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Center for Human Nutrition

Liwei Chen, PhD Student Chen

To evaluate the causes behind the high obesity rates in our country, Liwei Chen, MS, MD, is focusing not what's on people's plates, but what's in their glasses. "My focus is how beverage consumption and regulation relates to obesity," says Chen. "I am looking at how the consumption of caloric beverages (soda, alcohol, coffee, and tea) affects changes in weight, how this consumption is spread amongst population groups, and how we can get people to reduce their consumption. The topic has real implications for public health interventions and policy."

Chen is analyzing longitudinal data on this topic that was collected from PREMIER, a multi-center trial about lifestyle modifications. The four centers involved in the weight loss maintenance trial are the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Duke University, Louisiana State University, and the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. Chen is excited to be presenting her data at The Obesity Society's annual meeting in October.

Another area of interest to Chen is cancer and its association with diet and lifestyle. She has prepared a literature review and meta-analysis of the relationship between food, nutrition, and physical activity with lung cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer (the upper part of the throat behind the nose). Chen worked closely with Anthony Alberg, PHD, MPH, an associate professor with the Epidemiology Department, on the project, which was funded by the World Cancer Research Fund. She presented the data at the Experimental Biology 2007 conference, where she received a post-competition Coca-Cola Company Research Award for the Diet and Cancer Research Section.

Chen says she joined the Human Nutrition track because of its rigorous academics, the ability to do population and epidemiologic research, and the chance to work closely with Benjamin Caballero, MD, PhD, her program advisor and mentor for her obesity research. She plans to graduate in December 2007 and further pursue research in prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, particularly obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
(July 2007)

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