Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to U.S. obesity epidemic, particularly among children

In response to the ongoing policy discussions on the role of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on weight and health, The Obesity Society (TOS) concludes that SSBs contribute to the United States’ obesity epidemic, particularly among children. Based on an in-depth analysis of the current research, TOS’s position statement unveiled today provides several recommendations for improving health, including that children minimize their consumption of SSBs.”There’s no arguing with the fact that the high rates of obesity in the U.S. are troubling for our nation’s health, specifically the recently reported rise in severe obesity among children in JAMA Pediatrics,” said TOS spokesperson Diana Thomas, PhD, Professor at Montclair State University and Director of the Center for Quantitative Obesity Research. “Following a thorough review and analysis of the existing research, TOS concludes that, by adding more non-nutritious calories to the American diet, SSBs have contributed to the U.S. obesity epidemic. Further, we recommend that to maintain and improve health children minimize drinking SSBs and adults reduce or avoid SSB consumption as part of an overall strategy to reduce calories.”According to the position statement posted online, TOS defines SSBs as sodas, sports drinks and other types of beverages that are primarily made up of water and added sugar. Consumption of these drinks in the U.S. remains high — Americans report that SSBs comprise 6-7% of overall calorie intake.”Despite the challenges researchers have faced with isolating the impact of specific foods or beverages on body weight, the studies conducted on SSBs thus far have generated important and meaningful data leading to our conclusion,” said Dr. Thomas. “The evidence shows that individuals with a higher BMI consume more SSBs than their leaner counterparts, and that decreasing SSB consumption may reduce overall calorie intake and help individuals with obesity or overweight reach healthy weight goals.”Weight gain occurs when total energy intake exceeds energy expenditure for extended periods of time. …

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Obesity, depression linked in teen girls, new study shows

Depression and obesity have long been associated, but how they relate over time is less clear. New research from a Rutgers University-Camden professor shows that adolescent females who experience one of the disorders are at a greater risk for the other as they get older.”Adolescence is a key developmental period for both obesity and depression, so we thought it significant to look at the onset of these disorders at an early age,” says Naomi Marmorstein, an associate professor of psychology at Rutgers-Camden.By assessing a statewide sample of more than 1,500 males and females in Minnesota over a period of more than 10 years, Marmorstein and two colleagues found that depression occurring by early adolescence in females predicts obesity by late adolescence.Meanwhile, obesity that occurs by late adolescence in females predicts the onset of depression by early adulthood. No significant associations between the two disorders across time were found in males during the study.Marmorstein’s article, “Obesity and depression in adolescence and beyond: reciprocal risks,” was recently published in the International Journal of Obesity. She co-authored the study with University of Minnesota psychology professor William Iacono and research associate Lisa Legrand.”When researchers looked at this connection over time, data had been mixed,” Marmorstein says. “Some found that depression and obesity go hand-in-hand, while others did not see that connection. We tried to take the next step in clarifying this link by looking at a sample of youth that we followed from ages 11 to 24.”This method improves on past research that included recurrence or persistence of depression and obesity rather than focusing on the onset of each disorder. Participants in Marmorstein’s study were assessed at ages 11, 14, 17, 20, and 24 by using height and weight measurements and clinical, interview-based diagnosis of major depressive disorder. The researchers looked specifically for onsets of either disorder by age 14, between the ages of 14 and 20, and between ages 20 and 24.Marmorstein emphasizes that this study was not designed to investigate the reasons for these associations, but other theories and research speaks to possible explanations. She says depression can lead to obesity through an increased appetite, poor sleep patterns, and lethargy, while obesity can cause depression due to weight stigma, poor self-esteem, and reduced mobility.”When a person is young, she is still developing eating and activity patterns, as well as coping mechanisms,” Marmorstein explains. “So if she experiences a depressive episode at age 14, she may be more at risk for having an onset of unhealthy patterns that persist.”The Rutgers-Camden scholar says a child who is obese may be more susceptible to negative societal messages about obesity or teasing, which could contribute to depression.”At this age, adolescents are starting to establish relationships becoming self-conscious, so teasing can be particularly painful,” Marmorstein says.She says prevention efforts aimed at both of these disorders at the same time when one of them is diagnosed in adolescents might help in decreasing their prevalence and comorbidity.”When an adolescent girl receives treatment for depression, the clinician might consider incorporating something relating to healthy eating and activity,” she says. …

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Education ‘protects’ poor women from fattening effects of rising wealth

