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

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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.”

Folate, obesity during pregnancy linked to childhood health

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Maternal & Childhood Obesity, Obesity Initiative at UGA

You may already know that being overweight or obese puts you at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, but obesity also affects us in ways that we don’t yet fully understand.

This recently became clear in my own research, which focuses on a B-vitamin called folic acid. Folic acid is necessary for all kinds of important functions in the body, but you may have heard of it in relation to birth defects. That’s because women who take enough folic acid before they become pregnant are much less likely to have children with severe, sometimes fatal birth defects like spina bifida and anencephaly.

I’ve spent the majority of my career working to improve maternal and child health by finding out how much folic acid women need to prevent birth defects, and making sure they know about it. But some recent studies suggest that what works for women of normal weight isn’t working for women who are overweight or obese, and I want to find out why.

Lynn Bailey is the department head and a professor of Foods & Nutrition in UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences. She is the leader of the Obesity Initiative’s Maternal & Childhood Obesity team.

Check out this video that describes Bailey’s latest research and what the Maternal & Childhood Obesity team is doing to combat this serious problem.

Georgia ranks No. 24 in state obesity

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Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Policy

At least 1 in 5 people is obese in every U.S. state, the CDC reported, and Georgia falls near the middle in obesity rankings.

Georgia ranks No. 24 in a new report that says more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7 percent) are obese, or 30 pounds over a healthy weight. The report, based on 2011 state obesity data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows Georgia’s rate at 28 percent.

Mississippi has the highest obesity rate with 34.9 percent, and Colorado hits the bottom of the list at 20.7 percent.

In the annual study, participants self-report their height and weight in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Compared to 2010 numbers, Georgia dropped from 29 percent.

However, the survey changed from last year, now including people who only use cell phones and a new weighting process. CDC officials say that due to the changes, 2011 obesity numbers can’t be compared to previous years. the 2011 data will become the new baseline for future obesity rankings.

No state fell below 20 percent adult obesity, and 12 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia) came in at 30 percent or more. The South had the highest prevalence of adult obesity (29.5 percent), followed by the Midwest (29 percent), the Northeast (25.3 percent) and the West (24.3 percent).

 

Check the CDC data for more information.

 

 

Start with childhood obesity, says Georgia public health commissioner

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Maternal & Childhood Obesity, Obesity Initiative at UGA, Obesity Policy

Dr Brenda FitzgeraldGeorgia ranks second in the nation for childhood obesity at 21.3 percent and third in the nation for children who are overweight or obese at 37.3 percent, said Barbara Fitzgerald, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health and State Health Officer.

Fitzgerald visited the University of Georgia on July 31 to give an update on adult and child obesity in Georgia, and current local and state initiatives to address the epidemic.

The key is to focus on children in the schools, she said, describing the Georgia SHAPE program, which pulls in several of the state’s departments, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Atlanta Brace Foundation, and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation.

Georgia SHAPE measures students through FITNESSGRAM, a tool that evaluates five different parts of health-related fitness — aerobic capacity, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition. Parents and schools receive reports about individual, school, and state-level data to highlight areas of improvement.

Under a new initiative patterned after a program at Sope Creek Elementary in Marietta, students could participate in additional physical activity throughout the day.

The regular academic schedule is maintained and classroom time is not reduced, but students partake in 20-minute exercises in the morning as they arrive to school.

The big perk is the low cost of physical activity, Fitzgerald noted.

Fitzgerald supports regulations that provide 30 minutes of daily physical activity for every student, which schools could implement through structured recess, “Brain Breaks,” or curriculum-based physical activities.

She also discussed regulations that require physical education in the middle school setting, and the state will have more concrete data about Georgia’s 400 middle schools and their physical education programs after the first year of fitness testing is complete.

In addition, Fitzgerald plans to encourage schools to engage in join-use agreements with communities to open school grounds on weekends for afterschool play. These are especially important in low-income, inner-city and rural settings that may lack other recreation facilities, she noted.

  • Fitzgerald, a board-certified Obstetrician-Gynecologist and a Fellow in Anti-Aging Medicine, has practiced medicine for three decades. As Commissioner, Dr. Fitzgerald oversees various state public health programs including Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Maternal and Child Health, Infectious Disease and Immunization, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Emergency Medical Services, Pharmacy, Nursing, Volunteer Health Care, the Office of Health Equity, Vital Records and the State Public Health Laboratory. Dr. Fitzgerald also directs the state’s 18 public health districts and 159 county health departments. Prior to joining DPH, Dr. Fitzgerald held numerous leadership positions.

