Health Notes: Obesity Prevention and Awareness

Nov. 25, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas — With the festive holiday season comes an abundance of parties and family gatherings filled with feasts and tempting treats. Although a few extra pounds gained during the holidays may seem harmless, the extra weight gain may lead to obesity later in life. Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are available to share insights into making healthy food choices, adopting better eating habits and battling the bulge with exercise.

Brain Imaging Reveals Clues About Obesity
Eric Stice
Courtesy Research Associate, Department of Psychology, Oregon Research Institute, University of Oregon
Senior Research Fellow, Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin
541-484-2123
estice@ori.org

Obese individuals may overeat because they experience less satisfaction from eating food due to a reduced response in their brains' reward circuitry, according to a new study by Stice, who conducts his research at the Oregon Research Institute at the University of Oregon. Using brain imaging and chocolate milkshakes, Stice and his colleagues found that blunted responses in the brain relate to weight gain in young females.

Obesity and College Enrollment
Robert Crosnoe
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
512-232-6340
crosnoe@austin.utexas.edu

Obese girls are half as likely to attend college as non-obese girls, according to Crosnoe's study. Using statistics compiled by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to analyze data from almost 11,000 adolescents in 128 schools across the United States, Crosnoe found obese girls are even less likely to enter college if they attend a high school where obesity is relatively uncommon.

American Culinary Customs
Elizabeth Engelhardt
Associate Professor, Department of American Studies
512-232-2707
e.engelhardt@mail.utexas.edu

As time progresses, meal portions and waistlines continue to expand. To provide insight into this national trend, Engelhardt examines America's food culture and how it evolved over the past century. She studies how popular food choices throughout the United States reveal social histories of race, class and gender. In her forthcoming book "Republic of Barbecue: Stories Beyond the Brisket," she examines the barbecue culture in Central Texas. Learn more in the feature story "You are What You Eat."

Preventing Childhood Obesity
Diane Tyler
Professor of Clinical Nursing, School of Nursing
512-471-9092
dtyler@mail.utexas.edu

Tyler researches health promotion and disease prevention, with a particular focus on weight and health of children and their families. Helping overweight children adopt healthier lifestyles was the focus of her recent nationally funded study, which focused on reasonable weight-loss goals, physical activity, dietary management and family involvement. Learn more in the feature story "Clear Choices."

John Bartholomew
Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education
512-232-6021
john.bart@mail.utexas.edu

Bartholomew is an exercise physiologist who has earned grants from the National Institutes of Health, Texas Diabetes Council and Centers for Disease Control to promote healthy, nutritious meal options and increased physical activity in schools to combat childhood obesity. He studies the impact of exercise on mental health, with a specific interest in the use of single bouts of exercise to improve mood and reduce reactivity to stress. Learn more in the feature story "Get Moving" and in the "Take 5" video.

Dolly Lambdin
Senior Lecturer, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education
512-471-1540
lambdin@mail.utexas.edu

A past president and member of the board of directors for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, Lambdin is an expert on physical education requirements for youth and the prevention of childhood obesity. She is active in the policy arena, where she advocates increasing physical education class time in schools, stressing that fitness for children is a compelling, critical quality-of-life issue.

Finding the Links Between Cancer and Obesity

Stephen Hursting
The Margaret McKean Love Chair in Nutrition, Cellular and Molecular Sciences, Department of Human Ecology
512-471-2809
shursting@mail.utexas.edu

Hursting and his colleagues, Susan Perkins and Nomelí Nuñez, assistant professors of nutritional sciences, study the complex links between obesity and cancer. He examines the genes, molecules, hormones and cellular processes that could cause cancer in people with weight problems. He also explores how lifestyle factors like exercise and diet interact with these molecular processes. Learn more in the feature story "Reducing the Weight of Cancer Risk."

Targeting High-Risk Environments for Overeating

Gayle Timmerman
Associate Professor, School of Nursing
512-471-9087
gtimmerman@mail.utexas.edu

Timmerman focuses on restaurant eating, weight management and the assessment of eating patterns and obesity. Her research "Dieting, Deprivation and Nonpurge Binge Eating in Women" was funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health. Learn more in the feature story "Fighting the Freshman 15."

For more information, contact: Jessica Sinn, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-2404.