Nutrition & Exercise Science

The goal of our work is to research physical activity and healthy diets and their role in preventing chronic disease and obesity.

Major goals of our research include: 1) developing evidence based recommendations for physical activity programs at the community level, 2) designing, implementing, and evaluating physical activity interventions, 3) assessing the utility of food based diets and physical activity for the promotion of health and well-being as well as reduction of social, economic, environmental, and health inequalities, and 4) evaluating the impact that public-private partnerships with conflicted interests has on policy and research outcomes in the areas of nutrition and physical activity.


Faculty Investigators

Diana C. Parra Perez, MPT, PhD

Student Members

Kallie Hart, DPT Student
Karthik Rohatgi, Undergraduate Student

Current Research Studies

Efficacy of a Culturally Sensitive and Linguistically Appropriate Internet and Mobile Based Weight Loss Therapy in Obese Hispanic/Latino Adult Women
Funding source:  Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Admin Supp). Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences  UL1TR000448-09 PA15-322 and NIH/NIDDK P30DK092950 Washington University Center for Diabetes Translation Research.

Hispanics are the fastest growing population group in the United States, it is estimated that nearly one in three-children will be Hispanic by 2030. Inequalities in access and quality of healthcare as well as disparities in urban and social environments contribute to higher rates of obesity by limited access to safe places to be physically active and reduced options for healthy eating, coupled with heavy marketing of unhealthy foods, higher rates of hunger and food insecurity. Lower trends of physical activity in Hispanic men and women in the US have been widely documented. Hispanic adults are 30% less likely to engage in physical activity compared to Whites. Increasing physical activity in the Hispanic population is a central goal of numerous public health initiatives, particularly given their increased prevalence of diabetes, overweight and obesity. Physical activity protects against an array of chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers. Considering that adults whose family income is below the poverty level are less likely to be physically inactive, Hispanics are at a double disadvantage. Although there is limited information on barriers for participation in programs that could increase physical activity and healthy food choices among this population group, these programs are often not made available in Spanish and are not sensitive to cultural differences. In addition, many health education workers have not been trained to work with Hispanic populations. This opens an opportunity for designing and implementing interventions that are culturally sensitive, designed in Spanish and that use readily available infrastructure for the promotion of community-based physical activity and nutrition education. Another potential but untapped resource is the use of mobile technology to aid in the delivery and evaluation of interventions. This study will test the efficacy of a culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate text based intervention for weight loss in Obese Hispanic/Latino adult women.

Do citywide bicycle path networks differ by socio economic status in Bogota Colombia?
Funding Source: Public Health Cubed (PH3) seed funding award

The public network of bicycle paths in Bogota Colombia, also known as “Cicloruta” is one of the largest in Latin America, with approximately 376 kilometers of bicycle paths distributed throughout the city. The program has increases bicycle use in the city, but there are some concerns regarding disparities in the design and distribution of the routes, with lower socioeconomic status neighborhoods and areas having fewer routes and poorer design (i.e., not segregated). However, this has not been systematically evaluated. This project aims to document the spatial distribution of the public network of bicycle paths in Bogota, assessing differences by neighborhoods socioeconomic status.

Consumption of Ultra-Processed Products and its Influence in Diet Quality and Obesity Among Brazilian, Canadian, and United States Populations
Funding Source: Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnologico-CNPq

This project studies patterns of consumption of ultra-processed foods and their influence on the dietary nutrient profile and the risk of obesity in seven countries. The study is coordinated by NUPENS/USP and includes research teams in each country. It involves the analysis of food intake data (24 h recalls or food registries) and weight and height measurements collected by national probabilistic household surveys undertaken in Brazil (n=34,003 individuals aged 10 y and plus), Colombia (n=37,211, 0-64 y), Chile (n=4,920, ≥ 2 y), United States (n=19,903, all ages), Canada (n=35,107, all ages), United Kingdom (n=6,828, all ages), and Australia (n=12,153 ≥ 2 y). Food items will be classified as ultra-processed when they refer to industrial formulations made of substances extracted from foods or synthesized from food substrates or other organic sources, with no or little whole food – concept developed at NUPENS/USP and increasingly used in the international scientific literature, the development of national dietary guidelines, and proposals of regulatory policies.

The Use of Household Travel Surveys in the Study of Active Transportation
Funding Source: Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo-FAPESP

Interest in active transportation is growing around the world given its close relationship with health and quality of life, as well as its potential to contribute to increase mobility, environmental, and health benefits. However, the majority of research has been undertaken in developed countries, which have very different environments from the ones found in countries such as Brazil. Using household travel surveys (HTS) we will study active transportation in Brazil and evaluate the validity and utility of HTS in physical activity research.

Past Research Studies

Consumption of Ready-to-Consume Products and its Association with Overweight and Obesity in Colombia (FAPESP 2013-08129, Department of Physical Therapy Washington University in St. Louis)

Applying Evidence–Physical Activity Recommendations in Brazil – Project GUIA (Guide for Useful Interventions for Activity in Brazil and Latin America) (U48 DP001903)

The Built Environment and its Association with Walking and Quality of Life Among Older Adults in Bogotá (COLCIENCIAS 2007 Fundacion FES Social – Health Division)

Influence of the Built Environment on Physical Activity and Quality of Life Among Bogotá Adults (International Union for Health Promotion 2005)