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Posted 04.12.06

NIH Grant Will Fund Four-Year Nutrition, Fitness and Lifestyle Study at MU

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- From Atkins to South Beach, diets have millions of Americans watching what they eat and working up a sweat at the gym. However, according to Tom Thomas, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Human Environmental Sciences, 50 to 75 percent of people in weight-loss programs regain the weight they lose.

Tom Thomas, Pam Hinton, Craig Stump.Thomas received a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how changes in lifestyle, specifically exercise and nutrition, relate to cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Thomas said he hopes to address the suspicion that regaining weight after weight loss leaves dieters worse off than when they started. He plans to use data from the experiment to determine whether physical activity can offset the detrimental effects of weight gain.

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"We hypothesize that the study will show that as long as people exercise they can remain healthy even if they gain weight," Thomas said. "Society overemphasizes body weight; we think it might be healthier to emphasize physical activity. The benefits of physical activity could outweigh the detriments of being overweight and weight gain."

Over the next four years, 100 people will participate in a two-part experiment involving weight-loss management and lifestyle analysis. During the first six months of the study, subjects will lose 10 percent of their body weight by following diet and exercise regimens set and supervised by Thomas; Pam Hinton, assistant professor of nutritional sciences in the School of Human Environmental Sciences; Craig Stump, assistant professor of endocrinology in the MU School of Medicine; Scott Rector, a doctoral student in exercise physiology; and several graduate and undergraduate student researchers.

Before and after weight loss, participants will undergo general fitness tests to determine their total body fat, blood lipid level, abdominal fat, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and other measurements associated with risk factors for the metabolic syndrome, such as poor glucose handling and excessive abdominal fat.

Once the weight-loss goal is attained, the participants will be divided evenly into two groups: one to be studied for weight regain with exercise and one to be studied for weight regain without exercise. The second part of the experiment will be conducted over a four- to six-month period or until participants have regained half of the weight lost in the first six months of the study.

Research participants will be awarded $1,000 in free medical tests in addition to $1,000 for their contribution to the study. Thomas also will offer to help participants re-lose the weight after the study is completed.



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