Healthy Life, June 2017

Celebrating 100 Years at the YMCA




at the YMCA


The volunteers who helped fund raise to help start a YMCA in Baton Rouge.

Cindy Robinson with her Tri Y patch from when she was a child.

Clayton Guillory with his membership card from 2001.

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Healthy Life, June 2017



New research provides

Keeping off the pounds for good once they’re gone can often be even more challenging than losing the weight—but what if an accountability partner could increase your chances of staying trim?

New research shows that maintaining weight loss may be improved through regular contact with someone who can help keep you accountable

In a research study published in the journal Obesity , scientists found that people who received regular telephone calls with a specialist could better overcome barriers to weight maintenance, and keep weight off more successfully than people who did not receive regular counseling.

LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center was one of four U.S. sites that participated in the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial, aimed at comparing three different strategies for maintaining weight loss. The study was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

During phase one of the study, volunteers participated in a six-month weight loss program. Those who lost more than 8.8 pounds during that time continued on to phase two of the program, a two and a half year weight maintenance phase. During those two and a half years, participants were assigned to one of three groups.

The first group was encouraged to continue using the tools they received during the weight loss phase —calorie counting, adherence to the DASH diet and physical activity monitoring. The second group had around-the-clock access to a website where they could check in regularly to report their weight status and receive advice. The third group received monthly telephone calls from an interventionist who provided motivational counseling and helped participants try to overcome barriers to maintaining their weight.

At the end of those two and a half years of weight maintenance, researchers found that without personal
contact, participants tended to regain lost weight; while participants with access to personal help and support kept the weight off better than the other two groups. Continuing personal support beyond two and a half years did not further improve weight maintenance.

The concept of personal motivation and support in maintaining weight loss may seem elementary. “After decades of research, scientists have learned how to produce highly effective methods for weight loss, but we still have not completely cracked the code on maintaining that weight loss. This study provides a foundation for us to move forward in improving ways in which we help people prevent weight regain,” said Dr. Phil Brantley, associate executive director for scientific education at Pennington Biomedical and an author on this study,

“This study is unique in that it had one of the largest and most diverse populations to take part in it. We looked at weight maintenance among people of varying genders, races, ages and risk factors. It was also one of the longest-running studies of its kind, so it provided us with a closer look at how different weight loss strategies can work over time,” added Brantley.

Pennington Biomedical is continuing its work to better understand the triggers of chronic disease such as obesity, and seek sound strategies for losing weight and keeping it off. For more information on how you can volunteer for one of Pennington Biomedical’s research studies, please visit or call 225-763-3000.


Dr. Phillip Brantley is the Associate Executive Director for Scientific Education for Pennington Biomedical Research Center. He earned his bachelor of science degree from Georgia College and State University,
Masters and Ph.D., University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 1980, Clinical Psychology, and completed his clinical psychology internship at Medical University of South Carolina and Charleston VAMC. His research interests include Weight loss techniques that promote long term weight management and their impact on biomarkers and health outcomes.

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Healthy Life, June 2017

Sesame Spiced Chicken with Chickpea Salad


Sesame Spiced Chicken with Chickpea Salad

Serves 4 / Prep time 15 min / Total time 35 min

Recipe from

Chickpea Salad Ingredients

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup torn basil leaves
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Sesame Spiced Chicken Ingredients

  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 8 bone-in, skinned chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds)


  • In a medium bowl, toss the chickpeas, cucumber, basil, and shallot with the oil, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  • Heat grill to medium. In a small bowl, combine the sesame seeds, paprika, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  • Sprinkle the chicken with the sesame seed mixture, pressing gently to help it adhere.
  • Grill, covered, until cooked through, 9 to 10 minutes per side.
  • Serve with the chickpea salad

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Healthy Life, March 2017

RESEARCHING a Better Way to Predict Health Risks

by Dr. Steven Heymsfield

Researching a Better Way to Predict Health Risks

What if doctors could predict your risk of developing disease simply by evaluating your body shape?

