The Institute Of Human Nutrition

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News and Events

05.18.17 - 05.20.17

Dr. Shelley Weinstock, MS Career Services Officer and Faculty, presented at the Western Association of Advisors for the Health Professions 2017 Regional Conference, Covering Health Care: Advising Across the Disciplines. Dr. Weinstock moderated the panel: Interacting with Health Care Across the Disciplines. The panel broght together representatives from various colleges in the US who spoke about how nutrition impacts health and the overall outcomes.


04.28 and 04.29.17 IHN 60th Anniversary Symposium and Alumni Reunion Brunch

Happy 60th Anniversary IHN! On April 28th IHN students, faculty, post docs, staff and alumni attended the 60th anniversary symposium.The audience was treated to some amazing lectures and inspiring professional, and personal trajectories, post IHN.

On April 29th IHN alumni, current students and staff met for a celebratory brunch at the Vagelos Education Center on the CUMC campus. The reunion welcomed alumni from several countries and all across the United States. The lovely event ended with encouraging plans for the future and cake.


04.03.17 Columbia University Research Social

The IHN participated in this year's university-wide research social. The networking event was open to all Columbia faculty, research scientists, and postdocs and featured eight science, engineering, and biomedical institutes: The Earth Institute, Data Science Institute, Institute for Genomic Medicine, Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, The Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain. 


03.29.17 Distinguished Lectures Series: Omar Dary 

Senior Nutrition Advisor at USAID, Dr. Omar Dary, delivered his lecture: “Could Reduction of Salt Intakes Jeopardize Iodine Control Programs in the USA and Worldwide?”. Dr. Dary explained global historical trends in iodized salt intake and and how these have impacted health and policies. IHN faculty, staff and students were in attendance and participated in the lively post lecture discussion. 


02.23.17 NMB training Faculty Member and PhD Student Discuss Kidney Damage

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) have found that, for many patients, an initial diagnosis of “acute kidney injury” may have been inaccurate. Their finding, based on an analysis of patient records, suggests that the current method of assessing kidney function may be misleading during the initial evaluation of a patient.

Click here to learn more.


12.13.16 IHN's Food and Nutrition Council meeting


The IHN held its most recent Food and Nutrition Council meeting, Health System Transformation: What’s Food Got to Do with It? on December 13. Nutrition and public health experts from academia, nonprofit, government, and industry leaders met to discuss health and social impacts of nutritional policies in New York City. Presenters included: Sonia Angell, MD, MPH; Kim Kessler, JD; Shannon Farley, DrPH; Mina Chang, PhD; Sarah Shih, MPH; from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH); Shauna Downs, PhD from Johns Hopkins university and Wahida Karmally, DrPH, RD, from Columbia University.

The Food and Nutrition Council was established by Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition (IHN) in 2000. The Council acts as a catalyst to create partnerships between academia, government and non-government organizations, and food, nutrition, and pharmaceutical companies. The goals of the Food and Nutrition Council are to: inform members of new advances by Columbia University scientists in nutrition-related research; review potential national and international nutrition and health issues; generate interactions between the participating groups in a wide range of nutrition-related areas, especially research and education; and advocate for policies and practices that result in better nutrition and improved health. In pursuit of these goals, the partnerships meet to explore new opportunities to positively affect human nutrition from individual, community, public health and global perspectives. Other Food and Nutrition Council activities include discussion of nutrition policy, development of position statements, and review of nutrition education materials for health professionals and/or the general public. Our next meeting will be held in 2017.

12.8.16 IHN Director discusses climate change and seasonal hunger
IHN Director Richard Deckelbaum, MD, FRCPC, discusses intersectoral solutions for seasonal hunger, climate change, and social unrest in his latest blog post ''Seasonal hunger and public policy: intersectoral solutions needed''. The post was published recently in The Lancet Global Health Blog. Click here to read the full article.


11.03.16 Columbia College launches '' Food: An Interdisciplinary Perspective''.
Columbia College has announced a series of new courses, “Food: An Interdisciplinary Perspective,” thanks to a $750,000 gift from the Chapman Perelman Foundation, a New York-based foundation that gives to health, human services and education causes. The courses will provide students with a holistic understanding of food in the 21st century, considering questions such as how to feed a growing global population in a way that is sustainable with regards to the environment and public health.

