Environment and Nutrition

Beginning at conception, environmental factors in health can accumulate over a lifetime and be from sources as broad as geographic location and economic status to specific external sources including physical activity, occupation, risky behaviors and diet. But some of these factors, especially in terms of diet are highly modifiable.

Important research is now being conducted on this concept of the “exposome,” as an environmental complement to the human genome. NRI researchers are learning how diet and other environmental exposures interact with disease and affect responses to treatment.



Environment and Nutrition Publications


Randomized Phase IIB Trial of the Lignan Secoisolariciresinol Diglucoside in Pre-menopausal Women at Increased Risk for Development of Breast Cancer.  Hursting S

Effects of folic acid withdrawal on transcriptomic profiles in murine triple-negative breast cancer cell lines.  Krupenko S

The World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research Third Expert Report on Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Cancer: Impact and Future Directions.  Hursting S

Maternal iron nutriture modulates placental development in a rat model of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.  Smith S

Quantitative methods for metabolomic analyses evaluated in the Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR).  Sumner S

Exposure to inorganic arsenic and its methylated metabolites alters metabolomics profiles in INS-1 832/13 insulinoma cells and isolated pancreatic islets.  Sumner S

Four-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial of choline for neurodevelopment in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.  Zeisel S

Precision (Personalized) Nutrition: Understanding Metabolic Heterogeneity.  Zeisel S

Perspective: Dietary Biomarkers of Intake and Exposure-Exploration with Omics Approaches.  Zeisel S


The flaxseed lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside decreases local inflammation, suppresses NFκB signaling, and inhibits mammary tumor growth.  Hursting S

Obesity and Cancer Metabolism: A Perspective on Interacting Tumor-Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors.  Hursting S

Early Exposure to a High Fat/High Sugar Diet Increases the Mammary Stem Cell Compartment and Mammary Tumor Risk in Female Mice.  Hursting S

Metabolic reprogramming underlies metastatic potential in an obesity-responsive murine model of metastatic triple negative breast cancer.  Hursting S

When less may be more: calorie restriction and response to cancer therapy.  Hursting S

Impact of carbohydrate restriction in the context of obesity on prostate tumor growth in the Hi-Myc transgenic mouse model.  Hursting S

Energy balance and obesity: what are the main drivers?  Hursting S

Metabolic Reprogramming by Folate Restriction Leads to a Less Aggressive Cancer Phenotype.  Krupenko S

Acute Ingestion of a Mixed Flavonoid and Caffeine Supplement Increases Energy Expenditure and Fat Oxidation in Adult Women: A Randomized, Crossover Clinical Trial.  Kohlmeier M

Early-Life Predictors of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.  May P

Functional Connectivity and Metabolic Alterations in Medial Prefrontal Cortex in a Rat Model of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A Resting-State Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging and in vivo Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Study.  Mooney S

Alcohol’s Dysregulation of Maternal-Fetal IL-6 and p-STAT3 Is a Function of Maternal Iron Status.  Smith S

A Metabolomics Approach to Investigate Kukoamine B-A Potent Natural Product With Anti-diabetic Properties.  Sumner S

The impact of early-life sub-therapeutic antibiotic treatment (STAT) on excessive weight is robust despite transfer of intestinal microbes.  Sumner S

Multi-omics studies in cellular models of methylmalonic acidemia and propionic acidemia reveal dysregulation of serine metabolism.  Sumner S

Meprin β metalloproteases associated with differential metabolite profiles in the plasma and urine of mice with type 1 diabetes and diabetic nephropathy.  Sumner S

Dietary choline and betaine intakes and risk of total and lethal prostate cancer in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study.  Zeisel S


Omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid intake of children and older adults in the U.S.: dietary intake in comparison to current dietary recommendations and the Healthy Eating Index. Cheatham C

Energy balance and gastrointestinal cancer: risk, interventions, outcomes and mechanisms.  Hursting S

Research Strategies for Nutritional and Physical Activity Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention.  Hursting S

Resveratrol inhibits obesity-associated adipose tissue dysfunction and tumor growth in a mouse model of postmenopausal claudin-low breast cancer.  Hursting S

Dietary Iron Fortification Normalizes Fetal Hematology, Hepcidin, and Iron Distribution in a Rat Model of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure.  Smith S

Maternal iron nutriture as a critical modulator of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder risk in alcohol-exposed pregnancies.  Smith S

Stable Isotope-Resolved Metabolomic Differences between Hormone-Responsive and Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cell Lines.  Sumner S

Feasibility and Acceptability of Maternal Choline Supplementation in Heavy Drinking Pregnant Women: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.  Zeisel S


Guide for Current Nutrigenetic, Nutrigenomic, and Nutriepigenetic Approaches for Precision Nutrition Involving the Prevention and Management of Chronic Diseases Associated with Obesity.  Kohlmeier M