 

Inactivity on the Rise Worldwide, with Deadly Results

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Obesity & Exercise, Obesity Initiative at UGA

A recent study shows inactivity is on the rise, not just in the U.S., but around the globe. According to the study published in The Lancet, about a third of  the world’s adults  are almost completely sedentary, that is, they do not meet the minimum recommendation of 150 minutes of walking or other moderate activity per week, or about 20 minutes a day. Teenagers are worse: More than 80 percent of young people ages 13 to 15 worldwide are not getting the hour a day of vigorous exercise recommended for their age group. Although most prevalent in the U.S. and Europe, this phenomenon is on the rise worldwide.

A separate study, also published in The Lancet, calculated how much disease results from inactivity, and how many lives could be saved if inactivity were decreased, that is, if people exercised more.  The authors calculated that about 5.3 million people a year die from diseases tied to physical inactivity — more than the 5.1 million who die annually from smoking.

UGA Seminar: Georgia Commissioner of Public Health to address obesity in Georgia

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

Dr Brenda FitzgeraldBrenda Fitzgerald, M.D., Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health and State Health Officer, will visit the University of Georgia on Tuesday, July 31 to provide an update on adult and child obesity in Georgia, and current local and state initiatives to address the epidemic. Her presentation, “A State Perspective on Obesity,” will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. in Room 175 of the Paul D. Coverdell Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences.

Dr. Fitzgerald, a board-certified Obstetrician-Gynecologist and a Fellow in Anti-Aging Medicine, has practiced medicine for three decades. As Commissioner, Dr. Fitzgerald oversees various state public health programs including Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Maternal and Child Health, Infectious Disease and Immunization, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Emergency Medical Services, Pharmacy, Nursing, Volunteer Health Care, the Office of Health Equity, Vital Records and the State Public Health Laboratory. Dr. Fitzgerald also directs the state’s 18 public health districts and 159 county health departments. Prior to joining DPH, Dr. Fitzgerald held numerous leadership positions.

 

Will All Americans Become Overweight or Obese?

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

Obese America mapWe know that obesity is a public health crisis in the U.S., and that it has already increased to alarming rates among all populations.  Moreover, we’re paying the price in increased health-care costs.  But it’s projected to get worse — unless programs and policies are implemented to change the course.

A paper published in Nature in 2008 projects what will happen if current trends continue:

  • By 2030, 86.3% of adults will be overweight or obese, and 51.1% will be obese. Black women and Mexican-American men would be the most affected.
  • By 2048, all American adults will become overweight or obese, while black women will reach that state by 2034. The rate of obese children, now at 30%, would double by 2030.
  • And health-care costs attributable to overweight would double every decade, accounting for 16-18% of total U.S. health-care costs.

Reducing Obesity using Dance Classes for People with Intellectual Disabilties Grant application submitted

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Functional Fitness, Disability & Environment, Obesity & Exercise, Obesity Initiative at UGA

Zoe Young, a graduate student supported by the UGA Obesity Initiative, just submitted a grant to the Tanita Healthy Weight Community Trust.  The aim is to reduce weight in children and adults with intellectual disabilities using dance and healthy eating.  Zoe is a dance instructor who is also a doctoral student in Exercise Science.  Zoe will partner with Kevin McCully, her advisor, and Laura Whitacker who is the director of Extra Special People.  Nice job Zoe!

Obesity Costs Us All

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

money rollPhillip L. Williams, dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia, writes in the June 26 Atlanta Journal Constitution that obesity costs Georgia employers thousands of dollars in health care and the state more than $2 billion yearly. If preventive efforts are not taken, he says, we can expect that number to grow to $11 billion by 2018. All of these troubling statistics point to a looming fiscal and medical crisis for Georgia.

All is not doom and gloom, however. Williams says that not only are the state and UGA tackling the issue, but there are things that individuals can do, too: take more personal responsibility when it comes to managing our weight, and create the environment that will help curtail obesity. Read more.

Research grant: reducing obesity in people with disabilities

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Functional Fitness, Disability & Environment, Obesity Initiative at UGA

Body weight support walking with student help

We just submitted a research grant to the National Institutes of Health to set up a community partnership to reduce obesity in people with disabilities.  A very exciting proposal, we would add physical activity and healthy eating to sports and recreational activities for people with disabilities.  Students get a better education and the participants get the extra help and encouragement they need.  We have started collecting pilot data!