Thursday, February 25, 2016

Obesity, High BMI Raise Hypertension Risk in Kids, Teenagers

Children and adolescents who become or remain obese are more than three times as likely to develop hypertension in a 3-year follow-up period compared with those who maintain a normal weight, according to a retrospective cohort study of more than 100,000 children and adolescents.

"Clinicians should recognize the relationship between [body mass index (BMI)] and [blood pressure (BP)]," lead author Emily D. Parker, PhD, MPH, from HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research, HealthPartners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, told Medscape Medical News. "The risk of hypertension was most concerning for those who maintained or increased to obesity or severe obesity. However, even among obese and severe[ly] obese children and adolescents, modest reductions in BP were seen with shifts to a lower BMI category (for example, from obese to overweight)."

US Obesity Rate Surpasses 30 Percent: CDC

The proportion of Americans who are clinically obese has passed 30 percent for the first time ever, according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest numbers — based on figures from the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey — are taken from polls conducted between January and September of 2015, MedPage Today reports.

The figures, posted on the CDC website, indicate:
30.4 percent of Americans are obese — up from 29.8 percent in 2014 (defined as a body mass index of 30 or more).
More than 45 percent of black females ages 20 and over are obese — compared to nearly 28 percent of white females and more than 33 percent of Hispanic females.
Nearly 35 percent of black males are obese, compared to about 30 percent of whites and 31 percent of Hispanics.
For both sexes combined, the prevalence of obesity was highest among adults ages 40–59 (34.9 percent), followed by adults ages 60 and up (30.1 percent), and ages 20–39 (26.7 percent).
By comparison, in 1997, the prevalence of obesity among adults ages 20 and over was 19.5 percent.
There was some good news reported by lead researchers Tainya C. Clarke, of the National Center for Health Statistics in Atlanta.

Failure to tackle obesity ‘threatening country’s prosperity’

Scotland has “failed to turn the tide of obesity” despite major efforts to tackle diet and exercise over the last six years, according to top doctors.

Public health leaders have spoken out over soaring weight problems, which they said will have a significant impact on Scotland’s future prosperity.

Ministers announced a new blueprint for tackling obesity in 2010, but obesity campaigners have found progress in tackling poor diet and deprivation has been sluggish.

Members of Obesity Action Scotland (OAS) published a damning report card of the nation’s record yesterday, which found four out off six goals have not been met.

Dr Drew Walker, NHS Tayside’s public health director, who leads on obesity for the Scottish Directors of Public Health, said: “If we do not halt that epidemic, the physical and mental health of Scots will deteriorate, our health and social care services will struggle to cope … and children will be less likely to achieve their full potential.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Early Obesity Interventions for Kids Fail to Make the Grade

There are few effective interventions for preventing childhood obesity during the first 1,000 days of the child's life from conception to 24 months, even though some of the risk factors for obesity are modifiable, according to a pair of reviews by a single group of researchers.
In one of the studies, researchers looked at 26 different interventions and found that only nine of them worked. The effective programs were focused on individual and family level behavioral changes spurred by home visits, clinical counseling sessions, and the use of hydrolyzed protein formula, according to Tiffany Blake-Lamb, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, and colleagues.

Small weight loss brings big health benefits for obese patients

Study shows that obese people who lost just 5% of their weight saw ‘profound benefits’ through better control of insulin in the liver, fat and muscle tissues

Even small reductions in bodyweight can have a profound impact on the health of obese people and their risk of future disease, researchers say.

A study of 40 obese men and women aged 32 to 56 found that losing just 5% of their weight led to substantial improvements in health through the better control of insulin in the liver, fat and muscle tissues.

The changes led to a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease, which along with cancer, rank among the most serious complications that people with obesity face.

Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University in St Louis, said that expert societies generally recommend obese people to lose 5 to 10% of their bodyweight if they want to improve their health.

Study: Air Pollution Heightens Risk of Obesity and Diabetes

The air in Beijing may cause metabolic dysfunction

Exposure to air pollution was shown to increase the risk of obesity and diabetes in rats, according to a new study.

