Natalie The

Associate Professor and Chair of Health Sciences

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I am a native of sunny, south Florida (West Palm Beach). I graduated from Furman University in 2003 and returned to Furman as a faculty member in 2011 and now also serve as chair of the Department of Health Sciences. I have always been interested in health, but it was during my time as an undergraduate student that I became especially interested in disease prevention and public health. I became acutely aware of how many chronic diseases could be mitigated or even prevented with lifestyle changes; yet, there are still so many people whose lives are affected by these diseases. As a result, I decided to pursue a Masters in Public Health in Epidemiology at Emory University. At Emory, I also had the opportunity to work the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I began to realize how public health research can help us better understand disease processes and influence health policy and interventions. This ultimately led me to the University of North Carolina at Chape l Hill, where I received my PhD in Nutritional Epidemiology and was also a post-doctoral fellow for one year. It was at UNC, where I truly cultivated an enthusiasm for the prevention of obesity and diabetes.

I am married to Matt Davidson, a 2004 Furman graduate, and the Men’s Head Golf Coach. Matt was a member of the Furman Men’s Golf Team from 1999-2004 and I was a member of the Furman Women’s Tennis team from 1999-2003. In my spare time, I enjoy running, playing tennis, and spending time with my children.


  • Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • MPH, Emory University
  • B.S., Furman University


During my time in my doctoral program in Nutritional Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I investigated determinants of obesity, physical activity and sedentary behavior using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). My doctoral research focused on better understanding the etiology of obesity and predisposing factors shaping the inequality in risk for minority groups. My work has been featured in several media outlets, including a cover story in USA Today, Time, and on the NPR show, “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” In addition, I have used unique epidemiological methods (twin and sibling models) to better understand intra-uterine environmental and genetic factors on later obesity. Finally, I investigated trends in obesity and severe obesity across the transition from adolescence to young adulthood and how weight over the life course affects pre-diabetes and diabetes in young adulthood, with a focus on race/ethnic disparities.

In order to develop a more well-rounded knowledge of the nutrition and diabetes, I decided to complete a one-year post-doctoral fellowship at UNC – Chapel Hill where I focused on nutritional determinants of insulin sensitivity and preservation of β cell function in youth with type 1 diabetes using data the SEARCH for Diabetes in youth study.

At Furman University, I continued my work focused on childhood obesity by examining how policies have influenced obesity levels in elementary school students through my involvement with LiveWell Greenville’s At School Project from 2012-2015. This effort focused on improving the school nutrition environment through policy changes targeting the cafeteria, classroom incentives and fundraising events in elementary schools and evaluating the impact of these policies on student BMI and obesity levels. In addition, I have continued my epidemiology research focused on youth with diabetes. There is evidence that youth with type 1 and type 2 diabetes already have evidence of subclinical cardiovascular disease, diabetic retinopathy, and diabetic kidney disease, which are diseases we typically associated with adulthood rather than in youth. Despite this emergence of diabetes related complications at early stages of diabetes duration, surprisingly little is known about the role of nutritional factors in the emergence these complications. The goal of the research is to examine associations of nutritional factors with: 1) markers of subclinical cardiovascular disease; 2) prevalence and severity of retinopathy; and 3) prevalence, severity and incidence of diabetic kidney disease in youth with diabetes. The significance of this research is to identify factors that lower risk for macro- and microvascular complications particularly early in the natural history of diabetes diagnosed during childhood when the vascular structure is still modifiable.​


1.      The NS, Couch SC, Urbina EM, Crandell JL, Liese AD, Dabelea D, Kim GJ, Tooze JA, Lawrence JM, Mayer-Davis EJ. (2019). Body Mass Index Z-score Modifies the Association between Added Sugar Intake and Arterial Stiffness in Youth with Type 1 Diabetes: the SEARCH Nutrition Ancillary Study. Nutrients,11(8), 1752. PMID: 31366063; PMCID: PMC6723563

2.      Liese AD, Ma X, Ma X, Mittleman MA, The NS, Standiford DA, Lawrence JM, Pihoker C, Marcovina SM, Mayer-Davis EJ, Puett RC. (2018). Dietary quality and markers of inflammation: No association in youth with type 1 diabetes. J Diabetes Complications, 32(2):179-184. PMID: 29198994; PMC5773064

