Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] Obesity: Not just what you eat

Obesity: Not just what you eat.

Tel Aviv University research shows fat mass in cells expands with disuse

Over 35 percent of American adults and 17 percent of American children are considered obese, according to the latest survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even certain types of cancer, obesity places a major burden on the health care system and economy. It’s usually treated through a combination of diet, nutrition, exercise, and other techniques.

To understand how obesity develops, Prof. Amit Gefen, Dr. Natan Shaked and Ms. Naama Shoham of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, together with Prof. Dafna Benayahu of TAU’s Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, used state-of-the-art technology to analyze the accumulation of fat in the body at the cellular level. According to their findings, nutrition is not the only factor driving obesity. The mechanics of “cellular expansion” plays a primary role in fat production, they discovered.

By exposing the mechanics of fat production at a cellular level, the researchers offer insight into the development of obesity. And with a better understanding of the process, the team is now creating a platform to develop new therapies and technologies to prevent or even reverse fat gain. The research was published this week in the Biophysical Journal.

Getting to the bottom of obesity

“Two years ago, Dafna and I were awarded a grant from the Israel Science Foundation to investigate how mechanical forces increase the fat content within fat cells. We wanted to find out why a sedentary lifestyle results in obesity, other than making time to eat more hamburgers,” said Prof. Gefen. “We found that fat cells exposed to sustained, chronic pressure — such as what happens to the buttocks when you’re sitting down — experienced accelerated growth of lipid droplets, which are molecules that carry fats.

“Contrary to muscle and bone tissue, which get mechanically weaker with disuse, fat depots in fat cells expanded when they experienced sustained loading by as much as 50%. This was a substantial discovery.”

The researchers discovered that, once it accumulated lipid droplets, the structure of a cell and its mechanics changed dramatically. Using a cutting-edge atomic force microscope and other microscopy technologies, they were able to observe the material composition of the transforming fat cell, which became stiffer as it expanded. This stiffness alters the environment of surrounding cells by physically deforming them, pushing them to change their own shape and composition.

“When they gain mass and change their composition, expanding cells deform neighboring cells, forcing them to differentiate and expand,” said Prof. Gefen. “This proves that you’re not just what you eat. You’re also what you feel — and what you’re feeling is the pressure of increased weight and the sustained loading in the tissues of the buttocks of the couch potato.”

The more you know …

“If we understand the etiology of getting fatter, of how cells in fat tissues synthesize nutritional components under a given mechanical loading environment, then we can think about different practical solutions to obesity,” Prof. Gefen says. “If you can learn to control the mechanical environment of cells, you can then determine how to modulate the fat cells to produce less fat.”

The team hopes that its observations can serve as a point of departure for further research into the changing cellular environment and different stimulations that lead to increased fat production.

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March 28, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

[News item] Ruling with an iron fist could make your child pack on pounds — ScienceDaily

Ruling with an iron fist could make your child pack on pounds — ScienceDaily.

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Date:
March 19, 2014
Source:
American Heart Association
Summary:
Kids whose parents are demanding but not emotionally responsive are about one-third more likely to be obese than kids whose parents set healthy boundaries, are affectionate and discuss behavior. Researchers compared kids whose parents are generally affectionate, have reasonable discussions about behavior with their child and set healthy boundaries (authoritative) with those whose parents were strict about limits without much dialogue or affection (authoritarian).

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March 28, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Impulsive Personality Linked to Food Addiction

From the 24 January 2014 ScienceDaily article

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The same kinds of impulsive behavior that lead some people to abuse alcohol and other drugs may also be an important contributor to an unhealthy relationship with food, according to new research from the University of Georgia.

In a paper published recently in the journal Appetite, researchers found that people with impulsive personalities were more likely to report higher levels of food addiction — a compulsive pattern of eating that is similar to drug addiction — and this in turn was associated with obesity.

“The notion of food addiction is a very new one, and one that has generated a lot of interest,” said James MacKillop, the study’s principal investigator and associate professor of psychology in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “My lab generally studies alcohol, nicotine and other forms of drug addiction, but we think it’s possible to think about impulsivity, food addiction and obesity using some of the same techniques.”

More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, putting them at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars, and obese people pay an average of $1,429 more in medical expenses than those of normal weight.

MacKillop and doctoral students Cara Murphy and Monika Stojek hope that their research will ultimately help physicians and other experts plan treatments and interventions for obese people who have developed an addiction to food, paving the way for a healthier lifestyle.

The contemporary food industry has created a wide array of eating options, and foods that are high in fat, sodium, sugar and other flavorful additives and appear to produce cravings much like illicit drugs, MacKillop said. Now they will work to see how those intense cravings might play a role in the development of obesity.

“Modern neuroscience has helped us understand how substances like drugs and alcohol co-opt areas of the brain that evolved to release dopamine and create a sense of happiness or satisfaction,” he said. “And now we realize that certain types of food also hijack these brain circuits and lay the foundation for compulsive eating habits that are similar to drug addiction.”

Read the entire article here

 

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January 25, 2014 Posted by | Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

Slower-paced meal reduces hunger but affects calorie consumption differently

Slower-paced meal reduces hunger but affects calorie consumption differently.

From the 30 December 2013 EurkAlert

According to new study of normal-weight and overweight or obese individuals published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Philadelphia, PA, December 30, 2013 – Obesity rates in the United States increased from 14.5% of the population in 1971-1974 to 35.9% of the population in 2009-2010. It’s believed that one contributing factor to expanding waistlines is the reported increase in energy intake. Research suggests that the ability to control energy intake may be affected by the speed at which we eat, and a high eating rate may impair the relationship between the sensory signals and processes that regulate how much we eat.

In order to learn more about the relationship between eating speed and energy intake, a team of researchers in the Department of Kinesiology at Texas Christian University took a look at how eating speed affects calories consumed during a meal in both normal weight subjects as well as overweight or obese subjects. The investigators also collected data on feelings of hunger and fullness before and after the fast-paced and slow-paced meals and water consumption during the meals. Their results are published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

While previous studies have reviewed the relationship between eating speed and body weight, most of those studies were conducted with normal-weight individuals. In this new study, investigators asked a group of normal-weight subjects and a group of overweight or obese subjects to consume two meals in a controlled environment. All subjects ate one meal at a slow speed, for which they were instructed to imagine that they had no time constraints, take small bites, chew thoroughly, and pause and put the spoon down between bites, and a second meal at a fast speed, for which they were instructed to imagine that they had a time constraint, take large bites, chew quickly, and not pause and put the spoon down.

