Dr. Rankin seeks to clarify the optimal nutritional strategy to reduce inflammation and related health complications.
Inflammation is the response to the innate immune system to a variety of stresses including the two foci of Dr. Rankin's research: strenuous exercise and metabolic disturbances in obesity. Although inflammation has a critical role in protecting the body from infection, repeated or chronically elevated inflammation can be detrimental. For example, inflammation is higher in obese individuals which may partially explain the association of obesity with cardiovascular disease. Dr. Rankin has studied whether manipulating the type of protein (e.g. whey protein) or carbohydrate source (e.g. honey) consumed by athletes influences markers of oxidative stress or inflammation. Results from these studies can help to determine the optimal diet to reduce metabolic stress in athletes.
Another series of recent studies from the Rankin laboratory involved studying the effects of macronutrient composition of a weight loss diet on inflammatory factors in obese individuals. Next we explored the hypothesis that the effect of diet macronutrient composition on inflammation is mediated by an oxidative stress mechanism involving activation of the transcriptional factor, NF-KB, and subsequent expression of inflammatory mediators. Another project examined the effect of dietary antioxidants obtained through dried fruit consumption (raisins) on the postprandial increase in oxidative stress, inflammation, and endolethial dysfunction observed in obese individuals. The ultimate public health benefit of our obesity research is to determine optimal lifestyle strategies to mute the connection between obesity and development of chronic disease.