Thursday, January 25, 2007

Veronica Atkins Promises $10 Million To UC Berkeley For Childhood Obesity Research

Atkins pledged money to Pat Crawford and her researchers at UC Berkeley

In an official presentation at the 2007 California Childhood Obesity Conference in Anaheim, CA on Wednesday night, The Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Foundation agreed to pledge $10 million to the Center For Weight And Health at the University of California-Berkeley for research into eradicating childhood obesity.

The center's co-founder Pat Crawford, who is also co-director of the center, Cooperative Extension Nutrition Specialist in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, and Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health and Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology (whew, that's a mouthful for a title!), was thrilled by the donation from the widow of the late, great Dr. Robert C. Atkins and agreed to rename the center the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health as a small gesture of her appreciation for the much-needed funds.

"What distinguishes our center is our focus on the prevention of pediatric obesity, and we are so grateful that the Atkins Foundation is supportive of that," she said. "With this pledge, we'll be able to continue the important work we've been doing to help reverse the troubling epidemic of childhood obesity in this country."

Stephen M. Shortell, who serves as dean of the School of Public Health, said the timing of this pledge could not have been better to continue on the legacy of Dr. Atkins and the center for the "generations" to come.

"The Atkins Foundation support will significantly strengthen our ability to solve one of the nation's most intractable problems--the growing percentage of Americans who are overweight and obese," he said. "The foundation's commitment means that we will be able to touch thousands more lives with our interdisciplinary research and teaching that ranges from basic science research to community-wide interventions."

You will recall that Veronica Atkins has been quite the philanthropist over the past year or so providing funding to solid nutritional research that furthers the cause that Dr. Atkins was pursuing--namely eliminating obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and more through the use of sound scientific methodology. Other benefactors of these dollars include The University of Connecticut, The University of Texas-Southwestern, and Dr. Atkins' alma mater at The University of Michigan.

While funding alone is NOT the answer to the childhood obesity problem that plagues our nation, I like the way Mrs. Atkins is being discerning about who gets the money and who doesn't. If the potential recipients are unwilling to even consider the positive benefits of livin' la vida low-carb as the starting point for their research, then it's a sure bet the funding will go elsewhere.

While the new Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health does not actually promote or advocate the Atkins low-carb nutritional approach in its research, they are most certainly open to a wide variety of ways for handling the obesity problem from different perspectives customized to the individual. The researchers there are adamant that obesity be examined at every point in the proverbial food chain, including where the food is produced and distributed, how it is handled in the process of bringing it to the market, and the unique role played by the health industry, public education and even the pesky media who has a knack for conveniently leaving out pertinent facts regarding the treatment of obesity.

Right now, there are 30 different ongoing research projects, inlcuding a program aimed at poor black children with Type 2 diabetes, the removal of sugary soft drinks from public schools, and the impact of the frequency of meals on the weight of teenage girls. These are the kind of studies that will be funded thanks to the generous donation from Mrs. Atkins.

"The center at UC Berkeley is a tribute to my husband's belief in the power of influencing public health outcomes, particularly in the battle against obesity," Veronica Atkins stated at the obesity conference on Wednesday evening. "On behalf of the Atkins Foundation, I am proud to partner with a center as active and accomplished as Berkeley's, and excited to support the ongoing advances of its outstanding researchers."

Mrs. Atkins was especially drawn to the preventative nature of the research being done at UC Berkeley and how those measures could be clearly explained to the public for easy implementation. In other words, Atkins Foundation executive director Abby Bloch said, it's more than just coming up with a few theories for dealing with obesity, but actually identifying solutions that will have a greater impact over the long-term.

"The researchers at the center are out in the trenches, in the community, working hands-on to help people have healthier lifestyles," she noted. "The commitment of these researchers to this area of research and the translational application into the community are very much on target with the mission and goal of the foundation."

The center will continue to be funded by $500,000 grants from the College of Natural Resources and the School of Public Health until Veronica Atkins passes away. At the time, the center will inherit her $10 million gift.

Lost in the debate over the long-term health benefits of livin' la vida low-carb is the fact that the science is indeed coming, as Dr. Eric Westman from Duke University recently said in my interview with him, to prove the veracity of this diet. All those people who thumb their nose up at this way of eating smugly proclaim that there are no real studies showing low-carb is a healthy diet for the long-term.

Because of the generosity of the lovely and gracious Veronica Atkins and the money her husband made from the sale of his diet books, the next 5, 10, and even 20 years should be VERY exciting to watch as we continue to learn more about how safe and effective the Atkins diet is not just for weight loss, but improving overall health as well. Ready or not, here it comes!

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Blogger Science4u1959 said...

What a wonderful and generous woman. I have the deepest respect!

1/28/2007 12:16 AM  

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