Category: Obesity in the News

No perfect diet


Obesity in the News

Source: Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

Source: Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

A variety of diets can be successfully used for weight loss, according to a USA Today article on the new obesity treatment guidelines released Tuesday. The goal should be to burn more calories than consumed, regardless of whether that’s achieved through a diet low in fat or low in carbohydrates.

The guidelines, prepared by the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the Obesity Society, urge doctors to fight obesity aggressively, according to USA Today. The recommendations suggest a weight loss goal of 5 to 10 percent for obese patients, using both diet and exercise.  Interestingly, USA Today reports that the guidelines also suggest bariatric surgery maybe be beneficial for adults with a BMI of 40 or higher.


Doctoring differently


Obesity in the News, Obesity Initiative at UGA

More Americans are dying from cardiovascular disease each year than people in France, Japan or Israel. Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and America also has a greater percentage of obese people than any of these countries do.

UGA researchers traveled to France, Israel and Japan to see if these trends might be related to the way doctors in the different countries interact with their patients, according to a recent article in the Athens Banner-Herald.

 “We’re trying to figure out what is really happening when these visits with the doctors occur,” said Colleen O’Brien Cherry, an assistant research scientist at UGA’s Center for Global Health, told the Banner-Herald. “If the doctor is having a direct effect, that will help explain the lower cardiovascular death rates in these other countries.”

Most U.S. doctors didn’t talk about obesity with their patients at all, according to Cherry’s study.  However, in France doctors were much more likely to ask patients who gained weight about their eating habits and lifestyle.

Cherry and collaborator Richard Schuster, who is the director of the Center for Global Health in UGA’s College of Public Health, hope the research can be used to help improve the health care system in the U.S.

Read the rest of the Athens Banner-Herald article here.

Could obesity lead to lower pay?


Obesity in the News, Obesity Initiative at UGA

Obesity rates vary by income, according to the 2013 F as in Fat annual report, published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health.  However, does obesity actually lead to low wages? Michael Kofoed hopes to find out.

Kofoed, who is an economics doctoral student in the UGA Terry College of Business, is working with the Obesity Initiative to study the influence of obesity on unemployment and wages in the U.S. and Canada.  Companies hoping to be profitable base an employee’s wages on what they contribute to the firm’s productivity, and obesity reduces this productivity, Kofoed told the Athens Banner-Herald.

“If I become less productive because I become less healthy due to obesity, the firm logically will pay me less.”

His study “Is it better to be overweight in Canada or the United States?” also considers whether a country’s insurance system affects wages obese people receive.  According to Kofoed, an employer-based health insurance system, like the U.S. system, means companies pay for their employees’ obesity-related health problems.  In a single-payer system, like Canada’s system, the government pays for health insurance. In this system, obesity may have less of influence on wages because employers don’t pay for obesity-related health problems.

“I’m hoping to show people the connection between their health and their labor market outcome and hope my findings might offer another reason to motivate people to become more healthy,” he said.

Read more in the Athens Banner-Herald article.

Does obesity impact folate metabolism?


Obesity in the News, Obesity Initiative at UGA

It does, according to several UGA professors who conducted a study recently. I published this piece in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) blog called Obesity Panacea. They have great posts about the world of obesity research, and I thought this made a nice fit.

Here’s a bit:

At the University of Georgia, a group of nutrition professors are investigating how obesity may affect folate metabolism during pregnancy. With an increasingly obese population and folate recommendations based on studies from the 1990s, they surmise that obese mothers may need more folate during pregnancy.

They recently conducted a pilot study of both normal weight and obese women to measure how the recommended dose — 400 micrograms — is metabolized in the blood over 10 hours. The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity earlier this month, shows that there’s a significant difference between the two groups.

Check out more on the Obesity Panacea blog!

Parasitic worms could help fight obesity-related diseases


Obesity in the News, Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Studies

Say what? Now this is an interesting story written by James Hataway, a colleague in the Office for the Vice President of Research.

The intro is pretty great. Check it out this UGA News release:

On the list of undesirable medical conditions, a parasitic worm infection surely ranks fairly high. Although modern pharmaceuticals have made them less of a threat in some areas, these organisms are still a major cause of disease and disability throughout much of the developing world.

But parasites are not all bad, according to new research by a team of scientists now at the University of Georgia, the Harvard School of Public Health, the Université François Rabelais in Tours, France, and the Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China.

A study published recently in Nature Medicine demonstrates that once inside a host, many parasitic worms secrete a sugar-based anti-inflammatory molecule that might actually help treat metabolic disorders associated with obesity.

The story was immediately featured in several outlets, including this Atlanta Business Chronicle article. Want to know how this is possible? Check it out:

A study demonstrates that once inside a host, many parasitic worms secrete a sugar-based anti-inflammatory molecule that might actually help treat metabolic disorders associated with obesity.

The sugar molecule, or glycan, is released by parasites to help them evade the body’s immune system. By reducing inflammation, they are better able to hide in tissues, and humans experience fewer symptoms that might reveal their presence.

“Obesity is an inflammatory disease, so we hypothesized that this sugar might have some effect on complications related to it,” said Donald Harn, Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Infectious Diseases.

Pew study: Healthy snack policy varies in U.S. schools


Obesity in America, Obesity in the News

Pew released a report about the sale of snack foods in public schools across the country. It’s based on CDC data and ranks the states on the degree to which they limited the availability of full-fat baked goods, salty snacks, chocolate and other types of candy in secondary schools, as well as the degree to which they offered fruits and vegetables in snack food venues, like school stores, snack bars, and vending machines.

