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

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

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

“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.

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.

India has too few cardiac, diabetes specialists

BANGALORE: In the world’s second most populous country, diseases of the heart are the biggest killers. The bigger tragedy is that the number of cardiac specialists graduating every year in India is a meagre 250.

The concern among medicos today is not just the limited number of postgraduate seats available in the country’s 381 medical colleges, it’s also the skewed distribution of seats between subjects. The number of seats in clinical subjects that deal with patients directly is low, though they attract the most number of students. In the end, those who don’t make it to these seats make do with para-clinical seats.

It’s worse for diabetics. Even when the country is heading towards becoming the diabetes capital of the world, we have only 50 PG seats in endocrinology. Not to forget that uncontrolled diabetes leads to kidney failure, heart failure and stroke. The US, on the other hand, has 250 PG seats in this subject.

While the World Health Organization puts tuberculosis as the sixth highest contributor to the number of deaths in India, we have only 307 specialized doctors graduating in pulmonary medicine every year. If cancer is the most feared disease in recent times, India has set apart 48 seats for specialization. In contrast, the US has 508 seats.

While a mother dies every 10 minutes in India, we have only around 1,400 obstetrics and gynaecology seats. There are about 93 seats in gastroenterology, as against 433 in the US, even when diarrhoeal diseases are the second highest contributor to deaths in India.

On the other hand, there are 5,833 para-clinical PG seats in the country. Pathology tops with 1,201 MD seats, microbiology has 724 and community medicine 736, biochemistry has been allotted 481 seats and physiology 672.

“Non-clinical subjects don’t deal with patients directly,” says Dr Devi Shetty, former member, board of governors, Medical Council of India. “The younger generation is not attracted to these subjects unless they have a scientific bent of mind. Most doctors who graduate would want to treat patients. Thus, the market value of these non-clinical degrees remains very low. They are the least preferred and taken up only if students don’t have a choice. Sometimes, they remain vacant.”

Experts in the field also point out that when there’s an increase in the number of PG seats, it happens in the non-clinical subjects. The increase, thus, becomes pointless.

Doctors say every unit in a medical college in the country can accommodate up to five PG students, according to MCI norms. If that’s the case, the number of PG seats can go up to 38,390 in the current scenario.

Speciality seats

Discipline——————- India————Us

Cardiology——————- 250————- 781


Gastroenterology————— 93————-433

Haematology——————– 13————– 523

Nephrology———————-84————– 416

Neurology———————–159———- 592

Oncology———————— 48————- 508

(Source: MCI India, National Resident Matching Program)

Big Pharma eyes more revenue with potentially dangerous new …

(NaturalNews) As obesity weighs down over a third of the United States adult population, drug companies are moving in to save the day. Arena pharmaceuticals, along with the FDA’s nod of approval, are set to begin marketing the first FDA approved weight loss drug in 13 years. The drug, lorcaserin, will be marketed in the US as Belviq, a pill designed for those with chronic weight issues with a BMI of 30 or more. It will also be prescribed to those with a BMI of 27 with at least one “weight related” condition such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. With projections of obesity to strike half the US population in the next 10 years, this ‘quick fix’ pop-a-pill mindset will do nothing but perpetuate the problem and ignore the root causes.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has declared lorcaserin a Schedule IV drug, according to the Controlled Substances Act, which now states that this drug has the potential for abuse and dependence.

Abuse and dependence is definitely not the positive and correct way to deal with a problem like obesity, but the pill is poised to be just that – another pharmaceutical dependency program, aimed at taking advantage of the growing obesity market in the United States. According to the DEA, this anti-obesity drug now falls into the categories of drugs like the anti-anxiety benzodiazepines and the sleep aid Ambien, which have become abused and depended upon in recent years.

The DEA’s concern lies in lorcaserin’s potential to cause mind altering effects.

The researchers found out that some patients who received higher than recommended doses of lorcaserin in clinical trials reported “altered perception, abnormal dreams, sedation, or feelings of euphoria.”

With a wide, ever-growing obesity market, lorcaserin could become a cheap street drug that adolescents might abuse as they look for a cheap recreational high. Pharmaceutical abuse and misuse is growing trend with adolescents, especially with stimulants Ritalin and Adderall.

The mind altering effects of Belviq come from the drug’s stimulation of brain receptors. Lorcaserin works in much of the same way as LSD, stimulating the 5-HT2A receptor. (In a Canadian study, a 60 mg dose was deemed similar to an LSD trip). Lorcaserin also stimulates the 5-HT2B receptor, which is associated with heart valve disease (just another side effect to go along with this ‘miracle drug’). Finally Lorcaserin stimulates the third receptor 5-HT2C, which effects appetite.

