UGA Alumni Association supports Obesity Initiative with ‘Dawgs on the Move’


Obesity Initiative at UGA

The Dawgs on the Move program is expanding! The Alumni Association is now pairing its annual Dawg Trot 5K with the Obesity Initiative to support physical activity. Want to run in Athens on the second weekend of spring break? Join in!

Here’s the info from the Alumni Association:

The University of Georgia Alumni Association is partnering with UGA’s Obesity Initiative to present “Dawgs on the Move,” a program that promotes a healthy lifestyle.

“Dawgs on the Move” is designed to encourage UGA alumni and friends to participate in physical activities-from organized races to family bike rides. The program aims to raise awareness for UGA’s Obesity Initiative, which was launched in January 2012 to address Georgia’s multi-faceted obesity problem through treatment, prevention and research.

The first event is planned in conjunction with the Albany Marathon and Half Marathon March 2. The night before the race, the Alumni Association will hold a Pre-Race Carb Up Dinner at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Albany. The dinner is March 1 from 6-8 p.m. and will feature a carb- and protein-rich meal of baked spaghetti with ground turkey, vegetarian pasta, salad, green beans and dessert. Registration is $15 per person.

On March 16, the Alumni Association will host the Sixth Annual Dawg Trot 5K, a walk, jog or run through the university’s historic campus. Nearly 1,000 people participate every year. An official Run and See Georgia Grand Prix race, Dawg Trot times can be used to qualify for an earlier starting time at the Peachtree Road Race and other official races across the country. For more information on the Dawg Trot, see

For more information about “Dawgs on the Move,” see the UGA Alumni Association website at, or contact Margaret Sullivan, Atlanta programs coordinator, at or 404/814-8818

Research teams use grant to investigate vaccine for obesity


Obesity & Immunology, Obesity Initiative at UGA

More Obesity Initiative news in Columns! Check out this great update for the Obesity & Immunology team.

Here’s a snippet of the Columns article that I wrote:

Since discovered as a way to prevent smallpox in the 1700s, vaccines have earned a spot among the greatest advances in medicine. Now, UGA researchers are looking to vaccines to prevent obesity, one of the biggest health challenges facing not just the U.S., but countries worldwide.

Obesity is now understood to be caused by a complex interaction of genetic, behavioral, nutritional and-scientists now believe-viral factors, opening the door for potential prevention with a vaccine.

“We’re taking advantage of the fact that a unique variation, or serotype, of adenovirus has been found to cause obesity in animal models and has been associated with obesity in humans,” said Ralph Tripp, professor of infectious diseases in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Vaccine Development.

Tripp is part of two research teams that received $25,000 each from UGA’s Obesity Initiative to collect initial data for current and future grant proposals. One is investigating obesity and bone strength, and the other is researching obesity and stem cells.

“By teaming with professors in foods and nutrition, infectious disease, and biochemistry and molecular biology, we’re able to combine our strengths to look at how infectious disease and stem cell development can impact obesity,” Tripp said. “We’ve brought together the various sciences for which we didn’t previously have expertise.”

Dawgs on the Move: Albany Marathon Pre-race Carb Up Dinner


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Dawgs are on the move! Come fuel up with fellow UGA alumni runners the night before the Albany Marathon & Half Marathon at our first Dawgs on the Move: Albany Pre-Race Carb Up Dinner. As you prep for your long run, join us to learn about the Alumni Association’s partnership with the University of Georgia’s Obesity Initiative, which strives to promote a healthy lifestyle by getting alumni moving.

Check out the event details and sign up!

The University of Georgia launched the Obesity Initiative in January 2012 in an effort to tackle Georgia’s multi-faceted obesity problem through treatment, prevention, and research. In order to raise awareness of the Obesity Initiative, the UGA Alumni Association created the Dawgs on the Move program to encourage UGA alumni to participate in physical activities. Whether alumni are inspired to participate in organized races or take part in a family bike ride, Dawgs on the Move celebrates and rewards the effort to be active. While the Obesity Initiative focuses on the state of Georgia, Dawgs on the Move will gather UGA Alumni and friends at walking and running events throughout the country. For more information about UGA’s Obesity Initiative, visit

Our dinner will feature a healthy carb and protein rich meal of baked spaghetti with ground turkey, vegetarian whole wheat pasta, salad, green beans, and dessert. We look forward to providing you and your friends & family with a delicious meal guaranteed to give you the necessary energy for the miles ahead. Come out to carb up before the Albany Marathon & Half Marathon to learn more about how you can be involved in Dawgs on the Move!

