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David H. Baker to be honored
for work in animal and nutritional science
Life Sciences Editor
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by Olan Mills
H. Baker, professor emeritus of animal sciences and
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —
This spring David H. Baker, professor emeritus of animal
sciences and nutritional
sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will
receive the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology’s
Charles A. Black Award. The award is given to an individual who “has
demonstrated outstanding achievement in his or her area of expertise
within the agricultural, environmental, or food science sectors.“
This is the latest in a long list of awards and honors Baker has received
in his 40-year career at Illinois. He has received six major awards
from the American Society of Animal Science and five from the Poultry
Science Association. He has been elected a Fellow of these associations
and of the American Society for Nutrition, which has also honored him
with two awards. In 1987 he received the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Distinguished Service Award in Research. In 2005 he was inducted as
a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Baker has made significant contributions to research in amino acid metabolism,
animal and human nutrition and toxicology. His work has influenced the
development of diet formulas for pigs, mice, rats, chickens, cats and
dogs. He is credited with being among those who discovered that the
amino acid derivative, taurine, is an essential nutrient for felines.
He found that cupric oxide, long used as a copper supplement in animal
and human vitamin-mineral supplements, was not absorbed by the body,
leading many supplement makers to switch to copper sulfate. And he was
the first to find an antidote for iodine toxicity, a discovery that
could aid those responding to terrorist attacks or nuclear accidents
that expose people to radiation.
Baker’s primary research interest involves the nutritional role
of sulfur compounds and the sulfur amino acids methionine and cysteine.
“Methionine is a critical amino acid in poultry diets, but I am
interested in it also because of its role in human nutrition,”
Baker discovered that the methionine analog, S-methylmethionine, can
replace S-adenosylmethionine in choline biosynthesis. S-methylmethionine
is found in corn, soybeans, cabbage, tomatoes, celery, spinach and garlic.
While small quantities of sulfur amino acids can be useful in treating
nutritional deficiencies in poultry or other animals, Baker’s
research has found that higher levels (addition of 3 grams per 100 grams
diet) of L-cysteine to a typical corn and soybean meal diet can be deadly
to chickens or rats. Such findings have implications for human health.
Baker objects to the widespread availability of these and other nutritional
supplements without a prescription.
“Professor Baker has devoted his career to understanding the myriad
of factors that influence the nutrient needs of humans, birds, livestock
and companion animals,” wrote the committee that selected him
for the award. “He has published almost 600 peer-reviewed journal
articles – a record that is not approached by anyone in the field
Baker will receive the Charles A. Black Award on March 21 in Washington,
Editor’s note: To reach David H. Baker,
call 217-333-0243; e-mail: email@example.com.