 Click here to read the full article. 


8.23.16 IHN Director is lead author of study that shows Omega-3 injection reduces stroke-like brain damage in mice.
IHN Director Richard Deckelbaum, MD, FRCPC is lead author of the study "DHA but Not EPA Emulsions Preserve Neurological and Mitochondrial Function after Brain Hypoxia-Ischemia in Neonatal Mice." The findings, that Omega-3 fatty acids reduced brain damage in a neonatal mouse model of stroke, were published recently in PLOS ONE. 

Click here to read the full article. 


5.30.16 IHN Faculty Participates in second International Nutrition Conference in Armenia hosted by the American University of Armenia (AUA): ''Nutrition Today Matters Tomorrow''

Sharon Akabas, PhD and Kim Hekimian, PhD, delivered an engaging presentation addressing nutrition deficiencies in Armenia and how to overcome them by consuming local products: ’’Hold On to the Armenian Plate! Developing Food Based Dietary Guidelines for Armenia’’. Richard Deckelbaum, MD, presented: ‘’Overview of Micronutrients, Cost of Deficiency’’; setting the conference's theme.

4.23.16 Institute of Human Nutrition Hosts Five-day Obesity Course for Health Professionals and Students

Institute of Human Nutrition (IHN) MS Program Director Sharon Akabas, PhD, IHN core faculty member Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, and department of medicine professors Ari Shechter, PhD and F.Xavier Pi-Sunyer, MD, co-directed the five-day Obesity Course April 13-17, 2016, at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC).

Dr. Sharon Akabas (seen at left with Dr. Pi-Sunyer) developed this course nearly twenty years ago; it is offered every spring as part of the IHN’s one-year masters of nutrition science program. It provides in-depth coverage of obesity topics presented by renowned basic science, public health and clinical medicine practitioners and researchers. As described by Dr. Akabas “the course has grown over time with the rise of the obesity epidemic, and as new evidence emerges on obesity etiology, prevention, and treatment.”

F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, MD, professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and co-director of the NIH-sponsored New York Obesity Research Center, opened the course with the lecture “History of Obesity Research and Management”, which not only reviewed the history of nutrition research but also gave a good overview for the five-day course. He was introduced by CUMC Dean Lee Goldman, MD, MPH who announced that Dr. Pi-Sunyer will be awarded as a Master of the American Board of Obesity Medicine at their upcoming meeting.

Sarah Barlow, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics-gastroenterology at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the Center for Childhood Obesity (seen at left at podium), presented department of pediatrics grand rounds on Friday, April 15 as the first lecture of day three of the course. “The Challenges of Childhood Obesity Treatment” was delivered to a packed room, a clear indication of the need for information and training on nutrition and obesity for medical students and physicians.

This course fully satisfies the 30-hour live CME requirement to qualify for the American Board of Obesity Medicine certification. In addition to the IHN’s MS students, and physicians seeking CME credit, the course was attended by a number of nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, dentists, pharmacists and registered dietitians. Information on next year’s course will be available in Fall 2016.

3.3.16  Bone Density Research on College-aged Women Provides New Information on Nutrition
Jeri Nieves, PhD, a core faculty member in the MS program, is the first author of "Eating disorders, menstrual dysfunction, weight change and DMPA use predict bone density change in college-aged women", in the December issue of Bone.  She has prepared a five minute overview of the research here:


1.21.16  Sleep and Nutrition Study Reveals Surprising Results

MS Program Faculty Member Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD is the first author of a new study on sleep and nutrition. Her research, "Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave Sleep" was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (JCSM), Volume 12 Number 01.  The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which publishes the JCSM, reviewed the study, noting that "results show that greater fiber intake predicted more time spent in the stage of deep, slow wave sleep.  In contrast, a higher percentage of energy from saturated fat predicted less slow wave sleep.  Greater sugar intake also was associated with more arousals from sleep."

