Nutrition

Jun 14, 2013 Debra Cheung

Mission

To apply the principles of physical and social science in studies that define the function and quantitative requirements of food components and essential nutrients. In this context, the department has three primary goals:

  1. The generation of new information at the state of prevailing art.
  2. The training of future nutrition scientists.
  3. The transmittal of nutrition knowledge in a broad public context.

Faculty

The department consists 15 Senate faculty, two lecturers, and four* CE specialists for a total of 21. In addition, five professional researchers are housed - in or associated with the department and three** professors hold adjunct appointments in the department. By the year 2006, three senate faculty members will have reached age 65.

* Two associated with EFNEP
**School of Medicine or WHNRC

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department (current)

  • Developmental nutrition, with an emphasis on pregnancy and lactation
  • Animal models and nutrition-related disease
  • International nutrition
  • Metabolism (both at the molecular and substrate levels) with an emphasis on essential minerals and vitamins
  • Metabolism of natural products
  • Nutrition and aging
  • Obesity and the regulation of food intake
  • Food safety and nutritional toxicology

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department (5-10 years)

Developmental nutrition, the commitment to the Program in International Nutrition (PIN) and studies important to our understanding of nutrition and disease will remain as major focus areas. Increased emphasis will be given to the role of phytochemicals in health and disease processes, the application of newer technologies to resolve selected nutrition-related disease problems, e.g. obesity, nutrient requirements as influenced by genetic polymorphisms, and the broad area of nutrition toxicology.

Program Impact/Ranking

Nutrition programs are currently not formally ranked. However, the program at Davis (including members of the Graduate Group in Nutrition) is currently the largest in the United States, perhaps the world. The departmental faculty is truly distinguished. At the professorial level, two faculty are members of the Institute of Medicine (NAS). All of our professorial faculty have won a research prize from their respective nutrition-related academic society, and all have been invited to give multiple plenary lecturers at international meetings during the past five years. Further, the Department of Nutrition houses two leading nutrition journals, and the entire faculty publish in the leading journals that define basic nutrition-related research.

Extramural Grants and Gifts

For the past two decades the Department of Nutrition has consistently ranked in the top 10 percent of departments within AES with respect to extramural funding (both gifts and grants). The annual direct expenditures are difficult to accurately calculate, since some of the funding is joint with the Department of Medicine, e.g. the Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine Research in Asthma (~$500,000 per year), the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit (CNRU)($500,000-$750,000 per year), M&M Mars, Inc. (>$ 500,000 per year). In addition to the above, on average, each faculty sustains the equivalent of an NIH, USDA, or NSF grant on an annual basis (~$100,000). The Department over the past five years has constantly ranked in the top three in AES in gift monies brought to the campus.

Teaching Programs of the Department

There are two undergraduate majors - clinical nutrition (formerly dietetics) with about 130 students and nutrition science with 120-140 students annually (the nutrition science major includes two options: nutritional biochemistry and community nutrition). These numbers of total students have remained relatively constant over the past five years. Moreover, about 40 students per year chose an area of nutrition in which to minor. The minor programs include community nutrition, nutrition science, food service management, and nutrition and food. 45 of the 85 active graduate students in the Nutrition Graduate Group are housed in the department. Many of the courses have large enrollments, e.g. the Nutrition 10 course is the largest in the AES, about 1,800 annually. The FTE ratio (students per I&R faculty + unit 18) is typically in the 30s, i.e., among the highest in the college.

Outreach/Extension Roles

The department has four CE specialists. The specialists are directly involved and responsible for the State of California's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and the Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program of California. Current areas of research include:

  • An emphasis on improving the nutritional status of those at high-risk by the development, and testing, of nutrition education methodologies.
    Identification of dietary intake patterns and nutrition-related practices of those at high-risk.
  • Development of new ways to measure nutritional status.
  • Examining the impact of acculturation and food security on the child-parent feeding relationship, particularly among Latinos.
  • Developing tools to evaluate nutrition education.

Potential for Collaborative Links to Other Units to Develop Clusters of Excellence

Linking to other units to enrich and enhance department programs has always been a part of the culture in the department. The CNRU, PIN, shared animal facility, and close relationship with the USDA Western Human Nutrition Research Center (WHNRC) are but a few examples. As a consequence, we plan to:

  • Sustain our ties with medicine, e.g. fostering joint appointments.
    Work closely with the WHNRC.
  • Improve our ties with the plant sciences, particularly in areas important to better understanding the health benefits of phytochemicals.
  • Improve our ties with Environmental Toxicology, particularly in the area of food safety and the safety of food components.
  • Sustain our animal facilities at the state-of-the-art, and USDA and NIH standards/expectations. Develop resources for effective Human studies, e.g. completion of the Human Nutrition Research Facility.
  • Further develop our international nutrition efforts through PIN and the college.

Positions Needed to Improve Research, Teaching and Extension Goals

We hope to search immediately in the area of nutrition/toxicology and will support the addition [via joint or courtesy appointments] of additional faculty in the areas of developmental biology, clinical medicine and epidemiology. Subsequent positions (one or two) should include individuals trained in informatics and/or functional genomics, and someone with a commitment to metabolism with either analytical skills utilizing state-of-the-art methodologies or skills in molecular or cellular biology.

  1. A position in nutrition toxicology to be a shared appointment with Environmental Toxicology (70 percent Nutrition/30 percent Environmental Toxicology) (new position). (IER/AES)
  2. Developmental biology/functional genomics (redirected or new position). (IER/AES)
  3. Nutritional epidemiology (redirected position if it is to be in our Department; however, this position could be in one of a number of departments. (IER/AES)
  4. Nutritional biochemistry/physiological chemistry (redirected position). (IER/AES)

Projected Resource Needs and Strategies for Achieving

As noted above, sustaining our animal facilities at USDA and NIH standards and expectations is essential. Within the next two years, we will complete the Human Nutrition Research Facility. Currently, the department is still in need of three to four additional offices for its ongoing programs. An additional laboratory space (two to three benches) would also significantly augment our capabilities. Continued support for campus instrumentation centers is also critical for our research efforts.

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