Our Research

Regulation of gene expression by nutrients

Our society has made a great progress in reducing diseases caused by nutrient deficiency. However, diseases associated with nutrient excess or imbalances including cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes present new challenges to nutrition research. To address these challenges, we need to understand how our body adjusts its metabolism to a wide variety of diets.

A central mechanism for this adaptive response is changing the expression of genes involved in the metabolic process. Our group has been investigating molecular mechanisms by which macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) and their metabolites regulate gene expression. Advancing our knowledge of the fundamental mechanism underlying metabolic adaptation, or failure of adaptation, will greatly contribute to the development of efficacious strategies for the dietary prevention/treatment of obesity and chronic metabolic diseases.

Left: Induction of genes by dietary fructose (Koo HY et al. Dietary fructose induces a wide range of genes with distinct shift in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in fed and fasted rat liver. Biochim Biophys Acta 1782:341-348, 2008)

Current research focus

Individualized Diet Improvement Program (iDip) for sustainable weight loss is the current main project of our lab.  The underlying principle of this program is self-empowerment of participants by helping them make an informed decision in food choices.  To achieve this goal, the program extensively employs quantitative, visual feedback.

The specific objectives of the project are:

  • Achieve safe, 1-2 lb/week weight loss by creating a diet of their liking without relying on dieting products or strict recipes to follow
  • Establish a sustainable diet/life style change during weight loss for subsequent weight maintenance
  • Permanently reverse comorbidities resulting from overweight
  • Develop a program that is cost effective and scalable for broader reach

Left: Visualization of nutrient values for easy comparison between foods (Pratt NS et al. Improvements in recall and food choices using a graphical method to deliver information of select nutrients. Nutr Res 36:44-56, 2016)