Podcast Episode 157: Nutrition Research: Epidemiology & NHANES – Yanni Papanikolaou

Aug 12, 2020

Nutrition Epidemiology — A deep dive into the present and future of nutrition research

NHANES has received criticism in the past but it really is an amazing and rich database that is nationally representative and includes biochemical and physiological values. Many other countries collect similar data but none are as rich as the U.S. NHANES.”

There is a lot we can learn and benefit from regarding nutrition research and epidemiologic studies. NHANES offers a rich database of information surrounding health and nutrition. During this podcast, Yanni Papanikolaou, MPH, PhD candidate, covers the benefits, potential drawbacks, and ways we can strengthen nutrition research today, and in the future.

While RCT studies are the gold standard, there’s more epidemiology studies in the field of nutrition because they are not nearly as expensive and you are able to get answers to research questions in a relatively quick time. There’s no perfect research study or methodology – every approach will have its inherent advantages and disadvantages. Limitations inherent in epidemiology include memory recall bias and under- or over-reporting food intakes.”

Tune in to this episode to learn about:

  • Yanni’s personal fitness “experiment”
  • The pros and cons of nutrition research & epidemiology
  • What NHANES is & what it is used for
  • How we can strengthen research and studies
  • The potential relationship between type 2 diabetes & cognition
  • Industry-funded research

There’s a saying ‘you are judged by the friends you keep’ and foods can also be judged by the ‘friends’ they keep! Sometimes healthy foods are in the company of what I like to call ‘troublesome friends’ -these are the high-sodium, saturated fat and added sugar ‘buddies’.”

Yanni Papanikolaou, MPH, PhD candidate

Yanni Papanikolaou, MPHYanni Papanikolaou is an accomplished, peer-reviewed author in scientific journals and book chapters, and has presented at domestic and international nutrition conferences. Yanni has been acknowledged by the International Association for Cereal Science and Technology at the 6th International Dietary Fiber Conference 2015 in Paris, France, for contributions in public health nutrition research.

Yanni previously worked for the Kellogg Company as Director of Nutrition Marketing in the United States, and Associate Director for Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs in Canada. He played a leadership role in strategy development and leveraged nutrition science to collaborate with government bodies on policy development and in the creation of evidence-based messaging. Currently, Yanni draws on his public health background and consults with a variety of food/beverage manufacturers and non-profit organizations to advance nutrition-focused research and create evidence-based communications for health professional and consumer audiences. With expertise in epidemiological research, Yanni has also been called to testify at Canadian Senate Committee meetings that involve nutrition and health policy issues. Yanni’s current focus involves collaborating on analyses that use data from CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Yanni is a co-author on numerous NHANES studies including research examining how different dietary patterns are associated with nutrient intakes, diet quality, food group consumption and various health outcomes. Yanni’s most recent research interest focuses on animal protein consumption and all-cause mortality.

Yanni completed his undergraduate training in human nutrition at the University of Western Ontario and holds a Master of Health Sciences in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Toronto. He is currently completing a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine, in nutrition and brain health with a specific focus on acute food intake and cognitive function in older adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus.


Yanni Papanikolaou  Twitter | Instagram

The Fit Effect Instagram

Research article: Animal and Plant Protein Usual Intakes Are Not Associated with Mortality in US Adults

Related Posts:

Refined Grains & Diabetes – Guilt by Association? – Sound Bites Podcast Episode 120 with Dr. Glenn Gaesser

Protein & Exercise: Partners in Successful Aging – Sound Bites Podcast Episode 39 with Dr. Stuart Phillips



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Music by Dave Birk

Produced by JAG in Detroit Podcasts


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  1. Neily on August 13, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    Really great podcast Melissa! I enjoyed listening to Yanni and getting his perspective on nutrition research. I also appreciated his transparency in how he conducts research with the food industry. I would like to think that all food industry research is completed with such high integrity.

    I had the good fortune to visit and tour the NHANES mobile unit when it was here in the Dallas area several years ago. I knew the dietitian and because of what I saw her do I have a great appreciation for their methodology and feel confident in nutrition information from NHANES research. If anyone has an opportunity to be a participant in NHANES research from what I understand it’s about $4k – $5k of lab tests etc. that is completed on a person – of course at no cost to them. Interesting stuff.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Melissa Dobbins on August 13, 2020 at 10:40 pm

      Thanks, Neily! Good to know!! I enjoyed learning more about NHANES from Yanni and think it’s so cool you got to see it up close and personal!
      Thanks for being such a loyal listener!

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