University of Michigan Launches Nutrition, Obesity Research Center

The University of Michigan received a $5.7 million grant to establish the MichiganNutritionObesityResearchCenter, one of only 13 federally funded centers that focus on studies related to diet and metabolism.

The center is a cross-campus effort that includes faculty from the U-MMedicalSchool, School of Public Health and School of Kinesiology.

It’s the only new center supported in the latest round of funding by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

“The focus of the center is to support research that will provide new insights into how dietary intake, both the quantity and quality, affects an individual’s metabolism,” says Charles Burant, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of internal medicine at the U-M and the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Professor of Metabolism.

“We hope that this will allow us to identify new ways to modify dietary intake to encourage weight loss in overweight individuals or improve metabolic health to prevent chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes,” he says.

Burant will serve as MNORC director and Karen E. Peterson, D. Sc., professor of environmental health sciences and director of the Human Nutrition Program at the U-M School of Public Health, will serve as co-director.

MNORC will provide researchers with access to core laboratories with the tools and personnel to examine metabolism in people and at the cellular level through basic, clinical and population-based studies.

The center will encourage the use of new technologies that can measure changes in thousands of components of the body in response to different diets. The analysis will help researchers understand the relationship of diet to health and to understand why some people gain weight and why it is so difficult for others to lose weight.

As part of its mission, MNORC will oversee the Investigational Weight Management Clinic, which integrates cutting-edge research into a clinical weight loss program. Adult clinic participants can choose to participate in a variety of clinical studies related to nutrition and obesity.

“MNORC is unique in its support of nutrition and obesity research along the continuum from discoveries in the laboratory to population-based studies,” Peterson says. “It’s an important University asset.”

The new center grew out of the Michigan Metabolomics and ObesityCenter, which was created to bring together researchers interested in the study of nutrition and obesity.

“The funding of MNORC would not have been possible without early investments by the MedicalSchool, especially the Endowment for the Biological Sciences, Dean’s office, the Departments of Internal Medicine, Surgery, and Pathology and the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research,” Burant says.

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