Many people try to lose weight by going on the latest fad diet, popping a pill, or going with a quick fix. The fads may work for a little while, but the changes are only temporary as weight always finds a way to work its way back in. The key to losing weight and keeping healthy organs is to adopt a long term health strategy rooted in lifestyle changes. This includes eliminating bad habits one at a time, learning how to limit oneself and say no. It’s what one does most of the time that matters.

Incorporating new habits will have a more lasting impact, such as weekly detoxification of the cells, regular fruit and vegetable juicing, and cutting out toxins like processed genetically modified food, BPA lined bottles and cans, fast food, artificial sweeteners, processed sugars, corn syrup, nitrates and bleached flour. Taste buds will change. The craving for salty fries will melt away to an addiction for fresh orange and carrot juice. Spinach and kale salads will replace a processed macaroni dinner. The sight of McDonald’s will nauseate and farmer’s markets will become a safe haven.

There is a way out, there is hope for an obese population. It starts in the mind. Do you want to change? It does not include sitting back, popping a pill, and expecting something great to happen. There’s got to be more initiative than that. There’s got to be an ambition to be all that one can be, and it’s got to come deep from within.

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Big Pharma eyes more revenue with potentially dangerous new obesity pill

Obesity in America Is Three Times More Deadly Than We Thought …

Photo: Ed Yourdon/Flickr

The massively unhealthy food, urban development, advertising, and healthcare system the United States has created over the past several decades leading to the obesity epidemic still gripping the nation is even more deadly than we thought. 

New research from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health shows that from 1986-2006 obesity accounted for 18 percent of deaths among white and black Americans aged 40 to 85—a far higher amount, the authors say, than past estimates that obesity is responsible for 5 percent of deaths in that demographic. 

The percentage of deaths from obesity on other ethnicities was not examined in the study. 

As for the effect of obesity in more detail: Black women are the worst-affected group, with 27 percent of black women aged 40-85 at risk of dying from obesity or being overweight. In white women, 21 percent are at risk. There are twice as many obese black women as there are white.

For men, 15 percent of white men and 5 percent of black men are at risk of dying from excess weight—though the report says that the comparatively low rate of death among black men is because higher rates of cigarette smoking and socioeconomic conditions somewhat skew the statistics.

(For example, being obese, old, and a smoker are all factors in heart disease. But an obese smoker who dies of heart disease may be more likely to have the disease attributed to smoking, rather than obesity.)

Though rates of obesity seem to have peaked among young people in certain demographics, the long term effect is yet to be felt. “We expect that obesity will be responsible for an increasing share of deaths in the United States and perhaps even lead to declines in US life expectancy,” lead author Ryan Masters said.

Looking at the US adult population more broadly, 73.1 percent of non-Hispanic white men and 60.2 percent of non-Hispanic women are overweight or obese, with 68.7 percent of non-Hispanic blacks having a BMI higher than 25, and 79.9 percent of non-Hispanic women crossing that same unhealthy threshold.

Converting all those extra pounds into dollars, the American Heart Association estimates that if current obesity rates continue, by 2030 16 to 18 percent of all healthcare expenditures in the United States will be attributable to obesity.

We haven’t seen the tail end of the obesity epidemic, and won’t for awhile. Currently in the United States among children aged 2 to 19, 33 percent of boys and 30.4 percent of girls are obese or overweight. Just looking at obesity, 18.6 percent of boys have a BMI of 30 or greater, while 15 percent of girls do. That’s across all ethnicities in the US.

“A 5-year old growing up today is living in an environment where obesity is much more the norm that was the case for a 5-year old a generation or two ago,” co-author Bruce Link said. “Drink sizes are bigger, clothes are bigger, and a greater number of a child’s peers are obese—and once someone is obese, it is very difficult to undo. So, it stands to reason that we won’t see the worst of the epidemic until the current generation of children grows old.”

mySugr diabetes management app heads to the US, adds Tim Ferriss to …

mySugr Companion, the Austria-based startup that helps diabetes sufferers manage their condition, has launched its app in the US, as well as adding tech advisor Tim Ferriss to the company’s roster.

The app, which is available for iOS devices, helps people suffering from insulin-manageable diabetes to keep atop of their condition in a less tiresome way than traditional methods, and is one of the only ones in the US approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) as a medical device –  a process that in itself took 18 months.

“Currently, 371 million people around the world live with diabetes. Frequent blood sugar monitoring and pattern analysis are key to optimal diabetes control, but the day-in-day-out monotony can lead even the most responsible patients to ‘diabetes burnout,’” mySugr co-founder and type 1 diabetic Fredrik Debong, said.

