FSU to host landmark food study

By Kaila Braley


FSU has teamed up with Boston Children’s Hospital to conduct a $10 million food study titled FS2 to understand the way in which certain diets may contribute to maintaining weight loss.


FS2, which stands for Framingham State Food Study, will take place over one academic year, and the researchers anticipate it will include 75 to 100 participants between the ages of 18 and 55, including students, faculty and staff.


There will be two separate studies in subsequent years beginning in academic year 2014-15. Each study will span from September to May.


Some students and faculty will be able to be involved with the research aspect of this study as well.


Because participants can only eat the specific foods outlined in their dietary plans, all of their meals will be provided to them by Sodexo throughout the study period – including over vacations. Participants are not allowed to drink alcohol during the study’s duration.


To begin the study, participants will safely lose a target of 12 percent of their body weight initially on a low-calorie diet in what is called the “run-in” phase. This phase lasts for about 12 weeks.


Then, the participants will randomly be divided into three groups which will be assigned either a high- carbohydrate, moderate-carbohydrate or low-carbohydrate diet. These diets will be carefully portioned and will be given to students, faculty and staff in the dining hall at a particular station.


The study will test to see which of these diets is most eHective at maintaining weight loss most effectively, answering the question of whether calories or composition make the difference in the success of a diet.


For a small duration of time, the participants will then be able to eat as “little or as much as you like until you are full,” said Cara Ebbeling, associate director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, who is one of the directors of the study.


She explained that there will be four major measurement time points: baseline, before participants start the diet; post-weight-loss, before the participants are assigned to a specific diet; midpoint, in the middle of the specific diet; and Onal measurements, after finishing the specific diet.


These measurements will include height, weight, blood pressure, total energy expenditure, resting energy expenditure, exercise test, blood tests, oral glucose tolerance test, physical activity, stool sample, urine sample and body fat.


Participants will drink “doubly labeled” water, which is water with extra neutrons in it. Ebbeling

emphasized that it’s entirely safe to drink, but it helps the researchers track metabolism and energy expenditure.


Most of the necessary tests will be conducted at the building set aside specifically for this study, in “The FS2 House” located on the newly appropriated Salem End Road property. The only one that requires participants to go to a hospital is the body fat test, Ebbeling said.


According to Executive Vice President Dale Hamel, only $60,000 of the total budget will go to the upkeep of the house, and the incremental costs associated with delaying the construction project initially meant for that property for two years.


The study is funded by the Nutrition Science Initiative, which is a “philanthropy that has no connection with the food or pharmaceutical industry,” said Ebbeling. “That’s important in science because we don’t want to be biased by financial interests.”


Hamel said he anticipates $4 million will make up the associated expenditures, including the stipends, food, the space and similar costs. The school will be receiving a management fee of 10 percent of the total cost of the study. “That goes towards things you don’t want to charge to, like utilities and things like that,” Hamel said.


He added, “In terms of the total funds, it comes to about $6,500 per participant,” which is broken down into $3,220 worth of food, which they don’t have to pay for, and an additional $3,280 stipend.


“It both benefits the individual and benefits the common good,” Hamel said.


Interim President Robert Martin said, “You name the population, whether it be students, or faculty, or the researchers and Boston Children’s Hospital or Framingham State University as an institution, so for every one of those groups, it represents a win.”


He related this study to the heart study done in Framingham, which was “a nationally renowned study which is now 66 years old.”


Martin said, “I’m not sure that this will reach that level of significance, but it’s a significant undertaking.”


At an informational session in DPAC, Linda Vaden-Goad, Vice President for Academic Affairs, also referred to the Framingham heart study and its long-term impact. She asked if anyone at the presentation was the child or grandchild of participants in the heart study – a few hands were raised.


She added that Framingham is known for its medical advancements and the study is “very exciting.”


Ebbeling said Framingham State was an opportune place to host this study, which is one of the first of its kind to not be conducted at a hospital.


She said at Framingham State, meals can be provided at a place where the participants spend most of their time, anyway. She added that Sodexo will be able to prepare “fresh” food. They will have the “capability to meet specifications” and make food which will also “taste good.”


She added that having a successful food and nutrition department is also a plus, since many students and faculty will have an interest in the research being conducted.


They were able to make the study larger and longer because of the benefits of the campus setting, Ebbeling said.


Ebbeling added that while “enrollment is a multistep process,” the research team has “received an excellent response” from students, faculty and staff members who are interested in participating in the study.


Sophomore art education major Maureen DeOrsey said she is interested in signing up for the study “because it is a great opportunity to eat healthier and have a healthier lifestyle. The fact that the food is free is great, and I would be interested to know how the diet affects my body.”


Nicole Lucciarini, an early childhood education major, said, “I think it’s cool, but I don’t know if I could follow it.”


Freshman business major Ashley Belair agreed, saying, “I don’t know if I could do it. I get sick of food without variety.”


Alexandria Krause, a sophomore biology major, said eating healthy “helps decrease the chance of getting diabetes and heart disease.”


She added that the study seems like a “good idea” and “the research part is important because people look at clinical studies to decide what to do.”


Jahlicia Blake, a junior fashion merchandise major, said she was interested in signing up because “they want our students to be healthier, and they care. ... It might be challenging, but people can do it if they have focus and determination and faith.”


Freshman studio art major Susan Scopetski said, “I’m interested in the study mainly because I’ve been wanting to eat better. Hopefully, this will give me an extra push to do so, but also to help people learn exactly how they can make their lifestyle healthier.”


She added that she didn’t think it would be too difficult for her to stick with the strict diet because she will be provided with food while she’s on the go. “I’m glad this is for a cause – plus, I’ll be getting free food! Who could say no to that?”


For those interested in signing up for the FS2 study in the next academic year, the Boston Children’s Hospital research team can be reached at 617-919-7305 by the end of April.

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