Obesity and disease prevention – Check out Science’s special edition

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

Science just released a special issue on Disease Prevention. This is why:

Heart disease, metabolic disease, cancer, and respiratory disease together account for 60% of all deaths worldwide and 80% of deaths in low- and middle-income countries. Global projections for dementia are particularly alarming: By the year 2050, the disorder may affect more than 100 million people.

Logic dictates that preventing these diseases is a better approach than treating people after they have become ill. In many cases, the knowledge and tools needed for prevention appear to be in place. A number of these killer diseases share risk factors that can be modified by lifestyle changes—for example, by eliminating tobacco use, eating less processed food, and increasing physical activity. For certain cancers, screening tests are available that allow detection of the disease at an early stage. So why is prevention of these diseases so difficult when it seems like such a good idea on paper?

Sounds like many of our problems are tied to the increasing rates of obesity and its effects. There are some fascinating articles linked to obesity, especially these:

Tackling America’s Eating Habits, One Store at a Time

 Fetal and Early Childhood Undernutrition, Mortality, and Lifelong Health

Obesity and Celebrities: Bill Cosby and Jerry Rice speak up

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Obesity in America, Obesity in the News

Just in time for some Monday Night Football, Jerry Rice is stepping up to talk about obesity.

CBS News gives us the scoop about the NFL’s new program. You can read the same in the Fox News report:

The “60 Million Minutes Challenge” asks kids of all ages to pledge to be active for 60 minutes every day. It’s part of the NFL’s PLAY 60 program, a new initiative launched Monday.

“To reverse the trend of childhood obesity, we need to continue to educate kids and parents about the importance of 60 minutes of daily activity,” Rice said. “That’s what’s great about Kinect for Xbox 360. It gets kids off the couch and gets their whole body in the game. Being a healthy kid can lead to being a healthy adult.”

The folks at the NFL and Microsoft Corp., which makes the Xbox 360 video system central to this initiative, are offering incentives such as gift cards for merchandise and personalized autographs on Facebook to youngsters who join up.

Because the entire body is the controller through Kinect for Xbox 360, the amount of exercise a player gets easily dwarfs the more conventional approaches for video games in which the fingers and the wrists get the biggest workouts.

In addition, Bill Cosby popped up at a panel discussion on the health of Philadelphia. The overwhelming worry was about obesity.

CBS Philly shows us his personality on the panel:

Cosby displayed his health activist side by suggesting a mid-afternoon snack of a little baggie of meat protein and a second of veggies as a way to avoid a caffeine jolt or ripping open a snack pack of something.

“If I read the small print and I see that what I love to taste has predatomapotamine, fake slimotanimlaning, I don’t care,” says Cosby. “I just want to eat it.”

School lunches served in the low-income program took a hit, as three forms of sugar with a little canned fruit thrown in.

 

BPA concerns now related to obesity

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Obesity in America, Obesity in the News

A new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association has found that high levels of urinary BPA are associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity.

The FDA is still studying this, so take it as you will. But read up from stories posted this week:

NY Times parenting blog about BPA and youth obesity.

NY Times Well blog also comments on BPA and obesity.

Even blogs such as Natural News picked up on the BPA-child obesity story, and The Daily Sheeple discusses how BPA disrupts metabolic rates.

Want the official word? This is what the FDA thinks about BPA for now.

Too Fat to Fight: Military generals speak out against junk food in schools

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Obesity in America, Obesity in the News

Wow. When the National Press Club hosts speakers, the word gets out.

It’s time to fight obesity, military leaders told them this week. You can read the reports in many publications. Here are some snippets:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

In the past 60 years, the pool of potential American soldiers has gone from too skinny to too fat.

Now the childhood obesity epidemic is a threat to national security, says a group of veterans.

Obesity is the most common medical reason that potential recruits are disqualified from service, according to the report “Still Too Fat to Fight” released Tuesday by Mission: Readiness, a Washington-based nonprofit representing more than 300 retired military leaders.

MedPage Today, by David Pittman, who was editor-in-chief of The Red & Black when I started working as a freshman!

Washington Post blog

USA Today

Mission: Readiness sent this press release, which has the interesting fun facts:

Schools are selling 400 billion calories of junk food every year—the equivalent of nearly two billion candy bars and more than the weight of the aircraft carrier Midway—according a new report from Mission: Readiness, a group of more than 300 retired generals and admirals.

The report, entitled Still Too Fat to Fight, calls for stronger standards for foods and beverages sold at school.