Researchers from Duke University exposed lab rats either to Beijing air or filtered air for 19 days; at the end, the group that got the highly polluted Beijing air had higher bad cholesterol levels (50%), triglycerides (46%) and total cholesterol (97%), factors that can affect the risk of developing obesity and diabetes, United Press International reports. Male rats exposed to pollution ended the study 18% heavier than their filtered air counterparts, and female rats ended the study 10% heavier.

If the same metabolic dysfunction were confirmed to occur in humans, one of the study’s authors said in a press release, “these findings will support the urgent need to reduce air pollution, given the growing burden of obesity in today’s highly polluted world.”

Monday, February 22, 2016

Penn State Hershey Med receives $2.2 million to participate in obesity study

HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) – The Penn State College of Medicine has received $2.2 million in funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to participate in a new diabetes research network and study the effectiveness of obesity counseling.

Experts at Penn State Hershey Medical Center said obesity is the biggest health threat against the public right now. It’s also the second most preventable cause of death behind smoking. But his new study will hopefully change that.

“One of the saddest figures I’ve heard is that our youngest generation is expected to live shorter lives than their parents. All due to the obesity epidemic,” Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski, assistant professor of medicine and public health sciences, said.

Partner more influential than upbringing when it comes to obesity

A study suggests that the lifestyle shared with a partner in adulthood could have a greater influence on obesity than the habits instilled in childhood

The lifestyle a person shares with their partner has a greater influence on their chances of becoming obese than their upbringing, research suggests.
By middle age, the choices made by couples - including those linked to diet and exercise - will have a much greater impact than the lifestyle they shared with their siblings and parents when growing up, the study found.
The results suggest that people from families with a history of obesity can still reduce their risk by changing their habits.
Researchers said the study will help scientists better understand the links between obesity, genetics and lifestyle.

Rising obesity among young set to worsen diabetes rate in Singapore

Salma KhalikSenior Health Correspondent
Rising obesity in children and young adults will push up the rate of diabetes in Singapore - already among the highest in the developed world - going by recent studies.

Professor Chia Kee Seng, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said 34 per cent of people aged 24 to 35 this year can expect to be diabetic by the time they are 65, based on projections.

Overall, diabetes rates have risen, from 8.6 per cent of the adult population in 1992 to 11.3 per cent in 2010. This would have gone up to 12.9 per cent by last year, said epidemiologists at the school under the National University of Singapore. They study the patterns, causes and effects of health and disease conditions in the population.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Feds Spent $3.5 Million on Anti-Obesity Hip-Hop Songs

A joint project by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health spent over $3.5 million to create anti-obesity hip-hop songs like the instant classic, “Bake Don’t Fry.”

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have been working on the program for more than a decade, which uses music to try to get obese preschoolers to lose weight.

“Hip-Hop to Health Jr. is an evidence-based healthy eating and exercise curriculum developed for children ages 3-7 years,” according to the project’s website.

St George’s Hospital: Doctors take to treadmill to keep ailments, obesity away

The sudden burst of willingness to stay fit is not a coincidence. An internal pilot study to measure hospital staffers’ health parameters has sent every employee into a state of alarm.

St George’s Hospital’s medical superintendent Dr J Bhavani gets up from his chair and spreads both his arms, “Have I not lost weight?” he turns around.
He claims he has lost at least 16 kg in the last two months after daily exercise. Down the corridor from his office, in the operation theatre, plastic surgeon Chandrakant Gharwade has adopted a balanced diet. He has reduced from 99 kg to 85 kg in two months. But it is not just the two of them.
The sudden burst of willingness to stay fit is not a coincidence. An internal pilot study to measure hospital staffers’ health parameters has sent every employee into a state of alarm. Even nurses and class IV staff are following health tips given to them daily by doctors.
The first ever study carried out on hospital’s 300 doctors, nurses and clerks measured two parameters, the Body Mass Index (BMI) and abdominal circumference. A significant 44.6 per cent were found in obese category of which 12.6 per cent were severely obese. Doctors admit they knew their BMI was on higher side but were alarmed only after the study results came.

How Obesity May Impair Memory

Researchers uncover a molecular link between obesity and memory deficits in mice—as well as a potential treatment

It’s no secret that obesity, which plagues more than 600 million people worldwide—more than one in three adults in the U.S. alone—leads to serious health problems: cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even several types of cancer. But obesity has also been established as a risk factor for cognitive decline, particularly in middle-aged and older people.
What’s not as well understood is this link’s underlying molecular mechanism—and that’s exactly what a group of researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham sought to decipher in a four-part experiment on mice published last month in The Journal of Neuroscience.
First, the researchers studied behavior in healthy and obese mice during memory tasks involving object recognition and location. Much like previous research from other groups, the Alabama team found that compared with their healthy counterparts, the overweight mice performed poorly on a spatial memory task, which relies on the brain’s hippocampus.
Next, the researchers took a look at epigenetic differences in the hippocampi of healthy and obese mice—in other words, at whether environmental factors, in this case obesity, may have influenced the expression of genes in the hippocampus in either group of mice. Using a molecular purification technique to isolate for and analyze methylated DNA sequences (which are associated with gene suppression), the team confirmed that four genes associated with memory formation were not expressed as strongly in the obese mice—suggesting that their obesity had somehow influenced how cells “read” these genes. “One of the particularly exciting things is that this finding links two hot areas of neuroscience: epigenetic mechanisms and cognitive effects of obesity,” says David Sweatt, a neurobiologist at Alabama and study co-author.
One gene in particular, Sirtuin 1 (Sirt1), showed further epigenetic changes that were not observed in the other three genes. “This meant that Sirt1 could lie at the nexus of metabolic dysfunction and memory formation,” says lead author Frankie Heyward, a graduate student in Sweatt’s laboratory. “We were the first to explicitly implicate reduced Sirt1 and increased Sirt1 DNA methylation in the etiology of obesity-induced memory impairment.”

Thursday, February 11, 2016

BMI tells an incomplete story of obesity

Doctors use Body Mass Index - or BMI - to assess a person's level of body fat.

But new research from UCLA says this screening tool misclassifies a lot of people.

Some are told they're obese when they're actually healthy, based on other factors.

Others might be told they have a healthy weight, when they have underlying medical problems.

Southern California Public Radio's health reporter Rebecca Plevin has been looking into the hullabaloo surrounding the BMI.

She's here to explain why you might want to take your BMI with… a grain of salt.

Childhood ADHD may raise later obesity risk for women

(Reuters Health) - Young women who were diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in childhood are more likely to be obese than peers without an ADHD diagnosis, according to a U.S. study.

The results don't prove cause and effect, but some of the symptoms of ADHD, like impulsiveness and difficulty focusing might contribute to an inability to stick to healthy eating habits, even in adulthood, the researchers speculate.

“Several cross-sectional studies have suggested an association between childhood ADHD and obesity,” said study author Dr. Seema Kumar, a pediatrician and researcher at Mayo Clinic Children's Research Center in Rochester, Minnesota.

She and her colleagues analyzed data on 336 adults with childhood diagnoses of ADHD and 665 similar people without an ADHD diagnosis. All were born between 1976 and 1982 and their medical records included their heights, weights and medication regimens between 1976 and 2010.

Is Rover getting porky? Plymouth vets report obesity crisis among spolit and greedy city pets

CITY vets see up to a dozen obese pets each week– some of which have to be put to sleep.

Animal charity PDSA has warned of a continuing obesity crisis amongst pets.

They say it is caused by a diet of snacks, takeaways and even booze.

Rosehill Veterinary Clinic, in Molesworth Road, diagnose an animal as obese every two days, but check weights daily.

