Professor Bruce Ames wants to take a bite out of obesity and some of the diseases associated with it. To help, his team at CHORI, Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, has come up with what's known at the CHORI-Bar.
"So we decided, maybe we could make a kind of super vitamin pill, a bar," Dr. Bruce Ames said. He says they combined minerals, vitamins, and fibers in dozens of variations over the course of a decade. In clinical trials they noticed that different combinations had different effects. Such as balancing the factors that help the body control various types of cholesterol, "And now we're to the point where we can really tune-up your metabolism," Ames said. "Raise the HDL, and lower LDL, lower your inflammation, and lower your insulin resistance, and do all these wonderful things."
The theory is that many obese people are actually starving. Not for calories, but essential minerals and vitamins not found processed foods. The problem can be compounded by subsequent damage to the digestive tract.
"And bad things start to happen because the body starts to react to things coming across that vulnerable gut wall," Dr. Mark Shigenaga said. He helped tweak both the formula and the bar's flavor, which he describes as barely edible when the project started. The USDA then helped to manufacture the bars so they could be used in wider clinical trials.
And right now researchers at CHORI are launching a new trial to see if the bar can help with the symptoms of another disease often associated with obesity, "This is the first time we've done a trial in people with an obesity related condition," Dr. Joyce McCann said. "We're going to do a trial in adolescents with obesity related asthma." McCann says the asthma study will involve two groups of obese teenagers who will both receive coaching on diet and exercise. But one group will also eat the bar twice a day for several weeks to test the effects, "We've shown it improves insulin resistance, improves antioxidant defenses. These are the very same bio-markers that are elevated in the obese asthmatics."
Whatever the outcome, the research team believes the information could lead to a better understand the relationship between diet and disease. And perhaps lead to commercial versions of the bar targeted to specific populations or conditions.
The trials are ongoing.
Written and produced by Tim Didion