At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that only normal-weight subjects had a statistically significant reduction in caloric consumption during the slow compared to the fast meal: 88 kcal less for the normal weight group, versus only 58 kcal less for the overweight or obese group.

“Slowing the speed of eating led to a significant reduction in energy intake in the normal-weight group, but not in the overweight or obese group. A lack of statistical significance in the overweight and obese group may be partly due to the fact that they consumed less food during both eating conditions compared to the normal-weight subjects,” explained lead author Meena Shah, PhD, professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Texas Christian University. “It is possible that the overweight and obese subjects felt more self-conscious, and thus ate less during the study.”

Despite the differences in caloric consumption between the normal-weight and overweight and obese subjects, the study found some similarities. Both groups felt less hungry later on after the slow meal than after the fast meal. “In both groups, ratings of hunger were significantly lower at 60 minutes from when the meal began during the slow compared to the fast eating condition,” added Dr. Shah. “These results indicate that greater hunger suppression among both groups could be expected from a meal that is consumed more slowly.”

Also, both the normal weight and overweight or obese groups consumed more water during the slow meal. During the fast condition, participants across the study only consumed 9 ounces of water, but during the slow condition, that amount rose to 12 ounces. “Water consumption was higher during the slow compared to the fast eating condition by 27% in the normal weight and 33% in the overweight or obese group. The higher water intake during the slow eating condition probably caused stomach distention and may have affected food consumption,” said Dr. Shah.

With obesity rates continuing to rise among the adult population in the United States, information about how different weight groups approach and consume food will be helpful in crafting strategies to lower energy intake, but for now, Dr. Shah suggested, “Slowing the speed of eating may help to lower energy intake and suppress hunger levels and may even enhance the enjoyment of a meal.”

 

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January 6, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

[Pew Report] Public Agrees on Obesity’s Impact, Not Government’s Role

Yes to Calories on Menus, No to Soda Limits

From the 12 November  Pew report summary

Most Americans (69%) see obesity as a very serious public health problem, substantially more than the percentages viewing alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking and AIDS in the same terms. In addition, a broad majority believes that obesity is not just a problem that affects individuals: 63% say obesity has consequences for society beyond the personal impact on individuals. Just 31% say it impacts the individuals who are obese but not society more broadly.

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Yet, the public has mixed opinions about what, if anything, the government should do about the issue. A 54% majority does not want the government to play a significant role in reducing obesity, while 42% say the government should play a significant role. And while some proposals for reducing obesity draw broad support, others are decidedly unpopular.

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(The survey was conducted before the Food and Drug Administration’s proposal last Thursday to severely restrict trans fats nationwide.) 1

 

November 16, 2013 Posted by | Public Health | , | Leave a comment

[Reposting] 1 in 4 has alarmingly few intestinal bacteria

From the 27 August 2013 EurkAlert

All people have trillions of bacteria living in their intestines. If you place them on a scale, they weigh around 1.5 kg. Previously, a major part of these ‘blind passengers’ were unknown, as they are difficult or impossible to grow in laboratories. But over the past five years, an EU-funded research team, MetaHIT, coordinated by Professor S. Dusko Ehrlich at the INRA Research Centre of Jouy-en-Josas, France and with experts from Europe and China have used advanced DNA analysis and bioinformatics methods to map human intestinal bacteria.

-The genetic analysis of intestinal bacteria from 292 Danes shows that about a quarter of us have up to 40% less gut bacteria genes and correspondingly fewer bacteria than average. Not only has this quarter fewer intestinal bacteria, but they also have reduced bacterial diversity and they harbour more bacteria causing a low-grade inflammation of the body. This is a representative study sample, and the study results can therefore be generalised to people in the Western world, says Oluf Pedersen, Professor and Scientific Director at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

Oluf Pedersen and Professor Torben Hansen have headed the Danish part of the MetaHIT project, and the findings are reported in the highly recognised scientific journal Nature.

The gut is like a rainforest

Oluf Pedersen compares the human gut and its bacteria with a tropical rainforest. He explains that we need as much diversity as possible, and – as is the case with the natural tropical rainforests – decreasing diversity is a cause for concern. It appears that the richer and more diverse the composition of our intestinal bacteria, the stronger our health. The bacteria produce vital vitamins, mature and strengthen our immune system and communicate with the many nerve cells and hormone-producing cells in the intestinal system. And, not least, the bacteria produce a wealth of bioactive substances which penetrate into the bloodstream and affect our biology in countless ways.

-Our study shows that people having few and less diverse intestinal bacteria are more obese than the rest. They have a preponderance of bacteria which exhibit the potential to cause mild inflammation in the digestive tract and in the entire body, which is reflected in blood samples that reveal a state of chronic inflammation, which we know from other studies to affect metabolism and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, says Oluf Pedersen.

-And we also see that if you belong to the group with less intestinal bacteria and have already developed obesity, you will also gain more weight over a number of years. We don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg, but one thing is certain: it is a vicious circle that poses a health threat, says the researcher.

Take care of your intestinal bacteria

The researchers thus still cannot explain why some people have fewer intestinal bacteria, but the researchers are focusing their attention at dietary components, genetic variation in the human host, exposure to antimicrobial agents during early childhood and the chemistry we encounter daily in the form of preservatives and disinfectants.

A French research team reports a study in the same issue of Nature showing that by maintaining a low-fat diet for just six weeks, a group of overweight individuals with fewer and less diverse intestinal bacteria may, to some extent, increase the growth of intestinal bacteria, both in terms of actual numbers and diversity.

-This indicates that you can repair some of the damage to your gut bacteria simply by changing your dietary habits. Our intestinal bacteria are actually to be considered an organ just like our heart and brain, and the presence of health-promoting bacteria must therefore be cared for in the best way possible. Over the next years, we will be gathering more knowledge of how best to do this,” says Oluf Pedersen, whose research team is studying, among other things, the impact of dietary gluten on gut bacteria composition and gut function.

Towards innovative early diagnostics and treatment options

Obesity and type 2 diabetes are not just a result of unfortunate combinations of intestinal bacteria or lack of health-promoting intestinal bacteria, Oluf Pedersen emphasises. There are likely many causal factors at play. But the MetaHit researchers’ contribution opens a new universe in which we begin to understand how gut bacteria in direct contact with the surrounding environment have a decisive impact on our health and risk of disease.

