North Carolina has one of the largest health disparities in the entire country.
Researchers and faculty members at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis, North Carolina, are working to change that by translating cutting-edge nutrition research into practical steps toward better health.
The institute is working to enhance the understanding of health and human development by studying how genetic, epigenetic, microbiomic and metabolic mechanisms affect a person’s nutritional health.
Instead of applying a one-size-fits-all approach to nutritional health, the Nutrition Research Institute’s research in precision nutrition will help health care providers improve patients’ health, enhance brain development and more effectively treat diseases like obesity and cancer.
“Nutrition is one of the most important things we have some control over that influences whether we live a healthy life,” said Dr. Steve Zeisel, director of the UNC Nutrition Research Institute. “If we can take nutrition forward at this center to develop the area of precision nutrition, we can understand who is most at risk from obesity, who will respond to a certain kind of diet or to certain nutrients better, and we can start to target our interventions and improve the health of not only North Carolinians but the world.”
Part of the North Carolina Research Campus, the Nutrition Research Institute houses a variety of research spaces and clinical facilities, including a metabolic research kitchen, outpatient clinical services suite, a behavioral testing suite and a metabolic chamber to study how genes, nutrients and exercise affect metabolism among individuals.
Not only has the institute been improving the lives of North Carolinians through its research, but it has also helped rejuvenate the Kannapolis community. When the city’s Cannon Mill closed in 2003, more than 4,000 workers lost their jobs.
Since the NC Research Campus opened in Kannapolis in 2008, it has created nearly 1,000 jobs and played a critical role in the city’s development.
“The impact of NRI and the entire research campus on Kannapolis has been spectacular,” said Susan Smith, deputy director of the Nutrition Research Institute. “We’re having a revitalized downtown, restaurants are now coming in. Families are coming here as a place to invest time and be with other people.”