One third of Americans is overweight and another third is obese.
Many more suffer from ailments related to diet and nutrition.
Nebraska researchers are committed to unlocking the secrets connecting diet and health.
The Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases is the only research center worldwide that focuses on how compounds in foods prevent, ameliorate and cure obesity and obesity-related diseases.
The Nebraska Food for Health Center links agriculture and medicine to find crops and foods that can help those affected by critical diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and mental disorders. It has a focus on the gut microbiome.
Other scientists and experts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln assist the food industry in identifying and eliminating food allergens, assist consumers in making healthy choices and study what leads people to make unhealthy choices.
Janos Zempleni is director of the Nebraska Center for Prevention of Obesity Diseases. With research funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, private foundations and industry, Zempleni developed an internationally renowned research program with a focus on natural nanoparticles, or exosomes, and their cargos in milk. His research has an emphasis on optimal infant nutrition, gene regulation by milk exosomes and the delivery of cancer drugs to tumors through milk exosomes. He has mentored more than 100 undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral associates and visiting scientists, published 120 research papers and presented his research internationally.
Recently, researchers have found that obesity leads to chronic low-level inflammation, which makes the disease condition worse in obesity-related diseases. Jiujiu Yu’s lab studies the anti-inflammatory functions of dietary components. Her team is trying to find dietary components that could reduce inflammation and improve obese patients’ conditions.
In 2017, Andrew Benson established the Nebraska Food for Health Center, a $40.3 million collaboration among academic researchers, food and drug manufacturers and philanthropists to improve human health by linking agriculture and food production to wellness and disease prevention through microbiome research. Benson pioneered study of the gut microbiome as a complex trait, demonstrating how individual host genetic factors control microbial species that make up the microbiome. Benson works closely with an interdisciplinary team of crop plant geneticists who use genetic analysis to define molecular components of grains that affect the human gut microbiome. He has received more than $25 million in competitive grant funding. He serves as a consultant and expert witness for applications of bacterial genomics and population genetics in litigation for food-borne outbreaks and product labeling.
Amanda Ramer-Tait is director of the Nebraska Gnotobiotic Mouse Program. Ramer-Tait has built an internationally recognized research program that focuses on how the microbes living in the human digestive tract influence human health and disease. Her work also aims to develop novel dietary interventions that alter the gut microbiota to treat chronic diseases, including obesity, metabolic syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases. Ramer-Tait has authored over 60 peer-reviewed publications and received research funding from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the US Department of Agriculture.