-At present we cannot do anything about our own DNA, individual variation in which also plays a crucial role in susceptibility for lifestyle diseases. But thanks to the new gut microbiota research, we now can start exploring interactions between host genetics and the gut bacteria- related environment which we may be able to change. That is why it is so exciting for us scientist within this research field– the possibilities are huge, says Oluf Pedersen.

-The long-term dream is to map and characterize any naturally occurring gut bacteria that produce appetite-inhibiting bioactive substances and in this way learn to exploit the body’s own medicine to prevent the obesity epidemic and type 2 diabetes, says Oluf Pedersen.

 

 

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

Disease and death in America: A poor bill of health | The Economist

Originally posted on THE POLICY THINKSHOP "Think Together":

Health insurance coverage to help you fix decades of high cholesterol will probably not save your life.  This is the problem that America faces as it is found to be sick because of health behaviors it does not want to change.  We have the freedom to act very unhealthy and to get sick.  How much will increasing insurance coverage really improve our health?

“THE Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, faces an immediate problem. The deadline for its insurance expansion is January 1st, but each week brings some new obstacle. Even if Obamacare overcomes these, a long-term challenge will remain: the law may not improve Americans’ health. And that health is dismal, as illuminated in vivid new detail on July 10th.

Christopher Murray and his colleagues at the University of Washington have new research on which ailments plague Americans, and why. Dr Murray is due to present his findings at the…

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July 17, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , , | Leave a comment

Quote of the Day (Food Activism)

Janice Flahiff:

Interesting, thoughtful take on current movements focusing on food environments (schools, neighborhoods) before there is enough evidence.

Originally posted on Weight Maven:

Social policy researcher Helen Lee thinks food activism is leading public health astray (emphasis mine):

Much of the American public health and medical establishment came to believe that one of the most powerful ways to overcome the [obesity] epidemic was to radically remake our school and neighborhood food environments­­, reducing­­ access to unhealthy foods and increasing access to healthy ones.

But in their rush to condemn corporate agribusiness, food marketers, and neighborhood food environments, public health advocates have too often allowed their policy and ideological preferences to race ahead of the science. This has fostered a reductive story about obesity that appeals to liberal audiences but doesn’t comport particularly well with much of what we know about why people choose to eat unhealthy foods, what the health consequences of being overweight or obese actually are, or why health outcomes associated with obesity are so much worse among some populations than…

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July 17, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

7 reasons to boycott the Super Bowl from a medical standpoint

As an aside, I stopped participating in alumni band during football homecoming.
Just don’t want to be part of this sport which in increasingly unhealthy in the short and long run.

From the 30 January 2013 KevinMD post

You’ve probably watched the Super Bowl as I have many times, faithfully, elevating the occasion to some kind of macabre family tradition. It is a spectacle of athletic agility, drama, and struggle; the pinnacle of American sporting contests. Despite the heavy onslaught of commercialism, faux halftime culture, and evident violence on the field, we suspend our awareness that this event may not be a magical moment worth our time and validation, even as its winners call out to some magical Disney kingdom.

Here are 7 points to consider:

7. Obesity and cardiovascular disease. Up to 45% of youth participating in football are overweight or obese. The nature of the sport favors, and increasingly demands, a large body size. The physique acquired in adolescence often persists into adulthood.
According to a 2007 study of 653 boys ages 8-14 playing football in Michigan, 20% were overweight and another 25% were obese, as defined by body mass index.Studies have shown that linemen have high early mortality rates, and for all professional players who have played 5 years or more, life expectancy is less than 60.

6) MRSA infections and abscesses. Quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have suffered from it.

Read the entire post here

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Public health extremism (Obama Care, Health Law, and Bioethics)

Originally posted on Johns Hopkins University Press Blog:

Guest post by Maxwell J. Mehlman

In a November article for the New England Journal of Medicine, Harvard law professors Michelle Mello and Glenn Cohen argue that in upholding the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance mandate as a tax the Supreme Court “has highlighted an opportunity for passing creative new public health laws.” As a bioethicist who writes extensively on the question of coercive public health this troubled me on several fronts.  In this case, Mello and Cohen give an example of the laws that they have in mind: higher taxes on people whose body-mass index falls outside of the normal range, who do not produce an annual health improvement plan with their physician, who do not purchase gym memberships, who are diabetic but fail to control their glycated hemoglobin levels, and who do not declare that they were tobacco-free during the past year.

Some of these suggestions seem ineffectual…

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December 27, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chemical Exposure in the Womb from Household Items May Contribute to Obesity

 

From the 30 August 2012 article at Science News Daily

Pregnant women who are highly exposed to common environmental chemicals — polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs) — have babies that are smaller at birth and larger at 20 months of age, according to a study from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health published online in the August 30 edition ofEnvironmental Health Perspectives.

PFCs are used in the production of fluoropolymers and are found widely in protective coatings of packaging products, clothes, furniture and non-stick cookware. They are persistent compounds found abundantly in the environment and human exposure is common. PFCs have been detected in human sera, breast milk and cord blood…

..

The researchers found that even though girls with higher exposure were smaller than average (43rd percentile) at birth, they were heavier than average (58th percentile) by 20 months of age. The authors say this path may lead to obesity at older ages.

“Previous animal and human research suggests prenatal exposures to PFCs may have harmful effects on fetal and postnatal growth,” says lead researcher Michele Marcus, MPH, PhD, a professor of epidemiology in Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and the assistant program director at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research.

“Our findings are consistent with these studies and emerging evidence that chemicals in our environment are contributing to obesity and diabetes and demonstrate that this trajectory is set very early in life for those exposed.”

According to Marcus, a recent study in Denmark found that women exposed to PFCs in the womb were more likely to be overweight at age 20. And experimental studies with mice have shown that exposure in the womb led to higher levels of insulin and heavier body weight in adulthood….

 

 

August 31, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Burdens Of Place’ Plague Urban Poor; Often Lead To Weight Gain, Obesity

 

From the 12 August Medical News Today article

Most of America’s urban cores were designed for walking but offer little in the way of supermarkets, healthy restaurants and other amenities for residents to walk to, according to a study led by a Michigan State University scholar.

