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Three projects selected as foundational research projects
On Monday, May 7, the OHSU Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness reached a milestone when it announced awards for three foundational research projects.
The projects, the first to be supported by the institute, were selected for their efforts to address the Moore Institute’s priorities and align with its central commitment: to reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases across the lifespan in current and future generations by promoting healthy, nutrient-rich diets based on whole-foods in early life – before conception, during pregnancy and lactation, and in infancy and early childhood.
“These first projects of the Moore Institute are emblematic of the potential to shift the way we think about food and its long-term impact on our health,” said Kent Thornburg, PhD, Interim Director of the OHSU Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness.
Earlier this year, the Moore Institute issued a call for proposals for projects that would build on existing strengths in the fields of nutrition and developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD). The institute is specifically looking to reach women and children to increase awareness of the importance of nutrition during pregnancy and beyond.
“These three exciting projects are the start of many concrete steps we need to take in order to change entrenched thinking and behaviors and have an impact on the health of families,” said Dean Mark Richardson.
The institute received 56 letters of intent from across the state and narrowed it down to three proposals. The selected foundational projects represent a spectrum of research: patient-oriented science, clinical care and broad community outreach and education.
The OHSU Pregnancy Exercise & Nutrition (PEN) Program, led by Linn Goldberg, MD, Professor of Medicine, Head, Division of Health Promotion & Sports Medicine, will develop, implement and study a team-based, behavior intervention to prevent gestational diabetes. Although it will be conducted first at OHSU, this study has tremendous potential for addressing a problem that affects one of every 10 pregnancies in the United States, and an even higher percentage worldwide, with lifelong consequences for both the child and the mother.
“I’m very grateful to the Moore Institute for their support to help us in an endeavor that should have great societal impact: reducing diabetes during pregnancy,” said Dr. Goldberg. “A proper diet and exercise program has the potential to significantly reduce this problem.”
Dr. Goldberg is an internationally recognized expert on researching, diagnosing and treating medical illnesses that impair physical activity and was recently given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. This Moore Institute project builds on this knowledge and expertise.
Jackilen Shannon, PhD, CROET Scientist, Associate Professor of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, will launch an important education outreach program on “Improving Adolescent Awareness of the Epigenetics on Generational Nutrition.” This program will introduce Oregon middle school students to the concept of epigenetics and promote their understanding of how their current behaviors, specifically dietary intake, can impact their health and the health of future generations.
“I spend my life out in schools, communities and in rural areas of Oregon spreading information about nutrition, body composition and, soon, epigenetics to help children understand that what they’re eating now can impact their health, their future and the future of their children,” said Dr. Shannon. “Thank you!”
Finally, an innovative study conducted by Joel Nigg, PhD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, titled Nutrient-Rich, Whole-Food Dietary Intervention in Pregnant Women with ADHD, will target a population of pregnant women who are at an elevated risk of poor nutrition and at an elevated risk of having offspring with serious mental and behavioral health problems, mediated by delayed brain development. Intervention during pregnancy could open the potential for widespread application of nutritional prevention for mental and behavioral conditions and brain development.
“We’re going to see if we can change the brain development of babies by changing the diet of the mother,” said Dr. Nigg. “This will be the first time this has ever been done. We’re grateful for the chance to see if we can get this exciting effect.”
“Through the vision and leadership of the Moores, we will harness the knowledge and power of research, which shows that appropriate maternal, fetal and early life nutrition leads to healthier adults,” said Dr. Thornburg. “It’s very exciting for us to have the resources to help these outstanding scientists whose projects have the potential to improve the health of our population. This is just the beginning. Thank you.”
Pictured: (Back row, from left to right) Dr. Thornburg, Dr. Nigg, Dr. Shannon, Dr. Goldberg; (front row, from left to right) Charlee and Bob Moore.