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Nutrition Core: Dietary Assessment Unit

The Dietary Assessment Unit of the Nutrition Core provides a broad range of nutrition-related research services to investigators at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center (PMC). Services Provided by the CTRC Bionutritionists:

Services Provided by the BRC Bionutritionists:

  1. Initial Protocol Consultation Services:
    • Assist with study design, development and nutritional methodology
    • Discuss appropriate nutrition software for records and recalls
    • Educate patients on study-related diet and nutrition concepts
    • Develop metabolic/controlled nutrient diet plans
    • Monitor participants on a controlled diet
    • Provide study meals
    • Administer food frequency questionnaires
    • Obtain and analyze dietary records/recalls
    • Develop data collection forms
  2. Nutrient Intake Data
    • Food record
    • 1. (three days generally recommended - 2 weekdays and 1 weekend day)
    • 24 - hour recalls (on site and/or by phone)
    • 1. (three days generally recommended - 2 weekdays and 1 weekend day)
    • Food frequency questionnaires
    • Special meals designed by protocol parameters
    • Duplicate, weighed meals for nutrient balance studies
  3. Protocol-Specific Nutrition Education
    • General nutrition
    • Protocol related nutritional counseling is available for both inpatients and outpatients (examples: calorie controlled, low protein, low fat)
  4. Data Collection Training
    • Study Coordinator training for nutrition data collection
    • Family and study subject training on proper methods for weighing and measuring food items for food recalls/records.
  5. Anthropometics
    • The Nutrition Assessment Unit of the Nutrition Core provides many services (see link for details)
  6. In addition, at PMC and HUP, the Bionutritionists provide:
     - Body Circumference measurements
     - Anthropometrics measurements
  7. Body Composition
    • The Nutrition Assessment Unit of the Nutrition Core provides many services (see link for details)
    • In addition, at HUP and PMC the Bionutritionists provide Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis
  8. Resting Energy Expenditure by Indirect Calorimetry
  9. Calculated Research Meals for Controlled Studies
  10. The metabolic kitchen at HUP can provide:
    • Recipe development and modification
    • Food product design and production for study interventions
    • Calculation and serving of special research diets
    • Assessment of daily dietary intake for specific nutrients based on CTRC provided meals
    • Constant Diets
    • Regulation of fluid intake
    • Dietary supplement intake assessment
    • Monitoring of therapeutic diets selected by the subjects
    • Duplicate weighed diets for nutrient balance studies
  11. Nutrition Software Used for Meal and Diet Analysis
    • Minnesota Nutrition Data System for Research (MNDS) offers the most accurate and comprehensive nutrient calculation software available for research. The database includes more than 18,000 foods and provides values for 136 nutrients and nutrient ratios. There are virtually no missing nutrient values in the database. It is designed for use by researchers and features a multiple-pass approach that prompts for complete food descriptions, detailed food preparation methods and diverse amount descriptors. It is recognized as the state-of-the-art nutrient analysis system and is used in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) of the National Center for Health Statistics.
    • Food Processor (ESHA Research): Food Processor is used for in-patient study meals and basic dietary analysis that does not require the detailed nutrient analysis of the MNDS.

Technical Director:

Charlene Compher, RD, PhD




Vivian Brake, MS, RD, LDN


Debra Cahn, RD, LDN


Erin Donaldson, B.S.



Lisa Basel Brown, MS, RD, LDN


Cheryl Milhoan, MS, RD


Metabolic Kitchen


June Dunkley


Martin Daniels


Nipsey Mitchell



You must be an ITMAT member to receive CTSA supported services.
All publications, press releases or other documents citing results from NIH-grant supported
research much acknowledge the NIH grant support.


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