School of Nutrition and Health Promotion

Funded Grants

Faculty in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion pursue a diverse range of interdisciplinary and innovative health research. This is a small sampling of the research currently underway.

Evaluation of School Salad Bars and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

Co-PI: Marc Adams, Exercise and Wellness
Co-PI: Meg Bruening, Nutrition
Partners: Tempe School District No. 3, Mesa Public Schools, AZ Department of Education, AZ Department of Health Services

Biobehavioral Activity-Sleep Synergies for Cardiometabolic Health

PI: Matthew Buman, Exercise and Wellness
Partners: Phx VA Health Care System, Mayo Clinic AZ

Translation of the Group Lifestyle Balance Program for Overweight and Obese Individuals with Osteoarthritis

PI: Cheryl Der Ananian, Exercise and Wellness
Partners: Mtn Park Health Center, AZ Living Well Institute

Development of a mHealth Physical Activity Real-Time Adaptive Intervention

Co-PI: Eric Hekler, Nutrition
Co-PI: Daniel Rivera, Engineering
Partners: Stanford Univ., Northeastern Univ.

Can text-message referral to evidence-based websites improve physical activity in pregnant women?

PI: Jennifer Huberty, Exercise and Wellness
Partners:  Phoenix Perinatal Associates, Maricopa Integrated Health System, Text 4 Baby, University of South Carolina

Effects of a Social Support Intervention for Physical Activity, Madres para la Salud, on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors

In Hispanic women, the prevalence of overweight and obesity is greater than 70%. Failure to lose pregnancy weight is one of the factors contributing to obesity in this ethnic group, and is in part attributed to the decrease in physical activity after childbirth. Being overweight or obese increase the risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Almond Ingestion to Reduce Hemoglobin A1C in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes

The proposed trial will examine the impact of daily almond ingestion on markers of glycemic control (hemoglobin A1c, and fasting blood glucose and insulin) as well as oxidative stress and inflammation (8‐isoprostane, 4‐hydroxynonenal, nitrotyrosine, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and interleukin‐6) in diagnosed type 2 diabetes. The study is powered to detect a 0.5% change in hemoglobin A1c. Trial exclusion criteria will include nut allergies, active disease states, insulin treatment, hemoglobin A1c <7, daily dietary intake of >12% monounsaturated fatty acids, anticipated changes in diet or physical activity level, pregnancy or lactation. Prescription use (e.g., statins, hypertensive, oral hypoglycemic medications) is permitted if use has been consistent for 3 months and change is not anticipated. Participants will ingest 1.5 servings (oz) almonds 5‐7 days weekly for 12 weeks. Participants will be 25 – 75 years of age and maintain their normal diet and physical activity patterns during the trial.

Karen Sweazea, assistant professor, and Carol Johnston, professor and associate director of the Nutrition program, have been funded by the Almond Board of California for this study.

Impact of Environmental Changes on Children's BMI and Behaviors: A Panel Study

Initiation of environmental and policy interventions that are effective in reducing childhood obesity requires evidence of what works and why.

Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, associate professor in nutrition, in collaboration with Rutgers University, Center for State Health Policy researchers will conduct a controlled evaluation of the impact of changes in the food and physical activity (PA) environments on childhood obesity and related behaviors in five New Jersey cities. Funding for this R01 project has been provided by the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.

Tracking Changes in the Food and Physical Activity Environments in Five New Jersey Cities

This project complements the investigators’ NICHD-funded R01 study, Impact of Environmental Changes on Children's BMI and Behaviors: A Panel Study. The objective of the overall research is to assess the impact of children’s exposure to a comprehensive set of changes in the environment – intended or not -- on children’s eating and physical activity (PA) behaviors and weight status. The study is designed to produce findings that will improve the effectiveness of environmental and policy interventions aimed at reducing childhood obesity. The proposed RWJF- funded project will support implementation of a systematic protocol for tracking changes in food and physical activity environments in the five study cities over the next five years.

Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, Ph.D., associate professor in nutrition, and Dr. Michael Yedidia at the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy have received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.This project will be led by Ohri-Vachaspati and Yedidia with assistance from the research staff at Arizona State University and Rutgers University.

