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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Obesity & Metabolism

Research Unit


Sean H. Adams

Research Leader



The Obesity and Metabolism Research Unit is to test dietary and behavioral interventions to prevent obesity and its associated disorders, to characterize biological systems that regulate dietary behaviors, metabolism and energy balance, and to determine how whole foods and specific nutrients impact health.   Our research aims to advance fundamental scientific knowledge, while providing practical information that informs public health policy related to obesity and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.


To achieve this mission, the Obesity and Metabolism Research Unit teamuses state-of-the-art approaches that range from community-based projects and clinical trials to sub-cellular and metabolite-level analyses.   

 Our Studies:

  • Health and endocrine effects of dietary carbohydrates (i.e., whole grains & refined sugars).
  • Identification of unique biomarkers reflective of metabolic health and disease.
  • Links between dietary behavior and psychosocial factors such as stress.
  • Absorption and metabolism of vitamin B12 in at-risk populations.
  • Effects of diet on bone health in adolescent girls and women.
  • Roles of micronutrients (zinc, calcium, vitamin D) and newly-described genes on body composition, energy balance, and fat tissue physiology.
  • Efficacy of U.S. Dietary Guideline-recommended physical activity levels for health and prevention of disease.
  • Factors that influence adherence to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Researchers work closely with investigators in the Immunity & Disease Prevention Research Unit, and collaborate with researchers from the U.S. and over 18 other countries. Scientists in the Unit have over 120 years of research experience in government, academic, and biotech labs.

Research Scientists:


••          Lindsay H. Allen, Ph.D., R.D., WHNRC Director

-         vitamin B12 absorption & deficiency, community & international nutrition

••          Liping Huang, M.D., Ph.D.

-         zinc transporters, zinc & cancer

••          Nancy L. Keim, Ph.D., R.D.

-         energetics, food intake behavior, exercise physiology & metabolism

••          Kevin D. Laugero, Ph.D.

-         dietary behavior, stress biology, community nutrition

••          John W. Newman, Ph.D.

-         lipid metabolism, biomarker discovery, metabolomics technologies

••          Marta D. Van Loan,Ph.D.

-         bone metabolism, calcium nutrition, body composition





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Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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