New Health Activity Center to Battle Obseity From All Angles

Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure are just some of the problems that overweight people may encounter. While researchers across the globe are working to solve these problems, the University of Missouri-Columbia has created the new MU Health Activity Center under the leadership of one MU professor. The center is the focal point of an effort to bring a cross-disciplinary approach to investigating the sedentary lifestyle, which is believed to be the cause of many of these problems.

“Sedentary lifestyle leads to chronic illness and no one is looking at it through a cross-disciplinary approach,” said Frank Booth, professor of biomedical sciences and founder of the new MU Health Activity Center. “We need to look at this problem from a variety of angles. MU, with its blend of veterinary medicine, medicine, nursing, health professions, and arts and sciences on the same campus, is in a great position to lead this charge.”

According to Booth, scientists in many scientific disciplines, such as archeology and anthropology, have information that would benefit this field. For example, by knowing how genes were selected 10,000 years ago and how that selection influenced metabolism, scientists might learn how the body stores fat and how it uses the excess weight.

“We used to eat more than we do now, but we’re still overweight,” Booth said. “Lots of people talk about glycemic indices when discussing diets, but they have forgotten the other half of the equation—exercise. When you put gas into a car and you don’t use the car, the gas just sits there. We can talk about dieting all we want, but if we continue to sit on the couch, we won’t see any benefits.”

With a strong basic science approach to fighting obesity already established, Booth wants the center to develop a human component and translate the findings discovered through animal models for humans. Data gained from animal and human experiments shows that exercise and an active lifestyle benefit people not only physically, but also on a cognitive level as well. The Health Activity Center will translate these benefits for humans and publicize the results to the general population, Booth said.

“Inactivity does more for the body than just make you fat,” Booth said. “It slows you down mentally and may bring on the onset of other diseases that we didn’t think were related to obesity. Our new center is going to take an interdisciplinary approach, find the connections and the solutions to these problems and spread the word. The amount of money that could be saved in health care costs alone is staggering.”

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