The recent news that the Nutrition Science Initiative — or NuSI, which will research what constitutes a healthy diet, is opening its doors in San Diego underscores the expanding role that the region is playing as a hub for metabolic research, especially in the areas of obesity and diabetes.

The nonprofit NuSI said it will sponsor research into the role that so-called bad calories play in the obesity epidemic raging in the U.S.

That NuSI should open its doors in San Diego should come as no surprise to industry observers.

The region plays host to a number of life science concerns that seek new ways of treating diabetes, which is closely related to the obesity epidemic.

San Diego resident Peter Attia, a medical doctor and former business consultant, who has had his own battles with weight, serves as president of NuSI.

“There is no doubt that this is an area worthy of all the study imaginable,” he said.

“San Diego is a fertile place, and ready to grow in the same way that Silicon Valley was in the early days for semiconductor technology,” said Attia. “We believe that NuSI is going to catalyze in a similar way the best and brightest minds to solve the problem of obesity.”

Not All Calories Are the Same

Writer Gary Taubes is the other founder of NuSI; he explores the connection between the obesity epidemic and the fact that according to him some calories are worse than others — that not every calorie consumed is treated the same by the human body.

His two books, “Why We Get Fat,” and “Good Calories, Bad Calories” are bestsellers on the topic.

It’s a controversial theory, but one getting close scrutiny in research circles.

Jennifer Landress, vice president and COO for BioCom, attributes the large number of life science firms to the region’s research infrastructure.

More than 80 research institutes dot the landscape, and the area boasts UC San Diego, one of the premiere research schools in the state in the area of life science.

“There is a lot of work connected to diabetes coming out of those research institutes,” she said.

“Whether or not we’re considered the capital, I don’t know, but there is a lot of research under way here that could back up such a statement,” she added. “There are certainly a lot of companies that have had successes in that space, and there is certainly a tremendous amount of research that goes on here in San Diego, which ultimately leads to new companies being created.”