SIGNIFICANT RESEARCH DISCOVERIES

BASIC SCIENCE

  • Discovered a new gene that communicates from the brain to other organs to regulate fat storage, a finding that has important implications for the development of interventions which prevent obesity
  • Demonstrated that the human tongue has cells that can detect fat, similar to our ability to detect other tastes (sweet, sour, bitter). In addition to increasing our understanding of what drives individual food preferences, this finding could lead to the development of interventions that reduce the risk of obesity developing in both children and adults
  • Discovered a new protein that influences how fat is deposited in the liver and other organs to produce insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. This data is currently being used to develop novel interventions for type 2 diabetes
  • Discovered how stem cells can be produced from adipose tissue cells and then converted to bone cells by growing them on a bone promoting scaffold. Development of this potential therapeutic for osteoporosis has implications for other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and Parkinson's disease
  • Discovered that a human adenovirus associated with obesity induces fat cells to multiply and thus increase fat storage, but, contrary to expectations the virus increases insulin sensitivity. This finding is being used by labs around the world to understand, and hopefully prevent, obesity in obesity-prone populations
  • Discovered that genetically identical laboratory animals raised in a similar environment can vary considerably in their level of adiposity, suggesting that there are supra-genetic influences on the proneness to increase body fat.. These data are leading to new lines of research around the world to understand the causes of obesity and design more personalized approaches to preventing obesity

 

CLINICAL RESEARCH

  • Observed in the Look Ahead Study that diabetics can achieve over 8% weight loss and maintain most of the lost weight for over 4 years with improvements in cardiometabolic risk factors
  • Observed in the Weight Loss Maintenance Study that intensive interventions are effective in helping maintain weight loss for up to 36 months
  • Discovered that a novel lytic peptide targets cancer cells, providing the ground work for human studies
  • Discovered that when normal weight adults are placed on caloric restricted diets, markers that indicate a potential longer lifespan - lowered metabolic rate, body temperature, blood level of insulin, and blood tests indicating inflammation - all improve
  • Discovered that physical activity protects against the tendency to store excessive amounts of fat in the presence of a diet rich in fat
  • Demonstrated together with 21 academic sites that type 2 diabetes can be prevented in high risk individuals: loss of 7% of body weight and 150 minutes of physical activity per week produced a 58% reduction in the rate of conversion to diabetes
  • Discovered that a person's response to regular exercise is highly individualized and that several genes and DNA sequence differences determine how much one benefits from a physically active lifestyle
  • Discovered that combining aerobic exercise with strength training improves diabetic blood glucose control to a greater extent than either activity alone, a finding that has major treatment implications
  • Showed that all major "popular" diets that target proportions of carbohydrate, protein, and fat have equal effects on long term weight loss and that the most important factor in achieving weight loss is adhering to the dietary program, whatever the type of diet
  • Demonstrated the efficacy of Pennington-developed weight loss programs that can be delivered on the internet
  • Developed with other academic medical centers the DASH diet which is rich in fruits and vegetables and then proved the diet is effective at lowering blood pressure as much as medications. In 2012, U.S. News and World Report selected DASH as the #1 overall diet in America.
  • Discovered that when overeating, excess calories are the primary factor increasing body fat. More protein in the diet was associated with increased energy expenditure and increased lean body mass as well as a small, but significant decrease in the amount of fat stored.

POPULATION SCIENCE

  • Reported that even though the region we live in - the lower Mississippi River Delta - has high rates of obesity, there are higher rates of hunger and food insecurity here than in other parts of the United States
  • Reported that measurements in 17 school systems showed Louisiana schoolchildren have among the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the United States
  • Demonstrated that obesity in both African American and white children predicts the development of health problems in adulthood
  • Demonstrated that changes in the school environment can improve physical activity and eating habits among elementary school children and reduce the risk for obesity

MILITARY NUTRITION RESEARCH

  • Established the amount of dietary protein needed when soldiers experience high activity and low caloric intake during military operations
  • Established the effectiveness of the amino acid tyrosine supplementation during periods of intense stress in sustaining mental performance
  • Established the mineral micronutrient requirements to sustain immune function during periods of caloric deprivation during periods of intense mental and physical stress and extreme environmental conditions
  • Showed how a short-term energy deficit (caloric deprivation) and loss of body weight and fat-free mass profoundly impacts IGF-I, a critical component of the immune system
  • Developed and evaluated the new replacement for Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs) and produced the now widely used military First Strike Ration