Obesity May be Driving Earlier Puberty in Girls | Psych Central News

Obesity May be Driving Earlier Puberty in GirlsNew research shows obesity is the largest predictor of earlier puberty in girls, which is affecting white girls much sooner than previously reported.

The multi-institutional study published in the journal Pediatrics confirms that girls of all races are beginning puberty at a younger age, a longstanding observation in the U.S.

“The impact of earlier maturation in girls has important clinical implications involving psychosocial and biologic outcomes,” said Frank Biro, M.D., lead investigator.

“The current study suggests clinicians may need to redefine the ages for both early and late maturation in girls.”

Researchers have observed that girls with earlier maturation are at risk for a multitude of challenges, including lower self-esteem, higher rates of depression, norm-breaking behaviors and lower academic achievement.

Experts say early maturation also results in greater risks of obesity, hypertension and several cancers — including breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer .

The study was conducted through the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Program, established by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science.

Researchers at centers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Cincinnati and New York City examined the ages of 1,239 girls at the onset of breast development and the impact of body mass index and race/ethnicity.

The girls ranged in age from 6 to 8 years at enrollment and were followed at regular intervals from 2004 to 2011. Researchers used well-established criteria of pubertal maturation, including the five stages of breast development known as the Tanner Breast Stages.

The girls were followed longitudinally, which involved multiple regular visits for each girl. Researchers said this method provided a good perspective of what happened to each girl and when it occurred.

Researchers found the respective ages at the onset of breast development varied by race, body mass index (obesity), and geographic location.

Breast development began in white, non-Hispanic girls, at a median age of 9.7 years — earlier than previously reported.

Black girls continue to experience breast development earlier than white girls, at a median age of 8.8 years.

The median age for Hispanic girls in the study was 9.3 years, and 9.7 years for Asian girls.

Body mass index was a stronger predictor of earlier puberty than race or ethnicity.

Although the research team is still working to confirm the exact environmental and physiological factors behind the phenomenon, they conclude the earlier onset of puberty in white girls is likely caused by greater obesity.

Source: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center


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Obesity 4 Times More Likely in Schizophrenia Patients

Obesity 4 Times More Likely in Schizophrenia PatientsThe risk for abdominal obesity is more than four times higher in patients with multi-episode schizophrenia compared to the general population, according to new meta-analytic research.

These individuals are also at greater risk for other cardio-metabolic problems — such as low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, hypertriglyceridemia and diabetes.

For the study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 136 studies — involving 185,606 patients with schizophrenia — 28 of which provided data on nearly 3,900,000 population controls matched for age and gender. This study is one of the largest ever conducted on people with schizophrenia.

The findings reveal that patients with multi-episode schizophrenia were 4.43 times more likely to have abdominal obesity than controls. 

Furthermore, the risk for low HDL cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and hypertriglyceridemia were more than doubled, at 2.35, 2.35, and 2.73, respectively.

The risk for diabetes was nearly double in these patients, and the risk for hypertension was increased 1.36-fold.

With the exception of diabetes and hypertension, the risk for these conditions in multi-episode schizophrenia patients was also significantly increased versus that for first-episode or drug-naïve patients.

Schizophrenia researchers have warned that weight gain occurs in up to 40 percent of patients taking medications called second-generation or atypical antipsychotic medications, which have been found effective in controlling major symptoms of schizophrenia.

Given the high rates of metabolic problems, the researchers propose that schizophrenia patients should, at the very least, have their waist circumference measured regularly, and, ideally, also their fasting glucose, triglyceride, HDL cholesterol, and hemoglobin A1C levels.

They also suggest routine screening of cardiovascular risk factors at key stages to create a risk profile for patients that takes into account their personal and family history.

“This risk profile should afterwards be used as a basis for ongoing monitoring, treatment selection and management,” wrote the researchers in World Psychiatry.

Lead researcher Davy Vancampfort, Ph.D.,  of the University Psychiatric Centre KU Leuven and colleagues believe it is important to educate schizophrenia patients and their family members about the increased risk for cardio-metabolic abnormalities and ways to lessen it.

According to the researchers, many schizophrenia patients are either unaware of the need to make appropriate lifestyle changes or do not possess the knowledge and skills to do so.

The findings support guidelines from the World Psychiatric Association recommending physical health screening and monitoring in patients with schizophrenia. And they further emphasize the need for patients with schizophrenia and their family members to be educated about the possibility of cardio-metabolic risk.

Source:  World Psychiatry


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Targeting Weight Gain in Pregnancy to Reduce Childhood Obesity …

Targeting Weight Gain in Pregnancy to Reduce Childhood Obesity A new study suggests pregnancy may be an especially important time to prevent obesity in children.

