The focus of the Human Nutrition Laboratory is to target and improve the health of the diverse communities within San Antonio. Our research program addresses the problems of obesity and its comorbidities using both behavioral and metabolic approaches. Several intervention research projects are currently underway to target modifiable behavioral risk factors for obesity and related diseases in minorities, with a primary focus on Hispanics, in community and daycare settings.

Meizi He, Ph.D.


Meizi He, Ph.D.


Public Health

Building a Healthy Temple

Building a Healthy Temple (BHT) is a cluster of faith-based Health Promotion Programs. The mission of BHT is to create healthier communities by addressing obesity and obesity-related health issues. BHT strives to prevent obesity, cancer, and diabetes as well as manage chronic diseases in faith-based communities through the integration of spiritual and physical health promotion. BHT interventions are implemented by trained congregation leaders / lay leaders in faith community settings. BHT key innovative features include: 1) the use of existing infrastructure and social support systems in church settings to deliver programs that facilitate healthful behavioral changes; 2) the building of community capacity by using the Train-the-Trainer model. The trained health lay leaders will remain in the community as important human capital in order to sustain health promotion services and activities; and 3) the strengthening of partnership among academics, the faith-based community, and key community stakeholders and advocates.

BHT has been partnering with the San Antonio Food Bank, Mayor’s Fitness Council, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and San Antonio Walks to promote health and well being in San Antonio’s high need areas. Currently, the program serves more than 20 churches across the San Antonio area and is consistently searching for more churches to join this growing family. Many families in the San Antonio area have benefited from the teachings received from this program. The BHT has been supported by multiple funders, including Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Salud America!, San Antonio Life Science Institute, the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio, Cancer Research Institute of Texas, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas.

BHT Primary Cancer Prevention Program

Funding is provided by the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas. This program aims to primarily prevent cancers by targeting three modifiable risk factors: poor nutrition, physical inactivity and obesity in the church setting. Cancer has long been an issue with the U.S. population but even more so in the Hispanic population. Cancer has become the number one killer among Hispanics, which are the fastest growing and largest minority group in the U.S. Using the evidence based program Body and Soul as a template, this program utilizes various components that serve to both educate and empower church congregants and their families to live a healthier lifestyle. Intervention strategies include Health Sermons, Health Bible Study, Nutrition Education and Cooking Demonstrations, Active Living Competition, church health conducive environmental changes, and Peer Coaching. Additionally, the program utilizes the Train the Trainer method to build community capacity and to ensure sustainability after program implementation.

BHT Obesity Prevention Program

The primary focus of this program is obesity prevention and weight management in the Hispanic population. The program promotes healthy eating, active living, and healthy body weight within the congregation members and their families. Program components include the formation of a Health Ministry Advisory Committee, Health Sermons, Bible Study, Sunday School, Nutrition Education and Cooking Demonstrations for the entire family. Additional components include, but are not limited to, setting up a Community Garden, and enhancing the church environment and policies to promote healthy eating and active living. BHT was viewed as a needed and well received program by faith-based communities. The initiative resulted in favorable church nutrition and physical activity environmental and policy changes. BHT increased participants physical activity level and diary intake while reducing the consumption of added sugar and sweetened beverages.

BHT Vacation Bible School

To date, approximately one-third of U.S. children are either overweight or obese. Hispanic children are even more affected due to cultural and linguistic barriers, limited access to health care, healthy foods, and lack of recreational activities. BHT Vacation Bible School was created to address these concerns. The program is a biblical summer program aimed at promoting spiritual and physical health for children and their families in the church setting. Children learn scriptures related to God’s Holy Temple that relate healthy eating and active living with their faith. Activities include Bible Study, Hands-on Healthy Snacks, Healthy Lunch and Healthy Habits Competition, Fit for the Lord Physical Activities, and Health Education with Cooking Demonstrations for parents. Currently the program has served various churches across the San Antonio area and is consistently searching for more churches to join this growing initiative.

BHT Diabetes Self-Management Support Program

Compared to other populations Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) dis-proportionally affects Hispanics. While diabetes self-management education (DSME) is a critical element of care for T2D patients, most patients need ongoing diabetes self-management support (DSMS), a set of activities assisting patients in sustaining the behaviors needed to manage their illness. The purpose of our BHT Diabetes Self-Management Support (DSMS) Pilot Program is to improve health outcomes and quality of life for Hispanic adults with type 2 diabetes (T2D). This is a collaborative effort between Metro Health and BHT team to foster the connection between public health service providers and the high needs community, as well as determine the feasibility of delivering DSMS in faith-based settings. Metro Health's trained leaders facilitate the evidence-based Stanford DSMP workshops at participating churches to help diabetic congregants manage their diabetes. The program consists of six lessons implemented over the course of 6 weeks which yields one 2 ½ hour session per week.