Obesity levels among women in low- and middle-income countries tend to rise in line with wealth as they purchase more energy-dense foods, but a new UCL study suggests that more educated consumers make better food choices that mitigate this effect.The study showed that in middle-income countries, obesity levels among women with secondary or higher education are 14-19% lower than less-educated women of similar wealth.The research, published in PLOS ONE, looked at the relationships between obesity, education and wealth in over 250,000 people across four middle-income and three low-income countries between 2005 and 2010. More educated people are typically wealthier, and this study was the first to isolate the effects of education and wealth to unpick their distinct effects.Each household’s “wealth index” was measured by evaluating their possessions, housing situation and access to basic amenities. Based on these criteria, they were divided into five wealth brackets on a scale of 1-5, from richest to poorest, in each country.The middle-income countries examined were Egypt, Jordan, Peru and Colombia. In Egypt, where 43% of the 32,272 women surveyed were obese, the effect of wealth on obesity was reduced as education levels increased. The increased risk of obesity associated with a rise in wealth bracket was 39% for women with primary education or below, 25% for women with secondary education and only 2% for women with higher education.”For the first time, we have studied the interaction between wealth and education and found that they have fundamentally different effects on obesity,” says lead author Dr Amina Aitsi-Selmi, Wellcome Trust fellow at UCL. “As emerging economies are exposed to a flood of calories from the global food market, rising wealth often leads to rising obesity as people buy energy-dense foods.”Our study suggests that investing in women’s education protects against this effect by empowering individuals to look after their health. However, it is not a substitute for good public health systems and the regulation of commercial activity such as the aggressive marketing that puts pressure on individuals to consume unhealthy products and take unnecessary risks with their health.”In the low-income countries of India, Nigeria and Benin, the relationship between education and wealth was more difficult to unpick. In India, where only 2.8% of the 113,063 women surveyed were obese, wealth had a profound impact on the risk of obesity. For each increase in wealth bracket, the risk of obesity increased by 123%.”The jump in obesity risk that people in low-income countries experience as they become wealthier is likely related to the environment of scarcity,” explains Dr Aitsi-Selmi. “The weight of scientific evidence that we have leaves no doubt that the environment we live in is largely responsible for the obesity epidemic.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. …

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Do obesity, birth control pills raise risk of multiple sclerosis?

The role of the so-called “obesity hormone” leptin and hormones used for birth control in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS) is examined in two new studies that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, April 26 to May 3, 2014.For the obesity study, BMI was calculated for 210 people with MS and 210 people of the same age and sex who did not have MS at ages 15 and 20 and at the time of the study. The study found that people who are obese at age 20 are twice as likely to later develop MS as people who are not obese. The study found that people with higher BMI levels also had higher levels of leptin, a hormone made by fat tissue that regulates weight, appetite and immune response.”Leptin promotes inflammatory responses in the body, which could potentially explain the link between obesity and MS,” said study author Jorge Correale, MD, of the Ral Carrera Institute for Neurological Research in Buenos Aires, Argentina.For the birth control hormone study, researchers identified 305 women who had been diagnosed with MS or its precursor, clinically isolated syndrome, during a three-year period from the membership of Kaiser Permanente Southern California and who had been members for at least three years before the MS symptoms began. Then they compared them to 3,050 women who did not have MS.A total of 29 percent of the women with MS and 24 percent of those without MS had used hormonal contraceptives for at least three months in the three years before symptoms began. The majority used estrogen/progestin combinations.Women who had used hormonal contraceptives were 35 percent more likely to develop MS than those who did not use them. Those who had used the contraceptives but had stopped at least one month before symptoms started were 50 percent more likely to develop MS.”These findings suggest that using hormonal contraceptives may be contributing at least in part to the rise in the rate of MS among women,” said study lead author Kerstin Hellwig, MD, from Bochum Germany, post-doctoral research fellow, Kaiser Permanente Southern California.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American Academy of Neurology (AAN). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Increase in obesity may be slowing, but not by much, study shows

