Children's Nutrition Research Center

About Us

The Children's Nutrition Research Center is one of six USDA human nutrition research centers conducting scientific investigations designed to provide Americans with a clear understanding of the role of nutrition in maintaining a healthy, active life.

As the first federal nutrition research center to investigate the nutritional needs of pregnant and nursing women and children from conception through adolescence, the CNRC conducts research that helps define guidelines for maternal, infant and childhood nutrition.

The CNRC is operated by Baylor College of Medicine in cooperation with Texas Children's Hospital and the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The center has approximately 50 faculty members conducting nutrition-related research and a total staff of more than 200.

Since its establishment in 1978, center research has generated almost 2,000 scientific publications and continues to provide valuable information for improving the nutritional health of today's children and that of future generations.

Our unique combination of pediatricians and pediatric sub-specialists, nutrition scientists, plant physiologists, and registered dietitians make the CNRC an ideal resource for media seeking expert insight into a wide range of maternal, pediatric and general nutrition issues.

Areas of Study

Currently, research efforts of the CNRC faculty cover eight broad areas. They are:

Nutritional Regulation of Cell and Organ Growth, Differentiation & Development

This area of research currently concerns how dietary components help determine organ growth, development and function throughout gestation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.

Nutrient - Gene Interactions

This area of research examines how genes affect the absorption and utilization of nutrients (which in turn affects nutrient requirements) as well as how nutrients alter the expression of an individual’s genes, which is a crucial "personal" link to the development of nutrition-related diseases like obesity, cancer and heart disease.

Absorption and Metabolism of Essential Mineral Nutrients

These studies investigate the metabolic, hormonal and dietary factors that affect the body's absorption and utilization of calcium and zinc and other essential mineral nutrients in children.

Childhood Obesity: Regulation of Energy Balance and Body Composition

Research comprising this area involves identifying genetic, physiological and environmental factors, including physical activity, that influence the accumulation and net gain of lean tissues (such as muscle mass), body fat, and bone mineral content in children.

Childhood Eating Behaviors: Prevention of Childhood Obesity, Chronic Diseases

Studies in this area involve identifying factors that influence the development of children's eating habits and how to best help children and families adopt healthier habits and, hence, avoid or lessen long-term health problems linked to poor nutrition.

Nutrition During Pregnancy, Lactation, Infancy and Childhood

This area of research includes studies that define the optimal dietary energy, protein, and mineral intakes for maternal health during pregnancy and lactation as well as for the wellbeing of infants and children.

Developmental Origins of Obesity, Cardiovascular Disease, and other Chronic Diseases of Nutritional Lineage

These CNRC research studies address the mechanism(s) by which an inadequate intake of dietary nutrients like folic acid, Vitamin A, protein, and cholesterol during critical periods of development exert permanent effects on development of specific organs (e.g., brain) as well as health risks (e.g., increased risk for obesity, heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis in adulthood.

Phytonutrient Biochemistry, Physiology, and Transport

This research area explores how plants regulate the absorption and accumulation of minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc and how to improve both the essential-mineral content of plants and the bioavailability of these minerals from plant foods.