MU | Features
You are what you eat .
Of course , this old maxim isn ’ t meant to be taken literally , but it does speak to just how important it is to be mindful of the foods we consume . And while nobody is arguing against this notion , we understand now just how true this is more than ever before .
The study of food , nutrition and diet goes back centuries , but the field has grown leaps and bounds in recent years thanks to advances in technology and an emerging field of research known as nutrigenomics . Nutrigenomics – sometimes called personalized nutrition or precision nutrition – studies the relationship between an individual ’ s genes and how they affect their response to food and nutrients .
Manchester University ’ s College of Pharmacy , Natural and Health Sciences , well-positioned as a leader in this emerging field , will see its first cohort in Fall 2023 . Its new Master of Science in Nutrition and
“ Every day it seems we learn something new about genetic predispositions for chronic diseases and the impacts of diet .”
Nutrigenomics program was recently accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics , or ACEND – the agency prepares students for careers as registered dietitian nutritionists .
“ There are two ways of looking at the interactions between our genes and the foods that we eat ,” said Laura Bollinger , M . S ., RDN , LD , program director and assistant professor of nutrition and nutrigenomics . “ One – the variations of the genes we have influence the way that we are able to utilize the nutrients we consume . And , on the flip side – the nutrients we consume can either up-regulate or down-regulate our genes .”
Bollinger , a registered dietitian nutritionist and ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist , brings more than 15 years of experience in nutrition and the exercise industry to the new program . She said that being at the forefront of the growing field of nutrigenomics will help set Manchester apart from other nutrition programs .
“ The Master of Science in Nutrition and Nutrigenomics is an online , didactic program , so all of the coursework can be completed from anywhere in the country ,” Bollinger said . “ Then we offer six rotations for students to get a variety of real-life experiences so that when they graduate , they ’ re ready to enter the workforce .”
From left : Program Director Laura Bollinger and Kimberli Pike , associate professor of nutrition and nutrigenomics .
While Bollinger is leading the charge , she is not alone . Besides having the support of Dean Tommy Smith and other leaders , Bollinger also will be accompanied by one of her mentors from her time as a student at Ball State University .
Kimberli Pike , M . S ., RDN , left Ball State after 18 years to join the Manchester faculty as an associate professor of nutrition and nutrigenomics .
“ Manchester ’ s program is a traditional Master of Science in nutrition , but it has that next level added to it ,” Pike explained . “ Students will meet our accrediting body ACEND ’ s required competencies to become a registered dietitian nutritionist , but the program elevates our field to include nutrigenomics . I really liked that distinction .”
Pike , who is also completing the Doctor of Clinical Nutrition program at Rutgers University , said the research in the field of nutrition in recent years has revealed nutrigenomics as a major piece of the puzzle that has been missing . Pharmacy is a crucial component in furthering these studies because it provides a way to look at how one chemical or very targeted chemicals interact with our genetics , she said .
“ That ’ s really where precision nutrition was born , in looking at that interplay of chemicals in foods – nutrients and chemicals found naturally or added in foods – and the person ’ s genetics and metabolism ,” said Pike . “ Every day it seems we learn something new about genetic predispositions for chronic diseases and the impacts of diet .”
As the team prepares for the MS in NGx inaugural class next fall , Bollinger hopes to attract students from a variety of backgrounds .
“ With this type of program , students don ’ t have to come from a nutrition undergraduate program ,” she said . “ They can come from a variety of disciplines as long as they have the prerequisites . So , this could be pre-med , biology , counseling , exercise science , to name just a few .”
People often don ’ t know exactly what dietitians do , so they don ’ t necessarily go into college thinking they want to be a dietitian , Bollinger explained . Her hope is to raise awareness and attract those students with interest in health and nutrition to see themselves in this rapidly growing field as a vital member of the health care team .
Echoing that vision , Pike is also excited about what the program will bring to the world of pharmacy and nutrigenomics .
“ We really hope to build this program to fill a gap we have in our immediate area and in the state of Indiana , where we have a shortage of clinicians in our field ,” she said . “ I ’ m very encouraged that we ’ ll have a strong program , not just in Northern Indiana , but statewide and nationally .”
To learn more about this innovative program , visit www . manchester . edu / msngx . by Matt Walker
Manchester University | ManchesterRx 15