Department of Nutrition
Mounting epidemiological and experimental evidence consistently indicates that obesity is a robust risk factor for several common cancers, and especially so for colorectal cancer. As obesity has reached an epidemic level and increases in the scope of the problem are further projected, it is critical to understand the mechanism(s) responsible for the link and thereby to develop strategies for prevent obesity-related cancer.
While good nutrition and moderate physical activity can promote health and delay disability in older adults, most do not follow dietary recommendations, and fruit, vegetable and whole grain consumption remains low. Several studies have indicated that older adults can increase fruit and vegetable intakes through nutrition education. Additional and innovative efforts are needed, however, to make progress toward achieving national guidelines in diverse populations of older adults.
"Since the 1980's, the cities of Lowell and Lynn, Massachusetts have become home to large numbers of former refugees from Cambodia. Lowell is home to the second largest population of Cambodians in the United States. More than half of all Cambodian Americans live below the poverty line and a significant number are at high risk for food insecurity and hunger. Food insecurity has been associated with depression, poor micronutrient intake, and obesity among women of reproductive age.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus has increased by about 33% over the past decade in the United States, generating higher health care costs, and is related to obesity. Some women undergoing menopause gain belly fat and may have a tendency to develop diabetes. The researchers have shown that a daily soy supplement containing phytoestrogens (weak estrogen-like chemicals) reduces the amount of belly fat in women after menopause compared to a milk shake placebo. Most fat reduction is superficial, but there is also some reduction of deeper belly fat located near abdominal organs.
Food insecurity, or not having access at all times to enough food for an active and healthy lifestyle, has been linked to a number of poor health outcomes, including low micronutrient intake, poor academic scores in children and adolescents, and overweight and obesity in adults. The federally-funded Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) program provides nutrition education to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients and eligibles and other low-income families.
It is especially important to pursue research on bioactive food components at this time because it has the potential of identifying a novel avenue for targeting dietary prevention strategies to help alleviate the growing medical costs and societal burden related to diet-based problems in the area of obesity and chronic disease. The current project will investigate the effects of a bioactive food component called sulforaphane, which is found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, on basic cellular functions using cell culture and animal (mice) models.