Pennington Biomedical Receives $3.5 Million NIH Grant to Research Weight Gain during Pregnancy

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Released: Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pennington Biomedical and Woman’s Hospital Partner in Research Study

Pennington Biomedical Research Center has been awarded a competitive five year, $3.5 million grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research and develop an effective approach to manage weight gain during pregnancy.  The Pennington Biomedical study, “Expecting Success: Personalized Management of Body Weight during Pregnancy”, is a partnership with Woman’s Hospital of Baton Rouge. 

Co-principal investigators of the study are Pennington Biomedical’s Leanne Redman, Ph.D, Assistant Professor and head of the Reproductive Endocrinology and Women’s Health Laboratory and Corby Martin, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the Behavior Laboratory.  Co-investigator from Woman’s Hospital is Karen Elkind-Hirsch, MSc., Ph.D., Woman’s Scientific Director of Research.

Many Americans of all ages struggle with weight gain, and many pregnant women work to meet new guidelines that provide healthy levels of weight gain during pregnancy. In most cases, pregnant women are gaining weight in excess of the recommended guidelines.  As a result, both mothers and babies are faced with an increasing probability of negative health outcomes.

NIH recognizes this challenging problem and invited research institutions across the United States to submit proposals for studies introducing innovative approaches for weight management in pregnant women.  “We are extremely excited to embark on this research study with Woman’s Hospital and to build a long-term research program on maternal and infant health.  We hope this will be the first of many studies in the research area,” said Drs. Redman and Martin.  “The ‘Expecting Success’ Study is an exciting opportunity for Woman’s Hospital and Pennington Biomedical to improve the health of mothers and their babies through the sharing of our respective knowledge of pregnancy, exercise and nutrition,” added Dr. Elkind-Hirsch.

Pennington Biomedical is one of 7 institutions across the country to be awarded a multi-year grant.  Other institutions in the consortium include:  California Polytechnic Institute & Brown University, Columbia University, Northwestern University, University of Puerto Rico/Harvard, Washington University at St. Louis, and Phoenix Indian Medical Center/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).  Researchers at Pennington Biomedical, in conjunction co-investigators, physicians, and staff from Woman’s Hospital, will recruit over 300 pregnant women to participate in the study.  The study will seek to measure the effectiveness of utilizing smartphone technology to assist in the mothers’ efforts to manage weight gain during pregnancy.  Called “Smart Moms”, this novel approach was developed at Pennington Biomedical for use with other populations and for the first time will be used with pregnant women.  The study will compare the effectiveness of the smartphone intervention with traditional approaches including standard care and advice provided by the mother’s physician, as well as an in-person weight management program to be conducted at Pennington Biomedical. 

“Combining Pennington Biomedical’s cutting-edge science and technology with the extraordinary clinical resources at Woman’s Hospital will provide the nation, including Baton Rouge citizens, with the advances we need to curb an important part of the obesity epidemic and help our children lead healthier and longer lives”, said Steven B. Heymsfield, M.D., Executive Director of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.  “This study will address one of society’s most widespread epidemics, obesity, and place Baton Rouge in the forefront of the national medical community,” said Teri Fontenot, President and CEO of Woman’s. 

Recruitment for the study is slated to begin the summer of 2012.  Women will be recruited into the study during their first trimester and researchers will follow each woman and her baby for one year following birth.


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.