Foods and Nutrition
Sina Gallo examines how diet during the critical periods of development affects health and disease.
- What attracted you to the University of Georgia?
I joined UGA after spending seven years at George Mason University in Virginia. I had completed all my training at McGill University in Montreal, Canada in the area of pediatric bone and it was the possibility to be able to continue that work which attracted me to the position at UGA. The research interests in the department were well aligned with my own and I was impressed by the quality of the research being done at UGA. In addition, the caliber of students at UGA was particularly attractive as my work relies heavily on student researchers. I would also be able to work with UGA Cooperative Extension, which provides community outreach throughout the state, which is integral as my work is community-based.
- Which courses do you teach?
I am currently teaching an introductory nutrition course (FDNS2100e/Human Nutrition & Food) which attracts a wide range of undergraduate students across the university. This course allows me the opportunity to pique students’ interest in the science of nutrition, and perhaps even convince some to pursue a nutrition major. I will be teaching a nutrition policy course in the spring (FDNS4600/6600/Food and Nutrition Policy), a required course for some of our nutrition and dietetics majors. This course exposes students to the nutrition policy-making process as well as advocacy. In the past, I have had students write letters to their legislative representatives and I hope to be able to organize a lobby day at the Georgia state capitol so students can meet their state legislators and introduce them to issues important for nutrition and dietetics professionals.
- Can you briefly describe the scope and impact of your research?
I am interested in how diet during the critical periods of development, from pregnancy to early childhood, affect health and disease. My primary focus is on vitamin D requirements during infancy. Vitamin D is particularly important for young children because it plays a role in bone development and possibly other conditions including auto-immune and respiratory diseases. North American health policy recommends breastfed infants should receive a supplement of vitamin D because breastmilk contains insufficient amounts. Yet my previous work found less than 1/3 of U.S. infants are meeting this recommendation, in stark contrast to much higher rates in Canada and Europe. I am concerned that not getting enough vitamin D during critical stages of development may lead to long-term health effects. My current research is exploring how best to improve adherence with this recommendation so that we can optimize children’s health. I work with vulnerable populations including those participating in government food assistance programs and racial/ethnic minorities. Children born to mothers who are darker skinned are at higher risk for not getting enough vitamin D due to the high melanin content of their skin, so getting enough through other sources is particularly relevant. I also work on other health disparities in nutrition including how to improve exclusive breastfeeding rates and pediatric obesity among minority groups in the U.S.
- Is there anything else you’d like to add or say in summary?
I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and am actively involved in my professional organization, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I am excited that at UGA I will have the opportunity to be involved in the training of future dietetics professionals. I am passionate about my field and believe dietary intervention can have a significant impact on disease treatment and prevention.