What’s cooking in UIC’s Metabolic Kitchen?

Chef Phyllis Petrilli prepares food used for research at the Metabolic Kitchen in the Applied Health Sciences Building. Photo: Fan Wang.

Researchers make discoveries in labs every day to enhance people’s lives, but for some, like Lisa Tussing-Humphreys, important parts of their work happen in an unexpected place — UIC’s Metabolic Kitchen.

Located in the basement of the Applied Health Sciences Building (AHSB) at 1919 W. Taylor St., the kitchen is a new resource for faculty and staff whose studies involve a nutrition component.

“There is no other place on campus like it,” said Tussing-Humphreys, an assistant professor in the College of Medicine.

Tussing-Humphreys has used the space for a study that hopes to uncover links between metabolism, gut bacteria and cancer. To do that, she’s using a controlled diet intervention, protocol made easy and possible thanks to the kitchen, with its 900-foot space, two ovens, a walk-in refrigerator, industrial-sized freezers and a number of counters for use. The kitchen is also staffed by professional chefs and registered dieticians ready to design, prepare and package meals.

“Our new Metabolic Kitchen makes it possible for UIC investigators to conduct high-level research in diet and nutrition that may not only improve health outcomes for Americans, but individuals all over the world – right here on campus,” said Bo Fernhall, dean of the College of Applied Health Sciences. “It promotes interdisciplinary, team-based research and helps investigators meet their research objectives by serving as the campus resource for innovation and rigorous research standards in the field.”

For Eduardo Bustamante, assistant professor in the department of kinesiology and nutrition, the space will allow his research group to teach children with ADHD and their families to cook together while imparting practical nutrition information, just two of many things he hopes will help participants improve their lifestyles and overall health.

“We probably wouldn’t have had a nutrition component [without the kitchen],” Bustamante said. “It’s beautiful and really helpful because nutrition is such a big part of health.”

Researchers on campus who want to use the kitchen or learn more can contact Krista Varady, director of the Metabolic Kitchen, at varady@uic.edu.

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