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Volunteers sought for Dementia and Diabetes Prevention Program

Partnership between UC Davis and Tice Creek Fitness Center continues

By Mike Wood

Staff writer

Aiming to build upon encouraging results from the first year, organizers of the Dementia and Diabetes Prevention Program study are gearing up for year two in Rossmoor.

The program, a partnership between UC Davis and Tice Creek Fitness Center, is built upon taking preventative measures with diet and exercise. Organizers will be seeking new qualified volunteers 60 years or older to take part in the next phase, targeted to start Monday, Sept. 12.

Recruitment will begin in earnest on Wednesday, July 13, and last four weeks until mid-August.

Those interested in taking part or seeking more details on the program can contact the Fitness Center’s fitness lead, Richard Bergstrom, at or at 1-925-988-7842.

DDPP is an opportunity to be in a study by doing things that improve your own health, said Dr. David K. Johnson, who heads the study. Johnson is a tenured associate professor of neurology at UC Davis and director of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Walnut Creek.

Johnson has studied correlations between diabetes and dementia and is excited about the positive results from the program’s fitness, nutrition and cooking classes.

“One thing we learned from the last year is that people become fit and lose weight, which is delightful to see,” Johnson said. “I have been overwhelmingly surprised, in a positive way, that people lost weight.”

The purpose of the study is to “promote healthy brain aging in the East Bay through effective lifestyle interventions,” said Grace Gonzaga, clinical trial manager with HD Research Co., which collaborates with UC Davis in the study.

The 12-month program is designed for those 60 or older who want to “implement healthy lifestyle changes to enhance their cognitive abilities, promote brain health, and reduce risk for metabolic diseases and dementia,” she added.

Gonzaga said participants should be eligible for membership at Tice Creek Fitness Center, interested in boosting physical fitness, and have no history of stroke or coronary artery disease.

“We are really appealing to a broad swath of residents in Rossmoor,” Johnson said.

Those who join the study will receive free dietary education and recommendations, as well as access to tailored fitness and cooking classes, and are expected to complete a physical fitness and cognitive test on Day 1 and at the fourth, eighth and 12th months of the program, Gonzaga said.

Bergstrom will provide UC Davis DDPP staff with contact information from the residents who express interest to him. The DDPP staff will contact those residents when they are ready to enroll, and they will be asked to return to screen for eligibility and consent for participation, Gonzaga explained.

Once the recruitment window closes, plans are in the works for an open house at the Fitness Center around mid-August, though the date is not yet finalized.

Those eligible who have been enrolled will be randomized into one of three study arms, Gonzaga explained. “They will complete baseline physical and cognitive testing and will be provided with free weekly dietary, fitness and cooking classes,” she said. Every 12 weeks, participants will switch groups.

Bergstrom said his slate of classes will likely remain the same: three exercise classes, one nutrition class and one cooking class per week. Upon starting at the Fitness Center in February, Bergstrom jumped right into the DDPP classes and responsibilities.

“Richard has stepped up in a leadership role, and he has the capacity to do a lot in this world,” Johnson said. “Richard is just an ace.”

Bergstrom has been hearing great things from residents who have taken part in the program.

“The feedback from them has all been positive,” he said. “They love coming to these classes, and they want to continue with the program even after it ends. We’re trying to figure out a way to do that while we on-board new recruitments for the next study.”

The COVID-19 pandemic’s shutdowns and restrictions hampered the first year of the program, as about 40 residents saw it through to the finish, Johnson said.

“I was skeptical with COVID isolation, and all the starting and stopping, which was the hardest thing for people,” he said. “But still, we have seen clear, meaningful weight loss.”

The aim is for 200 Rossmoor residents to take part this year. There will be a similar program at the East Oakland Sports Center, which also will seek 200 participants.

Along with cultivating and enhancing healthy habits, participants have been creating their own support systems and making friends.

“While the purpose of the study was to get the participants healthier through exercise and nutrition classes, an under looked aspect of all this is the social aspect,” Bergstrom said. “The participants in this group have grown closer and socialize even outside of this class.”

Those taking part are achieving what so many people strive for – a structure for a healthy lifestyle.

“I have heard the participants say how helpful these classes are because they are more consistent with their exercise and eating habits,” Bergstrom said. “That’s what living a healthy lifestyle is about – being consistent with healthy choices.”