Research/Areas of Interest:

Nutrition, genetics, and healthy aging; epigenomics, gene by diet interaction, risk prediction and prevention of cardiovascular and metabolic disease


PhD, Genetics, University of Edinburgh, UK


Dr. Chao-Qiang Lai is a USDA-ARS Research Molecular Biologist and Geneticist on the Nutrition and Genomics Team at the HNRCA. His research focuses on the relationship between nutrition, genetics, and healthy aging—in particular, epigenomics, gene-by-diet interactions, and risk prediction and prevention of heart and metabolic diseases. Among his numerous accomplishments, Dr. Lai demonstrated that the epigenetic variation independent of genetic code that affects gene expression accounted for much more variation of after-meal circulating fat responses to a high-fat meal than the genome, suggesting that diet and lifestyle play crucial roles in the prevention of heart disease, which primarily affects middle-aged and older adults. Dr. Lai also found that greater consumption of saturated fats was associated with greater weight in individuals who carry a particular epigenetic variant near the APOA2 genetic locus. In collaboration with Dr. Hongwei Si from Tennessee State University, Dr. Lai's research has shown that supplementing the diet with epicatechin can increase lifespan and decrease muscle loss. In collaboration with Dr. Lirong Shen from Zhejiang University, their work demonstrated that curcumin can extend lifespans and resistance to heat-stress in drosophila and mice. Dr. Lai has given talks on nutrigenomics across the world and has been an invited speaker, chair, or lecturer over 60 times. He also reviews manuscripts for 27 peer-reviewed journals, including Atherosclerosis and Circulation, and is an editorial board member for three peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Lai is a member of the American Society of Nutrition and the American Society of Human Genetics.

For more information on Dr. Chao-Qiang Lai, please visit the USDA Agricultural Research Service website. (Clicking this link takes you off the Tufts University website and to a federal website).