MAKING AN IMPACT

Pennington Biomedical is researching ways to help women reduce diabetes risk after menopause

Released: Thursday, May 05, 2016

Average life expectancy in the United States has risen to nearly 79 years. That's good news and a significant increase from decades past. The not so good news is that people who are living longer are dealing with chronic medical issues far longer than in years past. These diseases – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. – can take a toll on the body.

"As you age, your risk for being diagnosed with diabetes increases considerably, especially for people who are over 45 years old," explains Dr. Eric Ravussin, who serves as associate executive director of clinical research at LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center. "That's especially true for women going through menopause. These women often experience weight gain as their estrogen levels decrease."

That gain in weight—often around the midsection—causes a spike in the risk for diabetes and other diseases such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

"We know that extra weight carried around the midsection is particularly dangerous since it sits so close to vital organs such as the liver and the heart," said Ravussin.

To help improve the quality of life for women as they age, Pennington Biomedical has undertaken a new project called the RISE research study. This study aims to investigate whether a current post-menopausal treatment will improve how the body responds to insulin and burns calories from fat.

Ravussin and his colleagues at Pennington Biomedical and Tulane University are testing whether a generic version of an existing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug currently prescribed for the treatment of postmenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, dryness and osteoporosis may also be able to improve insulin sensitivity and potentially decrease body fat in postmenopausal women.

"If research can help us find ways to improve insulin sensitivity and help these women avoid some of the normal consequences of menopause, then we can substantially cut their risk for a diabetes diagnosis," said Dr. Kara Marlatt, who is working with Ravussin on the study.

"A lot of the women who have already volunteered for this study are really interested in learning more about their health and they want to help contribute to science that supports the creation of better treatments and a better quality of life in the future for their daughters, nieces and for their whole community," said Marlatt.

For this study, participants receive health information and insight to share with their primary care physicians, including a body composition scan that shows the percentage of muscle, fat and bone in the body, as well as an MRI to measure fat deposits in tissue and organs, lab work and study-related medication at no cost. Additionally, participants also receive compensation for their time.
For more information on the RISE research study and how to participate, go to www.pbrc.edu/healthierLA or call 225-763-3000.