An Iowa State University grad student is engaged in research that may find a link between obesity and hormones that stimulate appetite. Michelle Bohan of LeMars, a graduate student in biochemistry, is working with three I-S-U professors on the project. “Some people may need to modify their diet — add a little bit more protein, maybe decrease the amount of carbohydrates to achieve (maximum) health,” Bohan says.

She’s measured the “body mass index” of eight men and eight women. The 16 study participants ate one of two diets — the Atkins Diet that’s heavy in proteins and an American Heart Association diet which is more balanced.

Bohan is tracking the hormone levels of participants. For example, she has discovered overweight women do not have as much of a hormone that reduces insulin resistance as lean women, and it’s a hormone she says you want a lot of so you can avoid contracting diabetes. She’s looking at the kinds of foods which increase and decrease the levels of this hormone in the body.

Bohan hopes the research will eventually give obese people more options. “If you could control things through your diet, would you try that first before taking more extreme measures (like) surgery (or) by taking shots every day?” Bohan asks. Bohan presented some of her initial research results last month at a scientific meeting in San Francisco. Her research is being financed by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.