Impact of Physical Activity on Stroke and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults

None of the published studies that have related physical activity (PA) exposures with stroke and cognitive function have included a representative population sample, none have used objective measures of PA, and none have been specifically designed to examine racial or geographical variations in PA patterns and stroke incidence.

Steven Hooker Ph.D., professor of Exercise and Wellness, is working with investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of South Carolina, University of Georgia and University of Michigan to examine PA patterns and stroke and cognitive decline risk in a racially and geographically diverse population sample of nearly 12,000 free-living midlife and older women and men enrolled in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study. Findings from this study will provide empirical evidence of the role that variation in PA levels has on differences in stroke and cognitive decline occurrence among population subgroups as defined by race and geographic region, which could have important clinical and public health implications for enhancing health-related PA recommendations, improving population-based stroke prevention strategies, and maintaining optimal cognitive function during aging. (NIH-R01 grant)

Assisted Cycle Therapy (ACT) for Adolescents with Down Syndrome

Persons with Down Syndrome (DS) have broad cognitive impairment and physical characteristics which limit their ability to perform functional tasks of daily living. Current exercise recommendations for persons with DS vary greatly and results onimprovement of motor and cognitive functioning are limited. The limitation of previous voluntary exercise interventions for adolescents with DS, is the voluntary aspect of the exercise. Adolescents with DS, in part due to sedentary behaviors and reduced strength, produce slow movements that may limit their ability to sustain exercise at relatively high rates, which would explain the previous nonsignificant therapeutic benefits of exercise on motor and cognitive functioning in persons with DS.

Recent research in animals and Parkinson’s patients found that a fast rate of exercise is necessary to trigger an endogenous increase in neurotrophic factors that are thought to underlie improved motor and cognitive functioning. Therefore, our approach is to augment adolescents with DS’ voluntary exercise rate via mechanical assistance using a specialized stationary cycle with a motor that is engaged during the Assisted Cycle Therapy (ACT).  Our preliminary data with adolescents with DS revealed improvements in the speed of information processing and manual dexterity, even after one assisted cycle therapy session but not in one voluntary exercise session.

The current proposal will allow us to extend these findings to a longer (e.g., 8 wk) intervention session and expand our motor and cognitive measures.  The hypothesis is that the ACT group will exhibit significantly greater improvements in functional behaviors, manual dexterity, measures of executive function, functional exercise capacity, waist circumference, depression and self-efficacy compared to those in the voluntary exercise and no exercise groups. Collectively, data from this project will provide the most complete picture regarding the motor, cognitive, and health outcomes of voluntary and assisted exercise in persons with DS and has the potential to dramatically change the quality of their lives.

Shannon D. R. Ringenbach Ph.D., associate professor in Kinesiology and director of the Sensorimotor Development Research Laboratory has spent over a decade researching perceptual-motor behavior in persons with Down syndrome. Her project is funded from the National Institutes of Health.

A Wireless, Multimode, Artificial Neural Network-Based Physical Activity Monitor

Accurate measurement of physical activity is a challenging problem that is important to epidemiologists, exercise scientists, clinicians, and behavioral researchers. Although there are a number of ways to assess physical activity and energy expenditure, all current methods have serious shortcomings when it comes to measuring the energy expenditure of free-living individuals.

WalkIT Arizona: Neighborhood Walkability and Moderation of Adaptive Walking Interventions

This NIH-funded study aims to test, within a multilevel framework, synergistic and antagonistic effects of neighborhood walkability and individual-level adaptive goal setting and reward interventions delivered via texting (SMS) over 12 months to increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among healthy adults, and to evaluate maintenance of physical activity up to 24 months in adults living neighborhoods supportive and unsupportive of physical activity. The study will inform theory and practice for promoting physical activity adoption and ensuring maintenance among healthy adults for chronic disease prevention.

PI: Marc Adams, Exercise Science and Health Promotion The National Cancer Institute has provided funding for this R01 project.

Investigation of Biomarkers for Sugars Intake - A Controlled Feeding Study

PI: Natasha Tasevska, Nutrition Program

Partner: University of Alaska Fairbanks