Research Objectives

1.  To work toward optimizing currently available approaches for child obesity and eating disorder treatment, and to create translatable versions of these treatments for the clinic.
2.  To identify highly novel targets for the treatment of children and adults who are obese or have eating disorders, based on findings from basic behavioral sciences and on neuroscience, to work toward developing the next generation of treatments.

Research Grants

Dr. Boutelle has three active NIH grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases and from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Clinical Trials


The FRESH (Family Responsibility, Education, Support & Health) study is focused on healthy eating and physical activity to promote weight loss and maintenance. This is a six month treatment program. Participants will be randomized into a parent + child or a parent only treatment group which meets once a week. No drugs or supplements will be used and there is no cost to participants. All qualified participants will receive program materials and up to $500.00 compensation for their time and effort.

Inclusion criteria

  • Overweight (above 85% BMI)
  • Between the ages of 8 & 12
  • Have a parent willing to participate

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Parent unable to read in English at the 5th grade level
  • Parent and or child participating in another weight control program
  • Child has ADD or ADHD
  • Family follows special diet for religious or socially conscious reasons


Martina Cotton
Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research

 The Treatment of Childhood Obesity NIH/HLBI

Staying Active, Nutritional Diaries, Increased Abilities (SANDIA

The overarching goal of this research study is to develop programs which could contribute to a reduction in obesity in Latino children, thus reducing health disparities. The dual goals of this study are to develop the SANDIA (Staying Active, Nutrition Diaries, Increased Abilities) behavior therapy program for childhood obesity through a formative feedback and iterative process, and test the acceptability and efficacy of the SANDIA program in pilot groups with 30 families with an overweight child. The overall intent of this study is adapt the most efficacious childhood obesity treatment program for Latinos, in preparations for dissemination and future research studies aimed at improving treatment. 

Potential impact on future of child health:

The newly developed protocol would ultimately provide a culturally relevant behavioral program and improve dissemination of behavioral therapy for childhood obesity into the Latino population. It would also launch a program of research that targets specific variables to improve outcomes for Latino families. In the following years, outcomes from this program of research will inform other multi-component interventions targeting a reduction or prevention of weight gain for Latino families.

Attention Modification to Decrease Overeating in Children

This research study will identify whether an attentional bias exists among overweight children who eat in the absence of hunger, which will lead to the development and evaluation of an attention training program for children who overeat in response to food cues in the environment.  The field requires development and study of novel interventions to more specifically address the needs of children who are overweight and obese and for whom behavioral treatments are not effective. This project is based on basic behavioral principles of attention to food cues. 

Potential impact on future of child health:

Results from this study will be used to translate to obesity interventions for children who are overweight. Information obtained from this research may result in a novel intervention for overweight children, and will be of significant benefit to researchers and clinicians, to develop effective interventions for obesity.

Guided self-help for families with an overweight child – NIH/NIDDK

Guided self-help (GSH) is a simple method for delivering treatment that can be utilized by health professionals to provide guidance to parents and their overweight child.  The objective of this application is to test the efficacy of a guided self-help method for providing treatment to parents and their overweight child.

Potential impact on future of child health:

This research project could provide a treatment method for families with an overweight child that is efficacious, translatable and logically feasible, to ultimately provide treatment to more of the target population. In the future, we will also explore other methods of providing guidance and the treatment manual (e.g., telephone, internet-based) and will manipulate the frequency of visits.  This program of research is important to be able to disseminate treatment and prevention efforts for childhood obesity to prevent adult obesity.

Learning Theory to Improve Obesity Treatment - NIH/NIDDK

The purpose of this application is to study extinction processes related to food cues, as a means of enhancing a cue exposure treatment to improve obesity treatment for children. The objective of this application is to conduct a series of formative experiments based on learning theory and other translation mechanisms to enhance and improve the current CET-Food (replace with?) to reduce overeating in children. 

Potential impact on future of child health:

This project could result in identifying basic behavioral mechanisms which can lead to promising childhood obesity interventions. The overall goal of this application is to develop an optimized intervention that will be efficacious in reducing overeating in children, which can be used in randomized controlled trials. This research has the potential to improve the knowledge base for the management and control of obesity, and to inform a new wave of interventions for obesity.

Neurobiological Evaluation of Child Sugar Craving and Binge Eating

This study is to evaluate neurobiological processes that differ between obese and healthy weight children and to identify brain processes that facilitate or challenge weight loss and weight loss maintenance in the obese youth.

Potential impact on future of child health:

In adolescents, a 5% change in initial BMI was associated with significant reductions in waist circumference, and reductions in triglycerides, cholesterol, glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance levels. Weight loss in childhood, in combination with expected growth, could ultimately change weight trajectories for these individuals and could improve health in both adolescence and adulthood. This is incredibly important considering the high persistence of overweight and obesity from childhood into adulthood

Parents as the Agent of Change for Childhood Obesity (PAAC) – NIH\NIDDK

The primary purpose of the PAAC study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a behavioral parent-only treatment for childhood obesity on the target child’s weight and parent’s BMI, compared to the parent and child group. We predict that the parent-only treatment will produce child weight loss and parent weight loss that is not inferior to the parent and child treatment group. The study will also evaluate the cost effectiveness of a parent-only group as compared to the parent and child group. The PAAC study also referred to as “FRESH” (Family Responsibility, Education, Support & Health) study is focused on healthy eating and physical activity to promote weight loss and maintenance. Treatment includes discussion of behavioral techniques that address healthy eating habits, increasing physical activity, and decreasing screen time for children and families. The main purpose is to help children develop a healthy lifestyle while also losing weight.

Potential impact on future of child health:

Information from this study may lead to lower-cost treatment alternatives with equivalent outcomes, findings that would contribute to significant and meaningful changes in the approach to treatment of childhood obesity. Results of these studies will be utilized as data to recommend changes in the standard treatment for childhood obesity.