DR. LU QI has only been at Tulane for a couple of months, but he already has big plans. Qi is the HCA Regents Distinguished Chair for Population Genetics and professor of epidemiology. Trained in both nutritional and genetic epidemiology, Qi is launching the Tulane University Obesity Research Center, which will be a school-wide center focusing mainly on precision prevention and treatment of obesity and related cardio-metabolic complications through nutrition and lifestyle modifications.
“We want to promote prevention and treatments of obesity-related metabolic disorders using precision prevention or medicine,” he said. Precision medicine, also called personalized medicine, uses genomics, epigenomics, metabolomics, and other newly developed approaches to tailor health treatments to the individual’s molecular makeup. “Our ultimate goal is to figure out how the modification of diet and lifestyle can promote weight loss and maintenance, as well as mitigate its metabolic complications on the basis of personal profiles.”
Qi, who is originally from China, brings with him a distinguished background with a doctorate in nutrition and genetic epidemiology from Tufts University and a record of success on the faculty of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where he retains an adjunct professor position.
Most of his previous research has been related to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, viewed through the lens of interactions of nutrition and lifestyle. “We try to include all the ‘omics’ knowledge and apply that to nutritional epidemiology,” he says referring to the different fields of study like genomics, epigenomics, metabolomics, and proteomics.
At Tulane, he is eager to collaborate with faculty not only in the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine but also throughout the university, such as faculty in medicine and engineering and even in areas such as economics.
Obesity is an important issue in this state and this city, he pointed out, and he wants to “combine my experience and knowledge with others interested in this area.”
Qi also gained some attention recently for a study suggesting that people who eat hot, spicy foods regularly may live longer. Qi co-led the study of more than 500,000 Chinese adults over seven years. The results indicated that participants who ate foods flavored with chili peppers every day reduced their risk of premature dying by 14 percent, as compared to people who ate chili peppers less than once a week.
The study was published in The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).
—Dee Boling (with input from Tulane New Wave)