John Arnold's Foundation Awards $5 Million to Launch Obesity Studies

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation has donated $5 million to the recently launched Nutrition Science Initiative for research on obesity, Capital Public Radio reports.

According to NuSI, large-scale scientific studies that tackle fundamental questions about obesity — such as how food really affects fat, hormones, and the brain — are needed to determine whether dietary guidelines and beliefs about what causes obesity are accurate or, as NuSI co-founder Gary Taubes has argued for several years, based on poor science. The money from the foundation will enable the initiative to fund the "best nutrition researchers in the country," said NuSI president Peter Attia.

Awarded through the foundation's research integrity initiative, the funds will enable NuSI researchers to conduct larger and more nuanced studies than what they are currently able to do under the five-year, $2.5 million National Institutes of Health grants most of them rely on. Moreover, the studies will not be dependent on the food industry, whose backing has often left consumers and others skeptical of obesity-related research findings.

NuSI hopes to develop the tools needed to lower the obesity prevalence rate in the U.S. from 35 percent to 15 percent and the diabetes rates from 8 percent to 2 percent by 2020. Improvements in the two rates of that magnitude would translate to billions of dollars in healthcare savings. "We want to get to the moon," Attia told CPR. "In other words, we want to discover the perfect set of rules and understand what controls obesity and the metabolic syndrome." 

Eliza Barclay. "Billionaires Fund a 'Manhattan Project' For Nutrition and Obesity." Capital Public Radio 09/21/2012.