Obesity May Increase Risk for Clostridium difficile Infection — AAFP …

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) previously has been identified as an independent risk factor for C. difficile colonization and disease, as has use of antibacterial drugs — a relationship that appears to be modulated by a dysbiosis of intestinal microbiota. Recently, studies have shown that obesity also may be associated with decreased diversity and changes in composition of the intestinal microbiome, which could translate into a similar risk profile.

The current retrospective analysis looked at 132 cases gleaned from infection control database records, microbiology results and medical records of adult patients at a medical center who had laboratory-confirmed CDI from November 2011 to April 2012. By comparing a relatively low-risk group of patients with CDI to those with more traditional risk factors for the disease, such as exposure to health care facilities, antibacterial drug use and IBD, the researchers were able to identify an association between obesity and CDI.

Prevalence and Epidemiology

According to the CDC, CDIs cause about 14,000 deaths each year, and the annual number of hospital discharge diagnoses of CDI has doubled during the past decade, rising from about 139,000 to 336,600.

In addition, the epidemiology of CDI has shifted during that time, with an increasing number of cases that originate in the community being seen in traditionally low-risk populations. This shift has sparked concerns that unidentified risk factors may be increasing the likelihood of contracting CDI in this population subset.

The study’s authors note that before 2010, guidelines developed by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (SHEA-IDSA) defined CDIs as “having community onset (CO) or inpatient health care facility onset (HO).” In recognition of the changing epidemiology of CDI, that definition was expanded in a 2010 guideline update to include an additional category of disease: community-onset health care facility-associated (CO-HCFA). This category refers to CDI cases that occur among patients in the community who had exposure to health care facilities during the previous four weeks.

For the purposes of this study, hemodialysis centers, day surgery centers, chemotherapy suites and long-term care facilities, in addition to traditional inpatient facilities, were grouped under the “health care facility” designation.

Study Specifics

The chief goal of the study, according to researchers, was to pinpoint potential demographic and risk factor differences between patients who develop CO CDIs and those with HO or CO-HCFA infections. “In particular,” they said, “we examine whether obesity is overrepresented in patients with community-onset infections who did not have exposure to health care facilities, antibacterial drugs or the diagnosis of IBD.”

In addition, the researchers noted, identifying the specific health care delivery sites represented among patients with CO-HCFA infections could facilitate targeted staff training and education, as well as improved allocation of infection control resources.

Using the former SHEA-IDSA classification, the 132 patients shown to have lab-confirmed CDI were categorized as having either community or nosocomial onset disease. Patients then were reclassified according to the new SHEA-IDSA guidelines as having CO, CO-HCFA or HO disease.

Initially, 91 cases were counted as CO disease, and 41 were determined to be HO disease. By using the definitions described in 2010, 35.2 percent of the CO cases were found to be HCFA-CO. Of these, 62.5 percent had a prior hospital admission as a risk factor, and 28.1 percent were from a long-term care facility. Other risk factors (accounting for those with more than one risk factor) included recent surgery (12.5 percent), hemodialysis (9.4 percent) and outpatient chemotherapy (3.4 percent).

Additional Study Findings

Univariate analysis testing for differences across the three groups revealed lower percentages of patients with IBD in the HO and CO-HCFA categories compared with the CO group. A higher percentage of patients in the CO category were noted to be obese; in fact, the percentage of patients in the CO group who were obese (34 percent) was statistically higher than the state average (23 percent). HO cases were more likely to have had previous exposure to antibacterial drugs compared with the CO and CO-HCFA groups.

“Patients with community onset infections had higher body mass indices than the general population, and those with community onset after exposure to a health care facility had higher rates of IBD and lower prior antibacterial drug exposure than patients who had CDI onset in a health care facility,” the researchers wrote. “Obesity may be associated with CDI, independent of antibacterial drug or health care exposures.”

Beyond Obesity: Reframing Food Justice with Body Love by TC Duong

Oakland has been at the forefront of what many would call the food justice movement – a movement to ensure that disenfranchised communities have power over they foods they produce, sell and eat.  Organizations like People’s Grocery have led the way in identifying the intersections between race, income and health.  Phat Beets Produce and City Slicker Farms have been innovators in community-led urban gardening.

Being in one of the centers of food justice work has been exciting but as someone who has also been involved in body acceptance movement, I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with the frame of obesity prevention as a justification some use to enter this great work.  Many groups doing this work have to apply for funding (such as Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move) that frames food access as obesity prevention.  Researcher Linda Bacon coined the term “Health at Every Size” to challenge ideas that weight loss is desirable for everyone and I wanted to think further about the impact of the framework of obesity prevention of food justice and communities of color.  That’s when I read Sonya Renee’s post  Weight Stigma in Diverse Populations.

