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CNRC Research

As the first federal nutrition research center to investigate the nutritional needs of pregnant and nursing women, and children from conception through adolescence, the Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) conducts research that helps improve the maternal, infant and child nutrition guidelines used by physicians, parents and others responsible for the care and feeding of children.

Research Programs

Nutritional Regulation of Cell Growth, Differentiation & Development

One of the overarching and interdisciplinary themes of CNRC research is to describe how dietary components help determine organ growth, development and function throughout fetal life, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.

Douglas Burrin, Ph.D.

Intestinal amino acid requirements in neonates

Teresa A. Davis, Ph.D.

Nutritional regulation of tissue anabolism in neonates

Marta Fiorotto, Ph.D.

Consequences of perinatal undernutrition for satellite cell function and skeletal muscle growth

Karen Hirschi, Ph.D.

Nutrient regulation of blood and blood vessel formation

Carlos Lifschitz, M.D.

Effect of nucleotides and glutamine in intestinal protection and repair

Robert Shulman, M.D.

Nutritional influences on gastrointestinal function in health and disease

Agus Suryawan, Ph.D.

Role of growth factors on the regulation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle of neonates

Nutrient - Gene Interactions

This research examines how genes affect the absorption and utilization of nutrients (which in turn affects nutrient requirements). They also examine how nutrients themselves alter the expression of a person's genes, which is a crucial "personal" link to the development of nutrition-related diseases like obesity, cancer and heart disease.

Molly S. Bray, Ph.D.

Genetics of obesity, leanness, and exercise

David Moore, Ph.D.

Natural products and nuclear receptors: PPARs

Buford Nichols, M.D.

Maltase-glucoamylase, regulator of starch digestion

Robert Waterland, Ph.D.

Early nutritional influences on mammalian epigenetic gene regulation

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. Poor calcium intake in childhood can predispose children, especially females, to fractures and osteoporosis later in life.

Steven Abrams, M.D.

Evaluation of the absorption and utilization of minerals in the diets of toddlers

Ian Griffin, M.D., Ph.D.

Physiological and molecular consequences of mild and moderate zinc deficiency

Gerard Karsenty, M.D., Ph.D.

Molecular elucidation of leptin regulation of bone formation

Childhood Obesity: Regulation of Energy Balance and Body Composition

This research 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. Understanding the environmental and genetic factors that contribute to the accumulation of excess body fat may allow early screening of individuals at risk for obesity during childhood.

Nancy Butte, Ph.D.

Genetic and environmental factors contributing to childhood obesity

Kenneth Ellis, Ph.D.

Biological diversity of human growth: Body composition references standards for children

John Foreyt, Ph.D.

Prevention of overweight in children

Agneta Sunehag, M.D.,Ph.D.

Effects of dietary macronutrient distribution and exercise on glucose metabolism in obese adolescents

William Wong, Ph.D.

An after-school physical activity program to prevent obesity among Hispanic children

Childhood Eating Behaviors: Prevention of Childhood Obesity and Chronic Diseases

These studies involve identifying factors that influence the development of children's eating habits, and how to best help children and families adopt healthier habits to avoid long-term health problems linked to poor nutrition, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and osteoporosis.

Cheryl Anderson, Ph.D.

A longitudinal study of athletic self-concept and physical activity behavior in children and adolescents

Tom Baranowski, Ph.D.

Pediatric obesity and chronic disease prevention: Influence and interventions

Janice Baranowski, M.P.H.

Pediatric obesity and chronic disease prevention: Influence and interventions

Karen Cullen, Ph.D.

The development and testing of interventions to promote healthy dietary behavior

Jennifer Orlet Fisher, Ph.D.

Family influences on the development of food intake regulation

Judy Hopkinson, Ph.D.

Relationships between infant feeding patterns and the development of risk factors for cardiovascular

Theresa Nicklas, Dr.P.H.

Investigation of dietary intakes of children

Sharon O'Donnell, Ph.D.

Economic and market factors that influence children's food choices

Janice Stuff, Ph.D. 

Dietary and genetic interactions of isothiocyanates

Deborah Thompson, Ph.D.

Youth obesity prevention through the promotion of positive behaviors

Issa Zakeri, Ph.D.

Stochastic modeling of food purchase data and childhood physical activity

Nutrition During Pregnancy, Lactation, Infancy and Childhood

This research has included studies that define the optimal dietary calorie, protein, and mineral requirements for maternal health during pregnancy and lactation.

Orla Conneely, Ph.D.

Effect of lactoferrin supplementation on intestinal cell development, iron metabolism and host defense

Darryl Hadsell, Ph.D.

Insulin and IGF signaling in lactogenesis and maintenance of lactation

Morey Haymond, M.D.

Maternal adaptation to lactation and regulation of human milk production

William Heird, M.D.

Utilization of dietary protein during early infancy

Farook Jahoor, Ph.D.

Relationship between maternal nutritional status and pregnancy outcome

Craig Jensen, M.D.


Monique Rijnkel, Ph.D.

Functional genomics of the casein gene cluster region

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

These CNRC research studies address our understanding of how an inadequate intake of dietary nutrients like folic acid, Vitamin A, protein, and cholesterol during critical periods of development can have permanent effects on a child -- such as preventing adequate brain development -- and on individual's health later in adulthood by possibly increasing their risk for obesity, heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis

Heidi Karpen, Ph.D.

The role of cholesterol in regulation of the Hedgehog developmental pathway

Qiang Tong, Ph.D.

The role of GATA protein complexes in adipocyte

A. Lapillonne, M.D., Ph.D.

Early nutrition and quality of growth

I. Van den Veyver, M.D.

Nutritional influences on epigenetic gene regulation during development

C. Wayne Smith, M.D.

Nutritional influences on innate immunity

Brian S. Conklin, Ph.D.


Sonia A. Cunningham, Ph.D.


Phytonutrient Biochemistry, Physiology, and Transport

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

Michael Grusak, Ph.D.

Understanding the mechanisms and regulation of plant nutrient transport to improve crop quality

Kendal Hirschi,Ph.D.

Genetic engineering of vacuolar H+/metal antiport activity

Paul Nakata, Ph.D.

Genetic investigation of calcium oxalate formation

Ning-Hui Cheng, Ph.D.

Regulation of plant ion/metabolite transporters