The Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a five-year, $3.8 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) 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 Carmen Samuel-Hodge, PhD, RD, assistant professor of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Thomas Keyserling, MD, MPH, professor of medicine at UNC’s School of Medicine, the randomized controlled trial will test the effectiveness of a behavioral weight loss program based on an adapted form of the Mediterranean diet.

“This study is unique in its approach, since most weight loss interventions have not promoted what we now know to be a healthful dietary pattern, which aligns very well with a Mediterranean diet,” said Keyserling. “It includes generous intake of high-quality fats, mostly from nuts and vegetable oils, and high-quality carbohydrates, which include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. A healthful dietary pattern is associated with substantial reductions in cardiovascular disease risk and diabetes risk, even without weight loss.”

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 and have not yielded significant decreases in cardiovascular disease events or mortality.

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Originally published June 12, 2019.