hyperlink)
    • New Study Shows Allergy Relief Through Probiotics by Janine Wolf, WUFT News.  Posted March 3, 2017. (hyperlink)
    • Probiotic study linked to mild allergy relief by Beau Zimmer, WTSP.  Reported March 3, 2017.
    • Alyssa Burns wins Nutrition Research 2015 David Kritchevsky Graduate Student Award. Food Science and Human Nutrition Website. Published March 4, 2016.
    • Almond joy: Eating just a handful a day boosts health, study shows. UF News. Published February 22, 2016.
    • Graduate Student Profiles: Carley Rusch and Matthew Beke, Nutritional SciencesPublished January 27, 2020.
  • Photo Archive


572 Newell Dr.
FSHN Building
Room 309B
P.O. Box 110370
Gainesville, FL 32611-0370

Lab Phone: 352-294-3722
Office Phone: 352-294-3721