For inspiration to make 2015 your happiest, healthiest and fittest year yet, take a look at some of our top research headlines from 2014.
A collaborative study by three campus partners found that exercise helps the body absorb health-boosting, plant compounds called polyphenols, specifically those found in blueberries and green tea. The same study also showed that these polyphenols can reduce the risk of athletes falling ill with viral infections after intense competitions.
The study was co-lead by David Nieman, DrPH, director of the Appalachian State University Human Performance Laboratory, Mary Ann Lila, PhD, director of the NC State Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI) and Nicholas Gillitt, PhD, vice president of Nutrition Research for Dole Foods and director of the Dole Nutrition Institute.
Lila and her research team also published findings showing that blueberry polyphenols can prevent the neuro-degeneration related to Parkinson’s disease. She also reported that, in an animal model, cranberry polyphenols can desensitize subjects against peanut allergens.
Feelin’ Your Oats
Shengmin Sang, PhD, associate professor and lead scientist for Functional Foods and Bioactive Compounds at the NC A&T Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies, found that avenanthramides, a group of phytochemicals in oats, are helpful in combating colon cancer and underlying inflammation.
Not to say that major nutrients and minerals aren’t important. Zhanxiang Zhou, PhD, professor and co-Director of the UNC Greensboro Center for Translational Biomedical Research (CTBR), discovered that the essential mineral zinc and the nutrient niacin can help reverse fatty liver disease, a common liver disorder that is a precursor to cirrhosis and even liver cancer.
Defining Disease-Fighting Frontiers
At the UNC Nutrition Research Institute, scientists are leading the charge to advance the field of individualized nutrition by studying the
nutritional factors related to cancer and heart disease as well as brain development. They are even looking at how genetic changes travel across generations increasing susceptibility to disease.
The David H. Murdock Research Institute announced the launch of a program to study multiple sclerosis in partnership with the MURDOCK Study in order to find undiscovered biomarkers in the blood that may indicate signs of progression and susceptibility to MS. The biomarkers could be developed into new diagnostics or treatments.
UNC Greensboro’s CTBR welcomed Qibin Zhang, PhD, as an associate professor and co-director. Zhang is the first scientist on the campus to focus solely on type 1 diabetes. Through the study of proteins and lipids, Zhang’s goal is to contribute new scientific knowledge that will help solve some of the biological mysteries of the disease.
Our Next Generation of Scientists
A priority at the NC Research Campus is training the next generation of scientists through the Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP). P2EP
is funded by academic and corporate partners like the Duke Energy Foundation. In 2014, the program engaged over 40 undergraduate and graduate students who completed work alongside the campus’ top scientists to genetically map broccoli, strawberries, blueberries and oats. Students also worked in the laboratory of Penny Perkins-Veazie, PhD, a post-harvest physiologist with NC State PHHI, contributing to research that helps preserve the nutrients and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables from the field to the fork.