Overweight and healthy: the concept of metabolically healthy obesity …

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Carrying too many pounds is a solid signal of current or future health problems. But not for everyone. Some people who are overweight or obese mange to escape the usual hazards, at least temporarily. This weight subgroup has even earned its own moniker—metabolically healthy obesity.

Health professionals define overweight as a body-mass index (BMI) between 25.0 and 29.9, and obesity as a BMI of 30 or higher. (BMI is a measure of weight that takes height into consideration. You can calculate your BMI here.)

Most people who are overweight or obese show potentially unhealthy changes in metabolism. These include high blood pressure or high cholesterol, which damage arteries in the heart and elsewhere. Another harmful metabolic change is resistance to the hormone insulin, which leads to high blood sugar. As a result, people who are overweight or obese are usually at high risk for having a heart attack or stroke, developing type 2 diabetes, or suffering from a host of other life-changing conditions.

But some people who are overweight or obese manage to avoid these changes and, at least metabolically, look like individuals with healthy weights. “Obesity isn’t a homogeneous condition,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “It appears that it doesn’t affect everyone in the same ways.”

Dr. Hu and three colleagues wrote a “Personal View” article in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology reviewing what is known about metabolically healthy obesity. They identified several characteristics of metabolically healthy obesity. These include a high BMI with

  • a waist size of no more than 40 inches for a man or 35 inches for a woman
  • normal blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar
  • normal sensitivity to insulin
  • good physical fitness

BMI isn’t perfect

BMI is not a perfect measure of weight or obesity. It often identifies fit, muscular people as being overweight or obese. That’s because muscle is more dense than fat, and so weighs more. But muscle tissue burns blood sugar, a good thing, while fat tissue converts blood sugar into fat and stores it, a not-so-good thing.

“Further exploration of metabolically healthy obesity could help us fine-tune the implications of obesity,” says Dr. Hu. “It supports the idea that we shouldn’t use BMI as the sole yardstick for health, and must consider other factors.”

Genes certainly play a role in how a person’s body and metabolism respond to weight. Some people may be genetically protected from developing insulin resistance. Others are genetically programmed to store fat in the hips or thighs, which is less metabolically hazardous than storing fat around the abdomen.

The concept of metabolically healthy obesity could be used to help guide treatment. Currently, exercise and a healthy diet are the foundation for treating obesity. When those efforts aren’t enough, weight-loss surgery (bariatric surgery) is sometimes an option. Such surgery is appropriate for people with metabolically unhealthy obesity, the authors suggest, but for people with metabolically healthy obesity it might make more sense to intensify the lifestyle approach rather than have surgery. This idea, however, needs to be tested in clinical studies, says Dr Hu.

Don’t rest easy

Metabolically healthy obesity isn’t common. And it may not be permanent, warns Dr. Hu. Just because a person has metabolically healthy obesity at one point doesn’t it will stay that way. With aging, a slowdown in exercise, or other changes, metabolically healthy obesity can morph into its harmful counterpart.

It’s also important to keep in mind that obesity can harm more than just metabolism. Excess weight can damage knee and hip joints, lead to sleep apnea and respiratory problems, and contributes to the development of several cancers.

Bottom line? Obesity isn’t good, even if it’s the metabolically healthy kind.

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Obesity is a Disease? | Care2 Healthy Living

Yes, obesity is now classified as a disease by the American Medical Association (AMA). Do you agree with this?

Obesity is killing three times as many people as malnutrition.  The “disease” claims more than three million lives a year worldwide, according to a landmark study.

Even young children and seniors are becoming obese in most developed countries.

What is Obesity?

  • Mildly obese – a person’s weight is 20 to 40 percent over ideal weight.
  • Moderately obese – 40 to 100 percent over ideal weight.
  • Morbidly obese – 100 percent over ideal weight.
  • Overweight – 10 to 20 percent over ideal weight.

This video shows the 10 Most Overweight Countries in the world with their customary foods. In this case, overweight would be considered anyone over 10 percent of ideal weight.

Is it really a disease?

