Debora Esposito

Dole Nutrition Institute Adds Senior Research Scientist, Expands Research Focus

October 29, 2015

By Kara Marker, NCRC Marketing Intern

The old saying is that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Scientific evidence proves that avoiding the doctor’s office takes a diet full of all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Debora Esposito, PhD, senior research scientist for the Dole Nutrition Institute (DNI) at the NC Research Campus (NCRC), is on a mission to use her scientific expertise to help people understand why fruits and vegetables not only keep them out of the doctor’s office but improve their overall health and longevity.

Debora Esposito, PhD, Dole Nutrition Institue

Debora Esposito, PhD

Esposito joined the DNI, the research and educational arm of Dole Food Company in August, to advance research into how the phytochemical composition of fruits and vegetables benefit the body, prevent inflammation, protect against invading pathogens, and alleviate the impact of everyday stress.

“In addition to my experience in the lab, designing experiments and conducting clinical trials, I also aim to provide simple ways for people to understand what we do as scientists,” Esposito said.

Her goal is in sync with the DNI’s mission to “feed the world with knowledge” about the benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables.

“Translating the results of our experiments into a general understanding could drive the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables,” she said. “It’s not just about improving your health. It’s about how these compounds boost and protect your body from infection.”

Esposito previously research brassinosteroids, a group of plant hormones found largely in kale, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts, at the NC State University Plants for Human Health Institute at the NCRC. She received a BS in Chemistry from the Federal University of Vicosa, Brazil. After moving to the U.S., she simultaneously achieved her MBS in Drug Discovery and Development and her PhD in Cell Molecular Plant Biology from Rutgers University.

“Typically in the past we have looked at what is in fruits and vegetables – the vitamins, the minerals, the phytochemicals,” explained Nicholas Gillitt, PhD, Dole Food Company vice president of nutrition research and DNI director. “Debora’s experience with human cell culture and her understanding of human metabolism will help us find out exactly what these vitamins and minerals from plants are doing in humans. Her role has brought Dole to the next level in understanding why fruits and vegetables are healthy.”

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