More Americans say obesity is most urgent health problem, Gallup says

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

Gallup strikes again. They’re always working on interesting polls, and this one strikes to the heart of the UGA Obesity Initiative. In Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare survey, obesity is climbing to the top as one of the nation’s urgent health problems.

Check the Gallup results here:

More Americans than in the past say obesity is the most urgent health problem facing the United States, climbing to a new high of 16%. That compares with 1% in 1999, when Gallup began asking the question on an annual basis.

These results are based on Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare survey, conducted Nov. 15-18. As part of that survey, Gallup asks Americans, in an open-ended format, to name the nation’s most urgent health problem. The question was first asked in 1987, with obesity receiving mentions of 3% or less prior to the annual updates that started in 1999.

Americans’ increasing concerns about obesity mirror the rising rates of obesity in the United States. The percentage of adults who are obese doubled from 1980 to 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Gallup and Healthways find obesity remains high as of the third quarter of 2012, at 26.1%.

Despite the growing concern in the U.S. about obesity, it still ranks third on the list of most urgent health problems. Americans’ top health concern remains access to healthcare, as it has been since 2007, but the 23% who name the issue this year is down slightly from 27% in 2011. The cost of healthcare is a close second, with the 19% naming it as the most urgent health issue — on par with the past three years.

VA scientists manipulate enzyme to reduce obesity

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

We know that UGA professors are looking at epigenetics and other ways to manipulate and study obesity. Check out this interesting study at the Virginia Commonwealth University regarding obesity and enzymes in mice:

From Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News:

Scientists say thay have successfully reversed obesity in mice by manipulating the production of an enzyme known as tyrosine-protein kinase-2 (Tyk2). In their experiments, the team at the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center discovered that mice lacking Tyk2 become progressively obese due to aberrant development of Myf5+ brown adipose tissue (BAT), and they claim that this applies to humans as well.

The researchers say the study is the first to provide evidence of the relationship between Tyk2 and brown fat. Previous studies by the team, led by Andrew Larner, M.D., Ph.D., revealed that Tyk2 helps suppress the growth and metastasis of breast cancer, and now the current study suggests this same enzyme could help protect against and even reverse obesity.

Tyk2 RNA levels in BAT and skeletal muscle, which shares a common progenitor with BAT, are dramatically decreased in mice placed on a high-fat diet and in obese humans. The scientists were able to reverse obesity in mice that do not express Tyk2 by expressing a protein known as signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 (Stat3). Stat3 mediates the expression of a variety of genes that regulate a host of cellular processes. Tyk2-negative mice expressing CAStat3 transgene in brown fat also show improved BAT development, normal levels of insulin, and significantly lower body weights. The researchers found that Stat3 formed a complex with a protein known as PR domain containing 16 (PRDM16) to restore the development of BAT and decrease obesity.

“We discovered that Tyk2 levels in mice are regulated by diet. We then tested tissue samples from humans and found that levels of Tyk2 were more than 50 percent lower in obese humans,” says Dr. Larner, Martha Anne Hatcher distinguished professor in oncology and co-leader of the cancer cell signaling program at VCU Massey Cancer Center. “Our findings open new potential avenues for research and development of new pharmacological and nutritional treatments for obesity.”

Calls to use social media to fight childhood obesity

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

The American Heart Association is spreading the word this week to use social media to fight childhood obesity. It’s an interesting idea, especially because younger and younger students are using apps and texting. Will it work?

From WebMD:

Kids and teens increasingly keep in touch through social media, and all that texting, tweeting, and online networking can be a powerful tool for combating childhood obesity, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

In a newly released statement, the group calls for more research to help doctors and health policy makers incorporate social media into existing obesity prevention and management programs.

“Almost all kids have Internet access and many have smartphones,” says Duke University chief of pediatric cardiology Jennifer S. Li, MD. “We need to take advantage of social networking to connect with them because it is the way they are connecting with their friends.”

Spelman cuts NCAA funds to invest in anti-obesity program

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

Spelman College, not too far down the road, is investing in a nice gym and campus wellness program for students. Check out this interesting idea, featured on Fox News:

Spelman College, a historic college for black women, is taking a long, hard look at their NCAA funds. The school’s million-dollar sports budget — typically used for uniforms, travel and referees — will now be diverted to pay for a state-of-the-art gym and campus-wide wellness programs intended to help all students on campus. This is the last year Spelman students will be able to participate in NCAA Division III sports.

“I understand this change is disappointing to those students who have been very involved in intercollegiate athletics,” said Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, the president of Spelman College. “We can use those dollars to bring in more instructors — to focus on wellness in a way that will allow all 2,100 students to really participate.”

College officials envision a yoga room, a spin room, an indoor track and new equipment that would rival any commercial gym. It is as much about a healthy weight as it is a healthy mind and life.

“Our students – most of whom are African-American women — are twice as likely to become diabetic. They are more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke in their lifetimes. Largely because of the high levels of obesity and overweight within the African-American community,” Tatum said. “This generation of young people is not likely to live as long as its parent generation because of poor diet and lack of exercise. I have been to the funerals of young alumnae – one of the things I say to our students is, we are investing a lot in you.”

Exercise doesn’t reduce risks of sedentary lifestyle, study finds

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

Well, this is an interesting one. Apparently one study from Northwestern is showing that sitting is negating — or at least certainly not helping — regular exercise routines. What do we do now?

Check it out in the New York Daily News:

Women just can’t win. Even if you are a gym rat, if you sit the rest of the day you are at increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, obesity and premature death, a new study has found. Regular exercise, it turns out, does not reduce the risk of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.