Investigators followed 41,133 mothers and their children in Arkansas and discovered that high pregnancy weight gain increases the risk of obesity in those children through age 12.

The findings, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, suggest pregnancy may be an especially important time to prevent obesity in the next generation.

“From the public health perspective, excessive weight gain during pregnancy may have a potentially significant influence on propagation of the obesity epidemic,” said the study’s senior author, David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D.

Childhood obesity is especially worrisome as the condition is harmful in many ways including an increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing and sleep issues. Obese kids are also more likely to be obese adults.

“Pregnancy presents an attractive target for obesity prevention programs, because women tend to be particularly motivated to change behavior during this time,” said Ludwig.

Researchers have previously observed a familial tendency toward obesity. Children with mothers who are obese, or gain too much weight during pregnancy, are more likely to be obese themselves.

However, this relationship may be due to associated factors such as shared genes, common environmental influences and socioeconomic and demographic considerations, rather than any direct biological effects of maternal over-nutrition.

Ludwig, together with coauthors Janet Currie, Ph.D., and Heather Rouse, Ph.D., used a novel study design to examine other causes of childhood obesity.

They linked the birth records of mothers with two or more children to school records that included the child’s body mass index (BMI) at an average age of 11.9 years, and then made statistical comparisons between siblings.

Researchers comparing siblings to minimize the influence of outside factors because on average, siblings have the same relative distribution of obesity genes, the same home environment and same socioeconomic and demographic influences.

The current study extends results of an earlier study that Ludwig led, which showed that excessive weight gain in pregnancy increased the birth weight of the infant.

The effect of maternal weight gain apparently continues through childhood and accounts for half a BMI unit, or about 2 to 3 lbs., between children of women with the least to the most pregnancy weight gain.

“Excessive pregnancy weight gain may make a significant contribution to the obesity epidemic,” said Ludwig. “Children born to women who gained excessive amounts of weight, 40 pounds or more, during pregnancy had an 8 percent increased risk of obesity.”

This risk, though relatively small on an individual basis, could translate into several hundred thousand cases of excess childhood obesity worldwide each year.

Source: Boston Children’s Hospital

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Abused Girls May Have Obesity Issues in Adulthood | Psych Central …

Abused Girls May Have Obesity Issues in Adulthood A poignant new study suggests women with a history of childhood physical abuse are more likely to become obese adults.

University of Toronto researchers discovered that women who were physically abused in childhood were more likely to be obese than women from non-abusive homes.

“After adjusting for age and race, childhood physical abuse was associated with 47 percent higher odds of obesity for women,” said lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson.

“Among men, obesity wasn’t associated with childhood physical abuse.”

“We had anticipated that the association between childhood physical abuse and obesity among women would be explained by factors including depression and anxiety, adult socio-economic position, alcohol abuse, and other childhood adversities, such as having a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol,” said study co-author and doctoral student Deborah Sinclair.

“However, even after taking into account all these factors, women from physically abusive families still had 35 percent higher odds of obesity.”

Because of the study design, the reason for the relationship between childhood physical abuse and women’s obesity could not be determined.

“It is unclear why childhood physical abuse is associated with adult obesity among women but not men; it may reflect gender differences in coping mechanisms,” said study co-author Sarah Brennenstuhl.

This research is found in the journal Obesity Facts.

For the study, researchers examined the association between childhood physical abuse and adult obesity in a representative sample of 12,590 adults, drawn from the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey.

Of these, 976 reported being physically abused by someone close to them before they turned 18 and 2,786 were classified as “obese” based on a body mass index of 30 or greater which was calculated from self-report of respondents’ height and weight.

Source: University of Toronto

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Mom's Depression Tied to Childhood Obesity | Psych Central News

Mom's Depression Tied to Childhood ObesityIn low-income urban families, a mother’s depression is linked to childhood obesity and disengaged parenting.

“We know many mothers experience feelings of sadness and depression. Despite this awareness, many mothers really suffer in silence and don’t feel comfortable [talking to someone about their feelings],” said Dr. Rachel S. Gross, lead author of the study.

While most research shows a link between a mother’s feelings of depression and a child’s development and social health, “This was one of the first [studies] to look at younger children [and how depression] can impact the physical health of children,” she said.

Gross has spent most of her career working with low-income families in the Bronx in New York. There she has witnessed patients struggling with feelings of depression as well as children who are gaining weight more quickly than expected.

For the study, moms self-reported depressive symptoms — such as loss of interest, fatigue, low energy and poor concentration — along with their children’s body mass index (BMI) at age 5.

The researchers controlled for such factors as decreased access to parks and fresh produce and still found the link.

