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Penny Gordon-Larsen, Ph.D. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC, US

Penny Gordon-Larsen, Ph.D. Penny Gordon-Larsen, Ph.D.

Professor of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health | UNC-Chapel Hill


Penny Gordon-Larsen’s NIH-funded research portfolio focuses on individual-, household-, and community-level susceptibility to obesity.



Penny Gordon-Larsen is a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gordon-Larsen’s NIH-funded research portfolio focuses on individual-, household-, and community-level susceptibility to obesity and its cardiometabolic consequences, and her work ranges from genetic to societal-level factors. Much of her research focuses on issues related to ethnicity, disparities and development of obesity over the lifecycle, with attention to pathways linking environment and behavior to cardiometabolic risk.

Gordon-Larsen’s published research has appeared in JAMA, Archives of Internal Medicine, Obesity, Obesity Reviews, Pediatric Obesity, Lancet and Pediatrics, among others. She has served as associate editor or as editorial board member of Obesity, Pediatric Obesity, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Nutrition and Diabetes, and Health & Place and Annals of Human Biology.

Gordon-Larsen received the Eli Lilly Scientific Achievement Award from The Obesity Society in 2010. She is president-elect of The Obesity Society and will become president of the society in November 2015.

Industry Expertise (3)

Health Care - Services



Areas of Expertise (13)

Public Health

Population Health




Program Evaluation

Molecular Biology


Data Analysis

Clinical Research

Health Education

Qualitative Research

Global Health

Accomplishments (2)

Editor's Choice Reviewer Award (professional)


Chosen by the journal Obesity.

Eli Lilly Scientific Achievement Award (professional)


Awarded by The Obesity Society.

Education (2)

University of Pennsylvania: Ph.D., Human Biology 1997

Tulane University: B.A., Anthropology/Psychology 1989

Affiliations (5)

  • The Obesity Society : President
  • American Heart Association
  • American Society for Nutrition
  • Population Association of America
  • Carolina Population Center

Media Appearances (5)

U.S. teens don’t exercise enough at school

Reuters  online


Even so, the findings suggest that interventions designed to increase exercise opportunities at school may help students become more physically active, said Penny Gordon-Larsen, a public health researcher at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill ...

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More Evidence That Adding Bike Infrastructure Boosts Biking

StreetsBlog USA  


“These data are supportive, but not proof, that a commitment to urban cycling infrastructure can increase active commuting by bicycle,” study author Penny Gordon-Larsen told the Obesity Society ...

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Neighborhoods with Healthy Food Options Less Likely to Have Overweight Kids

Health Behavior News Service  online


“This study provides a sense of the associations between neighborhood food stores and restaurants relative to self-reported height and weight in Australian children,” said Penny Gordon-Larsen, Ph.D., Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ...

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Blacks, less-educated more sensitive to fast food prices

Reuters  online


"We were very interested in understanding whether fast food prices might influence fast food behavior, so if prices were high, did that reduce the number of visits to fast food restaurants," senior author Penny Gordon-Larsen told Reuters Health ...

Simple tips to get kids to eat better, exercise more

USA Today  


"There is a lot of evidence that kids should not sit still for more than 60 minutes at a time," says Penny Gordon-Larsen ...

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Event Appearances (5)

Linking Environment, Biology, Behavior in Obesity & Cardiometabolic Disease in the US and China

Framingham Heart Study Research Conference  Webinar


Pathways to obesity, considering environmental and behavioral factors in the US and China

University of Minnesota Epidemiology & Community Health Seminar  Minneapolis, MN


Overweight dynamics in Chinese children and adults

IUNS 20th International Congress of Nutrition  Granada, Spain


Neighborhood environment and obesity

Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships 20th Anniversary Conference  Philadelphia, PA


Linkages between biology, behavior, and environment in the development of obesity

Harvard School of Public Health Monday Nutrition Seminar  Cambridge, MA


Articles (5)

nstrumental variables simultaneous equations model of physical activity and body mass index: the CARDIA study

Public Health Nutrition

2016 Objective: We examined the association between dietary patterns and diabetes using the strengths of two methods: principal component analysis (PCA) to identify the eating patterns of the population and reduced rank regression (RRR) to derive a pattern that explains the variation in glycated Hb (HbA1c), homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and fasting glucose.

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Longitudinal study of body mass index in Asian men who immigrate to the US

Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition

2015 The objective of this study was to determine differences in changes in BMI across age by residence (US or Asia) and age at immigration using longitudinal data on BMI prior to and after immigration.

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Interaction of smoking and obesity susceptibility loci on adolescent BMI: The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health

BMC Genetics

2015 This study investigates the interaction of current smoking and established BMI SNPs on adolescent BMI. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a nationally-representative, prospective cohort of the US school-based population in grades 7 to 12 (12–20 years of age) in 1994–95 who have been followed into adulthood (Wave II 1996; ages 12–21, Wave III; ages 18–27), we assessed (in 2014) interactions of 40 BMI-related SNPs and smoking status with percent of the CDC/NCHS 2000 median BMI (%MBMI) in European Americans (n = 5075), African Americans (n = 1744) and Hispanic Americans (n = 1294).

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The reliability of in-home measures of height and weight in large cohort studies: Evidence from Add Health

Demographic Research

2015 We evaluate the accuracy and reliability of anthropometric data collected in the home during Wave IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), compare our estimates to national standard, clinic-based estimates from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and, using both sources, provide a detailed anthropometric description of young adults in the United States.

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Implications of iron deficiency/anemia on the classification of diabetes using HbA1c

Nutrition & Diabetes

2015 We aimed to determine how mutually exclusive categories of ID alone, anemia alone and iron-deficiency anemia (IDA) were each associated with prediabetes and diabetes prevalence using fasting blood glucose (FBG) versus HbA1c in a population-based study of adults with endemic ID/anemia.

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