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UNC: Receives $3.8 Million Grant to Study Innovative Weight Loss Program

The Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a 5-year, $3.8 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to fund research that will address the challenge of achieving long-term weight loss among patients with obesity who receive health care at primary care practices.

Co-led by Dr. Carmen Samuel-Hodge, assistant professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, the randomized controlled trial will test the effectiveness of a behavioral weight loss program based on the Mediterranean diet.

Patients with obesity are more likely to have diabetes, and both conditions put them at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Most previously studied weight loss interventions have focused only on weight loss as a goal, instead of also targeting cardiovascular disease. Rather than focusing on diet quality, most interventions have emphasized calorie reduction.

Mediterranean-style diets, meanwhile, have been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease events like heart attack and stroke, but only a few studies have tested whether this type of eating regimen also promotes weight loss. Research is particularly limited in the United States, where trials have been conducted only with urban residents who were primarily white.

For the new study, UNC researchers have developed a Mediterranean-style diet adapted to the cultural and taste preferences of residents living in the southeastern U.S., incorporating foods like peanuts and peanut butter, which have health benefits similar to the tree nuts included in the Mediterranean diet. The “MedSouth” cookbook also features adapted recipes for healthier barbecue and hush puppies.

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