Grant funds study of weight gain by obese women during pregnancy

The National Institutes of Health have awarded Cal Poly kinesiology professor Suzanne Phelan a $3.4 million grant to determine if replacing two meals a day with a liquid shake can prevent obese women from gaining a dangerous amount of weight during pregnancy.

Phelan, of Cal Poly’s STRIDE center (Science through Translational Research in Diet and Exercise), is working with a team of investigators at Cal Poly and Brown Medical School. Test subjects will include 215 obese pregnant women in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties as well as 215 in Rhode Island.

More than 33 percent of U.S. women are obese, defined as having a body mass index of more than 30. More than 60 percent of those women gain more weight than recommended during pregnancy, which has been found to increase the risk of several complications during pregnancy and long-term weight gain and obesity, according to a recent news release.

Additionally, babies born to obese mothers are also at greater risk of being born prematurely or too heavy and developing obesity later in life.

Other collaborating Cal Poly professors include statistics professor Andrew Schaffner, who will process data gathered by the researchers; kinesiology professor Todd Hagobian, who will analyze health changes among the subjects; food science and nutrition professor Aydin Nazmi, who will analyze data regarding infant growth and nutrition; and modern languages professor Karen Munoz Christian, who will produce Spanish-language materials for Spanish-speaking participants.

In September, Phelan also received $3 million in NIH grant funding to test whether a new Internet and text messaging weight-loss support program will help low-income multicultural mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight within a year of giving birth.

For more details about Phelan’s study or to refer a candidate for a study, contact project coordinator Anna Brannen at 756-5365.

— Tribune staff report