Jeanne McCaffery, PhD

Associate Professor (PI)

Department of Allied Health Sciences

Research Overview

1. My general interests span cardiovascular behavioral medicine but have focused primarily on understanding the interplay between genetic background and CVD-related health behaviors (obesogenic diet and lack of physical activity) on risk for obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and CVD. In this research, I have studied genetic predictors of diet composition and success with behavioral weight loss treatment as part of the Look AHEAD and Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) genetic ancillary studies.

2. My current project examines the extent to which copy number variation (CNV) encompassing the salivary amylase gene (AMY1) is associated with body mass index (BMI) and dietary intake, and whether this variant predicts weight loss, glycemic control and diabetes incidence. Salivary amylase is the most abundant protein in saliva, serving to metabolize starch ultimately to glucose. The AMY1 gene is encompassed by a CNV, with between 2-17 copies, that strongly predicts salivary amylase levels. This CNV has recently been related to body mass index, although non-replications have been reported. Salivary amylase levels further relate to BMI, oral perception of starch and well as glycemic response to following a starch stimulus. In this project, we will genotype the AMY1 CNV and determine association with BMI, self-reported diet intake and weight loss across the Look AHEAD and Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) studies, as well as glycemic control and diabetes incidence in DPP. Genotyping is ongoing.

As part of InCHIP, I plan to write new grant applications to further understand the impact of salivary amylase, which has a marked circadian rhythm, response to meals and stress response, on dietary intake and adiposity phenotypes. Look AHEAD is also currently obtaining genome-wide genotyping. Together with DPP, we plan to submit the first genome-wide association study of magnitude of weight loss and weight regain in response to behavioral weight loss intervention. Ultimately, I am interested in leveraging discoveries from genetic studies of diet and weight loss trials, as well as genetic studies of obesity-related co-morbidities, to tailor weight loss interventions to genetic background. In this regard, I look forward to working with the new genetic counseling program.

3. In addition to my work on the genetic ancillary studies of Look AHEAD and DPP, I have conducted twin studies of stress response, metabolic syndrome and determined whether environmental and behavioral predictors of CVD alter the heritability of CVD risk factors. I further have developed with colleagues a confirmatory factor structure underlying components of the metabolic syndrome. I also have worked on genetic predictors of depressive symptoms in the context of CVD.


1991 Colgate University, B.A (Psychology)
1998 University of Pittsburgh, M.S. (Clinical and Health Psychology)
2001 Brown University Clinical Psychology Training Consortium, Clinical Internship
2001 University of Pittsburgh, Ph.D. (Clinical and Health Psychology)

Recent/Selected Publications


Contact Information
Phone(860) 486-2190
Mailing Address358 Mansfield Rd
Koons Hall #320
Storrs, CT 06269-1101