TACKLING the world’s biggest health epidemic this century is the goal of a new nutrition and metabolism research unit launched today.
The unit, part of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), is headed by Professor Chris Proud.
The research undertaken by the unit aims to understand the impact of bad nutrition on human health, and find ways to tackle its consequences. It also aims to develop ways of improving nutrition to bring health benefits to all, especially to mothers, children and the elderly.
Professor Proud, who is also Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Adelaide, was appointed as SAHMRI’s Nutrition and Metabolism Theme Leader in September 2014.
SAHMRI’s Nutrition and Metabolism Theme collaborates closely with the Institute’s other six research themes (Aboriginal Health, Cancer, Heart Health, Healthy Mothers, Babies and Children, Infection and Immunity and Mind and Brain), in order to benefit the Australian population. Improving human nutrition will decrease the incidence of a range of health problems.
One of Professor Proud’s main research interests focuses on the links between obesity and type- 2 diabetes. His team is exploring the fundamental mechanisms that underlie conditions such as type-2 diabetes. A better understanding of these mechanisms may allow the development of new therapeutic drugs to combat the effects of overconsumption and weight gain.
Professor Proud said type-2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, representing approximately 90 per cent of the people with diabetes in Australia, and is the result of both genetic and environmental factors. The number of people with type-2 diabetes and other problems related to obesity is rising quickly in many countries.
“It is important to remember that while genes may predispose an individual to type-2 diabetes, in 80 per cent of cases, it can be prevented, or at least delayed, simply by adopting a healthy diet and maintaining an active lifestyle,” Professor Proud said.
“One of the most concerning issues is the recent rise in cases of obesity and type-2 diabetes in people in their early teenage years.
“Prevention is much better than cure. What we ultimately are trying to do is encourage healthy habits and the importance of taking charge of your own health.
“Complications of type-2 diabetes include retinopathy, impaired kidney function and neuropathy, just to name a few. Obesity is also linked to many other long-term health problems, such as heart disease, cancers and depression.”