That’s a real possibility being investigated through the Shape Up research study at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

“Everybody has a unique body shape,” begins Dr. Steven Heymsfield, the study’s principal investigator. “That shape is related to your body composition—how much muscle, fat and bone density you have. We also know body shape and composition are related to health risk.”

While the height and weight measures that combine to determine the body mass index (BMI) are still important, there are a lot of variations within those parameters.

For example, even though two women are both 5-foot-6-inches tall and weigh 130 pounds, one person might have longer legs, a smaller waist circumference or carry more weight in a certain part of her body, such as the midsection or posterior.

Researchers seek to understand the health implications of those differences. “People have always known that within the same height and weight class there are significant differences with regard to health, but we haven’t always been able to quantify it very well,” he says.

The Shape Up research study explores that correlation between body shape and health by cross-referencing basic clinical testing such as blood tests with new technology that includes 3-dimensional imaging and DEXA scans, which measure muscle, bone and fat.

“The plan is to link the hundreds of shape measures we get from participants to their actual DEXA scan. And, that will tell us their body composition,” explains Dr. Heymsfield.

“We’ll be able to link their cholesterol levels to their body shape. We’ll also look at blood sugar, which measures insulin resistance and is a predictor of diabetes down the line.”

Once certain factors are known to be significant predictors of disease, a scale of risk can be developed. Eventually, doctors might use that knowledge in engaging earlier strategies to help slow the onset of disease—or even prevent it all together—in individuals or even entire populations.

The ability to reference a guide that relates body shape to health risk is particularly relevant since sophisticated scanners are becoming more affordable and accessible in doctors’ offices and even health clubs.

The old, big, expensive high-tech scanners have shrunk both in cost and in size. Now, the same 3-D imaging programs that allow Internet retailers to measure clients by cell phone and make custom clothing are being adapted for medical imaging.

While the 3-D technology that can produce customized blue jeans is also helping determine whether physical characteristics can predict the onset of disease, the makeup of genes also plays a major role in the next phase of the study.

“Your shape is determined by your lifestyle and your genes,” Heymsfield explains. “Whether you’re tall or short, hair color, eye color—everything about you—is pretty genetically related in our culture. In the future, we hope to analyze that genetic material and find out what genes influence body shape.”

The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provided Pennington Biomedical a $4 million grant for the Shape Up study for adults and a $3 million grant for a future work extending the Shape Up study to children.

The Shape Up Adults study is currently looking for people to join in this research. For more information, call 225-763-2602 or visit


Dr. Heymsfield’s research focuses primarily on human obesity, including energy balance regulation, weight loss treatments, co-morbidity effects, and development of related mathematical models. He also has a long term interest in the development of methods for evaluating body composition and the application of new technologies such as fMRI and PET to the study of human metabolism.
He is a graduate of Hunter College, City University of New York, B.A. Chemistry: 1962-1966
Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, M.D. 1969-1971

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Healthy Life, March 2017

Healthy Living: Outside and Inside

Healthy Living: Outside and Inside

Iron on Iron Mobile Fitness Works for Total Well-Being

Story and Photos by Patrick Allen

Iron on Iron, Kingdom Kounsel & Hammond First Responders coming together for back to school rally.

“IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY OUT TODAY, PERFECT TO ‘GET YOUR SET!” says Coach Patrick Allen of Iron on Iron Mobile Fitness. His philosophy: it doesn’t matter if it’s clear and sunny or gloomy and rainy, every day is a good day to pursue your health. This philosophy inspires Coach Allen to teach and motivate others, especially kids, to get active. The same philosophy resonates with many, he says, from internet health gurus to former First Lady Michelle Obama and her “Let’s Move” directives. “We can all agree that we need to get moving,” he says. “Our nation needs the impetus to get active and pursue good health.”

Coach Allen, an ACE Certified Group Instructor and Owner of Iron on Iron Mobile Fitness, often focuses on finding innovative ways to get kids active. While he is not against technology, he says the rise in the number of technological gadgets available to everyone – children in particular – takes away from the desire to get up and get active. He suggests that parents limit the time children spend on things like mobile devices, game consoles and tablets, and exchange that time for clean fresh air, getting up and getting active.

