COE nutrition professor
studies Nigerian diet
College of Education Assistant Professor Carole Conn and UNM students
gave back this month to northern Nigerian villagers who have been
the focal point of Conns nutrition research on cardiovascular
disease risk factors.
Conn and the UNM Nutrition Club sold a selection of foods made
from Nigerian recipes with proceeds going to rebuild homes destroyed
by fire in a Fulani village near the city of Jos, Nigeria.
Conn and several researchers studied the diet of the Fulani, semi-nomadic
pastoralists who consume a low calorie diet high in saturated
fats, do not use tobacco and are physically active.
risk of cardiovascular disease is the subject of a paper co-authored
by Conn and published in Decembers American Journal of Clinical
Robert H. Glew and Dorothy J. VanderJagt of the UNM School of
Medicine Department of Biochemistry direct the U.S. Nigeria Minority
Biomedical Scholars Exchange Program, which sponsored the research
in Jos. Nigerian and American collaborators Margaret Williams,
Samuel M. Cadena, Michael Crossey and Seline N. Okolo also authored
Fulani do not have risk factors that show up in Americans who
eat a diet high in fat, Conn reports, noting that one reason
could be their active lifestyle.
the Fulani men have worked as cattle herders. The Fulani women
haul water and gather firewood, shake milk in gourds to make butter
and pound millet by hand as part of labor-intensive cooking practices.
We havent quantified their activities, but that is
a possibility for future research, Conn says.
Fulani take their cattle wide distances to find food. For generations
they have been cattle herders. They are a genetically distinct,
tall and lean group of individuals, Conn says. The
Fulani eat a lot of animal products and drink milk from the cows.
Its a high saturated fat diet, but not a high calorie diet.
measured serum lipid, homocysteine (a breakdown product of the
amino acid methionine), folate and vitamin B-12 concentrations
in Fulani men and women and assessed nutrients in their diet.
the analyses were compared to acceptable U.S. ranges. The energy
content of the diet was found to be low and protein content high.
Nearly one-half of energy was provided by fat and half of that
saturated fat. The diet provided substantial amounts of vitamin
B-12, barely adequate amounts of vitamin C and only one-third
the recommended allowance of folate. HDL cholesterol and triacylglycerol
concentrations in Fulani adults were within acceptable ranges
and the LDL cholesterol below the range, indicating a favorable
cardiovascular risk profile for serum lipids.
serum homocysteine level of Fulani men was above the normal range
for Americans. High serum homocysteine is associated with increased
risk for cardiovascular disease, but is not yet an established
risk factor. Because the male Fulani do not have the more recognized
risk factors such as high serum cholesterol, smoking, overweight,
sedentary lifestyle, future research may shed light on the importance
of high serum homocysteine in isolation of other risk factors.
concluded that despite a diet high in saturated fat, Fulani adults
have a low risk of cardiovascular disease, at least in terms of
established risk factors, a finding likely due to high activity
level and low total energy intake.
has a Ph.D in exercise physiology and is also a registered dietitian,
R.D., has been at UNM since 1998. I came to Albuquerque
to be a scientist, she says of her prior position at the
Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. I studied the effects
of nutrition and exercise on immune functions.
She is now
on the faculty of the Nutrition Dietetics Program in the College
of Education. The undergraduate curriculum leads to a bachelor
of science in nutrition/dietetics and provides students with the
course work necessary to meet requirements established by the
American Dietetic Association (ADA). Approval by ADA ensures that
graduates can be considered for post-graduate training leading
to eligibility for the registration examination for dietitians
and registered dietitian (R.D.) status.
the nutrition component for UNM Biochemistry Department studies
focusing on cardiovascular diseases. She serves on the Faculty
Senate International Affairs Committee. A fellow of the American
College of Sports Medicine, in 1999, she was recognized by UNM
for modeling best professional practices in scholarship.
to return to Nigeria this summer to continue studying Nigerian
foods and dietary patterns.