According to the study, mothers who are depressed, have less than a high school education and are unemployed often display “… permissive parenting, where they place fewer demands on their children.”

“They are less responsive to their child’s needs, choosing parenting strategies for coping that require less cognitive effort and often neglect to set limits on the child’s behavior,” the study reports.

“They were more likely to have children who consumed more sweetened drinks, infrequently had family meals, more commonly ate at restaurants and had fewer regular breakfasts than children with mothers without depressive symptoms. Depressed moms also were less likely to model healthy eating than non-depressed mothers.”

Feeding practices, such as preparing daily breakfast, modeling healthy eating and setting limits on the child’s diet, all require active maternal involvement, Gross said, possibly explaining why these practices were less common among depressed mothers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines that emphasize the importance of maternal mental health, said Gross.

“My advice is to encourage mothers to seek out help from their doctors but also to consider talking to their pediatrician,” said Gross. “Mothers with young children take them to the doctor more frequently than they take themselves, so it’s an opportunity to help mothers in a pediatric setting.”

Source:  Academic Pediatrics

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Mice Study Suggests Health Effects from Obesity May Extend to Next …

New research on mice suggests health problems linked to obesity, such as heart disease and diabetes, could skip an entire generation.

Investigators discovered the offspring of obese mothers may be spared health problems linked to obesity, while their own children then inherit them.

This finding is startling as health professionals and policymakers currently focus attention on obesity in the general population, including the emergence of obesity among children.

The University of Edinburgh study has shown that moderately obese mothers can make an impact on the birth weight and diabetes risk of grandchildren, in the apparent absence of effects in their own children.

Experts say that rates of obesity are at an all-time high. Among the associated health problems are breast and colon cancer and stroke. Moderate obesity is a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 30 and 34.9.

Scientists studied moderately obese female mice fed on a diet high in fat and sugar before and during pregnancy. The mice were found to pass on the risks of obesity to the second generation of offspring, while virtually no ill effects were seen in the first generation.

Reasons why the first generation is apparently protected are not fully understood. Researchers suggest that reasons could include differences in maternal weight gain during pregnancy or specific food eaten during pregnancy.

They add that studying effects of this kind – referred to as developmental programming – in humans could be challenging but possible.

Dr. Amanda Drake, Senior Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Given the worldwide increase in obesity, it is vital that we gain an understanding of how future generations may be affected.

“Future studies could look at these trends in humans but they would need to take into account genetics, environmental, social and cultural factors.”

Source: University of Edinburgh

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New Strategy to Reduce Teen Obesity: Sleep More! | Psych Central …

New Strategy to Reduce Teen Obesity: Sleep More!  Talk about a win-win deal: A new study suggests that sleeping an additional hour each night may reduce the prevalence of adolescent obesity.

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania discovered that fewer hours of sleep is associated with greater increases in adolescent body mass index (BMI) for participants between 14 and 18-years-old.

Investigators say the findings suggest that increasing sleep duration to 10 hours per day, especially for those in the upper half of the BMI distribution, could help to reduce the prevalence of adolescent obesity.

Study results are available online in the latest issue of Pediatrics.

Previous studies have shown that a correlation exists between short sleep and obesity, but until now few have been able to rule out other variables such as time spent watching television and being physically active.

In the new study, researchers followed more than 1,000 Philadelphia-area high school students from their freshmen through senior high school years.

At six-month intervals, study participants were asked to report their sleep patterns. At the same intervals heights and weights were reported and BMIs were calculated.

Study authors suggest the results could have far-reaching implications and aid in reducing the high levels of adolescent obesity in the United States.

“The psychosocial and physical consequences of adolescent obesity are well-documented, yet the rate has more than tripled over the last four decades,” said lead author Jonathan A. Mitchell, Ph.D. “What we found in following these adolescents is that each additional hour of sleep was associated with a reduced BMI for all participants, but the reduction was greater for those with higher BMIs.

“The study is further evidence to support that getting more sleep each night has substantial health benefits during this crucial developmental period.”

Importantly, the relationship between sleep duration and BMI remained after adjusting for time spent in front of computer and television screens and being physically active.

This finding led to the conclusion that more sleep could contribute to the prevention of adolescent obesity, even if screen time and physical activity guidelines are met.

Based on the results, the authors suggest that increasing sleep from 8 to 10 hours per day at age 18 could result in a 4 percent reduction in the number of adolescents with a BMI above 25 kg/m2.

At the current population level, a 4 percent reduction would translate to roughly 500,000 fewer overweight adolescents.

“Educating adolescents on the benefits of sleep, and informing them of sleep hygiene practices have shown to have little impact on adolescent sleep duration,” said Mitchell.