Coach Allen stresses the importance of nd- ing God purpose for their lives with Ham- mond boot campers.

“Children’s health is a big focus for me,” says Allen. He often advises, “Get the kids to the park, bring your running shoes and leave your phones at home. Let’s rediscover the joys of running, kick ball, basketball and so on. Come get this fresh air!” Coach Allen also focuses on inspiring his clients to think about what’s going on inside – the health of the inner body and things we cannot see. “Just because your outer self may look good, doesn’t always indicate good health inside,” says Coach Allen. “You must learn to eat right, know what you’re putting inside your body – eating as well as drinking. Read labels, ask questions, limit and reduce fried foods, but give yourself treat days. We must purpose to live longer and stronger!”

While Iron on Iron Mobile Fitness works to increase the importance of health and activity in children, it is not limited to kids. His services include boot camp classes for all ages and stages of health. Coach Allen brings the workout to his clients. He lovingly yet firmly says “if it’s raining, we’re still training!” or instructs them to “keep it moving” when they happen to think they can’t perform. He works to inspire a push for greatness, a great and positive energy that he believes is inside everyone.

Coach Allen believes in replacing negative energy with positive energy. In Deepak Chopra’s book, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul: How to Create a New You (Harmony Books, 2009), readers are taught the difference between healthy and unhealthy energy.

Healthy energy is flowing, flexible, dynamic, balanced, soft, associated with positive feelings. Unhealthy energy is stuck, frozen, rigid, brittle, hard, out of balance, associated with negative emotions.

Coach Allen says finishing boot camp classes and personal training sessions really makes his clients feel they have accomplished something great! Praise and worship music is the backbone of most workouts. Coach Allen credits his personal relationship with God as the source of his burning desire to lead people to good energy and great health. “You’ve got to get it!” he says.

Coach Allen always stresses the importance of good health by getting active and healthy eating. “If you put good things in, you’ll get good things out,” he says. “So, get your kids moving! When you do, they’ll inspire you to keep moving. The family that becomes active together, gets healthy together! It’s Your Set – time to Go Get It!”




Taking time to pray before boot camp activities.
Healthy Life, January 2017

YMCA Celebrates its first Community Prayer Luncheon



Healthy Life, January 2017

The Mission to Help Kids Move More

by Pennington Biomedical Research Center

Hispanic boy covering mouth next to broccoli

Three-quarters of children in the United States are not meeting physical activity recommendations, according to a recent report authored by concerned health experts from around the country and by scientists from Baton Rouge at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The report, compiled by the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance, indicates that nearly 63 percent of children are exceeding screen time guidelines, meaning that a majority of kids are sitting more and moving less. These habits put our country’s children at risk for obesity, diabetes and related chronic disease as they get older.

Here in Louisiana, one out of every two children is considered overweight or obese*. That statistic is unacceptable to Dr. Amanda Staiano, an assistant professor of research in the Pediatric Obesity and Health Behavior Lab at Pennington Biomedical, who is working to find creative ways to improve children’s health.

“We know that if we can help children develop healthy habits such as moving more when they are younger, they are more likely to continue those habits past adolescence into adulthood,” said Staiano.

According to Staiano, the first step to helping kids move more is understanding why they aren’t already moving enough. That’s why she is leading the TIGER Kids research study, which is researching ways to increase kids’ physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior to improve their overall health.

During the course of the study, Staiano and her team are using state-of-the-art technology like activity trackers and global positioning systems (GPS) to follow kids’ physical activity patterns for seven days to learn more about what prevents them from being active and what motivates them to move more. Kids in the study will also use a mobile phone app to share more information with researchers about who they are with and what they are doing — for example, spending time at the park with friends — when they are most physically active.