Sonya-Renee-Taylor-2

By stating “Our society tells us fatness is not beautiful.  Blackness is historically, not beautiful.  So even while battling weight stigma and reclaiming size diversity as beautiful, the presence of Blackness complicates the narrative,” Sonya Renee names the very real intersection between marginalization of women of size and black women.  Performance Poet, Activist and transformational leader, Sonya Renee is a National and International poetry slam champion, published author, and change maker.  As the founder and CEO of the The Body is Not An Apology, she is working to promote an international movement focused on radical self love and body empowerment. I asked Sonya more about the impact of the obesity prevention frame on food justice work.  Her responses are eye opening.

There are a lot of well-meaning people trying to do right by their communities by working on “food justice.”  Does that have relevance to size acceptance and body love?  Where do you see the intersections?  

I think food justice absolutely has relevance to size acceptance and body love or what The Body is Not An Apology calls Radical Self Love.  Radical Self Love is about being an advocate for your own well-being, your body and then allowing that advocacy to demand those things that aid well-being.  Asking for healthy food and access to nutrition is without question an element of radical self-love.  Also, when we think about who has access to good grocery stores, nutritious choices in their communities; we must look at the ways body impacts that.  There is a racial aspect that must be named which is about what bodies are valued and cared for systemically and which we do not. Those observations lead us directly to the way we further disenfranchise bodies of color, fat bodies, poor bodies.  Food justice is about ensuring all bodies have access and autonomy over their bodies.

How do community activists combat the obesity frame in public health, especially related to black communities?  There’s some real dollars attached to doing food justice as “combating obesity.”

I think it is essential to talk about the intersections of discrimination.  Asking how is a framework that makes someone’s body “wrong” an act of public health? We must ask who benefits from a war against people’s bodies.  Does it benefit communities to be at war with their bodies?  Does it benefit large people to view their bodies as a thing they must fight?  If the benefit is not to the communities we serve then what makes the model a justice movement?  Given that there are actual health indicators that can be assessed without size and size actually is not valid indicator of health unto itself, it is completely possible to talk about health without pathologizing bodies.  I also challenge public health professionals to be honest about the mental health aspects of having society be at war with your body or teaching people to be at war with themselves which is the translation of “combating obesity.”  Anything that reinforces inequity, bigotry, prejudice or shame IS NOT a justice movement.  Food justice work that does not include dismantling weight stigma in my opinion is not a justice movement.

There’s a lot of momentum around promoting health in marginalized communities (i.e. Michelle Obama’s work) but with the frame of ending obesity.  What frame would you recommend using to address what are real problems of accessibility for food and recreation?

I often just sit with the idea that the “ending obesity” paradigm is actually saying “we want to end Fat People.”  There simply is no health promotion in that framework.  The Body is Not An Apology operates from the framework that says injustice starts in many ways from the inability to make peace with the body, our own and others.  From that premise, the issue of promoting health is not about the failure of the body but the failure of our society to protect and care for EVERY BODY equally and the ways in which we as individuals and communities have internalized that lack of care.  If we cared for each person in our society we would have those things that are required for basic human sustainability in all communities.  We would have grocery stores with affordable healthy options; we would have playgrounds and recreation in all communities.  If we did not have recreation due to community violence we would be addressing and healing community violence.  We would be ensuring our media replicated images of all members of society in nuanced, dynamic, psychological healthy ways.  If we were using an intersectional community care model we would be addressing the myriad ways we could better care for each other and for ourselves.

How do we incorporate the historical analysis of the commodification of black bodies into our work as food justice advocates?

Understanding the commodification of black bodies helps understand why there is little investment in our community’s well-being and health.  I think it would also help black people understand how their demand to be treated humanely via Food Justice is as vital as the Civil Rights movement, abolition movement etc.  The value of black bodies was directly tied to unpaid labor.  When that unpaid labor was no longer a resource, we saw a complete divestment in the lives of black people.  Now that the commodification of black bodies comes via the criminal justice system there is an absolute necessity to foster the disrepair of black communities. The commodification depends on us growing up in such a way that increases our likelihood of engaging in criminal activity.  That is shown time and again to be directly tied to poverty and not having one’s basic needs met.  Food justice is about ensuring that all communities have their basic needs met so that they might thrive. The treatment of people in such communities is an illustration of the difference between commodifying bodies and valuing bodies. Food Justice is about demanding our bodies be valued!

Finally, how do we make the shift from shame and blame to love?

The question I ask that gets me to the answer of that question is always about who does blame and shame serve?  How does blame and shame make a world that creates positivity and possibility?  I reject the notion that there is some way that my body can be wrong.  And if there is nothing wrong with my body then there is no place for blame or shame.  From this space I can focus on how I can better LOVE my body and how I can better advocate that the world support me, my family, and my community in growing that love.

Written and Posted with permission from TC Duong

Thanks to TC for allowing us to share this wonderful article!  —First Read and Found on Oakland Local —

Diabetic eye disease: How regular eye exams could save vision

Individuals with diabetes are likely accustomed to regular insulin injections or a strict diet. But are they as familiar with regular eye examinations? According to the results of a new survey coinciding with National Diabetes Month, the majority of diabetic patients would say no, even though diabetes is a leading cause of vision loss in the US.

