Goran Laboratory

Research Topics

  • Impact of ethnicity, genetics, social-determinants, and environmental factors on diet, obesity, and obesity related diseases (e.g. diabetes, fatty liver disease) in infants and children
  • Effects of dietary sugars and low-calorie sweeteners on infant development, cognitive development, obesity, and health
  • Effects of breast milk’s human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) on gut microbiome, infant cognitive development, obesity, and health
  • Infant gut microbiome effects on body fat and cognitive development
  • Interventions that disrupt the developmental process of obesity and long-term increased risk for chronic disease
  • Dietary strategies for treatment of obesity and related complications (type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease) in children with obesity

Research Overview

Our research group aims to understand the role nutrition plays in the causes and consequences of childhood obesity by examining how the rate of increasing weight and excess fat affects a child’s development and health. We focus on how ethnicity, genetics, social-determinants, and environmental factors impact diet across the life-course and how to use this new information to design interventions that disrupt the developmental process of obesity and long-term increased risk for chronic disease.

We are investigating how early exposure to dietary sugar, fructose, as well as low-calorie sweeteners affect pregnancy, maternal-infant nutrition, and the development of the infant’s body fat, cognition, appetite regulation, and gut microbiome. We are particularly interested in bioactive compounds found in mothers’ milk during breastfeeding called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). These HMO's are non-digestible sugars that act as prebiotics, we are studying how they enhance gut health and healthy development in the first few years of life.

Our clinical research currently underway

Sweet PEA Study – A pilot study to better understand the effects of nutrition in early pregnancy on an infant’s body fat and brain structure development. It aims to identify novel factors in human breast milk that affect the development of the infant gut bacterial profile (the microbiome), and in turn, contribute to infant growth and/or accumulation of excess body fat by 24 months of age. For more information visit the Sweet PEA CHLA research page, or contact the Study Coordinators Elizabeth Campbell at ecampbell@chla.ucs.edu or Emily Leibovitch at eleibovitch@chla.usc.edu.

Mother’s Milk - A study to determine how the diet of breastfeeding Hispanic moms affects the health of their babies. It aims to identify how early-life dietary exposures (dietary sugars, breastfeeding, and Human milk oligosaccharides) affect infant gut microbiome development, and how this, in turn, influences the development of obesity, cognition, and appetite regulation in early life. For more information visit the Mother’s Milk CHLA research page, or contact the Study Coordinator Carla Flores at carlotaf@usc.edu. This project is funded by the National Institutes of Health, NIDDK, from April 2017 for 4 years.

MAMITA - A home education and water delivery program for breastfeeding Hispanic mothers aimed to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and juices (SSB/J) during the post-partum period and delay the introduction of sugary beverages to infants. The postpartum period is a time of both opportunity and vulnerability for mothers and their infants to diminish the risk of obesity and related health problems. This is particularly relevant in the context of Hispanic families. Hispanic mothers are at high-risk for excess gestational weight gain and postpartum weight retention, and their infants are at high-risk for rapid weight gain associated with early-onset obesity. For more information visit the MAMITA CHLA research page, or contact the Study Coordinator Elizabeth Campbell at ecampbell@chla.ucs.edu. This project is funded by the National Institutes of Health, NIDDK, from September 2016 for 5 years.

HEROES – A study to investigate the connection between diet, genetics, and diseases in the Hispanic youth population. This 12-week nutrigenetic intervention program focuses on reducing dietary sugar in the diets of Hispanic youth and its effect on reducing liver fat based on their PNPLA3 genotype. For more information visit the  HEROES CHLA research page, or contact the Study Coordinator Yesica Corona at ycorona@usc.edu. This project is funded by the National Institutes of Health, NIMHD, from March 2016 for 4 years.