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McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Newsmagazine — Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2012

Katherine Morrison, co-director  of the MAC-Obesity Research Program, with a patient Lung function test MAC-Obesity Research Program co-directors Greg Steinberg and Katherine Morrison

McMaster researchers team up to target fat in children

McMaster University researchers and clinicians have banded together to address the childhood obesity epidemic.

There's no doubt there's an issue: In Canada the number of children with obesity has tripled in the past 25 years and now more than one in four is overweight. Of those seen for weight management at McMaster Children's Hospital, 80 per cent are at risk of heart disease and one in five has pre-diabetes.

Science hasn't found a cure, yet.

"We can't simply keep saying eat less and exercise more — we know that hasn't worked to improve health," said Katherine Morrison, associate professor of pediatrics. "We need to focus on how to help patients change behaviours and on improving how our bodies regulate themselves and use energy."

The new team is called the MAC-Obesity Research Program, short for Metabolism And Childhood Obesity Research Program. By combining expertise across a wide variety of areas including genetics, metabolism and biochemistry, physical activity, surgery and inflammation, the team hopes to develop new ways to prevent and treat obesity-related diseases.

Start-up funding for the program includes $450,000 from the Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation and physical space at the McMaster Children's Hospital, in addition to $1 million and equipment and research infrastructure from McMaster University.

The research program has set up a website at MAC-Obesity.