Bruce A. Watkins, Ph.D.

Bruce Watkins

Position Title
Research Associate
Purdue University Emeritus Professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences
Adjunct Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, IUSM
Scientist/educator member of the UCONN Health Center

Contact Bruce Watkins
  • B.S., Biological Sciences, Colorado State University
  • M.S., Nutrition and Bacteriology, Colorado State University
  • Ph.D., Nutrition and Physiological Chemistry, University of California, Davis
Research Interests

Dr. Watkins is a Purdue University Emeritus Professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences. He is an adjunct Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Indiana University School of Medicine. He is past Editor-in-Chief of Nutrition Research for a term of 16 years and currently Associate Editor of Frontiers Clinical Nutrition.

Primary - Energy balance, obesity & endocannabinoid signaling: The research aim is to determine the role of endocannabinoid (eCB) signaling in 1) systemic energy metabolism, and 2) glucose use and insulin sensitivity in muscle. In these investigations we are interested in how dysregulation of eCB signaling influences obesity and insulin resistance and the role that dietary lipids play in eCB formation and functions. Secondary – Effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids on the formation of eCB and oxylipins (OxL) and the role of these bioactive lipids in inflammation and pain. The purpose of the research is to understand how dietary PUFA can modulate the actions of eCB and OxL to reduce pain and improve neurophysiology. The potential of eCB as exerkines and inter-organ communications supporting macronutrient metabolism and brain plasticity is of recent interest.

Professional Researcher, University of California, Davis, 2017-present
  • Associate, Agricultural Experiment Station, University of California, Davis, 2012-2017
  • Professor, Center on Aging, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT, 2012-present and UCONN Storrs,CT 2010-2017
  • Professor Emeritus of Nutrition, Purdue University, 2010-present
  • Director and founder, Center for Enhancing Foods to Protect Health, 2000-2007
  • Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology, adjunct, 1997-present, Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, Indiana University School of Medicine,
  • Professor, Department of Food Science & Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University, 1997-2010
  • University Faculty Scholar, Purdue University, 1999-2005
  • Professor, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, 2005-2010
  • Associate Professor, 1991-97 (tenure 1993), Department of Food Science & Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University
  • Assistant Professor 1987-1991, Virginia Polytechnic Inst. & State University
  • Assistant Professor, 1985-1987, Departments of Animal Science & Human Nutrition, Washington State University
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor, 1986-1987, Department of Poultry Sci., Oregon State University
Professional Appointments

Editor-in-Chief, Nutrition Research, Elsevier, 2004-2020 terms completed

Awards and Honors

  • Fellow American Society of Nutrition (ASN), Class of 2020
  • Academy of Teaching Scholars, IUSM, Indiana University, School of MedicineSchool, faculty member, 2009 - 2011
  • Babcock-Hart Award, (national award in nutritional biochemistry) IFT and International Life Sciences Institute, July, 2004
  • University Faculty Scholar, first time recipient for excellence in research and teaching, Purdue University, April 1999-2005.
  • Research and Development Award (national award for research on lipids and growth factors in bone), IFT, 1999
  • Outstanding Paper Presentation, AOCS, 1999, 1996
  • Bio-Serv Award (national young investigator in nutritional biochemistry), ASNS (formerly AIN), 1994
  • Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Visiting Lecturer, 1994
  • PSA National Research Award (national young investigator award in bone metabolism), 1990
  • American Heart Association, Research Award, 1989-1991
Selected Publications

Watkins, BA, Smith, BJ, Volpe, SL, Shen, C-L. (2024) Exerkines, nutrition, and systemic metabolism. Nutrients 16(3), 410.

Shen CL, Newman JW, Elmassry MM, Borkowski, K, Chyu M-C, Kahathuduwa C, Neugebauer V, Watkins BA. (2023)Tai Chi exercise reduces circulating levels of inflammatory oxylipins in postmenopausal women with knee osteoarthritis: results from a pilot study. Front Med Aug 16:10:1210170.

Watkins, BA, Newman, JW, Kuchel, GA, Fiehn, O, Kim, J. (2023) Dietary docosahexaenoic acid glucose systemic metabolic changes in the mouse. Nutrients 15(12), 2679.