The study is one of the first to show that poor residents living in declining urban neighborhoods want healthy food choices – evidenced by their willingness to travel long distances to find them. Past research has generally assumed that poor people will shop at whatever store is closest.

But compared with suburban residents, the urban poor are more overweight and must travel farther to find healthy food and access personal services, said Igor Vojnovic, associate professor of geography and lead author on the study…

..Other findings included:

  • Fast food restaurants were more plentiful in poor neighborhoods. In addition, residents there reported that 55 percent of all dining-out experiences were at fast food eateries, compared with only 13 percent for those in the suburbs.
  • Poor urban residents had to go nearly twice as far as suburbanites to shop at supermarkets.
  • The urban poor made about five trips per month to convenience stores (which aren’t known for stocking healthy foods) compared with only one trip per month for suburbanites…

..

During the past 30 years, urban planners and business investors have largely ignored poor communities, instead focusing policy, research and investment efforts on wealthier neighborhoods, Vojnovic said. As a result, little is known about resident behaviors in declining communities, even as the number of poor people increases in the United States, he said.

The current study shows that the fundamental principles in city planning and design that have been developed around wealthy communities do not necessarily hold in poor neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, some have advocated an “obesity tax” on unhealthy foods to help pay for the health-care system overhaul or as a policy to curtail obesity. But Vojnovic said such a tax would disproportionately burden the urban poor and noted that this population has little power to influence the location decisions of healthy food suppliers.

Vojnovic said a better option might be for states to give subsidies to major supermarket chains, restaurants serving healthy food and other needed establishments that locate in poor neighborhoods. 

 

August 13, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

The New Science Behind America’s Deadliest Diseases – WSJ.com

The New Science Behind America’s Deadliest Diseases – WSJ.com (16th July 2012)

What do heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke and cancer have in common? Scientists have linked each of these to a condition known as chronic inflammation, and they are studying how high-fat foods and excess body weight may increase the risk for fatal disorders.

While much focus has been on fighting inflammation with drugs, researchers are getting a better understanding of the links connecting diet, inflammation and illness and discovering ways that foods can help keep inflammation in check. Laura Landro has details on Lunch Break.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and outside irritants. But when the irritants don’t let up, because of a diet of high-fat foods, too much body fat and smoking, for example, the immune system can spiral out of control and increase the risk for disease. Experts say when inflammation becomes chronic it can damage heart valves and brain cells, trigger strokes, and promote resistance to insulin, which leads to diabetes. It also is associated with the development of cancer.

Much of the research on chronic inflammation has focused on fighting it with drugs, such as cholesterol-lowering statins for heart disease. A growing body of research is revealing how abdominal fat and an unhealthy diet can lead to inflammation. Some scientists are investigating how certain components in foods might help. Dietary fiber from whole grains, for instance, may play a protective role against inflammation, a recent study found. And dairy foods may help ease inflammation in patients with a combination of risk factors…

…A substance known as C-reactive protein, measured with a simple blood test, is an indicator of inflammation in the body. A report published in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2007, which analyzed results of 33 separate studies, found that losing weight can lower C-reactive protein levels. For each one kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of weight loss, whether by dieting, exercise or surgery, the mean reduction in C-reactive protein among participants was 0.13 milligram per liter…

..At a meeting in Quebec City last week on abdominal obesity and its health risks, experts in cardiology, endocrinology, nutrition and related specialties presented a wide range of new research linking obesity to inflammation-related diseases…

July 18, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geographic information systems demonstrate links between health and location

From the 10 April 2012 Eureka news alert

San Diego, CA, April 10, 2012 – The neighborhoods in which children and adolescents live and spend their time play a role in whether or not they eat a healthy diet, get enough exercise or become obese, concludes a collection of studies in a special theme issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Each of the six studies uses the latest concepts and methods in geographic information systems (GIS)-based research to determine how the geographic location affects physical health. A study titled “Spatial Classification of Youth Physical Activity Patterns” shows, for example, that while rural youth get the largest proportion of their physical activity while at school, urban and suburban youth are most active when commuting. Not only does this finding suggest that the walk to school might be just as important to some children’s health as is the physical education they receive as part of the school curriculum, it is also important given that adolescent health behaviors are predictive of behaviors in adults.

Another study by researchers in the United Kingdom concludes that adolescents in rural areas ate fast food more often when fast-food outlets were easily accessible, whereas the opposite was true for adolescents living in urban areas. The researchers, led by Lorna J. Fraser of the University of Leeds, conclude that although the need continues to exist for nutritional education regarding fast food, placing restrictions on the location of fast-food outlets may not decrease consumption of fast food in the same ways in all areas.

Brian E. Saelens and Lawrence D. Frank, along with their colleagues, authored two papers for the theme issue. “Obesogenic Neighborhood Environments, Child and Parent Obesity: The Neighborhood Impact on Kids Study” evaluated child and parent weight status across neighborhoods in Seattle and San Diego and ultimately found evidence that GIS-based definitions of obesogenic neighborhoods that consider both physical activity and the availability of healthy food options were strongly related to childhood obesity.

In a second study, the researchers used GIS-based measures to determine the ‘walkability’ and proximity to healthy food of certain neighborhoods in the San Diego and Seattle regions. The study recommends that such measures be used to study physical activity, nutrition and obesity outcomes.

In a paper titled “Obesogenic Environments in Youth: Concepts and Methods from a Longitudinal National Sample,” Janne Boone-Heinonen and colleagues describe the challenges inherent to longitudinal neighborhood environment research, as well as the insights they gained and the advances and remaining gaps in study design. The researchers note that understanding which neighborhood environment features influence weight gain in various age groups is essential to effectively prevent and reduce childhood obesity.

Two commentaries included in the theme issue examine the ways that computer-based GIS systems—which transform geospatial data into visual representations of the real world—can help prevent childhood obesity. “Thinking About Place, Spatial Behavior, and Spatial Process in Childhood Obesity” by Stephen A. Matthews, outlines the content of the theme, concluding that although GIS is not a panacea, it “offers an important means of better understanding and dealing with some of the most pressing problems of our time, and provides valuable tools for researchers and policymakers alike.”

The second commentary, providing a perspective from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, notes that while GIS is still in the relatively early stages of application in the field, it might one day enhance understanding of the complex and dynamic connections between people, their health and their physical and social environments.

April 10, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Report Finds Reducing Average Body Mass Index Rates by Five Percent Could Lead to Billions in Health Care Savings

English: Relative risk of mortality by BMI in ...

