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Helga Refsum


Visiting Professor in Human Nutrition

  • Professor of Nutritional Molecular Biology, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo

After completing her studies at the medical school at the University of Bergen in 1987, Helga then completed her PhD in 1991. She became an associated professor of Pharmacology in 1992, and a full professor in 1994 at University of Bergen. In 1992, she co-founded the Hordaland Homocysteine Study. In 1994, she was awarded the Meltzer prize for young scientists for her work to develop a special method for the analysis of the amino acid homocysteine.

In 1998, Helga became one of three young scientists in an elite group supported by the Norwegian Research Council, the so-called “top-level research group”. In 1999, she was elected to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Helga is one of the most cited researchers in Norway:

She has collaborated extensively, leading to some of the most cited papers in her research field: Three of these papers (Graham, JAMA, 1997; Nygard, N Engl J Med, 1997; Clarke, Arch Neural, 1998) on homocysteine as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease or dementia, had major implications for starting the homocysteine-lowering B vitamin trials. In collaboration with OPTIMA, her research group reported in 1998 that low folate and vitamin B12 or high homocysteine were associated with Alzheimer's disease, which in turn led to the Oxford-led VITACOG trial that showed B vitamin treatment slows brain atrophy and cognitive decline (Smith, PLoS One, 2010; Douaud, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2013).

Since 2004, she has been a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Oslo and since 2005, a Visiting Professor at University of Oxford where she works closely with Professor A David Smith. In 2008, she and her then DPhil student Amany Elshorbagy reported that cysteine and obesity are closely linked. In the Pharmacology department, she has now set up an advanced mass spectrometry laboratory for quantitative analyses of nutrient-related analytes. The laboratory is collaborating with centres in UK, Norway, the Netherlands, USA, Egypt, India, China and Australia in a number of studies on the association of B vitamins with health and disease, and on cysteine as a potential target for obesity prevention and treatment.http://www.med.uio.no/imb/english/people/aca/helgre/index.html

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