Obesity itself is not a sickness but it certainly does create disease.  According to the AMA, a person in the obese category who is otherwise completely healthy and happy is now classified as sick. Critics are concerned that, by classifying obesity as a disease, it allows people to not take personal responsibility for how they got there. This could be damage recovery.

Drug companies are fans of the AMA’s decision. The move gives them the opportunity to sell even more prescriptions, putting more money into their big pockets.

“Calling obesity a disease could allow for obese people who require medical interventions to get the help they need.  We need to be able to use this disease label to the extent that it makes people take obesity seriously, and not keep blaming people for being irresponsible,” says Marlene Schwartz, the acting director of the Rudd Center for Obesity and Food Policy at Yale University.

Eating too much is a much more serious health risk to the health of populations than eating poorly, except for the sub-Saharan Africa according to the Global Burden of Disease study.

We’ve gone from a world 20 years ago where people weren’t getting enough to eat, to a world now where too much food and unhealthy food “even in developing countries” is making us sick. Said Dr Majid Ezzati, chair of global environmental health at Imperial College London.

World Obesity Rates On The Rise: 480 million by 2022

Nine major countries (US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Japan, Brazil and Canada) will increase from 167 million in 2012 to 213 million in 2022. According to healthcare.globaldata.com

America is no longer the most obese country among more populated nations. America is number 2 in the ranks, right behind Mexico, with 31.8 percent of its population classified as obese, and followed by New Zealand (26.5 percent), Chile (25.1 percent) and Australia (24.6 percent).

Nearly 70 percent of Mexicans are overweight and close to one-third are obese.  Mexican teenagers are also obese; they have tripled in the last decade. In Mexico 70,000 people die each year from diabetes.

The same people who are malnourished are the ones who are becoming obese,� said physician Abelardo Avila with Mexicos National Nutrition Institute. In poor classes we have obese parents and malnourished children. The worst thing is the children are becoming programmed for obesity. It’s a very serious epidemic.�

See how many people become obese every second: World Meters Info Obesity

Why is Obesity on The Rise?

1. Fast food is excessively available. Filled with calories and harmful fats, it’s the main reason for the increase in obesity rates and being overweight. According to a survey by whichcountry.co,  fast food and home deliveries have replaced home cooking. Thank you America for exporting the love of fast food around the world!  As a result, it is exporting the increase of obesity around the world.

Mexico, being the closest to America, has the greatest increase in obesity in the world. Mexicans drink the most soda, at 43 gallons per capita annually.  U.S. agricultural policies are a big factor in fueling that addiction, says John Norris atForeign Policy.

2. Our new sedentary lifestyle is another big reason. We sit at desks with computers, watch television and take the car or bus to work. No walking anywhere.

3. Stress is a big factor. Eat to avoid and medicate. Eating for comfort or as a reward. Using food to feel better. Food is used to fill the void.  People are lonely and disconnected from something deeper.

My Response to This Scary Trend

I see obesity or being overweight as a symptom of poor health. When people get healthier, weight drops off.  What needs to happen is for people to get healthy to lose weight, not lose weight to get healthy.

This is why I constantly write about things like Acid/Alkaline Balance, Sugar Cravings, Smart Carbs, Food Combining and Powerfoods. I want to help people become healthy and then it naturally follows that they achieve their optimum weight.

Recently, I started teaching my own healthy version of the trendy 2 – 5 Diet. I emphasize getting healthy while losing weight.

Eat more salads with healthy salad dressings:

Tomato Dressing Some fast food salads have more calories than a hamburger meal. They should be using a healthy light dressing like this.

Light Lemon Olive Oil Salad Dressing A classic!

Crunchy Salad A combination of crunchy and tasty makes you chew your salad. Good for digestion and weight management!

Alkalizing Mixed Green Salad You can’t lose weight if your body is acidic!

Related
The Character Trait Most Likely to Cause Weight Gain
Does This Collar Make Me Look Fat?
8 Ways to Lose Weight With Almost No Effort

Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents and Caretakers

Balance is key in helping your child maintain a healthy weight. Balance the calories your child eats and drinks with the calories used through physical activity and normal growth.

Overweight and obese children and teens should reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing normal growth and development. Don’t put your child on a weight-reduction diet without talking to your health care provider.