Relative risk of mortality by BMI in White US men who never smoked. Berrington de Gonzalez A,..

http://healthyamericans.org/newsroom/releases/?releaseid=255
The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) has released a new report, Bending the Obesity Cost Curve, which finds that reducing the average body mass index by just five percent in the United States could lead to more than $29 billion in health care savings in just five years, due to reduced obesity-related costs.

“Your “healthy” weight cannot simply be calculated from a general source – people’s healthy weight, orideal weight, depends on several factors, including their age, sex, body type, bone density, muscle-fat-ratio, overall general health, and height.

Over the last few decades, using BMI (body mass index) was seen as an excellent means for calculating a person’s healthy weight. However, BMI, as you will see later on in this article, is at best, a ballpark calculation with several limitations…

Health care professionals and sports scientists say measuring a person’s body fat percentage is the ideal way of gauging their level of fitness and general health, because it is the only one that includes the person’s true body composition. [my emphasis]

(Unfortunately, at this time, the only ways to measure body fat percentage are rather hi-tech according to this article. Three ways noted are based on air displacement, infrared rays, and X-rays)

February 13, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Societal Control of Sugar Essential to Ease Public Health Burden, Experts Urge

From the 1 February 2012 Science Daily news article

Sugar should be controlled like alcohol and tobacco to protect public health, according to a team of UCSF researchers, who maintain in a new report that sugar is fueling a global obesity pandemic, contributing to 35 million deaths annually worldwide from non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Non-communicable diseases now pose a greater health burden worldwide than infectious diseases, according to the United Nations. In the United States, 75 percent of health care dollars are spent treating these diseases and their associated disabilities….

….

Sugar, they argue, is far from just “empty calories” that make people fat. At the levels consumed by most Americans, sugar changes metabolism, raises blood pressure, critically alters the signaling of hormones and causes significant damage to the liver — the least understood of sugar’s damages. These health hazards largely mirror the effects of drinking too much alcohol, which they point out in their commentary is the distillation of sugar.

Worldwide consumption of sugar has tripled during the past 50 years and is viewed as a key cause of the obesity epidemic. But obesity, Lustig, Schmidt and Brindis argue, may just be a marker for the damage caused by the toxic effects of too much sugar. This would help explain why 40 percent of people with metabolic syndrome — the key metabolic changes that lead to diabetes, heart disease and cancer — are not clinically obese.

“As long as the public thinks that sugar is just ‘empty calories,’ we have no chance in solving this,” said Lustig, a professor of pediatrics, in the division of endocrinology at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health (WATCH) Program at UCSF.

“There are good calories and bad calories, just as there are good fats and bad fats, good amino acids and bad amino acids, good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates,” Lustig said. “But sugar is toxic beyond its calories…

…”We’re not talking prohibition,” Schmidt said. “We’re not advocating a major imposition of the government into people’s lives. We’re talking about gentle ways to make sugar consumption slightly less convenient, thereby moving people away from the concentrated dose. What we want is to actually increase people’s choices by making foods that aren’t loaded with sugar comparatively easier and cheaper to get.”..

February 6, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

Preventable Chronic Disease on the Rise; Obesity, Diabetes Undermining Country’s Overall Health

From the American Public Health Association 2011 Press Release

America’s Health Rankings Finds Preventable Chronic Disease on the Rise; Obesity, Diabetes Undermining Country’s Overall Health

  • Nation made no progress in improving health in 2011 after three years of gains
  • Modest decreases in smoking and preventable hospitalizations
  • Dramatic increases in obesity and diabetes, combined with still-too-high levels of tobacco use, are putting more people at risk for preventable illness and higher health expenditures
  • The Rankings indicates that every person that quit smoking in 2011 was offset by a person becoming obese
  • 2011 is the first year no state had an obesity prevalence under 20 percent
  • United Health Foundation launches “Take Action for Change” Facebook campaign to incent healthy behavior

Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2011 – United Health Foundation’s 2011 America’s Heath Rankings® finds that troubling increases in obesity, diabetes and children in poverty are offsetting improvements in smoking cessation, preventable hospitalizations and cardiovascular deaths. The report finds that the country’s overall health did not improve between 2010 and 2011 – a drop from the 0.5 percent average annual rate of improvement between 2000 and 2010 and the 1.6 percent average annual rate of improvement seen in the 1990s…..

December 13, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Exercise helps us to eat a healthy diet

Exercise helps us to eat a healthy diet

From the 29 November Eureka News alert 

 IMAGE: Exercise helps us to eat a healthy diet.Click here for more information.

A healthy diet and the right amount of exercise are key players in treating and preventing obesity but we still know little about the relationship both factors have with each other. A new study now reveals that an increase in physical activity is linked to an improvement in diet quality.

Many questions arise when trying to lose weight. Would it be better to start on a diet and then do exercise, or the other way around? And how much does one compensate the other?

“Understanding the interaction between exercise and a healthy diet could improve preventative and therapeutic measures against obesity by strengthening current approaches and treatments,” explains Miguel Alonso Alonso, researcher at Harvard University (USA) who has published a bibliographical compilation on the subject, to SINC.

The data from epidemiological studies suggest that tendencies towards a healthy diet and the right amount of physical exercise often come hand in hand. Furthermore, an increase in physical activity is usually linked to a parallel improvement in diet quality.

Exercise also brings benefits such as an increase in sensitivity to physiological signs of fullness. This not only means that appetite can be controlled better but it also modifies hedonic responses to food stimuli. Therefore, benefits can be classified as those that occur in the short term (of metabolic predominance) and those that are seen in the long term (of behavioural predominance).

According to Alonso Alonso, “physical exercise seems to encourage a healthy diet. In fact, when exercise is added to a weight-loss diet, treatment of obesity is more successful and the diet is adhered to in the long run.”

The authors of the study state how important it is for social policy to encourage and facilitate sport and physical exercise amongst the population. This should be present in both schools and our urban environment or daily lives through the use of public transport or availability of pedestrianised areas and sports facilities….

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

Exercise May Encourage Healthy Eating Via Brain Changes

 

Marine of the United States Marine Corps runs ...

