College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


The Laboratory of Biological Anthropology (LBA) at the University of Kansas in Lawrence has been awarded a grant to study the relationship of nutrition and genes on chronic diseases in Kansans. This project is the continuation of a 1980s University of Kansas study led by Dr. Michael Crawford, to address biological aging among the Mennonites of the Midwestern United States, with the original study results chronicled in the book Different Seasons, edited by Dr. Crawford.

The more recent project, designed by Dr. Crawford and Dr M. J. Mosher, was funded by the Kansas State Attorney General's Office. Its purpose was to:

  1. Provide a nutritional profile of Kansas farming communities to Kansas Health organizations and physicians
  2. Examine the relationship of that nutritional profile to chronic health problems such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis; and
  3. Identify underlying gene-nutritional interaction, existing in families, which increase the risk for onset of chronic disease.

Participation in this study consisted of a two-tiered information gathering. The first tier is that of written background family data, medical histories, and nutritional profiles. These are collected through questionnaires, a series of three 24-hour dietary recalls and food frequency data. The second tier of information consisted of physical data collected at a central location in the participating community. This portion of the study included a morning "fasting" blood sample taken from the arm (for lipid profiles, fasting insulin and leptin) and anthropometrical measures of height, weight, waist, arms and hips. Ideally, individuals participated in both the written and physical assessment portions of this study; however, participation in either tier was possible. The lab results of serum cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting insulin were made available to each individual and/or their family physician. A full nutritional analysis for participants was also sent to participants. Integrated results and analysis were provided to the participating communities through public presentations and websites.

Nutrition is seen as a primary prevention for many medical problems. Recent population studies create confusion concerning which dietary nutrients are detrimental, making the benefits from this study of great importance. Little is known or documented about the eating habits of Kansans. From a community standpoint, examining population- and family-based nutritional profiles, in association with medical profiles, provides basic data for epidemiological studies into the relationship of specific nutrients and diseases. Such relationships may be population specific and shed light on tangential environmental factors affecting the health of the community. From a family perspective, identifying those diseases aggregating in families, along with any association with nutritional intake, may provide an additional perspective into genetic-nutrient effects in disease risk. Finally, from an individual perspective, the specific information relating diet to serum lipid profiles and body measures provide a baseline to measure behavior modification and risk reduction.

This research received approval by the human experimentation board of the University of Kansas and conforms to P.L.93-348 and the Belmont Report