Barry M. Popkin


Ph.D., W. R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor, Nutrition
Adjunct Professor, Economics

CPC Office: 123 W Franklin St, Room 2104
CPC Phone Number: (919) 962-6139

Dr. Popkin's Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Popkin's Google Scholar profile

Dr. Popkin's publications in PubMed

Dr. Popkin's CPC publications

Popkin’s research focuses on diet, physical activity and obesity-related patterns, determinants, and consequences. Popkin’s conceptualizes these changes as the “nutrition transition” – the dramatic and dynamic shifts in dietary intake and physical activity and resultant trends in obesity and other nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases. His research program focuses on understanding the stages of the nutrition transition and programs and policies to improve population health throughout this transition. Popkin has published more than 490 journal articles and is one of the most cited nutrition scholars in the world. He is author of the new book The World Is Fat: The Fads, Trends, Policies, and Products that are Fattening the Human Race (Penguin).

Popkin’s work has always been multidisciplinary in nature, linking environmental and social factors to biological and behavioral ones and ultimately to health outcomes. Nearly all of his research is longitudinal and has involved developing cohort studies in the Philippines, China, and Russia and creating nutrition modules for US studies such as CARDIA and Add Health. For example, Popkin is the PI of the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS) that has followed 19,000 Chinese individuals from 1989 to 2009, collecting data on pregnancy outcomes, demographic characteristics, SES, anthropometric characteristics, health behavior, and health data at the community, household, and individual levels, as well as GIS and biomarker data. The CHNS data have over 4000 users. Popkin was also the long-term PI of the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey that includes 16 waves of data collected from 1992 through 2008.

More recently, Popkin has initiated a second major set of projects focusing first on the US food system and later on the global one. The US research, the UNC Food Research Program, is evaluating how the food industry is changing the food supply and affecting caloric intake and diet quality of Americans. This project is funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is linked with Michelle Obama's Let's Move child obesity prevention initiative. The goal is to identify ways to use massive data sets to study both the food industry and consumer behavior. At the global level, Popkin is working with leading scholars in low and middle income countries to begin studying their nutrition transition and its impact on obesity and other cardiometabolic problems in their country. More recently, Popkin has organized researchers to work on national and regional regulatory options. He worked for over five years with the Mexican government and the National Institute of Public Health (INSP) in Cuernavaca to initiate a series of tax and other regulatory changes now in place; his research team is working with the INSP to evaluate the impact of increased taxes on food purchases (8% junk food, 10% -SSB tax), diet, and cardiometabolic outcomes. He is working with four South American Andean nations on similar efforts and is also meeting with researchers from four Asian countries. They are leading a team evaluating the Berkeley SSB tax.

Popkin’s future research will focus on monitoring and understanding the dynamic shifts in nutritional status and health in China and leading evaluations in Mexico and most likely in several Asian and South American countries on food and beverage taxes and other regulatory changes (particularly food marketing controls and front-of-the-package profiling). This work is needed to understand the impact of these policies and thus to provide an evidence base on which to develop and revise policies and programs needed to prevent further health problems at the national and global level. In Mexico, this will include both food purchasing and health outcome research while in Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, and Thailand, among others, it will depend on the capability of his collaborators but certainly will include impact evaluations on behavior. He will also continue to field additional rounds of data on the longitudinal cohorts in China and Russia.

Primary Research Areas:

  • Population Health

Current Research Projects:

Information updated on 1/10/2018

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