Image via Wikipedia

From a 24 Nov 2011 Medical News Today article

Exercise may encourage healthy eating by changing parts of the brain that influence impulsive behaviour, according to a new review of the available literature by researchers from Spain and the US published in Obesity Reviews. The researchers conclude that in a society where we are surrounded by temptations and triggers that facilitate over-eating and excess, the part of the brain responsible for “inhibitory control” undergoes “relentless strain” (they note it has limited capacity anyway), and doing exercise on a regular basis enhances it.

“By enhancing the resources that facilitate ‘top-down’ inhibitory control, increased physical activity may help compensate and suppress the hedonic drive to over-eat,” they write. ……

November 25, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

3 p.m. slump? Why a sugar rush may not be the answer

From the 17 November Eureka News Alert

Protein, not sugar, stimulates cells keeping us thin and awake, new study suggests

A new study has found that protein and not sugar activates the cells responsible for keeping us awake and burning calories. The research, published in the 17 November issue of the scientific journal Neuron, has implications for understanding obesity and sleep disorders.

Wakefulness and energy expenditure rely on “orexin cells”, which secrete a stimulant called orexin/hypocretin in the brain. Reduced activity in these unique cells results in narcolepsy and has been linked to weight gain.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge compared actions of different nutrients on orexin cells. They found that amino acids – nutrients found in proteins such as egg whites – stimulate orexin neurons much more than other nutrients….

…”To combat obesity and insomnia in today’s society, we need more information on how diet affects sleep and appetite cells. For now, research suggests that if you have a choice between jam on toast, or egg whites on toast, go for the latter! Even though the two may contain the same number of calories, having a bit of protein will tell the body to burn more calories out of those consumed.”

 

Read the article

November 17, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

Soda’s Evil Twin – The Dangers of Fruit Drinks (Infographic) [With Added Item on Environmental Degradation by Soda Manufacturer Processes]

From Jen Rs Web page  (Twitter: jenicarhee)


Related articles

  • [Environmenal effects of soda drink manufacturing overseas]

From the January 2012 newsletter item by the Mt. St. Agnes Theological Center for Women
Green Notes

Bad news for soft drink lovers…You might believe that your daily cola fix only poses a threat to your diet but, depending on your brand of choice, you could be terribly wrong.  As major soft drink manufactures move their bottling plants over seas and into the developing world, many are engaging in irresponsible behaviors that harm the local environment and communities dependent on it.

Coca-Cola stands out as the worst offender, particularly in India.  In the last decade, tens of thousands of farmers and their families have lost their livelihoods as Coca-Cola’s activities have dried out their wells and poisoned any alternate local water sources.  The company has peddled potentially toxic product containing elevated levels of dangerous pesticides in drinks sold in India. The dangerous pesticides include DDT, Lindane, and Malathion.  PepsiCo’s activities in India have been only marginally better.  India’s parliament has banned Coca-Cola and PepsiCo products from all of its cafeterias and, as of 2007, ten thousand of its schools and colleges have followed suit.

In support of India’s efforts to force responsible practices from the Coca-Cola and PepsiCo corporations, our Center will no longer purchase or serve soft drinks from these companies.  We hope you will do the same.  For more information regarding the on-going protest movement against Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, check outwww.cokejustice.org  andwww.indiaresource.org/news/2010/1044.html, or refer to Paul Hawken’s book, Blessed Unrest, which our Center will be discussing this April.

November 16, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition, Public Health, statistics | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Global Obesity Pandemic – Lancet articles & related articles (including press coverage)

From the 26 August edition of The Lancet

This four-part Series critically examines what we know about the global obesity pandemic: its drivers, its economic and health burden, the physiology behind weight control and maintenance, and what science tells us about the kind of actions that are needed to change our obesogenic environment and reverse the current tsunami of risk factors for chronic diseases in future generations. …

Series Papers**
The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments

Boyd A Swinburn, Gary Sacks, Kevin D Hall, Klim McPherson, Diane T Finegood, Marjory L Moodie, Steven L Gortmaker

Summary | Full Text | PDF

Health and economic burden of the projected obesity trends in the USA and the UK

Y Claire Wang, Klim McPherson, Tim Marsh, Steven L Gortmaker, Martin Brown

Summary | Full Text | PDF

Quantification of the effect of energy imbalance on bodyweight

Kevin D Hall, Gary Sacks, Dhruva Chandramohan, Carson C Chow, Y Claire Wang, Steven L Gortmaker, Boyd A Swinburn

Summary | Full Text | PDF

Changing the future of obesity: science, policy, and action

Steven L Gortmaker, Boyd A Swinburn, David Levy, Rob Carter, Patricia L Mabry, Diane T Finegood, Terry Huang, Tim Marsh, Marjory L Moodie
Summary | Full Text | PDF
Media Coverage
  **Do not have a subscription to The Lancet? Click here for suggestions on how to get these articles for free or at low cost.

 

August 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Schools Restore Fresh Cooking to the Cafeteria

Kevin Moloney for The New York Times

Elida Martinez, a 32-year veteran of school kitchens in Greeley, Colo., mixing beans with cheese and seasonings for burritos.

From the 16 August 2011 New York Times article

GREELEY, Colo. — The idea of making school lunches better and healthier has gathered steam in many parts of the nation in recent years, but not equally for every child. Schools with money and involved parents concerned about obesity and nutrition charged ahead, while poor and struggling districts, overwhelmed by hard times, mostly did not.

This midsize city in northern Colorado, where 60 percent of the 19,500 students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, is trying to break the mold. When classes start on Thursday, the district will make a great leap forward — and at the same time back to the way it was done a generation ago — in cooking meals from scratch…

Read the article at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/17/education/17lunch.html?_r=1&ref=health

 

August 19, 2011 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

Study Finds That It’s Possible To Be Fat And Healthy

From the 17 August 2011 Medical News Today article 

A study out of York University has some refreshing news: Being fat can actually be good for you.

Published in the journalApplied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, the study finds that obese people who are otherwise healthy live just as long as their slim counterparts, and are less likely to die of cardiovascular causes.

“Our findings challenge the idea that all obese individuals need to lose weight,” says lead author Jennifer Kuk, assistant professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health. “Moreover, it’s possible that trying – and failing – to lose weight may be more detrimental than simply staying at an elevated body weight and engaging in a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity and a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables,” she says.

Read the entire news article

August 17, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

Healthy Restaurant Eating: Is The Tide Turning In Fast Foods?

