Sarah Ferrante, PhD
As a scientist studying obesity and its relationship to overall health and well-being, I realized how important it is to communicate to the public the importance of lifestyle and mindset in preventing disease. This blog will contain my own scientific observations and knowledge on how to improve overall health and well-being.
My journey into health and wellness started as an undergraduate at the Pennsylvania State University, where I worked in developmental psychology. This is where I met my husband Chris and found out that both of us shared the same interests in health prevention and awareness, although we both ended up going on very different pathways :).
During this time, I studied how hormones affect behavior in childhood, specifically in promoting depression onset during puberty in adolescent females. It was here that I really became fascinated with how I could make a difference in health and in preventing disease through science and research. I then went on to the National Institutes of Health where as a fellow I continued my research interests in neuroscience studying depression, mood disorders, and anxiety. My time at NIH was an incredible, enlightening experience where I really had the opportunity to push the boundaries of science and was the reason why I decided to pursue a PhD.
My PhD is in systems biology and genetics. Systems biology is a fascinating, new emerging field that takes into account the body as an entire system composed of molecules, cells, tissues, and organisms functioning as one. Living systems (such as our human bodies) are dynamic and complex; and their behavior may be hard to predict from the properties of individual parts. Therefore, a more systemic approach is key to understanding how the body works.
As a system’s biology PhD, I studied two public health epidemics: obesity and asthma. The bulk of my studies focused on obesity in youth and adolescents. In the US, we are seeing children present with adult chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and early-onset atherosclerosis, which was unheard of in the past. The body of my work discovered a complex genetic component of obesity where “bad” fat cells genetically talk to other organs throughout the body and wreak havoc by contributing to inflammation, fat accumulation in important immune cells, and promoting insulin resistance. Through this mechanism, “bad” fat predisposes individuals to chronic disease such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and asthma. With this work I received a prestigious American Heart Association Fellowship.
Due to the negative effects that I studied as a result of childhood obesity, I sought out community outreach in DC. I ended up volunteering with an amazing nutrition educational program called FoodPrints of FRESHFARM, a DC-based non-profit, that partnered with DC schools to incorporate science and sustainable agriculture to teach kids about growing and preparing local food from their own school garden. It was during FoodPrints that I realized my true passion for educating about food as medicine in prevention of obesity-related conditions.
From that point on, Chris and I decided to start Food Move Collective as a physician and scientist-based team. We hope to help others alleviate chronic disease and live better, healthier lives through our own expertise and passions in Food, Movement, and Mind-body medicine.
In the meantime, I am also training in yoga therapy. Yoga has been an essential part of who I am the past decade and has helped me greatly through all of my hardcore science studies. As a strong believer in mind-body medicine, I feel that yoga is an essential practice in alleviating chronic disease and improving overall health by connecting and strengthening both mind and body.