Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease characterized by elevated blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes (T2D) accounts for more than 90% of all diabetes cases and affects over 29 million Americans. With its numerous complications, diabetes results in excessive premature deaths and significant economic burden.
Excess body weight is the most important risk factor for developing T2D. In the U.S., more than two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese. In addition, childhood obesity has become a significant public health issue, and its prevalence has been steadily increasing.
Through decades of research, it is clear that both obesity and T2D are mainly driven by unhealthy diets and lifestyle, and precipitated by complex and poorly understood interactions between genetic predisposition and environmental factors.
At the Channing Division of Network Medicine (CDNM), investigators have performed extensive research to examine the role of genetic, dietary, lifestyle, and other risk factors in the development of obesity and T2D. In addition, we have also investigated modifiable risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other complications among individuals with diabetes.
CDNM investigators have uncovered important roles in T2D and obesity for many dietary factors, including glycemic index, glycemic load, sugar-sweetened beverages, coffee, whole grains, and red and processed meats. We estimated that up to 90% of T2D cases are potentially preventable by following a healthy diet and lifestyle.
We have also identified novel biomarkers for T2D, including adipokines, inflammatory cytokines, nutrition metabolites, and environmental pollutants, offering new insights into the pathophysiology of the disease.
Our analyses of gene-lifestyle interactions have shown that genetic factors predispose individuals to obesity, but that such susceptibility can be attenuated by healthy lifestyle choices.
Diet is among the most important modifiable factors for T2D incidence and weight gain. Our research:
CDNM investigators have contributed to the understanding of genetic determinants of obesity and T2D through the following research:
It is increasingly recognized that many environmental pollutants possess endocrine-disrupting properties and may promote excessive weight gain and T2D risk. Our research:
We are also interested in understanding physical activities, sleep duration, snoring, night-shift, smoking, and many other lifestyle-related risk factors in relation to obesity and T2D risk.
Investigators at CDNM primarily use data collected in the well-established Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II, and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. We also collaborate with numerous investigators nationally and internationally, and address search questions often in clinical trials, including the PREDIMED trial, the VITAL trial, and POUNDS-Lost Study.