Balancing calories: Help Kids Develop Healthy Eating Habits
Offer your kids nutritious meals and snacks with an appropriate number of calories. You can help them develop healthy eating habits by making favorite dishes healthier and by reducing calorie-rich temptations.

  1. Encourage healthy eating habits. Small changes can lead to a recipe for success!
    • Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products.
    • Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
    • Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein.
    • Serve reasonably sized portions.
    • Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
    • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
       
  2. Make favorite dishes healthier. Some of your favorite recipes can be healthier with a few changes. You can alsotry some new healthy dishes that might just become favorites too!
     
  3. Remove calorie-rich temptations. Treats are OK in moderation, but limiting high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks can also help your children develop healthy eating habits. Here are examples of easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar treats that are 100 calories or less:
    • A medium-size apple
    • A medium-size banana
    • 1 cup blueberries
    • 1 cup grapes
    • 1 cup carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 tbsp. hummus
       
  4. Help your kids understand the benefits of being physically active. Teach them that physical activity has great health benefits like:
    • Strengthening bone
    • Decreasing blood pressure
    • Reducing stress and anxiety
    • Increasing self-esteem
    • Helping with weight management
       
  5. Help kids stay active.
    Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week, and every day if possible. You can set a great example! Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your child to join you. Some examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include:
    • Brisk walking
    • Playing tag
    • Jumping rope
    • Playing soccer
    • Swimming
    • Dancing
       
  6. Reduce sedentary time. Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit “screen time” (TV, video games, Internet) to no more than two hours a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend TV for kids age 2 or younger.12 Encourage your children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that simply involve more activity.

Learn more:

  • Childhood Obesity
  • BMI in Children
  • Making a Healthy Home

Healthy gut bacteria prevent obesity: Study




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(NaturalNews) The key to shedding those excess pounds and achieving that lean figure you have always dreamed about could be as simple as eating more bacteria. A new study out of Washington University in St. Louis has found that maintaining healthy and balanced gut bacteria — that is, the beneficial microbes that naturally populate your intestinal tract — may help prevent weight gain and actually fight obesity, which now plagues more than one-third of all Americans.

Dr. Jeffrey Gordon and his colleagues made this important discovery after observing the effects of intestinal germs implanted into several groups of pathogen-free mice. WU graduate student Vanessa Ridaura, who worked alongside Dr. Gordon for the study, took gut bacteria from four pairs of twins, each of which included both an obese and a lean sibling. One pair of the twins was also identical, which was meant to rule out any possibility that weight differences might somehow be inherited.

The team transplanted gut bacteria from these eight individuals into the intestines of young mice, which were specifically bred to lack their own natural bacteria, and watched for variations in how these mice developed over time. In the end, it was noted that the mice who received gut bacteria from the obese individuals tended to not only gain more weight than the other mice but also undergo some serious metabolic changes that left them significantly more unhealthy.

What helped further prove that the bacterial source made all the difference was the fact that all the mice ate the same amount of food, and yet only those implanted with the obese bacteria experienced weight gain and health deterioration. The reason, say experts, is that obese people tend to harbor a less diverse array of beneficial bacteria in their guts, while leaner people possess the bacterial variations and balance necessary to maintain a proper and healthy weight.

But the findings do not stop here. After performing this first set of experiments, the team decided to put mice from both the lean and obese groups into cages with one another to observe how cross-exposure to different bacterial profiles might affect the mice’s health and weight. For those who are unaware, mice tend to eat feces, which contain intestinal bugs and other markers of gut composition.

Not surprisingly, this grouping of the mice and the resultant exposure to varying bacterial profiles led to a phenomenon called bacterial swapping, in which bacteria from each of the mice comingled with one another to create new bacterial profiles. But what came as a surprise was the fact that bacteria from the lean mice invaded the intestines of the obese mice, triggering positive changes in both weight and metabolism.

“It was almost as if there were potential job vacancies,” explained Dr. Gordon about the apparently deficient bacterial profiles of the obese mice. At the same time, the positive changes observed in the obese mice were not reciprocal in the lean mice, meaning the introduction of bacteria from the obese mice did not result in any negative changes in the lean mice.

