Dr. Clara Cho

A photograph of Dr. Clara Cho.
CIHR Tier II Canada Research Chair in Precision Nutrition, Assistant Professor. Cross-appointed in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto
Phone number: 
(519) 824-4120 x53743
ANNU 334
ANNU 327

BSc (Honours) Nutritional Sciences and Physiology - University of Toronto

PhD Nutritional Sciences - University of Toronto

Postdoctoral Fellow - Cornell University

My research program focuses on the role of methyl nutrients in the risk of chronic diseases using precision nutrition approaches.  My laboratory uses animal models and human studies to provide mechanistic insights underlying metabolic disease risk from genetic, epigenetic, physiologic, metabolic and microbiome perspectives.  My research extends to the following core areas:

  1. Role of methyl nutrients in metabolic programming of the epigenome and energy balance:  Inadequate or excess gestational consumption of nutrients can predispose the offspring to greater risk of metabolic diseases.  We have shown that an AIN-93G diet with high, non-toxic (10-fold) amount of multivitamins, methyl vitamins or folic acid alone consumed during pregnancy leads to the obesogenic phenotypes and epigenetic alterations in the hypothalamic regulatory systems in the offspring.  We utilize functional measures in addition to molecular analyses of genes, DNA methylation, proteins and hormones to elucidate mechanisms by which methyl nutrients shape epigenetic modification throughout the lifespan.
  2. Diet, gut microbiome and genetic influences on trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO):  TMAO, the hepatic oxidized product of the gut microbial-derived trimethylamine is a newly emerged risk factor for cardiovascular disease.  We have previously shown that healthy young men with lower microbial diversity and greater enrichment of Firmicutes relative to Bacteroidetes exhibit a greater postprandial rise in circulating TMAO following dietary precursor consumption.  Unlike choline and carnitine, a methyl-deuterium-labeled TMAO metabolic tracer at physiologically relevant intake levels yielded near-complete absorption with uptake by extrahepatic tissue in a manner that appears to be under the influence of flavin-containing monooxygenase 3 G472A.  We continue to focus on individual variations of TMAO metabolism that may arise due to nutrient-gut microbiome-gene interactions using study designs that incorporate stable isotope methodology, 16S rRNA sequencing and SNP genotyping.

My lab is currently supported through research grants from CIHR, CFI and NIH (2021-2026) and has previously been supported by the USDA NIFA, Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, Utah State University and industry contracts.

Chen V, Schwartz JL, Cho CE. Folate and choline: does it take two to tango in early programming of disease? Lifestyle Genom 2023; 16(1):177-191. https://karger.com/lfg/article/16/1/177/864452/Folate-and-Choline-Does-It-Take-Two-to-Tango-in?searchresult=1

Kubant R, Cho CE, Pannia E, Hammoud R, Yang NV, Simonian R, Anderson GH. Methyl donor micronutrients, hypothalamic development and programming for metabolic disease. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2023;157:105512.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0149763423004815?via%3Dihub

Yang Z, Kubant R, Cho CE, Kranenburg E, Beaudry J, Bottiglieri T, Anderson GH. Micronutrients in high-fat diet modify insulin resistance and its regulatory genes in adult male mice. Mol Nutr Food Res 2023; 2300199:1-13. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mnfr.202300199

Chen V, Shelp GV, Schwartz JL, Aardema NDJ, Bunnell ML, Cho CE. Modification of the serotonergic systems and phenotypes by gestational micronutrients. J Endocrinol 2023; 257(2):e220305.

Mjaaseth UN, Norris JC, Aardema NDJ, Bunnell ML, Ward RE, Hintze KJ, Cho CE.  Excess Vitamins or Imbalance of Folic Acid and Choline in the Gestational Diet Alter the Gut Microbiota and Obesogenic Effects in Wistar Rat Offspring.  Nutrients  2021; 13(12):4510.

Cho CE, Aardema NDJ, Bunnell ML, Larson DP, Aguilar SS, Bergeson JR, Malysheva OV, Caudill MA, Lefevre M.  Effect of Choline Forms and Gut Microbiota Composition on Trimethylamine-N-Oxide Production in Healthy Men.  Nutrients  2020; 12(8):E2220.

