Highlights of VA Research on Obesity, Diabetes, and Digestive Disorders
February 14, 2020
In honor of the National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention's "
Strive for a Health Weight Month," our focus is on research that seeks better ways to address obesity, diabetes, and digestive disorders
VA research on obesity looks at the biological processes underlying weight gain and weight loss. Researchers aim to compare the safety and effectiveness of treatments for obesity, and work to find ways to help Veterans maintain a healthy weight—for example, through exercise and healthy eating. VA researchers work hand in hand with the department's MOVE! program, a national weight-management and exercise initiative.
VA researchers are working to develop better ways to prevent or treat diabetes, especially in special populations such as the elderly, amputees, minorities, spinal cord-injury patients, and those with kidney or heart disease. Investigators are also studying the effectiveness of innovative therapies like group visits, telemedicine, and peer counseling.
To find out more, visit Highlights of VA Research on Diabetes .
Gastroenterology is a medical specialty that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the digestive system. VA researchers are seeking new treatments to help Veterans who experience stomach ulcers, C. difficile infections, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), colon cancer, and gastroesophageal reflux disease, among others. Areas of focus include new drug therapies and complementary therapies like meditation and probiotics.
VA Research Currents
Study suggests a more accurate approach to diabetes diagnosis
Using HbA1c (hemoglobin A1c) levels alone can lead to over- and under-diagnosis of diabetes, says a VA research team. They say oral glucose tests should be used along with HbA1c to ensure a proper diagnosis.... (02/12/2020)
Oral diabetes drug linked to lower odds of colon cancer
A new study has linked the widely used oral diabetes drug metformin to lower odds of colorectal cancer. The study involved a large sample of VA patients with diabetes who had a colonoscopy.... (12/10/2019)
Bariatric surgery may not lead to lower health care costs
Despite helping to bring about improved survival and significant weight loss, bariatric surgery may not lead to lower health care costs in the long term, says a VA study.... (10/30/2019)
Abnormal gut bugs tied to worse cognitive performance in Vets with PTSD and cirrhosis
A study involving Veterans with PTSD and cirrhosis of the liver points to an abnormal mix of bacteria in the intestines as a possible driver of poor cognitive performance—and as a potential target for therapy. ... (09/11/2019)
Deployment-linked digestive problems
VA Research is planning a series of studies to gain insight into the gastrointestinal and liver problems that beset many Veterans after deployments. The goal is to bring new treatments to bear as soon as possible. ... (08/21/2019)
Online program helps Veterans lose weight, potentially prevent diabetes
VA researchers compared an online version of the Diabetes Prevention Program to an in-person DPP and to MOVE!, VA's flagship weight management program.... (02/05/2019)
Demanding, fast-paced military lifestyle may cause women to adopt poor eating habits
VA researchers sought to learn how the unique demands of the military lifestyle had affected the eating habits of 20 female Veterans who had reported changing their eating habits in response to stress while in the service.... (06/27/2018)
VA Research Quarterly Update
New clinical trial looks at home use of fecal transplants to prevent C. difficile VA researchers at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System are beginning a new clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of home use of fecal microbiota therapy (FMT) to prevent recurrence of Clostridium difficile infections. The study is called Microbiota or Placebo after Antimicrobial Therapy for Recurrent C. difficile at Home. MATCH will assess the effectiveness of FMT delivered via an oral capsule, rather than by colonoscopy. ( September 2018)
VA Researchers Who Served
Dr. Gail Cresci
Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, Gastroenterology
"As an active-duty dietitian in the Army, I was able to experience firsthand the exposures that service members and Veterans have to many nutritionally related digestive disorders."
(5/25/17) April Ahrendt
Sioux Falls VA Health Care System, Weight management
"I feel that being a Vet gives me some insight into military-connected health conditions that need more research for prevention and treatment."
VA Research News Briefs
More study needed on best C. difficile prevention practices
Photo by Mitch Mirkin
A study of
C. difficile in VA hospitals did not find a clear link between prevention practices and infection rates. Researchers surveyed 123 VA facilities. Since implementing prevention practices in 2012, 49% of facilities reported decreased C. difficile rates. Eighteen percent reported an increase, and 33% reported no change. The variation did not appear to be linked to self-reported cleaning practices, length of contact precautions, use of private rooms, or certification of infection preventionists. More study is needed on what practices prevent C. difficile spread, say the researchers. ( , January 2020)
Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology
Mouse study explores benefits of calorie restriction
Photo: ©iStock/Eduard Lysenko
A VA mouse study has challenged the understanding of how calorie restriction improves health. Limiting calories is known to improve health in mammals, including humans. Prior thought was that this is achieved through improved insulin sensitivity. Researchers at the Madison, Wisconsin, VA tested the effects of calorie restriction on mice with insulin resistance. Calorie-restricted mice had improved fitness and longevity compared to control mice. Calorie rest riction led to similar improvements in both insulin-resistant and non-insulin-resistant mice. The results show that the health benefits of calorie restriction are not solely based on insulin sensitivity, say the researchers. (
, Oct. 1, 2019)
Diet quality affects gut microbiome
Quality of diet affects the microbiome in the digestive tract, found a Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center study. Researchers studied the types of bacteria present in the colon of patients undergoing a colonoscopy. They found that patients who reported eating a good-quality diet—one high in fruits, vegetable, and whole grains and low in sugar, alcohol, and fats—had higher levels of beneficial bacteria, such as those with anti-inflammatory properties. Those with a poor-quality diet, by comparison, had more potentially harmful bacteria, such as bacteria linked to colorectal cancer. The study suggests that the microbiome of the colon can be modified through diet, which could help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, say the researchers. (
, July 10, 2019)
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Weight management boosts quality of life in serious mental illness
Both in-person and web-based weight management programs improved quality of life for patients with serious mental illness, in a study by Baltimore VA Medical Center researchers. Patients with serious mental illness are often at greater risk for obesity. Researchers analyzed outcomes for patients participating in the in-person MOVE! weight management program or the online version, WebMOVE. Participants in the in-person program showed decreases in loneliness, compared with normal care, after six months. Those in WebMOVE had increases in weight-related self-esteem after six months. Both groups had significant increases in health-related quality of life, compared with patients in usual care. The results show that both in-person and web-based weight management counseling can promote “holistic” recovery for patients with serious mental illness, according to the researchers. (
, March 7, 2019
Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting
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