According to Michael Fischbach from the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study but spoke to The New York Times about it, these findings provide “the clearest evidence to date that gut bacteria can help cause obesity.” Adding to this sentiment, Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier from Harvard Medical School told reporters that the findings, which were recently published in the journal Science, are “pretty striking.”

Sources for this article include:

http://www.washingtonpost.com

http://www.nytimes.com

http://www.huffingtonpost.com

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Healthy gut bacteria prevent obesity: Study

Are we really making headway with childhood obesity?




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(NaturalNews) The “fall” in obesity rates among low-income, preschool-aged children in the United States from 2008-2011 that was recently reported by the CDC is making headlines, and Michelle Obama is taking credit, but have we really made any progress?

The decline may be considered scientifically significant, but in reality, not much has changed. The “significant downtrend,” as the CDC calls it, is barely more than one percentage point in most cases. In only five states (Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey and South Dakota) and the U.S. Virgin Islands did obesity decline by more than or equal to 1%. Only three of these states saw a decrease that was more than 1%. Here are the percentage rates for the absolute decrease in obesity prevalence from 2008 to 2013 in the states that saw a decline:

Florida: 14.1 to 13.1
Georgia: 14.8 to 13.2
Missouri: 13.9 to 12.9
New Jersey: 17.9 to 16.6
South Dakota: 16.2 to 15.2

Only in the U.S. Virgin Islands does the decrease seem significant enough to be considered progress. Their rate fell from 13.6% in 2008 to 11.0% in 2011. And what about the other states and territories? In 21 states and territories the rates remained the same, and three states, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, even saw an increase in obesity rates! As the director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, told reporters, “It’s encouraging news but we’re very, very far from being out of the woods.”

Many states and territories experienced a fluctuation in rates in the years tested. For example, Puerto Rico’s rates have not been declining steadily. They began in 2008 with a rate of 17.9%, spiked to 18.1% and 18.3% in 2009 and 2010 respectively and finished back where they started at 17.9%, hardly much progress. Other states have followed similar patterns, according to the CDC study. And, of course, no results have been released about 2011 and 2012.

One in eight preschoolers in the United States is obese; among low-income children, it is one in seven. About one in five black children and one in six Hispanic children between the ages of 2 and 5 are obese. We should not rest on our laurels by any means. As CDC Director Tom Frieden put it, “The fight is far from over.”

Given the health risks associated with obesity, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer and other chronic illnesses, American parents need to take weight gain in children very seriously. Neglecting to take action sets children up for a lifetime of disease, as children who are overweight or obese as preschoolers are five times as likely as normal-weight children to be overweight or obese. Children do not purchase the food in their cabinets and refrigerators. Adults do. Preventing young children from becoming obese constitutes responsible parenting; allowing young children to become obese borders on abuse.

Instead, parents should encourage and model a healthy diet. As the Mayo Clinic’s website states, “One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the diet and exercise habits of your entire family. Treating and preventing childhood obesity helps protect the health of your child now and in the future.” Cutting out processed and packaged foods and making half of a child’s plate fruits and vegetables, as the government website MyPlate.gov (formerly MyPyramid.gov) recommends, is a certainly a step in the right direction.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.reuters.com

http://www.cdc.gov

http://www.bloomberg.com

http://www.mayoclinic.com

http://www.nytimes.com

http://myplate.gov

http://science.naturalnews.com

http://science.naturalnews.com

About the author:
Jeff Hillenbrand and Hillary Feerick have been married for eighteen years and have two children, ages eight and nine. Jeff holds a BS in exercise physiology and nutrition. Hillary has been a teacher of writing and literature for twenty years and holds a BA and MA in English. Their combined expertise and experience raising healthy children prompted them to create a superhero that gets superpowers from fruits and veggies and solves mysteries at his elementary school. The Mitch Spinach Book Series has been featured across the country on numerous radio and television programs, and, according to NPR, “Mitch Spinach is to nutrition what Harry Potter is to wizardry.”

