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James R. Hébert publishes Diet, Inflammation, and Health book with Elsevier

July 15, 2022 | Erin Bluvas,

More than 37 years into his career as a cancer and nutrition epidemiologist and nearly a decade after publishing his first paper on the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII®), Health Sciences Distinguished Professor James R. Hébert and co-editor/author Lorne Hofseth (professor and interim associate dean for research in UofSC’s College of Pharmacy) have published the book, Inflammation, Diet, and Health. Chronicling the evolution of inflammatory and immune response systems across history up to the present day’s most recent scientific findings, this book discusses the causes and mechanisms that link a pro-inflammatory diet to a wide variety of human health problems.

These acute and chronic conditions include type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, mental health, stress, maternal and child health, the numerous “itises” (e.g., gastritis, bronchitis, arthritis), and ailments related to aging. The editors and chapter authors, which include numerous UofSC collaborators*, report that continuous inflammation increases the risk of nearly all chronic diseases and disability.

They identify diet as the most important factor (i.e., plant-based diets lower inflammation while ultra-processed and meat-based diets increase inflammation) in influencing the body’s inflammation levels. Other moderators they examine include physical activity, microbiome health, and circadian disruption, including disturbed sleep, which is all-too-common in modern societies all around the world.

“As I describe in the Preface of the book, I took on this challenge reluctantly. Books are usually outdated before they are published,” Hébert says. “However, as I started working with the publisher on the proposal and reflecting on the state of the literature and the public’s justifiable interest in this topic, I began to change my mind. When the review of the proposal by four outside reviewers came back with their judgment that this book would uniquely fill a needed niche, I became convinced of the need to write it. Over the next year and a half I was encouraged by my co-editor and close friend and colleague, Lorne Hofseth, to expand our perspective to include the evolution of the inflammatory and innate immune response that began nearly two billion years ago to health and environmental challenges we face in the Anthropocene Epoch.”

Hébert will use the book as a resource when he co-teaches an Honors College course with Patricia Moore Pastides this fall after returning from sabbatical. This six-month journey not only saw Hébert “following the sun” from the Smoky Mountains to India and then to Cyprus and, finally, to the Arctic Circle but continuing his work as well. He gave presentations on diet, inflammation and health at institutions in India (Tata Memorial Centre and Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health), Cyprus (Cyprus University of Technology and University of Nicosia) and Sweden (Karolinska Institute) – all while continuing his collaborations and an impressive publication rate of more than one scholarly article being published per week.

A mainstay at the Arnold School since he joined the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics as chair in 1999, Hébert and his team have published more than 360 peer-reviewed papers (with 12,000+ citations) on diet, inflammation and health during the past eight years alone. Over the course of his academic career, the Breakthrough Leadership in Research Award winner has authored more than 900 publications and served as the principal investigator, co-principal investigator or subcontract principal investigator on over 50 federal grants totalling $86 million.

Hébert established the Cancer Prevention and Control Program in 2003 and is co-principal investigator with health promotion, education, and behavior professor and chair Daniela Friedman on the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network. He is the founder, president and scientific director of Columbia-based Connecting Health Innovations LLC (CHI), where he transforms his research and three U.S. patented inventions into clinical tools.

Among his many honors, Hébert is the recipient of a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Fellowship and a UofSC Board of Trustees Professorship. He has been named a highly cited research (top one percent in the field) by Clarivate Analytics and is a member of the National Institutes of Health Nutrition Research Task Force Thought Leaders Panel.

This book is a natural culmination of the career he began after completing a master’s degree in environmental health (University of Washington) and an Sc.D. in Nutritional Epidemiology (Harvard University). It’s a reflection of not only his contributions to the field through research but the collaborations and mentorship he has fostered as well.

“Being tasked with writing the definitive book on this subject by the largest scientific publisher in the world was daunting,” Hébert says. “However, everyone rose to this challenge and produced a book reflective both of the expertise for which they were chosen, and their willingness to learn more and collaborate with one another.

*Current and former UofSC co-authors for the book include James Hébert (Epidemiology and Biostatistics), Lorne Hofseth (College of Pharmacy), Shawn Arent (Exercise Science), Jim Burch (Epidemiology and Biostatistics) Alexa Chandler (Exercise Science), Harry Cintineo (Exercise Science), Sarah Eustis (Exercise  Science), Bridget McFadden (Exercise Science), Matt Lohman (Epidemiology and Biostatistics), Angela Murphy (Exercise Science; School of Medicine), Mike Wirth (Epidemiology and Biostatistics; Nursing), Kandy  Velázquez (School of Medicine), Alexander Chumanevich (College of Pharmacy), and Malory Spicer (College of Pharmacy).

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