BHT Farm to Church

The Farm to Church Program is a collaborative effort with the San Antonio Food Bank. This is an innovative approach to promote fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption by delivering fresh produce to families in the church setting. Pastors in participating churches encourage congregants to sign up for the fresh FV basket. Upon confirmation, the San Antonio Food Bank distributes fresh produce baskets to the church on a regular basis. During a FV basket delivery, a trained lay leader may perform cooking demonstrations and provide recipe cards utilizing ingredients in the basket.

Healthy Changes/Cambio Saludable (Collaborative effort with Mexico)

To increase UTSA's visibility on the global map, we have developed collaborations with Dr. Yolanda Flores-Peña, a professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León College of Nursing in northeastern Mexico. Healthy Changes is a collaborative research effort on childhood obesity prevention in a preschool setting. The project aims to educate parents, specifically Hispanic mothers, about childhood obesity. The program focuses on teaching mothers how to recognize the characteristics of overweight and obesity among their preschooler children and how to prevent it in both countries. These international collaborative efforts have been funded by competitive agencies, including the Institute of Nutrition and Health Kellogg’s (INSK) (2014-16), Mexico and the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACyT), Mexico (2015-2018).

Soy Study (Soy Supplementation as an Innovative Dietary Approach in Abdominal Obesity Management Among Menopausal Women)

Obesity is a leading risk factor for many chronic diseases in the U.S.A. Abdominal fat is metabolically active and can be detrimental to health. The current program systematically explored the doses, effects and the underlying mechanisms of soy compounds as a dietary component in preventing abdominal obesity and its associated metabolic abnormalities among menopause. The study shed light on the application of soy as a novel dietary approach in preventing and managing abdominal obesity among menopausal Latinas. The program is funded by UTSA Collaborative Research Seed Grant Program, United Soybean Association and College of Education and Human Development.

UTSA undergraduate and Master's Students are encouraged to volunteer with ongoing and upcoming projects. Additionally, thesis projects are available for Masters students.

Please contact Dr. He for more details.

  • Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis
  • Cholesterol and Glucose Analysis
  • Tanita scale and SECA Height Measurement
  • Sci-Cool refrigerator
  • Software: SPSS, NVivo
  • Mobile Health Lab
Contact Information
Senior Program Coordinator

Summer Wilmoth, M.S., Ph.D. (can)
Phone: 210-458-7408
Office: PE 2.01.09E

Lab Director

Dr. Meizi He
Phone: 210-458- 5416
Office: MB 3.418

  • Building a Healthy Temple. Principal Investigator, Baptist Health Foundation (BHF) San Antonio. ($250,000) (2012-2014)
  • Path to Health: A Pilot Diabetes Prevention Program in Shangxi Province, China. Co-Investigator. International Diabetes Federation. ($65,000) (2012-2014)
  • Soy as an innovative dietary strategy in preventing abdominal obesity among menopausal women. Principal Investigator. Faculty Research Award, College of Education and Human Development ($8000) (2011 -2012)
  • Soy as an innovative dietary strategy in preventing abdominal obesity among menopausal women. Co-Principal Investigator, UTSA Collaborative Research Seed Grant Program ($30,000) (2011-2012)
  • Soy as an innovative dietary strategy in preventing abdominal obesity among menopausal women. Principal Investigator, United Soybean Association Soy Health Research Incentive Award ($10,000) (2010-2012)
  • Dietitian Today & Tomorrow. Co-Director, US Department of Agriculture ($290,000) (2010-2013)
  • MI CASA Mujeres Interesadas en Cambios por la Salud. English Translation, Women Interested in Changes for a Healthy Lifestyle) Co-Investigator, National Institutes of Health, ($222,233.99) (2010-2012)
  • Prenatal and early childhood exposure to malnutrition and the development of metabolic syndrome in later life: A Cohort Study in West China. Co-Investigator; Sponsored by Shanxi Evergreen Service, China. Principal Investigator: Mark Strand & Judy Perry (2008-2012)