“Childhood obesity is more than just a health issue, it is also a national security issue,” said retired US Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2001 to 2005. “Seventy-five percent of all young Americans are unable to join the military and being overweight or obese is the number one medical reason why young adults cannot enlist.”

And then there’s the statement of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, which more fun numbers about the money and numbers behind it all:

Every year the military has to discharge about 1,200 first-term enlistees due to weightrelated issues at a cost upwards of $60 million, and the Department of Defense spends an additional $1.4 billion a year on obesity-related problems.

I am proud that the Department of Defense is doing its part by initiating a groundbreaking campaign to reshape military installations into a healthier environment for troops and their families. We’ve started by updating menu standards in our mess halls and crowding out junk food in vending machines and snack bars with better choices.

Military children are an important focus of our campaign, and we hope that they and their peers in schools off base are provided with healthier options so they have the opportunity to make better choices.

No one who wants to be a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine wakes up at age 17 and suddenly finds himself or herself overweight. Good eating habits are learned early in life and are shaped by parents and the environment where children spend the better part of their day.

Still want to read more? Here’s the link to Mission:Readiness — http://www.missionreadiness.org/2012/stilltoofattofight/

Trim obesity by reshaping food systems

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Food Ingredients & Obesity, University of Georgia

University of Georgia Center for Integrative Conservation Research will host a free workshop that will explore the links between food production, policy and sustainability on Oct. 1 starting at 9 a.m. in the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries.

The workshop, titled “The Future of Food,” is expected to draw faculty, staff and students from across campus as well as community members interested in the challenges and potential of reshaping food systems.

Rashid Nuri, founder of the Truly Living Well Center for Urban Agriculture in Atlanta and president of the board of Georgia Organics, will deliver the keynote address at 3:45 p.m. in room 271.

The complete workshop schedule is:
9 a.m. A panel discussion on food production will feature Amy Trauger, an assistant professor of geography in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; Frank Horne, a farmer; and Jack Matthews, a farmer and graduate student in the UGA College of Environment and Design; with Cesar Escalante, an associate professor in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, moderating.
10:15 a.m. A panel discussion on food policy will feature Jennifer Owens, Georgia Organics’ advocacy director; Susannah Chapman, a UGA graduate student studying anthropology; and Alice Kinman, the Athens-Clarke County District 4 commissioner; with Craig Page, ACC special projects coordinator/planner, moderating.
11:30 a.m. A panel discussion on food systems research will feature Hilda Kurtz, an associate professor of geography in the Franklin College; Julia Gaskin, a sustainable agriculture coordinator in CAES; and Virginia Nazarea, a professor of anthropology in the Franklin College; with Fenwick Broyard III, a community garden organizer with the Athens Land Trust, moderating.
2:30 p.m. Breakout discussions will take place.
3:45 p.m. Nuri will give the keynote address.

Read more!

 

Kansas teens: New federal school lunch rules leave us hungry

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Obesity in America, Obesity in the News

Fox 4 News in Kansas City captured this interesting story about teens who say new federal school lunch guidelines are leaving them hungry. The new rules restrict intake at 850 calories for lunch.

The story:

Students at a Wallace County high school in the western Kansas town of Sharon Springs created a video spoof, mocking the new rules, inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Some of the lyrics read, “Give me some second sides I need to get some food today.  My friends are at the corner store getting junk so they don’t waste away.”

The video has more than 108,000 views using the base song, “We are Young” by the band Fun.

“Tonight, we are hungry. Set the policy on fire.  It can burn brighter, than the sun,” the song reads.

Otis Brawley: Obesity epidemic a ‘gross mistake’ on behalf of physicians

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

Physicians are partially to blame for America’s obesity rates, Otis Brawley told a group of journalists gathered in Atlanta on Tuesday night.

“We’re at fault for not stressing prevention,” said the American Cancer Society’s chief medical officer and executive vice president. “It was a gross mistake to allow this obesity epidemic to occur, and I’m a victim of it.”

The Atlanta chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists invited Brawley to be a guest speaker, and though his discussion about obesity was brief, it painted a bleak vision of the future.

“Good science tells us that a combination of the lack of physical activity, poor diet, and obesity is the second greatest cause of cancer,” he said. “It will likely surpass tobacco use in coming years.”

As cancer mortality has decreased during recent decades, obesity is likely pushing it back up, Brawley noted.

“We’ve seen the death rate decrease by 20 percent, but it would probably be about 25 percent,” he said. “We may actually see an increase in the next few years due to obesity.”

Brawley spoke earlier in the evening about skyrocketing health care costs and pointed out that obesity rates will only make it worse.