“This is a great way for me to teach my daughter about healthy habits,” said Brandy Davis, whose daughter, Ariamarie, is participating in the TIGER Kids study. “Both my son and I have been a part of research studies at Pennington Biomedical before, and we have really gotten some great health information from participating in those studies. My daughter was so excited to be a part of the TIGER Kids study because she is fascinated by the activity trackers and all the great information she’ll get about her own activity levels.”

Staiano said the TIGER Kids study is still looking for children between the ages of 10 and 16 to participate in the study. In addition to great health information they can share with their doctor, participants who complete the study will also receive compensation for their time.

If you’re interested in learning more about the TIGER Kids study and how your family might participate, contact Pennington Biomedical at 225-763-3000 or by visiting

December 2016, Healthy Life

Market Beef Stew

From Chef Celeste Gill


December 2016, Healthy Life

LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center aims to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia

by Pennington Biomedical Research Center
Dr. Jeff Keller (left) talks about Alzheimer’s and dementia research with Rob Brouillette.
Dr. Jeff Keller (left) talks about Alzheimer’s and dementia research with Rob Brouillette.

Currently, there are no treatments or disease-modifying medications on the market to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention (IDRP) at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center is working to change that. Home to cutting-edge brain research, Pennington Biomedical’s IDRP is working to find ways to treat and manage Alzheimer’s disease. The newest mission of the IDRP? Scientists hope to find a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia from occurring, but they need the community’s help.

By 2050, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease in America will have ballooned from 5 million to as many as 16 million, at a cost of $1.1 trillion annually.

“Enrolling in a research study – even if you have no signs or symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia – is the best way you can help us in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Jeff Keller, director of Pennington Biomedical’s IDRP.

“Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Right now more than 5 million people in our country are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is only expected to grow. By 2050, the cost of Alzheimer’s and other dementias could rise to as much as $1 trillion, so the need is urgent for people to join us in the fight against these chronic diseases,” Keller said.

In addition to their studies for people who already have a dementia diagnosis, Pennington Biomedical is looking for people with normal brain function who are concerned about their memory. The hope is that by learning more about the brain as it ages, researchers will be able to better understand what triggers Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and will be able to target treatments that delay dementia or stop it altogether.

By joining a research study, participants are eligible to receive insightful information about their body’s health and their brain’s health from state-of-the-art technology that they can then share with their physicians. Plus, people who participate in a research study may receive study-related medication and consultations at no cost, along with compensation for their time.

Pennington Biomedical’s IDRP is the only Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study site between Houston and Birmingham. That ranking puts it among top research institutions such as Harvard, Yale and the Mayo Clinic, making Pennington Biomedical’s IDRP an invaluable resource for the community.

To learn more about how to participate in a brain health study, visit, call 225-763-2973 or e-mail

Source of statistics: The Alzheimer’s Association

Healthy Life, November 2016

A Season for Giving

by Cameron Salter, YMCA Marketing Intern

11-29-2016As the end of the year approaches, so do most of America’s favorite holidays. This year when you are celebrating Thanksgiving and taking part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, do not forget to celebrate #GivingTuesday. This holiday has kicked off the charitable season since 2012 and has continued to grow since. #GivingTuesday takes place on November 29th, the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the widely recognized discount shopping days. The holiday celebrates giving back to your community through charitable donations and events. Individuals in the community are urged to give back to the cities that they love in whatever way they can.

The Baton Rouge community has seen great loss in 2016. As members of the community, there has never been a better time to give. There are many ways that you can participate in #GivingTuesday this year. Whether it is through service, fundraising or donations, there is always a place that will be grateful for your set of hands and expertise. Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter during this charitable season – with winter approaching, they need more help and supplies than any other time of the year.

If you would like to help through in-kind donations, consider donating old or new blankets so that the animals do not have to lie on the cold ground during the winter. Volunteering to play with and socialize the animals is also a way to help out that doesn’t even feeling like you are doing work. Who knows, you might even find your new furry best friend in the process. Similarly, St. Vincent de Paul of Baton Rouge is a great place to volunteer if you are looking to be hands on. They need everything from meal servers to envelope stuffers. With the holiday season approaching, they will also need volunteers to help sort donated Christmas decorations and clothing.