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama referred to an August 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that showed a decline in the obesity rate among low-income pre-school children, saying, “Michelle’s Let’s Move! partnership with schools, businesses and local leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for the first time in 30 years, and that’s an achievement that will improve lives and reduce health care costs for decades to come.”While the CDC report’s data is encouraging, a new study published by University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Ruopeng An shows the notion that the American obesity epidemic has begun to reverse may be premature.The study appears in the journal ISRN Obesity.An said that when the CDC released the report showing declines in obesity among low-income preschool children in 19 of 43 states, it “immediately received a tremendous amount of media attention.””Because people have been fighting the obesity epidemic since the 1980s, this data really looked like a promising sign,” An said. “This triggered my research because I was curious as to whether a similar trend is happening in the adult population.”An turned to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to gather his data. The CDC conducts this nationally representative survey of 5,000 people 20 years of age and older each year, visiting residential areas in a mobile test center. Researchers and physicians examine the participants, collecting objective data such as their height and weight, as well as other health-related statistics.When An examined the Body Mass Index measurements (or BMI, calculated by dividing a person’s weight by his or her height), he found that 71.1 percent of men and 65.6 percent of women in the 2011-2012 NHANES study sample had BMIs greater than or equal to 25, meaning they were overweight or obese. When he compared these levels to those from 2000, he noticed something interesting.”Starting from 2000, the increase in the rate of the prevalence of adult obesity is slowing, but the prevalence is still increasing, especially in those with a BMI higher than 35,” An said. “If you look at those with a BMI greater than 25 — the cutoff point for being overweight — this prevalence only increases slightly over the last 12 years. But those with a BMI greater than 40 — those who are morbidly obese — had the greatest increase in rate compared to the baseline in 2000.”From this data, An believes it is too early to conclude that the prevalence of obesity has begun to level off or even decrease in the United States.”We can’t be naive and underestimate the severity of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. Although there is some preliminary evidence about the decline of obesity prevalence among low income preschoolers, that population is unique; we haven’t gotten good measures for the entire child or adolescent population,” An said. “For the adult population, there are minor declines in the overweight and obesity rate if we compare data from 2012 to that in 2010, but the declines are very small and statistically insignificant. …

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Obesity in men could dictate future colon screenings

Obesity is a known risk factor for many cancers including colon cancer, yet the reasons behind the colon cancer link have often remained unclear.A Michigan State University study is shedding more light on the topic and has shown that elevated leptin — a fat hormone — higher body mass index and a larger waistline in men is associated with a greater likelihood of having colorectal polyps, precancerous growths linked to colon cancer.The result may put men at an even greater risk of the disease and also may mean their body weight could eventually be a deciding factor in whether a colonoscopy is in their future. Today, age and family history typically dictate a screening.Jenifer Fenton, assistant professor and researcher in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Kari Hortos, associate dean in MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Macomb University Center, led the 18-month, cross-sectional study, which followed 126 healthy, white American males ranging from 48 to 65 years of age. Participants showed no signs or symptoms of health issues, yet underwent routine colonoscopies.”What we found is 78 percent of the 126 men in the study were either overweight or obese based on their BMI or waist circumference. Of those, about 30 percent were found to have more than one polyp after colonoscopies were performed,” said Fenton. “In fact, the more obese participants were 6.5 times more likely to have three polyps compared to their thinner counterparts.”Sarah Comstock, a co-author of the study and research fellow in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, also indicated that the significance of the research is twofold.”Not only does it show the association that leptin and a higher BMI have with colon polyps, but it gives us a better snapshot on how body weight and other factors may actually help us determine who might be at a higher risk of developing polyps,” she said.With obesity rates climbing during the past 20 years within the United States and colon cancer being the second-leading killer of men and women in the nation, these facts compelled Fenton and her team to conduct research which could identify the specific biomarkers of obesity and early-stage colon cancer and help in prevention efforts.Previous research published by Fenton in 2009 identified the connection between obesity and colon cancer through examining tissue hormones. These studies demonstrated that, at higher levels, leptin worked as a primary mechanism in inducing precancerous colon cells by increasing the blood supply to them and promoting their progression.”Even with all of our research, there’s still more to be done, particularly in larger, more diverse populations, before any changes in screening recommendations can be made,” said Fenton. “But we’ve definitely got a good start.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Home schooled children leaner than traditionally schooled kids

Oct. 17, 2013 — The results of a recent study show kids that are home-schooled are leaner than kids attending traditional schools. The results challenge the theory that children spending more time at home may be at risk for excessive weight gain.The study was published in the journal Obesity and conducted by researchers from University of Colorado’s Anschutz Health and Wellness Center (AHWC) and University of Alabama at Birmingham. It looked at both home-schooled and traditionally-schooled children between the ages of seven and 12 in Birmingham. Participants and their parents reported diet, the kids’ physical activity was monitored and they were measured for body fat, among other things.”Based on previous research, we went into this study thinking home-schooled children would be heavier and less active than kids attending traditional schools,” said Michelle Cardel, PhD, RD, the study’s lead author. “We found the opposite.”The results show that home-schoolers were less likely to be obese than the traditionally-schooled kids, even though kids in both groups were getting the same amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity. The calorie intakes were also similar, except at lunchtime. Kids in traditional schools were consuming significantly more calories, sodium, and sugar at lunch. New school guidelines aimed at more nutritious lunches had not yet taken effect when the study data was collected from 2005 to 2009.”We applaud the new school meal guidelines and efforts to give kids healthy options at school,” Cardel said. “We don’t know if we would have seen these same results if we had included children who brought their lunch to school. …