DawgsMOVE teams help UGA employees to stay fit


Obesity in the Workplace, Obesity Initiative at UGA

The University’s kinesiology department is doing it again. They’re reaching out to employees to help with health and wellness, and a new aspect of the DawgsMOVE program will provide a health coach and motivation to get moving.

Here’s the description about BlackDawg:

A brand new health and wellness program for faculty, staff, retirees, and their dependents. This program allows members to get oriented to the Ramsey Student Center for Physical Activity. It offers faculty/staff only group workouts and facilitated group exercise. Each member will be assigned a health coach who will help with accountability, progress tracking, and motivation. The ultimate goal of the BlackDawgs option is to give members the confidence and knowledge to be self-sufficient in leading a long-term healthy lifestyle.

The total membership cost per month is $35. There’s an existing RedDawgs program as well:

The RedDawgs program is an already existing program in the Kinesiology department. The RedDawgs program is open to the community and is located downstairs in the Ramsey building. This program accommodates both healthy adults and individuals with chronic diseases who have received physician clearance for participation in a supervised exercise program.

There’s also a combined Black & RedDawgs program:

The Black&RedDawgs is a hybrid program of both the RedDawgs and BlackDawgs programs. Members of this program enjoy a multitude of options when it comes to their personal fitness. Members of the Black&RedDawgs will receive all of the benefits from both programs.

Perhaps these programs could lead to a new atmosphere of health and wellness for UGA employees!


Parasitic worms could help fight obesity-related diseases


Obesity in the News, Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Studies

Say what? Now this is an interesting story written by James Hataway, a colleague in the Office for the Vice President of Research.

The intro is pretty great. Check it out this UGA News release:

On the list of undesirable medical conditions, a parasitic worm infection surely ranks fairly high. Although modern pharmaceuticals have made them less of a threat in some areas, these organisms are still a major cause of disease and disability throughout much of the developing world.

But parasites are not all bad, according to new research by a team of scientists now at the University of Georgia, the Harvard School of Public Health, the Université François Rabelais in Tours, France, and the Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China.

A study published recently in Nature Medicine demonstrates that once inside a host, many parasitic worms secrete a sugar-based anti-inflammatory molecule that might actually help treat metabolic disorders associated with obesity.

The story was immediately featured in several outlets, including this Atlanta Business Chronicle article. Want to know how this is possible? Check it out:

A study demonstrates that once inside a host, many parasitic worms secrete a sugar-based anti-inflammatory molecule that might actually help treat metabolic disorders associated with obesity.

The sugar molecule, or glycan, is released by parasites to help them evade the body’s immune system. By reducing inflammation, they are better able to hide in tissues, and humans experience fewer symptoms that might reveal their presence.

“Obesity is an inflammatory disease, so we hypothesized that this sugar might have some effect on complications related to it,” said Donald Harn, Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Infectious Diseases.

New Mexico State University researchers study student and staff obesity


Obesity Initiative at UGA

University of Georgia professors hope to start some wellness programs on campus for staff and faculty. It looks like some other universities around the country have the same idea and could provide some insight.

From the Associated Press:

New Mexico State University researchers have launched a study to examine obesity among NMSU students and employees.

Researchers recently developed an online survey aimed at finding out more on obesity and lifestyle factors of students and employees, especially in southern New Mexico

So far, the survey has found that 47 percent of NMSU and employee respondents self-reported as overweight or obese.

Susan Wilson, an associate professor in NMSU’s Department of Health Science and the study’s lead researcher, says she would like to see future studies that look more closely at stressors in the environment and “culturally acceptable versus ideal notions of weight and obesity.”

Obesity bigger health crisis than hunger, global report states


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Here’s the second huge media crazy about obesity recently. Obesity is now a bigger health concern globally than hunger. Are we really surprised? And if that’s true, how can we reconcile these two ends?

Here’s a bit of the CNN story that’s being featured in countless outlets:

Obesity is a bigger health crisis globally than hunger, and the leading cause of disabilities around the world, according to a new report published Thursday in the British medical journal The Lancet.

Nearly 500 researchers from 50 countries compared health data from 1990 through 2010 for the Global Burden of Disease report, revealing what they call a massive shift in global health trends.

“We discovered that there’s been a huge shift in mortality. Kids who used to die from infectious disease are now doing extremely well with immunization,” said Ali Mokdad, co-author of the study and professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which led the collaborative project.

“However, the world is now obese and we’re seeing the impact of that.”

The report revealed that every country, with the exception of those in sub-Saharan Africa, faces alarming obesity rates — an increase of 82% globally in the past two decades. Middle Eastern countries are more obese than ever, seeing a 100% increase since 1990.

“The so-called ‘Western lifestyle’ is being adapted all around the world, and the impacts are all the same,” Mokdad said.

