Study on pediatric obesity offering open enrollment | Journal-news

MARTINSBURG — Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, with the WVU Center of Diabetes and Metabolic Health, along with Dr. Audra Rouster, WVU Pediatric Gastroenterology, and Dr. James bailes, Pediatric Endocrinology at Marshall University and Cabell Huntington Hospital, are developing a study for treatment of pediatric obesity in children between the ages of 8 and 16.

The doctors are currently enrolling children in the year-long study, with a goal of confirming 50 individuals, 25 of whom are expected to be local in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

Eligibility requirements, in addition to the age parameters, include the child having a BMI (body mass index) greater than the 95th percentile for their age, as well as a family willing to adhere to a low-carbohydrate diet. No use of weight-loss medications or psychotripic medications are permitted, and it is understood that the child and/or family can disenroll at any time.

“The participants will be placed on a low carbohydrate diet,” Cucuzzella said. “They can basically eat anything their grandparents ate, like meat, eggs, cheese, fish and non-starchy vegetables.”

Coaches will be assigned to the participants to assist in keeping them on track with the study requirements.

“Obesity has been described as an epidemic of our generation, having strong associations with both increased morbidity and mortality,” Cucuzzella said. “In West Virginia, it is estimated that 45% of fifth-grade children are overweight or obese.

“Pediatric obesity is the global pandemic for which there is no vaccine,” Cucuzzella added. “And the problem only got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He explained that children experiencing pediatric obesity will become adults needing expensive medical care.

“It will break the bank of the world’s economy,” Cucuzzella said, stressing that it is necessary to stem the problem early on to address and reverse conditions that will only get worse in adulthood.

A goal of the study, Cucuzzella said, is to create a way to help children become healthy adults.

“If we can successfully address childhood obesity, we can save a tremendous amount of money as a society and improve the health of our children, reaching into adulthood,” he said.

Research has shown that carbohydrate restrictions can successfully treat Type 2 diabetes and help with long-term weight loss in adults. There have been no long-term studies in children to see if the restrictions would have similar results.

“We do know that carbohydrate restrictions to treat childhood epilepsy have been safe and effective,” Cucuzzella said. “We have previously shown that children respond well to carbohydrate restrictions in the short-term.”

“Our study aims to determine if improvements in lipid profiles. as well as significant weight loss. can be replicated in children over a much longer time period (12 months) and address any potential adverse effects it may have,” Cucuzzella said.

He added that the study will be high touch, with families receiving frequent contact and support from the research team’s registered dietician.

For more information on enrolling in the study or general information, contact Cucuzzella via email at


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