Member Spotlight

Q&A with Dr. Miriam Jacome-Sosa

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Center for Human Nutrition

Washington University School of Medicine

Q: Tell us about yourself and your background.

I’m an early career faculty here at Washington University Department of Medicine, Division of Nutritional Science and Obesity Medicine. My training is in nutrition and metabolism and clinical translation research. I’m originally from Mexico. I did my undergraduate degree and a master’s in food science both from the University of Veracruz in Mexico.

After I concluded my masters, I moved to Canada where I went to the University of Alberta in Edmonton. I earned my PhD in nutrition and metabolism. After that, I moved to the US where I came here for postdoctoral training first at the University of Missouri in Columbia and then to Washington University. This is how I started going up the ladder; first as an instructor in medicine and then now as an assistant professor in medicine.

Q. What is the most compelling information that you’ve found in your research to date?

A previous study that I did showed that people with obesity and prediabetes have a harder time metabolizing the fat that is consumed at dinner time. This causes high blood lipids at night and then until before breakfast the next morning. What I learned from this is that the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which is determined by our biological and our genetic factors, can influence how nutrients are absorbed and processed. But our lifestyle and behaviors such as diet or the time of a meal can contribute to either improve or worsen our metabolic responses and our disease risk. Here in the US, the Latino population is disproportionately impacted by obesity and obesity related complications. For example, in Mexican Americans in particular, the rates of Type 2 diabetes as well as the prevalence and severity of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease are almost twice as high as non-Hispanic whites. I’m particularly interested in understanding the unique metabolic alterations that affect Latinos and finding out what are the optimal, nutritional, and behavioral targets (such as diet and sleep disturbances) that we can use to prevent and treat these alterations.

Q: Tell us about what you wish your research could solve right now/a burning question that your research could answer in the future?

My current studies supported by the CDTR are evaluating the clinical efficacy and acceptance of a culturally sensitive, intensive lifestyle intervention, that is delivered by community health workers from the same Latino community. Over the past year, we have developed the curriculum for this lifestyle intervention. The curriculum emphasizes plan forward eating- in other words, a diet that is rich in whole food, fruits, and vegetables. We put high emphasis on using traditional Latino food and culturally appropriate physical activity recommendations. We provide tips to modify traditional recipes and where to find food on a budget.

Our curriculum places a very high value on family and social support from friends and from community health workers in this case, they are the ones delivering the intervention. We used the feedback from focus groups to refine the curriculum. I hope that the intervention we developed can help Latinos with obesity to lose weight, improve their metabolic health, and reduce diabetes risk. If we find that our participants receiving the intervention are engaged, and like the intervention that we are providing, and with the feedback they provide about the barriers they faced to stay engaged in the program, this research can help us answer if we can scale up the intervention to other Latino communities in the in the US.

Q: How did the CDTR help with your research and what services did you use?

The support from the CDTR has been obviously, instrumental to do this type of research. Their support helped me develop the curriculum for a community-based study to improve metabolic health and reduce diabetes risk that is specifically designed for Latinos with Obesity. It has also provided me with the opportunity to establish multidisciplinary collaborations with experts in lifestyle behaviors and in dissemination and implementation (D&I) science, which is obviously needed to develop these types of interventions. It gave me access to additional feedback, mentorship, and training from the CDTR cores, specifically the Health Communication and Social Needs core and the D&I core. They provided me with feedback to refine the intervention materials, for content clarity, level of literacy, and to select the appropriate measures that we are going to use to assess social needs and methods and assessments for both the community health workers and participants within the D&I framework.

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