Georgia CTSA Research Bionutritionist Explores Relationship Between Gut Microbiome and Obesity

Kayellen Umeakunne, MS RDN LD, Research Bionutritionist, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) Georgia CTSA Clinical Research Center (GCRC) recently co-authored a manuscript about the role of the gut microbiome in the development of chronic metabolic and autoimmune diseases and disorders. The findings were published in EC Nutrition in "The Gut Microbiota, Obesity and the Effect of Dietary Modulation and Bariatric Surgery on the Microbiome: A Review of the Literature".

Through a review of major publications, the research team investigated trends and associations in obesity and gut microbiota. Their findings included there are distinctive changes in the gut microbiome associated with obesity. Dietary modulation and bariatric surgery have a significant effect on the constitution of the gut microbiome.

"The GCRC has been an invaluable resource for my research. All key cores were involved in the conduct of my study including the Bionutrition Core Research Kitchen and Body Composition Lab, Nursing Core, Analytical Lab, Research Design and Biostatistics Core, Recruitment Core, Regulatory Core, Administrative Core and the Research Subject Advocate. It takes a multi-disciplinary team approach to conduct quality research," says Umeakunne.

Additional recent publications include a book chapter vignette on "Whole Plant Foods and Optimal Gut and Host Health"  in Promoting Biodiversity in Food Systems, CRC Press, 2018; "Nutrition in Sickle Cell Disease: Recent Insights" in Nutrition and Dietary Supplements, 2019; and "Developing a Cookbook with Lifestyle Tips: A Community-Engaged Approach to Promoting Diet-Related Cancer Prevention Guidelines" in Jacobs Journal of Food and Nutrition, 2015. Also, Umeakunne is co-author of a U.S. patent for a nutritional supplement for sickle cell disease. 

For the past 13 years, Umeakunne has directed the Bionutrition Core, Metabolic Kitchen and Body Composition Lab at the MSM GCRC and previously managed the Emory GCRC Nutrition Unit where she established the Body Composition Lab. In her current role, she provides support and training for investigators and students conducting nutrition interventions, feeding studies and body composition assessments. She serves as lecturer for the MSM MD1 Biochemistry course on nutrition, micronutrients and energy expenditure. 

Umeakunne collaborates with several investigators across the Georgia CTSA. She supports the MSM Optimal Health and Wellness Clinic Plant-Based Nutrition Cooking Classes by providing evidence-based nutrition lectures and engaging the Bionutrition Core staff in providing kitchen culinary skills training and food demonstrations. Through the Bionutrition Core, she also participates in many community engagement activities including puppet shows focused on nutrition education for children.