Taste of Success

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Every time you take your vitamins, thank UAB. In the 1920s and ’30s, Birmingham researchers James F. McLester, M.D., and Thom D. Spies, M.D., championed the use of newly discovered vitamins, including nicotinic acid, thiamin, ascorbic acid, and folic acid, to prevent and treat pellagra, beriberi, and similar nutritional-deficiency diseases plaguing the Southeast. Their work changed how physicians viewed vitamins and inspired a series of important findings in what became the UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences, a joint program of the schools of Health Professions, Dentistry, and Medicine.

A couple of decades after McLester and Spies made their discoveries, UAB researchers explored folic acid’s molecular biology and metabolism, leading to its use as a supplemental treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders, presbyopia, and osteoporosis. Later studies investigated folic acid’s potential role in cancer prevention.

UAB’s nutrition specialists are now targeting obesity, diabetes, and hypertension—three of Alabama’s major health problems. Current chair Timothy Garvey, M.D., says a focus on metabolism, body composition, genetics, and lifestyle factors is key to preventing or treating multiple diseases. One solution is UAB’s EatRight weight-management program, led by nutrition expert Jamy Ard, M.D. The program goes beyond diet to help participants develop new eating and exercising habits.