From the 6 August Medical News Today article

Eating out, and the amount we spend on it, especially on fast foods, has been rising steadily for decades, and parallels the increase in daily calorie intake that is contributing to the growing obesity crisis. But is that about to change? Official figures, which take years to emerge, don’t appear to show it, but some more recent findings suggest the tide could be starting to turn, although for surprising reasons…

More Tips for Healthy Eating Out

Here are some more tips, based on information from the University of Wisconsin, on how to be kind to your waistline and your health when eating out, without spoiling the fun and enjoyment of good food.

  1. Do your research first: find out who is offering healthy, low fat meals.
  2. Eat something, like a piece of fruit, or drink a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon, about half an hour before, so you are not starving when you order, which can affect your choices.
  3. If you can’t control your portions, avoid restaurants that offer buffet or “all you can eat” menus.
  4. Eat half the entrée and ask them to wrap the rest for you to take home.
  5. Order one meal with two plates, one for you, one for your dining partner.
  6. Have an appetizer as a main course.
  7. Don’t eat everything: skip the bits you like less.
  8. Prefer spinach, watercress, dark green leaf salads (they are more nutritious) to those where the only leaf is pale iceberg lettuce.
  9. Avoid thick sauces made with butter or cream: ask the waiter if you are not sure. Go for stock-based sauce, or cooked in own juices instead.
  10. Instead of french fries, have baked potato, a side salad, or some steamed vegetables.
  11. Skip the mayonnaise and rich sauces in sandwiches and ask for extra tomatoes, onions, lettuce, mustard instead.
  12. Eat less at another meal in the day – but don’t skip meals, as this can lead to binge eating.
  13. Watch the alcohol and sweetened drinks: they are also rich in calories.
  14. Look for low fat, grilled, flame-cooked, broiled and steamed main dishes instead of battered, tempura, breaded, fried foods.
  15. Choose hard rolls, plain bread sticks, french bread or wholemeal buns and avoid dishes made with pastries, croissants and biscuits.
  16. Choose soups that are broth-based rather than cream or milk-based.
  17. Have extra vegetable toppings on your pizza instead of meat and extra cheese.

Read the entire article

August 8, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

Food May Act Physiologically Like A ‘Drug Of Choice’ For Some

From a 19 July 2011 Medical News Today article

Authorities in the field of foodaddiction at the University of Florida say new research indicates that overeating andobesity problems might be effectively tackled if people would limit their food choices.

Editorializing in the August edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nicole M. Avena, Ph.D., a research assistant professor, and Mark S. Gold, M.D., chairman of the UF College of Medicine’s department of psychiatry, suggest modern living presents many delicious possibilities for people at mealtime – too many for people who respond to food as if it were an addictive drug…

Read the article

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

Obese Doesn’t Always Mean Unhealthy, UMDNJ Research Shows

“…metabolically healthy obese individuals may represent as much as 20 to 30 percent of obese population…

From the 17 June Medical News Today Web page

It’s become an axiom of health that overweight and obese people are not as healthy as their normal weight counterparts. In fact, obesity has been targeted as one of the country’s most serious public health problems, with predictions of widespread heart disease, diabetes and cancer among the growing number of Americans who are overweight. But what if that’s not always correct? Is it possible for some people to be overweight or even obese and still be healthy? Researchers from the Weight Management Services Program at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine think so, and they have some surprising statistics to back that opinion up.

The researchers analyzed the records of 454 individuals who were seen as patients at the medical school. Each of the individuals in the study had a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, a standard for defining obesity, and the group’s average body fat percentage was over 46 percent. The UMDNJ analysis revealed a distinct sub-group of 135 metabolically healthy obese (MHO) individuals who, despite their high BMIs and body fat percentages, had essentially none of the measureable health risks high blood pressure or elevated blood sugar or cholesterol levels normally associated with obesity. Another sub-group of 167 individuals was categorized as medically unhealthy obese (MUO) because their corresponding results for the same measurements indicated an elevated risk for chronic disease.

“Our results indicate that metabolically healthy obese individuals may represent as much as 20 to 30 percent of obese population,” [Flahiff’s emphasis]  said Dr. Adarsh Gupta, director of Weight Management Services at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine, who, along with Dr. Gwynn Coatney, conducted the research. “This highlights the need for clinicians to be cautious when using obesity as a criterion for prescribing treatment. Researchers, too, need to be careful to distinguish between the metabolically healthy and metabolically unhealthy when analyzing data involving a group of obese individuals.”

Partners Home Page

A collaboration of U.S. government agencies, public health organizations and health sciences libraries

A related Web site – Obesity (Partners in Information Access for the Public Health Workforce)

From the press release

A new topic page on Obesity is now available on PHPartners.org at http://phpartners.org/obesity.html.

The topic page links to obesity information and resources including government, professional and research organizations that focus obesity issues; reports, publications and guidelines; obesity programs and campaigns; child obesity information; data and statistics; legislation and policy issues; grants and funding opportunities; training and continuing education; and upcoming conferences and events.

The Partners in Information Access for the Public Health Workforce, PHPartners.org<http://phpartners.org/>, is a collaboration of U.S. government agencies, public health organizations, and health sciences libraries. The mission of PHPartners is to help the public health workforce find and use information effectively to improve and protect the public’s health.

PHPartners.org welcomes suggestions of new links to post. Please suggest links at http://phpartners.org/suggestlink.html.

To keep up-to-date with public health news and online information resources, you can subscribe to the PHPartners RSS feed at http://phpartners.org/rss_phpartners.xml, or to the weekly email announcement list at http://list.nih.gov/cgi-bin/wa.exe?SUBED1=phpartners_link&A=1.


June 20, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

We Can – A National Child Obesity Prevention Program

We Can, Ways to Enhance Children's Activity & Nutrition
We Can!
 
 is a national education program designed to give parents and communities ways to help kids stay at a healthy weight, can help your family avoid excess pounds. From the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Get tips on choosing low-calorie snacks, getting active, and cooking fun, healthy meals.

The home page has links to

May 4, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health Education (General Public), Nutrition, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nutrition and Healthy Eating from the Mayo Clinic (& additional related Web sites)

Mayo Clinic
Nutrition and healthy eating 
 
is just one of many Healthy Lifestyle topics which provide information and tools for the public.