Dr. St-Onge explained "our main finding was that diet quality influenced sleep quality, and it was most surprising that a single day of greater fat intake and lower fiber could influence sleep parameters."  To read the full article, click here:  To read the press release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, click here:


1.4.16  Institute of Human Nutrition Field Trip Instructs P&S Medical Students on Connection between Agriculture, Nutrition, with Health and Medicine at Stone Barns
First-, second- and third-year medical students at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) spent a beautiful Sunday in November at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York, to learn how sustainable farming can improve health and nutrition. (in photo at left, Stone Barns Director of Programs P&S student Connor Kinslow, “Food for Thought” co-director committee Logan Mauney, IHN Director Richard Deckelbaum, and Stone Barns Manager Jessica Lutz take a break from gathering eggs.  PHOTO CREDIT: Ben Hider)

Many of these students are members of the P&S student interest group “Food for Thought”, which organizes lectures and activities on food and nutrition, to highlight the role food plays in their personal and professional life. Institute of Human Nutrition Director Richard Deckelbaum, MD facilitated the day-long visit, which was planned by the CUMC Center for Student Wellness Director Jane Bogart, to give medical students hands-on exposure to issues that affect nutrition and health.

Stone Barns, which opened to the public in 2004, is a working farm that practices resilient, transparent, four-season agriculture. The mission is to inform the public about sustainable farming practices, with the hope that it will inspire people to grow and eat sustainably produced food, and the property includes a partner restaurant, Blue Hill.  Stone Barns uses six acres of land for vegetable production, runs a 22,000 square foot greenhouse, and keeps pastures for chickens, turkeys, geese, sheep, pigs, and bees.

The medical students spent time in the field harvesting carrots (which they then ate, soil and all) and learned about soil health and integrated pest management. They visited the pasture and gathered eggs, and ended the day with a Blue Hill lunch.  (in photo at left: After harvesting carrots, students learned how sustainable farming improves flavor and nutrients to vegetables; in the front row, left, is Caleb McEntire, “Food for Thought” co-director, sampling a freshly harvested carrot. PHOTO CREDIT: Ben Hider)

During the day, they were challenged to think about how the farm can change the way they think about their personal health, and later on the health of populations and their patients, too. They learned about the barriers to eating a farm-driven diet, and discussed how farmers and doctors can work together to improve the food system and the health system. Lively discussions at lunch focused on what was learned, and next steps for the Food for Thought committee members.

Food for Thought co-director Logan Mauney summed up the day, saying “The experience at Stone Barns gave us an opportunity to directly engage with our food production system where it all starts: the farm! I was challenged as a student and future physician to consider and discuss how food affects my own and patients’ health from when it’s in the soil to when it’s in our stomachs."

For more information on Stone Barns, please visit  For more information or to get involved with Food for Thought, please email


11.2.15   IHN Faculty Present Research on Nutritient Shortfalls at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting

MS Program Director Sharon Akabas and IHN Administrative Manager Erin Paxson, along with  Regan Bailey, PhD from the National Institutes of Health, Shilpa Saklani, MS from the Center for Population Health and Health Disparity and Katherine Tucker, PhD in the Department of Clinical Laboratory and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Massachusetts presented their research "Novel Tool to Highlight Nutritient Shortfalls in Older Adults" at the October 2015 APHA annual meeting.  

The abstract described the proposal: Nutrient shortfalls occur in several sectors of the US population. Prevention of shortfalls has the potential to improve quality of life and save lives and healthcare dollars. Older adults are at particularly high risk because of increased requirements for several nutrients while energy requirement is reduced. This higher nutritional standard is further challenged by physical changes associated with aging (e.g. poorer dentition, reduced saliva production) or preference for easy-to-prepare foods. These insufficiencies put older adults at greater risk of falls, fractures, and disease outcomes. National monitoring data can help identify vulnerable subgroups that may require further intervention from healthcare practitioners. We propose to develop a tool to heighten the practitioner’s ‘index of suspicion’ (IOS) that a patient may be at risk of inadequate micronutrient intake. National Health And Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data (2011-2012) were analyzed by age, sex, ethnicity and SES for shortfall nutrients, with distribution adjustment using the National Cancer Institute (NCI) method, to identify vulnerable subgroups. Data are presented as % of subgroup <EAR. Age and sex were the primary factors associated with inadequate intakes. Adults aged ≥71 y, the most rapidly growing subset of the US population, were most likely to have low intake of calcium, magnesium, vitamins D, B6 and B12. Women were at higher risk than men of low intake for all of these nutrients across the age range. Once developed and tested, an ‘IOS’ tool practitioners could identify vulnerable groups, thereby heightening awareness of the need to improve that individual’s nutritional status.  Click here to view the presentation's outline:


10.22.15 Leading Research on Inflammation Presented at the 18th Annual Wu Lecture and IHN Retreat

Dr. Charles Serhan, Director of the Center for Experimental Therapeutics and Reperfusion Injury at Harvard University’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital delivered the Wu Lecture at this year’s Institute of Human Nutrition Retreat.

