UF/IFAS part of $4.9 million national child obesity study

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida students will create obesity prevention programs for their peers and later, for high school students, as part of a $4.9 million federal research and extension grant awarded last week.

University of Tennessee Assistant Professor Sarah Colby will lead the national study, called “Get Fruved,” a phrase that alludes to fruits and vegetables.

“Get Fruved” is a campaign that uses peer interaction to try to get high school and college students to eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise more and manage stress more effectively.

Anne Mathews, an assistant professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will be the primary investigator for UF’s part of the study, while Karla Shelnutt, a UF assistant professor in Family, Youth and Community Sciences, will act as a project consultant.

“Preventing obesity and its health consequences is achieved through long-term adoption of health behaviors such as being physically active, eating a healthful diet, rich in fruits and vegetables,” Mathews said.

The project uses a research method in which college students help develop strategies to teach younger students to live healthier lifestyles, she said. UF researchers hope that using students for the project will encourage others their age to heed the message.

National statistics show an alarming increase in adolescent obesity, the target of this study. The percentage of people aged 12 to 19 who were obese increased from 5 percent to nearly 21 percent from 1980 to 2012, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Young adults are at an increased risk for unhealthy weight gain because of the many changes happening in their lives that can negatively affect their food and physical activity behaviors,” Shelnutt said.

UF will receive $557,000 for the project. The money, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, comes in one-year increments, and UF will start receiving its share in August, Mathews said.

Starting in August, students at eight college campuses, including UF, will develop ways to get younger students to adopt healthier lifestyles. Students will dress as fruits and vegetables, use social media and utilize information from a website, www.fruved.com.They also may expand gardens, work to improve access to healthy foods at campus eateries, hold dance events and challenge each other to exercise more.

Eventually, pending future federal funding and the study’s results, college students could work with middle and elementary students to help them develop their own healthy lifestyle campaigns.

In addition to UF and UT, the other universities working on the project are South Dakota State University, West Virginia University, Kansas State University, Auburn University, Syracuse University, New Mexico State University, the University of Maine, Rutgers University, the University of Nebraska, the University of Rhode Island, the University of New Hampshire and Tuskegee University.

Brad Buck, bradbuck@ufl.edu
Karla Shelnutt, kpagan@ufl.edu
Anne Mathews, anne.mathews@ufl.edu

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Posted: March 17, 2014

Category: Agriculture, Health & Nutrition, UF/IFAS Research, Work & Life
Tags: Grant, Karla Shelnutt

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