Purdue is site of new regional center on nutrition, obesity research

October 22, 2014  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University is establishing one of four regional centers for research into nutrition education and obesity prevention in a nationwide project of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA has awarded $4 million in grants to set up the regional centers and one coordinating center.

Dennis Savaiano, Virginia Meredith Professor of Nutrition Policy, is leading the effort of the center at Purdue, called the North Central Nutrition Education Center of Excellence. Collaborating with Purdue will be researchers from the University of Missouri, Michigan State University, 11 other land-grant universities and the Michigan Fitness Foundation, a key provider of education on the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

"Impoverished and disadvantaged populations generally eat lower-quality diets and are more food insecure, resulting in higher levels of obesity and increased risk for diet-related diseases including Type 2 diabetes, cancers, hypertension and heart disease," Savaiano said Wednesday (Oct. 22). "The personal and economic burden of these diet-related diseases is one of America's greatest health challenges. This center will focus its research on improving food availability and diet quality for this at-risk group."

The two-year funding supports USDA's strategic goal of developing and extending a research-based approach to obesity prevention, ultimately to produce measurable improvements in health, obesity, nutrition and outcomes related to physical activity.

Other regional centers are being established at Colorado State University, Cornell University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A national center to communicate findings from the regional centers will be at the University of Kentucky.

The North Central center will focus on research into interpersonal, community and environmental factors that likely influence the food and physical activity behaviors of low-income and disadvantaged people.

The objective of that socio-ecological research is to help the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, known as SNAP-Ed, and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, better evolve and respond to changing needs of their target populations.

Nearly one-third of American children are overweight or obese, said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

"Nutrition promotion strategies, including education, public policies, health systems and environmental changes, are the key to reversing this trend," Ramaswamy said. "These grants provide the opportunity to improve the health of our next generation and ensure that all children have access to the tools they need to improve their nutrition and physical fitness."           

Writer: Keith Robinson, 765-494-2722, robins89@purdue.edu 

Source: Dennis Savaiano, 765-427-7826, savaiano@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
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