Find recipes and learn more about their children book series, apps, and other products at http://www.MitchSpinach.com, on FB at http://www.Facebook.com/MitchSpinach and Pinterest at http://www.Pinterest.com/MitchSpinach.

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Are we really making headway with childhood obesity?

Fat But Fit: Metabolically Healthy Obesity


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Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

Can you be fat and healthy at the same time? Apparently so, according to a new study by University of Pennsylvania physicians and obesity researchers who say that there are people with “metabolically healthy obesity.”

Many obese people are classified as such when their body mass index or BMI reaches a certain value. BMI, a formula based on a person’s weight and height, was invented by Belgian mathematician Adolphe Quetelet in the early 19 century and has garnered wide acceptance as a simple way to measure “fatness.” It’s quick and easy to administer – requiring only a scale and a ruler – and allows for comparison for broad populations, taking in age and country-by-country variations. Indeed, BMI is a good statistical measure of the obesity of a whole population of people.

Doctors have noted, however, that some people with BMI in the obese range are actually quite healthy and that in many cases, fat people fare better than thin ones with the same ailments. In the “obesity paradox,” researchers noted that diabetic patient of normal weight are twice as likely to die than those who are obese. Others have pointed out that thin dialysis patients are more likely to die than heavier ones.

In recent years, the medical field has began to accept that BMI is not a reliable measure of health in individuals, and that some people who are obese do not have nor are they in any danger of developing obesity-related diseases.

But how many people are actually “fat but fit” and “not fat but not fit”? The answer may surprise you. For 1 in 5 Americans, BMI may actually tell the wrong story:

– 8% of normal-weight adults in the United States are actually metabolically unhealthy
This translates to 19.2 million people whom doctors may not currently worry about but should.

– 10% of obese adults
are actually metabolically healthy
This means that 24 million chubby Americans are not in any danger of dying because of obesity-related illnesses, but are probably badgered by their family, friends and employers to lose weight.

BU School of Medicine Review Calls for New Criteria for Identifying …

in 2013, Health Medicine, News Releases, School of Medicine

August 30th, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 30, 2013

Contact: Gina Orlando, (617) 638-8490, gina.orlando@bmc.org

(Boston) – With soaring obesity rates in the U.S., the American Medical Association has classified obesity as a disease. This major shift in healthcare policy brings much needed medical attention to obese patients. However, this definition of obesity focuses on a single criterion of Body Mass Index (BMI), which includes a large group of persons with high BMI who are metabolically healthy and not at high risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or obesity-associated cancers.

 

In a review article published online in Endocrinology, Gerald V. Denis, PhD, professor of pharmacology and medicine and James A. Hamilton, PhD, professor of physiology and biophysics at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), discusses the importance of eliminating healthy obese persons from unnecessary pharmaceutical treatments of the disease.

 

Previous studies have shown that the total volume of fat around the heart in obese persons is detrimental to some organ functions, but that total pericardial fat is not predicted by BMI. Thus, noninvasive imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), of pericardial fat could help to identify cardiovascular risks that are not clearly coupled with BMI. In addition, this could provide an opportunity to find blood biomarkers, which are the best indicators of relative metabolic status.

 

“These insights strongly suggest that BMI alone is insufficient to classify patients as obese and unhealthy; metabolism, body composition, fat deposition and inflammatory status must be part of a comprehensive health evaluation,” said Denis.

Certain non-obese individuals may also benefit from a noninvasive imaging approach, as well. Although not apparent physically, many lean people experience significant risks for these same diseases because of chronic low-level inflammation and fat deposition in or around vital organs. Where BMI alone would exclude this group from screenings, weighing more factors that contribute to pericardial fat could save lives.

“By using a more individualized approach, some obese persons can be relieved of the additional stigma of classification in a major disease category. In addition, unnecessary medical interventions and costs can be reduced,” added Hamilton.

 

The work was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NCI and NIDDK; R56 DK090455 –GVD) and a subcontract from the Boston Area Diabetes Endocrinology Research Center (BADERC; P30 DK057521). G.V.D. is Chair-Elect of the Obesity and Cancer Section of The Obesity Society.