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), around 25 million Americans suffer from diabetes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among adults aged between 20 and 74.

Figures from the CDC show that between 2005 and 2008, 4.2 million diabetes patients in the US had diabetic retinopathy – the most common form of diabetic eye disease. Of these, 655,000 suffered from advanced diabetic retinopathy, which can potentially lead to severe vision loss.

However, a new survey from Diabetic Connect – the largest social networking site for diabetes sufferers and their families – reveals that 25% of people with diabetes do not have the recommended annual dilated (retina) eye exam, which experts say could significantly reduce the risk of vision loss or blindness associated with diabetes.

Diabetic eye disease explained

Diabetic eye disease is defined as a group of eye-related health issues that are particularly common among diabetes sufferers.

Lady undergoing an eye exam
The NEI says the risk of severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy could be reduced by 95% with early detection, timely treatment and appropriate follow-up.

According to the NEI, the most common forms of diabetic eye disease are diabetic retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma.

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in diabetics – caused by a change in the blood vessels situated in the retina.

Some people with this disease experience swelling and fluid leaking from the blood vessels into the macula of the eye – the part of the retina that is responsible for sharp vision. This process is known as diabetic macular edema (DME).

Other people with diabetic retinopathy will have new blood vessels form on the surface of the retina. Both of these changes can lead to partial vision loss or complete blindness.

One major problem for patients with diabetic eye disease is that there are often no symptoms until the disease reaches an advanced stage. However, it can be detected early through a dilated eye exam.

“The best way to prevent unnecessary vision loss is through annual retina eye exams,” Dr. Carl C. Awh, retina specialist at Tennessee Retina, a group of nationally recognized specialists, told Medical News Today.

“Very often diabetic eye disease lacks any symptoms – meaning people may not know that their vision has been damaged until it’s too late.”

According to the NEI, with early detection through a dilated eye exam, timely treatment and appropriate follow-up, the risk of severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be reduced by 95%.

Through early detection of diabetic retinopathy and other eye diseases, several treatment options can be offered to a patient.

These include laser eye surgery and injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications. These block the actions of a protein that is the cause of abnormal blood vessel growth and leakage in the eye.

Below is a video from the NEI that explains the risk and treatment of diabetic eye disease:

Majority of diabetics ‘unaware of risk’ to eye health

Although people with diabetes are encouraged to have a dilated retina eye exam once every year, it seems many diabetes sufferers do not undergo these regular eye check-ups.

Diabetic Connect conducted an online survey of 1,674 patients with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The survey revealed that 1 in 4 people do not receive their annual eye exam, and the reasons for this are largely down to lack of awareness.

In detail, only 36% of people with diabetes said they had spoken with their doctor regarding their risk of vision loss when they were diagnosed, and 22% had never spoken to their doctor about this topic.

Of those who have never had a retina eye exam, 13% said it was because they believed they had not had diabetes long enough for it to affect their vision.

Over 50% of respondents were unaware that diabetic macular edema was a leading cause of vision loss or blindness for diabetes sufferers, and 32% did not know they needed a dilated eye exam.

Needless to say, the results of this survey are worrying, especially considering the millions of diabetes sufferers who are at risk of eye disease.

Dr. Awh said there is no doubt that there needs to be more awareness among diabetic patients regarding potential vision loss and the need for regular testing.

“In part it comes from the primary care doctors and nurses. Broader public awareness and education is also needed,” he added.

One diabetes sufferer told Medical News Today that if it was not for her awareness of the risk of diabetic eye disease, the quick actions of her endocrinologist and regular eye tests, she may have lost all vision.

‘If it wasn’t for regular eye exams, I would have gone blind’

Suzanne Gardner was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 7.

In 1999, Suzanne began experiencing problems with her vision, such as seeing blurred colors and the inability to see details. She said she was previously made aware of the risk of vision loss due to her diabetes.

“In fact, vision loss was something that was of great concern to people who had diabetes,” she added.

“However, 41 years ago, the technology for diabetes was not as advanced as it is today. We had no means of testing blood glucose at home. So diabetes couldn’t be as well controlled as it is today with home glucose monitoring machines and insulin pumps.”

Suzanne visited an ophthalmologist who diagnosed her with diabetic retinopathy. Within 2 years of diagnosis, Suzanne was deemed legally blind.

“Despite a series of operations, my doctors could only save partial vision in one of my eyes,” she said.

However, despite this devastating outcome, Suzanne says that if it was not for regular eye examinations, she may have lost all vision:

“As soon as my endocrinologist saw signs of diabetic eye disease, we all took it very seriously.

She sent me to see a specialist who deals specifically with the retina. If it had not been for the constant visits and immediate attention of my retina specialist, I would have gone completely blind.”

‘It’s important for people to know about vision loss risk’

In spite of her vision loss, Suzanne has made a successful career for herself in the form of art.

