Share on:

Nutrition Research Unit

Photo of team members in the Nutrition Research Unit.

Nutrition's role in promoting health and the treatment of disease is of great importance to many Mayo investigators. Even if nutrition is not the primary focus of their research, they often wish to control or estimate nutrient intake due to the influence of nutrition on many areas of physiology.

To study the effect of nutrition or control nutrition in research, many investigators use the services and resources of the Center for Translational Science Activities (CTSA) Nutrition Research Unit. The unit offers expertise and resources to study various diets and specific nutrients in a unique, controlled environment.

The nutrition research manager oversees all nutrition-related activities in the CTSA Nutrition Research Unit. The staff consists of five research dietitians and a metabolic kitchen operated by five dietary assistants. The research dietitians are experts in the field of nutrition-related research activities. They use state-of-the-art nutritional analysis software to plan precise diets or analyze the nutrient intake of subjects.

The dietitians provide the following nutritional-related services to aid researchers:

  • Assistance in designing nutrition-related research projects and assessing nutrition-related resources required to meet the needs of a protocol.
  • Precise nutrition control through weighed diets, test meals or formulas that are calculated and prepared in the metabolic kitchen.
  • Collection of nutrient data of subjects through diet histories, food record analysis or validated food frequency questionnaires (FFQs), including online FFQs.
  • Development of nutrition-related educational materials and delivery of nutritional education to individual research subjects as well as group education programs.
  • Development of nutrient specific databases for specialized study needs if not already available (e.g. oxalate, phytochemicals, fatty acids, glycemic index).
  • Analysis, and interpretation, of nutrition-related data and results.
  • Assistance with writing scientific publications of nutrition-related research.

Nutrition services in the Clinical Research Units

The Saint Marys Clinical Research Unit (CRU) features a full metabolic kitchen offering a variety of food choices. It is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is staffed by specially-trained dietary assistants overseen by the research dietitians. The metabolic kitchen offers the following services:

  • Nutrient-controlled, precisely-weighed diets that are prepared to assure nutritional consistency and accuracy.
  • Weighed meals may be provided on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
  • Weighed meals may be served at specific times to meet the needs of the research protocol or to accommodate participants' schedules.
  • Diet compliance monitored by dietary assistants.

Research dietitians meet with participants prior to their involvement in a diet-controlled study to acquire food preferences and explain how and why their diets will be controlled.

The Charlton CRU offers a limited food service from the nourishment center which is equipped with a microwave oven and refrigerator. If necessary, weighed meals prepared at the metabolic kitchen in St. Marys may be delivered to the Charlton CRU; or elsewhere in the Institution as required to accurately conduct a study.


Helen O'Connor

  • ART493695