3.      Kahoska A, Shay, CM, Crandell JL, The NS, Liese AD, Couch SC, Dabelea D, Lawrence JM, Pihoker C, Mayer-Davis EJ. (2018) Demographic, Clinical, and Behavioral Determinants of Estimated Body Fat Percentage Trajectories in Youth with Type 1 Diabetes. Pediatric Diabetes, 19(8):1429-1440. PMID: 30129111; PMCID: PMC6249094

4.      Liese AD, Ma X, Ma X, Mittleman MA, The NS, Standiford DA, Lawrence JM, Pihoker C, Marcovina SM, Mayer-Davis EJ, Puett RC (2018). Dietary quality and markers of inflammation: No association in youth with type 1 diabetes. J Diabetes Complications, 32(2):179-184. PMID: 29198994; PMCID: PMC5773064

5.      The NS#, King IB, Couch SC, Crandell JL, Dabelea D, Liese AD, Mayer-Davis  EJ. (2018). Plasma Trans Palmitoleic Acid [TPA] is Associated with Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Youth with Type 1 Diabetes. Diabetes Metab, 44(2):181-184. PMID: 28583347

6.      The NS#, Shay CM, Laminchhane A, Crandell JL, Dabelea D, Crume T, Mayer-Davis EJ. (2016). The Association between Breastfeeding and Insulin Sensitivity among Youth with Diabetes. Diabet Med, 33(10):1452-5.  PMID: 26972798. PMCID: PMC5018905

7.      Zhong VW, Lamichhane AP, Crandell JL, Couch SC, Liese AD, The NS#, Tzeel BA, Dabelea D, Lawrence JM, Marcovina S, Kim G, Mayer-Davis EJ. (2016). Mediterranean diet is associated with glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in youth with type 1 diabetes: The SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study.Eur J Clin Nutr, 70(7):802-807PMID: 26908421; PMCID: PMC4935596

8.      Mayer-Davis EJ, Dabelea D, Crandell JL, Crume T, D’Agostino RB Jr., Dolan L, King IB, Lawrence JM, Norris JM, Pihoker C, The N. (2013). Nutritional factors and preservation of C-peptide in youth with recently diagnosed type 1 diabetes: SEARCH Nutrition Ancillary Study. Diabetes Care, 36:1842-50. PMID: 23801797; PMCID: PMC3687285

9.      The NS, Crandell JL, Lawrence JM, King IB, Dabelea D, Marcovina SM, D’Agostino RB Jr., Norris JM, Pihoker C, Mayer-Davis EJ. (2013). Vitamin D in youth with Type 1 diabetes: prevalence of insufficiency and association with insulin resistance in the SEARCH Nutrition Ancillary Study. Diabet Med, 30:1324-32. PMID:23909945; PMCID: PMC3822440

10.  The NS, Crandell JL, Thomas J, Couch SC, Shah AS, Maahs DM, Dabelea D, Marcovina SM, D’Agostino RB Jr., Mayer-Davis EJ. (2013). Correlates of medical nutrition therapy and cardiovascular outcomes in youth with type 1 diabetes. J Nutr Educ Behav, 45:661-8. PMID: 23891147; PMCID: PMC3825757

11.  The NS, Richardson A, Gordon-Larsen P. (2013). Timing and duration of obesity in relation to diabetes: findings from an ethnically diverse, nationally representative sample. Diabetes Care, 36:865-72. PMID: 23223352; PMCID: PMC3609525

12.  The NS, Suchindran C, North KE, Popkin BM, Gordon-Larsen P. (2010). Association of adolescent obesity with risk of severe obesity in adulthood. JAMA, 304:2042-7. PMID: 21063014; PMCID: PMC3076068

13.  The NS, Adair LS, Gordon-Larsen P. (2010). A study of the birth weight-obesity relation using a longitudinal cohort and sibling and twin pairs. Am J Epidemiol, 172:549-57. PMID: 20688900; PMCID: PMC3025637

14.  Gordon-Larsen P, The NS, Adair LS. (2010). Longitudinal trends in obesity in the United States from adolescence to the third decade of life. Obesity (Silver Spring), 18:1801-4. PMID: 20035278; PMCID: PMC2929301

15.  The NS, Gordon-Larsen P. (2009). Entry into romantic partnership is associated with obesity. Obesity (Silver Spring), 17:1441-7. PMID: 19360012; PMCID: PMC2745942

16.  The NS, Honein MA, Caton AR, Moore CA, Siega-Riz AM, Druschel CM, for the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. (2007) Risk factors for isolated biliary atresia: National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997-2002. Am J Med Genet A, 143A:2274-84. PMID: 17726689; PMCID: Not available