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Changing breakfast habits may not affect weight

Sep. 9, 2013 — Those trying to lose weight are often told to not skip breakfast. A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham shows that while an association exists between breakfast and weight management, the question of whether eating vs. skipping breakfast affects weight has not been answered by research.Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating a nutrient-dense breakfast to promote calorie balance and weight management, since not eating breakfast has been associated with excess body weight. A team led by David Allison, Ph.D., associate dean for science in the UAB School of Public Health, said that studies designed to find links between two things, like breakfast habits and obesity, often do not prove that one causes the other.Andrew Brown, Ph.D., first author of the new study recently published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, spearheaded the examination of 92 studies about the proposed effect of breakfast on obesity (PEBO). The PEBO-related research literature, the authors found, seemed to be influenced by factors that led to exaggerated beliefs and statements about the purported effects of breakfast consumption on obesity. These include research that lacks probative value and biased research reporting.Probative value is the extent to which a study can move knowledge forward from the current status quo. The authors explain that probative value of a given study on a topic tends to decrease as similar types of studies are repeated excessively.”Another way to look at it is to ask, ‘Do we really feel any more confident about the relationship between skipping breakfast and obesity after the 78th compared to the 77th cross-sectional association study,”’ Brown said.Biased research reporting, the authors explain, entails distorting research findings in ways that support a particular hypothesis beyond what the data support.”We specifically found that research articles tended to overstate the strength of study designs and ignored evidence that did not support the proposed effect of breakfast on obesity,” Brown said. “These distortions leave readers believing that the relationship between breakfast and obesity is more strongly established by science than the data actually support.”Allison and his team, which included Brown and Michelle Bohan Brown, found that scientists collectively do not know as much about the relationship between skipping breakfast and obesity as previously thought, based on the current state of PEBO-related research.Their meta-analysis indicated that there is certainty that breakfast-skipping and obesity are associated, but it cannot confirm whether there is a causal effect of skipping breakfast on obesity.”Although we know that breakfast-skippers are more likely to be overweight or obese, we do not know if making breakfast-skippers eat breakfast would decrease their weight,” Brown said. “Nor do we know if making breakfast-eaters stop eating breakfast would cause them to gain weight.””Uncertainty should not be confused with evidence of no benefit or harm, though,” Allison aid. …

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Metabolically healthy women have same CVD risk regardless of BMI

Sep. 2, 2013 — Metabolically healthy women have the same cardiovascular disease risk regardless of their BMI, according to research presented at the ESC Congress today by Dr Søren Skøtt Andersen and Dr Michelle Schmiegelow from Denmark. The findings in more than 260,000 subjects suggest that obese women have a window of opportunity to lose weight and avoid developing a metabolic disorder, which would increase their CVD risk.Dr Schmiegelow said: “Obesity and/or metabolic disorders (hypertensive disorders [hypertension, gestational hypertension or pre-eclampsia], disorders in glucose-metabolism [diabetes, gestational diabetes] and elevated cholesterol levels [dyslipidemia]) are well known cardiovascular risk factors. Studies in middle aged men have found that obese and normal weight men have the same cardiovascular risk if they are metabolically healthy. Our study aimed to find out if the same was true for young fertile women.”The study used Danish national health databases and followed 261,489 women who had given birth during 2004-2009 with no prior history of cardiovascular disease. The women were divided into four categories according to their pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) and presence of metabolic disorders (present/not present) (see figure). The women’s mean age was 31 years.The women were followed for an average of 5 years following childbirth. Discharge diagnoses and data on cause of death were used to determine if the women had a heart attack, a stroke, or died. Metabolic disorders were defined using claimed prescription data related to hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidemia; thus, only disorders being treated were taken into account. The pregnancy-associated metabolic disorders were defined using diagnosis codes.The researchers found that being overweight (BMI≥25 kg/m2) but metabolically healthy was not associated with an increased risk of a heart attack, stroke or a combination of heart attack/stroke/death in comparison with normal weight, metabolically healthy women.Dr Schmiegelow said: “Being overweight but free of metabolic disorders does not seem to be associated with an increased risk in young women in the short term. …

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BMI not accurate enough: Obesity/mortality paradox demonstrates urgent need for more refined metabolic measures

