<h1>OHSU's Research to Combat the World Obesity Epidemic</h1>

OHSU's research to combat the world's obesity epidemic, which is being conducted at OHSU's Oregon National Primate Research Center, continues to receive extensive coverage in the press. In the past few weeks, news of our research has been highlighted in The New York Times, and on ABC's Nightline.

OHSU has launched this Web page to provide links to additional information and resources for those who are interested in learning more. If you have additional questions, feel free to .

Recent news coverage

General Facts About Obesity

  • Obesity is a serious problem in our country and around the world and the crisis is escalating.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that as many 1/3rd American adults are obese. The condition is also increasingly seen in children.
  • According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1.5 billion adults (age 20+) were overweight in 2008; of these, more than 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese.
  • 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.
  • In response to these troubling statistics, First Lady Michelle Obama made the reduction of childhood obesity her personal cause.

The Causes of Obesity

While we all know that eating too much and not exercising enough can lead to obesity that is a vastly oversimplified explanation. Obesity is a complex disease that involves several factors including:

  • Diet
  • Genetics
  • Socio-economic status
  • Food preparation processes

For the millions who are fighting obesity, it is not well understood why weight loss is so difficult and why weight often returns despite a much stricter diet. No doubt, all of us have witnessed a friend or loved one lose weight temporarily only to regain the pounds once again, despite their best efforts.

OHSU's Research

Studies in humans and nonhuman primates are beginning to uncover answers to many of the questions surrounding obesity. This information will help us determine how to prevent as well as treat obesity and its associated diseases. In addition, through animal and human studies, we are learning more about the genetic-ties to obesity. This information will help explain why even those who eat a balanced diet can become obese. It will also help us determine how to best fight the epidemic.

OHSU's research at the Oregon National Primate Research Center is also focused on understanding how the country's current high-fat diet will impact future generations. Our current eating habits impact the long-term health of our 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.

More information on OHSU's research findings and its impacts on human health (Published research papers)

Questions and Answers


Video: OHSU’s Kevin Grove talks about his lab’s research

Why animal studies?

Just like OHSU's large animal care staff, most people are animal lovers and have questions about the role of animals in this research. OHSU believes that both human and animal studies are necessary in order to fight the obesity epidemic. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Past research has demonstrated that when humans take part in eating studies, they are not entirely truthful about their eating habits nor do they closely track everything they eat. Therefore human studies cannot provide reliable data when weight studies require an accurate measure of food intake. Animal studies in comparison can provide much clearer data.
  • As humans, several of our personal choices can greatly impact study results. For instance, many of us smoke, use alcohol or drugs (legal and illegal). All of these impacts can impact study results and cause research data to be flawed. Through animal studies, we can remove all of these interfering factors.
  • Safety studies must take place in a living species before a drug can be tested and eventually prescribed to humans. In some cases, there are alternatives to animal studies (cell culture studies or computer models). However, we simply don't know enough about the living body to test medications and treatments in humans first. Animal studies are required to bridge the gap between the lab test tube and the pharmacy prescription bottle.
  • Prior to FDA approval of medications for human use, animal studies are required by law.

Additional information about obesity

World Health Organization

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Web MD

Additional information about animal studies

Americans for Medical Progress

Foundation for Biomedical Research

Speaking of Research