Metabolic & Nutrition Research Core

Who We Are

The Metabolic and Nutrition Research Core specializes in the development and production of controlled nutrient meals for feeding studies. The Core is staffed by a registered dietitian and dietetic technicians all experienced in the production of controlled meals, recipes and oral food challenges for research studies. Food production occurs in a state inspected kitchen facility operated by UNC Health Care Food and Nutrition Services. The Core works closely with the Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) to provide meals and other services to studies conducted at the CTRC. Services include consultation on study design and nutrition research methods, design of nutrient controlled meals and recipes, production of nutrient controlled meals, nutrient intake analysis, education material development, nutrition counseling, food record analysis, indirect calorimetry and anthropometric measurements. Meals can be served at the CTRC and other UNC campus sites, packed out for consumption at home or shipped to participant’s homes and other off-campus research sites.

Metabolic and Nutrition Research Core Brochure


Controlled Nutrient Meals

Precise preparation of formulas, recipes and mealsBroccoli in a clear container being weighed on a food scale.

The Metabolic & Nutrition Research Core team specializes in preparing weighed nutrient controlled meals. They are equipped to prepare meals according to study protocol and to control for any nutrient of interest. Specialty ingredients are procured and food products are carefully monitored throughout the study to ensure no changes in nutrient content. The team is accustomed to preparing single test meals, multiples days of meals and even months of meals for dietary intervention studies. Meals can be delivered to the Clinical Translational Research Center (CTRC) or other UNC campus sites, picked up for off-site consumption or shipped.

Meal Design

Recipe development and testing

The Registered Dietitian, who is experienced in nutrition research, starts with the best available nutrient database to design recipes and meals that meet the nutrient goals of your study. Recipes and meals that meet the diet targets are prepared, tested and altered for taste and appearance in order to deliver an appealing, study adherent meal to your participants.

Diet Education

Development of diet education materials

Some studies are better served by delivering diet counseling and nutrition education to the participants. The Registered Dietitian develops diet education materials that meet your diet goals and are designed for your study population. She develops procedures for administering diet counseling and can provide training on the methods or deliver the diet education and counseling directly to your participants. Diet education may be administered in conjunction with study food provision.

Nutrition Counseling

The Registered Dietitian is available to meet with research participants throughout your study to deliver diet education and provide diet counseling. She is accustomed to meeting one on one or in groups to deliver diet education and counseling as per protocol. She also develops diet counseling procedures to improve diet adherence and consistency of counseling between participants.

Indirect Calorimetry

Resting metabolic rate and respiratory quotient

Using the Medgraphics Ultima CPX Indirect Calorimeter the Metabolic & Nutrition Research Core Staff conduct indirect calorimetry testing in the Clinical and Translational Research Center. Measurement is performed in the resting state, but the machine can be adapted for exercise testing.

Nutrient Intake Analysis

Weighed meals, food record analysis and food frequency questionnaires

Nutrient intake data is collected in a way that meets your study’s needs. Options include weighed meals, food records that are analyzed using ESHA Food Processor Software, a dietitian administered diet history or administration of a food frequency questionnaire focusing on your nutrient of interest. Consultation on the best method is provided.

Regular Meals for Extended Visits

Meal Service by UNC Hospitals Nutrition and Food Services Department

Research studies conducted in the CTRC may order regular meals for inpatient and outpatient research visits. Meals are prepared and delivered by UNC Hospitals Nutrition and Food Services Department. Special menus available through this service include Heart Healthy, sodium restricted, potassium and phosphorus restricted and carbohydrate restricted.