Low Oxygen Weight Loss Trial at Pennington Biomedical Open to Participants

Published 9:02 am Monday, May 8, 2023

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BATON ROUGE – Does altitude play a role in weight loss? Why is it easier to lose weight in Colorado versus Louisiana? Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center are seeking answers to these questions through one of the latest research trials, the “Low Oxygen and Weight Status,” or LOWS study. The LOWS study will determine whether exposure to low oxygen levels in the air, similar to those at higher altitudes, can help individuals with obesity lose weight and improve health.

The LOWS study is now open for participant enrollment. Participants will be randomized to either sleep in a tent with oxygen levels equivalent to 8,500 feet, similar to that of the elevation of Aspen, Colorado, or sleep in a tent with normal oxygen levels, similar to the elevation of Baton Rouge. The study will take place over four months, including eight weeks, where participants will eat a weight loss diet and sleep 8 hours per night in an oxygen tent, also called an altitude tent, which will be installed around their bed at home. To see if you are eligible for enrollment, explore the study here.

“For our field of research, particularly in nutrition, metabolism, obesity and more, other institutes simply can’t compete with the resources, equipment, and lab space of Pennington Biomedical,” said Dr. Claire Berryman, assistant professor in the Clinical Science Nutritional Physiology Lab and lead researcher for the LOWS study. “This facility is a rare gem in the nutrition research world, and Baton Rouge residents can play a major role in the discoveries made here. If you fit the criteria for the Low Oxygen and Weight Status study, please consider enrolling. The results of this study may inform new strategies to improve metabolic health.”

Dr. Berryman’s past research includes investigating health and performance of soldiers during training at high altitude, which showed that body weight loss in this healthy population was considerably greater at high altitude than under similar conditions at sea level. Such effects have the potential to negatively impact soldier readiness and performance. However, while high latitude may lead to undesirable weight loss in soldiers, its potential as a weight loss tool for adults with excess weight has not been explored. The underlying goal of the LOWS study is to determine whether sleeping in the low oxygen tent leads to increases in energy expenditure, decreases in appetite, greater body weight loss and better insulin sensitivity.

Dr. Berryman joined Pennington Biomedical in August 2022, bringing with her a $2.3 million grant award from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, a division of the National Institutes of Health. Prior to arriving at Pennington Biomedical, Berryman and her husband, Assistant Professor Stephen Hennigar, served as post-doctoral researchers for the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine or USARIEM. The two then served as assistant professors at Florida State University.

“We are excited to have both Dr. Claire Berryman and Dr. Stephen Hennigar at Pennington Biomedical. They are up and comers in their fields,” said Dr. John Kirwan, Pennington Biomedical Executive Director. “The history they both have in working with the military and their focus on metabolism made them natural fits for the research we do. The LOWS study is an important project, and one that could provide insight into how altitude affects weight loss.”

In addition to Berryman and Hennigar, other Pennington Biomedical investigators on the LOWS project include professors Drs. Eric Ravussin, Jennifer Rood and Frank Greenway. The collaborative research and world-renowned research laboratories at PBRC ultimately enticed Berryman and Hennigar to Baton Rouge.

About the Pennington Biomedical Research Center

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. The Center architected the national “Obecity, USA” awareness and advocacy campaign to help solve the obesity epidemic by 2040. The Center conducts basic, clinical, and population research, and is affiliated with LSU.

The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 480 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and other support personnel. Pennington Biomedical a state-of-the-art research facility on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge.

For more information, see www.pbrc.edu.