UAB Joins NIH in Launching the Nutrition for Precision Health Study to Advance Precision Nutrition

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NPH will use artificial intelligence-based approaches to analyze information provided by participants to develop algorithms that predict responses to dietary patterns.

The  National Institutes of Health is now enrolling for the NIH Common Fund’s Nutrition for Precision Health, powered by the All of Us Research Program in collaboration with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and other partners. NPH — the largest precision nutrition effort of its kind — aims to engage a diverse group of participants to learn more about how our bodies respond differently to food.

NPH will use artificial intelligence-based approaches to analyze information provided by participants to develop algorithms that predict responses to dietary patterns. The study’s findings may one day allow clinicians to offer more customized nutritional guidance to improve overall health.

“Poor diet is one of the leading causes of preventable disease and death around the world. If everyone followed the healthy eating guidelines we have available now, we still may not achieve optimal health because our bodies respond differently to food,” said Holly

Nutrition is important for the prevention and treatment of most chronic conditions and diseases, including hypertension, diabetes and stroke. However, current dietary recommendations do not consider individual biological differences in how people respond to foods or ways and timing of eating. The goal of precision nutrition is to move from a “one-size-fits-most” approach to more specific recommendations that are based on an individual’s unique characteristics and environments. NPH will study how a range of factors, including genes, lifestyle, health history, the gut microbiome (the community of microorganisms that live in the human gastrointestinal tract) and social determinants of health (the conditions in which people live, work and age that affect health), influence a person’s response to diet.

James. O. Hill, Ph.D.
Photography: Lexi CoonThe overall aim of NPH is to enroll 10,000 participants age 18 or older from diverse backgrounds. To participate, individuals must enroll in or already be enrolled in NIH’s All of Us Research Program. All of Us is an effort that aims to engage at least 1 million participants in building a health database that reflects the diversity of the United States, to help speed up medical research and enable individualized prevention, treatment and care.

“UAB is delighted to be one of six clinical centers for this landmark study to better understand why people respond differently to different diets,” said James O. Hill, Ph.D., director of the UAB Nutrition Obesity Research Center and principal investigator for the UAB site. “Our ultimate goal is to be able to identify the best diet for each person.”

UAB is widely renowned for its high-quality research on obesity and metabolism in diverse populations, including Black Americans and persons with disabilities. 

“It is important to have diversity in study participants to learn how different groups of people may respond differently to the study diets,” said Barbara Gower, Ph.D., interim chair for the UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences and co-principal investigator.

The NPH study consists of three modules. All study participants will take part in the first module, while a subset will take part in the other two modules. In the first module, participants will be asked to complete surveys, report their daily diets, and give blood, urine and stool samples for lab tests, including microbiome analysis. In the second module, a subset of participants will be given diets selected by researchers. In the third module, participants will also be given diets selected by researchers, but will be requested to stay in a research center while on the diets. All participants will take part in meal challenge tests, where physiological changes will be measured after they consume a standardized meal or drink. Participants will receive interpreted information from the study on their health, including body composition, microbiome makeup, metabolism and diet composition.

Barbara Gower, Ph.D.
Photography: Lexi CoonAt UAB, participants in module three will have the opportunity to spend three, two-week blocks of time living in Wi-Fi-enabled cottages on the Lakeshore Foundation campus. Participants will be able to take advantage of the facilities at Lakeshore — such as the gym, pool and walking trails — throughout their stay. Participants will receive compensation for their time, as well as all meals and snacks for the duration of the three, two-week stays.

NPH will link participants’ data from the study to information obtained through the All of Us Research Program, including genetics information and data from electronic health records and additional surveys. The study will leverage advances in AI to analyze this vast amount of data from participants to develop algorithms predicting how a person will respond to a particular food or diet based on various factors. All of this data will ultimately be accessible through All of Us’ data platform, the Researcher Workbench, to support many other studies on health and disease.  Strict safeguards are in place to keep the data secure and protect participant privacy.

“Nutrition is perhaps one of the most powerful medicines we have available, but is among the least understood,” said Geoffrey Ginsburg, M.D., Ph.D., All of Us’ chief medical and scientific officer. “By tapping into the All of Us infrastructure and platform, NPH will be set apart from other nutrition studies by its scale and diversity. The value of NPH will be amplified by the research community as new data types are made broadly available in the Researcher Workbench to explore and advance our understanding of nutrition and health.”

NIH has funded six clinical centers to conduct the study at 14 enrollment sites in the U.S., including UAB.

NPH is led by multiple institutes and centers within NIH, including the NIH Common Fund; All of Us Research Program; Office of Nutrition Research; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; National Cancer Institute; and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

To learn more about NPH and how to join the study, click here.

The work described here is supported by National Institutes of Health award # 1 UG1 HD107688-01. 

“All of Us” and “Nutrition for Precision Health, powered by the All of Us Research Program” are registered service marks of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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