Temple Times Online Edition
    MARCH 23, 2006
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Obesity expert to head new research, education center


With nearly half of all children projected to be overweight by the end of the decade, Temple has taken a major step toward understanding and addressing the obesity epidemic by appointing Gary Foster to lead the University’s new Center for Obesity Research and Education (CORE).

Foster, an internationally renowned obesity researcher who investigates the behavioral and biological effects of dieting and weight loss, was attracted to Temple because of the University’s commitment to supporting a multidisciplinary, University-wide research program. He is formerly the clinical director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Weight and Eating Disorders Program.

“There’s hardly an organ system or social construct with which obesity doesn’t intersect,” said Foster, who plans to build on the excellent faculty already here as well as recruit five to 10 new CORE faculty members over the next three years.

Foster has already recruited Angie Makris, an expert on feeding behavior and the efficacy of different obesity treatments, from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research currently focuses on the effects of various diets, such as low-carbohydrate, on satiety, eating behavior and weight loss. Another new addition is Melissa Napolitano, an expert on physical activity initiation, adoption and maintenance, particularly in women, who is coming from Brown University. Napolitano will also hold an appointment in the department of kinesiology in the College of Health Professions.

“Our vision is to link faculty, across various schools and colleges, with obesity-related interests, or whose primary interest is linked to obesity,” Foster said. “If there’s any condition that requires a multi-disciplinary approach, it’s obesity.”

CORE will be the focal point for expanding Temple’s research involvement in all aspects of obesity — basic and clinical research, epidemiology and outcome studies involving adult and pediatric patients — as well as for launching important outreach programs in local communities and school systems. CORE’s work also will complement Temple’s large bariatric surgery program.

Foster brings several ongoing National Institutes of Health studies to Temple that total to just more than $4 million per year. He is lead investigator of one clinical trial in the fourth of five years comparing low-carbohydrate to low-fat diets. It also involves the universities of Colorado and Pennsylvania, and Washington University in St. Louis.

A second NIH study involves the effects of weight loss on sleep apnea. It was recently renewed and will begin it sixth year at Temple. Penn, the University of Pittsburgh, and Brown and Columbia universities also are participating.

Beginning this fall, Foster will be leading another NIH-funded study: a three-year, seven-center interventional trial. It will gauge efforts to prevent obesity and reduce diabetes risk in 42 middle schools throughout the country that have a majority of particularly at-risk African-American and/or Latino students.

CORE is located in a renovated space at the old dental school at the Health Sciences Center. Foster, professor of medicine holding a joint appointment at the College of Health Professions and the School of Medicine, is vice president (he will be president in 2008) of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity–The Obesity Society. He is also author of the obesity section of Encarta, and co-editor of two books: Obesity, Growth and Development, published in 2001; and Managing Obesity: A Clinical Guide, 2004.

- By Tory Harris