hero image
Melissa Melough - University of Delaware. Newark, DE, US

Melissa Melough

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior and Nutrition Sciences | University of Delaware


Prof. Melough studies the interrelationships of nutritional and environmental factors influencing human health.




Dr. Melough is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition. She is a nutritional epidemiologist and studies the interrelationships of nutritional and environmental factors influencing human health. Dr. Melough’s work aims to identify dietary approaches to promote health or mitigate the harmful effects of environmental chemicals. Her research focuses on populations with greatest vulnerability to nutritional inadequacies or harmful chemical exposures such as those in key developmental life stages and historically disadvantaged communities. Dr. Melough’s current research projects examine the roles of endocrine disruptors in the development of obesity, the influences of maternal nutrition on childhood outcomes, and novel dietary approaches to reduce chemical exposures or their associated health consequences.

Industry Expertise (1)

Health and Wellness

Areas of Expertise (5)



Public Health

Molecular Epidemiology

Cancer Epidemiology

Media Appearances (5)

Low Vitamin D in Pregnancy Tied to More Behavioral Problems in Children

HealthDay  online


Melissa M. Melough, Ph.D., from the University of Delaware in Newark, and colleagues examined the relationship between gestational 25(OH)D concentrations and childhood behavior. The analysis included mother-child dyads (early childhood [1.5 to 5 years], 1,688 dyads; middle childhood [6 to 13 years], 1,480 dyads) participating in the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes Program.

view more

Higher levels of vitamin D during pregnancy linked to fewer behavioral problems in offspring

Mental Daily  online


The United States Dietary Guidelines identify vitamin D as a nutrient of interest. University of Delaware assistant professor of behavioral health and nutrition Melissa Melough found that low levels of this important nutrient during pregnancy may have negative effects on child health.

view more

How to Avoid Lead and Cadmium in Chocolate

Lifehacker  online


The scary thing is that the average American already eats about five micrograms of cadmium per day in our regular daily diet, according to a 2019 study by Dr. Melissa Melough, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Delaware. You throw a couple daily ounces of dark chocolate into that average, and you could be above those safe levels.

view more

The Dark Side Of Dark Chocolate: Why It Is Bad For Your Health?

Man's World India  online


Consumer Reports sampled 28 popular brands of dark chocolate and found the presence of lead and cadmium in all of them. The report reaffirms the earlier findings of the Food and Drug Administration, which found dark chocolate to have 7.6 micrograms of cadmium— only cocoa powder and sunflower seeds are known to have a higher concentration of cadmium. “If you’re a regular consumer of these dark chocolates, I would be concerned,” says Melissa Melough, who teaches nutrition at the University of Delaware. “

view more

Should I Avoid Dark Chocolate? What to Know About Heavy Metal Risks

The New York Times  online


Melissa Melough, an assistant professor of behavioral health and nutrition at the University of Delaware, said she was curious to see the actual data as soon as she read the headlines: “These types of reports always get sensationalized.” When she took a closer look, though, she agreed that the results were worrisome.

view more

Articles (5)

Sociodemographic Variation in Children's Health Behaviors During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Childhood Obesity

2023 Background: Societal changes during the COVID-19 pandemic may affect children's health behaviors and exacerbate disparities. This study aimed to describe children's health behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic, how they vary by sociodemographic characteristics, and the extent to which parent coping strategies mitigate the impact of pandemic-related financial strain on these behaviors. Methods: This study used pooled data from 50 cohorts in the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes Program. Children or parent proxies reported sociodemographic characteristics, health behaviors, and parent coping strategies.

view more

Greater Gestational Vitamin D Status is Associated with Reduced Childhood Behavioral Problems in the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes Program

The Journal of Nutrition

2023 Background Vitamin D deficiency is common in pregnancy. Vitamin D plays an important role in the developing brain, and deficiency may impair childhood behavioral development. Objectives This study examined the relationship between gestational 25(OH)D concentrations and childhood behavior in the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program.

view more

Changes in body mass index among school-aged youths following implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010

JAMA Pediatrics

2023 Importance The prevalence of obesity among youths 2 to 19 years of age in the US from 2017 to 2018 was 19.3%; previous studies suggested that school lunch consumption was associated with increased obesity. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) strengthened nutritional standards of school-based meals. Objective To evaluate the association between the HHFKA and youth body mass index (BMI).

view more

Diet quality and exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals among US adults

Environmental Research

2022 Human exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may increase risk for chronic disease. Diet is a significant source of EDC exposure, yet healthy diets recommended for chronic disease prevention have not been thoroughly examined for associations with EDC exposure. Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2013–2016, we examined associations of dietary patterns with exposure to non-persistent EDCs potentially consumed through diet. EDCs were measured in spot urine samples. Diet was assessed using 24-h recalls. Multivariable linear regression was used to examine associations of three healthy diet scores [Healthy Eating Index (HEI), relative Mediterranean Diet (rMED), and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension] and fast-food consumption with EDCs.

view more

Oxidative balance score during pregnancy is associated with oxidative stress in the CANDLE study


2022 The objective of this study was to calculate an oxidative balance score (OBS) utilizing diet and lifestyle information collected from 1322 women during the second trimester of pregnancy in the Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early Childhood study. An energy-adjusted OBS was calculated using nutrient information from a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), lifestyle measures, and plasma folate and vitamin D levels. Using the least absolute shrinkage and selection operator method, 91 food items from the FFQ were selected and they accounted for 82% of the variance in the OBS, with cruciferous vegetables, citrus fruits, fruit juice, and coffee being among the highest anti-oxidant predictors, and red meats and alcohol among the highest pro-oxidant contributors.

view more

Education (2)

University of Connecticut: PhD, Nutritional Epidemiology 2019

Cornell University: BS, Nutritional Sciences 2011

Languages (1)

  • English