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Bernhard chosen for Society of Toxicology Graduate Student Travel Support Award

December 1, 2015

Molly C. Bernhard, MPH, pre-doctoral fellow in the Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC) and pre-doctoral candidate in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, is the recipient of a Graduate Student Travel Support Award from the Society of Toxicology (SOT) to attend their 55th Annual Meeting, to be held in March 2016 in New Orleans, which will provide her with a variety of educational and professional training opportunities. Ms. Bernhard’s selection by the SOT Awards Committee was based on her abstract “Effects of the indoor thermal environment on human food intake: A pilot randomized controlled trial.”

In the study published in Frontiers (2015), Ms. Bernhard and colleagues hypothesized that exposure to mild temperatures above the human thermoneutral zone (TNZ)—the range of ambient temperatures in which a healthy adult can maintain body temperature without expending energy beyond the normal basal metabolic rate (outside the TNZ, the body must adapt through thermoregulation to maintain body temperature)—would decrease food intake in adults ages 19 through 35 who worked in a sedentary office environment. Study aims were to estimate changes in thermoregulation; to determine differences in food intake by thermal condition; and to assess if changes in thermoregulation mediated food intake in the two thermal conditions. This pilot study provided preliminary evidence suggesting that the thermoregulatory mechanisms that increase blood flow to the periphery to increase heat dissipation may also act to decrease food intake.

Ms. Bernard and co-investigators Peng Li, PhD, statistician in the Office of Energetics; David B. Allison, PhD, distinguished professor and director of the NORC and Office of Energetics; and Julia M. Gohlke, PhD, former assistant professor in UAB’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences and current assistant professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences at Virginia Tech, are currently completing a study with a longer exposure period (7 hours) using a crossover design.