“One possible solution could be for high schools to delay the start to the school day. Previous research has shown that delaying the start of the school day even by 30 minutes results in a 45-minute per day increase in sleep.

“Since our study shows increasing sleep by an hour or more could lead to a lower BMI, delaying the start of the school day could help to reduce obesity in adolescents.”

Source: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Teenager sleeping photo by shutterstock.

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Study Finds Vicious Cycle Between Obesity and Physical Activity …

Study Finds Vicious Cycle Between Obesity and Physical Activity While there is substantial research on the association between limited physical activity and obesity, new research confirms that being obese leads to reduced physical activity.

Although this relationship appears intuitive, prior studies had not assessed the link; BYU exercise science professor Larry Tucker, Ph.D., decided to look at the other side of the equation to determine if obesity leads to less activity.

The findings confirmed what many people have assumed for years.

“Most people talk about it as if it’s a cycle,” said Tucker, senior author on a study appearing online ahead of print in the journal Obesity.

“Half of the cycle has been studied almost without limit. This is the first study of its kind, in many ways, looking at obesity leading to decreases in physical activity over time.”

To study this reciprocal effect objectively, the researchers attached an accelerometer to more than 250 participants.

Accelerometers measure actual movement and intensity of activity. Previous studies have relied on less-dependable self-reported data.

“Roughly 35 percent of the population reports that they’re regularly active,” Tucker said.

“When you actually put an accelerometer on adults and follow them for many days, only about 5 to 7 percent are actually regularly active. We used an objective measure so we could determine genuine movement, not just wishful thinking.”

For the study, 254 female participants — 124 of whom were considered obese — were instructed to wear the accelerometer for seven consecutive days at the beginning of the study, and then again for an additional week 20 months later, at the end of the study.

Researchers discovered that on average, physical activity in obese participants dropped by 8 percent over the course of 20 months. This is equivalent to decreasing moderate to vigorous physical activity by 28 minutes per week.

In contrast, non-obese women demonstrated essentially no change in the amount of physical activity they were participating in weekly.

Researchers admit they were not surprised with the findings. However, investigators say the study does provide more understanding into how the cycle works and how it can be stopped.

Experts say the study offers additional insight into the measurement methods researchers use and how self-reporting can yield inaccurate results.

“It’s not rocket science, and it’s very logical,” Tucker said. “It just hasn’t been studied using high quality measurement methods and with a large sample size. This provides scientists with more ammunition to understand how inactivity leads to weight gain and weight gain leads to less activity. This cycle, or spiral, is probably continuous over decades of life.”

Source: Brigham Young University

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Obesity Reduces Quality of Life in Boys | Psych Central News

Obesity Reduces Quality of Life in BoysFor boys, being overweight or obese significantly lowers their quality of life compared to healthy weight peers.  Interestingly, these results were not found in girls.

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, also showed that quality of life (QOL) scores improved for children of either sex whose weight status changed from overweight/obese to normal.

The research involved more than 2,000 Australian school children who were about 12 years old at the start of the study in 2004-2005. The researchers followed up with the children after five years. 

The participants then answered a questionnaire designed to measure whether being obese (also known as  adiposity) influenced their quality of life at age 17 or 18.

“Adiposity in boys was associated with poorer quality of life during adolescence. This association was not observed among girls.

“In both boys and girls, though, persistent overweight or obesity was related to poorer physical functioning after the five years. In contrast, weight loss was associated with improved quality of life during adolescence,” said Bamini Gopinath, Ph.D., senior research fellow at the University of Sydney in Australia.

The questionnaire measured the children’s physical and psychosocial health. It also calculated a combined total quality of life score. The psychosocial health summary score reflected how well the teens were functioning emotionally and socially.

The study revealed that both males and females who were obese at the start of the study and who later reduced to a normal weight had far better physical functioning scores than those who remained obese after five years. These physical functioning scores measured one aspect of the overall quality of life score.

“The findings suggest that an unhealthy weight status and excess body fat could negatively impact the mental and physical wellbeing of adolescents, particularly boys,” said Gopinath.

He noted that the study highlights the value of looking at the quality of life among obese teens in both clinical practice and in research studies. 

He also added that “obesity prevention and treatment efforts [ought] to address the broad spectrum of psychosocial implications of being obese as a teenager.”

Lawrence J. Cheskin, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, noted that the differences in quality of life and physical functioning between obese and normal weight teens has not been carefully done before.

“The fact that QOL improved with improvement in weight over time is also important,” said Cheskin. He added that parents, health care providers and teenagers need to understand the far-reaching effects that being overweight can have on a teen’s enjoyment of life.

Source:  Center for Advancing Health


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