The health burden from high body mass indexes now exceeds that due to hunger, according to the report.

And for the first time, noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, stroke and heart disease top the list of leading causes of years spent sick or injured.

Youth obesity falls in several cities


Obesity Initiative at UGA

The latest obesity news to go big in the media — obesity rates are falling in some cities. But does this mean we can rest easy? I don’t think so.

Here’s a snippet of the New York Times story about it all:

After decades of rising childhood obesity rates, several American cities are reporting their first declines.

The trend has emerged in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, as well as smaller places like Anchorage, Alaska, and Kearney, Neb. The state of Mississippi has also registered a drop, but only among white students.

“It’s been nothing but bad news for 30 years, so the fact that we have any good news is a big story,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the health commissioner in New York City, which reported a 5.5 percent decline in the number of obese schoolchildren from 2007 to 2011.

The drops are small, just 5 percent here in Philadelphia and 3 percent in Los Angeles. But experts say they are significant because they offer the first indication that the obesity epidemic, one of the nation’s most intractable health problems, may actually be reversing course.

The first dips — noted in a September report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — were so surprising that some researchers did not believe them.

Deanna M. Hoelscher, a researcher at the University of Texas, who in 2010 recorded one of the earliest declines — among mostly poor Hispanic fourth graders in the El Paso area — did a double-take. “We reran the numbers a couple of times,” she said. “I kept saying, ‘Will you please check that again for me?’ ”

More Americans say obesity is most urgent health problem, Gallup says


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Gallup strikes again. They’re always working on interesting polls, and this one strikes to the heart of the UGA Obesity Initiative. In Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare survey, obesity is climbing to the top as one of the nation’s urgent health problems.

Check the Gallup results here:

More Americans than in the past say obesity is the most urgent health problem facing the United States, climbing to a new high of 16%. That compares with 1% in 1999, when Gallup began asking the question on an annual basis.

These results are based on Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare survey, conducted Nov. 15-18. As part of that survey, Gallup asks Americans, in an open-ended format, to name the nation’s most urgent health problem. The question was first asked in 1987, with obesity receiving mentions of 3% or less prior to the annual updates that started in 1999.

Americans’ increasing concerns about obesity mirror the rising rates of obesity in the United States. The percentage of adults who are obese doubled from 1980 to 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Gallup and Healthways find obesity remains high as of the third quarter of 2012, at 26.1%.

Despite the growing concern in the U.S. about obesity, it still ranks third on the list of most urgent health problems. Americans’ top health concern remains access to healthcare, as it has been since 2007, but the 23% who name the issue this year is down slightly from 27% in 2011. The cost of healthcare is a close second, with the 19% naming it as the most urgent health issue — on par with the past three years.

VA scientists manipulate enzyme to reduce obesity


Obesity Initiative at UGA

We know that UGA professors are looking at epigenetics and other ways to manipulate and study obesity. Check out this interesting study at the Virginia Commonwealth University regarding obesity and enzymes in mice:

From Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News:

Scientists say thay have successfully reversed obesity in mice by manipulating the production of an enzyme known as tyrosine-protein kinase-2 (Tyk2). In their experiments, the team at the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center discovered that mice lacking Tyk2 become progressively obese due to aberrant development of Myf5+ brown adipose tissue (BAT), and they claim that this applies to humans as well.

The researchers say the study is the first to provide evidence of the relationship between Tyk2 and brown fat. Previous studies by the team, led by Andrew Larner, M.D., Ph.D., revealed that Tyk2 helps suppress the growth and metastasis of breast cancer, and now the current study suggests this same enzyme could help protect against and even reverse obesity.

Tyk2 RNA levels in BAT and skeletal muscle, which shares a common progenitor with BAT, are dramatically decreased in mice placed on a high-fat diet and in obese humans. The scientists were able to reverse obesity in mice that do not express Tyk2 by expressing a protein known as signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 (Stat3). Stat3 mediates the expression of a variety of genes that regulate a host of cellular processes. Tyk2-negative mice expressing CAStat3 transgene in brown fat also show improved BAT development, normal levels of insulin, and significantly lower body weights. The researchers found that Stat3 formed a complex with a protein known as PR domain containing 16 (PRDM16) to restore the development of BAT and decrease obesity.

“We discovered that Tyk2 levels in mice are regulated by diet. We then tested tissue samples from humans and found that levels of Tyk2 were more than 50 percent lower in obese humans,” says Dr. Larner, Martha Anne Hatcher distinguished professor in oncology and co-leader of the cancer cell signaling program at VCU Massey Cancer Center. “Our findings open new potential avenues for research and development of new pharmacological and nutritional treatments for obesity.”