About the Lab

Welcome to Dr. Nancy E. Moran's Carotenoids and Nutrition Laboratory at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center.

Our research program seeks to understand how dietary carotenoids impact human health. Carotenoids, a class of colorful orange, red, and yellow compounds found in fruits and vegetables, are the primary focus of our research. Some carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and alpha-carotene are converted to vitamin A in the body- and therefore play an important role in development and health. Other carotenoids, such as red lycopene and yellow lutein, are not pro-vitamin A, but growing evidence suggests these may play a role in cancer prevention and promotion of visual and cognitive function, respectively.

Our program engages a translational research approach, studying carotenoid metabolism and bioactivity in both model systems and in humans. Using cell culture and animal models, we are currently studying the cellular mechanisms by which carotenoids are absorbed from foods, distributed throughout the body, and metabolized. We are also studying how blood and tissue carotenoid concentrations can be used as biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake. Furthermore, we are studying the molecular impacts of carotenoids on different sites in the body to better understand how carotenoid consumption may promote health across the life cycle.