Research and Extension fight obesity related diseases

By Debbie Dalhouse

Poor nutrition is suspected to cause a number of preventable chronic diseases, including obesity, type-2 diabetes, various cancers, high blood pressure and stroke. This is a particular problem in South Carolina, where six of the ten leading causes of death are chronic diseases. The number of people in the state who are overweight or obese has also reached epidemic proportions, representing 53% of adults and 20% of children.

Recognizing the central role of nutrition in health and disease, Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina have come together to create the S.C. Nutrition Research Consortium. This partnership is seeking innovative approaches to disease prevention through nutrition research and outreach.

Efforts include research to prevent and treat obesity and its related health conditions, particularly in low-income populations; research on nutraceuticals, genomics, functional foods, and alternative medicines; and outreach efforts to take this information to the state’s citizens. This collaboration will benefit the entire state by reducing the healthcare costs and suffering created by poor nutrition and obesity.

The three universities bring impressive capabilities to this mission. USC’s Arnold School of Public Health is known for research on the connections between nutrition, physical activity and health. MUSC is known for medical research, clinical expertise and long-term studies of obesity. Clemson is known for research in nutraceuticals, food science and human nutrition, and for the Cooperative Extension Service that provides a statewide network to deliver nutrition and health information.

For example, more than 85,000 citizens, from pre-schoolers to the elderly, have been served through Clemson Extension programs on practical nutrition, lifestyle and food safety information. These outreach efforts, called the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), are federally funded to serve people on a limited income.

The S.C. Nutrition Research Consortium is based on the belief that, by combining their strengths, the universities will be better able to improve the health of all South Carolinians.