Prestigious new nutrition research center being established at UNC-CH with NIH funding

CHAPEL HILL - To help reduce the staggering toll of unnecessary illness and premature death associated with chronic disease and to understand better the links between such diseases and nutrition, the National Institutes of Health has selected the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as home of the nation's newest Clinical Nutrition Research Unit.

"Over the next five years, we will receive $4.7 million from NIH to establish and operate this unit," said Steven Zeisel MD, Ph.D., chair of nutrition at the UNC-CH schools of public health and medicine and director of the new center.

"Our central goals will be to enhance the speed at which new laboratory discoveries are used in population-based and clinical research, to make sure that the education of health professionals includes nutrition and to help people learn how they can improve their diets to stay healthy."

UNC-CH will be one of only seven such units in the United States. Others are at Harvard, Washington University in St. Louis and the universities of Chicago, Washington at Seattle, Southern Alabama and Colorado at Denver.

"Although the United States is thought to have one of the best health care systems in the world, in terms of both dollars and in human costs we are overburdened with the expense of chronic diseases," Zeisel said. "About 90 million Americans suffer with a chronic disease. As people age, the patterns of nutritional intake play a significant role in the onset and progression of these diseases: five of the 10 leading causes of death have a strong relationship to poor diet."

Total estimated costs for chronic diseases in 1990 in this country were $659 billion with $435 billion in direct costs and $234 billion in indirect costs, he said. Obesity, for example, contributes significantly to many other chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, heart disease and certain cancers and has been estimated to result in $45.8 billion

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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