Category: Obesity Studies

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.

Obesity in the News: Advice from UGA professors and Dr. Oz


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

Obesity is popping up in daily conversation, and it’s in the news each day. Just from the Athens Banner-Herald alone, there are three pieces related to physical activity and obesity.

Here’s an editorial from Marsha Davis, UGA professor and assistant dean for outreach and community engagement at the College of Public Health.

She points out the lessons learned from HBO’s “Weight of the Nation,” which she spoke about as part of a screening and panel at Tate Theater last week. Environment does matter.

In order to win, sometimes you have to lose.

That’s the lesson from the acclaimed documentary “The Weight of the Nation.” Chronicling the nation’s battle with obesity, the four-part documentary from HBO is the centerpiece of a broader public health campaign aimed at turning the tide in this ongoing struggle.

One of the points made in the documentary that resonated deeply with me — and something I’ve witnessed during my years working at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health — is the fundamental role that environment and surroundings have on our health. There is no doubt that individual choices with regard to eating better and opting for a more physically active lifestyle are crucial to success, but the influence of one’s environment only adds to the complexity of the obesity challenge.

Then we have some advice from Dr. Oz about the obesity–exercise–depression–diabetes combos. Essentially, if you want to solve your health problems, work it out! Here’s a sample:

I have seasonal affective disorder, and before I get socked by winter depression, tell me: What’s the best way to deal with it? Help!

— Malcolm H., Minneapolis

There are several ways for you to deal with SAD (seasonal affective disorder). We strongly recommend the triumvirate of: exercising outside (a brisk walk at least 20 minutes a day), light therapy (go to for different light therapy options — light boxes, dawn simulators, light visors) and supplemental vitamin D-3.

My doc says I’m headed for type 2 diabetes if I don’t do something to get in shape. I don’t mind the gym, so what’s the best plan? 

— Fred G., Buffalo, N.Y.

We’re glad you asked, Fred. Turns out that what you do at the gym can revolutionize your future, preventing everything from heart attack to kidney failure and blindness — just a few of the complications associated with diabetes. (And that’s especially true if you combine it with upgrades to your overall lifestyle.)


Obesity in the news – it’s a daily obsession


Communication Strategies for Obesity Management, Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Studies

Our fat is killing us.

In the last week, we’ve learned it’s bad for sperm, it affects breast cancer recovery, it speeds up mental decline, and it changes our social lives.

Just today, I read stories about obesity in our pets and whether artificial light is partially to blame for our obesity.

Obesity is covered by news publications daily, and it’s not just hype. The CDC released new statistics this month that 1 in 5 Americans — and 1 in 3 children — are obese, which brings a host of health problems that total $2.4 billion in Georgia alone.

It’s a problem that cuts across all demographics in every state, and isn’t going away. It’s becoming a part of the state’s everyday conversation.

Obesity is now an obsession.

But maybe that’s not entirely negative. Sites such as are popping up to promote physical, emotional and mental health. As part of their work environment, the team exercises, eats healthy, and follows the tips they dish out on the site.

Now that’s a cool trend. Can we incorporate it into America’s mindset?

— Carolyn Crist is a health and medical journalism graduate student at the University of Georgia, focusing on the Obesity Initiative and what innovative professors and researchers are doing to address the nationwide problem. I’ll post cool links about national obesity from time to time, in addition to regular UGA and Georgia-related obesity posts.

UGA professor: Southern diet, quick meals connected to Georgia’s high obesity


Food Ingredients & Obesity, Obesity & Exercise, Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Studies

As analysts begin to study the CDC’s recent release of obesity rankings, experts are discussing whether nutrition, exercise, or environment are to blame for the nation’s increasingly high rate of overweight adults and children.

Georgia Public Broadcasting turned to Mary Ann Johnson, one of UGA’s nutrition professors, for thoughts about the new statistics.

From the GPB story:

Mary Ann Johnson, a nutrition professor with the University of Georgia’s Obesity initiative, says they are concerned.

“65 percent of adults in Georgia are either overweight or obese, with about a third who are obese,” she says.

She says, “We’re concerned it could be the traditional southern diet. But it may just be our focus on quicker meals and really losing sight of where are the calories coming from in our food.”

CBS News also contacted Johnson to discuss First Lady Michelle Obama’s criticism of Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas “splurg[ing] on an Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s” after winning.

Mary Ann Johnson, a professor of Food and Nutrition at UGA, told CBS Atlanta that Douglas’ choice of McDonald’s meal was actually rather healthy.

“[The sandwich] was a good choice for an athlete who burns thousands of calories a day,” she noted. “She is also still growing as a young woman – she has a lot of high-calorie and high-protein needs.”

But Douglas stands as an important role model for children, Johnson told CBS.

“Someone like Gabby Douglas has the power to influence millions of Americans,” she said. “I’m excited to see her sharing her diet, and I’m hoping she really takes a lead on helping all Americans eat healthier.”

Also from the story:

In regards to helping guide all Americans toward better, overall healthier choices, both Johnson and Crawley felt that McDonald’s has taken strides away from its negative stereotype.

“McDonald’s is making a very good effort into providing healthier options,” Johnson said, adding that the company’s trend of providing calorie counts for its menu items is helpful. “People really just don’t know the calorie content of foods off the tops of their heads – this way, it’s up to the consumer to make informed food choices.”