“I was devastated by my vision loss. I couldn’t work and couldn’t drive. All of a sudden, everything about how I defined myself had changed,” she told Medical News Today.

“When a friend suggested I start painting, it was the last thing on my mind. But when I picked up the brush, it helped me through a very dark time in my life after my diagnosis, and I decided that I wanted to begin creating artwork for a living.”

Soon after the discovery of her love of art, she became a professional artist and was selling her artwork online and at shows.

“My limited eyesight gave me a new appreciation for vivid colors and focused my work on what I could accomplish, despite vision loss,” she said.

“I have learned to rely on my memory and use strong magnifying glasses since it is difficult for me to see details. I also use bright contrasting colors, which are easier for me to distinguish.”

Not only is Suzanne’s success as an artist a personal achievement, but she also hopes her work inspires other diabetes sufferers to look after their vision.

“It’s important for people to know about the risk of vision loss from diabetes. It’s my mission to use art as a way to remind people that their sight is worth protecting.

Because of my experience, it’s important to me that my paintings make a statement. I hope people see my art, hear my story and are inspired to prioritize their vision.”

Reducing the risk of diabetic eye disease

There is no doubt that by having annual retina eye exams, the risk of vision loss as a result of diabetes could be significantly reduced. But what does a dilated examination involve?

During the test, eye drops are put into a patient’s eye. These drops cause the pupils to open, allowing the doctor to clearly assess all structures of the eye, including the retina, to determine whether there is any damage or early signs of disease.

“Ophthalmologists, optometrists and retina specialists are able to conduct these exams and can direct patients to the appropriate specialists if there are findings,” explained Dr. Awh.

As well as regular dilated eye exams, the NEI says that diabetes sufferers can also reduce their risk of diabetic eye disease though good control of blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

To find information about how diabetes can cause vision loss, the retina eye exam and to find a retina specialist in your area, you can visit Diabetes Eye Check, a part of the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS).

Written by Honor Whiteman

Coke and Pepsi Face Diabetes Backlash

Photo: Getty Images

Mayor Bloomberg’s thwarted soda ban hasn’t been forgotten. Coke and Pepsi are facing a new health-related challenge as doctors increasingly link their sugary beverages to debilitating illness, according to a critical new report by Wall Street bank Credit Suisse and research from Georgetown University, made available exclusively to Adweek.

Diabetes has supplanted obesity as the biggest threat to any brand hocking sugary beverages, according to Credit Suisse’s research. “We found that 90 percent of doctors in the United States, U.K. and Asia are convinced that excessive sugar consumption causes Type 2 diabetes,” said Stefano Natella, head of Global Equity Research at Credit Suisse. About 43 percent of added sugars in our diets come from sweetened beverages, per the report.

Put another way, the American Medical Association recommends that women have no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day; a 12-ounce can of soda contains 8-10 teaspoons.

Until now, major soda brands have insisted that  soda—at about 150 calories a can—can be part of a healthy lifestyle for people who avoid overeating and stay active. Marketing efforts, such as Coke’s recent pro-heath ad “Live Like Grandpa Did,” focus on preventing obesity.

But when it comes to brand attitudes, consumers worry more about diabetes than they do about obesity, and many hold Coke and Pepsi responsible. A study by Georgetown University conducted last week showed that after people saw a sugary soda ad with a pro-exercise, anti-obesity message, almost all of them had a positive attitude toward the products’ parent brand. But when the ad was modified to be anti-diabetes, participants’ reactions became 37 percent more negative toward the parent brand, said researcher Ishani Banerji.

“People are not willing to punish the brand for obesity, which seems like a lifestyle problem. But diabetes is considered a disease, and many consumers see the parent brand as contributing to it,” even if the brand claims otherwise, said Kurt Carlson, a Georgetown marketing professor who oversaw the study.

Not surprisingly, Coke and Pepsi are careful to skip around the D-word in their health-related marketing. Instead, they emphasize that they are ramping up their no-sugar and low-sugar offerings and encourage fitness. “We offer a diverse portfolio of beverage choices to meet a range of consumer needs,” said a Pepsi rep. Coke is helping build 100 fitness centers in U.S. schools to promote physical activity, said a Coca-Cola rep. Both companies declined to say if they will address diabetes concerns in future marketing.

As the debate over sugar and diabetes intensifies, consumption of non-diet drinks will suffer, predicts the Credit Suisse report. Coke and Pepsi will certainly shift their messages and product development, said Tom Bernthal, CEO of brand consultancy Kelton Global. 

Ty Montague, co-founder of creative consultancy co: collective, said the pressure is on the beverage giants to “create stuff people want more than the core [high-sugar] soda products.”

Indeed, Pepsi launched a cola in Australia last year that replaces a third of the sugar with stevia, a natural, no-calorie sweetener. In June, Coke introduced its own low-sugar stevia product, Coca-Cola Life, in Argentina.

