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The overall mission of the Nutritional Epidemiology Program is 1) to identify environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors that influence the nutritional status and requirements of the elderly, and 2) to determine the role of nutritional status in healthy aging and the development of chronic disease and age-related impairments such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), dementia, type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM), cataract and maculopathy. Our mission will be achieved through the application of epidemiological methods and community-based investigation of aging population samples.


1. Using an epidemiologic approach, investigate the role of foods and food components such as carbohydrates sources (e.g., whole grains, sugar sweetened beverages), selected nutrients (e.g., folate, vitamin B12, magnesium), other bioactive food components (e.g., flavonoids, carotenoids), healthy dietary patterns (Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Mediterranean Diet) and gene-diet interactions in preventing age-related conditions such as weight gain, inflammation, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, cancer, cognitive decline, musculoskeletal disorders, and kidney disease.

2. Using an epidemiologic approach, examine the health effects of high folic acid intakes and the interaction between high folic acid intake and vitamin B12 status to investigate safe upper limits for intake of folic acid in older individuals.

3. Using an experimental approach, conduct separate food-based intervention studies to examine the impact of dietary modification with individual foods (including whole grain, dietary fiber, added sugar, and fermented dairy) on weight change and ectopic fat depots, microbiota or intermediate metabolic markers of disease risk.


Paul F. Jacques, D.Sc., Program Director
Senior Scientist
Research focus: Diet patterns and diet quality, protein, hydration, and B vitamins and their relation to healthy aging assessed through maintenance of physical function, and cardiometabolic health and cognitive health.

Nicola McKeown, Ph.D.
Scientist I
Research focus: Impact of diets high in whole-grains or sugar on cardiometabolic risk factors; impact of carbohydrate sources on ectopic fat deposition, diet-gene interactions and diabetes risk, development of a publicly available dietary fiber database to generate research gaps and evidence.

Adela Hruby, Ph.D., M.P.H
Scientist II
Research Focus: Population-based research in dietary drivers of cardiometabolic disease.

PhD Trainees
Hiya Almahmassani, M.S., M.P.H
Research interests: Lutein intake and cognitive function.

Danielle Haslam, M.A., M.S.
Research interests: Gene-diet interactions and cardiometabolic risk, diet quality and development of age-related diseases.

Caleigh Sawicki, M.S., M.P.H
Research interests: Carbohydrate quality in the maintenance of cardiometabolic health.

Esra Shishtar, M.S.
Research interests: Flavonoid intake in relation to cognitive health and Alzheimer’s disease.

Additional Members
Kathy Li, Research Assistant
Gail Rogers, M.A.
, Senior Statistician
Kara Livingston Staffier, M.P.H., Sr. Project & Data Manager
Abigail Thompson, Staff Assistant