Aug. 22, 2013 — Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine point out that the body mass index (BMI), based on the weight and height, is not an accurate measure of body fat content and does not account for critical factors that contribute to health or mortality, such as fat distribution, proportion of muscle to fat, and the sex and racial differences in body composition.Obesity predisposes to diabetes, heart diseases, sleep apnea, cancer and other diseases. Although several studies have shown an increase in mortality in obese people, recent studies have suggested that obesity protects against death from all causes as well as death due to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, and stroke. This so-called “obesity-mortality” paradox suggesting a beneficial influence of obesity has generated a lot of controversy.In a new perspective article in the journal Science, Rexford Ahima, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Obesity Unit in the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, and Mitchell Lazar, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Genetics and Director of the Institute of Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism, discuss the challenges of studying the health and mortality risks of obesity.”There is an urgent need for accurate, practical and affordable tools to measure fat and skeletal muscle, and biomarkers that can better predict the risks of diseases and mortality,” said Dr. Ahima. “Advances to improve the measurement of obesity and related factors will help determine the optimal weight for an individual, taking into account factors such as age, sex, genetics, fitness, pre-existing diseases, as well novel blood markers and metabolic parameters altered by obesity.”Obese BMI is strongly associated with substantial increases in the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other chronic diseases, leading to higher mortality, However, studies have shown that some people with obese BMI have improved metabolic profile and reduced cardiovascular risk, whereas a subset of people with normal BMI are metabolically unhealthy and have increased mortality risk. The researchers note that the true impact of obesity may not be appreciated because population studies often describe associations of BMI and health and mortality risks without assessing how intentional or unintentional weight loss or weight gain affect these outcomes.”Future research should be focused more on molecular pathways, especially how metabolic factors altered by obesity change the development of diabetes, heart diseases, cancer and other ailments, and influence the health status and mortality,” noted Dr. Lazar.

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Obesity kills more Americans than previously thought: One in five Americans, Black and White, die from obesity

Aug. 15, 2013 — Obesity is a lot more deadly than previously thought. Across recent decades, obesity accounted for 18 percent of deaths among Black and White Americans between the ages of 40 and 85, according to scientists. This finding challenges the prevailing wisdom among scientists, which puts that portion at around 5%.”Obesity has dramatically worse health consequences than some recent reports have led us to believe,” says first author Ryan Masters, PhD, who conducted the research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “We expect that obesity will be responsible for an increasing share of deaths in the United States and perhaps even lead to declines in U.S. life expectancy.”While there have been signs that obesity is in decline for some groups of young people, rates continue to be near historic highs. For the bulk of children and adults who are already obese, the condition will likely persist, wreaking damage over the course of their lives.In older Americans, the rising toll of obesity is already evident. Dr. Masters and his colleagues documented its increasing effect on mortality in White men who died between the ages of 65 and 70 in the years 1986 to 2006. Grade one obesity (body mass index of 30 to less than 35) accounted for about 3.5% of deaths for those born between 1915 and 1919 — a grouping known as a birth cohort. …

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School lunch and TV time linked with childhood obesity

Aug. 12, 2013 — Among middle-school children, the behaviors most often linked with obesity are school lunch consumption and two hours or more of daily TV viewing, according to a new look at the dramatic increase in childhood obesity.The findings by the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center will be published in the September issue of Pediatrics.While some habits were the same for all overweight and obese children, the study found some gender differences in the habits influencing body weight.Data from 1,714 sixth grade students enrolled in Project Healthy Schools showed girls who drank two servings of milk each day were less likely to be obese, and boys who played on a sports team were also at a healthier weight.”Additional work is needed to help us understand the beneficial impact of improving school lunches and decreasing screen time,” says cardiologist and senior study author Elizabeth Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. “Presumably playing video games, or watching TV replaces physical activity.”Students enrolled in sixth grade at 20 schools in the southeastern Michigan communities of Detroit, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Owosso were eligible for participation in this study. The median age was 11.Obese boys and girls had poor cardiovascular profiles with lower HDL-cholesterol, higher triglycerides, higher blood pressure and higher heart rate recovery — indicating a lower level of fitness — compared to normal weight kids.”Cardiovascular disease doesn’t just start in adulthood, and there may be factors that could help us identify during youth or adolescence who might be at increased risk for developing health problems later on,” Jackson says.Other studies have linked eating school lunch with obesity, but a major issue with such studies, Jackson says, is the influence of socioeconomic status. Poor children eligible for free or reduced school lunch may already be overweight, considering the link between obesity and lower socioeconomic status.”Although we were not able to examine the specific nutritional content of school lunches, previous research suggests school lunches include nutrient-poor and calorie-rich foods,” Jackson says.The University of Michigan study adds a new element in the fight to reduce childhood obesity by providing a real-world view of the gender differences in obesity risk factors.Milk consumption seemed to protect girls from obesity, but made no difference for boys. A possible explanation would be a reduction in sugary drinks, which girls replaced with milk.In the study, 61 percent of obese boys and 63 percent of obese girls reported watching television for two or more hours a day. The assumption is watching television mediates physical activity, but there were gender differences in how children spent their so-called “screen time.”When asked, obese girls were more likely than any other group to use a computer. Obese boys reported playing video games more often than normal weight boys, although the association was not as strong as in other studies.”We did not find a significant association between time spent playing video games and obesity among boys, which has been observed in other studies,” says study lead author Morgen Govindan, an investigator with the Michigan Cardiovascular Research and Reporting Program at the U-M. “Although we saw a similar trend, the association was not as strong perhaps due to our smaller sample size.”She adds: “Exploring such gender-related differences in a larger group may help in refining the interventions to promote weight loss and prevent obesity among middle school children.”The Project Healthy Schools program is designed to teach sixth graders heart-healthy lifestyles including eating more fruits and vegetables, making better beverage choices, engaging in 150 minutes of exercise per week, eating less fast food and less fatty foods, plus reducing time spent in front of computer and video game screens.