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Mexico Taxes Soda to Combat Obesity

popA food earthquake just hit south of the border. Mexico has successfully passed legislation placing an 8 percent sales tax on sugary soft drinks in response to their obesity epidemic. This is a significant public policy threat to the revenues of industrial beverage companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola. It also raises public policy questions for the U.S. as it struggles with its own national epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

Health care costs expand with waistlines

Mexico and the United States are two of the world’s fattest countries. In the U.S. 31.8 percent of adults are classified as obese. In Mexico, it is 32.8 percent.

Heightened obesity levels increase human suffering. Obesity is linked to type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension and arthritis. Today, 25 million Americans have type 2 diabetes. 27 million have chronic heart disease. 68 million have hypertension and 50 million have arthritis.

Heightened obesity levels also place a heavy cost burden upon our national economy and family budgets. In the U.S., the cost of treating obesity-related diseases is $48 billion. The Harvard School of Public Health estimates that the added costs of lost work days, increased medical insurance rates and lost wages results in a $190 billion cost impact upon our national economy.

Increased sodas sales drive obesity rates higher

The consumption of just one can of soda is not going to make a person obese or cause diabetes. It is the volume of soda being consumed by Americans and Mexicans that is threatening human health. According to the national Soft Drink Association, the average adult in the U.S. consumes 600 12-ounce servings of soda per year. Mexico is the world’s largest consumer of soft drinks. The average Mexican drinks a stunning 46 gallons of soda per year! Coca-Cola’s own estimates are that the average Mexican consumes 650 cans of soda per year.

Research points to increased soda consumption driving obesity rates higher in both Mexico and the United States. The rate of increased soda consumption and the increase in obesity rates have risen together.

Soda plus junk food are threatening our children’s health

Soda and fast food companies view their products as benign to human health because a “calorie is a calorie.” Research say this is not the case. A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that top sources of energy for 2 to 18-year-olds were grain desserts, pizza and sugar sweetened beverages. This study went on to identify that half of the “empty calories” in our children’s diet comes from just six foods: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole milk. Illogically, government policy continues to support the food industry’s promotion of increased junk food and soda consumption by our sons and daughters that over the long term will increase their exposure to obesity-related diseases.

Marketing, advertising and volume price incentives drive obesity rates higher

I attended a national marketing conference where the Coca-Cola company’s confused ethics were brought to my attention. At this conference, a Coca-Cola marketing manager presented his success in growing Diet Coke sales through a promotional campaign focused upon the erosion of polar bear habitat due to climate change. This Diet Coke marketing campaign was a Hollywood-quality media outreach that successfully engaged youth and the millennial generation on their heightened focus of environmental issues. Proudly, this marketing manager reported that this campaign drove the sale of Diet Coke to record results. This case study left me with these impressions:

  • Polar bears gained needed publicity on their loss of habitat
  • Nothing really happened that enhanced the survival rate of polar bears
  • The Coca-Cola company grew their revenues
  • A marketing team may have gotten a financial raise
  • The health risk to U.S. citizens, especially our children, from drinking “empty calories” was increased

Will Mexico’s sales tax on soda reduce obesity?

The public policy question of Mexico’s 8 percent tax on soda is whether it will result in reduced sugar consumption, resulting in the reduction of obesity. Raising the price of a product through a tax will reduce its purchase if these three key conditions are met:

  1. Consumer incomes do not increase to levels that economically compensate for the demand suppressing tax
  2. There are viable and cost-attractive product substitutes to the product being taxed
  3. The product tax is significantly high enough to create a new “cultural norm” away from purchasing the taxed product

The challenge for Mexico is that soda fills a consumer void in clean water supplies. Soda has also become a cultural norm promoted by millions of dollars in annual advertising that links soda to the aspirations and values of consumers. And the income of Mexicans are increasing and this income increase can blunt or eliminate the demand-suppressing impacts of a tax upon soda.

Public policy that can reduce obesity

The current U.S. public policy of increasing consumer awareness of the health risks tied to high levels of soda consumption is at best slowing the rate of soda consumption. Encouragingly, at least half of U.S. moms say they are reducing their family’s consumption of soda.

Cigarette regulations provide an example of public policy that will meaningfully reduce soda consumption levels and its human health impacts. The public policy tools used to reduce the rate of cigarette consumption were:

  • Significantly higher product taxes
  • Advertising restrictions, especially toward children
  • Very visible and frank package labeling that links consumption to adverse health risks
  • Regulation of adult consumption behaviors
  • Sales prohibition to minors

Applying similar rules and regulations to soda sales will reshape the current cultural norm of soda drink dispensers that offer unlimited refills and “super size me” portions. Without this level of public policy, it is highly unlikely that the U.S. will achieve affordable health care insurance or significant reductions in the human suffering created from the marketing of obesity-linked diets.