“This is the perfect storm for an economic downfall with obesity increasing costs that much more,” he said. “All of our priorities are screwed up and out of sync.”

Sugary drinks debate continues, some doubt NYC ban effectiveness

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

Check out this update from the Associated Press about sugary drinks and the link to obesity. Thanks to studies presented Friday at an obesity conference in San Antonio and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, we know what we were afraid to admit:

A huge, decades-long study involving more than 33,000 Americans has yielded the first clear proof that drinking sugary beverages interacts with genes that affect weight, amplifying a person’s risk of obesity beyond what it would be from heredity alone.

This means that such drinks are especially harmful to people with genes that predispose them to weight gain. And most of us have at least some of these genes.

In addition, two other major experiments have found that giving children and teens calorie-free alternatives to the sugary drinks they usually consume leads to less weight gain.

Collectively, the results strongly suggest that sugary drinks cause people to pack on the pounds, independent of other unhealthy behavior such as overeating and getting too little exercise, scientists say.

Then you’ve got the American Council on Science and Health saying the New York City ban won’t make much of a difference:

Just over a week ago, the New York City Board of Health approved Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to ban the sale of some sugar-sweetened beverages that exceed 16 ounces in certain restaurants and concessions. The decision was met with dismay from ACSH and many other New Yorkers, since it’s dubious that such a proscription will affect obesity rates in any positive way.

The council explains the studies included in the New England Journal of Medicine in detail and say:

But despite what the study authors may claim, what remains clear is that obesity is a complex problem that cannot be solved simply by targeting a specific food group or beverage choice. “Solely addressing sugary beverages will not make a significant impact on population-wide obesity statistics,” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “And rules limiting the sizes of certain drinks will not do anything to prevent people from continuing to consume the same amounts they were beforehand.”

 

The debate continues. What do you think?

 

Fat, Genes, and Health: Obesity speaker series comes to UGA

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Epigenetics & Obesity, Obesity Initiative at UGA, University of Georgia

The Obesity Initiative, in partnership with other UGA colleges and departments, is kicking off a speaker series this fall. The series brings experts from beyond the UGA campus to shed light on the science of obesity.

Check all of the events on this page. Here’s a quick rundown of the series details:

  • October 25, 3-4 p.m. in Tate Center 481: Alicia Smith, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University. Her lecture is “When Nature Meets Nurture: Epigenetic Effects of Prenatal Exposures.” Dr. Smith studies the role of genetic and environmental factors in the development and symptoms of stress-related disorders across the lifespan.
  • October 31, 12:20-1:10 p.m. in Dawson Hall 110: Leann Birch, distinguished professor of human development and director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University. Her lecture is “Factors that Influence the Developing Controls of Food Intake from Infancy through Adolescence.” Dr. Birch’s research investigates factors that influence the developing controls of food intake from infancy through adolescence.
  • November 1, (Time and Location TBD): Timothy Smith, professor of psychology at the University of Utah. His lecture is “Relationships and Cardiovascular Health.”Smith’s research addresses personality and social risk factors for cardiovascular disease, Timothy Smithincluding the application of theory and methods from the interpersonal tradition in clinical, personality, and social psychology to the conceptualization and assessment of psychosocial risk factors for disease, and the study of the psychophysiological mechanisms linking risk factors to disease.
  • November 7, (Time and Location TBD): Clifford J. Rosen is the director of clinical and translational research and a senior scientist at Maine Medical Center’s Research Institute. Clifford RosenHis lecture is “What’s Between Fat and Bone?” Dr. Rosen is the founder and former director of the Maine Center for Osteoporosis Research and Education.  He was the first editor-in-chief of the Journal of Clinical Densitometry, is the current editor-in-chief of The Primer in Metabolic Bone Diseases, and just began a term as Associate Editor for JCEM.  His publications include more than 300 peer-reviewed manuscripts, covering both clinical and basic bone biology.
  • February 6, (Time and Location TBD): Michael Goran is the director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center and USC Center for Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer, Michael Goranas well as the co-director of the USC Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute and professor of preventative medicine, physiology & biophysics, and pediatrics. His lecture is “Regulation of Excess Fat Deposition During Growth and Development: Novel Strategies for Prevention and Treatment.” Dr. Goran’s research is focused on understanding the metabolic factors linking obesity to increased disease risk during growth and development and using this information as a basis for developing new behavioral and community approaches for prevention and risk reduction.

Come back for more updates on time, location, and additional speakers added to the series!

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

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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 RealAge.com 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.)