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Nutrition - Research


 

Research Overview

Our nutrition faculty lead investigations over a far-reaching range of contemporary issues including obesity, infant and child feeding, micronutrient requirements and maternal-infant health in both national and international settings. Specific areas of research are described below, including links to investigators conducting research in each area.

Obesity

Together our faculty members conduct diverse research focused on early origins of obesity development, prevention, and treatment ranging from animal models to children and families across multiple settings locally and state-wide, including homes, schools, communities, and health care facilities. Faculty currently conducting obesity related research include: Nancy Krebs, MD, MS; Susan Johnson, PhD; Darcy Thompson, MD, MPH; Richard Boles, PhD; Kristen Boyle, PhD; Janine Higgins, PhD; Jill Kaar, PhD; Matthew Haemer, MD; Kimberly Gracey, PA-C; and Renee Porter, RN, MS, ND.

A selection of current Obesity Research Topics:
  • Molecular pathways whereby fetal exposure to maternal obesity contribute to adiposity at birth and longitudinally during childhood by epigenetic modification of fetal maternal stem cells linked to adipocyte or myocyte differentiation (Kristen Boyle, PhD)
  • Determinants of excessive infant weight gain related to maternal phenotype and antenatal exposures, postnatal feeding, bioactive components of human milk, alterations in enteric microbiome (Nancy Krebs, MD, MS)
  • Effects of obesity using a rodent model on mammary gland development and function and cancerrisk (Janine Higgins, PhD)
  • Intervention to prevent early childhood obesity in African American & Latino children through feeding and physical activity (Susan Johnson, PhD)
  • Development and testing of novel treatments for pediatric obesity with diverse families: modifiable behavioral and environmental factors (e.g. dietary and activity habits, sleep behaviors, and parenting practices) are explored to prevent/treat obesity; home environment instrument development and validation; assessing program expectations on patient attrition during outpatient-based obesity treatment; methods to increase use of preventive health services within primary care settings (Richard Boles, PhD)
  • Identification of modifiable family and individual factors contributing to development of obesity in preschool-aged children, with focus on minority populations and media use (Darcy Thompson, MD, MPH)
  • Community and primary care based intervention for prevention and treatments of childhood obesity, using electronic decision-support tool; development of algorithms, provider training, and decision support for primary care settings; obesity outcomes research & application of implementation science in high risk populations (Matthew Haemer, MD)
  • Quality Improvement (QI) research projects at CHCO to improve safety for hospitalized obese patients and develop strategies to improve retention of obese patients in outpatient treatment programs (Matthew Haemer, MD; Richard Boles, PhD; Nancy Krebs, MD, MS; Kimberly Gracey, PA-C; and Renee Porter, RN, MS, MPH)
  • Nutritional epidemiology related to maternal pre-pregnancy influence on offspring growth and weight outcome (Jill Kaar, PhD)

Infant and Child Feeding

Our faculty has broad research interests on infant and child feeding, including the role of prenatal maternal influences, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding on infant growth and body composition, as well as development of children’s eating behaviors and food preferences. Faculty currently conducting infant and child feeding related research include: Nancy Krebs, MD, MS; Susan Johnson, PhD; Darcy Thompson, MD, MPH; Richard Boles, PhD; Jill Kaar, PhD; Matthew Haemer, MD; and Rebecca Lander PhD

A selection of current Infant and Child Feeding Research Topics:

  • Influence of maternal phenotype on bioactive components of human milk, infant growth and body composition, and development of infant microbiome (Nancy Krebs, MD, MS)
  • Breastfeeding & infant feeding from birth through the complementary feeding period (Nancy Krebs, MD, MS)
  • Feeding & eating behavior evaluation & therapy (Susan Johnson, PhD, Richard Boles, PhD)

International/Global Health

The international research program of Michael Hambidge, MD, ScD​ and Nancy Krebs, MD, MS utilizes randomized controlled trials to test new hypotheses directed to improving maternal and offspring nutrition and health and stable isotope metabolic studies to advance understanding of micronutrient homeostasis.
Other funded projects in India oriented toward improvement of infant growth and nutrition have been conducted by Susan Johnson, PhD.

A selection of current International/Global Health Research Topics:

  • Intrauterine and post-natal benefits, including linear growth and epigenetic benefits, of optimized pre-conception maternal nutrition (Michael Hambidge,MD, ScD; Nancy Krebs, MD, MS; Rebecca Lander, PhD)
  • Basic science outcomes of interventions include metabolic phenotyping, epigenetics, and microbiome (Michael Hambidge, MD, ScD; Nancy Krebs, MD, MS)
  • Micronutrient (zinc, iron) bioavailability and requirements in impoverished settings with high rates of malnutrition, infectious disease, and environmental enteropathy, utilizing stable isotope methodology and mathematical modeling. Interventions include local food sources, biofortified foods, micronutrient powders, lipid based nutrient supplements. (Nancy Krebs, MD, MS and Michael Hambidge, MD, ScD)
  • Read a description of current multi-country preconception nutrition intervention​

Micronutrients

Our nutrition faculty are exploring micronutrient requirements (especially zinc and iron) in women and infants. Currently, we are conducting interventions which are examining the effects of nutrition on the enteric microbiome and interventions specifically for the prevention of micronutrient deficiencies. We also have expertise in the development of methodology for both elemental and isotope ratio analyses of several mineral elements. Micronutrient requirements & deficiencies are currently being studied in Iron and Zinc. (Nancy Krebs, MD, MS​)​​​