Illinois Tech selected as enrollment site for NIH's landmark initiative to advance nutrition research

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Illinois Institute of Technology is one of 14 institutions chosen as an enrollment site for the National Institute of Health's landmark initiative to advance nutrition research. Nutrition for Precision Health (NPH), powered by the All of Us Research Program, is working to engage 10,000 participants from diverse backgrounds across the United States with the aim of learning about how our bodies respond differently to food.

NPH will use artificial intelligence–based approaches to analyze information provided by participants in order to develop algorithms that predict responses to dietary patterns. The study's findings may one day allow healthcare providers to offer more customized nutritional guidance to improve overall health.

Poor diet is one of the leading causes of preventable disease and death around the world. If everyone followed the healthy eating guidelines that we have available now, we still may not achieve optimal health because our bodies respond differently to food. Through this study, we are looking to better understand differences in individual responses and pave the way for more tailored guidelines in the future."

Holly Nicastro, Ph.D., MPH, coordinator of NPH

Illinois Tech, working with Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, will leverage the existing Illinois Precision Medicine Consortium (IPMC) to help All of Us Research Program participants join an investigation into the specific elements of distinctive dietary patterns after assessing people's usual diet and their body's response to a standard meal challenge. Comprehensive analysis of people's blood, urine, and their gut microbiome under the different diets-;along with factors including genes, lifestyle, health history, and the social determinants of health-;will feed intensely rich data enabling AI predictive models to create personalized diet recommendations to reduce public health issues such as obesity, blood pressure control, diabetes, and more.

"We are excited to be a part of this revolutionary project that utilizes cutting-edge analytical and computational technologies and engages diverse communities in the scientific process," says Britt Burton-Freeman, Professor and director of the Center for Nutrition Research and chair of Illinois Tech's Department of Food Science and Nutrition. "There is no 'one size fits all' diet, and through this study, we hope to glean insights that will lead to more personalized dietary guidance, empowering individuals to make food and nutritional choices that will best serve their health and well-being."

To participate in NPH, individuals must be aged 18 or over and must enroll in or already be enrolled in NIH's All of Us Research Program(link is external). All of Us is an effort that aims to engage at least 1 million participants in building a health database that reflects the diversity of the U.S., to help speed up medical research and enable individualized prevention, treatment, and care options.

The NPH study consists of three components. All study participants will participate in the first component, while a subset will take part in the other two components. In the first component of the study, participants will be asked to complete surveys, report their daily diets, and provide blood, urine, and stool samples for lab tests, including microbiome analysis. In the second component, a subset of participants will be given diets selected by researchers. In the third component, participants will also be given diets selected by researchers but will be requested to reside in a research center while on the diets. Participants from all three components of the study will participate in meal challenge tests that measure biological changes after they consume a standardized study-provided meal or drink. Participants will receive interpreted information from the study on their health, including body fat percentage, microbiome makeup, metabolism, and diet composition.

NPH will link participants' data from the study to information obtained through the All of Us Research Program, including genetics information and data from electronic health records and additional surveys. The study will leverage advances in AI to analyze this vast amount of data from participants to develop algorithms predicting how a person will respond to a particular food or diet based on various factors. All of this data will ultimately be accessible through All of Us' data platform, the Researcher Workbench(link is external), to support many other studies on health and disease. Strict safeguards are in place to keep the data secure and protect participant privacy.

"Nutrition is perhaps one of the most powerful medicines we have available, but is among the least understood," said Geoffrey Ginsburg, M.D., Ph.D., All of Us' chief medical and scientific officer. "By tapping into the All of Us infrastructure and platform, NPH will be set apart from other nutrition studies by its scale and diversity. The value of NPH will be amplified by the research community as new data types are made broadly available in the Researcher Workbench to explore and advance our understanding of nutrition and health."

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