Nutrition Research

Nigerian women participate in Dr. Valerie Flax and Dr. Peggy Bentley’s breastfeeding research


Our Research strengths in North Carolina and across the globe include:

  • Obesity and related conditions including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers;
  • Role of nutrition and physical activity in preventing and treating disease in diverse populations;
  • Population trends in diet;
  • Influence of nutrients on the immune response to infectious disease, including gene-nutrient interactions and the development of cancer;
  • Relationships between obesity, environment, infection and diabetes; and
  • Role of agriculture and food systems in increasing food access, improving dietary intake and promoting economic development.

Dr. Makowski work in her lab with a BSPH student.

Our ultimate goal is to find solutions and produce research and intervention techniques that improve the health of people everywhere. Our faculty train students in nutritional sciences, clinical nutrition and public health to become global leaders and policy makers in their fields. They participate in a broad range of research in the physiological, biochemical, and behavioral aspects of nutrition and their respective practical applications. Our areas of focus are balanced by a commitment to research that improves the health of minority and underserved global populations.

In the News

* From factory to fork: Professor Barry Popkin developed the first system to monitor industry-driven changes in the calories and nutrients in our food supply.
* Today, because of Professor Steve Zeisel, we know that choline is necessary for healthy fetal brain development. Zeisel’s work has led directly to the inclusion of choline in infant formulas and rewriting of national standards for choline intake.
*Chair Elizabeth Mayer-Davis’ research in type 1 and type 2 diabetes in youth shows that both diseases are on the rise and could lead to early complications affecting their eyes, kidneys, circulatory and nervous systems.
* The link between diabetes and chronic exposure to arsenic and other environment chemicals in drinking water was established by Associate Professor Mirek Styblo’s research
* Professor and Associate Chair Melinda Beck discovered that obese and overweight people have impaired immune response influenza vaccines making them more likely to be struck with flu regardless of vaccination.

Specific Areas of Focus

Cancer - Identifying patterns in obesity and physical activity that influence the risk of developing and surviving various forms of the disease.

Cardiovascular Disease and Metabolic Syndrome - Focusing on lipid metabolism and molecular manipulation for prevention and treatment in high-risk populations.

Diabetes - Preventing and treating Type 2 Diabetes in high-risk populations, and study Type 1 Diabetes in youth to improve their quality of life

Health Behavior - Including socioeconomic, psychosocial, and behavioral issues related to obesity prevention, weight management and disease risk reduction.

Immune Function and Infectious Disease - Exploring relationships between host nutrition, immunity, and response to infectious diseases, and studying toxic trace elements to identify molecular, genetic, and metabolic risk factors.

Maternal and Child Nutrition - Focusing on nutritional status of low-income mothers, fetal development, breastfeeding, and key nutrients in infant/toddler development.

Obesity - Investigating childhood obesity, school and community nutrition policies, and translational research from lab to community regarding obesity’s influence on immune responses.

Read a more detailed description of faculty research interests here

Nutrition Department Faculty Profiles and Research Interests

Nutrition Research Institute (NRI)

UNC Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC)