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Arnold School of Public Health

Past Symposium

Symposium 2023 Program

Download the 2023 Symposium Program [pdf]

Background & Purpose: The symposium continued with the theme of seeking to encourage collaboration and generate and communicate knowledge across the spectrum of nutrition research with presentations on recent advances in nutrition science at USC, ongoing nutrition research updates, presentations from our newest faculty affiliates, and presentations focused on building capacity in nutrition by investing in our human capital.

  • 1st Place: Emmanuel Julceus, MD, MPH - "Child-Reported Food Security in Children with Type 1 Diabetes: Association with Glycemic Control and Mental Health Symptoms Independent of Household Food Security"
  • Runner Up: Sejla Isanovic, MPH - "How do policies address food safety? Evidence from policy document analyses in three African countries."

Symposium 2022 Program

Download the 2022 Symposium Program[pdf]

Background & Purpose: The symposium continued with the theme of seeking to encourage collaboration and generate and communicate knowledge across the spectrum of nutrition research with presentations from our newest faculty affiliates, those with newly funded grants, and those involved in nutrition training. 

  • 1st Place: Andrea Brown - Examining Associations between Food Insecurity, Anxiety, and Stress among Young Adults with Diabetes
  • Runner Up: Bezawit Eyob Kase - The development and evaluation of a literature-based Dietary Index for Gut Microbiota

Mini Symposium 2021 Program

Download the 2021 Symposium Program[pdf]

Background & Purpose: This virtual event  featured keynote speaker Dr. Caroline G. Dunn (PhD, RDN), Data and Evaluation Team Lead (Lead Social Scientist) in the Division of Home Visiting and Early Childhood Systems. Dr. Dunn's presentation was titled "Creating Connections: Leveraging Diverse Training Experiences to Create Research Opportunities."*

The mini symposium also featured oral presentations of doctoral dissertation work across the spectrum of nutrition science from 5 recent graduates. For more information, check out the following Doctoral Dissertation Presentations [pdf].

*Disclaimer: The information in this presentation is solely the opinion and responsibility of the author and does not represent her employer.

Time Presentation Type Speakers
1:00-2:00PM Keynote Presentation
  • Dr. Caroline G. Dunn
2:00-2:15PM Exercise Break
  • Nkechi Okpara
2:15-3:35PM Doctoral Dissertation Presentations [pdf]
  • Dr. Tushar Trivedi
  • Dr. Malcolm Bevel
  • Dr. Ligia Reyes
  • Dr. Shilpa Constantinides
  • Dr. Elyse Iruhiriye
3:35-4:00PM Poster Presentation Awards & Closing Remarks
  • Dr. Christine Blake

View Recording Here

Objective: To examine the association of unmet social needs (USN) with depressive symptoms among Youth and young adults (YYA) with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Methods: Data from the SEARCH Food Security ancillary study (2018-2020) were used to examine the cross-sectional association of USN with depressive symptoms among 685 YYA with T1D. The USDA Household Food Security Survey Module was used to measure household food insecurity over the past 12 months (food insecure (≥3 affirmations) vs. food secure). Participants were queried about their primary mode of transportation (personal vehicle vs other form of transportation) and if they had stable housing (all the time vs some or none of the time) over the past 90 days. Total number of USN (0-3) were calculated by summing these items. Depressive symptoms were measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale (scores 0-60). Linear regression was used to examine the association between number of USN and depressive symptom scores.
Results: Among YYA with T1D (mean age 23.4, SD 4.6 years), 17.1% had household food insecurity, 14.0% lacked adequate transportation, and 4.3% experienced unstable housing; 23.5% had one, 5.1% had two, and 0.9% had three USN. Mean (SD) CES-D score was 14.3 (11.9). Compared to YYA with no USN, those with 1 and 2-3 USN had depressive symptom scores 5.9 and 15.9 points higher, respectively (p<0.0001 for both exposure values), after adjusting for covariates.

Conclusions: USN among YYA with T1D are confluent and are jointly and cumulatively associated with depressive symptoms.

Objective: This study investigated the association between household economic status and body mass index (BMI) among Bangladeshi women.

Methods: This cross-sectional study used data from the 2014 Bangladesh Demographic and Health survey, a survey of 17,421 (weighted data) ever married 15-49 year-old women. Household economic status was measured by a wealth index categorized into quintiles. Using an Asia-specific cut-off, BMI was categorized into underweight, normal weight, and overweight/obese. The association between wealth and BMI categories was measured using logistic regression.

Results: The prevalence of underweight was 18.3% and was highest among women in the poorest quintile (50.4%), whereas the prevalence of overweight/obesity was 39.6% and was highest among women in the wealthiest quintile (64.4%). After multivariable adjustment, compared with women in the poorest wealth quintile (odds ratio 1.0), the odds ratios for being overweight/obese increased to 1.27 (95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.11-1.45) to 1.61 (95 % CI 1.42-1.84) to 2.24 (95% CI 1.94-2.55) to 3.88 (95% CI 3.34-4.52) in quintiles 2, 3, 4, and 5, respectively (p-value for trend<0.001).

Conclusion: Overweight/obesity consistently increased with increasing wealth index among women of reproductive age in Bangladesh. These results contrast upper income countries, where obesity is more concentrated in lower socioeconomic groups. Food insecurity may play a key role. Achieving greater insight into the international differences in the association between wealth and BMI may generate strategies to control the growing prevalence of obesity globally.

Objective: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food insecurity is an economic condition defined by lack of access to enough food to consistently support a household’s nutritional needs. As of 2018, over 600,000 South Carolinians struggled with food insecurity. Areas of low food access are often found in communities that are rural and/or have large racial/ethnic minority populations. The objective of this study is to examine the availability of grocery stores across South Carolina by geography and racial/ethnic group composition.  
Methods: A retrospective, cross-sectional study design will be used. Demographic characteristics will be obtained from the U.S. Census American Community Survey for years 2015-2019. Available grocery stores as of December 31, 2020 will be confirmed with the Data Axle Reference Solutions dataset. Comparisons will be made at the Census tract level, with the percent of racial/ethnic minority residents analyzed by the number of available grocery store outlets in the same area. Rural-Urban Continuum Codes (RUCC) will define geography. Choropleth maps will be used to display descriptive statistics.

Results: Preliminary results show that racial/ethnic minority groups have fewer available grocery store outlets in their communities, which may negatively impact their food security. Final results will be available in March 2021.

Conclusions: Grocery store outlets are more readily available to residents of white and urban communities in comparison to areas with a higher percentage of rural and racial/ethnic minority residents. A lack of grocery store outlets in certain areas may enhance food insecurity for families and negatively affect one’s overall health.

Objective: This interrupted time series study examined children’s dietary habits during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic compared to the same calendar periods in 2018 and 2019.
Methods:  Parents of 231 elementary schoolers (ages 7-12) from a larger cohort completed the Beverage and Snack Questionnaire on 2-3 random days each week for 6 weeks in Spring and Summer. Foods were classified as healthy or unhealthy based on the Healthy Eating Index. Mixed models compared differences in means and changes in slope between years.
Results: Pre-pandemic (2018 to 2019), there were no significant changes in springtime consumption of healthy (B = 0.10 95CI 0.00 to 0.10) or unhealthy (B = 0.06, 95CI -0.12 to 0.24) foods. In spring 2020, healthy and unhealthy food consumption increased significantly; children consumed an extra 0.3 (95CI 0.16 to 0.45) healthy and 1.2 (95CI 0.96 to 1.50) unhealthy foods/day. Healthy food consumption accelerated by an extra 0.2 (95CI 0.06 to 0.34) foods/day during the pandemic. While there was a significant increase in unhealthy foods consumed during the pandemic summer compared to previous years, the increase was not beyond expected given previous trends in summer eating habits (B = 0.23, 95CI -.04 to .50). 

Conclusions: Increased unhealthy food consumption during the pandemic is concerning given the risk for accelerated weight gain during unstructured time. The pandemic school closures may have altered children’s health behaviors by mimicking an ‘extended summer vacation,’ devoid of external structure. This may contribute to an increase in childhood obesity, warranting public health intervention. 

Objectives: As Ghana modernizes, adolescents are increasingly exposed to body size ideals incongruent with traditional values. This study explored how attractiveness and body image are conceptualized among urban Ghanaian adolescents and how various sociocultural messages regarding body image influence food choice.
Methods: The Measurement, Evaluation, Accountability, and Leadership Support for NCDs Prevention (MEALS4NCDs) Project measured the nature and extent of unhealthy food marketing. For this study, 48 interviews were conducted with Junior High School students (ages 14-17) in six districts across Accra, Ghana, in July and August 2020. Transcripts were coded and analyzed thematically.
Results: Participants described attractive and unattractive characteristics, some conflicting with traditional African standards valuing larger body sizes. In discussing attractiveness among the same sex, males emphasized “muscularity,” “tall stature,” and “broad shoulders,” while females favored “wide hips” and “a Coca-Cola shape” Both sexes preferred a “flat stomach” and “stylish clothing and hair,” and thought “overweight” was “unattractive” and “unhealthy.” Most students aspired to change their figure and expressed a need to attain a certain body type to attract romantic partners, reduce physical limitations, and avoid social stigma. To achieve their desired body size, most participants admitted changing diets to the chagrin of their elders who preferred that they ate traditional foods in larger quantities.
Conclusions: Urban Ghanaian adolescents’ conceptualizations of attractiveness and body image were influenced by traditional African and modern values obtained from messaging within social networks and media. Future interventions might use social marketing to promote nutritious diets and reduce stigma about body size.


Objectives: Household food insecurity (HFI) is prevalent, despite government programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and it can make diabetes management challenging. This study assessed the prevalence of HFI and SNAP participation among youth and young adults (YYA) with type 1 diabetes (T1D) or type 2 diabetes (T2D) living in South Carolina (SC).

Methods: Participants from SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth were surveyed in 2015-20 and included 413 T1D and 129 T2D (10-34 y; mean: 22.0 y) YYA from SC. Adult participants and parents of minors reported whether they received SNAP benefits and completed the USDA food security questionnaire, where affirming ≥3 items indicated experiencing HFI. Chi-square tests were used to evaluate whether the prevalence of HFI and SNAP utilization differed by demographic characteristics.
Results: In YYA with T1D, 22% experienced HFI, and Non-Hispanic blacks had the highest prevalence (32.4%, p=0.0107). Approximately 16% of YYA with T1D utilized SNAP benefits, with the highest prevalence among females (19%, p=0.0458) and Non-Hispanic blacks (28%, p=0.0002). In YYA with T2D, 34% experienced HFI and 43% received SNAP benefits. SNAP was used in 75% of T2D youth households compared to 40% of T2D young adult households (p=0.0173).
Conclusions: In these YYA with diabetes, the prevalence of HFI exceeded the national prevalence of 10.5% in 2019 and was higher in some groups than in others, suggesting unmet need among this population. Addressing this unmet need is important given that stable food access is essential to appropriate diabetes management.


Objectives: This presentation summarizes methods used to recruit participants for the Nutritious Eating with Soul (NEW Soul) study in partnership with Rare Variety Café. This 9-month behavioral intervention, led by a community health worker, examines the reach of a soul food, plant-based healthy eating program for African Americans. 

Methods: Participants were recruited in two cohorts. An online screening questionnaire prompted participants to select how they were introduced to the study based on a list of recruitment strategies.

Results: The three most reported recruitment methods were social media (23%), radio (22%), and friends and family members (20%). Other strategies included Rare Variety Café, current study participants and staff, websites, work, newspaper, and church. From 199 completed screener forms, 48 individuals were ineligible based on study restrictions. The three most common reasons for ineligibility consisted of: medication for diabetes, inability to travel to the downtown Columbia area where Rare Variety Café is located, and BMI out of the required study range. Successful contact was made with 100 of the 151 eligible individuals for a follow-up 1-on-1 Zoom conferencing meeting. Of these, 86 individuals were invited to an orientation session. Seventy-one individuals attended orientation and 43 completed baseline assessments and enrolled in the study. 

Conclusions: The most popular methods for recruiting African American adults for this nutrition study were social media, radio, and peers. These findings suggest that future nutrition interventions prioritizing participation from the African American community would experience the greatest engagement when applying these recruitment techniques.

Objectives: The objective of this research was to examine the association between fasting times and metabolic and inflammatory biomarkers after three months of a dietary intervention.

Methods: The Inflammation Management Intervention (IMAGINE) was an anti-inflammatory diet intervention with primary outcomes assessed at three months. Timing of dietary intake was assessed via three unannounced 24-h dietary recalls at both baseline and three months. Lipids and inflammatory biomarkers (IL6, CRP, TNF- α) were assessed via blood draws at both timepoints. Fasting times were calculated using the average time of the first dietary exposure after waking and average time of the last intake before bed. Linear mixed model analyses were used combining intervention and control participants.

Results: Participants in the lowest fasting time tertile (i.e., lower number of fasting hours per day) had significantly greater reductions in IL6 (1.46 vs. 1.87 pg/mL, P = 0.04), total cholesterol (175 vs. 189 mg/dL, P = 0.04), and insulin concentrations (8.30 vs. 10.69 mU/L, P = 0.01), compared to those in the highest tertile. For a one-minute increase in first mealtime, LDL increased by 0.07 mg/dL (P = 0.01). The interactions between fasting time and timepoint was statistically significant for both CRP (P = 0.03) and TNF-α (P = 0.02). Change in the mean CRP and TNF-α for a one-unit increase in fasting time was smaller at 3 months compared to baseline.

Conclusions: Longer fasting times are associated with higher CRP, TNF-α, cholesterol, LDL, and insulin. Eating breakfast late may be related to longer fasting time, which may partially explain the fasting time findings.

Objectives: Poor-quality diets and abnormal sleep patterns are common among police officers. Diet can affect chronic inflammation which may influence sleep quality. Associations were examined between the energy-density Dietary Inflammatory Index (E-DIITM) and sleep quality among police officers.

Methods: Data were from the Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress Cohort with baseline in 2004-2009 (n=464), first follow-up in 2010-2014 (n=281), and second follow-up in 2016 (n=191). The E-DII was calculated based on food frequency questionnaire reporting. Sleep was measured objectively (wrist actigraphy) and subjectively (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index). Standard repeated-measures linear regression models were fit to examine cross-sectional relationships between E-DII and sleep quality. A second approach assessed longitudinal effects by computing changes in E-DII while adjusting for the baseline E-DII. Effect modification by shift status (day, evening, or night shift) was examined.

Results: Cross-sectionally, a 1-unit pro-inflammatory increase in E-DII was associated with a 1.3-minute increase in wake-after-sleep-onset (WASO, p=0.02). In models with both longitudinal and cross-sectional effects, with every 1-unit pro-inflammatory increase in change in E-DII score, WASO increased by 1.4 minutes (p=0.07) which was driven by those primarily working day shifts (β=3.33, p=0.01). A worsening of the E-DII over time led to an improvement in sleep efficiency (β=0.52, p=0.04) among night shift workers. Subjective sleep quality improved (β=-0.22, p<0.01) for every 1-unit increase in the change in E-DII score.

Conclusion: More pro-inflammatory diets were associated with a worsening of sleep quality in those working day shifts. Findings among those primarily working nights may be due to differential loss-to-follow-up.

Objectives: A previous study reported that overall use of dietary supplements among United States (U.S.) adults remained stable from 1999 to 2012. However, little is known about trends over the last ten years. We examined trends in dietary supplement use in recent cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Methods: The NHANES, a serial cross-sectional study of non-institutionalized adults and children residing in the U.S., was used to estimate the prevalence of overall dietary supplements use among adults (age ≥19 y) between 2009 and 2018 (five continuous 2-year cycles). Information about dietary supplement use was collected in an in-home interview by asking the participants whether they used any dietary supplements in the preceding 30 days. Survey-weighted prevalence was calculated to be nationally representative of the U.S. population. We also evaluated the trends across cycles and conducted subgroup analyses by age, sex, race/ethnicity, education status, body mass index, and self-reported health status.

Results: Over five NHANES cycles, data from 28,415 adults ≥19 y were included in current analyses. The sample size ranged from 5,600 to 6,215 across survey cycles. Mean age was 47.2 years. The overall use of any dietary supplements increased between 2009 and 2018 (49.5% in 2009-2010 and 57.4% in 2017-2018, P for trend < 0.001). Use of four or more supplement products also increased from 7.8% to 14.1% between 2009-2010 and 2017-2018 cycles (Ratio = 1.94, 95% Confidence Intervals: 1.52, 2.48, P for trend < 0.001). The observed trend toward increasing was consistent across different age and sex groups, and more pronounced among participants with higher education, higher body mass index, and fair or poor self-reported health status.

Conclusions: The overall use of any dietary supplements among U.S. adults increased during the last ten years. The trend was robust among different population groups. Underlying reasons for these trends warrant further investigation.

Symposium 2020 Program

Download the 2020 Symposium Program [pdf]

Background & Purpose: The symposium continued with the theme of seeking to encourage collaboration and generate and communicate knowledge across the spectrum of nutrition research. The keynote speaker was our very own Dr. Edward Frongillo, Professor in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior and Director of the Global Health Initiative. Dr. Frongillo's keynote address was titled, "Ensuring Trust in Science: Challenges and Responses in Nutrition."

Date/Time Presentation Type/Title Speakers
September 18, 2020, 10:00AM-11:00AM Keynote and Facilitated Discussion: Ensuring Trust in Science: Challenges and Responses in Nutrition
  • Dr. Edward Frongillo
September 25, 2020, 10:00AM-11:00AM Plenary Session: Cutting Edge Science in Dietary Patterns Research
  • Dr. Susan Steck
  • Dr. Brie Turner-McGrievy
  • Dr.  Angela Liese
  • Dr. Shawn Arent 
October 2, 2020, 10:00AM-11:00AM Plenary Session: Advances in Global Nutrition
  • Dr. Courtney Monroe
  • Dr. Alex McLain
  • PhD candidate Shiva Bhandari
  • Dr. Christine Blake
October 9, 2020, 10:00AM-11:00AM Plenary Session: Nutrition Interventions Across the Lifecourse 
  • Dr. Jihong Liu
  • Dr. Dawn Wilson
  • Dr. Edward Frongillo
  • Dr. Nazratun Monalisa
October 16, 2020, 10:00AM-11:00AM Practitioner Perspectives: Enhancing Trust of Nutrition Recommendations
  • Brooke Brittain, MS, RD, LD, CHES, CLC, Program Manager Public Health Nutrition and Outreach at Clemson University
  • Kristin Coggin, RD, Director of Performance Nutrition at UofSC
  • Jim Cook, MD, OBGYN with Centering Pregnancy
  • Nancy Lintner, MS, ACNC-BC, BC-ADM, Diabetes Care and Education Specialist
  • Olivia Sullivan, MS, RDN, LD, Dietitian for UofSC Student Health Services
October 23, 2020, 10:00AM-11:00AM Student Led Seminar: Poster Presentations & Awards


Objectives: This study used cross-sectional data from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study collected in 2015-2019 to evaluate associations between Household food insecurity (HFI) and depression among youth and young adults (YYA) with type 1 diabetes (T1D) or type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Methods: HFI was categorized as a binary variable (food secure vs food insecure) using the 18-item USDA food security survey, where ≥3 affirmations indicated being food insecure. The 20-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale was used to quantify depression symptoms as a continuous outcome (scores 0-60). Linear regression models were adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, site, and diabetes duration. Models were analyzed separately for youth with T1D, young adults with T1D, and young adults with T2D.

Results: HFI and CES-D data were available for 335 T1D youth (10-17 years), 731 T1D young adults (18-35 years), and 272 T2D young adults (18-34 years). Of these, 18.8%, 17.5%, and 30.1%, respectively, reported being food insecure. Adjusted models showed that food insecure young adults with T1D had 7.4 higher scores on symptoms of depression (p<.0001) and those with T2D had 4.8 higher scores on symptoms of depression (p=0.0002), when compared to those that were food secure. Food insecure youth with T1D had 3.2 higher scores on symptoms of depression compared to food secure youth with T1D after adjustment for covariates (p=0.0031).

Conclusions: Findings from this study suggest that living in a food insecure household is associated with increased depression symptomology among YYA with T1D or T2D.


Objectives: The Newest Vital Sign (NVS) is a widely used, interviewer-administered health literacy measure with 6 questions involving interpretation of an ice cream nutrition label. We examined the internal reliability and construct validity of a self-administered version of the NVS for use in online, population-based surveys in the US and Mexico.

Methods: In 2018 and 2019, nationwide cross-sectional surveys were conducted with online panels of adult consumers in Mexico (N=8,445) and the US (N=8,809). For each country, reliability was assessed via the Kuder-Richardson 20 formula (i.e., KR-20 for dichotomous indicators) and linear, multinomial logistic, and logistic models were estimated for three versions of the NVS: continuous (range=0-6), ordinal (0-1; 2-3; 4-6), and dichotomous variables (0-3; 4-6), the latter two of which are recommended by NVS developers. Convergent validity was examined for socioeconomic status and engagement with nutrition labels.

Results: The NVS exhibited high internal reliability (KR-20 US=0.83; Mexico=0.77). In linear regression models, higher education (p<.001), lower food insecurity (p<.001), more frequent exposure to nutrition labels (p<.001), more frequent use of nutrition labels (p<.001) and greater self-reported comprehension of nutrition labels (p<.001) were all associated with greater health literacy. Multinomial logistic and logistic regression models showed consistent results.

Conclusions: The NVS appears to have high reliability and strong construct validity for measuring nutrition label literacy in self-administered surveys among adult consumers in both Mexico and the US.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore and describe how the COVID-19 pandemic influenced dietary behaviors among adults enrolled in an internet-based weight loss program.

Methods: Adults enrolled in an internet-delivered weight loss program completed a semi-structured interview via telephone between June 1, 2020 and June 22, 2020. The interview explored how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced dietary behaviors. Constant comparative analysis was used to identify key themes.

Results: Participants (n=30) were primarily female (83%) and white (87%), 54.6±10.0 years old, and had a mean body mass index of 31.1±4.5 kg/m2. General themes with eating were change in eating out frequency or modality (e.g., take out more, not eating at restaurants), cooking more, and changes in alcohol consumption. Themes related to shopping included change in shopping frequency, and inability and changes in ability to find certain foods. Barriers included snacking/ease of access to food, eating as a coping mechanism, and lack of routine/planning. Facilitators included calorie control, regular routine/scheduling, and self-monitoring.

Conclusion: The coronavirus pandemic has influenced adults eating and grocery shopping behaviors. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, addressing these barriers will be critical for weight management. Disseminating strategies to promote healthy snack alternatives, flexible meal plans that account for challenges purchasing food at the grocery store, and stress management techniques to reduce stress eating may be helpful for those managing their weight. Future research is needed to understand the long term effects the pandemic may have on eating and shopping behaviors.


Background: Patients with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) experience a range of gastrointestinal (GI) and extraintestinal symptoms that generate a significant burden on daily life. Many patients seek out complementary treatments and undertake socio-behavioral and lifestyle adaptations to self-manage disease symptoms, reduce dependence upon pharmaceuticals, and respond to the challenges of living with chronic illness. This study will describe patient perspectives and experiences with UC treatment and self-management methods.

Methods: Qualitative data were collected using individual semi-structured interviews to reflect the perspectives and experiences of individuals with UC on treatment and self-management methods. Patients were recruited through Greenville’s Prisma Health Gastroenterology department, the Carolina’s Crohn’s and Colitis support group, and Facebook support groups. Eligibility criteria included: 1) diagnosis of UC; 2) duration of illness ≥5 years; and 3) minimum of one disease flare during the illness trajectory. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. Thematic analysis was conducted using NVivo 11 software.

Results: Progressive use of medications in response to disease flares was common. Participants identified stress as a precursor to disease flares. While some patients doubted the effect of diet on disease activity, the majority of participants spoke about foods as culprits for GI symptoms. Other participants described making changes to their dietary intake to manage their overall health. Patients who underwent colorectal surgery described a continuing need to self-manage gastrointestinal symptoms.

Conclusion: Participants expressed a spectrum of attitudes and approaches towards dietary change. Greater understanding is needed to identify how diet can influence immune functioning and overall health among UC patients.


Objective: This study examined 1) the separate relationships between socioeconomic disadvantage and the density of multiple types of food outlets, and 2) the relationships between socioeconomic disadvantage and composite positive and negative food outlet indices.

Methods: Cross-sectional data were analyzed using geospatial kernel density techniques. Food outlet data included convenience stores, discount and drug stores, fast food and fast-casual restaurants, and grocery stores. Multivariate linear regression was used to examine the relationships between socioeconomic disadvantage and density of food outlets. The unit of analysis was block groups, and all data about neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage and food outlets were publicly available.

Results: Convenience store density, negative food environment index, and positive food environment index were positively associated with block group socioeconomic disadvantage, while total food environment index was negatively associated with block group socioeconomic disadvantage.

Conclusions: Those who reside in more disadvantaged block groups have greater access to both positive and negative food outlets. Although disadvantaged populations have greater access to all types of food outlets, the density of unhealthy establishments was greater than the density of grocery stores in these areas. Structural changes are needed to address access to healthy food outlets to combat environmental injustice and reduce obesity risk.


Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate the association between consumer behaviors related to purchasing of food/meals and Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII®) scores.

Methods: Cross-sectional data from adults over 12 years (N = 27,438) from the 2005 through 2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) were used. DII scores were assessed according to 24-hour dietary recalls, while consumer behaviors were evaluated according to participants' responses to NHANES items related to food shopping and food expenditures. Regression analyses were conducted to examine the association between consumer behaviors and DII scores.

Results: While controlling for covariates, those in quartile 1 for spending money on groceries in a month (i.e., lowest amount) compared to quartile 4 for money spent on groceries has statistically significant higher DII scores (0.38 vs. 0.13, p<0.01). The converse was true for money spent dining out. Also, statistically significant higher DII scores were associated with having no fruits at home compared to always having fruits at home, as well as always having soda at home versus never having soda at home. Eating at restaurants, not using myPyramid, not using nutrition facts labels and not buying organic foods also were significantly associated with higher DII scores.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that consumers who spend less on grocery food, spend more money dining out, or do not use food nutrition information/education are more likely to consume more pro-inflammatory diets.


Mycotoxin contamination of baby foodstuffs is considered one of the most important chemical contaminants, as it causes many chronic health risks. This contamination leads to the spread of foodborne pathogens and infant death. Baby food microbial contamination may be a result of the incomplete manufacturing process and lack of knowledge about its preparation. Our studies explored the presence of mycotoxins produced by Aspergillus (Aflatoxin B1, B2, G1, G2 &M1), Fusarium (Deoxynivalenol) and Penicillium (Antibiotics) in baby food products manufactured and produced in lower and middle-income countries such as India. These studies also reveal that mycotoxin mitigation is key to improving child nutrition and growth, and that action is urgently required. A total of seventeen commercially available food samples manufactured by different manufacturers were obtained randomly from different retail stores in India and analyzed for this study. These food samples were of various types that included infant food (5 products-cereals, cornflakes, cerelac, milk powder), nutritional drinks (5 products), snacks, and breakfast foods (7 products). A total of 70 g from each sample were used for quantitative analysis of aflatoxins B1, B2, G1, G2, and aflatoxin M1 by using a previously established direct competitive enzyme-linked Immunoassay (ELISA). Mycotoxins in the samples were extracted using a chloroform: methanol extraction method. Our findings showed that all of the analyzed baby food samples were contaminated with aflatoxin M1 at a level exceeding the recommended European Union level of 25ng kg-1. Several (75%) of them contained detectable concentrations of deoxynivalenol and 51.7% samples with DON levels that can lead to dietary intake higher than 1 μg kg−1 recommended by the joint FAO/WHO expert committee on food additives. Our significant research on mycotoxins suggests that chronic exposure to mycotoxin contaminated complementary foods can put infants and toddlers at risk of acute aflatoxicosis and liver disease. It also reveals the urgent need for the global community to act now to reduce mycotoxin contamination and exposure to help some of our most vulnerable populations, infants, and children.


Objective: Identifying the predictors of early child development in populations is important to inform the design of interventions and programs. Using data from the BRISC trial, we examined the biopsychosocial correlates of development in 8 month-old Bangladeshi children.

Methods: This study includes children who participated in a baseline survey for a randomized controlled trial to study the effects of iron supplements and multiple micronutrient powders on child development. We recruited 3300 children at 8 months of age. Child development was assessed using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development-III, psychosocial stimulation was measured using the Family Care Indicators (FCI), and maternal depression using the short version of Centre for Epidemiological Studies-Depression questionnaire. Anthropometry and hemoglobin concentrations were measured using standard procedures. A multiple variable linear regression model was used to examine significant correlates of cognitive, language, and motor development.

Results: In this population of 8 month old children, prevalence of anemia was 44.6% and stunting was 21.8%. In the adjusted model, length-for-age z-score (LAZ) and FCI score were significantly (p-value<0.01) associated with the cognitive development score [b (95%CI): LAZ = 0.94 (0.59, 1.28); FCI score = 0.12 (0.03, 0.21)]. Results were similar for language and motor development. Hemoglobin concentration was significantly associated with motor development [b (95%CI): LAZ = 0.39 (0.04, 0.73)], but not with cognitive and language development after adjustment for confounders.

Conclusions: Strategies to address the underlying causes of growth faltering and programs to improve parenting and home stimulation could have important implications for child development in Bangladesh.

Objective: This study examined the presence of healthy foods in the home at different time points during the COVID-19 pandemic among food insecure (FI) and food secure (FS) households.

Methods: Parents of elementary age children (2-5th grade) were surveyed in April 2020 and July 2020 about the presence of food items currently in their home. Food items were identified as ‘healthy’ according to the Healthy Eating Index. FI was assessed using the two-item USDA screener. A 2x2 repeated measures ANOVA was conducted to examine changes in the presence of healthy food in the household by FI status.

Results: Data were obtained from 62 households; 30% (n=19) were classified as FI. There were no significant main effect differences in the presence of healthy foods between April and July f(1,60) = 0.02, p > 0.05, ηp2 < 0.01). There was a significant time by FI interaction f(1,60) = 4.94, p < 0.05, ηp2 = 0.08), such that FI households reported significant decreases in healthy foods from April to July 2020 compared to FS households.

Conclusion: Our findings indicate significant decreases in healthy foods in FI households compared to FS households. Results are concerning as FI is increasing across the nation. Further, the impact of disease and economic burden from the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affects low-income families. Results may be informative regarding policy measures to ease the economic burden caused by the pandemic, such as increased SNAP benefits.


Objective: This study examined how stress experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic influenced mental well-being and weight loss behaviors among adults enrolled in an internet-based weight loss program.

Methods: Participants enrolled in a weight loss program completed a brief survey on how the COVID-19 pandemic influenced their current behaviors between April 14, 2020 and April 21, 2020. Participants were categorized based on stress level (High Stress: moderate to extreme stress, Low Stress: not at all to slightly stressed). Weight management behaviors were examined by stress category using independent sample t-tests for continuous variables or Chi-square tests for categorical variables.

Results: A total of 99 participants completed the survey (79% female, 91% white, 52.2±9.8 years, 34.0±5.2 kg/m2, 72% classified as High Stress). Individuals with High Stress were more likely to have school age children at home (p=0.004), experience higher levels of anxiety and concern regarding COVID-19 (p<0.05), have less time to spend on weight loss efforts (p<0.001), and more difficulty staying on track with eating habits (p<0.05) than those with Low Stress. No differences were seen for exercise habits.

Conclusions: Many individuals enrolled in a weight loss program experienced high stress during COVID-19. These high levels of stress were related to more difficulties finding time for weight management efforts and staying on track with eating habits, but not exercise habits.


Objectives: Emotional eating has been associated with overeating and greater consumption of energy-dense foods among youth. The current study examined the interactive effects of parental feeding practices and adolescent emotional eating on fruit and vegetable (F&V) intake among African American (AA) adolescents and hypothesized that more positive parenting practices (less restriction) would buffer the effects of emotional eating on dietary outcomes.

Methods: Overweight AA adolescents (N=125; M age 12.82±1.728; M BMI %ile 96.69±4.00) provided baseline data for the Families Improving Together for weight loss trial. Adolescents completed the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire to assess emotional eating. F&V intake was assessed with random 24-hour dietary recall on two weekdays and one weekend day. Adolescents’ perspective on parental feeding practices was measured with the Child Feeding Questionnaire.

Results: A hierarchical linear regression demonstrated that the overall model was marginally significant (F(16,124)=1.576, p=0.088, R2=0.189) and indicated a significant interaction between emotional eating and parental monitoring (β=0.313, p=0.011), parental restriction (β=-0.241, p<0.05), and parental weight-related concerns (β=-0.293, p=0.008). Simple slope analyses showed that at high levels of parental monitoring, emotional eating was positively associated with greater F&V intake, at low levels of parental restriction, emotional eating was positively associated with higher F&V intake, and at low levels of parental concern, emotional eating was positively associated with higher F&V intake.

Conclusions: These findings expand past research and indicate that future studies may need to take parental feeding practices into account when evaluating the relationship between emotional eating and dietary outcomes among overweight AA adolescents.


Objective: For individuals with diabetes and household food insecurity (HFI), uncertain availability of food may increase fear of hypoglycemia (FOH). FOH may prevent individuals from optimal diabetes management.

Methods: We analyzed data from 1,603 adults (80% type 1 diabetes [T1D], 20% type 2 diabetes [T2D]) and 592 youth (100% T1D) participants in the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study. Adult participants and parents of youth completed the US Household Food Security Survey, where ≥3 food insecure conditions indicate HFI. Adults, youth, and parents of youth completed the Hypoglycemia Fear Survey that provides a behavior subscale, worry subscale, and total score. We examined the association of HFI with FOH with general linear models, adjusting for covariates.

Results: Adults with T1D reporting HFI had increased FOH (+3 units for behavior, +11 units for worry, +14 units for total), after adjustment (all p<0.0001). Parents of youth with T1D reporting HFI had a 3 unit increase in worry FOH (p=0.03). Adults with T2D reporting HFI had increased FOH (+8.9 units for total, +6 units for worry; all p<0.01). Youth with T1D reporting HFI did not differ in FOH than those not reporting HFI.

Conclusion: This research suggests among adults with diabetes and parents of youth with T1D, those with HFI are more likely to experience FOH than those without HFI. Implementation of common approaches to ameliorate risk of hypoglycemia such as carrying snacks is problematic for people who are food insecure. Providers could consider HFI when discussing hypoglycemia and fear thereof with their patients.


Objective: This study examined the situation of existing adolescent nutrition services and needs of the service providers and recipients in hard-to-reach areas in Bangladesh.

Methods: This cross-sectional study design has used a mixed-method approach in five different types of hard-to-reach areas: haor, char (alluvial lands), islands, hilly and coastal areas spreading over 12 districts in Bangladesh. Situation analysis was large dependent on quantitative data which were collected by face-to-face interviews from 293 adolescent boys and girls. Need assessment was mostly appraised by qualitative data collection tools like Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) and observations in 29 government health facilities.

Results: Approximately, 71% of adolescent girls sought nutrition services from government health facilities whereas no boys were found receiving any nutrition services from any kind of facilities. The coverage of IFA supplementation (66.7%), counseling on reproductive health and personal hygiene (33.3%) was found higher in the coastal areas though utilization of Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) materials while counseling was nil at all. The ceaseless demands for regular supply of nutrients, logistics and increasing skilled manpower at the field level were strongly uttered by both healthcare providers and recipients. Establishment of community nutrition clubs and improving school based nutrition services can play significant role in this regard.

Conclusion: Nutrition interventions implemented in hard-to-reach areas targeted the adolescent girls, leaving the adolescent boys bereft of the advantages of interventions. Strengthening the provision of nutrients supplementation and increasing the coverage of training are indispensable to improve nutrition services in hard-to-reach areas.


Introduction: Restricting dietary sodium consumption decreases arterial stiffness in adults, partially due to the blood pressure lowering effect of sodium restriction. We have shown that sodium consumption and blood pressure were not associated in women soon after delivery, but the relationship of sodium consumption and arterial stiffness in women shortly after pregnancy is unclear.

Objectives: The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether self-reported sodium consumption was associated with arterial stiffness in women 6 months to 3 years after a singleton birth.

Methods: Sodium consumption was measured using a validated scored sodium questionnaire. Arterial stiffness (pulse wave velocity) was obtained by dividing the distance between carotid and femoral arterial waveforms by the R wave of a simultaneously recorded ECG using a SphygmaCor machine and software. Associations were determined using robust linear regression, unadjusted and adjusted for age and race.

Results: 44 participants completed the study (20.45% African American, age=33±1 yrs, BMI=26±1 kg/m2). Pulse wave velocity was negatively associated with sodium consumption (r=-0.01, p=0.04) in an unadjusted analysis. After adjusting for race and age, the association was no longer significant (r=-0.01, p=0.11).

Conclusion: Arterial stiffness and sodium consumption were negatively and significantly associated, but the significance was lost after adjusting for age. Our data suggest that the negative association was likely mediated by age-related differences in arterial stiffness and sodium consumption in women in our study. Future work should investigate associations of arterial stiffness and sodium consumption in a larger cohort or determine the effect of sodium restriction on arterial stiffness of women soon after delivery.


Objectives: People under stress tend to use unhealthy coping mechanisms including using products like alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy snacks. The purpose of this study is to assess how measures of community socio-economic status, which may be proxies for community stress, are associated with the sales of unhealthy products (alcohol, tobacco, and unhealthy snacks) at a discount variety store chain. Specifically, we consider the following measures of community socio-economic status: population racial/ethnic composition, percent of households on SNAP, percent of households without a vehicle, walkability score and median community income.

Methods: Mixed effects linear regressions with random effects were used to examine the relationship between the weekly unit sales (per 1000 population) of three outcome variables (tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy snacks) and community socio-economic factors: percent of households on SNAP, percent of households without a vehicle, and median community income. Alcohol, tobacco, and unhealthy snack sales were collected over a 20-month period in 2017 and 2018 in 16 discount variety stores.

Results: The sales of alcohol, tobacco, and unhealthy snacks increased as the percent of the population participating in SNAP increased. Other measures of community socio-economic status were not significantly (at 5% significance level) associated with tobacco or unhealthy snack sales. However, for alcohol sales, increases in: the median household income, walkability score and percent of African American residents, were associated with a decrease in alcohol sales.

Conclusions: Low income neighborhoods frequently experience greater health burden compared to higher income neighborhoods. Understanding and quantifying the relationship between financial stress and unhealthy product consumption can help public health professionals intervene before chronic diseases manifest.


Objectives: Serum biomarkers are a common measurement of exposure to dietary antioxidants and may be considered superior to dietary assessment data given their relative objectivity. However, their associations with cancer risk have not been systematically reviewed and compared within the same study population. Therefore, we aimed to evaluate the consistency of the associations with cancer risk between dietary and serum antioxidant nutrients.

Methods: We searched the database of PubMed, Web of Science, and Embase to obtain studies that investigated the association between dietary and serum vitamins A, C, and E, and total carotenoids with cancer risk using the same study population in prospective designs. We abstracted the results from each paper using a standard data extraction table and compared the results for dietary intake and serum concentration of the antioxidant nutrients in relation to all cancer types.

Results: After scanning 17,394 records from the literature search, we obtained 28 prospective studies involving 54 associations focused on both dietary intake and serum level of antioxidants within the same study population. The associations between cancer risk and antioxidants assessed by dietary intake and serum antioxidant concentration were consistent in 38 results (total observed agreement = 0.704) when using p-value linear trend <= 0.05 as the cut-point. Cancer risk was not associated with extreme categories of antioxidants measured by dietary intake or serum levels.

Conclusions: Generally, associations between dietary antioxidants intake and cancer risk are consistent with those for serum antioxidants when examined within the same study population.

Symposium 2019 Program

Download the 2019 Symposium Program Brochure [pdf]

Background & Purpose: The symposium seeks to encourage collaboration and generate and communicate knowledge across the spectrum of nutrition research. The keynote speaker is Dr. Solveig Cunningham, an Associate Professor of Global Health at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, with affiliated appointments in the Division of Nutrition, the Department of Sociology, and the Department of Epidemiology at Emory.  She was trained in Demography and Sociology (PhD), International Development (MSc) and Chronic Disease Epidemiology (Postdoc), with specialization in obesity and diabetes, contextual factors of chronic diseases, and the implications of early life exposure for long-term health.  

 2019 Abstract and Oral Presentation Winners:

Oral Presentation Winner:

  • Marilyn Wende, Health Promotion, Education and Behavior- Examining spatial clustering patterns and regional variations: healthy eating environments in the United States

Poster Presentation Winners:

  • First Place: 
    • Rodrick Dugger, Exercise Science-The Impact of Summer Programming on the Obesogenic Behaviors of Children
  • Second Place:
    • Omonefe Omofuma, Epidemiology- Meat and fish intake and the risk of breast cancer in the Carolina Breast Cancer Study (CBCS)
    • Barbara Bujak, Health Promotion, Education and Behavior- Role of Drill Sergeants in Influencing Nutrition Behaviors of U.S. Army Basic Trainees
  • Third Place:
    • Paul Vecchiarelli, Environmental Health Sciences- Open Source Vitamin Analysis
    • Nazratun Monalisa, Health Promotion, Education and Behavior- Association of caregivers’ education and household poverty with children’s fast food, fruit juice, and vegetable consumption in California

Symposium 2018 Program

Download the 2018 Symposium Program Brochure [pdf]

Symposium 2017 Program

Download the 2017 Symposium Program Brochure [pdf]

Background & Purpose:
The 7th Annual Nutrition Symposium will bring together researchers, policy makers, community and faith-based organizations, and community members to: provide perspectives on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges in South Carolina as it relates to food justice, healthy equity, and environmental justice; and formulate an action plan for greater collaboration across these sectors for meaningful change.

Symposium 2016 Program

Background & Purpose: The 2015 Dietary Guidelines have been controversial in scientific and political circles, as they play a pivotal role in informing nutrition policy in the U.S. In addition to providing Americans with guidance on how to consume a healthy diet, the Dietary Guidelines inform what foods can be served in school lunches, determine which foods are offered in the Women, Infants, and Children's (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program, and guide innovations in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The outcomes of the current debates will have important implications for improving health and preventing nutrition-related diseases in all populations, including those who are most vulnerable. The 6th Annual Nutrition Symposium will bring together new research on health disparities, social determinants, and nutrition policy that are relevant to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

Symposium 2015 Program

Download the 2015 Symposium Program Brochure [pdf]

Background & Purpose: The goal of this symposium is to connect diverse communities in the Southeast who are interested in building and strengthening collaborations to address poverty, hunger, and nutrition. These interest groups include the multiple disciplines represented by academic scholars at colleges and universities, researchers from for- and non-profit organizations, policy makers, and concerned community members across the region and state. The symposium will focus on eliciting the cross-fertilization of ideas and creating meaningful linkages between these diverse interest groups in order to connect research and practice to inform policy. This event will also serve as the inaugural meeting for the Southeastern University Consortium, formed in partnership with USDA's Food and Nutrition Service Southeastern region, to convene researches to help inform food security policies and food assistance programs. 

Symposium 2014 Program 

Download the 2014 Symposium Program Brochure [pdf]

Background & Purpose: The goal of this symposium is to connect diverse communities who are interested in: utilizing technology to improve nutrition and physical activity of our citizens; benefit local economies; and create a sustainable future. Keynote speaker, Dr. Tom Baranowski, Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and a faculty member of the Children's Nutrition Research Center. These interest groups include the multiple disciplines represented by academic scholars at colleges and universities, researchers from for- and non-profit organizations, and concerned community members. The symposium will focus on eliciting the cross-fertilization of ideas and creating meaningful linkages between these diverse interest groups in order to address nutrition and public health needs. 

Symposium 2013 Program

Download the 2013 Symposium Program Brochure [pdf]

Background & Purpose: The goal of this symposium is to connect the diverse communities of South Carolinians who are interested in nutrition research to improve the health of our citizens, local economies, and treasured environmental resources. These interest groups include the multiple disciplines represented by academic scholars at our state's colleges and universities, researchers from for- and non-profit organizations, and concerned community members. The symposium will focus on eliciting the cross-fertilization of ideas and creating meaningful linkages between these diverse interest groups in order to address nutrition needs within our state. 

Symposium 2012 Program

Healthy Eating in Context: Local Soultions, Global Challenges [pdf]

Background & Purpose: Communities and policy makers across the nation are working to identify ways to build sustainable food systems. The motivations for building a sustainable food system vary and include desires to increase access to healthy food, provide adaptive responses to climate change, improve economic opportunity for rural and urban food producers, and address concerns about the environmental impacts of the globalized food system. This symposium will highlight the challenges facing the food system and the innovations being developed in communities.

The symposium will serve to convene university researchers and community members to encourage collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas for the sustainable food system development for the health of people and planet. 


Symposium 2011 Program

Healthy Eating in Context: The Role of the Political, Physical, Economic, and Social Structures in Nutrition [pdf] 

Background & PurposePoor diet and physical activity are leading causes of death in the United States, second to tobacco use. Improving diet of people has proven difficult through education and information alone, and policy and environmental approaches to improving nutritionrelated health have become increasingly popular. Research on the conceptualization, measurement, and changes to eating environments is in great demand, and numerous calls for proposals from government agencies and private foundations have been issued in the past five years. USC researchers have reached national recognition of nutrition environment and policy.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.