Take Off Pounds Sensibly® (TOPS) Club, Inc., a nonprofit, noncommercial network of weight-loss support groups and wellness education organizations, together with the Texas Biomedical Research Institute is creating the new TOPS® Nutrition and Obesity Research Center, which will focus on exploring the causes, risks, and treatments for obesity. Future studies at this center will focus on genetic predisposition to metabolic changes, nutritional preferences, appetite regulation, food intake and choice and incidence of obesity-related illnesses.
“Genetics research has been immensely successful at identifying genes related to obesity; however, we want to now take that knowledge and look at the outcomes of these genetic variants in patients,” said Dr. Michael Olivier, chair of the department of genetics at Texas Biomed, and co-director of the new center. “We want to understand how genes affect how and what people eat and the effects of food choices on health outcomes.”
Investigators at Texas Biomed will be able to tap into TOPS’ vast database of members and their families who may be open to enrolling in obesity studies. They will also have access to TOPS’ comprehensive history of successful weight management results.
“This provides an opportunity for scientists to work directly with study participants who choose to participate and also have access to information collected on these volunteers over extended periods in the past,” said Dr. Anthony Comuzzie, co-director of the TOPS® Nutrition and Obesity Research Center and Scientist at Texas Biomed. “That direct access is critical to compiling accurate and novel data, and evaluating it in the context of an individual’s struggle to maintain their desired weight over the years, something we can all relate to. This information, and the generous cooperation of TOPS® members, will allow us to ask new questions about the ability of individuals to control their food intake in the current environment of constantly available energy-rich food.”
In order to better understand why some obese individuals are more successful at losing weight and keeping it off, the Center will keep a detailed registry of the club’s members who have effectively managed their weight loss journey and outcome. These formerly obese members, amounting to about 20,000 nationwide, are now also members of the Keep Off Pounds Sensibly (KOPS®) group.
“We are excited to partner with Texas Biomed and provide our members the opportunity to help scientists discover genetic linkages to obesity and related diseases that could one day help end the obesity epidemic in America,” said Barbara Cady, TOPS® president. “This collaboration marks our 50th year of pursuing viable treatments with such outstanding scientific partners and trail blazers in the study of obesity.”