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Barry Popkin, PhD, MS, is a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center member and has played a central role in placing the concerns of global obesity, its determinants, and consequences on the global stage.

WR Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Nutrition
UNC-Chapel Hill
Cancer Prevention and Control

Area of Interest

Barry M. Popkin has a PhD in economics and functions mainly as a nutrition epidemiologist. He established the UNC Interdisciplinary Obesity Center, funded by NIH and now the Global Food Research Program (GFRP). He has developed the concept of the Nutrition Transition, the study of the dynamic shifts in our environment and the way they affect dietary intake and physical activity patterns and trends and obesity and other nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases. His research program focuses globally (both the US and low and middle income countries on understanding the shifts in stages of the transition and programs and policies to improve the population health linked with this transition (see He also prepared the first papers on the double burden of malnutrition.

He has played a central role in placing the concerns of global obesity, its determinants, and consequences on the global stage and is now actively involved in work on the program and policy design and evaluation side at the national level, including long-term collaborations with a number of countries in evaluating SSB and junk food taxes, front-of-the-package labeling systems, advertising controls, and school feeding initiatives. This includes work with collaborative evaluation research in Mexico (with the National Institute of Public Health); Chile (the Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology, University of Chile; South Africa (University of Western Cape and Wits University), Brazil (NUPENS, University of Sao Paulo SPH), Peru (CHRONICAS-Caetano University); Colombia (Javeriana Univ), CAIHR, Univ of West Indies and others.

He is working currently with Israel, India and China, among the many other countries currently in developing tax and regulatory policies to create healthier diets and prevent obesity and other nutrition-related NCD’s and is consulted by countries across the globe on large-scale regulatory approaches to preventing obesity. He actively consults with a variety of international multilateral nations on ways to improve diet quality globally.

Popkin’s many major awards for his global contributions include the World Obesity Federation Population Science and Public Health Award; the Chinese government’s first award in 2015 for significant foreign contributions to Chinese nutrition; the 2011 Obesity Society Mickey Stunkard Lifetime Achievement Award; in 2010 elected a fellow of the Obesity Society; the 2010 United Kingdom Rank Prize for Science; the 2010 E. V. McCollum Lecturer for International Nutrition Award; and the 1965 Wisconsin King Christian IV Award for Civil Rights Contributions.

He has given more than 100 plenary talks on his research program and receive many other national awards. He has chaired the dissertation committees of over 66 doctoral students at the Gillings School of Global Public Health and has served as principal investigator on grants totaling more than $165 million in direct costs, many funded by the NIH. He has published over 630 refereed journal articles and PLOS rated him as one of the top cited scholars in the world among 7 million scholars in 2017 (rated number 203 out of 6.8 million or in the top 0.003% scientists in the world; H-193; citations 222,759).

Find publications on PubMed

Awards and Honors

  • Highly Cited Researchers (Top 1%), Web of Science, Clarivate Analytics, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023
  • John E. Larsh Jr. Award for Mentorship, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, 2019
  • Atkinson-Stern Award for Distinguished Public Service, Obesity Society, 2018
  • David Kritchevsky Memorial Lecture Award, American Heart Association Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health, 2018
  • Population Science and Public Health Award, World Obesity Federation, 2016
  • Chinese Nutrition Society’s first award for significant foreign contributions to Chinese nutrition, 2015
  • Conrad Elvehjem Award for Public Service in Nutrition, American Society for Nutrition, 2015
  • The Gopalan Oration Award winner of the top nutrition prize from India and the Mickey Stunkard Lifetime Achievement Award, 2011
  • The Obesity Society, 2010, 2011
  • United Kingdom Rank Prize for Science, 2010
  • Fellow, American Society of Nutritional Sciences, 2010
  • Recipient of the 1998 Society for International Nutrition Research Kellogg Prize for outstanding International Nutrition, 2010
  • Bernard G. Greenberg Alumni Leadership Endowment Award of the School of Public Health; Woodrow Wilson Foundation, 1992
  • Fellow; Wisconsin King Christian IV Award for Civil Rights contribution, 1965

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