URB scholar James Hebert visits FAFS and delivers three presentations

​During the spring semester (April 15-20), NFSC hosted Dr. James Hébert, Health Sciences Distinguished Professor, and Director, Cancer Prevention & Control Program, University of South Carolina. Dr. Hébert offered three presentations: 

As part of the FAFS Lecture Series, April 16, The Role of Inflammation in Health – and How We Can Regulate Inflammatory Responses with Lifestyle Choices, defining inflammation, the salient differences between acute and chronic inflammation, and their very different effects on the body. Dr.  Hébert discussed the acute inflammatory response necessary to maintain good health: without it, the body is unable to fight infection, heal wounds, or eradicate newly arising cancer cells. He focused on chronic inflammation, which results when the intercellular messengers that turn on the cells regulating acute inflammatory response fail to turn off again; and those messengers that normally tell the body to turn off the response fail to do so. In contrast to acute inflammation, chronic systemic inflammation is inconsistent with good health and well-being. When the body’s ability to self-regulate is compromised, the stage is set for a host of health conditions and chronic diseases - ranging from arthritis and bursitis to depression, cognitive decline, colorectal cancer and type II diabetes mellitus.  Dr.  Hébert discussed ways to reduce chronic systemic inflammation and the ability to self-regulate by restoring balance and readiness to respond to environmental stimuli: improving diet, physical activity and relaxation as optimal adjuncts to support healthy dietary choices.

The second talk, April 17 at AUB Medical School entitled Preventing Cancer – What do we know? What can we do? What are the things we need to think about as we plan the research agenda? Dr.  Hébert described the current state of knowledge regarding what individuals and public health practitioners can do to reduce cancer risk. The specific categories discussed included: diet, physical activity, tobacco; alcohol; age and other background factor appropriate screening, stress, and environmental factors. While emphasizing primary prevention, secondary and tertiary prevention.  Methodologic issues were also addressed, which he noted that it will make progress in reducing the burden of cancer around the world.  These range from procedures employed in measuring common risk factors and methods to detect and control for error to interpreting results and drawing inferences from individual studies,  to ways to understand and deal with regression, to the mean (both for particular measures and for overall studies, as measuring devices). Dr. Hébert also reviewed study design, including ways to increase information yield and consider the advantages of conducting studies in difficult to reach or understudied populations, which provides the basis for an argument for conducting collaborative inter-population studies, including internationally.

The third and final talk on April 18, 2019, at FAFS, entitled The Dietary Inflammatory Index DII® Story and Past, Current and Future Use of the DII in Research

Dr. Hébert explained the process of creating the DII® and how it provides a way to describe the effect of diet on inflammation. He describe the rationale for developing the DII and the methods used to create the current generation (Gen2) DII, including the literature review, refinements incorporated, and the creation of a global reference database using data from 11 countries.  Hébert further noted that the research conducted in the past 3 years provided insights that led to the refinements incorporated into the energy-adjusted DII (E-DII) and the children’s DII (C-DII). He also provided a brief overview of results based on the DII and its variants in relation to a variety of health outcomes that range from inflammation markers to cancers of various anatomic or organ sites. He and his group of researchers believe the “hot areas” for the future use of the DII include: 1) mental health, including depression, anxiety, stress, and cognitive decline; 2) metabolic syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM); 3) neurogenic inflammation; 4) aging, weathering, and allostatic load; 5) epigenetic effects and fetal imprinting; and 6) biological Timekeeping. 

In addition to the three presentations, Dr. Hébert met with NFSC faculty to discuss current research in nutrition, food science, and health. NFSC faculty also presented their research and discussed how it serves the Lebanese community. At the meeting’s end, Dr. Hébert offered to collaborate with faculty members and assist with scholarly aspirations. NFSC students had the opportunity to meet the renowned scholar and learn more about current nutrition research and potential career opportunities in nutrition and disease prevention. Dr. Hébert gave his insight on the potential growth of the field, stressing the importance of nutrition and healthy diet in creating a healthy environment.