Metabolic Reprogramming by Folate Restriction Leads to a Less Aggressive Cancer Phenotype.  Krupenko S

Does unmeasured confounding influence associations between the retail food environment and body mass index over time? The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.  Meyer K

Choline and Working Memory Training Improve Cognitive Deficits Caused by Prenatal Exposure to Ethanol.  Mooney S

Serum Metabolomic Profiles in Neonatal Mice following Oral Brominated Flame Retardant Exposures to Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) Alpha, Gamma, and Commercial Mixture.  Sumner S

Metabolites as biomarkers of adverse reactions following vaccination: A pilot study using nuclear magnetic resonance metabolomics.  Sumner S

Contribution of Dietary Supplements to Nutritional Adequacy by Socioeconomic Subgroups in Adults of the United States.  Zeisel S

Contribution of Dietary Supplements to Nutritional Adequacy in Various Adult Age Groups.  Zeisel S

Contribution of Dietary Supplements to Nutritional Adequacy in Race/Ethnic Population Subgroups in the United States.  Zeisel S

Impact of Frequency of Multi-Vitamin/Multi-Mineral Supplement Intake on Nutritional Adequacy and Nutrient Deficiencies in U.S. Adults.  Zeisel S

Choline and its metabolites are differently associated with cardiometabolic risk factors, history of cardiovascular disease, and MRI-documented cerebrovascular disease in older adults.  Zeisel S


Starving cancer from the outside and inside: separate and combined effects of calorie restriction and autophagy inhibition on Ras-driven tumors.  Hursting S

Starving cancer from the outside and inside: separate and combined effects of calorie restriction and autophagy inhibition on Ras-driven tumors.  Hursting S

Reducing the burden of obesity-associated cancers with anti-inflammatory long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Hursting S

CerS6 Is a Novel Transcriptional Target of p53 Protein Activated by Non-genotoxic Stress.  Krupenko N

Breastfeeding and maternal alcohol use: Prevalence and effects on child outcomes and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.  May P

Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Alters Fetal Iron Distribution and Elevates Hepatic Hepcidin in a Rat Model of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.  Smith S

Abnormal Eating Behaviors Are Common in Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.  Smith S

Impact of a western diet on the ovarian and serum metabolome.  Sumner S

Metabolomics enables precision medicine: “A White Paper, Community Perspective”.  Sumner S

Vitamin and Mineral Intake Is Inadequate for Most Americans: What Should We Advise Patients About Supplements?  Zeisel S

Maternal dietary intake of choline in mice regulates development of the cerebral cortex in the offspring.  Zeisel S

Related News

Early-Life Predictors of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

January 22, 2020 – The clinical teams at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute and in South Africa led by principal investigator Philip A. May, PhD have published findings of a decade-long effort to drive down the age at which the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) can be made in affected children. The paper, “Early-Life Predictors of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders” is published in Pediatrics.

Chinese herb may be a natural method of treating diabetes

May 31, 2019 – The traditional Chinese herb Lycii Cortex (LyC), with its powerful compound kukoamine B, could be an effective nutraceutical choice for lowering blood glucose when used alone or in combination with low doses of first-line diabetes medications.

December Faculty Focus: Susan Sumner, PhD

December 15, 2018 – Through the ages, science has often been in the company of poetry. They came together recently when Susan Sumner, PhD, described how she got her start in Biomarker Discovery using spectroscopic methods as an undergraduate at North Carolina State University (NCSU): “I found it exciting to envision molecules dancing in multidimensional space in response to applied physical factors such as magnets, radio frequency pulses, or electric fields.”

October Faculty Focus: Saroja Voruganti, PhD

October 17, 2018 – Saroja Voruganti, PhD, has covered a lot of ground in her journey to becoming a faculty researcher in nutrition, genetics, and epidemiology at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute. Born into a traditional south Indian family, she grew up in Delhi in northern India where she graduated with an undergraduate degree in nutrition. Then she married and moved to western India. Even as she focused on marriage, home, and raising a family in the traditional Indian way of life, she kept alive her dream of pursuing advanced studies and contributing outside of family life.

Genetic Factors in Determining Bone Mass

June 29, 2018 – Osteoporosis is a serious public health concern and causes significant economic burden. Currently, about 54 million people in the United States have osteoporosis or low bone mass. It is projected that by 2025, the incidences of bone fracture will be 3 million, resulting in about $25 billion in medical costs each year. Among different ethnicities, Hispanics are estimated to have the most rapid increase in osteoporosis burden by 2025.

New Grant to Study Nutrition and Chemotherapeutic Response

May 30, 2018 – Delisha Stewart, PhD, Assistant Professor of Nutrition at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute, has been awarded a two year grant to study the impact of diet on chemotherapeutic treatment resistance in obesity-driven, aggressive breast cancer.  This award builds from the research Dr. Stewart has conducted over the last ten years.