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‘Weightism’ increases risk for becoming, staying obese

July 24, 2013 — Weight discrimination may increase risk for obesity rather than motivating individuals to lose weight, according to research published July 24 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Angelina Sutin and Antonio Terracciano from the Florida State University College of Medicine.Share This:The researchers compared the height and weight of over 6000 participants, measured in 2006 and 2010. They found that participants who experienced weight discrimination earlier were 2.5 times more likely to become obese by the follow-up assessment in 2010. Obese participants who perceived weight discrimination in 2006 were more likely to remain obese at the later time than those who had not experienced such discrimination. Discrimination based on other factors, such as sex or race, did not appear to have the same correlation with weight. The effect of ‘weightism’ also appeared independent of demographic factors like age, gender, ethnicity or education. The researchers conclude that weight discrimination has further implications for obesity than just poorer mental health outcomes.Sutin adds, “In addition to the well-known emotional and economic costs, our results suggest that weight discrimination also increases risk of obesity. This could lead to a vicious cycle where individuals who are overweight and obese are more vulnerable to weight discrimination, and this discrimination may contribute to subsequent obesity and difficulties with weight management.”Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. Journal Reference:Angelina R. …

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Sleep deprivation in teens linked to poor dietary choices

June 20, 2013 — Well-rested teenagers tend to make more healthful food choices than their sleep-deprived peers, according to a study led by Lauren Hale, PhD, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine. The finding, presented at SLEEP 2013, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, may be key to understanding the link between sleep and obesity.”Not only do sleepy teens on average eat more food that’s bad for them, they also eat less food that is good for them,” said Dr. Hale, speaking about the study results. “While we already know that sleep duration is associated with a range of health consequences, this study speaks to some of the mechanisms, i.e., nutrition and decision making, through which health outcomes are affected.”The study, which was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, examined the association between sleep duration and food choices in a national representative sample of 13,284 teenagers in the second wave of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The data were collected in 1996 when the interview subjects had a mean age of 16 years.The authors found that those teens who reported sleeping fewer than seven hours per night — 18 percent of respondents — were more likely to consume fast food two or more times per week and less likely to eat healthful food such as fruits and vegetables. The results took into account factors such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, physical activity and family structure, and found that short sleep duration had an independent effect on both healthy and unhealthy food choices.The respondents fell into one of three categories: short sleepers, who received fewer than seven hours per night; mid-range sleepers, who had seven to eight hours per night; and recommended sleepers, who received more than eight hours per night. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that adolescents get between nine and 10 hours of sleep per night.”We are interested in the association between sleep duration and food choices in teenagers because adolescence is a critical developmental period between childhood and adulthood,” said the first author of the study, Allison Kruger, MPH, a community health worker at Stony Brook University Hospital. “Teenagers have a fair amount of control over their food and sleep, and the habits they form in adolescence can strongly impact their habits as adults.”The research team — which included co-authors Eric N. Reither, PhD, Utah State University; Patrick Krueger, PhD, University of Colorado at Denver; and Paul E. Peppard, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison — concluded that addressing sleep deficiency may be a novel and effective way to improve obesity prevention and health promotion interventions.Dr. …

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Parenting and home environment influence children’s exercise and eating habits

