June 22, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 281 — Weight management, and the brightest-known solid materials

A new study by Indiana University and Regenstrief Institute researchers provides insight for outreach to a population heavily impacted by obesity. Defined as a body mass index greater than 30, obesity is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mobility deficits and other health issues. According to the researchers, attaining and maintaining a healthy weight is difficult -- especially for those living in urban poverty. To help identify opportunities to lessen this weight-management burden, the researchers explored location, timing and other factors associated with eating, drinking, and physical activity by middle-aged women living with severe obesity in an environment of urban poverty. Study participants were sent questions 8 to 12 times per day about whether they'd eaten recently, drank anything other than water recently, where they were, and if they were with anyone at the current moment. These data were collected for 30 days. Responses indicated participants spent most of their time at home. When at home, being with others was associated with more eating and drinking than being alone. However, when at work, being alone was associated with more eating and drinking. Overall, participants indicated eating or drinking at one in every three responses. But the frequency of eating and drinking as captured in this study was not associated with 6-month weight change. Following completion of the 30-day data collection, a randomized group of study participants received personalized messages encouraging healthy behaviors that were received at times the individual had most often reported eating, drinking, or being sedentary. Outcomes from these message interventions are pending. However, researchers say the study data that they collected and analyzed could inform more timely or precise weight loss strategies.

In other news, IU chemistry faculty who discovered the world's brightest-known fluorescent solid materials were awarded a $1.8 million National Science Foundation grant to support their research. The IU-invented, innovative material known as "SMILES," or small-molecule, ionic isolation lattices, has the potential to advance technologies such as solar panels, solid state lasers, medical imaging devices and 3D displays. SMILES have an unprecedented brightness that does not dim or change color during the production process, which is a common problem in the manufacture of brightly colored solids. The NSF funding is part of a federal program created to spur U.S. competitiveness by speeding the manufacture of high-tech materials. IU researchers' work conducted under the grant award will combine experimental chemistry, computational chemistry and data science research. The commercial and scientific potential of SMILES stems from their ability to transform brightly colored liquid materials into a stable crystalline solid. For example, in the case of solar panels, the capture of energy from infrared light uses specifically colored components that rely on a process called upconversion, which currently only works well in a liquid state. Similarly, new 3D-display technology also uses dyes that only work well in liquid form. The potential to produce these technologies without liquid components offers significant advantages. IU researchers' goals include the establishment of an open-source database and the crystal engineering rules for assembling dyes with different shapes and charges into advanced optical materials.