Rowan Researcher Receives $1.8 Million Grant to Study How Diet Affects Poor Pregnancy Outcomes in Minority Women

Released: 10/3/2013 2:45 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Rowan University
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Newswise — STRATFORD – A researcher at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM) has received a $1.8 million federal grant to determine the role diet plays in the higher incidence of preterm delivery among African American and Hispanic women. Preterm delivery is the leading cause of infant deaths in the United States and one of the primary contributors to long-term neurological disabilities in children. Dr. Xinhua Chen, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at RowanSOM, is the lead investigator for the five-year study that is being funded through a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, an agency of the National Institutes of Health.

“The incidence of preterm delivery is 60 percent higher in African American women, and 40 percent higher among Hispanic women,” Dr. Chen said. “Dietary fat intake can influence the levels of free fatty acids (FFAs) in the blood, which, in turn, can alter vascular inflammation, an underlying cause of many health problems, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Our study will be the first to examine if maternal FFA-related vascular inflammation is a factor in the higher rate of preterm delivery and other pregnancy complications among minority women.”

Dr. Chen will be joined by fellow RowanSOM researchers Drs. Theresa Scholl, Robert Steer, T. Peter Stein and Keith Williams on the project. Their project will examine data and blood samples collected over a 10-year period (1996-2007) from 2,800 healthy, low income pregnant women in three ethnic groups (African American, Hispanic and White). The data and samples are from a large epidemiological study in Camden, NJ, initiated by Dr. Scholl. The investigators will determine whether: maternal FFAs correlate to dietary fat intake; there are ethnic differences in biomarkers for inflammation; and if these differences give rise to increased levels of preterm delivery and preeclampsia, a sudden sharp rise in blood pressure and swelling that occurs during pregnancy and is much more common in African Americans.

“Data from this study will provide an intriguing insight into the amount and type of dietary fats and their impact on pregnancy outcomes,” Dr. Chen said. “Modifying dietary fat may be an inexpensive and essential tool in reducing the significant ethnic disparity in adverse pregnancy outcomes.”

Media interested in speaking with Dr. Chen should contact Jerry Carey, RowanSOM Media and Public Relations, at (856) 566-6171 or at careyge@rowan.edu.

About Rowan University
Rowan University is a state-designated public research institution with campuses in Glassboro, Camden and Stratford, N.J., that offers bachelor’s through doctoral programs to 14,000 students. In the past two years, Rowan created a School of Biomedical Sciences; opened the Camden-based Cooper Medical School of Rowan University; and incorporated the School of Osteopathic Medicine, which was a part of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, making Rowan only the second university in the nation to grant both M.D. and D.O. medical degrees. Rowan also is slated to collaborate with Rutgers-Camden to create a new College of Health Sciences in Camden, with degree programs related to the growth of medical services needed in the future. Recently designated by the State as only the second comprehensive public research institution in New Jersey, Rowan plans to increase sponsored research to $100 million per year. These new initiatives will add to Rowan’s Rohrer College of Business and colleges of Communication and Creative Arts, Education, Engineering, Graduate and Continuing Education, Humanities and Social Sciences, Performing Arts, and Science and Mathematics.


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