June 18, 2013 — Kids whose moms encourage them to exercise and eat well, and model those healthy behaviors themselves, are more likely to be active and healthy eaters, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.Their findings, published online in the International Journal of Obesity on June 18, 2013, remind parents that they are role models for their children, and underscore the importance of parental policies promoting physical activity and healthy eating.Exercise and healthy diets are critical in fighting childhood obesity, a considerable problem in the United States, where over a quarter of kids ages two to five are already overweight or obese.”Obesity is a complex phenomenon, which is influenced by individual biological factors and behaviors,” said study author Truls Østbye, M.D., PhD, professor of community and family medicine at Duke. “But there are variations in obesity from one society to another and from one environment to another, so there is clearly something in the environment that strongly influences the obesity epidemic.”The home environment and parenting can influence a child’s health by shaping dietary and physical behaviors, such as providing access to fruits and vegetables or encouraging kids to play outside.”The ‘obesiogenic’ environment is broad and multi-faceted, including the physical neighborhood environment, media and advertising, and food tax policies, but we feel that the home environment is critical, particularly among children. However, we didn’t have a lot of evidence as to how important this was,” Østbye said.In this study, Østbye and his colleagues examined the relationship between the home environment and behaviors related to obesity — dietary and exercise habits — among preschoolers.The researchers studied data from 190 kids, ages two to five, whose mothers were overweight or obese. They collected information on the children’s food intake over the past week, with foods rated as junk food or healthy food. To gauge their levels of physical activity, the children wore accelerometers for a week, which measured moderate to vigorous physical activity as well as sedentary time.The mothers reported information about their children’s environments, including family policies around food and physical activity, accessibility of healthy versus junk foods, availability of physical activity equipment, and whether they model healthy eating or exercise for their kids.When they analyzed the data, the researchers found significant associations between these environmental measures and the preschoolers’ physical activity and healthy versus junk food intake. They concluded that to promote healthy behaviors in children, a healthy home environment and parental role modeling are important.For example, limiting access to junk foods at home and parental policies supporting family meals increased the amount of healthy foods kids ate. Overall, the home environment had more influence on the children’s dietary habits than on their physical activity levels.This study reminds parents that their children are watching and learning from observing their behaviors, both good and bad.”It’s hard for parents to change their behaviors, but not only is this important for you and your own health; it is also important for your children because you are a role model for them,” said Marissa Stroo, a co-investigator on the study. “This might be common sense, but now we have some evidence to support this.”The researchers also looked at socioeconomic factors of the mothers, including their education levels and whether they worked, to see if this had an effect on the children’s behaviors. The mother’s socioeconomic factors did not affect their kids’ physical activity, but had mixed results when it came to their dietary habits.Further research is needed to better understand how a mother’s socioeconomic factors influence her child’s health, but it is possible that different strategies may be needed to prevent obesity in children depending on a mother’s education and work status. More research is also necessary to see if the influence of the home environment changes as children get older, and if parenting strategies should adapt accordingly.In addition to Østbye and Stroo, study authors at Duke include Bernard Fuemmeler in the Department of Community and Family Medicine, Rebecca Brouwer at Duke Global Health Institute, and Nancy Zucker in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. …

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Obesity leads to brain inflammation, and low testosterone makes it worse

June 17, 2013 — Low testosterone worsens the harmful effects of obesity in the nervous system, a new study in mice finds.The results will be presented Monday at The Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.”Low testosterone and obesity are common in aging men, and each is associated with type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease,” said the study’s lead investigator, Anusha Jayaraman, PhD, of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “Our new findings demonstrate that obesity and low testosterone combine to not only increase the risk of diabetes but also damage the brain.”The study — which was conducted in the laboratory of Christian J. Pike, PhD, Professor in the Davis School of Gerontology at USC and funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging — consisted of three groups of male mice that received a high-fat diet (60 percent of calories were from fat) to induce obesity. Each group had eight mice and varied by testosterone status. One group had normal testosterone levels, and the second group underwent surgical removal of the testes so that the mice had low testosterone levels. The third group also underwent castration but then received testosterone treatment through a capsule implanted beneath the skin.The high-fat diet, Jayaraman reported, resulted in obesity and evidence of diabetes — abnormally high blood glucose (sugar) levels and poor glucose tolerance, which is the ability to clear glucose from the bloodstream. Compared with the group that had normal testosterone levels, the testosterone-deficient mice had more body fat, higher blood sugar levels and poorer glucose tolerance, she said.After blood testing, brain tissues from the mice underwent analysis for changes. The brains of obese mice showed substantial inflammation and were less able to support nerve cell growth and survival, according to Jayaraman. These damaging effects of diet-induced obesity were significantly worse in mice with low testosterone, she said, adding that control groups of mice fed a normal diet did not show these changes.”Our findings suggest that low testosterone and obesity interact to regulate inflammation of the nervous system, which may increase the risk of disorders such as type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease,” she said.Because many of the negative outcomes of the high-fat diet were eased in the group of mice that received testosterone therapy, Jayaraman said that “testosterone treatment may be useful in reducing the harmful effects of obesity and low testosterone on the nervous system.”

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Molecular techniques are ‘man’s new best friend’ in pet obesity research

Apr. 11, 2013 — According to the World Health Organization, more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. And it’s not just humans who are packing on the pounds. Our furry companions are plagued by an obesity epidemic of their own. More than 50 percent of the dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese.

