More evidence of genetic role in obesity


Epigenetics & Obesity, Obesity Initiative at UGA

Is obesity a disease, as the AMA recently decided? A condition? Or a reflection of an individual’s self control? More evidence that genetics contributes to obesity was revealed this week in a study published this week in the journal Science.

Scientists discovered a gene that acts in the brain to control weight, normally by signaling  another gene already known to be involved in controlling appetite. They  hypothesized that deleting the helper gene would increase appetite — and in their mouse studies, it did.

“The history of obesity for many many years has been one of blaming people for lack of self control,” said Dr. Joseph Majzoub, chief of endocrinology at Boston Children’s Hospital and lead author of the new paper. “If some of it is due to a slow metabolism, that would completely change the perspectives of parents and patients. It really would change the way we think of the disease.”

AMA declares obesity a disease


Obesity in the Workplace, Obesity Policy

This week, the American Medical Association labeled obesity a disease, prompting statements from major health organizations, as well as stories and editorials from media.

In a press release, The Obesity Society noted, “The passage of a new American Medical Association policy classifying obesity as a disease reinforces the science behind obesity prevention and treatment.” The LA Times noted, “The AMA’s decision essentially makes diagnosis and treatment of obesity a physician’s professional obligation,” in part because such treatment will now be reimbursable by insurance companies. Just as important, it continued, the AMA’s opinion can influence policy makers who are in a position to do more to support interventions, research, and programs to prevent and treat obesity.

However, the decision was not without controversy. The AMA’s own Council on Science and Public Health of the American Medical Association issued a report expressing concern that obesity was typically diagnosed using body mass index (BMI), a measure that is imprecise and not always associated with poor health outcomes.

UGA nutrition and health specialist Connie Crawley says the AMA decision puts obesity in the same light as other long-term diseases, such as diabetes.  “Diabetes is a long-term condition, just like obesity is, and it is basically is never cured,” Crawley said. “It’s just managed.”  She also noted, “Calling obesity a disease also takes some of the stigma away that it is just a personal flaw in one’s character that causes it—just like drug addition or alcoholism are diseases.”


Facebook can help track obesity rates based on what people ‘like’


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Facebook affects our obesity, right? Interesting research here posted in PLoS One about geographic research based on social media. Check out a bit below, reported on

Scientists from Boston Children’s Hospital in the U.S. found that people’s online interests within geographic areas could help public health researchers track and map obesity rates, and design geotargeted online interventions to reduce the risks. For example, areas where Facebook users “liked” pages related to television were more likely to have high rates of obesity compared to areas whose residents “liked” activity-related pages.

To reach their findings, the research team obtained aggregated Facebook user interest data—what users post to their timeline, “like” and share with others on Facebook—from users within the U.S. and just within New York City. Using two prior telephone-based health surveys involving thousands of people, they then compared percentages of users interested in healthy activities or television. Both surveys record geotagged data on body mass index, which researchers consider a reliable measure of obesity.

“The data show that in places where Facebook users have more activity-related interests, there is a lower prevalence of obesity and overweight,” said co-researcher Dr. Rumi Chunara. “They reveal how social media data can augment public health surveillance by giving public health researchers access to population-level information that they can’t otherwise get.”

Access the full article on the PLoS One site here.

New toolkit helps states identify obesity prevention strategies


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Check out this story featured by the National Collaborative on Childhood Education Research today for this month’s spotlight. It’s about aiding states with their obesity prevention struggles.

Read a bit:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled a new toolkit to help states identify evidenced-based obesity prevention policy and environmental change interventions to include in their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed). The toolkit includes strategies and interventions that can be readily adopted by states in a variety of different capacities including child care, school, community, and family settings.

All 50 states, the District of Colombia, and the Virgin Islands provide nutrition education for participants enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) and other eligible low-income individuals. The goal is to help people make healthy food choices within a limited budget and choose physically active lifestyles consistent with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.

See more from the May newsletter here and get involved!


Does obesity impact folate metabolism?


Obesity in the News, Obesity Initiative at UGA

It does, according to several UGA professors who conducted a study recently. I published this piece in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) blog called Obesity Panacea. They have great posts about the world of obesity research, and I thought this made a nice fit.

