Behind the Coat – Nana Gletsu-Miller, PhD.

Nana Gletsu-Miller, PhD. headshot

Behind the Coat – Nana Gletsu-Miller, PhD 

March is National Nutrition Month. In this edition of “Behind the Coat,” nutrition researcher Nana Gletsu-Miller, PhD, dishes on how a healthy diet can change your life.  

Thanks to All IN for Health advisory board member Mary Margaret Rhees, MD. for contributing the questions. 

Take part in this month-long effort by eating up the knowledge All IN for Health is serving up! 

Please introduce yourself. 

I am an associate professor in the Department of Applied Health Science in the School of Public Health at Indiana University-Bloomington. I teach students undergoing training in dietetics and nutrition science and conduct nutrition research in our school. We test nutritional solutions to promote the health of individuals who are concerned about obesity and type 2 diabetes. 

What got you into research originally? 

I worked in research labs as an undergraduate and got interested by observing the careers of the professors.   

What is the best part about doing research in Indiana?

I love the Indiana CTSI, which allows faculty to get access to collaborators, facilities and resources not only at IU but also at Purdue. We get to do the most cutting edge and impactful research due to this multi-faceted state-wide entity. 

What impact does poor nutrition have on our bodies?  

Poor nutrition negatively impacts several aspects of health, since nutrients are important for body function, e.g. gastrointestinal, respiratory, immune, reproductive, mental, circulatory etc. Poor nutrition is responsible for several diseases as well as reduced physical and mental function.    

Why is childhood obesity a health crisis?  

Over last few decades childhood obesity has increased in the U.S. and now affects 1/5 children. It is a crisis because children are developing diseases related to obesity such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, which is something that we have not seen before now. Children suffering from these diseases will face early health burdens including heart and kidney disease and they are projected to have lower lifespans. 

What can a new parent do to decrease their baby’s risk of obesity?  

Parents who lead healthy lifestyles reduce the risk of obesity, because the child would be in a healthy home environment. Breast feeding has been shown to be beneficial.  

What are some health concerns for adults who have been obese all their lives?  

Obesity is associated with several conditions, including diabetes and cardiometabolic disease and other aspects of physical and mental health. There are also some adults who live with obesity, but are otherwise healthy, especially if they follow the guidelines for diet and physical activity.  

Are nutritional supplements helpful based on an average American diet?  

Yes, but getting nutrients from food is the best bet. Individuals who are not able to meet the dietary recommendations for specific nutrients from their diet should get them from supplements.  

Are artificial sweeteners better for us than sugar?  

Probably, but there is a lot of debate about this because the benefits of replacing sugar by artificial sweeteners only come from small clinical studies.  

Are there any healthy fast foods?    

Yes, but many fast foods have high amounts of fat, sugar and salt. Preparing your own food is a good way to limit intake of those nutrients. Otherwise, read the nutrition facts of the fast foods so you can make the best choices.  

How does obesity increase a person’s cancer risk?   

Several links have been proposed between obesity and cancer. Examples are that obesity promotes inflammation, insulin resistance and oxidative stress, and these conditions have been found to increase the risk of cancer. 

Can specific diets change the course of a disease, such as a Mediterranean diet for patients with heart disease?  

Yes, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to decrease the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Other dietary patterns such as the vegetarian and the US healthy dietary pattern have been shown to promote health.