In a new paper on pet obesity in the Journal of Animal Science, University of Illinois professor of animal and nutritional sciences Kelly Swanson and his colleagues describe how nutrients and biological compounds in foods can affect gene expression in animals. Their field, called nutrigenomics, offers new insights into the why and how of companion animal obesity.

There are many reasons for the uptick in pet obesity, but they stem from the domestication of cats and dogs, Swanson said. Because most pets no longer hunt or compete for their food and do not mate — as a result of having been spayed or neutered, the typical dog or cat of today has a much smaller need for energy than the typical wild dog or cat of yesterday, he said.

When a person or an animal consumes more food than the body needs, the excess energy is converted into fat that is stored in adipose tissue. These fats can then be converted back to an energy source during fasting or times of food scarcity.

Adipose tissue secretes more than 50 substances known as adipokines, cell-signaling molecules that are involved in metabolism, immunity and inflammation, the authors write. Two of these adipokines, leptin and adiponectin, increase or decrease, respectively, within obese or insulin-resistant subjects.

The excess adipose tissue that develops in pets often leads to chronic disease and a shorter lifespan, Swanson said. While a new diet or exercise regime may help relieve some of these symptoms, a better understanding of the molecular underpinnings of pet obesity could further increase the quality of life for household animals.

“There are a lot of issues that contribute to pet obesity, but we’re focusing on the animal biology side of it and trying to use some of these tools to learn things we couldn’t learn in the past,” he said.

New tools that allow the researchers to determine how pet obesity affects gene expression within these animals offer promising new insights. These new approaches mark a huge change from the traditional approach to studying obesity, said Maria de Godoy, a postdoctoral researcher in the Swanson lab.

“What we are trying to do is change the emphasis of how to look at obesity,” she said. “Our focus is to manage obesity, but if we can, the ideal situation is to prevent it.” De Godoy believes nutrigenomics are the key to unlocking the best ways to treat pet obesity.

“Pet owners see the animals just putting on weight, but metabolically speaking, there’s a lot of stress on the animal (that is carrying excess weight). The genomic measures are really interesting because we can understand how they change if the animal becomes obese,” de Godoy said. “We want to know at what point we can intervene and hopefully prevent the development of obesity or help the animals so that they don’t have the complications that they currently do.”

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Childhood abuse linked with food addiction in adult women

May 29, 2013 — Women who experienced severe physical or sexual abuse during childhood are much more likely to have a food addiction as adults than women who did not experience such abuse, according to a new study published in the journal Obesity. The study’s findings provide valuable new information regarding potential causes and treatments for food addiction and obesity.

National surveys indicate that more than a third of American women experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse before they reached 18 years of age. Also, research shows that such childhood abuse has consequences not only for women’s mental health, but also for their physical health. In particular, many studies have documented a link between childhood abuse and later obesity, possibly because stress may cause one to overeat high-sugar and high-fat “comfort” foods in an uncontrolled manner.

Because of these findings, Susan Mason, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and her colleagues looked for a link between childhood abuse and addiction-like eating behaviors in women. The researchers studied 57,321 adult participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II, which ascertained physical and sexual child abuse histories in 2001 and current food addiction in 2009. (Food addiction was defined as three or more addiction-like eating behaviors severe enough to cause significant distress or loss of function.)

The analysis revealed that addiction-like eating behaviors were relatively common among women in the study, with eight percent meeting the criteria for food addiction. Women who had experienced physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18 years were almost twice as likely to have a food addiction in middle adulthood compared with women without a history of childhood abuse.. The likelihood of food addiction was increased even further for women who had experienced both physical and sexual abuse in childhood. The food addiction prevalence varied from six percent among women without a history of physical or sexual abuse to 16 percent among women with a history of both severe physical and sexual abuse. Also, women with a food addiction were generally heavier than women without a food addiction.

Dr. Mason and her co-authors caution that the study’s findings are exploratory and will need to be replicated before any conclusions can be drawn about a causal link between childhood abuse victimization and addiction-like overeating. If enough evidence of this association accumulates, the next step will be to find ways to reduce the risk of addiction-like overeating among women who experienced childhood abuse. “Women with histories of trauma who show a propensity toward uncontrolled eating could potentially be referred for prevention programs, while obese women might be screened for early trauma and addiction-like eating so that any psychological impediments to weight loss could be addressed,” said Dr. Mason. “Of course, preventing childhood abuse in the first place would be the best strategy of all, but in the absence of a perfect child abuse prevention strategy, it is important that we try to head off its negative long-term health consequences,” she added.

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