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Healthy Brain Function Tied to Nutrition

A variety of research on babies and their developing brains is being conducted at the Nutrition Research Institute. Our work is helping us learn how parents can build better baby brains in their children, even well before birth. The importance of nutrition from infancy through old age is becoming more and more evident. One of our scientists studying these effects is Carol L. Cheatham, Ph.D.
The research in Dr. Carol L. Cheatham’s Nutrition and Cognition lab focuses on effects of nutrition on brain development and function throughout the lifespan. In her work, she is exploring the importance of certain nutrients and foods to the development, maintenance, and lifelong integrity of the hippocampus and frontal brain areas. Nutrition is integral to fetal and infant brain development, which sets the stage for lifelong learning. At the other end of the spectrum, it is beginning to be evident that nutrition is also important in senescence in that certain nutrients coupled with other healthy lifestyle choices can slow the progression of age-related cognitive decline. Dr. Cheatham has active studies in four age groups; some of that work is summarized here.
During the fetal and neonate stages, humans depend on maternal transfer of fatty acids across the placenta and into milk for optimal development. In recent work, Dr. Cheatham and her research team established that a mother’s genotype was related to her infant’s cognitive performance at 6 months of age. [read more]

Research We’re Reading: Preventing FASD

From the desk of: David Horita, Ph.D.
In a recently published paper, NRI investigator Phil May and colleagues showed that the prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and partial fetal alcohol syndrome (PFAS) is two to three times higher than previously estimated.
Dr. May’s study differs from most FAS prevalence studies in its use of active case ascertainment testing methods to estimate prevalence. This technique includes developmental testing of the child and detailed one-on-one interviews of the mother. The interview questions covered alcohol use during pregnancy, but also asked questions related to secondary factors, such as overall drinking history, marital status; socioeconomic status, and diet/nutrition. This approach is much more labor-intensive than the more common survey approach that relies on self-reported alcohol use information. However, it is also more accurate: self-reported alcohol usage surveys often underestimate FAS because of the stigma of drinking during pregnancy. [read more]

Building Better Baby Brains

Want to see your investment grow? Help a child. NRI scientists are exploring how nutrients affect the development of a baby’s brain, even before birth. And what we’re discovering is that babies get the best possible cognitive start when their moms eat essential nutrients before and while they’re pregnant.

2016 Appetite for Life Schedule Available Now!

The NRI’s popluar free public event series, Appetite for Life, resumes in January. Our speakers, experts in their fields, present programs to help you understand what personalized nutrition is and how advanced research methods are used to investigate the connections between your nutrition and metabolism, playing critcial roles in diseases, disorders, wellness and healthy development. Satisfy your appetite for life – sign up today for upcoming programs. They’re free!

2016 Schedule

January 12 – Why and How You Should Eat Fruits and Vegetables
Nicholas Gillitt, Ph.D., and Chef Mark Allison, Dole Food Company
February 16 – Cooking Demo + Talk 
at Johnson and Wales University, Charlotte, NC
[read more] 

NRI Researcher Receives Award to Further Work on Obesity and Cancer

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Stephen Hursting has received a prestigious National Cancer Institute (NCI) Outstanding Investigator Award (OIA), which provides stable funding for cancer research with breakthrough potential. Dr. Hursting, a professor in UNC’s Department of Nutrition, Nutrition Research Institute and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, is one of 43 researchers nationwide to receive an OIA. The grant will provide Hursting with $5.34 million over a seven-year period to further his research on the mechanistic links between obesity and cancer.
Hursting, who received his PhD and MPH degrees in Nutrition at UNC in 1992, returned to North Carolina in 2014 after serving as Professor and Chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin from 2005-14. He previously held positions at the National Cancer Institute and the UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center, and has been involved in various aspects of nutrition and cancer research for his entire 25-year career. [read more]