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The science of obesity prevention: Dr. Jada Stevenson

11/16/17

By: Paige Ruedy, CSE communication intern

According to the CDC, more than one-third of adults in the United States are obese. Jada Stevenson, assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and director of interprofessional education for the College of Science & Engineering, is passionate about obesity prevention and has focused her research around this alarming statistic.

Jada Stevenson, assistant professor of nutritional sciences

Stevenson began her obesity prevention research while completing her Ph.D. at Texas Tech University. She attended Texas A&M for her undergraduate degree in nutritional sciences. Following graduation, she was a staff assistant for Congressman Lamar Smith in Washington D.C. While in D.C., she applied to dietetic internships and got matched with Texas Tech. There, she earned her masters and completed her internship to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. She decided to continue her education at Tech and pursue a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences while simultaneously starting her line of research.

The assistant professor garnered interested in obesity prevention when she was completing her dissertation research projects, “Acute metabolic, inflammatory, and cellular responses to high-fat meals rich in saturated fatty acids before and after a 7-day high poly-unsaturated fatty acid diet,” and “Satiety responses to high-fat meals of varying fatty acid composition in obese women.” Stevenson completed a population health study while at Texas Tech, which allowed her to work one-on-one with participants. She enjoyed that she got to know each partaker as a person, and not just as a research participant. She is also interested in obesity prevention research because it has the potential to affect how people choose what they eat and how much they eat. Stevenson said, “if you know a substance doesn’t make you feel as full, then you would know to pair that with a lean protein to help keep you satiated for longer.”

Stevenson’s research also includes studying children and parents’ underestimation of childhood weight. She launched an obesity prevention lab at TCU and has partnered and collaborated with students and faculty of both the nursing school and psychology to further her research.

Some specific studies that Stevenson completed through the obesity prevention lab include: “Effects of exercise during the holiday season on changes in body weight, body composition, and blood pressure,” which revealed that participants gained 78 percent of their average annual weight gain during the holiday season. Another study, “A poly unsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) rich diet improves fat oxidation following saturated fat-rich meal” showed that adopting a PUFA-rich diet initiates greater fat oxidation after eating occasional high saturated fatty acid meals in just seven days.

Obesity prevention research extends beyond simply obesity, and also focuses on health and wellness. Stevenson prefers to concentrate more on health and wellness, along with hunger and satiety hormones and the effects of certain foods, such as high-fat meals, on those hormones.

Her research also looks at the effects of food on metabolism, including how certain meals increase or decrease the number of calories your body is burning, and how your body will compensate and burn more fat instead of carbohydrates. Stevenson said it is interesting to see results play out in different studies.

Although Stevenson’s career is in its early years, she is an accomplished researcher. Some of her achievements include publishing nine publications in well-known journals, having the opportunity to speak about her research at various conferences such as the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Experimental Biology, and The Obesity Society, and collaborating with different professions across TCU and the UNT Health Science Center. Stevenson has received numerous grants for her various research projects and sits on multiple committees. She was also recognized in 2013 with the Recognized Young Dietician of the Year Award.

Her accomplishments don’t stop there. Stevenson is currently certified as both a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist. She is also currently in the process of getting her Certified Specialist in Sports Dietician (CSSD), which involves completing 1,500 hours under Brooke Helms, MA, RDN, CSSD sports dietitian at TCU, and taking a national exam.

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