The Mayo Clinic staff have vetted materials on nutrition and healthy eating in the following areas

  • Nutrition Basics  with overviews on healthy diets, healthy cooking, and nutritional supplements
  • In Depth coverage of topics in Nutrition basics as the new dietary guidelines, carbohydrates, dietary fats, specific diets (as the Mediterranean diet), and menu options
  • Multimedia links to images, interactive graphics, videos, and slideshows
  • Expert blog with tips by registered dieticians and nurses on topics like kitchen organization, meal planning, and ideas for healthy salads
  • Resources with links to Web sites on nutrition, cooking, menus, and  shopping strategies
  • Web Site of the Week: Nutrition and healthy eating (alleganylibrarydirector.wordpress.com)
  • Whole Grains, Fiber, Protein And Almonds Help Manage Hunger Pains (Medical News Today, April 2011)
  • Live Well & Live Longer With Foods For Healthy Aging(Medical News Today, April 2011)”The tips below provide a starting point that can help you focus on foods for key parts of the body that are important to healthy aging:– Bones: String cheese is not just for the young. Add calcium to your diet by snacking on a stick of string cheese when hunger strikes.

    – Muscles: For a quick and easy snack, look for a nutrition bar with added soy protein or add a packet of soy or whey protein to your favorite smoothie.

    – Eyes: Punch up your intake of the eye-popping nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin by making a spinach salad with slices of oranges. Many multivitamin and mineral dietary supplements also include lutein.

    – Heart: Popcorn is a great source of whole grains. Keep a few mini-bags in your desk drawer to heat up for a quick, low-calorie snack at the office. Also, try spicing up your popcorn with garlic powder and cinnamon, or rosemary and parmesan cheese.

    – Mind: Salmon or tuna that is canned in water or in a shelf-stable pouch can make easy and affordable meals; add a few tablespoons of olive oil, season with pepper and thyme to enjoy on top of whole grain crackers or wrap with tomatoes in a lettuce leaf.”

Related Resources
Aim for a Healthy Weight

Aim for a Healthy Weight can help you learn how to reach and maintain a healthy weight by taking small steps to change your lifestyle. Find tips for eating well at home and on the road, and for becoming more physically active. (US NIH)
WIN (Weight-control Information Network) - An information service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
NIH’s Weight-control Information Network provides science-based information on obesity, physical activity, and weight control.


April 23, 2011 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

New research suggests that obesity and diabetes are a downside of human evolution

New research suggests that obesity and diabetes are a downside of human evolution

New research in the FASEB Journal suggests that a gene called CMAH has been lost during the course of recent evolution, and may lead to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes in humans

From the February 25 2011 Eureka news alert

As if the recent prediction that half of all Americans will have diabetes or pre-diabetes by the year 2020 isn’t alarming enough, a new genetic discovery published online in the FASEB Journal. *** provides a disturbing explanation as to why: we took an evolutionary “wrong turn.” In the research report, scientists show that human evolution leading to the loss of function in a gene called “CMAH” may make humans more prone to obesity and diabetes than other mammals.

“Diabetes is estimated to affect over 25 million individuals in the U.S., and 285 million people worldwide,” said Jane J. Kim, M.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla, CA. “Our study for the first time links human-specific sialic acid changes to insulin and glucose metabolism and therefore opens up a new perspective in understanding the causes of diabetes.”

In this study, which is the first to examine the effect of a human-specific CMAH genetic mutation in obesity-related metabolism and diabetes, Kim and colleagues show that the loss of CMAH’s function contributes to the failure of the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells in overweight humans, which is known to be a key factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. This gene encodes for an enzyme present in all mammalian species except for humans and adds a single oxygen atom to sialic acids, which are sugars that coat the cell surface.

To make their discovery, the researchers used two groups of mice. The first group had the same mutant CMAH gene found in humans. These mice demonstrated that the CMAH enzyme was inactive and could not produce a sialic acid type called NeuSGc at the cell surface. The second group had a normal CMAH gene. When exposed to a high fat diet, both sets of mice developed insulin resistance as a result of their obesity. Pancreatic beta cell failure, however, occurred only in the CMAH mutant mice that lacked NeuSGc, resulting in a decreased insulin production, which then further impaired blood glucose level control. This discovery may enhance scientific understanding of why humans may be particularly prone to develop type 2 diabetes. Results may also suggest that conventional animal models may not accurately mirror the human situation.

“The diabetes discovery is an important advance in its own right. It tells us a lot about what goes wrong in diabetes, and where to aim with new treatments,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal, “but its implications for human evolution are even greater. If this enzyme is unique to humans, it must also have given us a survival advantage over earlier species. Now the challenge is to find the function of CMAH in defending us against microbes or environmental stress or both. This evolutionary science explains how we can win some and lose some, to keep our species ahead of the extinction curve.”

**For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost click here

Related articles and Web sites

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two New Health/Science Research Guides From the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress Science Reference Services has recently published these two research guides

Health Effects of Obesity
This guide includes

General Titles
Specialized Titles
Related Titles
Journal Articles
Internet Resources
Organizations

A complete listing of all Science Reference guides with links may be found here.

Olfaction: The Sense of Smell

This guide is a review of the literature and vetted online resources on the subject of smell. It is designed, as the name of the series implies, to put the reader ‘on target.’ This and other recent Tracer Bullets are available in print and also online from Science Reference Services at: http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/tracer-bullets/tbs.html

January 21, 2011 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Finding Aids/Directories | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Communities Putting Prevention to Work Program Launches New Website

From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site “Communities Putting Prevention to Work

CDC’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work program was developed to highly impact the nation’s health by reducing chronic diseases related to obesity and tobacco using a prescribed set of effective strategies to build public health policies, strengthen the community environment to support health, and establish successful and sustainable interventions over the long term.

The Communities Putting Prevention to Work program is focused on preventing chronic disease by producing sustainable, positive and improved health outcomes through the implementation of programmatic efforts through policy, systems, and environmental level change.

Communities of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work program are funded under a 2-year cooperative agreement to implement evidence and practice based MAPPS (Media, Access, Point of decision information, Price, and Social support services) strategies that are expected to have lasting healthful effects in the years following the end of the 2-year funding period.

Highlights from this Web site

Tools and Resources for community planning , including both general information and specific resources on the topics of physical activity, nutrition, obesity, and tobacco

MAPPS Strategies which give advice on how to change individual behaviors through avenues as the media, social support services, and signage (as billboards)

Media Resource Center has specific resources related to physical activity, nutrition, obesity and tobacco

 

 

 

October 20, 2010 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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