March 14, 1997

Health assessment study seeks research participants

DAYTON, OHIO -- Researchers at Wright State University School of Medicine are asking people in the Miami Valley over age 50 to participate in a new research study called "Health Assessment 2000." The study will evaluate a new method for measuring the amount of muscle, fat, and water in the human body.

If proven successful, the new method could change the way health care professionals assess a patient's risk for obesity, heart disease, and other health problems, according to Dr. Wm. Cameron Chumlea, the study's principal investigator.

"Health Assessment 2000" is funded by a four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) totaling more than $840,000. The study will be conducted by Wright State's Division of Human Biology in collaboration with the Gerontology Program in the Department of Sociology at Central State University.

Persons participating in "Health Assessment 2000" will receive a thorough health screening examination that includes body composition measurements, physical measurement of body dimensions, cholesterol tests, and a health history. The tests take about three and a half hours and will be conducted at Wright State's Division of Human Biology in Yellow Springs.

"Health Assessment 2000" participants will be reimbursed for their time and travel expenses. For more information, call the Division of Human Biology at 1-800-390-2517.

"Health Assessment 2000" will recruit 450 research participants 18 years of age and older over the next four years. Half of them will be white, and half will be African-American. Obesity has become a significant health problem for many Americans, according to Chumlea. People in the study will be tested according to their age, i.e., older people will be tested before younger people.

The new body composition method is based on a technology called bioimpedance, which is widely used today in various health clinics and health clubs to measure the amount of muscle and fat in the body. The new impedance equipment being tested measures at multiple-frequency electrical signals and provides more detailed information about the distribution of muscle, fat, and water in the body than does current bioimpedance equipment.

The most widely used clinical method today for estimating a person's health risks for obesity is the Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of weight adjusted for height. BMI provides an estimate of an individual's risk on a statistical basis, but it is not specific to the individual's body composition.

"If bioimpedance works, this new method being tested in 'Health Assessment 2000' should provide more detailed information about a person's risk for obesity than can be predicted based on a person's height and weight," Chumlea says.