“mySugr Companion transforms a manual chore into a fun, interactive game […] we’re excited to be able to share our award-winning app with over 12 million Americans who manage their diabetes with insulin,” Debong added.

Managing the condition – a necessity the team knows all too well, as many members suffer from type 1 diabetes – requires checking blood glucose levels and matching food intake to insulin doses several times every day, the very process that mySugr is trying to make more engaging.

mySugr mySugr diabetes management app heads to the US, adds Tim Ferriss to advisory board

In addition to expanding beyond its Austrian roots, mySugr also brought Tim Ferriss into the fold.

Ferriss, who is known for his expertise in advising tech outfits such as Twitter, EverNote, Shopify, Digg and a number of other recognizable names has joined the mySugr’s board of advisors. Did we mention he’s also a best-selling author of books like ‘The 4-Hour Workout’ and ‘The 4-Hour Chef’? So perhaps his interest in getting involved with a health-oriented startup isn’t too mystifying.

➤ mySugr |  iOS

Image Credit – Thinkstock/Getty Images

US considers lifting safety limits on blockbuster diabetes pill

A former blockbuster diabetes pill which was subjected to major US safety restrictions in 2010 may not be as risky as once thought, according to the latest analysis of the much-debated GlaxoSmithKline drug Avandia.

The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing a new interpretation of the key study of Avandia’s heart attack risks, which suggests the drug is as safe as older diabetes drugs. At a highly unusual meeting this week, the FDA will ask a panel of experts to vote on a range of options for the drug, including lifting restrictions on its use.

The positive safety review from Duke University researchers is the latest twist in a years-long debate over Avandia, which has divided medical experts, cost Glaxo billions of dollars and possibly resulted in an unknown number of patient heart attacks.

First approved in 1999, Avandia became the top-selling diabetes pill in the world by 2006 with sales of $3.4 billion. But prescriptions plummeted the following year after an analysis of dozens of studies suggested Avandia could raise the risk of heart attack.

For three years the FDA struggled to answer a seemingly simple question: Does Avandia increase the risk of heart attacks? A definitive answer has never been reached, in part because patients with diabetes are already predisposed to heart problems. That makes it extremely difficult to tell which heart attacks are drug-related and which are simply a result of the underlying disease.

Finally in 2010 the FDA decided to restrict the drug’s use to all but the rarest of cases. Regulators in Europe banned the drug outright.

FDA critics have speculated that the real purpose of this week’s meeting is to vindicate FDA officials who kept Avandia on the market for so many years. They say regulators appear poised to roll back safety limits on the drug.

… contd.


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How can we cut levels of obesity in Europe? | Debating Europe


All this week, Debating Europe will be publishing a themed series of posts looking at the issue of health and wellness in Europe. With healthcare budgets increasingly coming under pressure, it’s important to look at ways to maintain public health without breaking the bank.  We’re starting our series by looking at the problem of increasing levels of obesity in Europe.

The Word Health Organization (WHO) reports that obesity has almost doubled worldwide since the 1980s, so that almost 7 out of 10 people on the planet now live in a country where being overweight and obese kills more people than being underweight. The available data suggests this is is a global problem, affecting both the developed and developing world alike.

In an earlier debate on the EU’s agricultural policy, we had a suggestion sent in from Christos from Greece about cutting back on food wastage:

Perhaps we should start closing a lot of the fast food chains [the US] created and spread all over the world! Who needs to eat beef burgers on a daily basis anyway?

Which suggests this might be more of an American issue, and less important for Europeans. However, despite the stereotype of “sturdy” American bodytypes, this is indeed a problem that affects us here in the EU. According to US government figures, more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese. European numbers are only slightly better, with the WHO reporting that roughly 23% of women and 20% of men were obese in Europe.

To get a better idea about the issue, we spoke to Jean-Michel Borys from EPODE, the obesity prevention network. We asked him whether obesity was less of an issue in Europe than the US:

We also put a comment to Jean-Michel Borys from Catherine, who argued that the problem is not the amount of food that people are eating, but the quality of that food. Catherine argues that food today is full of steroids, chemicals and low nutritional content.

Next, we put Catherine’s comment to Richard Seeber, an Austrian MEP with the centre-right European People’s Party group and a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety in the European Parliament.

What do YOU think? Is obesity just a problem for the US, or is it also something we need to tackle in Europe? And how can we encourage people to eat healthy and exercise more without nannying them? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts to hear their reactions.