Bill Roth is an economist and the Founder of Earth 2017. He coaches business owners and leaders on proven best practices in pricing, marketing and operations that make money and create a positive difference. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles business case studies of pioneering best practices that are proven to win customers and grow product revenues. Follow him on Twitter: @earth2017

[image credit: Vox Efx: Flickr cc]


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Taxing fizzy drinks 'could cut obesity and disease among Britons …

Taxing fizzy drinks could cut obesity and disease
Fizzy drinks ‘should be taxed at 20 per cent’ (Picture: PA)

Fizzy drinks should be taxed at 20 per cent to cut the number of overweight Britons, a report has suggested.

Imposing such a levy on sugary beverages would reduce the level of obesity by 185,000 and of those considered overweight by 285,000, the study published on bmj.com stated.

While young adults, the largest consumers of fizzy drinks, would benefit most from the tax, the NHS would also save £276million a year, the report’s authors said.

‘Guzzling fizzy drinks is now the daily norm for around 40 per cent of 13-year-olds,’ said Simon Gillespie, of the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the study.

‘The effects on young people’s health are a major concern. We know that drinks loaded with sugar can affect our weight, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

‘This research suggests that a health-related food duty, alongside other measures such as the new front-of-pack food labelling scheme, could be an effective way – particularly in young people – to help reduce obesity.’

The report by the universities of Oxford and Reading has been backed by Prof Jason Block, of the Harvard Medical School. He said the 20 per cent levy ‘would be a good start’ as he called on more countries to ‘implement high taxes and measure the results’.

However, Terry Jones, of the Food and Drink Federation, called the proposals ‘over simplistic’ with some ‘obvious limitations’.

‘Many food and drink products are already subject to VAT of 20 per cent in the UK and making them more expensive for people at a time when household budgets are already squeezed is not the answer,’ he said.

Battle of the bulge: US food corporations fueling obesity epidemic …



Reuters/Lucas Jackson

By 2030, more than half of Americans could be obese, taxing the nation’s health while costing the country $500 billion in lost economic productivity. The food industry, however, is doing its best to keep the public hooked – no matter what the price.

With one out of three adults clinically obese and 40 percent of
children officially overweight, the US is the fattest country in
the developed world. The burgeoning public health crisis will see
instances of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer skyrocket
over the next two decades, taking an already strained healthcare
system to breaking point.

But with food manufacturers keen on keeping customers loyal while
maximizing their profits, public health concerns are likely to be
dwarfed by the bottom line.


“What these food scientists have done is that they’ve gone to a
lab and they’ve created these chemical concoctions that are very
sweet, very fatty and very salty. And they call that the bliss
point. Meaning they’ve created addictive foods that are going to
get consumers hooked and they’re going to keep wanting to come
back for more and more foods,”
Elizabeth Kucinich, of
Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine, told RT.

 

And while critics might also point toward issues of self-control,
the foods which are least healthy are also the cheapest, although
this reality is more a failure of government policy than an
inevitability.

In 1980, no one had even heard of high-fructose corn syrup. But
agricultural subsidies highly distorted market prices, bringing
about the rise of cheap corn, which is a staple of highly
processed foods like soft drinks and much of what one finds on
the supermarket shelves.

Between 1985 and 2010, the price of beverages sweetened with
high-fructose corn syrup fell 24 percent in real terms, with
American children consuming on average an extra 130 calories
daily from soft drinks.

If that wasn’t bad enough, a 2010 Princeton University study
found that rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained
substantially more weight than those with access to table sugar,
even if their overall caloric intake was equal.  

However, a plan by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to limit
soda drinking cups to 16 ounces, for example, was met with
derision, even when the public health benefits of such a ban were
obvious.

And it’s not just corn. Casein, a milk protein commonly used in
processed foods, also has addictive qualities that lead to
overeating.

“Milk protein… casein, when it breaks down in our digestive
system, turns into casomorphin, [which] is relative to morphine –
the drug,”
Kenneth Kendrick, a whistleblower and food safety
advocate, told RT. “It gives us a little stimulation in our
brain and gives us a little bit of pleasure.”

Kendrik said the reason why food in the US is both addictive and
laden with fat, sugar and salt is simple.  

“In one word, I would say: greed. We obviously are putting
money above public health,” he said. “Just like with cigarettes,
we want to keep people addicted. I equate it to what the
cigarette industry did. They deliberately wanted to put things in
that were addictive because that drives sales and will continue
to drive generations of sales.”

But as savvy and unrestrained marketing campaigns allow
corporations full rein to market their products to the US public,
the defeat of California’s Proposition 37, which would have
required the labeling of all food products containing genetically
modified organisms, proves that they want full control over the
narrative about what US consumers are putting into their bodies.

“While European countries require genetically modified foods
to be labelled, in the US the biotech industry and corporations
like Pepsi Co. and Coca Cola spent millions last year to defeat
the California ballot initiative for GMO genetically modified
organism labeling,”
Kucinich said.

It is this perfect storm of labeling control, addictive food
additives and shockingly effective marketing that has America on
course for an epidemic of monumental proportions.

