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School and Program Updates

School and Program Updates

Texas A&M Fighting Obesity on Multiple Fronts

From leading a multi-state initiative to reduce childhood obesity along the U.S.-Mexico Border, to studying the impact of obesity on the brain health of seniors, Texas A&M School of Public Health is conducting cutting-edge research in the fight against obesity.

Dr. Joseph Sharkey, is leading a five-year, $4.9 million research project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that involves researchers from Texas, New Mexico and Arizona in implementing a family-centered approach to reducing the incidence of childhood obesity along the border. Sharkey and his team will through research, education and extension try to impact an area of the country where levels of childhood obesity are at epidemic proportions.

How the built environment impacts how physically active we are is the subject of a $2.7 million National Institutes of Health active living study. Researchers lead by Regents and Distinguished Professor Dr. Marcia Ory, are examing how an activity-friendly community that embodies the best practices in environmental design and policy can increase residents’ levels of physical activity and influence when and where they are physically active. It will also provide insights into why environmental and psychosocial factors influence physical activity, and how place impacts lifestyle behaviors related to the burden of obesity.

In a landmark study, Texas A&M researchers lead by Dr. Mark Benden, have shown for the first time, evidence that standing desks in classrooms can slow the increase in elementary school children’s body mass index (BMI)—a key indicator of obesity—by an average of 5.24 percentile points.  Previous studies from Benden’s lab have shown that children who stand burn 15 percent more calories, on average, than those who sit in class, but this is the first study showing, over two years, that BMI decreases over time (versus controls) when using a stand-biased desk.

As we age, the effects of obesity on cardiovascular disease and diabetes are well documented, but little is known about the impact of obesity on brain health. Dr. Ranjana Mehta, is conducting research aimed at better understanding how obesity in seniors impacts their brain function.

Results from the three-year study funded by the National Institute on Aging will help lead to interventions that will one-day improve seniors’ mobility and cognition.