Additional information about OHSU’s research to combat the current obesity epidemic

02/23/11  Portland, Ore.

The Sunday, February 20th issue of the New York Times featured information about obesity research conducted at the OHSU Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC). Obesity is a serious problem in our country and around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that as many 1/3rd American adults are obese, and the condition is also increasingly seen in children. In response to these troubling statistics, First Lady Michelle Obama made the reduction of childhood obesity her personal cause. Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and numerous other diseases. Understanding the root causes of obesity is critical to being able to offer preventions, cures, or treatments to the millions of people who are struggling with this condition around the world.

While we all know that eating too much and not exercising enough can lead to obesity, that is an oversimplified explanation. Obesity is a complex disease with many related health issues that are poorly understood. Furthermore, it is not well understood why it is so difficult to lose weight once a person becomes obese. Studies in nonhuman primates are beginning to uncover these issues and provide important answers for how to prevent as well as treat obesity and its associated diseases. Dr. Kevin Grove’s research at OHSU is focused on understanding how diets high in fats and calories, that are common in America, impact the long-term health of children; putting them at increased risks diabetes, heart disease and even mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. This research could change how we look at and treat such childhood diseases.

We recognize that accepting the need for animals in research can be a difficult process, and we appreciate your concern for the animals enrolled in the studies that are being conducted here. All research studies that are conducted at ONPRC must pass through an extensive review process by a number of oversight bodies before they are funded. Only the most important research questions and the most meticulously crafted research designs are undertaken. The care of all animals at the Center is regulated by a number of laws (including the Animal Welfare Act), and overseen by the USDA, which inspects the Center at least twice a year (unannounced) to ensure that rules and regulations are being followed. Read more information about external and internal oversight of the Center.

Before, during, and after participation in a study our animals receive state of the art veterinary care, compassionately and ethically delivered by personnel who, like yourself, care deeply about animal welfare. This commitment to the very highest standard of care results in our animals living nearly twice as long as their counterparts in the wild. If you would like more information about animal care at ONPRC, visit this link.

We realize that you may never agree on the essential need for animals in research, but we appreciate that you care for animals. The fact that they deserve our compassion and our respect, as well as the best possible care we can provide, is something I think we can agree on. If you would like to learn more about biomedical research, the following websites may be of interest to you: