First Pennington director reviews history of health initiatives

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(02/08/18) BATON ROUGE, La. – When Dr. George Bray signed on as the first executive director of Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the center’s completed facility had sat empty for two years. Bray, a world-renowned obesity, diabetes and metabolism specialist and LSU Boyd Professor Emeritus, took a leap of faith to come to Baton Rouge and open the center.

Bray hired the first 25 researchers at Pennington and helped grow the center into what it is today.

Bray talked about the history of Pennington and several of the pivotal studies he was involved with at the research center as the lecturer at the 15th annual Patrick Lecture Series on Feb. 7 at the Dalton J. Wood Auditorium on the LSU campus. The series was presented by the LSU Graduate School and the LSU AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Science.

The topic of Bray’s talk was Food is More Than Calories: Some Pennington Contributions.

“Food has color. It has taste. It has aroma,” he said “It also has vitamins and minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids and fiber.”

He said one question in Pennington’s early research was could you treat hypertension with food instead of with pills.

In 1993, Pennington joined Harvard, Duke, John Hopkins and the Kaiser Center for Health Research in studying the effect of diet on blood pressure, resulting in the DASH diet – Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension, which is considered the best diet by U.S. News and World Reports.

Bray said the research showed that the DASH diet results in a significant reduction in blood pressure.

We were with a highly respected group, and this branded the Pennington Biomedical Research Center as a leading nutrition research center,” Bray said.

Bray and his researchers also studied the differences between low-fat, high-protein and low-carbohydrate diets on weight loss.

“We showed there was no difference between diet composition and weight loss over time,” he said.

Bray also demonstrated the benefit of fish oil on heart disease and looked at the consumption of sugar and sweeteners over time and the rise of obesity in Americans.

Some of Pennington’s early research helped turn C.B. “Doc” Pennington’s and his wife, Irene’s, gift to LSU into the best nutritional research facility in the nation, Bray said.

Bray has authored or co-authored more than 2,000 journal articles, publications, or books and chapters and his work has been cited more than 64,000 times.

The Patrick Lecture Series was established by Ruth Patrick and her late husband, Bill Patrick. The endowment fund sponsors a lecture each year that alternates between the fields of human nutrition/food science and wetland sciences/coastal studies – reflecting the professional interests of the donors. Bill Patrick was director of the LSU Wetland Biogeochemistry Institute, and Ruth Patrick was a food and nutrition specialist with the LSU AgCenter at the time they established the endowment.

Dr. George Bray, LSU Boyd Professor Emeritus at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, gives the 15th annual Patrick Lecture on Feb. 7 at the Dalton J. Woods Auditorium on the LSU campus. Bray’s topic was Food is More Than Calories: Some Pennington Contributions. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter

George Bray, center, LSU Boyd Professor Emeritus at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, was the guest speaker at the 15th annual Patrick Lecture on Feb. 7. He is with Louise Wicker, left, director of the LSU AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, and Ruth Patrick, retired AgCenter food and nutrition specialist, who founded the lecture series with her late husband, Bill. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter

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