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ASN honors nutrition researchers Belury, Bruno

EHE News
September 03, 2014

Seminal studies may help people suffering from health conditions

One-third of our planet’s population suffers from obesity and heightened risks for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, mood disorders and certain cancers. Martha Belury, the Carol S. Kennedy Professor of Human Nutrition, is internationally known for advancing the study of how specific fatty acids in the diet can help people suffering from these conditions.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease affects more than 70 million people in the U.S. Richard S. Bruno, associate professor and Human Nutrition program leader, has conducted seminal research that brings us closer to using green tea to protect against or treat this growing threat that currently has no established treatments.

In 2014, the American Society of Nutrition recognized the two faculty members, both in the Department of Human Sciences, for their excellence in research.

Belury received the Robert H. Herman Memorial Award for a senior investigator, and Bruno received the Mead Johnson Award for a young investigator.

Robert S. Chapkin, Regents Professor and renowned scholar in integrative medicine and cancer cell biology at Texas A&M University, noted, “Martha is a unique talent. Her understanding of nutrient structure-function and clinical study design allows her to explore a range of nutritional questions that are beyond the scope of most investigators.”

Mario Ferruzzi, professor of food sciences at Purdue University, stated, “Rich has an extraordinary enthusiasm for science . . . I consider him one of the best young minds in the area of dietary bioactive compounds and health.”

Belury recognized for advances in clinical nutrition research

photo of belury
Martha Belury

Belury, the Carol S. Kennedy Professor of Human Nutrition, received the Robert H. Herman Memorial Award in recognition of her important advancements in clinical nutrition research. She is known for her seminal work on the biochemical and metabolic contributions of specific fatty acids that advance the prevention and treatment of prediabetes, also known as metabolic disease; mood disorders among children; and certain cancers, such as breast cancer.

Her basic science discoveries have already been translated to patient treatment. One has resulted in a natural dietary product that reduces the harmful accumulation of excess belly fat, a condition responsible for the development of prediabetes.

Belury’s groundbreaking work has been well received by numerous professional societies and extends into public outreach efforts as well. Among her almost 90 high-impact scientific publications, one was ranked 17th among “The Most Cited Papers” in the 70-year history of the journal Nutrition Reviews. Her research on dietary fats and health has been featured on NPR and ABC television news and in popular press magazines, resulting in thousands of national and international citations from the lay media. In 2012, she was a featured guest on the “Dr. Oz Show.”

Most recently, her research findings showed that high-fat meals and stress slowed women’s metabolism, resulting in weight gain. A new release on the subject resulted in multiple appearances on the websites of such wide-reaching media outlets as Shape magazine, Huffington Post and ABC News Radio.

Belury was elected by her peers in 2012 as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a high honor recognizing meritorious efforts to advance science.

Bruno honored for advancing the study of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Richard Bruno, professor of human nutrition
Richard Bruno

Bruno is the recipient of the Mead Johnson Award for his work toward the use of green tea as a dietary strategy to treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The disorder currently has no approved therapies, despite the number of Americans afflicted by it. It causes extensive liver damage, and in some, leads to fibrosis, cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Although Bruno has published more than 65 research articles and book chapters, the award focuses on his seven research studies about green tea that were published since completing his postgraduate training in 2005. This work significantly advances our understanding of this potentially debilitating disorder’s connection with obesity and the extent to which green tea protects against liver injury during NAFLD caused by dysfunctional fat metabolism, oxidative stress and inflammation.

Bruno’s seminal findings provided the foundation for his newest grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), U.S. Department of Agriculture. He expects the study to pave the way to define green tea as an innovative and effective therapy for patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a more severe form of NAFLD.

Bruno is recognized for his appointment to four editorial boards of leading nutrition journals, election as chair of the Vitamin and Mineral Research Interest Section of the ASN, appointment as chair of several minisymposia at the annual ASN meeting as well as his activity as an article reviewer for numerous scientific journals.

Although the award was largely for Bruno’s contributions, it also recognizes that many of the studies were led by his graduate students. He displays great commitment to training and mentoring the next generation of researchers.

Bruno’s award is sponsored by the Mead Johnson Pediatric Nutrition Institute.

The American Society of Nutrition (ASN) is a member society of the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and publishes three of the top journals in the field.


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