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Students/Faculty News Jessica Jernigan January 26, 2022

by Adam Pope

James O. Hill, Ph.D., chair of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Nutrition Sciences, has received a five-year, $10.8 million award as part of the Nutrition for Precision Health (NPH) study through the National Institutes of Health's All of Us Research Program.

James Hill StreamJames Hill, Ph.D.
Photography: Lexi Coon
A major challenge in precision nutrition is the inability to combine the many factors that affect how individuals respond to diet into a personalized nutrition regimen. These potential factors include the microbiome — the community of microbes that live in our gut — metabolism, nutritional status, genetics and the environment. The way these factors interact to affect health is still poorly understood.

To address these gaps, NPH will collect new data on multiple potential predictive factors and combine it with existing data in the All of Us database to develop a more complete picture of how individuals respond to different foods or dietary routines. By developing this large study of precision nutrition research, NPH will complement ongoing nutrition research efforts across NIH and implement components of the 2020-2030 Strategic Plan for NIH Nutrition Research. The NPH data will be integrated into the All of Us Researcher Workbench and made widely available to allow researchers to make discoveries that could improve health and prevent or treat diseases and conditions affected by nutrition.

“We are so excited to be part of the NIH precision nutrition initiative,” Hill said. “The fact that UAB was chosen as one of six clinical centers that were funded by this initiative demonstrates the high level of excellence in nutrition at UAB.”

UAB is one of 14 institutions receiving awards that will establish the NPH consortium, including six clinical centers, a dietary assessment center, a metabolomics and clinical assays center, a microbiome and metagenomics center, a multimodal data modeling and bioinformatics center, a research coordinating center, and additional support to existing All of Us infrastructure. Barbara Gower, Ph.D., professor and vice-chair for research in the Department of Nutrition Sciences, will serve as co-principal investigator.

“The All of Us Research Program was designed to support a wide range of studies by providing the infrastructure for a large, diverse data set that has been previously unavailable,” said Josh Denny, M.D., CEO of All of Us. “We’re delighted that All of Us has a role in advancing in-depth nutrition research and furthering precision nutrition by serving as a platform for this unique initiative.” 

All of usAll of Us will contribute existing data from participants who agree to participate in the NPH study, including genomics, linked electronic health records and survey data, such as information on daily life experiences, family health and more. These data linkages will power Nutrition for Precision Health to be one of the largest, most diverse precision nutrition studies to date.

This work is supported by the NIH Common Fund’s Nutrition for Precision Health, powered by the All of Us Research Program grant 1 UG1 HD107688-01.

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