Islands of Samoa

Ministry of Health of Samoa

The Obesity, Lifestyle and Genetic Adaptations (OLaGA) lab is operated by Brown University and Yale University scientists at the Pacific island nation’s Ministry of Health. Researchers, led by Stephen McGarvey, professor of epidemiology and anthropology at the Brown University School of Public Health, are conducting three studies at three distinct stages of life —birth, childhood and adulthood — to understand and address the nation’s unusually high rates of obesity.

Department of Health of American Samoa

Collaborators from American Samoa's Department of Health were among the team of investigators, led by Stephen McGarvey, professor of epidemiology and anthropology at the Brown University School of Public Health, who discovered that  nearly half of Samoans have a significant genetic variant that contributes to obesity risk; a variant that had remained undiscovered until researchers focused on the islands’ populations. In cell models in the lab, this “thrifty” variant promoted more efficient storage of more fat. Current research is investigating the physiologic and behavioral pathways that may underlie the relationships of this newly found gene variant with adiposity and type 2 diabetes in Samoans.