Nutrition Center is Unveiled
Diet and Obesity Researchers Get New Digs at UC Davis.
By Pamela Martineau -- Bee Staff Writer
Billed as a cutting-edge facility that will house a diverse array of research projects on nutrition and obesity, federal officials on Tuesday dedicated a new home for the Western Human Nutrition Research Center on the UC Davis campus.
The $25 million facility is under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its researchers work closely with UC Davis researchers from many fields to enhance the understanding of nutrition and obesity.
"It moves us into the 21st century in terms of nutritional research," said Antionette Betschart, associate administrator with the Agricultural Research Service in Washington, D.C.
Betschart was one of many dignitaries to attend the dedication ceremony Tuesday. The new center is one of six USDA nutrition research centers in the nation, but the only one at a land-grant university.
Both campus and federal officials praised the project's location at UC Davis, saying it allows some of the university's world-renowned researchers in such fields as nutrition, genetics, agriculture and other areas to work on experiments at the center with federal researchers.
The USDA center has been operating at UC Davis since it moved there in 1999 from the Presidio in San Francisco. Researchers have worked in a number of buildings scattered throughout the campus. The new center will allow researchers to work together in updated facilities that allow a broader range of experiments.
For instance, the new facility contains a hospital-like in-patient laboratory for research subjects to live in for days or even weeks when they are taking part in experiments. The overnight quarters allow for better controls in experiments because participants can be monitored more closely.
Charles Hess, a professor emeritus at UC Davis, emphasized how research into good nutrition and obesity brings results other than simply better health for individuals.
"It's a very effective way to reduce health care costs through prevention with better diets," said Hess.
Researchers at the center plan to test the effects of nutritional interventions and their impact on maintaining healthy body weight and preventing inflammation and chronic disease. They also plan to further study the role the environment and genotypes play in nutrition. Some of their research will be used to update the national nutritional guidelines in 2010.
Researchers at the center already have documented clear links between nutrition and the immune system.
They've found that antioxidants from fruits, herbs and spices killed infant leukemia cells in cell culture. They've also discovered that fatty acids in fish help reduce inflammation.
Many speakers at the dedication talked about how they hope the research at the facility will yield tangible results that change people's lives and health. One cited how research into the harmful effects of smoking helped dramatically reduce the number of smokers in the United States.
"This is a problem-solving, mission-driven agency," said Lindsay Allen, director of the Western Human Nutrition Research Center.
Staff and researchers plan to move into the new facility in September. Some 87 staff will work at the facility, including 15 lead scientists, post- and pre-doctoral students as well as physicians, nurses and dietitians.
Details on the new facility are available online at www.whnrc.usda.gov. Call (530) 752-5268 for information on employment opportunities at the center or volunteering for a study.
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