Nutrition and obesity studies may overstate results, warn researchers

Many studies focusing on obesity and nutrition may overstate conclusions of their findings, which may lead to policy makers and other researchers basing decisions on inaccurate assumptions, according to new research.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine,  suggests that around one in 11 publications on nutrition and obesity in leading journals may overstate the results of their research findings – such as inappropriately describing a correlation as a cause-and-effect relationship and generalising a study’s claims to large groups of people even when the study population was quite different.

“This is troubling because such statements likely influence policymakers, clinicians, other researchers, and the public into making decisions without an accurate understanding of the supporting science, which may have unjustified costs,” said the research team – led by Professor Nir Menachemi from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the US.

“They also have the potential to be amplified and disseminated to a larger audience when they are reported by journalists, who are a key source for public information about scientific discoveries,” said the team. “Given that, by and large, journalists dutifully convey the claims made in scientific papers, overstatement of results poses a concern.”

According to the results of the study, public health journals had a ‘significantly higher’ prevalence of publishing overreaching statements when compared to medical, nutrition, and obesity journals, “especially with respect to reporting associative relationships as causal or making policy recommendations based on observational data.”

Study details

Menachemi and colleagues tracked how often authors overreached in the summary of their findings by searching research articles published in eight leading journals in either 2001 or 2011, in order to examine changes in reporting over time. The team found 937 papers—377 from 2001 and 560 from 2011.

In 8.9% (around one in 11) of the studies, the team reported that findings had been overstated in the abstract – with studies from 2011 more likely to overreach than 2001 papers. 

Overreaching statements were also found to be more common in unfunded studies compared to funded studies, regardless of what type of group paid for the study; while a higher number of co-authors was also associated with a reduced likelihood of presenting overreaching statements.

“This trend may be because funded researchers are selected for superior knowledge or skills; have greater resources (as a result of their funding); or are subject to oversight from the funding agency, all of which may translate into a more straightforward presentation of their scientific work,” wrote Menachemi and colleagues.

Although those overstatements may be unintentional, they can distort what doctors, policymakers, and the general public know about nutrition, the researchers said.

The team noted that their work is an extension of a project originally funded by The Coca Cola Company, but noted that the Company had no role in the design, execution, or reporting of the current study.

Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Volume 45, Issue 5, November 2013, Pages 615–621, doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.06.019

” Overstatement of Results in the Nutrition and Obesity Peer-Reviewed Literature”
Authors: Nir Menachemi, Gabriel Tajeu, Bisakha Sen, et al

CDC American Obesity Rates

America’s bad reputation for obesity is not getting any better.

The CDC just released the latest obesity data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey — the 2011-2012 year. The survey examines about 5,000 people each year and asks a series of socio-economic and health-related questions and includes a physical exam, giving us a frightening look at just how fat Americans really are.

The CDC defined obesity as individuals having a body mass index greater than or equal to 30. Body mass index is calculated by weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared.

Here are five most worrying facts:

1. Almost 35% of adults in the U.S. are obese.

2. Obesity rates were higher among middle-aged adults (40 to 59-years-old) than younger adults (20 to 39-year-olds) or older adults (60-years-old and over).

3. There was no real difference in obesity rates between men and women — everyone is getting fatter.

You can see the breakdown of obesity rates by age and gender in the chart below:

CDC obesity study


4. Black Americans had the highest obesity rates (about 48%), while Asian Americans had the lowest (about 11%).

You can see the obesity rates among different races in the chart below:



5. Obesity rates are not getting any better.

The CDC found there was no decrease in obesity rate from the 2009-2010 survey to the 2011-2012 survey.

The chart below shows that rates have been steadily getting worse since the 1980s:



Wondering how you fit into these trends? The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has a tool that can calculate your body mass index.

Are We Ignoring The True Cause Of Obesity?

Freakonomics » Good News for Child Obesity

We’ve blogged before about America’s rising obesity rate and how to fight it, but the battle may have just gotten a little easier. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows obesity rates dropping for low-income preschool children in 19 states between 2008 and 2011. From the Wall Street Journal:

The obesity analysis, by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, was based on data from 11.6 million children age 2 to 4. The survey group included children eligible for federally funded programs of maternal and child health and nutrition, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as the WIC program.

The decline was greatest in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the obesity rate in such children fell to 11% in 2011 from 13.6% in 2008. Drops of more than one percentage point were also seen in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Missouri, and South Dakota.

Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, called the results a “bright spot” and a “tipping point.”

