Dr. Kauwell's research program focuses on folate and vitamin B12 metabolism and requirements in humans, with a special interest in learning more about the association between nutrient-gene interactions and health maintenance/chronic disease risk. Controlled feeding studies previously conducted by Dr. Kauwell and her colleagues suggest that folate requirements are higher in individuals with two altered alleles of the gene that encodes a key enzyme in folate metabolism. Dr. Kauwell and her colleagues also observed that a moderately low folate intake was associated with a reduction in DNA methylation. A reduction in DNA methylation can result in abnormal gene expression and may increase birth defect and cancer risk. Learning more about nutrient-gene interactions and epigenetic modifications such as these may eventually help us better define nutrient needs based on the genetic/epigenetic uniqueness of an individual.
Recently, Dr. Kauwell served as a co-investigator with Dr. Bailey on a research project investigating the relationship between the level of vitamin B12 intake and vitamin B12 status in adults who are beef-eaters compared to those who restrict or exclude beef from their diets (e.g., lacto-ovo- and lacto-vegetarians, vegans). The incidence of impaired vitamin B12 status was surprisingly high in this otherwise healthy population. Interestingly, impaired status was not limited to vegetarians suggesting that dietary intake alone may not be sufficient to meet the needs of non-supplement using adults. Several other collaborative studies examining the relationship between certain genetic polymorphisms and vitamin B12 status, metabolism and requirements, and the potential role of the vitamin B12 transport protein (holo-transcobalamin) as a indicator of vitamin B12 absorption have been completed or are nearing completion.
As an extension of her interest in folate and its role in health promotion/disease risk reduction, Dr. Kauwell also has developed educational programs and media designed to educate and motivate consumers to adopt nutrition behaviors associated with favorable health outcomes.
359 Food Science and Human Nutrition Building
P.O. BOX 110370
University of Florida
Gainesville, Fl 32611-0370