NIH obesity plan focuses on real-world research

CHICAGO Fri Apr 1, 2011 9:55am EDT

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Health officials Thursday announced a new effort to curb America's obesity epidemic by moving science from the lab into clinical trials to find practical ways for prevention and treatment.

"This plan is a bold blueprint that will encourage the research community to examine the epidemic of obesity from diverse perspectives," National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins said in a statement.

More than a third of adults and nearly 17 percent of children in the United States are obese, increasing their chances of developing health problems including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease and some cancers.

NIH spent $971 million in fiscal year 2010 on obesity research, with $147 million of that in one-time stimulus funds.

Under the plan, NIH will fund studies to test new ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight in real-world settings and diverse populations.

It also will focus on understanding biological processes that regulate weight, and factors that contribute to obesity and the health issues it causes.

Obesity-related diseases account for nearly 10 percent of U.S. medical spending, or an estimated $147 billion a year.

Studies have shown that obese children are more likely to stay obese as adults, and that they develop chronic conditions at younger ages, burdening the healthcare system.

Last year, a White House Task Force on childhood obesity outlined steps federal agencies can take, and first lady Michelle Obama launched the "Let's Move" initiative that aims to solve childhood obesity within a generation.

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