(Pew also has an infographic, available at the right, showing the difference in calories between healthy and less-healthy snack foods.)

The findings:

  • Nationally, the availability of snack foods in secondary schools varies tremendously from state to state.
  • Under this patchwork of policies, the majority of our nation’s children live in states where less-healthy snack food choices are readily available.
  • Overall, the availability of healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables is limited
  • When states don’t differentiate between more- and less-healthy snacks, the overall snack food environment suffers.
  • While many secondary schools reduced the availability of less-healthy snack foods between 2002 and 2008,17 progress has since stalled.

And a few recommendations:

  • USDA should establish nutrition standards for all snack foods sold regularly on school grounds outside of the school meal programs.
  •  USDA should adopt policies and practices that ensure effective implementation of the standards.

Now to the stats for Georgia. These numbers represent the percentage of secondary schools that sell:

  • Fruits — Georgia is No. 33 at 25.1 percent, median is 28.2 percent
  • Non-fried vegetables — Georgia is No. 30 at 15.5 percent, median is 18.9
  • Cookies, crackers, cakes, pastries, or other baked goods — Georgia is No. 48 and 51 percent, median is 32.3 percent
  • Salty snacks — Georgia is No. 49 at 50.5 percent, median is 26.8 percent
  • Chocolate candy — Georgia is No. 47 at 44.1 percent, median is 19.9 percent
  • Other kinds of candy — Georgia is No. 48 at 51.8 percent, median is 24.9 percent
  • Soda pop or fruit drinks — Georgia is No. 42 at 42.5 percent, median is 28.9 percent

Emory researchers test compound to fight obesity


Obesity in the News

One of UGA’s neighbor universities is looking for ways to combat obesity as well. Could UGA scientists work with them on this? Check out this Gannett News Service story about the lab testing they’ve been doing on a compound that helps weight in female mice:

Professor Ye and his team have secured a patent on what he calls a “magical compound” that could potentially combat obesity.

“It took us a few years pin down and finalize this story and we’re really excited about these findings,” Ye explained.

The results are visible in their research mice. For a few months, one group consumed high fat diets with that critical compound. One group had a high fat diet without it.

“As you can tell they are much smaller compared to those girls,” Ye said while holding up mice that had consumed the compound and those that did not.

Professor Ye specified girls because the research is successful in female mice, but it had no positive impact in male mice.

And for those female mice where the compounded worked, they were 30-40 percent lighter than the female mice who did not consume the compound.

They found the compound when studying a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF. Scientists say, in people, these hormones, which are released in the body after a person eats, “tell” the body to stop eating. During drug screening they found a compound that imitates that hormone. It’s called 7,8-Dihydroxyflavone. That’s Ye’s “magical compound”.

OI in the news: Participants needed for study on exercise habits


Obesity & Exercise, Obesity in the News, Obesity Initiative at UGA

Here’s another highlight of the exercise study being conducted by kinesiology professor Michael Schmidt and others. Check out today’s feature in Columns:

People trying to lose weight through increasing exercise in their daily routines often drop the new habit when they don’t see any changes on the scale.

Several UGA researchers believe this happens because people unconsciously compensate by increasing their food intake or decreasing physical activity outside of their new exercise regimen.

“When you look at some of these studies, people are only losing 30 percent of what you’d expect,” said Michael Schmidt, an assistant professor of  kinesiology  in the College of Education. “The other part is that there tends to be variability across individuals. Some lose a good bit of weight, others lose a little and others go in the opposite direction.”

Funded by a $408,375 federal grant over two years from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Schmidt and three other UGA professors are investigating why this happens. They’re seeking 120 women between the ages of 25-45 to participate in a walking study that will monitor nutrition and physical activity.

“People may respond to exercise by eating more as a reward, and many don’t have a good sense of the calories being burned versus how much they can ingest. It’s much easier to ingest calories than burn them,” said Schmidt, the study’s principal investigator.

Ga. schools get grants to fight childhood obesity


Maternal & Childhood Obesity, Obesity in America, Obesity in the News

Georgia health officials have announced that 21 schools have gotten grants to help fight childhood obesity. Here’s info from the Associated Press, featured on the Atlanta CBS website:

The grants total $87,000 and come from the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Governor’s SHAPE initiative. The schools include elementary, middle and high schools throughout the state.

Twelve schools got up to $5,000 to implement physical activity and nutrition plans, while nine others got $3,000 to develop plans. The money will also be used for training and technical assistance.

Health officials say children are more physically active if their schools schedule and promote physical activities. Georgia ranks third in the nation for overweight and obese children.

SHAPE is a statewide initiative that brings together the government, philanthropic, academic and business communities to fight childhood obesity in Georgia.

OI in the News: UGA researchers study diets and why people don’t lose more


Obesity & Exercise, Obesity in the News

Back at it. Check my story in Georgia Health News about research being done by the Obesity & Exercise team about diets and exercise. Do compensatory behaviors make a difference?

The UGA researchers, led by Michael Schmidt, believe many dieters give up their new, healthier routines of eating right and exercising when they don’t see results on the scale.

But there’s more to it than that. The researchers think the needle on the scale may be slower to drop because people unconsciously compensate for added exercise by increasing their food intake, or by decreasing their physical activity outside their new exercise regimen.

Now the researchers are putting that theory to the test.

“People don’t lose as much as you’d expect them to based on the calories burned [during exercise]. They’re only losing 30 percent of what you’d expect,” said Schmidt, who is an assistant professor of kinesiology.

Schmidt and three other UGA professors are focusing on the compensatory behaviors, such as eating more after exercising, that might prevent the simple formula “eat right and exercise” from working.