Health & Wellness Science & Technology Society & Culture

UGA nutrition experts available

Athens, Ga. – Proper nutrition is essential for the body to function. A nutritious diet provides the nutrients needed for a lifetime of health and aids in the prevention of chronic disease, obesity and cancer.

“More and more, research on chronic diseases has shown that what we eat and how active we are influences our risk for these diseases and even our chances for recovery or effective long-term management if we become ill,” said Connie Crawley, a registered dietitian with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “Overall, a plant-based diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat or non-fat dairy foods and small amounts of nuts and vegetable oils seems to be the most protective.”

In the past three decades, the number of obese American adults has more than doubled. The number of children with the condition has more than tripled. More than 40 percent of Georgia’s children are overweight or obese as are 65 percent of adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nutrition plays a role in cardiovascular disease, which accounts for 32 percent of deaths in Georgia annually, according the Georgia Department of Public Health. High blood pressure puts 30 percent of Georgia’s population at risk for heart disease and stroke. A plant-based diet-low in sodium-reduces this risk, according to Crawley.

A nutritious diet can help prevent cancer, too. Each year, more than 40,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Georgia, according to the CDC, and nearly 15,000 die. The exact cause of cancer is unknown. But maintaining a healthy diet helps prevent this deadly disease.

UGA experts available to speak on nutrition and their contact information are listed below. For more information, contact UGA News Service at 706/542-8083 or

Connie Crawley
Senior Public Service Associate and Extension Nutrition and Health Specialist
Department of Foods and Nutrition
College of Family and Consumer Sciences

Crawley encourages the public to consume the “original fast food-fruit.” Her special expertise is in diabetes and modification of recipes for control of all chronic diseases, and she provides outreach in the areas of diabetes education, eating disorders, low-fat food preparation, cancer prevention, general foods, exercise and fitness. She also works with adolescents and adults with eating disorders on a consulting basis. Her research includes breast and cervical cancer screening in rarely and never screened women.

Mary Ann Johnson
Bill and June Flatt Professor of Foods and Nutrition and Graduate Coordinator
Department of Foods and Nutrition
College of Family and Consumer Sciences

Johnson conducts research and health promotion programs with older people who receive community-based nutrition services. Her goals are to increase physical activity, improve dietary habits and improve self-management of diabetes and other age-related conditions. She is especially knowledgeable about nutrition and how it relates to chronic illness and obesity. Johnson collaborates with many local, state and federal agencies to improve the health and well-being of older adults, and she is a national spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition. In addition, she serves as a co-leader of the obesity and exercise committee of the new UGA Obesity Initiative.

Mark Wilson
Professor and Department Head
Department of Health Promotion and Behavior
College of Public Health

Wilson’s research includes work-site health promotion, social marketing of health promotion, creating healthy work organizations and developing and evaluating behavior change interventions. He recently received a grant to test variations of a diabetes prevention program in workplace settings. The $3 million, five-year grant will fund a six-month weight management program aimed at reducing caloric intake and bolstering physical activity.

Marsha Davis
Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator
Department of Health Promotion and Behavior
College of Public Health

Davis is an expert in nutrition and childhood obesity. Her research focuses on using children as change agents for health promotion in families. She works with national school wellness policies and evaluates food policy implementation within urban schools. Davis works with community organizations promoting healthy eating and physical activity among children.

Alex Anderson
Associate Professor
Department of Food and Nutrition
College of Family and Consumer Sciences

Anderson is an expert in maternal and child nutrition. He is particularly interested in health promotion as it relates to breastfeeding, child nutrition and maternal health. Research in Anderson’s lab focuses on obesity related to pregnancy as it affects mothers and infants and the benefits of breastfeeding on health and weight. He teaches courses in optimal lifespan nutrition and public health dietetics. He also participates in service-learning programs as part of study abroad in Ghana.

Gail Hanula
Public Service Associate and Extension Nutrition EFNEP Specialist
Department of Food and Nutrition
College of Family and Consumer Sciences

Hanula coordinates the UGA effort for the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, which is located in 20 counties throughout Georgia. EFNEP was established 40 years ago by Congress as a way of providing nutrition education to those with limited resources and limited education. Hanula develops teaching techniques and curricula that particularly target this audience.

Emma Laing
Assistant Research Scientist, Bone and Body Composition Laboratory
Department of Food and Nutrition
College of Family and Consumer Sciences

Laing’s primary area of research examines bone responses to dietary interventions, especially as they relate to children. Some of her most recent research examined the links between being overweight, vitamin D status and bone quality in children. The goal of her research is to determine the effectiveness of relatively simple and inexpensive approaches to improve health during childhood that in turn reduce the risk of chronic diseases later in life.