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.)

 

New public health professor takes on Obesity Policy team

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Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Policy

Neale Chumbler, the new department head of healthy policy and management in the College of Public Health, will step up to the plate as the team leader for the Obesity Initiative’s Obesity Policy team.

“We want to take the basic science that some researchers are doing on campus and translate it to practice and policymakers,” he said. “The idea with the initiative is to prevent chronic diseases, and obesity is linked to those.”

Chumbler also looks forward to hiring two professors in his college to join the obesity research and initiative.

“Obesity is a serious public health problem, and I think the initiative is a good fit for a relatively new department,” he said. “I think this is an opportunity for two new people to come and help move a great department to even greater strides.”

– Neale Chumbler hails from Indiana University School of Liberal Arts, where he was chair of the department of sociology, director of the Institute for Research on Social Issues, and a Regenstrief Institute Scientist at the Indiana University Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research. He was also associate director of the Indianapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Are pediatricians skipping blood pressure checks on kids?

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Maternal & Childhood Obesity, Obesity in the News

Interesting story rounding the news today about a study recently published in Pediatrics.

From Reuters:

Using government survey data, researchers found that pediatricians failed to take kids’ blood pressure at about one-third of routine check-ups between 2000 and 2009.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute both recommend that children have yearly screenings for high blood pressure, starting at age 3.

From the American Council on Science and Health:

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco based their findings on data from two annual government surveys of doctors’ practices and emergency rooms, dating from 2000 to 2009. Led by medical student Daniel J. Shapiro, the researchers found that during routine check-ups, pediatricians were measuring children’s blood pressure only two-thirds of the time.

Furthermore, during all pediatric visits — including visits for an illness or injury — blood pressure was checked even less frequently: only one-third of the time. “If a child is ill, in pain, or crying, a doctor might not want to check blood pressure because it could be falsely elevated,” points out Dr. Margaret Riley, professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the study.

 

Obesity is community issue, requires policy changes, UGA professors say

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Communication Strategies for Obesity Management, Obesity Policy, Obesity trends

Obesity is now so prevalent that it must be addressed as a social and political responsibility, not just an individual issue, three University of Georgia professors agree.

The professors were part of a panel discussion following a screening of part of HBO’s “Weight of the Nation” at the Tate Theater on Wednesday evening.

The Georgia Public Health Training Center and National Association of Chronic Disease Directors teamed up to present the documentary.

“It’s important not to blame the individual but to work as a community — all the places we live, work, and play — to support each other to find community-drive solutions,” said Marsha Davis, an associate professor of health promotion and behavior. “People in Athens live in food deserts, and we need to continue to assure that people have access and can afford fresh produce.”

Obesity has reached crisis levels, noted Karen Hilyard, an assistant professor of health promotion and behavior with experience in health communication.

“We need a wake-up call. I can’t believe we’re working on any other issue in public health right now because of its wide-reaching impact across all areas,” she said. “This problem fits the definition of a crisis, but why aren’t more people outraged?”

Unlike a natural disaster, obesity and its long-term risks are perceived differently, she explained. But we need to change the way we talk about obesity.

“We need to re-frame the issue from one of personal responsibility to one that’s a community issue. It affects not just our health but our economy, health care costs, and even national security,” Hilyard said. “We can’t expect to survive as a country if we have a crippled workforce that can’t handle physically demanding jobs. Policymakers must consider what obesity means for the future of our country.”

Ultimately, it starts with this generation, added Connie Crawley, a registered dietician and Cooperative Extension associate.

“As a young person in your 20s, you’re probably at your lowest weight for the rest of your life,” she said. “You’re in the prime situation to make decisions now that will influence your future weight and your future family.”

From the American Academy of Pediatrics Prevention Plus recommendations, Crawley listed several goals to reduce obesity in America:

  • Screen time: Remove screens (TV, video games, computers) from bedrooms and reduce viewing time to two hours per day.
  • Sugary drinks: Take them out of your diet! This includes 100% juice, energy drinks, and sports drinks.
  • Physical activity: Some sort of activity 60 minutes per day. It doesn’t have to be all at once or planned exercise.
  • Sleep: Newest on the block of recommendations, sleep helps your metabolism and reduces your chances of making poor decisions about eating and activity when tired. Plus, you’ll eat more and drink caffeine to stay awake.
  • Breakfast: Eat it. It increases your metabolism after fasting while you sleep. For children, however, we must ensure they are not eating breakfast both at home and at school.
  • Eating at home: Do this 5-6 days per week. Fewer Americans have decent cooking skills. But if we can educate children and adults how to make a few healthy, simple meals, it’ll make all the difference.

