GUTS: Then and Now

GUTS so far

When GUTS began in 1996, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health were interested in studying how diet and exercise influence weight changes throughout a person’s life. They recruited children of Nurses’ Health Study participants—16,882 girls and boys between the ages of 9 and 14.

The study expanded in 2004, when GUTS2 enrolled a new group of 10,923 children between the ages of 10 and 17.

Today, the team includes doctors, researchers, and statisticians throughout the US, and GUTS data is used by researchers across the globe. Nearly 100 research articles have been published as a result of their work.

None of this would be possible without the commitment of the tens of thousands of participants who continue to complete GUTS questionnaires.

Looking forward

GUTS is entering an exciting and important time. GUTS participants are adults now and their contributions are more important than ever. By continuing to complete surveys, GUTS participants help researchers gain new insights into the long-term effects of many factors, including:

  • Being a member of a minority group
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol use
  • Body image
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Environment—for example, living near fast-food restaurants, biking trails, convenience stores, safe walking areas, and fresh produce
  • Work status, health insurance status, and overall economic conditions

As people grow older, new health issues tend to occur. For example, people in their 20s are more likely to develop sports injuries or skin cancer. During each decade of age, other issues emerge. With the continued help of GUTS  participants, researchers will better understand the role of diet, activity level, and other factors in preventing or causing health outcomes throughout a lifetime—from pregnancy and fertility issues to heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.

Even better, now that GUTS participants are adults, their health outcomes can be compared with their moms’– and science can begin to unravel when and how genetics and environment work together or separately. This allows GUTS to be a cross-generational superstudy with Nurses’ Health Study.