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UH Cancer Researcher Leads $7M Nutrition Study on Hawaiʻi’s Diverse Population

January 30, 2022, 2:00 PM HST
* Updated January 30, 11:37 AM
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The University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center was selected as one of 14 clinics and centers throughout the country to receive part of $170 million throughout five years from the National Institutes of Health for a new study, Nutrition for Precision Health, powered by the All of Us Research Program, to develop algorithms that predict individual responses to food and dietary pattern.

Associate researcher Carol Boushey will receive $7 million to lead the Dietary Assessment Center to study personalized nutritional recommendations addressing Hawaiʻi’s diverse population and other National Institutes of Health-awarded research sites throughout the United States.

“We can appreciate the strength of the health programs and research associated with the University of Hawaiʻi, the UH Cancer Center and the UH medical school,” said Boushey, who will serve as the program director and principal investigator for the Dietary Assessment Center. “Hawaiʻi received the only designated Dietary Assessment Center; this speaks volumes to the work we are doing in Hawaiʻi, which can directly influence the health of people in Hawaiʻi and across the USA.”

The project aims to identify errors in dietary assessment methods that serve as links between diet and chronic disease outcomes such as obesity and cancer. Using mobile and image-based technological tools, the Dietary Assessment Center will help reach a wider audience through cost-effective, timely channels.

Personalized nutrition, also known as precision nutrition, focuses on an individual’s dietary needs rather than groups of people. Boushey anticipates discovering the influence of dietary intake, while considering the genetics; microbiome, a group of microorganisms that lives in our gut; and other biological, lifestyle and environmental factors.

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A key challenge in nutrition is the inability to recognize factors that affect individuals’ responses to a diet that is not tailored to a personalized nutrition regimen. Boushey plans to address this challenge and identify the gap in her future research related to nutrition and health.

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Boushey’s team consists of nutritionists, epidemiologists, registered dietitians, biostatisticians and engineers specializing in image analysis. Together, the team will deploy ASA24, a web-based tool; the Mobile Food Record, an image-based app; and a passive method, the Automatic Ingestion Monitor v2.

These advanced technological tools will combine precision dietary assessment and research translation to better understand eating behaviors, diet-disease relationships and help develop dietary intervention programs.

“We are very excited about this study that will have a direct impact in Hawai‘i and around the world,” said Joe W. Ramos, interim director of the UH Cancer Center. “Dr. Boushey and her team have developed innovative new approaches that provide users with easier ways of recording what they eat, simply by taking a picture. This will allow new insight into how diet relates to obesity and cancer that would not be possible otherwise. They are international leaders in the study of nutrition, and we are very proud of their work and congratulate them on this nationally significant project.”

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