UC Berkeley News


Atkins Foundation's $10 million bequest to campus weight and health center will aid in fight against obesity
Fund praises the work of center's researchers 'out in the trenches'

| 31 January 2007

The Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Foundation has pledged $10 million to the Center for Weight and Health to support nutrition research and obesity-prevention programs.

The announcement was made last week at the 2007 California Childhood Obesity Conference in Anaheim. In recognition of the unrestricted bequest, the center will be renamed the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health.

The center, founded at Berkeley in 1999, was based solely at the College of Natural Resources until 2005, when it became jointly administered by the School of Public Health. Pat Crawford, an adjunct professor of nutrition at the College of Natural Resources (CNR) and the School of Public Health, is the center's co-director, along with May Wang, adjunct assistant professor of community health and human development at the School of Public Health.

"What distinguishes our center is our focus on the prevention of pediatric obesity," says Crawford. "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."

"Obesity, especially childhood obesity, is the major health problem facing our society today," says Paul Ludden, dean of the College of Natural Resources. "Clearly, the Atkins Foundation recognizes the power of the synergy between top-ranked programs in nutrition and public health as providing the total package for addressing this important health issue."

The center, which does not conduct research evaluating diet plans, brings together experts from multiple disciplines in recognition of the complex mix of contributors to the obesity epidemic. Center researchers emphasize that solutions must involve many sectors of society, including food production and distribution, community safety and design, the health-care system, schools, and the media.

The center is currently home to some 30 active research projects, including a community-intervention program to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes among overweight, low-income African American children; evaluation of state laws taking effect this year that phase out sodas and sweetened beverages in public schools; and a prospective study evaluating the timing of food intake in relation to weight among teenage girls.

The center's focus on practical obesity- prevention applications was particularly appealing to the Atkins Foundation. "The researchers at the center are out in the trenches, in the community, working hands-on to help people have healthier lifestyles," says Abby Bloch, the foundation's executive director of program and research. "Their commitment 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 Atkins Foundation was established in 2003 following the death of Dr. Robert C. Atkins, whose pioneering, often controversial clinical work and writings popularized a low-carbohydrate lifestyle. The foundation, which is unaffiliated with and operates independently of Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., funds independent, evidence-based research examining the role of nutrition and metabolism in obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other major health conditions, as well as educational programs, public-health advocacy initiatives, and endowed professorships.

"The center at Berkeley is a tribute to my husband's belief in the power of influencing public-health outcomes," says Veronica Atkins, chair of the foundation's board. "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."

Funding for the center has come from grants to its researchers and administrative support from CNR and the School of Public Health. Upon the death of Veronica Atkins, the center will receive the $10 million gift from the foundation. Until then, the campus will continue to provide $500,000 per year in support for the center.

For information about the Center for Weight and Health, visit nature.berkeley.edu/cwh.