Atkins, South Beach, high fat, low fat, low carb—the number of diets being marketed to the general public can be overwhelming and leaves us asking, “Which one really works?” It’s a question that Shane Phillips, PT, PhD, assistant professor of physical therapy, is trying to answer.
He oversees a basic research lab as well as a complementary clinical research program. “Our lab is set up to study the effects of different lifestyle interventions on cardiovascular health, namely exercise and diet. Specifically, we look at vascular endothelial function, thought to be an early predictor of overall cardiovascular health.”
Dr. Phillips looks at why and how circulation changes during exercise and/or dieting. In a study overseen by Dr. Phillips and published recently in Nutrition Journal, sedentary people on a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet lost pounds but few inches from around their middles. They also showed signs of impaired blood vessel health after six weeks on the diet. “There are different ways to lose weight,” he said. “Our overall goal is to find healthy ways to lose.”
Exercise is another important component in losing weight effectively. Dr. Phillips and his laboratory are examining the risks associated with exercise at the beginning of a program.
UIC is an ideal place to conduct research like this because everything is in close proximity: the Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), the Clinical Research Center, the Medical Center, and Dr. Phillips’s lab. He is able to bring research subjects, physicians, and collaborators to one central location. “Having all of this within walking distance is critical,” he said, and it allows him to collaborate with colleagues from Dentistry, Medicine, Applied Health Sciences, and Nursing.
“It’s hard to pinpoint many academic medical centers that have the full complement of health professions in a large urban center,” said Phillips, “but that is one of UIC’s strengths, and with that strength comes the students, fellows, and trainees in each of these programs.”
When he joined the university in 2007, he was one of CCTS’s first scholars. “CCTS helped me understand the uniqueness of UIC, the importance of having collaborators, making collaborative links with people in other colleges and really meeting new mentors and colleagues.”
Dr. Phillips was awarded a K23 career development award for mentored patient oriented research to examine the mech-anisms of exertional hypertension and vascular dysfunction. Dr. Phillips’s work has also garnered national attention. He was recently nominated by the Cardiovascular Division of the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The PECASE Award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.
“I’ve always felt that there was tremendous growth potential here, with the diverse population and size of the city,” he said. “My main hope is that my research gives people solid information on what can be the most healthful ways to eat and exercise.”