Here’s a bit:

At the University of Georgia, a group of nutrition professors are investigating how obesity may affect folate metabolism during pregnancy. With an increasingly obese population and folate recommendations based on studies from the 1990s, they surmise that obese mothers may need more folate during pregnancy.

They recently conducted a pilot study of both normal weight and obese women to measure how the recommended dose — 400 micrograms — is metabolized in the blood over 10 hours. The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity earlier this month, shows that there’s a significant difference between the two groups.

Check out more on the Obesity Panacea blog!

UGA Biggest Loser draws dozens of participants


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 4.53.10 PM

UGA’s Biggest Loser contest — It’s not about what you lose but what you gain.

This year’s group drew more than 70 participants who joined weekly group workouts, cooking classes, wellness presentations, and a three-class water fitness session.

The top student and faculty/staff members won $100 gift cards to Bulldog Sporting Goods, and the team with the best attendance won the Team Award.

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The contest, run by Brian Williams in the Ramsey Center, is assitant director of strength and conditioning. He runs the cardio and weight facilities at Ramsey.

Stay tuned for more details about this year’s contest and next year’s contest as well!




UGA kinesiology professors need UGA employees for focus group study


Obesity & Exercise, Obesity Initiative at UGA

UGA kinesiologyUGA Employees Needed for a Research Study Examining Physical Activity, Proper Nutrition, and Weight Management Barriers

This comes from the UGA kinesiology department. Please participate if you can!

Male and female UGA employees are needed for a focus group examining employees’ perceptions of physical activity, proper nutrition, and weight management on the UGA campus.  The focus group will be performed at the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Georgia.

Participants will be asked to participate in a focus group and will be asked questions regarding one’s barriers and benefits to physical activity, proper nutrition, and weight management.  Participants will also be asked to complete body measurements (height, weight, and waist circumferences) along with a health history questionnaire.

We’d love to have the results inform UGA policy/employee health programs,” said Bhibha Das, who is conducting the research.

Participants can earn a free exercise program, free diet analysis, or free body composition assessment.  A free exercise program, diet analysis, and body composition assessment will be given out for each focus group (6 total of each). In each focus group, there will be a drawing in which each participant has equal chance of receiving their choice of one of the following incentives: a free exercise program, a free diet analysis, or free body composition assessment. Participation in the research is not required in order to enter the drawing.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Bhibha Das: or 706-688-9297

Principal Investigator: Ellen M. Evans, PhD,

Gallup survey: Boulder, Colo. remains least obese city


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Well, that’s no surprise, really.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index for 2012 shows that Boulder residents are the least likely to be obese — for the third consecutive year. It was 12.5 percent in 2012.

Those around Mission, Texas, are the most likely to be obese, at 38.5 percent.

As Gallup points out, adult obesity rates are higher than 15 percent in all but two of the 189 metro areas surveyed. Residents in the areas with higher obesity rates struggle to afford basic necessities, they say.

What’s after Boulder? Charlottesville, VA. Another no-brainer? Three other Colorado areas — Fort Collins, Denver, and Colorado Springs — made the top 10.

What’s surprising? The top 10 most obese areas. Check it out:Gallup metro areas

Intriguing infographic shows the numbers and costs associated with obesity


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Obesity infographicYou guys know how I love infographics, and this one immediately won me over this week.

Check out this awesome explanation about the numbers and costs associated with obesity. The American Public Health Association held a contest for National Public Health week, and this year’s theme was “Public Health is ROI – Save Lives, Save Money.”

A team from MPH@GW, the George Washington University’s online Master of Public Health program, developed this graphic with a designer, professors, and staff.

Just last week, they were announced as national winners for the infographic! Check out the full version on their site.

Credit goes to Sarah Fudin for telling me about the contest and graphic. She manages the community and content for the MPH@GW, which sounds like an awesome program.

“We thought focusing on the cost of obesity would be a good way to support this year’s theme and raise awareness to the obesity issues our nation faces,” she said.

“I am super excited to be working in a space where I can connect with people passionate about making our world a better place,” she added. “Happy belated National Public Health Week!”