Safe foods – Lets take on childhood obesity | Grovelands Childcare

Parents are being urged to make practical changes to everyday lifestyle habits such as portion sizes, drinks and screen time to make a big difference to the health and wellbeing of children and combat the island’s high levels of childhood overweight and obesity. That was the message from safefood with the launch today of a new public health campaign to help parents take on childhood obesity. The campaign will feature on television, radio, poster and point of sale advertising and includes a free booklet for parents that will be available nationwide in crèches, health centres, GP surgeries, and from public health nurses and local libraries.

Launching the campaign, Minister for Health Dr James Reilly TD said: “Obesity presents a real clinical, social and financial challenge which will have a detrimental legacy lasting decades and which will undoubtedly lead Ireland to an unhealthy and extremely costly, if not unaffordable, future if action is not taken now. I want to encourage everybody to help create generations of healthy children who can enjoy their lives to the full and reach their full potential as they develop into adults by making healthier food choices, by being more active and taking the first steps towards reducing overweight and obesity.”

Speaking at the campaign launch, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald TD said “Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in Europe and Ireland is one of the countries worst affected. The Growing Up in Ireland survey, 2011 which is funded by my Department found that 1 in 4 children as young as 3 years of age are overweight or obese. I particularly welcome this new campaign as it seeks to help parents with very practical tips and ideas for actions they can take. We know from research that tackling obesity in childhood requires a family-centred approach, that is part of a wide ranging multi-agency set of initiatives.

The safefood campaign emphasises the importance of taking on practical changes for the whole family which are sustainable for the long term. Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director of Human Health and Nutrition, safefood said: “We have based our campaign on strong feedback from parents that they wanted a solutions-based approach. For this phase we’re focusing on reducing portion sizes for children, replacing sugary drinks with water and being realistic about foods that ‘should be’ treat foods. While parents may be somewhat aware of the sugar levels in fizzy drinks, they may not be as aware of the sugar content in juice drinks and cordials, and research tells us they are regularly given to children at mealtimes. The sugar content of these drinks varies enormously and parents need to consider replacing these drinks with water instead”, added Dr. Foley-Nolan.

The three year, all island campaign by safefood in partnership with the HSE and Healthy Ireland Framework in the Republic of Ireland and the ‘Fitter Futures for All’ Implementation Plan in Northern Ireland also reminds parents about the negative health impacts of excess weight in childhood and how this can impact on a child’s quality of life.

Dr Cate Hartigan, Head of Health Promotion and Improvement, HSE said “Parents want what is best for their children, however tackling overweight and obesity is a sensitive and difficult task. A fundamental goal of Healthy Ireland is supporting people to enjoy a healthy and active life. This campaign helps make this a reality by motivating and supporting parents to make healthier choices for their children, and by raising awareness and knowledge among health professionals.

Chair of the safefood Advisory Board, Ms Lynn Ní Bhaoighealláin said “We all want children to have a bright future and we get them into all sorts of healthy habits, like brushing their teeth or crossing the road safely. This campaign is about supporting parents in making small changes in their everyday family lives.” At present, approximately 1 in 4 primary¹ school children are overweight or obese. The prevalence of excess weight is also beginning earlier in childhood², with currently 6% of 3 year olds being obese. Speaking at the campaign launch, Consultant Paediatrician and Clinical Lead for the W82GO Healthy Lifestyles programme at Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Dr Sinead Murphy said “With a quarter of children overweight or obese, we need to tackle the issue of childhood obesity head on or our next generation will be beset with significant health problems later in life. Evidence shows that once obesity is established, it is both difficult to reverse and can track into adulthood”. “Sadly, children who are overweight are at serious risk of becoming adults who are obese. This increases the risk manifold of developing serious illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancers and shortened life-expectancy”, she continued.

Welcoming this initiative by safefood, Dr Darach O’Ciardha, ICGP Spokesperson said “Obesity is one of the conditions where prevention is certainly better than cure. Any move to educate parents about the need to monitor and prevent bad dietary habits which will last a lifetime, from developing is welcome. This initiative is a first step in tackling the ticking time bomb that is rising obesity levels particularly amongst the young.”

The safefood campaign will also be supported on the safefood website www.safefood.eu and on social media, including Facebook and Twitter. To find out more about the campaign including how-to videos from health experts and practical advice and guides for parents, visit: www.safefood.eu.  – See more at: http://www.safefood.eu/News/2013/safefood-launches-campaign-to-take-on-childhood-ob.aspx#sthash.T41EWFAK.dpuf

Baobab: The ancient African fruit that fights diabetes

Paul Gugenheim of Minvita, the company which sells baobab in the UK in tablet and powder form, and is partnered with The Eden Project in Cornwall says: “This exciting research confirms that Baobab is a fruit with extraordinary health-giving properties.

Diabetes is one of the main health issues of our time, and is projected to affect millions of people and cost the NHS billions of pounds over the next 25 years. If a natural, readily available product can be found to be useful in controlling the symptoms of this dreadful disease it can only be of benefit to us all.”

