The goal of this K Award is to provide developmental support that will allow Dr. Jesse Lieberman to become an independent investigator in the area of cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention for individuals with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI). Individuals with chronic SCI are known to have an increased prevalence of CVD risk factors such as dyslipidemia, diabetes, and central obesity compared to matched, able-bodied controls. Subsequently, CVD is more prevalent and occurs prematurely in this population compared to the general population. The study is entitled "Nutrition education for cardiovascular disease prevention in individuals with spinal cord injury: A randomized controlled trial." The purpose is t investigate the effect of additional nutrition education during acute rehab on nutrition knowledge, diet quality, weight status, and metabolic CVD risk over the course of one year among persons with acute SCI. This proposal is highly innovative because additional nutrition education has not been studied during acute rehab, and very little CVD prevention research has been conducted in the SCI population. This study has public health significance because there are approximately 12,000 traumatic SCI/year along with several thousand non-traumatic SCI/year and an estimated 1,275,000 Americans living with a SCI, and because of the increased prevalence of CVD, obesity and diabetes in the SCI population compared to the general population. The proposed research experiences and the associated career development plan will provide Dr. Lieberman with training in multidisciplinary research that is essential to address a complex problem such as CVD in the chronic SCI population. The career development aspect of this award includes: strong, multidisciplinary mentorship;graduate courses in nutrition, grant writing, and ethics;attending national conferences and workshops;mentored nutrition research experience;nutrition journal article reviews;and a leadership course. The candidate is well qualified to benefit from the proposed career development plan. He has demonstrated a significant commitment to a research career and substantial productivity through work supported by an NHLBI Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health Related Research, and other studies funded by his institution and other sources. He will work closely with his mentors and advisory committee during the five years of the proposed award to achieve the competencies needed to become an independent investigator supported by R01 funding and/or VA merit review. At least 75% of the applicant's time will be fully committed and dedicated to the research and career development plan in this proposal. The significance of this proposal relates to the large size of the SCI population, the considerable burden of CVD in this population, and the potential for prevention through nutritional lifestyle behavior change. The results of this researc have the potential to make a significant positive effect on the care and outcomes of individuals with SCI. Furthermore, the research competencies developed will enable Dr. Lieberman to make substantial impact through future research endeavors.
Cardiovascular disease, and specifically coronary heart disease, is more prevalent and occurs prematurely in individuals with chronic spinal cord injuries compared to the general population. Nutrition education in the general population has been shown to improve diet quality and some cardiovascular disease risk factors. This will be the first study to evaluate the effects of a nutrition education program on individuals with acute spinal cord injuries.