Cullen CM, Aneja KK, Beyhan S, Cho CE, Woloszynek S, Convertino M, McCoy S, Zhang Y, Anderson M, Alvarez-Ponce D, Smirnova E, Karstens L, Dorrestein PC, Li H, Sen Gupta A, Cheung K, Powers JG, Zhao Z, Rosen G.  Emerging Priorities for Microbiome Research.  Front. Microbiol.  2020; 11:136.

Palzer L, Bader JJ, Angel F, Witzel M, Blaser S, McNeil A, Wandersee MK, Leu NA, Lengner CJ, Cho CE, Welch KD, Kirkland JB, Meyer RG, Meyer-Ficca ML.  Alpha-Amino-Beta-Carboxy-Muconate-Semialdehyde Decarboxylase (ACMSD) Controls Dietary Niacin Requirements for NAD+ Synthesis.  Cell Rep.  2018; 25(5):1359-70.E4.
  • Generated a press release

Hintze KJ, Benninghoff AD, Cho CE, Ward RE.  Modeling the Western Diet for Pre-Clinical Investigations.  Adv. Nutr.  2018; 9(3):263-71.

Taesuwan S*, Cho CE*, Malysheva OV, Bender E, King JH, Yan J, Thalacker-Mercer AE, Caudill MA.  The Metabolic Fate of Isotopically Labelled Trimethylamine-N-Oxide (TMAO) in Humans.  J. Nutr. Biochem.  2017; 45:77-82.  *Shared first-authors

Cho CE, Caudill MA.  Trimethylamine-N-Oxide:  Friend, Foe or Simply Caught in the Cross-Fire?  Trends Endocrinol. Metab.  2017; 28(2):121-30.

Cho CE, Taesuwan S, Malysheva OV, Bender E, Tulchinsky NF, Yan J, Sutter JL, Caudill MA.  Trimethylamine-N-Oxide (TMAO) Response to Animal Source Foods Varies Among Healthy Young Men and is Influenced by Their Gut Microbiota Composition:  A Randomized Controlled Trial.  Mol. Nutr. Food Res.  2017; 61(1)  doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201600324.
  • Top 20 most downloaded recent paper published between July 2016 and June 2018
  • Featured in a Special Issue on Gut Microbiota in Mol Nutr Food Res with a back cover image
  • Generated a press release

Cho CE, Taesuwan S, Malysheva OV, Bender E, Yan J, Caudill MA.  Choline and One-Carbon Metabolite Response to Egg, Beef and Fish Among Healthy Young Men:  A Short-Term Randomized Clinical Study.  Clin. Nutr. Exp.  2016; 10:1-11.

Sánchez-Hernández D, Anderson GH, Poon AN, Pannia E, Cho CE, Huot PS, Kubant R.  Maternal Fat-Soluble Vitamins, Brain Development, and Regulation of Feeding Behavior:  An Overview of Research.  Nutr. Res.  2016; 36(10):1045-54.

Pannia E, Cho CE, Kubant R, Sánchez-Hernández D, Huot PS, Anderson GH.  Role of Maternal Vitamins in Programming Health and Chronic Disease.  Nutr. Rev.  2016; 74(3):166-80.

Sánchez-Hernández D, Poon AN, Kubant R, Kim H, Huot PS, Cho CE, Pannia E, Reza-López SA, Pausova Z, Bazinet RP, Anderson GH.  High Vitamin A Intake During Pregnancy Modifies Dopaminergic Reward System and Decreases Preference for Sucrose in Wistar Rat Offspring.  J. Nutr. Biochem.  2016; 27:104-11.

Kubant R, Poon AN, Sánchez-Hernández D, Domenichiello AF, Huot PS, Pannia E, Cho CE, Hunschede S, Bazinet RP, Anderson GH.  A Comparison of Effects of Lard and Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening on the Development of High-Fat Diet-Induced Obesity in Rats.  Nutr. Diabetes.  2015; 5:e188.

Cho CE, Pannia E, Huot PS, Sánchez-Hernández D, Kubant R, Dodington DW, Ward WE, Bazinet RP, Anderson GH.  Methyl Vitamins Contribute to Obesogenic Effects of a High Multivitamin Gestational Diet and Epigenetic Alterations in Hypothalamic Feeding Pathways in Wistar Rat Offspring.  Mol. Nutr. Food Res.  2015; 59(3):476-89.

