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Emerging Research Opportunities

Crops For Health® (CFH) is an avenue for immediate and logical extension of our discovery process to the global stage, providing a conduit for extending our training programs to students around the world, and opening the door to funding opportunities that would not otherwise exist. Emerging opportunities are briefly described.

The Crops For Health® initiative is seen as a major opportunity for transdisciplinary research into the area of natural products and their use in complementary and alternative medicine. The National Institutes of Health support five Botanical Research Centers around the country, and we envision competing for such a center to be located at Colorado State University in the future. Such an activity supports current work of faculty focused on the health benefits and disease prevention characteristics of plants.

Weight loss and weight maintenance: Obesity has become a global pandemic and is considered the major contributor to most if not all of the chronic disease burden we face in the 21st century. Because the etiology of obesity involves complex interactions of multiple genes and an environment characterized by little requirement for physical activity for daily activities and an abundance of palatable, energy dense food, the challenges ahead are formidable. Weight loss and maintenance approaches used to date have been largely unsuccessful in achieving long-term individual and community goals. New, innovative approaches are needed to prevent diet-induced metabolic adaptations (decreased resting energy expenditure and satiety hormones and increases in hunger hormones) that antagonize efforts toward permanent weight loss. To this end, CFH will focus on identification of foods with bioactive components capable of favorably altering the energy balance equation. Studies conducted by Chris Melby in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, have shown that plant based diets characterized by high intakes of a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and dietary fibers protect against unhealthy weight gain while readily satisfying hunger and promoting satiety. Henry Thompson in the Cancer Prevention Center at CSU has shown such a plant-based diet to produce weight loss without conscious caloric restriction. Based on these results, scientists in the Departments of FSHN and Health and Exercise Science and the Cancer Prevention Laboratory are now joining forces to identify bioactive food components capable of increasing post-prandial thermogenesis and basal energy expenditure, stimulating fat oxidation, lessening hunger, and promoting satiety. Studies will follow to examine the efficacy of these dietary components to reduce body fat, as well their potential to favorably alter hormonal and inflammatory responses that contribute to and exacerbate obesity-related comorbidities including hypertension, dyslipidemia, and insulin resistance. Translation of this research will focus on using our findings to develop innovative weight loss/maintenance initiatives.