The YMCA of the Capital Area has many programs that allow you to volunteer and give back. The Angel Tree Giving Program allows community members to select a child’s name off of a YMCA branches’ Christmas tree, which tells you the child’s gender, age, and their requested gift. Another way to volunteer through the Y is by signing up to coach a sports team. Participating in a sport helps to create a sense of normalcy for children, especially those whose families were affected by the flooding.

Flood victims in the Baton Rouge community still need support. Many lost everything, and with the holiday season approaching they will not have decorations or resources to make Thanksgiving and Christmas what it typically is for their family. It is important that as a community we do not forget about the flood victims during this time of the year.

img_6346The C.B. Pennington Jr. YMCA was also heavily affected by the flood. The building took on three feet of water during the recent flooding that caused $2.5 million in damages to the 60,000 square foot facility. The water affected most of the equipment in the facility as well as the swimming pools. If you are interested in donating your time or resources to the Y during this charitable season, visit If you would like to join more than 700,000 people participating in #GivingTuesday, please consider the many ways you can give back to your local Baton Rouge community.

To learn more about #GivingTuesday, visit

Healthy Life, November 2016

Alzheimer’s Disease and Thanksgiving: What They Share

by Pennington Biomedical Research Center

alzheimers-awareness-avamere-1The Thanksgiving holiday and Alzheimer’s disease have something in common: they share the month of November. While this month brings a plethora of cuisine-filled celebrations with friends and family, it is also Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. The Thanksgiving holiday, which often brings in relatives from out of town, provides an opportunity for family members to spend quality time with loved ones and perhaps even be on the lookout for warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

An estimated 5 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s today. The disease is a common form of dementia in the elderly. Dementia can affect memory, language, personality and eventually bodily functions such as the ability to walk or eat. Alzheimer’s disease generally has a relatively slow onset with progressively worse symptoms as time goes on.

By the age of 65, one in nine people in Louisiana have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  By the age of 85, our state’s residents have a one in three chance of developing the disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month helps shed a light on the warning signs and symptoms of a disease that one of Pennington Biomedical Research Center’s world-class facilities is focused on. The Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention (IDRP) at Pennington Biomedical is working to prevent, make more manageable, and hopefully help cure Alzheimer’s disease.

Pennington Biomedical’s IDRP is home to one of the largest longitudinal brain aging studies in the United States, with nearly 1,600 participants enrolled from Louisiana. The study is making significant advances in helping to identify the triggers for Alzheimer’s and dementia. The IDRP has five clinical studies underway now that are testing medications used to treat the disease.  One of these groundbreaking studies is examining the effectiveness of a new drug in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

“The month of November is a significant time for many families who have relatives visiting from out of town. During the holidays they spend considerable time with these family members and they may notice small changes in their parents’ or grandparents’ behavior,” said Dr. Jeff Keller, director of Pennington Biomedical’s IDRP.

While the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease requires trained medical professionals, Dr. Keller recommends that relatives keep an eye open for these warning signs in loved ones:

  • Dropping of work or social activities due to potential changes in cognitive abilities.
  • Increased need for reminders, prompting or assistance to get through normal daily life.
  • Inability to balance a checkbook, or getting lost in familiar surroundings.
  • Struggling to find the right words or difficulty maintaining conversation.
  • Inability to remember new things.

Some of these signs can be considered part of the normal aging process, so it’s essential to speak with your doctor about any symptoms you may notice.

While the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease can be daunting, equipping yourself with accurate information and partnering with your doctor to develop a care plan to deal with possible changes can bring comfort to you and your loved ones. Keller recommends that people over the age of 60 get annual cognitive exams, which provide greater sensitivity in assessing changes in cognitive ability.

Pennington Biomedical offers free screenings for Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. Pennington Biomedical also welcomes participants and family members in the clinical trials in progress aimed at finding better treatments for the disease. Visit for more information about screenings. For more information about warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, visit the Alzheimer’s Association at