Sánchez-Hernández D, Poon AN, Kubant R, Kim H, Huot PS, Cho CE, Pannia E, Pausova Z, Anderson GH.  A Gestational Diet High in Fat Soluble Vitamins alters Expression of Genes in Brain Pathways and Reduces Sucrose Preference, but Not Food Intake, in Wistar Male Rat Offspring.  Appl. Physiol. Nutr.  2015; 40:424-31.

Pannia E, Cho CE, Kubant R, Sánchez-Hernández D, Huot PS, Chatterjee D, Fleming A, Anderson GH.  A High Multivitamin Diet Fed to Wistar Rat Dams during Pregnancy Increases Maternal Weight Gain Later in Life and Alters Homeostatic, Hedonic and Peripheral Regulatory Systems of Energy Balance.  Behav. Brain Res.  2014; 278C:1-11.

Sánchez-Hernández D, Cho CE, Kubant R, Reza-López SA, Poon AN, Wang J, Huot PS, Smith CE, Anderson GH.  Increasing Vitamin A in Post-Weaning Diets Reduces Food Intake and Body Weight and Modifies Gene Expression in Brains of Male Rats Born to Dams Fed a High Multivitamin Diet.  J. Nutr. Biochem.  2014; 25(10):991-6.

Cho CE, Sánchez-Hernández D, Reza-López SA, Huot PS, Kim YI, Anderson GH.  High Folate Gestational and Post-Weaning Diets alter Hypothalamic Feeding Pathways by DNA Methylation in Wistar Rat Offspring.  Epigenetics  2013; 8(7):710-9.
  • Featured highlight of the journal
  • Generated a press release
Cho CE, Sánchez-Hernández D, Reza-López SA, Huot PS, Kim YI, Anderson GH.  Obesogenic Phenotype of Offspring of Dams Fed a High Multivitamin Diet is Prevented by a Post-Weaning High Multivitamin or High Folate Diet.  Int. J. Obes. (Lond.)  2013; 37(9):1177-82.
  • Featured highlight of the journal

Cho CE, Norman M.  Reply: To PMID 22939691.  Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol.  2013; 209(5):496-7.

Cho CE, Norman M.  Cesarean Section and Development of the Immune System in the Offspring.  Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol.  2013; 208(4):249-54.  Highlighted in editorials:
  • Lynch CD and Iams JD.  Diseases Resulting from Suboptimal Immune Function in Offspring:  Is Cesarean Delivery Itself Really to Blame?  Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol.  2013.
  • Romero R and Korzeniewski SJ.  Is There a Long-Term Price to Pay for Infants Not Exposed to the Stress of Labour?  How the Microbiome and the Immune System Can Affect our Lives.  Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol.  2013.

Accepting students in nutrition sciences or related biomedical fields who are interested in determinants of metabolic disease risk.

Positions are available for highly motivated graduate students and postdocs wishing to study determinants of obesity and metabolic syndrome, and mechanisms of action underlying disease development. Our research program utilizes animal models and human studies to answer questions from genetic, epigenetic, physiologic, metabolic and microbiome perspectives. Commonly used techniques include Western blotting, RT-PCR, DNA methylation assay, LC-MS/MS, ELISA, 16S rRNA sequencing, gross brain dissections and micro-dissections.

Interested applicants should email a letter of interest to the Principal Investigator, Dr. Clara E Cho(claracho@uoguelph.ca) that includes a CV and statement outlining their research interests. Please note that although funding support is not a prerequisite, candidates are expected to apply for graduate or fellowship funding.


Current Lab Members:

Al-Issa, M MSc Student
Cook, W. MSc Student
Dong, J MSc Student
Shelp, Gia. PhD Student


I continue to expand my scientific activities and build leadership in the area of precision nutrition.  I was one of 30 early career researchers in the U.S. selected to participate in NIH-funded Data Science Innovation Lab on Quantitative Approaches to Biomedical Data Science – Challenges in our Understanding of the Microbiome in 2017.  I have served as a discussant in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (a contractor to the Beef Checkoff), Microbiome in Human Health: Implications for Beef Nutrition Research Roundtable Meeting in 2017.  I have served as an invited grant panelist for the USDA NIFA and Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, and a grant reviewer for the USDA NIFA, Beef Checkoff, Utah Agricultural Experiment Station and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, part of the U.K. Research and Innovation.

  • NUTR*3210 Fundamentals of Nutrition