“For the first time in a generation, we’re seeing it go in the right direction in 2- to 4-year-olds,” he said on a conference call with reporters, calling the changes “small but statistically significant.” He was quick to add, “We’re very, very far from being out of the woods.”

Of the 43 states measured, obesity rates for preschool children rose in 3 states and remained the same same in 21 states.

Obesity In The U.S., Visualized | Popular Science

Inspired by a recent decision from the American Medical Association to start recognizing obesity as a disease, designer Lih Chen created this infographic, mapping the problem state by state.

Quick note for context: the size of the pie charts over each state only indicate the total population size; California and New York aren’t trouncing every other state in obesity. The pie charts themselves are broken down by “obese,” in purple; “overweight,” in orange; and “normal,” in blue, determined through data culled from the CDC and census. For those states where the pie chart is too small to read, the bar charts at the bottom show the same distribution, but not plotted by total population, only by proportion.

This shows the data from 2011, when the least obese state was Colorado and the most obese was Alabama. But Chen has posted an interactive version showing rates from 1995 to 2011, which you can check out here.

[PaperShack via]

Diabetes Is at an All-Time High in NYC

This news will definitely depress you. Over the last two decades, the adult diabetes rate in New York City has almost doubled. The Department of Health collected data which showed that some 650,000 adults had diabetes in 2011. Back in 1993, the number was 200,000 less. On top of that, they also suspect that there are 230,000 more adults who are unaware that they have diabetes. 

The numbers from the past ten years are even more staggering. Over 10 percent of adults in New York City currently report having diabetes, whereas 4.2 percent of residents reported having it in 2003. It’s gotten to the point that city officials are referring to it as an epidemic. 

Would the soda ban have helped?

[via Gothamist]


Tags: new-york, diabetes

Financial toll of diabetes spreads beyond its sufferers

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Jerry Madrigal’s life is spent in medical offices.

What started as a small sore on the 49-year-old’s foot has turned into a diabetes diagnosis and an endless series of pricey procedures and prescription medications.

No longer able to work, Madrigal, of Corpus Christi, Texas, lives on disability checks and his wife’s part-time pay. He has no clue how much all of this costs; his medical bills are fully covered by government-funded Medicaid.

Diabetes’ financial toll extends beyond those diagnosed, reaching into the pocketbooks of taxpayers and those with health insurance who pick up the tab for the uninsured or those on government-funded health care plans.

“I think that everybody bears the cost of diabetes and its complications resulting in disability, because much of that is paid for through our taxes,” said Dr. Melissa Wilson, an endocrinologist who served on the Texas Diabetes Council.

The federal government estimated the total cost of diabetes at $51.3 billion in 2010. And diabetes often coincides with other health problems, such as stroke or kidney failure, making it difficult to pin down the exact cost of the disease.

Emergency room visits or conditions associated with diabetes, such as strokes and heart attacks, make the true costs of diabetes likely to be much higher.

And they continue to grow.

Nationwide, diabetes costs nearly tripled from $18.8 billion in 1996, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Medicare and Medicaid covered, on average, 42 percent, or $196 billion over 14 years, according to the agency.

That’s enough to pay the wages of a quarter million teachers during the same time.

Still, while the costs of diabetes skyrocket, prevention has not kept pace.

Self-management classes, widely regarded as one of the best ways to prevent the onset of expensive complications, have failed to live up to their potential and often struggle to stay afloat as funding gets stripped away.

That leaves people like Madrigal dependent on the government. Without Medicaid, Madrigal doesn’t know how he would afford the diabetes treatment to save his foot and keep him alive.

In the past year, he’s had four surgeries, including the amputation of his big toe. His kidneys are failing. He needs dialysis three times a week until he can get a kidney transplant.

At his sickest, Madrigal took almost a dozen prescription pills a day.

Madrigal worked as a laborer for years. He earned $350 a week and didn’t have health insurance.

Hospital social workers helped him enroll in the county’s indigent care program. Funded by property tax dollars, the program covers health care for the county’s poorest residents.

He stayed on that plan until he was able to enroll in Medicaid.

Madrigal’s situation is common in Texas, where Medicaid and Medicare paid for two-thirds of the state’s diabetes-related hospital stays in 2010, according to the state’s health department.

And those stays aren’t cheap.

Diabetes hospitalizations on average cost about the same as a new Lincoln MKS luxury sedan: $48,720, or 50 percent more than hospitalizations not related to diabetes, according to state reports released in April 2012.

