Professors Take Leadership Roles at Obesity Week 2014

Incoming Nutritional Sciences department chair will take over as president of The Obesity Society.


Naima Moustaid-Moussa

The newly formed Department of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech University is positioning itself to be among the world's leading programs in obesity and nutritional sciences with substantial contributions to this week's annual scientific sessions of The Obesity Society at ObesityWeek™ in Boston this week.

Obesity Week is an annual event that brings together experts and policymakers from throughout the world to discuss obesity research and treatment. It began Sunday and continues through Friday.

Among the contributions being made, Obesity Research Cluster director Naima Moustaid-Moussa's Nutrigenomics, Inflammation & Obesity Research lab is presenting on the topic of inflammation in obesity with a study finding eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in certain types of fish, could reduce inflammation and obesity. Graduate student Monique Lemieux, who won an award for a presentation at Obesity Week 2013, is presenting the study.

“This work is about added beneficial effects of an omega-3 fatty acid, EPA, already known to reduce blood and liver triglycerides,” Moustaid-Moussa said. “Here we have shown in animal studies that EPA reduces obesity and insulin resistance induced by a high-fat diet in part by decreasing fat tissue expansion and inflammation.”


Jamie Cooper

Moustaid-Moussa serves on the leadership team of The Obesity Society's Basic Science Section. She is one of several Texas Tech faculty members with leadership roles in the organization. Associate professor Martin Binks is the secretary-treasurer, assistant professor Jamie Cooper is taking over as chairwoman of the organization's audit committee, and incoming department chairman professor Nikhil Dhurandhar is taking over as president of The Obesity Society.

Obesity and Sickle Cell Disease

Binks' Behavioral Medicine & Translational Research Lab, in collaboration with colleagues at Duke University Medical Center, is presenting work by graduate student lab members Lori Boyd and Kelli Kaufman on the topic of obesity and sickle cell disease (SCD) in African-American clinic patients.

“Historically, people with SCD have been at risk for underweight and premature death,” Binks said. “However, as treatments, health and longevity improve, these novel studies are demonstrating that obesity is increasingly becoming a concern in this population. Our group is among the very first, if not the first, to publish findings on this topic.”

Binks will participate in multiple sessions, including a panel discussion for early career development and will accept the Atkinson Stern Award for Distinguished Public Service in improving the lives of those affected by obesity through research, clinical intervention and advocacy.


Martin Binks

Artificial Sweeteners

Cooper's Human Nutrition Lab has a number of presentations. Doctoral student Keely Hawkins is presenting a study comparing the physical responses to nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners of obese adults and adults of normal weight, a subject that is particularly relevant now as scientists discuss the potential relationship between artificial sweeteners and the risk of obesity. Former postdoc Sridevi Krishnan is presenting on a study looking at which nutrients are strong predictors in the development of glucose intolerance in elderly populations. The study was done in conjunction with Lyn Steffen of the University of Minnesota.

Incoming assistant professor John Dawson will present research examining expectancy effects on the accuracy of weight measurement.

Dhurandhar present four abstracts in the areas of human adenovirus as it relates to adipogenesis but also improved glycemic control and links between obesity and insulin resistance, including impairment in insulin receptor signaling. These studies represent cutting-edge research relevant to obesity and future treatments for diabetes. Incoming assistant professor Vijay Hegde will be presenting with Dhurandhar.

“This is an exciting time for the faculty in nutritional sciences as we seek to be on the forefront in finding solutions to the disease of obesity and related conditions,” Dhurandhar said. “Our new department's expertise ranges from basic and clinical science through to community outreach and education, and we have assembled an outstanding team to continue to build upon the longstanding tradition of excellence in nutritional sciences at Texas Tech.”

Risk of Obesity


Lynn Huffman

Obesity remains a leading health concern in the United States; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 78.6 million American adults are obese. That's about a third of the population. Medical care for obesity-related issues costs close to $150 billion annually and medical costs for people who are obese are about $1,400 higher than costs for those of a normal weight.

“Obesity Week is an important event that will bring together researchers and other experts from a variety of fields, collaborating to address one of our largest public health problems – obesity,” said Lynn Huffman, executive associate dean of the College of Human Sciences and interim chairwoman of the department. “This area is a major research focus for the Nutritional Sciences department, and I am excited that faculty members and students from our program will be actively participating.”