“Even if families or individuals select one to work on each year, they’d be a different person in six years,” Crawley said. “These key points will seriously impact your long-term health. You are as much at risk as the people in the film.”

The film is available at http://theweightofthenation.hbo.com/

UGA classes continue to help people with disabilities fight obesity

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Functional Fitness, Disability & Environment, Obesity & Exercise

Check out this video from Grady Newsource posted on Monday.

Kevin McCully and his students are working each semester to help local people with disabilities to fight obesity and gain better movement.

His classes are particularly nice for showing the Obesity Initiative at work visually. This is one of a number of videos about his fitness class for individuals with disabilities, such as this one produced by James Hataway earlier this fall. I’m hoping to create a video about a dance class his students are holding for disabled students.


Will half of America be obese in 20 years?

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Obesity in the News, Obesity trends

That’s what studies are showing. CDC stats in 2011 already showed 20.7 percent obesity in Colorado to 34.9 percent in Mississippi, so it’s probably not far off the mark.

Breaking news posted by the Associated Press, featured in the Athens Banner-Herald:

A new report forecasts a sharp rise in obesity in every American state over the next 20 years, though Georgia is projected to remain in the middle of the pack.

The research by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates that if current trends continue, 13 states would have obesity rates higher than 60 percent by 2030; 39 states would have rates topping 50 percent; and every state would exceed 40 percent.

In Georgia, the analysis found that 53.9 percent of adults would be obese, up from 28 percent now. Mississippi would remain the fattest state, with two-thirds of adults being obese. Colorado would be thinnest at 44 percent.

The American Council on Science and Health looked at the report and also found a correlation between fruit/veggie consumption and physical activity with obesity, which makes sense:

Seven of the 10 states with the highest percentage of obese residents were in the bottom tier for fruit and vegetable consumption. In fact, Mississippi (34.9 percent), Louisiana (33.4 percent), and West Virginia (32.4 percent) topped the list for obesity — and yes, their residents also had the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption. In West Virginia, for example, only 7.9 percent of residents consumed the recommended servings of fruits and veggies.

The same goes for exercise. States where people reported engaging in the most physical activity beyond their regular jobs included Colorado, Utah, and California, and these states also have the lowest obesity rankings. Colorado, for instance, holds the top spot for (relatively) slimmest state, with only 21 percent of its residents reported as obese.

“Having an unhealthy lifestyle clearly increases the likelihood of being obese,” says ACSH’s Dr. Ruth Kava. “This report suggests that substituting fruits and vegetables for other items in one’s diet, combined with regular physical activity, could help prevent or combat obesity,” she noted.

“Of course it’s simplistic to say that only fruits and veggies correlate with obesity rates,” adds Dr. Ross. “Increased fruit and vegetable consumption might also correlate with increased education, income, etc. Clearly, multiple factors are involved.”

UGA budget cuts will reduce Obesity Initiative funding

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Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Policy

When budget cuts loom, new initiatives are often the first to take the hit.

From Athens Banner-Herald and Atlanta Journal-Constitution stories, UGA documents recently submitted to state officials show plans to eliminate 130 jobs to cut state budgets by 3 percent. The 3 percent cuts add up to about $11 million.

Most of the job cuts will fall in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), which will eliminate 70 jobs, most of them in the Cooperative Extension service or at the university’s network of agricultural experiment stations.

 

But also for the Obesity Initiative –

From ABH:

Reduce start-up funding for new faculty to be hired in molecular medicine and the UGA Obesity Initiative by $1.5 million. The money is used for such purposes as buying new lab equipment.

UGA researchers seeking young ones for nutrition study

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Maternal & Childhood Obesity, Obesity Initiative at UGA

The Maternal and Child Nutrition Research Lab of the Department of Foods and Nutrition is looking for 4 to 6 year old boys and girls to participate in body composition research.

 

  • We need boys and girls for one session that takes around 45 minutes
  • Sessions can be on a Saturday for your convenience
  • There will be a questionnaire about activity level and dietary habits
  • The child’s body composition will be measured by the BOD POD Body Composition system

Participants will receive a copy of their body composition results.

Please contact Christina Whitworth at 706-542-7611 for more information about this study.