Nutrition = Healing

“Assisting a PhD student in research was cool,” says Jigna Patel of her project with Lynn Cialdella-Kam and Professor Melinda Manore investigating the causes of menstrual dysfunction in young women.

Jigna (right) works with nutrition science Master’s student Charlotte Guebels on tracking stats for Abigail Stephens (on treadmill).

Jigna Patel found a passion for research at OSU. “Assisting a PhD student in research was cool,” says Jigna of her project with Lynn Cialdella Kam and Professor Melinda M. Manore investigating the impact of nutrition intervention on menstrual dysfunction in young active women. “Active women, athletes and runners often don’t get as many calories as they need which can lead to menstrual dysfunction, bone loss, and even osteoporosis later in life,” Jigna explains.  “Our study involved about 20 women to determine if a carbohydrate-protein supplement, such as Gatorade Nutrition Shake, could restore menstrual status and improve muscle function.”  At the beginning of the study and after completing the 6-month intervention, each participant completed resting metabolic rate and exercise tests and underwent a muscle biopsy. The muscle biopsy was collected to measure the activation state of proteins involved in the cell-signaling pathway for proteins synthesis and degradation and to determine muscle size and fiber type.  Bone mineral density, body mass index, calorie and nutrient intake, and blood hormonal and micronutrient were also measured in these participants.

“I came to appreciate the time and effort that goes into research, especially when you include human subjects,” explains Jigna, who just graduated with a degree in dietetics.  “If I decide to go for a PhD, I know what I’m in for!”  The year she worked on the study also motivated her to think about focusing her career on working with people to reverse disorders and chronic conditions with proper nutrition.  “I would like to go into medical nutrition therapy and work in a clinical setting to help people reverse the effects of diabetes, heart attack, hypertension and eating disorders.”

Jigna’s OSU experience as a nutrition student, researcher, college ambassador, and member of the Student Dietetics Association has given her the experience and credentials for her next big step.  This fall, she will attend Loma Linda University in California to earn her master’s in nutrition and dietetics while completing her rotation hours to become a Registered Dietitian.