Dr. Serhan’s lecture “Novel Mediators in the Resolution of Infectious Inflammation that Stimulate Tissue Regeneration” reviewed his current research on specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPM’s) which activate a reduction in inflammation and stimulate healing.  The goal of Dr. Sherhan’s work is to identify pro-resolving mediators that stimulate resolution of chronic and acute inflammation.

In addition to Dr. Serhan’s groundbreaking research on inflammation, there were eleven other presentations by current PhD students, post -doctoral fellows, faculty and alumni of the MS and Nutritional and Metabolic PhD program.  Two PhD candidates, Bryan Gonzalez, who presented “Stem-cell-derived beta-cells to model diabetes due to HNF1a deficiency”, and Changyu Zhu, who delivered the lecture “The role of hepatocyte Notch signaling in the progression of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis” were selected as the best presentations of the day, and given the Marija Chouinard Award for Outstanding Research Presentation.

IHN MS Program Co-Director Sally Lederman, PhD introduced Narek Israelyan, MS (’15) who was selected from his class of 75 MS students to present his thesis.  The thesis and talk titles were “Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) have critical and long-lasting effects on enteric nervous system development and gastrointestinal function.” Under the mentorship of Dr. Kara Margolis, Narek was a recipient of an MS travel award to present his research at the 2015 Digestive Disease Week.

Dianne Dapito, PhD (seen second from left with NMB PhD Director Debra Wolgemuth, PhD, her mentor Robert Schwabe, PhD and IHN Director Richard Deckelbaum, MD) was the recipient of the Bernard Erlanger Award for Excellence in Research for her research that culminated in her PhD thesis “Contributions of activated hepatic stellate cells to hepatocarcinogenesis.” Dr. Dapito is currently doing post-doctoral work in Zurich on cachexia, an irreversible wasting syndrome often seen in cancer patients.



In Other News
The one-year master of science program welcomed seventy-four students at the end of August for a week of orientation and classes.  This rigorous program includes a thesis component, as well as professional and leadership development, to prepare graduates for a wide-range of careers in areas such as academia, dentistry, journalism, medicine, nursing, pharmaceutical and technology.  

The annual fall Career Night was held on October 6th with over fourteen IHN MS alumni in attendance to speak to current students about the various career paths taken after graduation.  Alumni panelists  included Vivian Lam, MS (‘14) who works for the healthcare innovation lab HITLAB, and IJ Frame, MS (‘07), PhD, who is a student in the MD/PhD program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Career planning is integrated into the curriculum in a number of ways, including individual and group meetings with Shelley Weinstock, PhD, the IHN’s Career Services Officer, a lecture on how to prepare for medical school interviews, and fall and spring career nights.


9.24.15 IHN Director Delivers Grand Rounds on Omega-3 Fatty Acids Research
Institute of Human Nutrition Director Richard Deckelbaum, MD delivered Department of Medicine Grand Rounds on Wednesday, September 16.  “Omega-3 fatty acids: the fishy dilemma(s)” reviewed the current research on omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (FA), and the role omega-3 FA play in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Since 1975, nearly 20,000 papers have been published on omega-3 FA, with conflicting results for clinical trials; recent studies use different compositions of omega-3FA, different duration and inconsistent doses.

Dr. Deckelbaum’s IHN lab, using rodent models, has found that emulsions containing omega-3 fatty acids have contributed to a marked protection of heart and brain after myocardial infarction and stroke when administered within two hours of a CVD event.

One dilemma is that a number of studies suggest that supplements do not carry the same benefit as eating cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel and anchovy. Dr. Deckelbaum recommends two to three servings of fish per week, as a way to maximize potential benefits of omega-3 FA.

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