University News

Researchers awarded over $12 million to study obesity

Studies to focus on ‘behavioral causes’ of weight gain

Contributing Writer
Monday, November 2, 2009

The Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center at Miriam Hospital recently received six research grants worth a total of more than $12 million from the National Institutes of Health. The money will be used to research weight-gain prevention and the benefits of losing weight.

Though the research center often examines the effects of diet and exercise on obesity, the grant-funded studies will focus on the behavioral causes of weight gain and their inhibition, said Rena Wing, director of the center and professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Alpert Medical School.

The grant-funded studies are “much more focused on how to prevent … the behavioral causes of weight gain” and “the health benefits of weight loss,” Wing said.

Among the six research grants is the competitive NIH Challenge Grant. Of the 20,000 applicants for the grant, Wing’s study was one of only 200 to be awarded funding. The grant is worth $930,320 and is dedicated to developing and evaluating an online program in which physicians can enroll their patients, helping those struggling with obesity to adhere to their prescribed weight loss program.

The largest grant Wing’s research was given came from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The grant, totalling nearly $6 million over five years, will be used to research the behavioral treatments of obesity in adults and to prevent weight gain in young adults.

“Between the ages of 18 and 35, people gain about two pounds a year,” Wing said. “It is an epidemic of obesity.”

The center’s other studies being funded by NIH grants include an identification of the specific genes related to obesity, the impact of weight loss on Type-2 diabetes, the effects of weight gain on erectile dysfunction and the relationship between short sleep duration and obesity.