Touro University Awarded NIH Grant to Study Impact of Diet on Fatty Liver Disease

Date: October 02, 2007
Dr. Jean Marc Schwarz
Dr. Jean Marc Schwarz
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Barbara Franklin
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VALLEJO, Calif. and NEW YORK, N.Y. - Touro University California, a branch campus of New York-based Touro College, has announced its receipt of a four-year $1.4 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institute of Health (NIH) to study the impact of diet on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition that now affects about a third of Americans. The study is expected to begin in October.

“We have been awarded NIH grants before, but never one this prestigious and competitive,” said Dr. Barbara Kriz, PhD, associate dean for pre-clinical education and research at Touro University California (TUC). “It is a really significant step forward for our research efforts and establishes us as a respected research university.”

The study will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. Nathalie Bergeron, a faculty member at TUC’s College of Pharmacy, and other collaborators at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). There will be 15 participants for each year of the study, for a total of 60 enrolled participants over four years. Dr. Jean-Marc Schwarz, PhD., associate professor of biochemistry at TUC’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, is the principal investigator.

Dr. Schwarz explained that fatty liver disease, which usually occurs in obese individuals, often leads to type 2 diabetes. This condition can increase in severity with inflammation and the patient can develop cirrhosis and in some cases a liver transplant may be required. Dr. Schwarz suspects that the culprit is fructose, an inexpensive sugary syrup (high fructose corn syrup) commonly found in soft drinks and baked goods.

To test this hypothesis, participants in Dr. Schwarz’s study will be placed in two dietary intervention groups. Participants in both groups will consume diets consisting of lower calorie content, which should result in modest weight loss, and both diets will contain the same proportions of fat, protein and carbohydrate. However, the diets will differ in fructose content, with one diet retaining the subject’s usual intake of fructose and other sugars, and the other substituting complex carbohydrates for fructose.

Participants will spend the first five days of the study in San Francisco General Hospital to analyze their metabolism and liver fat content. After consuming the experimental diets for two months, participants will be readmitted to the hospital to evaluate the impact of low versus higher fructose intake on liver fat content and metabolic parameters as they relate to the risks of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.