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Research for Your Health

The NHLBI is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health (NIH)—the nation’s biomedical research agency that makes important scientific discovery to improve health and save lives. We are committed to advancing science and translating discoveries into clinical practice to promote the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders including overweight and obesity. Learn about the current and future NHLBI efforts to improve health through research and scientific discovery.

Improving health with current research

Learn about the following ways NHLBI continues to translate research and science into improved health for people who are overweight or obese.

  • NHLBI Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents. We support the development of guidelines based on up-to-date research to evaluate and manage risk of heart disease in children and adolescents, including overweight and obesity. Visit Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents for more information.
  • NHLBI Systematic Evidence Reviews Support Development of Guidelines for Overweight and Obese Adults. We continue to perform systematic reviews of the latest science. These reviews help partner organizations update their clinical guidelines, which health professionals use to treat adults who are overweight or obese. Visit Managing Overweight and Obesity in Adults: Systematic Evidence Review from the Obesity Expert Panel for more information.
  • NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. We continue our 20-year long commitment to educating the public and high-risk populations about adopting heart-healthy eating and physical activity for life to prevent and treat overweight and obesity and their associated complications. Visit Obesity Education Initiative for more information.
  • NIH Obesity Research Task Force and Strategic Plan. We continue to support this larger NIH task force, that is committed to capitalizing on scientific research discoveries to develop new prevention methods and treatments for overweight and obesity. Visit NIH Obesity Research, NHLBI Obesity Research and the Strategic Plan for NIH Obesity Research for more information.
  • NIH task force to develop first nutrition strategic plan. We will collaborate with other institutes to develop a ten-year plan to increase research in nutrition, including experimental design and training. Visit NIH task force formed to develop first nutrition strategic plan for more information.
  • Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. We continue to provide medical, nutritional, and other scientific expertise to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that publish the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans with information about the latest science-based nutritional recommendations.

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Learn about some of the pioneering research contributions we have made over the years that have improved clinical care.

  • Association of obesity, high blood pressure and risk of disease of the blood vessels of the heart. NHLBI’s multigenerational landmark Framingham Heart Study found that obesity increases the risk for high blood pressure, as well as heart and cardiovascular diseases. Visit the Framingham Heart Study for more information about all research activities and advances from this study.
  • Evaluation of risks for heart disease in school children. The multigenerational Muscatine Heart Study followed children from 1970 to 1991 to study school-aged children for heart disease risk factors and to follow them throughout childhood into adulthood. The study continues to evaluate heart disease risk factors in the children of the initial study participants. Visit Muscatine Heart Study for more information about the results of this study.
  • Association of invasive breast tumors in obese postmenopausal women. Through the landmark Women’s Health Initiative, NHLBI is exploring tumor risk in obese women. While more research is needed, early findings show a possible association of invasive breast tumors in postmenopausal women who are obese. Visit the Women’s Health Initiative for more information about all research activities and advances from this study.
  • Community programs to prevent obesity. Based on the results of research studies, the NHLBI, with a multidisciplinary team of researchers, dieticians, public health experts and community center representatives, developed programs such as We Can!® and Aim for a Healthy Weight to promote a healthy lifestyle. 

Advancing research for improved health

In support of our mission, we are committed to advancing overweight and obesity research in part through the following ways.

  • We fund research. Our Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, which includes our Clinical Applications and Prevention Branch, funds research to understand how overweight and obesity relate to heart disease. Our Division of Lung Diseases funds research on the impact of overweight and obesity on sleep disordered breathing. The research we fund today will help improve our future health. Search the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT) to learn about research NHLBI is funding on overweight and obesity.
  • We stimulate high-impact research. Our NHLBI Obesity Research continues discovering new insights about obesity that can lead to improved health care, practices, and policies to prevent or treat obesity and its heart, lung, and sleep consequences and translating research into practical strategies and tools for clinicians, patients, and the general public. Our Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) Program includes participants with overweight and obesity, which may help us understand how genes contribute to overweight and obesity. The NHLBI Strategic Vision highlights ways we may support research over the next decade, including new efforts for overweight and obesity.

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Learn more about the exciting research areas we are exploring about overweight and obesity.

  • Differences in gastrointestinal bacteria may contribute to overweight and obesity. NHLBI and other partners in the Trans-NIH Microbiome Working Group are investigating how different populations of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts may make people resistant or susceptible to obesity.
  • Genetic variation affects how people metabolize dietary sugar and fats. NHLBI is mapping how genes determine the levels of sugar and fat in the blood.
  • New interventions for childhood overweight and obesity. NHLBI is supporting new projects to prevent and treat childhood obesity. The NHLBI-Sponsored the COPTR program and the Healthy Communities Study to see how well programs were working to prevent childhood obesity in different populations.
  • Obese parents can affect if their children become overweight or obese. A parent’s weight can change the DNA their children have. NHLBI is interested in how these DNA changes affect whether the child grows up to be overweight or obese.
  • Obesity-related inflammation may affect other medical conditions. Researchers know obesity causes inflammation in our bodies. NHLBI is interested in how obesity-related inflammation influences other conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases or asthma.
  • Sleep-wake cycles can contribute to obesity. NHLBI continues funding studies to understand how the body’s internal sleep-wake cycles influence sleep and eating behaviors in people who are obese. This may help discover new therapies.

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Updated: February 23, 2017