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Jose Ordovas
Jose M. Ordovas.

Nutrition Genomics Expert Receives USDA Award

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
October 20, 2006

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20—Discoveries about how genetic inheritance provokes biochemical responses to diet and nutrition have garnered a Secretary's Honor Award for Jose M. Ordovas of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass.

Ordovas is director of the HNRCA's Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory, which is funded by the Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief intramural scientific research agency.

"Ordovas' work has significantly advanced the emerging field of nutritional genomics and provided a foundation for developing targeted dietary and lifestyle recommendations for given populations based on genetics," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling. "These research findings ultimately are aimed at providing knowledge to help prevent chronic diseases and promote healthy aging."

Ordovas will be among those honored today at the 59th Secretary's Honor Awards Ceremony. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns will present the awards during the event at USDA headquarters here. In addition to the USDA Honor Awards, it was also announced that group Employee Recognition and Remembrance Awards will be presented to acknowledge USDA employees who contributed, in a significant manner, to recovery and relief efforts in the aftermath of hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

"Among many others across the country, this group award honors 45 ARS employees whose efforts far exceeded the regular performance of their duties," Knipling said. "This group award cites these employees' extraordinary level and quality of assistance during rescue and recovery operations in response to the disastrous effects of hurricanes Rita and Katrina on the United States in 2005."

Secretary's Honor Award recipient Ordovas began his career researching genes that control blood levels of fats, which affect the risk of heart disease, more than two decades ago. He is currently leading investigations into how nutrients regulate the actions of genes that are involved in metabolism and genes that are related to obesity.

Along with colleagues, Ordovas found that several common mutations in a gene known to be protective during famine, perilipin, actually modulate body weight in women. His team also has found that other variations in the perilipin gene predict the response of obese people to very low-calorie diets. That finding defines a group of individuals who are genetically resistant to traditional weight-reducing diets and for whom other alternatives are needed.

Ordovas received his bachelor's degree in organic chemistry from the University of Zaragoza, Spain and received a doctorate in biochemistry in 1982 from the same institution.