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Exposure Biology Program

Recent increases in the incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, childhood asthma, obesity, or autism are not likely due to major shifts in the human genome. The increases are more likely due to changes in our environments, diets, and/or activity levels, which may lead to disease in genetically predisposed persons.

The Exposure Biology Program, one component of the GEI, released five Requests for Applications (RFAs) aimed at stimulating the development of innovative wearable sensors to accurately measure diet, physical activity, environmental exposures, psychosocial stress, and addictive substances. One of the RFAs focuses on improved measures of diet and physical activity. The goal is to create innovative, accurate technologies to use in large population studies that have both genetic and environmental components. The RFA is led by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), with $16 million in funding over 4 years for seven grants, beginning in August 2007.

Diet & Physical Activity

Diet and physical activity are lifestyle and behavioral factors that play an important role in the etiology, prevention, and treatment of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, vascular disease, chronic lung disease, metabolic disorders, cancer, and psychiatric conditions. The focus of this RFA is on assessments of these two behaviors, and not on the determinants.

Accurate data on diet and physical activity are critical in understanding how these factors may impact health and functional status over the human lifespan. On an individual level, interactions between genetic factors and diet or physical activity may influence disease risk. An improved understanding of how these genes and environment interactions affect disease risk may lead to better prevention or treatment approaches.

The measurement of usual dietary intake (considered the long-run average intake over the past year) or physical activity over varying recent time periods or in the past has, by necessity, relied on self-report instruments. A variety of such instruments exist, but they can be cognitively difficult for respondents and prone to varying degrees of measurement error depending on the time period considered, the instrument's ease of use, and the ethnic and demographic characteristics of the respondents. To overcome some of these limitations, the GEI supports the development of improved measures and more objective methods to assess dietary intake and physical activity.

Last Modified: 18 Oct 2013