It is known that obesity has become a universal health problem. Many research studies have shown its implications on health and its prevalence to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, in children, obesity has doubled within the last 30 years (2016). What has caused this prevalence of obesity within our children? The CDC states that obesity and being overweight are due to caloric imbalance that is a result of genetic, behavioral and environmental factors (2016). In our department, Dr. Corinne Labyak places emphasis on research related to pediatric obesity, anthropometrics and determining cardio-metabolic risk factors. In 1998, she completed her masters and dietetic internship at the University of North Florida (Go Ospreys!). In 2012 she received her doctorate in Nutritional Sciences, Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Florida. During her time at the University of Florida, she worked on a large research study called “E-Flip for Kids” involving 8-12 year old overweight and/or obese children and their caregivers. The purpose of this study was to create an extension family lifestyle intervention project trial that could measure the impact of a community based intervention program in children dietary intake and weight. Dr. Labyak et al., wanted to determine if these behavioral treatments could in fact cause a greater reduction in weight for the intervention subjects (2013). In the intervention group(s), participants were part of a parent led group where researchers did a behavioral intervention with the parents. The other intervention was tailored to both the parents and the children. The control group received basic health education information that had general guidelines about nutrition and physical activity. Dr. Labyak led the parent intervention group where behavior interventions were addressed. They worked on weekly goals and it was explained how they could increase their physical activity. Dietary recalls were assessed to suggest how they could incorporate and increase their consumption of fruits, vegetables and fiber. Because this was a large study, it was done with multiple extensions with the University of Florida throughout the state. Although the findings of this study are yet to be released for publication, Dr. Labyak’s segment of the study has been released. In this publication, it was one of the first studies to use a sagittal abdominal diameter to measure children’s visceral fat. In this study, the comparison of SAD was made in regards to waist circumference, BMI Z-score and percent body fat. They measured total cardiometabolic risk scores including biochemical health markers and blood pressure (Labyak et al., 2013). Here, Dr. Labyak et al., found that there was a slight association between SAD and cardiometabolic risk factors in overweight children (2013). However, the association was very weak. Once the University of Florida releases its portion, it will be very interesting to see the findings of the entire study.
Once professor Labyak finished her doctorate she arrived to the University of North
Florida to teach and continue her research. Upon her arrival she received a grant to conduct a research study with the University of Florida on overweight and or obese breast cancer survivors. Researchers tested a tailored nutrition, physical activity and behavioral weight intervention program for these breast cancer survivors compared to an online weight watchers program. Before intervention took place, recruiting and tailoring the intervention took a period of time due to the detail of the study. They hypothesized that the tailored intervention that included a psychological, nutritional and physical program would lead to a beneficial physiological and psychological response in comparison to the general commercial program (Labyak et al, 2014). What was interesting about this study was that in the intervention group, researchers hired registered dietitians from the Dietetic practice based research network (DPBRN) to lead the groups. Participants included 120 overweight/obese women with a BMI greater than 27 who had obtained a previous diagnosis of break cancer. Participant’s chosen were to be in breast cancer remission for up to 3 months to 5 years with medical clearance to conduct the study. The intervention took place about 3 months with a 6 month follow up to evaluate how effective the intervention was compared to the control group (Labyak et al., 2014).
Dr. Labyak has been working on this study for 3-4 years and has released the he methodology report. She is still waiting on further data from the University of Florida for publication. It will be interesting to see what the findings of this study are. Another study that Dr. Labyak is working on to be finalized is a study she conducted with Dr. Sealey-Potts, Dr. Jody Nicholson from Psychology and Dr. Aaron Spaulding from Public Health. In this study researchers worked with a preschool called Headstart that is a comprehensive federal program for children and families that are of low income.
Here researchers went to 7 different preschools in Duval country and screened 100 families with questionnaires using a health habits for life curriculum. In this study both the intervention and control received health habits for life curriculum, however, only the intervention group received further instruction. Participants were measured by their height, weight, waist circumference and their sagittal abdominal diameter four times within the school year. The data for this study is being finalized. Currently Dr. Labyak is working on an interesting neophobia study with two elementary schools here in Duval Country. It’s often surprising that many young children are not familiarized with common fruits and vegetables. In this study, there is 1 school intervention and 1 school control. During the 1st and 10th week of the study, a fruit or vegetable is introduced to the students and they fill a food neophobia survey. During the 2nd and 9th week, students in the intervention school participate in a tasting where researchers talk about the specific fruit and vegetable in an exciting manner. All data is measured through a survey. The purpose of this study is to eliminate the fear notion of a new fruit or vegetable by creating a positive behavior change over time with the introduction of these foods. Currently Dr. Labyak has 10-12 seniors working with her on this study and has just recruited some juniors to join her for the winter term.
It’s no secret that Dr. Labyak has a true passion for research studies related to child obesity, anthropometrics and cardio-metabolic risk factors. Dr. Labyak truly believes that if you emerge yourself in research it can be such as beneficial learning experience. In our department we have different faculty who work on different nutritional studies. In class you learn about research methods and the importance of setting up a well designed research study and now students have the opportunity to get hands on experience rather than just reading the literature. It truly challenges students to grow. If you are still questioning research, don’t hesitate to go ask faculty about current or future research opportunities.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Childhood Obesity Facts. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm
- Labyak, C., Daily, K., Samilan, L., Ward, S.A., Wallet, S., Gerri, M.G., Hoover, V., Snetslaar, L., Shelnutt, K., DiGiola, K.T., Acosta, A., Young, L, J., & Mathews, A. (2014). Preventing Breast Cancer Recurrence through a Tailored Lifestyle Intervention: The MyLIFE (My Lifestyle Intervention with Food and Exercise) Trial Rationale and Study Design. J Clin Trials, 4(5).
- Labyak, C.A., Janicke, D.M., Lim, C.S., Colee, J., & Mathews, A.E. (2013). Anthropometrics to Identify Overweight Children at Most Risk for the Development of Cardiometabolic Disease. Infant Child Adolesc. Nutri, 5(6), 341-346.