Nutritional Sciences Research
Faculty Research and Labs
The Behavioral Medicine & Translational Research Lab (BMTR) engages in clinical and translational research in nutrition, obesity & other metabolic diseases. Our current research interests include behavioral pharmacologic and surgical treatment for obesity and metabolic disease, neurophysiology of obesity and ingestive behavior (e.g. fMRI), physiological and behavioral correlates of physical activity (including the influences of pain and sleep).
Our lab experience immerses undergraduate and graduate student researchers in all areas of research being conducted by Dr. Binks and his students, with everyone pitching in on most studies. This provides a complete clinical research training experience and exposure to a wide range of topics and skillsets. Students are involved in all aspects of research from inception through publication and presentation. Our goal is to train future clinical research scientists and the future leaders in the field. Our students leave well-prepared for the next step(s) on their path to research and or clinical careers in academia, healthcare and private sectors.
As a clinician and registered dietitian with almost 10 years of experience in the field, my research focus is primarily in the area of ingestive behavior. I am specifically interested ingestive behavior and how it pertains to obesity as well as the controversial topic of food addiction. I am also interested in sports nutrition research involving eating disorders and disordered eating in athletes.
I am a biostatistician with additional expertise in nutrition research, obesity research, misreporting and data fidelity and statistical genetics. In addition to my own research, must of which involves secondary data analysis, I am involved in the planning, design, execution and analysis of most of the project.
- Laboratory based studies: We use various cell and animal models to study molecular mechanisms and cell signaling involved in diabetes and obesity. Some examples include studying the role of infection in developing obesity, or the development of drug for diabetes from a gene obtained from a virus. We have received many national and international patents for this research.
- Clinical studies: We conduct studies involving human subjects, which mainly address various aspects of diabetes and obesity. Examples of some recently conducted studies include determining the role of eggs in enhancing weight loss in adults or children, or the role of protein quality on feeling of fullness, or hormones that control hunger and satiety.
The overall focus of our research is in the area of obesity, diabetes and related comorbidities. Ongoing research projects involve:
- Identifying key factors linking diabetes with Alzheimer's disease.
- Studying the biological links between obesity, diabetes and cancer.
After working with bariatric surgery patients since 2004, my research interests are focused on numerous factors that affect the success and failure of weight loss specifically after bariatric surgery. This is to develop better treatments for obesity, diabetes, and vitamin/mineral deficiencies. Specific research interests include:
- Determining the efficacy of vitamin and mineral absorption after bariatric surgery via transdermal application in comparison to oral formulations
- Understanding prebiotics and probiotics and their prospects in altering the microbiota as it relates to metabolic diseases, such as obesity, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance
- Understanding ingestive behavior in obesity with a focus on bariatric surgery patients to help treat weight recidivism and further improve weight loss after surgery
- Evaluating the changes in bone mineral density and body composition in severely obese patients after bariatric surgery
Dr. Moustaid-Moussa directs the Nutrigenomics, Inflammation & Obesity Research (NIOR) laboratory in Nutritional Sciences at the TTU College of Human Sciences. She has been leading a basic and integrated nutrition and obesity research, primarily funded by USDA, NIH, ADA and AHA. Primary research emphasis is on nutrient-gene interactions and the endocrine function of adipose tissue in obesity-associated inflammation and metabolic disorders, especially diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Moustaid-Moussa'lab used various bioactive compounds form food and botanicals (such as omega 3 fatty acids, tart cherry anthocyanins, tocotrienols (vitamin E family) and bioextracts from switchgrass) to prevent/treat obesity-associated inflammation using cells, model organisms, and animal models. Her secondary areas of research interests include beta cell function in diabetes and childhood obesity prevention. She has ongoing obesity-related collaborative research projects with faculty from other universities and from TTUHSC and TTU (NS, Human Sciences, Center for Biotechnology & Benomics, Plant and Soil Sciences, Animal and Food Sciences, Chemical and Mechanical Engineering, Biology, Agricultural Economics, Media and Communications, School of Medicine and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences).
The overarching goal of my lab is progressing research knowledge in developing strategies to combat food insecurity and the related complications.
An important goal of my advisory is to mentor Ph.D. students in my research team to get the experience and training they need to become independent researchers and experts in the area of interest. My research interest include:
- Identifying coping strategies for food insecurity and Identifying factors that influence dietary behavior, especially among low-income populations.
- Understanding the underlying drivers for stunting during infancy
- Understanding the effect of food insecurity on the quantity and quality of breastfeeding
- Assessing the child feeding practices among different cultures and social economic status
She has fifteen years Community Nutrition research experience in Africa and is a National Research Foundation (NRF)-rated researcher in South Africa (SA). Her research interests include the factors contributing to household food insecurity and malnutrition in resource-poor communities where she has investigated the effect of various interventions, such as food fortification, supplementation, nutrition education, food product development and implementation, as well as school feeding programs on food insecurity, dietary diversity and nutritional status of women and children as well as the elderly. Her community research and development program at present include; understanding food and nutrition insecurity of University students (USA), Senior citizens (USA), food-based approaches to addressing iron deficiency among women and their young children (Ghana) and the soy applications and the nutritional benefits of soy for human health (SA). She has also been involved in impact studies for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (SA), Joint Aid Management, the United States Potato Board, and the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (USA). Prof. Oldewage-Theron organizes a study abroad on World Food Problems. This course is an international experience and as such students travel through South Africa, Kenya and other African countries.
Dr. Petersen's research is focused on the efficacy and effectiveness of dietary interventions to reduce metabolic dysfunction and the risk of cardiometabolic diseases in at-risk populations. She conducts human clinical trials to examine the effect of individual foods, bioactives and dietary patterns on risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases. In addition, she aims to translate research findings gained under highly controlled conditions to strategies, underpinned by behavior change theory, that improve the overall diet of free-living individuals.
Dr. Shin is interested in understanding how the brain controls metabolism and nutrient partitioning as well as the long-term regulation of body weight and appetite and the underlying mechanisms of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery. Dr. Shin's current NIH-funded research project aims to understand the role of insulin action in the brain in regulating branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) metabolism and how this central control can contribute to glucose homeostasis by using molecular, pharmacological, transgenic, surgical, and integrative physiological approaches.
Dr. Zu conducts research in nutrition and chronic diseases. Her research focus on using cells and animal models to identify interactions and underlying mechanisms between dietary components and obesity-associated disorders, especially insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. She also interests in using nanotechnology to enhance bioactivities of phytochemicals for the prevention and treatment of obesity and aging on immune and inflammatory diseases.