Odyssey seminars show student involvement in Obesity Initiative


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Several professors involved in the Obesity Initiative are teaching first-year Odyssey classes that include obesity discussions. Look out for a longer story later! Check out a few of these below:


Childhood and Adult Obesities
Instructor: Cliff Baile, Obesity Initiative director
Currently, more than one billion adults are overweight and at least 300 million are clinically obese. This seminar will cover the latest research on causes of obesity, such as neurobiological impacts on metabolism, effects of diet composition, the role of maternal gestational obesity on development of obesity in children, and social environmental influences upon eating and physical activity behavior. We will also discuss the physiological effects of excess adipose tissue, including diabetes, bone loss, cardiovascular disease, and the economic impacts of the obesity epidemic on an already stressed healthcare system. Finally, we will discuss effective treatment and prevention modalities for both children and adults at the individual and community levels. Course activities will include reading original research papers, in-class discussion of topics, and preparation of a report on a related topic.
Junk Food, Health Food and Choices
Instructor: Louise Wicker, professor of food science and technology
Are you interested in science and math and like applications of chemistry? Did you know that obesity is the number one health care issue in the U.S.? Does your diet consist mainly of pizza, hamburgers, fries and soft drinks? Are you frightened by stories of red slime in your hamburger, BPA in your water bottle, genetically modified foods or pesticides in your foods? Global sourcing of foods and food ingredients, mass production of foods, a comparison of locally grown and organic with conventional foods, the healthfulness of foods from center aisles of the grocery store or from fast food restaurants will be discussed. At the end of this course, students will know how to access credible information on foods, source, function and safety of food ingredients, and make wiser decisions about food choices. Format will include readings on foods and food ingredients and impact on health, videos, written assignments and class room discussion.
Nutrition and Health
Instructor: Silvia Giraudo, associate professor of foods and nutrition
Why is nutrition important in today’s society? This course will examine how nutrition affects health and life in general. The seminar format will highlight visiting experts as well as class presentation of articles (including popular stuff) about today’s science followed by a class discussion of the relationship between nutrition and health. This seminar will enhance the understanding of the many relations of nutritional science to society, and how nutritional needs change throughout the lifespan and during stress and exercise, as well as of the factors affecting risk of chronic disease, including family history, health behaviors, and food intake.


The Obesity Epidemic: Man AND Man’s Best Friend
Instructors: Ellen Evans, associate professor of kinesiology, and Cynthia Ward, professor of veterinary medicine
The obesity epidemic is our greatest public health challenge, with children being of the highest concern. It is well documented that parent weight status predicts risk for childhood obesity from both nature (genetic) and nurture (environment) factors. But have you also heard the expression that dogs resemble their owners? Our companion animals are similar to children in that the owner largely determines lifestyle choices in terms of eating and physical activity patterns. This course will review the parallel between humans and companion animals (dogs and cats) in the following: 1) energy balance determinants, 2) diagnosing obesity, 3) clinical diseases associated with obesity, especially type 2 diabetes mellitus, and 4) treatment strategies. Although some seminar sessions will include lectures and discussions led by Professors Evans and Ward, the majority of the sessions will include lab tours and demonstrations, group discussions, in-class debates regarding current issues, and reflective writing assignments.



Obesity Initiative receives funding for preliminary research


Obesity Initiative at UGA

The University of Georgia Obesity Initiative is granting $100,000 to better understand causes and factors of obesity in children and adults.

The preliminary data research grants of $25,000 will help achieve two critical goals, said Clifton Baile, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Agricultural Biotechnology, Distinguished Professor of Animal Science and Food and Nutrition, and director of the UGA Obesity Initiative.

“First, they will enhance collaboration between groups that have not previously worked together, thus increasing the novelty and innovation of the projects,” he said. “And second, the proposals chosen for funding have a high potential of obtaining data that will support funding of more comprehensive projects by external agencies.”

Fifteen proposals competed for a share of the $100,000 grant pool. The four approved projects will enhance current and future grant proposals.

