Penny Gordon-Larsen, Ph.D.
For almost 15 years, our research group has been studying the linkages between biology, behavior and environment in the development of obesity and its consequences. Obesity is an inherently challenging topic as it has a diverse and complex etiology. However, it is precisely this complexity that makes obesity a very exciting area of research. Our research aims to use trans-disciplinary, multilevel and pathway-based approaches to answer questions about the roles of biological, behavioral, and environmental factors that shape obesity and its consequences. We are particularly interested in age-specific exposures as well as the accumulation of exposures and how each bears influence on weight gain. In addition, we are very interested in understanding the differential impacts of these influences across race/ethnicity and across diverse socioeconomic groups. In addition to informing efforts to prevent and treat obesity and its consequences, a major goal is to use our research to inform policy efforts and reduce race/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities.
Penny Gordon-Larsen is a Professor in the Department of Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Nutrition: http://www.sph.unc.edu/nutr/degrees/#doc. She is also a Faculty Fellow at the Carolina Population Center.
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Currently, our work is focused on three major areas of research:
First, we are using nationally representative data to understand the complex interplay between genes and environment influencing weight gain over the lifecycle. In this project, we are working to understand differential susceptibility to environmental factors across diverse populations and across vulnerable periods for weight gain.
Second, we are using innovative Geographic Information Systems to measure and assess neighborhood environment factors that might shape obesity, obesity-related behaviors and obesity-related consequences. For example, we are seeking to determine how fast food restaurants, grocery stores, parks, transportation infrastructure, and neighborhood design influence diet and activity behaviors, obesity, and obesity-related consequences.
Third, we are looking at population-based data in China to investigate how rapid modernization and environmental change over the past 20 years has influenced disease risk over the lifecycle. We will use sophisticated statistical models for pathway-based analyses addressing each piece of the complex system to investigate links between environments, behavior and weight with cardiometabolic risk over time.