As the World Obesity Crisis Spreads, these Louisiana Scientists are Discovering Better Ways to Treat and Prevent the Disease

For more information, contact our Media Relations Manager, Ted Griggs, 225-763-2862 or our Communications Director, Lisa Stansbury, at 225-763-2978. Our news email box is also available at

Released: Wednesday, October 11, 2017

World Obesity Day: October 11, 2017
Raising Awareness of the Obesity Epidemic Causes, Cures and the Consequences

BATON ROUGE, LA – An astounding 41 percent of middle-aged Americans are obese. Their children are too. Young adults between 20 and 39 aren’t far behind their parents, with an astonishing obesity rate of 34 percent. Even our country’s youngest citizens are suffering from this disease: right now one in 10 children in the United States between the ages of two and five is obese. For the first time in recorded history, children in the US may have shorter lifespan than their parents due to the health effects of obesity.6

Not only does this epidemic influence how long we live and our quality of life, but it also brings an expensive price tag. In Louisiana, we spend $3 million each year in obesity medications, doctor’s visits, lost wages and time at work and more. Nationally, obesity costs us between $147 billion and $210 billion annually.

This is a crisis we cannot ignore. On this World Obesity Day, we are joining together with thousands of fellow health researchers, advocacy groups, academic organizations and individuals around the world to recognize the debilitating effects of the disease and support practical solutions for reversing the obesity crisis.

Fortunately, health scientists at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center are working diligently to find the triggers and treatments for chronic diseases such as obesity. Since its inception just three decades ago, these scientists and their colleagues have uncovered many of obesity’s triggers and discovered improved ways to prevent and treat this serious disease.


Dr. Donna Ryan is a world-renowned obesity researcher, executive director of LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center and president-elect of the World Obesity Federation.  Her research spotlighted below reveals how reducing obesity can also prevent and better manage type 2 diabetes.

Ryan worked on The Diabetes Prevention Program which showed that type 2 diabetes can be prevented with modest weight loss. In people who were overweight or obese and at risk for diabetes, every 2.5 pounds lost reduced the risk for developing diabetes by 16 percent. The average weight loss in the study was just seven percent, but led to a 58 percent reduction in the risk for diabetes, demonstrating a major benefit with modest weight loss.

Ryan was also involved in the largest U.S. weight loss study ever, Look AHEAD, which showed that weight loss can be powerful medicine for type 2 diabetes. Weight loss averaging nine percent in people with type 2 diabetes allowed some study participants to stop or reduce medication for diabetes, blood pressure and lipids. The study showed that in people who lost weight, medication and hospital costs were lower over the 10 years of follow up, and also brought improvements in quality of life, feeling and function with greater mobility, less urinary incontinence and better sexual function. Some patients even experienced remission from diabetes.


Dr. Eric Ravussin is an internationally-renowned expert on metabolism, obesity, weight loss, and diabetes. His work has changed the way we understand metabolism, weight loss and the role of obesity in chronic diseases such as diabetes. This fall, he will receive The Obesity Society’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the field of obesity research.

Ravussin is currently working on the MoTrPAC research study which aims to explain how exercise impacts our bodies at the cellular level—something researchers have never previously understood. The results of this groundbreaking study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, could help with the development of personalized exercise programs that are able to maximize the benefits of exercise, even for people who have previously seen little results from exercise.

Ravussin also lead the CALERIE research study, which found that reducing calories up to 25 percent in people who were not obese could reduce the risk for chronic disease, improve quality of life and have a positive effect on predictors of longevity. This CALERIE study participant, who lost weight and has kept it off for more than a decade, is available for comment.


Dr. William Cefalu is chief scientific, medical and mission officer for the American Diabetes Association. Until early 2017, Dr. Cefalu also served as Executive Director of LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he directed the Botanical Dietary Research Supplements Center, one of only two Botanical Centers of Excellence in the U.S. Cefalu worked on a number of obesity and diabetes research studies aimed at finding better ways to prevent and treat obesity.

“Obesity is associated with significant increased risk for cardiovascular disease and is one of the major contributing factors in the onset of type 2 diabetes, a disease that remains associated with significant morbidity and mortality,” said Cefalu. “Throughout its storied history, Pennington Biomedical scientists have been and remain at the forefront of discovering the causes and potential new treatments for obesity. At the ADA, we welcome renewed efforts to heighten public awareness of the new ways to treat and prevent obesity, which can ultimately decrease the incidence of type 2 diabetes.”



  • Obesity can lead to diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, gallstones, high blood pressure and cancer.1
  • More than one in three adults in the U.S. are considered obese.4
  • Nearly 1 in 6 children between the ages of 2 and 19 are considered obese.4
  • The cost of obesity to the U.S. ranges from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion annually.2


  • More than 35 percent of adults in Louisiana are considered obese, making Louisiana the fifth-most obese state in the nation.3
  • 1 in 3 children across Louisiana are already overweight or obese.4
  • Obesity costs Louisiana nearly $3 billion annually.5
  • For the first time in our history, children in the U.S. may have shorter lifespan than their parents due to the health effects of obesity.6

For more information about World Obesity Day, please the World Obesity Federation’s website at


1 Data from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Online reference. 9 27 17
2 Cawley J and Meyerhoefer C. The Medical Care Costs of Obesity: An Instrumental Variables Approach. Journal of Health Economics, 31(1): 219-230, 2012; And Finkelstein, Trogdon, Cohen, et al. Annual Medical Spending Attributable to Obesity. Health Affairs, 2009.
3 Data from the State of Obesity Report, 2016.
4 Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2013-2014 Online reference 9 24 2017
5 National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention, 2010.
6 Olshanksy, J and Passaro D.  A Potential Decline in Life Expectancy in the United States in the 21st Century. The New England Journal of Medicine, 352:1138-1145; and The Global BMI Mortality Collaboration.  Body-mass index and all-cause mortality: individual-participant-data meta-analysis of 239 prospective studies in four continents, The Lancet, 13 July, 2016.



The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.