Watkins BA. Friedman AN, Kim J, Borkowski K, Fiehn O, Newman JW. (2022) Blood levels of endocannabinoids, oxylipins, and metabolites are altered in hemodialysis patients. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23, 5527.

Park, Y, Watkins BA. (2022) Dietary PUFA and exercise dynamic actions on endocannabinoids in brain – consequences for neural plasticity and inflammation Adv Nutr 2022;13:1989–2001; doi:

Shen CL, Watkins BA, Kahathuduwa C, Chyu M-C, Zabet M, Elmassry M, Luk H-Y, Brismee J-M, Knox A, Lee J, O’Boyle M, Zumwalt M, Wang R, Neugebauer V (2022) Tai Chi improves brain functional connectivity and increases plasma lysophosphatidylcholines in postmenopausal women with knee osteoarthritis: a pilot study. Front. Med., 03 January 2022 |

Shen CL, Huanbiao, M, Dunn DM, Dufour JM, Watkins BA (2021)  Tocotrienol supplementation led to higher serum levels of lysophospholipids but lower acylcarnitine in postmenopausal women: a randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled clinical trial. Front. Nutr. 24 December 2021 |

Park Y and Watkins BA. (2021) Endocannabinoids and aging-Inflammation, neuroplasticity, mood and pain (Vitam Hor. 2021;115:129-172. doi: 10.1016/bs.vh.2020.12.007. Epub 2021 Jan (PMID: 33706946DOI: 10.1016/bs.vh.2020.12.007)

Shen CL, Ramamoorthy S, Kaur G, Dufour JM, Wang R, Mo H, BA Watkins (2021) Dietary annatto-extracted tocotrienol reduces inflammation and oxidative stress, and improves macronutrient metabolism in obese mice: a metabolic profiling study. Nutrients (

Grayson K J, Watkins BA, Rodriguez RL. (2020) COVID-19: Repositioning nutrition research for the next pandemic. Nutr Res 81:1-6.

Aryaie A, Tinsley G, Lee J, Watkins BA, Moore L, Alhaj- Saleh A, Shankar K, Wood SR, Wang R, Shen CL. (2020) Actions of annatto- extracted tocotrienol supplementation on obese postmenopausal women: study protocol for a double- blinded, placebo- controlled, randomised trial. BMJ Open 2020;10:e034338. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2019-034338

Watkins, BA (2019) Diet, endocannabinoids, and health Nutr. Res. 70:32-39.

Rucker RB, Watkins BA (2019) Inadequate diet descriptions: a conundrum for animal model research. Nutr. Res. 65:1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2019.03.007. Epub 2019 Mar 21.

Watkins BA. (2018). Endocannabinoids, exercise, pain, and a path to health with aging. Molecular Aspects of Medicine 64: 68-78. [Science Direct]

Watkins BA, Kim J, Tamez H, Wenger J, Thadhani R, Friedman AN. (2016). Serum phospholipid fraction of polyunsaturated fatty acids is the preferred indicator for nutrition and health status in hemodialysis patients. J Nutr Biochem 38:18-24. [PubMed]

Friedman, AN, Kim J, Kaiser S, Pedersen TL, Newman JW, Watkins BA. (2016). Associate between plasma endocannabinoids and appetite score in hemodialysis patients: a pilot study. Nutr. Res. 36:658-662. [PubMed]

Watkins BA, Kim J, Kenny A, Pedersen TL, Pappan KL, Newman JW. (2016). Circulating levels of endocannabinoids and oxylipins altered by dietary lipids in older women are likely associated with previously identified gene targets. Biochemica et Biophysica Acta 1861:1693-1704. [PubMed]

Kim J, Carlson M, Kuchel G, Newman J, Watkins BA (2015). Dietary DHA reduces downstream endocannabinoid and inflammatory gene expression and epididymal fat mass while improving aspects of glucose use in muscle in C57BL/6J mice. Int J Obesity. [PubMed]

Watkins BA and Kim J (2014). The endocannabinoid system: directing eating behavior and macronutrient metabolism. Front Psych. 5:1506. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01506.

