Task Force Aims to Identify Best Weight-Loss Strategies

NIDDK’s Dr. Kevin Hall moderates obesity talk.
NIDDK’s Dr. Kevin Hall moderates obesity talk.

It’s not just how much, but also what and even when we eat that might affect our health and well-being, according to NIDDK deputy director Dr. Gregory Germino, who spoke recently at the NIH Obesity Research Task Force Seminar Series in Lister Hill Auditorium, Bldg. 38A.

“Questions remain as to what types of diets work best for weight loss and weight maintenance,” he explained during welcoming remarks.

Obesity has reached “pandemic dimensions worldwide,” warned Dr. Estefanía A. Toledo of the University of Navarra’s department of preventive medicine and public health. By 2030, almost 60 percent of the world’s population will be overweight or obese.

Toledo said the Mediterranean diet might be a helpful tool to combat obesity. It’s a plant-based diet that limits processed foods, red meats and dairy products. Observational studies have concluded that those who followed the diet maintained or lost weight and lowered their risk for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the world.

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Experts Weigh In on World Health Issues

Dr. Thomas Quinn
Dr. Thomas Quinn

The problems are not new. Some of the same culprits continue to threaten health around the world, from poverty to pollution. Some issues, such as maternal health and HIV/AIDS, are benefiting from increased global attention. But such infectious diseases as drug-resistant tuberculosis present new challenges.

In fact, there are several emerging or resurging infectious diseases globally every year, a trend that’s expected to continue due to rapid population growth and wildlife encroachment, said Dr. Thomas Quinn, associate director of international research at NIAID. He framed the day’s discussion at the recent NIH global health interest group symposium in Natcher Bldg.

From infectious to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), from maternal health to mental health, panelists concurred on the need for more targeted research and a greater focus on prevention, earlier intervention and comprehensive care.

Beyond the significant human toll of infectious diseases, the financial impact is staggering, well into the billions for a single pandemic. In projections to 2060, said Quinn, “If we don’t change the way we’re operating and those drivers continue, we will cumulatively be spending over $3.5 trillion in response to epidemics or in lost revenue.”

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