Health Tip: Help Prevent Childhood Obesity – WebMD

Health Tip: Help Prevent Childhood Obesity

By Diana Kohnle

HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay News) — Almost 18 percent of children and adolescents in the United States are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number has almost tripled since 1980.

The agency offers these suggestions for parents to help prevent the problem:

  • Limit screen time for your child at home, school and child-care facilities.
  • Check with the child-care center to make sure that healthy snacks and drinks are served, and that there’s plenty of physical activity.
  • Offer your child plenty of fruits and vegetables, and limit foods high in fat and sugar.
  • Serve your child water instead of sugary drinks.
  • Encourage your child to get physical activity every day.

Fat But Fit: Metabolically Healthy Obesity

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.

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.”

What is driving obesity in cats and dogs? – Life Lines


Image from: Ann Arbor Animal Hospital

Dr. Kelly Swanson, a professor of animal and nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign just published an article on the topic of pet obesity in the Journal of Animal Science. His research is designed to explore how foods alter gene expression in our pets, a field called nutrigenomics. He thinks that domestication (reducing the need for animals to hunt or compete for food) may contribute to the rise in pet obesity. Since domesticated animals also spend less time and energy trying to reproduce, thanks to spaying and neutering, they do not require as much energy in their diets. The excess energy they consume, therefore, is converted into fat.

Being overweight is not just a problem for humans. Reportedly over 50% of dogs and cats are overweight or obese in the United States. Similar to humans, overweight and obesity in pets causes chronic diseases that can decrease a pet’s lifetime. It also makes it more difficult for them to fit through the pet door.

pedigree diet


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Press Release

de Godoy MRC, Swanson KS. Nutrigenomics: Using gene expression and molecular biology data to understand pet obesity. Journal of Animal Science. Epub Ahead of Print. 

Image of obese cat from Ann Arbor Animal Hospital

Eating themselves to death

MEXICO has long been a country that derives extraordinary pleasure from eating and drinking—and it hasn’t minded the consequences much either. Gordo or gorda, meaning “chubby”, is used by both wives and husbands as a term of endearment. Pudgy kids bear proudly the nickname gordito, as they tuck into snacks after school slathered with beans, cheese, cream and salsa.

Your correspondent, having just arrived to live in Mexico City after more than a decade away, finds the increase in waistlines even more staggering than the increase in traffic. Mexico has become one of the most overweight countries on earth, even more so than the United States; a quarter of its men and a third of its women are obese. Indecorously, the country has even come up with figures on figures: the Mexican Diabetes Federation says that among women between 20 and 49, the average waistline is 91.1cm (35.9 inches), more than 10cm above the “ideal” size. Stores are now full of large- and extra large-sized clothing.

Time was, a prominent girth may have been enviable proof of relative prosperity. Now, it is a serious health risk. At a conference here on April 9th it was estimated that more than 10m Mexicans, or almost a sixth of the adult population, suffer from diabetes, largely because of over-eating and increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Mexico has the sixth most cases of diabetes in the world.

Diabetes is one of the top two causes of death in the country, alongside (and occasionally overlapping with) heart disease. The diabetes federation says that the illness kills 70,000 people a year. However, it gets far less attention than much less deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, not to mention organised crime (which is responsible for roughly 60,000 deaths in the past six years). “It could get to the point where we are literally eating ourselves to death,” says Jesper Holland of Novo Nordisk, a Danish health-care company that is a big supplier of insulin to Mexico.

The precise causes of the onslaught are hard to pin down. The prevalence of snacking on salty, fatty food and drinking sugar-heavy fizzy drinks appears to be a big part of the problem. Reforma, a national newspaper, reported on April 9th that fizzy drinks accounted for seven out of ten drinks sold in Mexico. There was a rise of more than 2% last year, despite growing pressure in Congress to slam “sin taxes” upon the drinks. On a per-head basis Mexicans drink more Coca-Cola than any other country.

Lack of exercise—all that traffic means many Mexicans commute for at least two hours a day—is another factor. Though the swanky parts of Mexico City now boast bicycle lanes, parks with exercise machines and graceful boulevards to run along, on the outskirts, where the health problem is gravest, there are few such amenities.

Mr Holland asserts that “economic growth” is a big cause of the illness, especially in developing countries where societies have grown more prosperous in the space of 20 years, compared with hundreds of years in some developed countries. That could be partly true: India and China also have acute diabetes problems. Mexico, however, has not grown faster than other countries in Latin America, and the poor left behind by economic growth are just as likely to snack badly as the more prosperous. What’s more, Mexican-Americans in the United States are almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with diabetes, which suggests there are powerful genetic factors at work, too.

Perhaps for Mexicans the biggest problem is living next door to the United States, which means the fast food and super-sized culture has a particularly strong influence. So do the American food and drink giants who sell vast quantities south of the border and have already proved adept at fending off sin taxes and other forms of anti-obesity regulation in the United States.

In a country like Mexico where there is not much stigma attached to being overweight, there would probably be stiff opposition to regulating consumers’ behaviour, especially as measures such as higher taxes on soft drinks would fall disproportionately on the poor. Instead, the government should play up gluttony as a killer, as it does with cigarettes—especially in school, where a third of children are said to be obese—and literally scare people off their junk food. Diabetes provides that opportunity. Given Mexico’s extensive public health-care system, the state foots the bill for the sharply rising cost of diabetes treatment. There is huge public interest in giving it more prominence.

Obesity Does Slow People Down, Study Confirms – WebMD

Obesity Does Slow People Down, Study Confirms

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) — Women who struggle with chronic obesity end up engaging in less and less routine physical activity, new research shows, confirming what may seem obvious to some.

The investigating team acknowledged that their observation so clearly aligns with conventional wisdom that it would be hard to describe it as “rocket science.” But they say theirs is the first study to rigorously establish what most scientists have long presumed to be the case: that obesity does indeed have a negative impact on an individual’s activity habits.

“An abundance of research has focused on factors that increase [the risk for] obesity, due to the many chronic diseases and conditions associated with it,” said study lead author Jared Tucker, currently a senior epidemiologist at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich. “And rightly so.”

“However, physical inactivity is also independently associated with many of the same chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes,” Tucker added. “But we don’t often think about factors that influence activity levels.”

Tucker was a graduate student when the research, reported online recently in the journal Obesity, was conducted.

“Our study suggests that obesity likely increases the risk of reducing physical activity levels in women,” Tucker said. “Therefore, it appears that physical inactivity and obesity may be involved in a feedback loop, in which lower levels of activity lead to weight gain, which then leads to lower levels of activity.”

To explore how obesity could depress activity levels among women, the authors focused on more than 250 middle-aged women living in the Mountain West region of the United States. Roughly half the participants were diagnosed as obese.

Rather than ask the women to self-report their activity routines — a study method that can undermine reliability — the team attached belt-strapped accelerometers to all the study participants. The small device measures movement of various accelerations and intensities. For a week, all the women were told to wear the straps throughout their day, except when exposed to water, such as while showering.

On average, the women wore the straps for nearly 14 hours out of the 15-hour daytime period (defined as 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.). This allowed the team to assess total time spent engaged in daily light, moderate or vigorous physical activity.

Body composition assessments were conducted just before the accelerometer monitoring began and again 20 months later. In turn, after the 20-month re-assessment, the women were again asked to wear the accelerometers for another week of activity monitoring.

The result: Among the obese participants, physical activity was found to drop by 8 percent overall over the course of the 20-month study period. This was equivalent to a loss of 28 active minutes per week, the researchers said.