That’s because people with uncontrolled diabetes are more prone to infections and have a tougher time fighting them, Wilson said. A spike in blood glucose levels, even temporarily, can paralyze white blood cells for up to two weeks, compromising a person’s immune system, she said.

People with diabetes also face hefty indirect costs, such as reduced productivity and increased absenteeism from work.

A January 2012 in Health Affairs found that people with diabetes have harder times finding and keeping jobs and earn far less over their lifetimes than people without diabetes.

Tricare, which provides health benefits for military personnel and retirees and their families, spent $76.5 million on diabetes care in Texas alone in 2011. That’s up 14 percent from 2007, adjusted for inflation.
Pharmacy costs made up 44 percent, or $33.7 million in 2011, according to Tricare’s reports.

For Madrigal, it’s too late to prevent some of the debilitating long-term complications of diabetes, but he’s doing all he can — closely monitoring his diet, exercising on the stationary bike in his living room and following doctor’s orders. He’s lost 45 pounds. At his last checkup, his blood sugar had dropped to prediabetic levels.

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Winners of the People’s Choice Awards 2011 announced

The LA  bash was teeming with stars voted for online by fans to win the People’s Choice Awards, which recognizes the people and work of popular culture.

Things couldn’t be going much better for Firework singer Katy Perry, who ended 2010 with a wedding and entered the New Year with a bang, lighting up the stage in a neon frock to accept two awards for Favourite Female Artists and Favourite Online Sensation. The 26-year-old singer, whose album Teenage Dream was a hit in the charts last year, thanked the crowd, saying: “I’ve had an incredible year.”

Katy later took to her Twitter to thank her fans: “OH MY WE WON TWO PEOPLES CHOICE AWARDS! Thank you SO much!”

“I really appreciate all ur continuous love & support! Remember u have the POWER!”

The People’s Choice Awards allows fans to vote for winners in categories spanning music, movies, TV and more.

Taylor Swift, whose whirlwind relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal recently came to a sudden halt, beat the likes of Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood to win the award for Favourite Country Artist. Elton John, who recently became a dad, presented the award to the 21 year old. “Congratulations to you, you are Dad now,” Taylor said, before adding how “honored” she was to be receiving the award from him.

And shrugging off death threats from jealous fans after being snapped kissing Justin Bieber, a glittering Selena Gomez took to the stage to accept her award for Best Breakthrough Artist.


Taylor Swift – Favourite Country Artist

Neil Patrick Harris – Favourite TV Comedy Actor

Conan O’Brien – Favourite Talk Show Host award

Jane Lynch – Favourite TV Comedy Actress

Adam Sandler – Favourite Comedic Star

Keeping Up With the Kardashians – Favourite TV Guilty Pleasure

[adsense]Twilight: Eclipse – Favourite Movie

Johnny Depp – Favourite Movie Actor

Kristen Stewart – Favourite Movie Actress

Grown Ups – Favourite Comedy Movie

Hawaii Five-O – Favourite New TV Drama

Zac Efron – Favourite Movie Star Under 25

S#*! My Dad Says – Favourite New TV Comedy

Katy Perry – Favourite Female Artist

Selena Gomez & the Scene – Favourite Breakout Artist

Katy Perry – Favourite Online Sensation

Dexter – Favourite TV Obsession

Glee – Favourite TV Comedy

House – Favourite TV Drama

Zac Efrom took home the award for Favourite Movie Star Under 25. Read here about his break-up with Vanessa Hudgens.

If you missed your chance to vote this year, then remember how easy it is for next year. All you have to do is select your favorite category here and click on the nominee to submit your choice.

Images: PR Photos

Google doodle celebrates 2011 with fireworks and roman numerals

Google put on its party boots and rang into the new year with a new doodle featuring the Roman numerals MMXI (2011), surrounded by images of  fireworks.

Doodles, the creative changes that are made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, birthdays and the lives of famous people on the Google homepage, have made using the search engine a colourful and often smile-inducing experience.

Last year was a particular good year for doodles, and we have seen the search engine celebrate everything from Jane Austen’s 235th anniversary to the Flintstones 50th anniversary and the discovery of x-rays.

And, according to Wall Street Journal, Google went full out when it came to the festive season and creating the Christmas Google doodle: it took five artists, 6 months and 250 hours to create it and two and a half days later it was down again.

Google clearly wasn’t the the only one celebrating last night. If you’re suffering from a night of excess, read here about celebrities and their hangover cures.

Read here about Google’s Christmas doodle.