Gut Taste Mechanism Defective in Type 2 Diabetes Patients

Gut Taste Mechanism Defective in Type 2 Diabetes People

A new study uncovered that the sweet tasting gut mechanism is abnormal in type 2 diabetes patients.

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This is the first time that the researchers from the University of Adelaide have described the abnormal control of the ‘sweet taste receptors’ in the human intestine. This triggers problems with glucose use. This finding could be helpful in nutritious issues faced by diabetes patients.

The study was led by Dr. Richard Young, Senior Postdoctoral Researcher in the University of Adelaide’s Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory. It says taste buds alone do not determine sweetness,  the gut plays a much larger role.

“When we talk about ‘sweet taste’, most people think of tasting sweet food on our tongue, but scientists have discovered that sweet taste receptors are present in a number of sites in the human body. We’re now just beginning to understand the importance of the sweet taste receptors in the human intestine and what this means for sufferers of type 2 diabetes,” Dr Young said in a news release.

Type 2 diabetes makes up for 90-95 percent of the diabetes cases and is generally linked to older age. Nearly 25.8 million people suffer from diabetes in the U.S. and 7 million people have undiagnosed diabetes. It is said that by 2050 1 in 3 adults will suffer from diabetes. In 2007, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.

To proceed with the finding, the researchers compared healthy adults with type 2 diabetes patients. On glucose exposure, they noticed that in healthy adults, the control of sweet taste receptors in the intestine enabled their bodies to regulate the glucose intake in 30 minutes after exposure whereas abnormalities in diabetic adults led to rapid absorption of glucose.

On detecting the glucose in the intestine, the sweet taste receptors trigger a response that regulates the manner in which glucose is taken by the intestine. The researchers noticed that compared to healthy adults, the diabetes victims absorbed more glucose rapidly and in large quantities.

The study highlights that diabetes is not a disorder that is limited to pancreas and insulin, the gut too plays an effective role. They state the need for further studies to clearly understand the mechanism taking place in the gut.

“So far, we’ve seen what happens in people 30 minutes after glucose is delivered to the intestine, but we also need to study what happens over the entire period of digestion. There are also questions about whether or not the body responds differently to artificial sweeteners compared with natural glucose,” he concludes.

The finding was documented in the journal Diabetes.

Obesity Lessons for Liberals and Conservatives

In 2009, the U.S.D.A. made a major revision in the list of foods that could be bought with coupons from the federal program known as W.I.C. (short for the Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children). The new package included more healthy items (fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, and low-fat milk) and fewer dubious ones (sweetened juices, cereals and breads that are not whole-grain). This was significant not only because the changes were so purposefully aimed at improving nutrition for low-income Americans but because W.I.C. serves so many of them—fifty per cent of American infants, twenty-five per cent of children under five, and twenty-six per cent of postpartum women are enrolled in the program.

In many of the low-income neighborhoods where women and children rely heavily on W.I.C., supermarkets are few and far between. Residents with limited funds for transportation are often forced to shop at the kind of gas-station quick marts and dusty-shelved corner stores where they can find plenty of beef jerky, chips, and soda and, other than a bruised banana or two, not much in the way of produce. But when a team of researchers from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity studied W.I.C.-authorized stores across Connecticut, they found that the stores had responded to the new rules by “improving the availability and variety of healthy foods.” The businesses “found a way,” as the researchers from Yale put it, to make room for low-fat milk on their shelves, and to stock fruits and vegetables and whole-grain breads and other products they had not sold before. In so doing, they revealed a previously unsatisfied consumer demand. The researchers found that nearby stores that did not accept W.I.C. also started offering healthier foods, either because they now had new supply chains to take advantage of, or because customers were now asking for them, or both.

Marlene Schwartz, the director of the Rudd Center, thinks the W.I.C. reforms surely played a role in the reduction of obesity reported this week. The sheer number of families affected is part of the reason. And for two- and three-year-olds, who don’t need as many calories, a relatively small change—a switch to low-fat milk, a dip in the amount of sweetened juice they’re chugging—“can be pretty significant.”

