Chia-Chi works in her laboratory.

Chia-Chi Chuang ’12, a doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition, uses grapes to prevent chronic inflammation and diabetes associated with obesity.

If you’ve watched “20/20” recently, perhaps you’ve learned of the study involving resveratrol, a grape component proven to increase lifespan and reduce disease in mice that have been fed a high fat diet. Still more studies have shown components in grapes or red wine decrease factors that lead to chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes.

Chia-Chi’s research has resulted in another exciting discovery involving grape powder extract. She’s found that grape powder prevents inflammatory gene expression caused by the saturated fatty acid palmitate in human fat cells. In lay terms that means there may indeed be validity behind the “French Paradox”—the observation that the French have a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease despite having a diet relatively rich in saturated fats.

A Westernized diet rich in saturated fats most likely contributes to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Obesity has been linked to a chronic condition of inflammation in the body. Essentially, by consuming grapes or grape products, like grape juice, wine or raisins, people may be able to decrease inflammation associated with obesity because grapes and their by-products have powerful anti-oxidant properties.

Chia-Chi, who comes from a rural area of Taiwan, completed her master’s degree in toxicology with a perfect 4.0 at the top-ranked university in Taiwan. She applied to UNCG after reading a journal article that featured research conducted by Dr. Michael McIntosh, the L.S. Keker Excellence Professor of Nutrition. Now, thanks to the Charles Hayes Graduate Fellowship, this first-generation college student works alongside McIntosh while pursuing her doctoral degree and her goal to be a nutrition scientist.

I enjoy conducting basic research that leads to novel discoveries.

“I read about his work in the ‘Journal of Nutrition and Endocrinology’ among others. I studied his findings because they had implications for my research. It’s great to now be working on similar research together.” Chia-Chi has published her own article in one of the same highly visible, peer-reviewed journals in which she originally learned about McIntosh.

In April, Chia-Chi heads to New Orleans to present her research at the Experimental Biology 2009 annual meeting of biological and medical scientists. “I enjoy conducting basic research that leads to novel discoveries that may someday be used to prevent disease,” says Chia-Chi.

Photography by Chris English and David Wilson, University Relations