“We all know someone who gets a good workout in every day, but then spends a large portion of their day sitting in front of a computer with few breaks,” said Lynette Craft, lead author of the study and adjunct professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“If these people could replace some of the sitting with light activity just getting up, moving around, maybe standing up when talking on the phone, walking down the hall instead of sending an email we do think they could gain health benefits.”

 The study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, looked at whether women who exceed the federal government’s current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans — getting at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week — are less sedentary than those who don’t meet the guidelines.

While many of the women in the study met or exceeded 150 minutes of physical activity per week, in reality only a fraction of the women’s days were spent being physically active. The women in the study spent an average of nine hours a day sitting. That number is consistent with previous results from much larger studies that examined the number of hours Americans spend sitting every day.

Emerging research has led health experts to believe that sitting is the new smoking, and women and men both need to be mindful about being couch — or desk — potatoes.

Predicting obesity at birth – Is it possible?

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

A new study is roaming around the news reports — certain factors could be early indicators of obesity. This story comes from the Mother Nature Network, linking to a PLos One study. Check it out:

Could future obesity be predicted at birth?  Some health experts think so.  And this research might help health care providers identify children who are at risk for childhood obesity before they even leave the hospital, stemming the otherwise skyrocketing numbers of kids affected by childhood obesity.
According to a new study published in PLos One, certain factors might be very good indicators of who will become obese and who will not.  They are: birth weight of the baby, body mass index of the parents, number of people in the family, whether the mother works outside the home, and whether the mother smoked during pregnancy.
The study’s authors used these five factors to accurately predict obesity rates for 4,000 participants born in 1986 in Finland, the United States and Italy.
Of course, some of these factors just make logical sense.  Parents with a higher mass index are more likely to have children who are larger and thus more prone to obesity.  But what about the other factors: number of people in the family, prenatal smoking, and whether or not the mother works outside the home?  I was a little surprised not that these factors played a role in childhood obesity but that it was so large a role, whereas other factors such as parental stress did not play a role at all according to this study.
With childhood obesity rates tripling over the last three decades in the U.S., health experts and parents alike are scrambling to find tools to help kids stay healthy.  Hopefully, this research can be used to help identify babies that are risk for becoming obese so that parents and their health care providers can develop a proactive strategy for prevention.

Coca-Cola funds 100 fitness centers at schools

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

It’s interesting how Coke is getting involved in the fight against obesity in several cities. Coca-Cola employees are talking to UGA Obesity Initiative professors about some ideas. Let’s see where it goes!

From the AJC:

The Coca-Cola Foundation announced Monday that it’s donated $5 million to put 100 fitness centers in schools across the United States over the next five years.

The group, the charitable arm of Atlanta-based beverage maker Coca-Cola, said the project is part of a partnership with the National Foundation for Governor’s Fitness Councils and the American College of Sports Medicine

The centers are expected to feature state-of-the-art fitness equipment and “provide more than 5 million workouts annually,” the foundation said. So far, targeted locations include three schools in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Boston. Fifteen Live Positively Fitness Centers are expected to be in elementary and middle schools across the country by the end of year.

Coca-Cola and the beverage industry has come under heavy criticism over the last decade for, according to detractors, contributing to obesity in America. While denying the accusations, the industry has reduced sugary drinks it puts in school vending machines and Coca-Cola has added smaller can sizes to its line up to allow consumers to still enjoy their products with fewer calories.

UGA obesity stories covered by Grady Newsource

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

UGA Newsource picked up a few interesting stories about obesity and getting fit this semester. Check out the stories here.

UGA student competes in fat burning challenge:

Dakota Griffin is a sophomore at UGA who refuses to contribute to Georgia’s growing obesity statistics. Just four weeks ago, Dakota decided to take control of her health and join a local gym- The Omni Club.

The UGA Obesity Initiative found that one of every three adults in Georgia is obese. The Initiative also says obesity costs Georgia an estimated 2.4 billion dollars a year. Dakota plans to save the state a little cash.

Since joining Omni, Dakota says she’s lost 4-percent body fat. She gained six pounds of muscle and lost five pounds overall.

Dakota isn’t taking on just any weight loss program. She’s competing in Omni’s Total Image Challenge: a fat loss competition between men and women in the Athens community.

UGA students getting fit with smartphones:

In the past fifteen years, Georgia’s obesity rate has doubled and is expected to keep rising. Some people are doing what they can to stay healthy and beat the statistic.

UGA junior, Cameron Hutchins, uses a personal trainer ever week to stay in shape.

Hutchins says, “I knew if I didn’t work out I’d be pretty chubby. I’d probably be overweight right now and not in the shape I’m supposed to be in.”

But gym memberships and personal trainers can get pricey. And with this slumping economy, it’s not an option for many people.  For Spencer Tolley, technology is what keeps him active. He relies on applications that he downloaded to his iPhone.

Tolley says he uses them because “they’re free and saves the cost of going to a gym. I can go at my own schedule. If you have a personal trainer you’re required to be there at this day, this time all the time. I just like the convenience of being able to do my own thing.”

Architects fight weight gain with ‘active design’ in offices

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

USA Today is really digging into some interesting aspects of obesity and weight gain. Check out the USA Today story about architects and designers who are looking for new ways to keep us active in the office.

The push to reverse the obesity epidemic and promote physical fitness is spilling into design and architecture and beginning to target one of the nation’s most sedentary environments: the office.

“Active design” — the architectural principle of creating spaces that encourage healthy lifestyles — is gaining popularity as more cities and companies join the fight and embrace healthy initiatives and “green” measures.

New York — the city that banned trans fats in restaurants and the sales of large sugary drinks in cups — adopted Active Design Guidelines in 2006. That has sparked interest among architects and planners, even on the eve of a deep financial slump. With the help of a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the city is mentoring 14 other cities, including Philadelphia, Tucson, Nashville and Seattle, to improve the built environment to reduce obesity.