Posted: 9/02/21

New $929,500 Research Grant to TAMIU will Explore Body Composition Among Hispanics


Dr. Brett Nickerson
Dr. Brett Nickerson  

A new $929,500 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will fund a four-year research project at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) that looks at body composition among Hispanics.

TAMIU president Dr. Pablo Arenaz said that this particular grant sets a historic precedent at the University.

“While the University has received NIH funding in the past, this is our first NIH research grant.  This is a true distinction and sets a precedent as we move forward with other research proposals that could attract additional NIH research funding.  This measurably elevates the research profile of the University and our faculty, and has the potential to have profound implications on research in this area,” Dr. Arenaz noted.

The project director and principal investigator for the grant is Dr. Brett Stephen Nickerson, assistant professor, College of Nursing and Health Sciences.  Dr. Nickerson said he believes the research will help to advance research in body composition for Hispanics.

“This NIH-funded research will involve evaluating the validity of a rapid 4-compartment model. A traditional 4-compartment model is currently the most accurate way to measure body composition but is only available in research settings. A rapid 4-compartment model, which uses imaging and bioimpedance analysis, is more accurate than evaluations conducted via stand-alone methods.

“Through this model, we’ll be able to get a much more accurate and detailed analysis of body composition than the widely used Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement. Specifically, it may be useful in clinical visits for determining whether Hispanics have recommended or excessive body fat.  This research will also allow us to determine if outlined assumptions employed in current body composition methods are violated when testing a Hispanic population. This may have implications on future research by identifying whether new equations are needed when we’re assessing the body composition of Hispanic adults,” Dr. Nickerson explained.

Nickerson, who holds a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Alabama, was selected as TAMIU’s 2020 University Scholar of the Year.  He has developed two algorithms that can be used for accessing body composition of Hispanic adults. He has 55 peer-reviewed publications, 29 as first author, primarily in the area of body composition, his area of expertise.   

His research in body composition is breaking new ground by studying the differences in fat-free mass characteristics like density, hydration, mineral, and protein between Hispanic Whites and non-Hispanic Whites. Nearly all currently existing body composition models are based upon non-Hispanic populations. Nickerson’s work evaluates the accuracy of various assumptions employed in body composition testing for Hispanic adults.

His selection as University Scholar of the Year especially commended his mentorship of TAMIU’s undergraduate students in his research, some winning regional and national recognition by professional kinesiology associations.

For additional information, contact the TAMIU Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services by email at  prmis@tamiu.edu, phone 956.326.2180, or visit offices in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, room 268.

University information is also available at tamiu.edu and through the University’s social channels on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Youtube.