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NC Research Campus professor discusses nutrition at November Chamber of Commerce breakfast

SALISBURY — Recommending proper nutrition can be difficult because not all people are the same, according to Dr. Steven Zeisel of the Kannapolis-based North Carolina Research Campus.

“And that’s why nutrition research has been so frustrating. You read in Newsweek one week that you should drink less coffee and, the next week, you should drink more,” Zeisel said.

He said much of the “fuzziness” in nutrition research has come from scientists not knowing why one person responds to a certain nutrient while others do not.

That’s why his institute at the Research Campus is trying to be the leading group of faculty asking — and answering — that question.

Zeisel, director of the UNC Nutrition Research Institute at the Research Campus, spoke at the November Rowan Chamber of Commerce Power in Partnership breakfast Thursday morning at Trinity Oaks.

The breakfast was sponsored by F&M Bank. F&M CEO Steve Fisher introduced Zeisel and said the Research Campus is “literally our best-kept secret” in Rowan County.

“And it needs to not be a secret any longer. It is a relationship that needs to exist between that institution and Rowan County,” Fisher said.

Zeisel said his and others’ nutrition research is “a tool for building a world-class research center” at the N.C. Research Campus. He envisions it being like Research Triangle Park located in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh.

“But if you remember, … the North Carolina legislature and governor and state invested smartly in putting the Research Triangle Park together and getting intellectual capital generated that now is building an economic powerhouse that is surrounding the Triangle,” Zeisel said.

He said t it took the Triangle almost 30 years to become the “powerhouse” that it is today.

“It takes time. But their intellectual capital has now attracted hundreds of new companies and venture capital and everything else to build this,” Zeisel said.

When the Research Campus opened, he said, Kannapolis was a “very economically depressed area of the state” because the textile and tobacco industries there were on the decline.

“This effort isn’t going to necessarily replace those jobs, but it’s going to create the seed for building a new economy, which is what the Research Triangle Park did up near Raleigh,” Zeisel said.

He said that in addition to employing people, the campus is generating research that could turn into commercially viable products — a process that Zeisel calls “converting intellectual capital into economic capital.”

To support the Research Campus, people should call their state legislators and thank them for supporting the project.

“Without their investment to get us off the ground and keep us going, we would never have recruited great people and we would have never started to develop this intellectual capital,” Zeisel said.

He said investments are also welcome and would go toward things like helping the campus hire established researchers and giving seed money to start-ups.

For more information about Zeisel’s institute, visit uncnri.org. For more information about the N.C. Research Campus, visit tranforming-science.com.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

 

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