Dr Sarah Brewer says: “Baobab offers a number of nutritional health benefits which are only now being recognised in the West. It carries high concentrates of anti oxidants, energy, immune boosting vitamins and minerals and bone strengthening calcium.

“Rich in iron, high in potassium and containing vital blood clotting ingredients it can even help support the circulatory system whilst the high-fibre content benefits the digestive system.”

But Bridget Benelam, senior nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation says: “Many sources say that it is high in vitamin C and calcium but you have to eat it in a processed form such as a powder or jam rather than the whole fruit.”

She adds: “I am sceptical of how much difference such foods actually make to people’s nutrient intakes as realistically, most people will not eat them that frequently or in large quantities compared to the foods that are a more staple part of the diet.”

Boabab is available from Holland Barrett, Planet Organic and health food shops, priced from £8.49 for a 250g tub of superfruit powder.  £19.99 for 90 tablets. Or order online from minvita.co.uk

 

Obesity experts appalled by EU move to approve health claim for …

Obesity experts say they are appalled by an EU decision to allow a “health claim” for fructose, the sweetener implicated in the disastrous upsurge in weight in the US.

Fructose, the sugar found in fruit, is used in Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other sweetened US drinks. Many believe the use of high-fructose corn syrup caused obesity to rise faster in the US than elsewhere in the world. Europe has largely used cane and beet sugar instead.

But the EU has now ruled that food and drink manufacturers can claim their sweetened products are healthier if they replace more than 30% of the glucose and sucrose they contain with fructose.

The decision was taken on the advice of the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), on the grounds that fructose has a lower glycaemic index (GI) – it does not cause as high and rapid a blood sugar spike as sucrose or glucose.

But, say obesity experts, fructose is metabolised differently from other sugars – it goes straight to the liver and unprocessed excess is stored there as fat, building up deposits that can cause life-threatening disease.

There is potential for products high in sugar including soft drinks, cereal bars and low-fat yoghurts to make health claims by using fructose. Lucozade Original contains 33g of sugar in a 380ml bottle, Sprite has 21.8g of sugar in 330ml cans and Dr  Pepper 34.1g per 330ml.

Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Elevenses bars have 18g of sugar in a 45g bar – so are more than a third sugar.

Barry Popkin – distinguished professor in the department of public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the US, who co-authored the groundbreaking paper linking high-fructose corn syrup to obesity in 2003 – said the ruling would lead to claims from food and drink firms that would mislead consumers.

“This claim is so narrow and it will confuse a whole lot of people,” he said. “That’s what the industry does an awful lot of. People see it and think, ‘ah maybe it’s healthy.’

“It brings into question the whole area of health claims. They are made on such short-term effects.”

Drinking pomegranate juice might give you all the vitamin C and antioxidants you need that day, but six months of regular drinking could raise the risk of diabetes, he said.

A health claim relating to a lower glycaemic index ignored the wider and more important public health issue, he said: that we should all consume less fructose and other sugars.

George Bray, head of the division of clinical obesity and metabolism at the Pennington biomedical research centre in Louisiana and co-author of the fructose paper, said he could see no rational reason for adding pure fructose to the diet.

“Assuming that it is correct that manufacturers can substitute up to 30% fructose for glucose or sucrose, it would be a very sad commentary on their review of the literature,” he said.

“The quantity of fructose appearing in the diet is already excessive in my view. [Focusing on the fact that] fructose does not raise glucose as much ignores all of the detrimental effects of fructose from whatever source.”

Michael Goran, director of childhood obesity research at the University of Southern California, said that although it had a lower GI, “in the long term, excess fructose is more damaging metabolically for the body than other sugars”.

He added: “This opens the door for the beverage and food industry to start replacing sucrose with fructose, which is presumably cheaper.”

More people in Europe will be consuming more fructose as a result, he said. “This is a dangerous and problematic issue. There is going to be a big increase in fructose exposure.”

The European Heart Network raised concerns with DG Sanco, the European commission’s health department, and asked it to share its views with member states. Its director, Susanne Logstrup, warned that replacing glucose and sucrose with “healthier” fructose might make people think a drink or food was less fattening.

“If the replacement of glucose/sucrose is not isocaloric, replacement could lead to a higher caloric content. In the EU, the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is generally too high and it would not be in the interest of public health if intake were to increase,” she said.

Professor Mike Rayner, director of the British Heart Foundation health promotion research group at Oxford University and an adviser to the European Heart Network, said it was important the EU looked at nutritional health claims – and that it had in recent years taken a tougher stance.

“But here is an example in fructose of a claim that is technically probably true but has no public health benefit,” he said.

Industry is delighted by the EU ruling. Galam Group, an Israeli fructose manufacturer, called the move “a game-changing step” in comments to the trade journal Nutra Ingredients. It said it expected a surge in sales from 2 January, when the ruling takes effect.