The University of Louisville has received a second multi-million dollar grant to continue studying the effects of diabetes and obesity.
The $11.25 million grant from the National Institutes for Health will help the school’s Center for Diabetes and Obesity develop new researchers over the next five years who can continue their work after graduating from the program.
Dr. Aruni Bhutnagar is director of the U of L center conducting the research. He says Kentucky needs help with educating people about healthy habits because the state has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity.
“We have the [third] lowest level of physical activity among high school students in the country and I think we are not doing anything to address that at all,” he says.
This 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control shows only around 17 percent of Kentucky high school students report being physically active, which is among the lowest for states that reported results.
Bhutnager says studies have also suggested that air pollution may exacerbate diabetes.
He says studies show stem cells, which help the body repair itself, are depressed in diabetics. And when his group considered students in Utah who lived in a polluted valley he saw a correlation with amount of soot in the air.
“What we found on days of high pollution was that their stem cell levels were suppressed,” he says.
The American Diabetes Association says pollution also causes inflammation, which may also be linked to diabetes. Bhutnagar says he wants to keep looking at this issue and the group plans a follow -up study using local subjects.