  • “Physical Activity and Overweight Children’s Academic Achievement” is a project by College of Education kinesiology professors Phillip D. Tomporowski, Bryan McCullick and Michael Horvat. They will train paraprofessionals at Chase Street Elementary School to conduct field tests that measure how physical activity games affect children’s movement and motor skills. The group will use the results to submit a grant proposal to the Georgia Department of Education 21st Century Community Learning Center program.
  • “Sleep Apnea and Obesity Exacerbate Cardiovascular Disease via Epigenetic Mechanisms” will expand initial studies evaluating how epigenetics place sleep apnea patients at risk for cardiovascular disease and obesity. Previous work found patients with sleep apnea have difficulty losing weight. Furthermore, weight gain increases the severity of sleep apnea. Researchers include: Brad Phillips, Clinical and Administrative Pharmacy, College of Pharmacy; Jonathan Arnold and Richard Meagher, genetics, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; Mary Anne Della-Fera, animal and dairy science, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; and Alicia Smith, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Emory University.
  • “Adenovirus, Obesity and Bone Strength in Preadolescent Children” seeks to better understand the relationship between bone density and adenovirus (Ad36) infections in young children.  Previous work by this team found that Ad36 infections are not only associated with obesity but also with smaller, weaker bones in obese young adult females, ages 18 and 19. Because 90 percent of adult bone mass and strength is achieved before this time, this study will seek data about younger children to better understand the interactions between Ad36, obesity and bone. UGA scientists working on the project include: Richard D. Lewis and Emma Laing, foods and nutrition, College of Family and Consumer Sciences; Ralph A. Tripp and Stephen M. Tompkins, infectious diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • “Determining the Link Between Adenovirus Infection and Obesity and the Ability of Mesenchymal Stem Cells to be Converted onto Adipocytes, Chondrocytes and Osteocytes” looks to expand on previous research showing a correlation among human adenoviruses infections, a predisposition to obesity, and low bone mass and strength in female adolescents. The project seeks to determine if infection with specific adenovirus serotypes affect the ability of mesenchymal stem cells to be converted into adipocytes (fat cells), chondrocytes (cartilage cells) and osteocytes (bone cells). Collaborators on the project include: Ralph A. Tripp and S. Mark Tompkins, infectious diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine; and Stephen Dalton, biochemistry and molecular biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.


UGA workshop: Future of food focused on small-scale, sustainable farms


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Urban agriculture could help obesity. At the “Future of Food” workshop featured previously on this blog, proponents of local eating emphasized that sustainable farms are possible in cities such as Atlanta and Athens.

Check out the coverage by the Athens Banner-Herald. The keynote speaker touched on the link between obesity and locally-grown food:

“Atlanta is the greenest city in the country in terms of trees and open space,” said Rashid Nuri, chief executive officer of Atlanta’s Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture. “We’ve got enough land to feed the city.”

Nuri, the president of Georgia Organics, was the keynote speaker for the day-long workshop, sponsored by UGA’s Center for Integrative Conservation Research, along with several other UGA schools and departments. Nuri’s non-profit Truly Living Well Center grows about 30,000 pounds of food each year on small spots scattered throughout the city.

A Harvard graduate who spent most of his adult life working in agriculture, Nuri told an audience of the many benefits of urban agriculture, from healthier food for low-income people in the city to reducing Georgia’s ballooning obesity rates.

OI in the News – Obesity rates high in Athens


Obesity Initiative at UGA

And another day of publication – this time an in-depth story about obesity in Athens, featured in Flagpole.

A Supersized Problem: Tackling the Obesity Epidemic

The Federation of Neighborhoods asked Paige Cummings what is the biggest health care crisis in Northeast Georgia.

“Obesity,” the executive director of Athens Nurses Clinic answered. “Without hesitation.”

The clinic sees about 1,100 clients each year, and two-thirds are obese, not just overweight, Cummings notes. Most of these patients also suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes. The clinic partners with Athens Regional Medical Center to teach hypertension classes, and every diabetic patient receives one-on-one review sessions, but it’s not enough.

“The biggest problem is, once you reach a certain level of obesity, you’re too embarrassed to go out in public to exercise, or it’s uncomfortable and it hurts to do it,” Cummings explains. “We help them to do enough to get their heart rate going and a metabolic boost without falling in the floor and not be able to breathe. Straight arm lifts with a can of soup, shoulder shrugs, push ups against the wall, and walking briskly so they can feel their heart beating harder.”

OI in the News – Educational games about obesity


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Check out my first article in Georgia Health News! We have great research going on here at UGA.

Beehive game teaches kids how to keep obesity at bay

Video games are often accused of contributing to childhood obesity. But they also may be able to help fight it, says a group of University of Georgia professors who have created the educational video game Bee Tees.

Bee Tees, a play on the word “diabetes,” makes players responsible for the health of a beehive. As the bees, controlled by the player, bring in food, the hive creates honey and grows larger. But if the bees bring in too much food, the hive begins to decay.

This scenario may not correspond to the real world of beekeeping. But the game’s creators hope it will be a fun way to start the conversation with students about understanding and managing their bodies.

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


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


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


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.Dismiss

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


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


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!