Family Resiliency Center | Illinois


Up Amigos—Universities of San Luis Potosi and Illinois: A Multidisciplinary
nvestigation on Genetics, Obesity and Socio-Environmental Factors

Overview | Research Team | Publications | Funding Partners | Contact

Project Overview

Obesity and its associated metabolic risk factors contribute significantly to death and disability world-wide. The healthcare consequences cannot be emphasized enough. The underlying causes of obesity and related diseases are highly intertwined and have both environmental and genetic determinants. To untangle these factors, we focus on a key transitional period and draw on unique data from a currently healthy but at-risk population: Mexican adolescents and young adults. In the USA, college entry typically involves disruptions in diet and exercise routines that often lead to declines in health and well-being. It is unclear whether a similar pattern is evident in Mexico, which has among the world’s highest prevalence rates of obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes.

Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in the USA; it is projected to represent 25% of the population by 2050. Our collaborative group has embarked on a multi-disciplinary project that will ultimately allow us to explore associations between genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and obesity and related outcomes. Since 2008, we have been conducting an international collaborative program with college applicants (~10,000 per year) seeking admission into a Mexican University (UASLP). The project is called “UP-AMIGOS” (University of San Luis Potosi: A Multidisciplinary Investigation on Genetics, Obesity and Social-environment). Participants respond to self-report measures of nutrient intake, eating behaviors, physical activity, family interactions, and psychosocial well-being; complete a routine medical exam; and provide blood samples for biological and genetic markers.  

The overarching goal of our collaborative research program is to identify factors at multiple levels of analysis that are linked to health outcomes and amenable to intervention. We have 4 major aims at present.

  • Aim 1: To test for pathways of influence on the development of obesity and metabolic diseases.
  • Aim 2: To generate a biological/DNA bank as a resource to test biological factors and genetic markers in future studies.
  • Aim 3: To identify the frequency of high-risk alleles on genes related to obesity and lipid abnormalities in Mexican individuals.
  • Aim 4: To test for the impact of socio-environmental interactions as modulators of genetic associations for obesity and metabolic disease traits.

Research Team

  • Margarita Teran-Garcia, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor, Nutritional Sciences
  • Flavia Andrade, PhD, Assistant Professor, Kinesiology & Community Health
  • Marcela Raffaelli, PhD, Professor, Human and Community Development
  • Angela Wiley, PhD,  Associate Professor, Human and Community Development


Family History of Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors Among Adolescents and Young Adults in Mexico (Under Review)

Contact Information

Angela Wiley, PhD, Human and Community Development
Telephone: 217-265-5279