In subsequent studies, says Schwartz, the Yale team has found that the W.I.C. reforms “really make a difference in what people purchase.” There were worries that families would drop out of the program or undermine the purpose of the changes by using their own money to buy lots of less healthy foods. But, by looking at scanner data from grocery stores, the Yale group has determined that this isn’t happening.

For years, the right has been in high dudgeon about almost any government program, any policy innovation that could somehow be disparaged as an excess of the nanny state. That’s been particularly true for public health and nutrition—think of the howl of libertarian outrage that greeted Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s doomed attempt to limit the size of sodas.

Schwartz and other nutrition advocates would like to see the W.I.C.-style promotion of healthy eating extended to the federal food-stamp program, known as SNAP. But, as Jane Black points out in Slate this week, there the opposition comes not primarily from the Republican right but from the food industry, which sells an awful lot of soda and snacks to people with food stamps—and, more surprisingly, from anti-hunger organizations. A host of mayors, including Bloomberg and Cory Booker, of Newark, have called on Congress to allow limits on the use of food stamps to purchase sugary beverages. A poll conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that sixty-nine per cent of the general public and even fifty-four per cent of SNAP recipients agreed that such limits were a good idea. But anti-hunger organizations are firmly opposed to any such changes. Black quotes one advocate’s comment to Food Safety News: “Our view is that people have the smarts to purchase their own food, and we’re opposed to all limitations on food choice.”

The anti-hunger organizers probably worry—and with good reason—that in the current political environment, any move to reform what food stamps cover will morph into a they’ll-only-spend-it-on-junk-food excuse to gut the whole program. But the W.I.C. reforms show that that’s not an inevitable outcome.

And they show something else too: when the government creates incentives for private businesses to behave more responsibly, they often find a way. Information and moral suasion—Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and the like—are important, but in the salty-sweet sea of temptation we all swim in, they’re not really enough. Big Junk Food, with its ubiquity and its advertising juggernaut, will always swamp earnest nutritional pamphlets and public-service announcements. Unless, that is, there are rules and money on the other side. The Republicans have, by and large, taken to treating public health as a private matter—as though we could all count calories in a self-actualizing vacuum. And that’s too bad, because when it comes to battling obesity, we all need some of the will power that only government can provide.

Illustration by Nolan Pelletier.

Childhood Obesity Rates Drop Slightly: CDC – WebMD

Childhood Obesity Rates Drop Slightly: CDC

And fracture risk doesn't rise when physical

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) — There was a small but sure sign Tuesday that the fight against childhood obesity may yet be won: A new government report found that obesity rates among low-income preschoolers had declined slightly in at least 19 states.

After decades of increases, the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota, and the U.S. Virgin Islands saw at least a 1 percent decrease in their rate of obesity from 2008 through 2011. Rates in 20 states and Puerto Rico held steady, while rates increased slightly in three other states: Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

“For the first time in a generation, we are seeing obesity go in the right direction in 2- to 4-year-olds, and we are seeing it happen across the country,” CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said during a noon press conference.

“It’s encouraging, but we have a lot further to go,” he added. “We hope this is the start of a trend getting us back into balance.”

Frieden credited the trend to such efforts as First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program and better policies in the government’s Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) program, as well as increases in breast-feeding, recognition that children need to be active and eating a more healthful diet by reducing things like juices and increasing consumption of whole fruits and vegetables, and also decreasing time in front of the TV or computer.

“Today’s announcement reaffirms my belief that together, we are making a real difference in helping kids across the country get a healthier start to life,” Michelle Obama said in a CDC news release.

She added, “We know how essential it is to set our youngest children on a path towards a lifetime of healthy eating and physical activity, and more than 10,000 child-care programs participating in the ‘Let’s Move! Child Care’ initiative are doing vitally important work on this front. Yet, while this announcement reflects important progress, we also know that there is tremendous work still to be done to support healthy futures for all our children.”

Earlier research found that about one in eight preschoolers is obese, Frieden said. In addition, children are “five times more likely to be overweight or obese as an adult if they are overweight or obese between the ages of 3 and 5 years,” he noted.

For the report, which covered 40 states (but not Texas), the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, CDC researchers looked at weight and height for nearly 12 million children aged 2 to 4 who took part in federally funded maternal and child nutrition programs.