Professor of Nutrition
Phone: +64 9 921 9758
Professor Elaine Rush has dedicated 30 years to scientific enquiry at the cutting edge of health and education. Currently, as Professor of Nutrition at AUT, her work is centered on the prevention of chronic disease across the lifecycle. An internationally recognised research leader with expertise in nutrition, energy expenditure, physical activity and the measurement of body composition, Elaine is a champion for the multiethnic communities she works with. She is a principal investigator with the Riddet Institute, the government funded Centre of Research Excellence for food.
Elaine’s career began as a cardiopulmonary technologist at Greenlane Hospital, which lead to a PhD and a Master of Sciences First Class Honours in physiology from the University of Auckland. To date, Elaine has supervised 30 PhD and Masters’ students to completion and is currently supervising another 8 postgraduate students. Since 2004 Elaine has attracted $10 M of research funding.
Elaine provides academic leadership for Project Energize, a multimillion dollar regional health programme (244 schools, 44000 children) that has, through schools, improved nutrition and physical activity. Energize has been extended to lower decile primary schools in Capital Coast and Northland and a pilot in Cork Ireland. Now Under 5 Energize is in 130 preschools in the Waikato and is to start in Northland. Elaine also leads the nutrition and physical growth research arm of AUT University’s Pacific Island Families Study, a longitudinal study of the developmental health and well-being of more than 1000 Pacific children and their families. Other research interests include the acute and chronic interactions of different nutrients, including sugar, caffeine and vitamin B12, on metabolism and the development of disease and the development of healthier food for the commercial market.
Elaine has served as the New Zealand representative for the International Association for the Study of Obesity, an expert consultant for the World Health Organisation and the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency in Nutrition and Health (1999‐present). She is also the Scientific Director of the New Zealand Nutrition.
In 2014 Elaine was appointed as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to health.
Elaine has research expertise in the measurement of body composition, energy expenditure, physical activity, nutrition and risk factors for disease. A particular interest in ethnic differences, particularly among Maori, Pacific Island, European, Chinese and Indian populations in New Zealand, has led to over 150 peer reviewed publications. Elaine also serves on the council of a number of nutrition and obesity organisations and is the New Zealand representative for the International Association for the Study of Obesity, IASO. She has been an expert consultant for the World Health Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Nutrition and Health.
One of the tools that Elaine has used in her research is stable isotopes and this expertise led to her involvement in the 2002 child nutrition survey in New Zealand as well as working with cooperative research projects and training overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Division of Human Health. Elaine supervises 6 doctoral students in the areas of nutrition, food development, body composition and energy expenditure throughout the life cycle. Her research projects include leading the AUT Food Network, Project Energize in the Waikato, the health and growth of children whose mother's had gestational diabetes and the longitudinal Pacific Island Family study which tracks over 1,000 Pacific children from birth. Other interests include the acute and chronic interactions of different nutrients, including sugar, caffeine and vitamin B12 on metabolism, and the development of disease. Most recently she has been a key player in the collaborative team that has gained Ministry of Health funding for Under 5's Energize in the Waikato.
Elaine leads the AUT Food network. This network brings together AUT food researchers and experts in the food-associated fields of nutrition, food science, branding, marketing and retailing, hospitality, tourism and culinary arts and research, innovation and partnership. The strategic aim of this group is to provide a platform within AUT University that can optimize the research and innovation contribution of the University, particularly in the area of developing high value foods with validated health benefits.
Elaine is an Associate Investigator with The Riddet Institute, the National Centre of Research Excellence to understand better “What makes a healthy start for a productive life?”
She works in collaboration with Profesor CS Yajnik at the Diabetes Unit, King Edward Memorial Hospital and Research Centre investigating the development of innovative foods – in particular contributing to the prevention and management of lifestyle diseases.