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Nathaniel Johnson

Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics, University of North Dakota

I received my doctorate only a year ago in Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. My dissertation focused on protein intake and muscle health. I have two-years of experience working a biomedical engineering laboratory, and five-years of experience as a research assistant for the Department of Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences. Despite having limited time with my doctorate, I have completed an eclectic range of research projects including four clinical trials, several cross-sectional human cohort studies, two analyses of large, publicly available data, three reviews, and other benchwork projects, including those using qPCR, fluorescence microscopy, and lithography which was done in a clean room. I have published 13 research papers including 6 as the first or last author. Moreover, I accomplished these activities despite severe disability; I have had more surgeries than can be counted on one’s hands and am currently suffering from a surgical complication that results in severe pain, abdominal cramping, and nausea. As the founder and organizer of the UND Affinity Group for Faculty and Staff with Disabilities and Chronic Conditions, I am passionate about nutrition, disability, and equity.

My contributions to science revolve around dietary intake, muscle health, and disability. My early research was largely focused on muscle health and disability and not dietary intake. This research agenda led to several impactful findings: (1) handgrip strength is associated with a host of negative health outcomes including disability, mortality, and cognitive impairment; (2) excess sleep time is associated with disability; (3) asymmetric handgrip strength (i.e., one hand being stronger than the other) is also related to disability.

After examining muscle health and disability, my research shifted to investigate the impacts of dietary intake on muscle health. This avenue of research led to following discoveries: (1) evenness of dietary protein intake is associated with increased muscle mass, strength, and endurance; (2) animal-based protein intake was related to increased muscle mass and strength in middle-aged men and women, while not being a risk factor for metabolic syndrome in women; (3) time restricted feeding resulted in better body composition than continuous energy restriction. I also investigated the use of a novel miRNA sensor’s ability to measure miRNAs associated with weight loss during a weight loss intervention, examined the effects of an online intervention on the physical activty profiles of older adults, and wrote about the gastrointestinal manifestations of hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and dietary approaches for their management.


  • –present
    Assistant Professor, University of North Dakota


  • 2022 
    North Dakota State University, Ph.D./Nutrition and Exercise Sciences