Kim J, and Watkins BA (2014). Cannabinoid receptor antagonists and fatty acids alter endocannabinoid system gene expression and COX activity. J Nutr Biochem. 25(8):815-823. DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.03.012.

Kim J, Carlson M, Watkins BA (2014). Docosahexaenoyl ethanolamide improves glucose uptake and alters endocannabinoid system gene expression in proliferating and differentiating C2C12 myoblasts. Front Physiol. 5:100. DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2014.00100.

Hutchins-Wiese HL, Picho K, Watkins BA, Li Y, Tannenbaum S, Claffey K, Kenny AM (2014). High-dose eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid supplementation reduces bone resorption in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors on aromatase inhibitors: a pilot study. Nutr Cancer. 2014;66(1):68-76. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2014.847964. Epub 2013 Nov 25. PMID: 24274259

Mahabir S, Baer DJ, Pfeiffer RM, Li Y, Watkins BA, Taylor PR (2014). Low to moderate alcohol consumption on serum vitamin D and other indicators of bone health in postmenopausal women in a controlled feeding study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Nov;68(11):1267-70. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.191. Epub 2014 Sep 17. PMID: 25226824

Friedman AN, Zhangsheng Yu, Rebeka Tabbey, Cheryl Denski, Hector Tamez, Julia Wenger, Ravi Thadhani, Yong Li, Watkins BA (2013).  Fatty acids and other risk factors for sudden cardiac death in patients starting hemodialysis. Am J Nephrol. 2013;38(1):12-8. doi: 10.1159/000351764. Epub 2013 Jun 25. PMID: 23816975

Friedman AN, Yu Z, Denski C, Tamez H, Wenger J, Thadhani R, Li Y, Watkins BA. (2013). Inverse relationship between long-chain n-3 fatty acids and risk of sudden cardiac death in patients starting hemodialysis.  Kidney Int. 2013 Jun;83(6):1130-5. doi: 10.1038/ki.2013.4. Epub 2013 Feb 6.

Kim, J., Li, Y. & Watkins, B.A. (2013) Fat to treat fat: emerging relationship between dietary PUFA, endocannabinoids, and obesity. Prost & Other Lipid Med, 104-105:32-41. DOI: 10.1016/j.prostaglandins.2012.11.005.

Friedman, A.N., Yu, Z., Tabbey, R., Denski, C., Tamex, H., Wenger, J., Thadhani, R., Li, Y. & Watkins, B.A. (2012) Low blood levels of long chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in U.S. hemodialysis patients: Clinical implications. Am. J. Nephrol. 36(5):451-8.

Hennig, B., Ormsbee, L., McClain, C.J., Watkins, B.A., Blumberg, B., Bachas, L.G., Sanderson, W., Thompson, C. & Suk, W.A. (2012) Nutrition can modulate the toxicity of environmental pollutants: Implications in risk assessment and human health. Environ. Health Perspect.  120(6):771-774.

Hutchins-Wiese, H., Li, Y., Hannon, K. & Watkins, B.A. (2012) Hind limb suspension and long-chain omega-3 PUFA increase mRNA endocannabinoid system levels in skeletal muscle.  J. Nutr. Biochem. 23:986-993.

Kim J. & Watkins, B.A. (2011) Endocannabinoid signaling and energy metabolism: A target for dietary intervention. Nutrition 27:624-632.

Hutchins, L. H., Li, Y., Hannon, K. & Watkins, B.A. (2011) Eicosapentaenoic acid decreases expression of anandamide synthesis enzyme and cannabinoid receptor 2 in osteoblast-like cells.  J. Nutr. Biochem. 22:195-200.

Watkins, B.A., Hutchins, H, Li, Y. & Seifert, M.F. (2010) The endocannabinoid signaling system: a marriage of PUFA and musculoskeletal health.  J. Nutr. Biochem. 21: 1141-1152.

Li, Y., Seifert, M.F., Lim, S.Y., Salem, N. Jr. & Watkins, B.A. (2010) Bone mineral content is positively correlated to n-3 fatty acids in the femur of growing rats. Br. J. Nutr. 104:674-685.

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