Measuring Links Between Diet and Disease
Research Area: Cancer Prevention
British nutritional epidemiologist, Sheila Bingham, Ph.D., spent the better part of her long, distinguished career unraveling the dietary links between health and disease, especially cancer. She is perhaps best known for demonstrating the impact of dietary fiber intake on the risk for colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers. But her work contributed more broadly to the establishment of biomarkers of nutritional status across many diseases, along with methods for avoiding measurement errors in dietary assessment and influenced many American colleagues in the field.
At the time of her death in 2009, Dr. Bingham headed the Medical Research Council’s Centre for Nutritional Epidemiology in Cancer Prevention and Survival at the University of Cambridge. She held honorary professorships both there and at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. In 2001, the British Academy of Science elected her a fellow for her work on biomarkers, an area of research she first began while earning her doctorate at the University of London many years earlier.
Throughout her career, Dr. Bingham integrated a range of disciplines in nutrition research, conducting not only small controlled metabolic studies in volunteers, but also large-scale studies, such as the European Prospective Investigation on Diet and Cancer. The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) trial helped advance scientists’ understanding of the role high processed meat consumption plays in cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancers—findings applicable to prevention efforts in the general population. Dr. Bingham also helped popularize urinary nitrogen as a measure of protein intake, as well as the use of para-amino benzoic acid (PABA) for tracking compliance in experimental eating studies.
For more information about Dr. Bingham, read this article in Nutrition and Cancer.