At-risk dog breeds recovering - but many still under pressure, says The Kennel Club
Dog poo weighing 50kg dumped in Devon
Dogs or cats? Herald writers have their say on the ultimate debate
Could you rehome Devon's most unwanted dog?
Dog poo police to go on patrol in Devon - and they can fine you on the spot
Dog saved from 'death sentence' but banned from lavish weddings
Dad accuses foul Plymouth dog walkers of causing a stink by failing to pick up their pets' poo
Five other Plymouth dogs that stole our hearts
Barney found! Dog is located after fleeing scene of tragic accident

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Decoding obesity: The lifestyle disease

you thought obesity is a mere lifestyle disorder, think again. The fact that there is a billion dollar industry thriving globally to prevent excessive weight-gain and obesity, says a lot, does it not? A few years ago, obesity was officially recognised and classified as a multifactorial disease, for the first time. It is not a disease to be taken lightly, rather, it needs to be managed medically with appropriate treatment and expert supervision. One needs to keep in mind that merely losing weight and actually managing obesity are two completely different things altogether.
We spoke to obesity surgeon Dr Sanjay Borude, endocrinologist and obesity consultant Dr Deepak Chaturvedi and bariatric, metabolic surgeon Dr Ramen Goel, for busting myths about this lifestyle disease...

Is BARLEY the latest superfood? Grain reduces appetite and blood sugar levels - 'helping prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease'

Barley found to rapidly improve people's health - in just three days
Reduced blood sugar levels and in turn, the risk of diabetes, experts say
Cereal also reduces a person's appetite and risk of cardiovascular disease
Special mix of dietary fibers stimulates growth of 'good' bacteria in the gut, which regulates metabolism and appetite
Fibers also promote the release of vital hormones, that reduces low-grade inflammation protecting against diabetes and heart disease
Add barley kernels to salads, soups, stews and as replacement for rice

Barley could be the key to losing weight and warding off heart disease and diabetes, experts have revealed.
The grain has been found to rapidly improve people's health, by reducing blood sugar levels and, in turn, the risk of diabetes.
Scientists at Lund University in Sweden said the secret lies in the special mix of dietary fibers found in barley.
Furthermore, the cereal, they said, helps to reduce a person's appetite and their risk of cardiovascular disease.

Making a move on obesity

The recent report by The Today Public Policy Institute entitled ‘The environmental dimension of Malta’s ill-health and action to prevent obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and dementia’ under lead author George Debono, is a well-researched magnum opus, scrupulously backed up by hundreds of references to peer-reviewed studies.
The think-tank report includes six technical supplements which have been distributed to all Malta’s doctors through the good offices of the Medical Association of Malta. These cover detailed proposals on: physical exercise and health; obesity and type 2 diabetes; heart and blood vessels; mental well-being; diet, food and drink; and health aspects of transport and the urban environment.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Obesity: Government strategy to combat Britain's weight crisis 'a mistake', says former obesity tsar

David Cameron’s former obesity tsar has slammed the Government’s forthcoming strategy to tackle Britain’s weight crisis as a “mistake”.

Dr Susan Jebb told The Independent on Sunday that the Department of Health is wrong to focus only on children to address the problem that two-thirds of adults are overweight. She believes improving the attitude of parents to weight loss is the best way to help children who eat too much and do not take enough exercise, given that parents have the biggest influence on their behaviour.

But the Government is mostly focusing on schoolchildren through its “Children’s Obesity Strategy”, which is expected to be published later this month. Ministers are currently debating the final details of the strategy, and there are understood to be some disagreements between departments over what should be included.

It is thought that health ministers are considering ideas to give local authorities powers to deny the opening of calorific fast-food restaurants and creating a watchdog to make sure the food and drink industry meets promises to reduce portion sizes and the amount of sugar in cans of pop. Industry sources suggested the much-vaunted sugar tax,

Vacation Weight Gain Can Lead to 'Creeping Obesity,' Study Finds

SUNDAY, Feb. 7, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Along with souvenirs, there's a good chance you'll return from your vacation with some extra weight, new research suggests.

The study looked at 122 American adults, aged 18 to 65, who went on vacations ranging from one to three weeks between March and August.

Sixty-one percent gained weight while on vacation, with an average gain of 0.7 pounds, and that weight tended to stay on after they returned home. Some gained as much as 7 pounds, while others lost weight, the investigators found.

One of the main contributors to vacation weight gain was increased intake of calories, especially from alcohol. The average number of drinks went from eight a week before vacation to 16 a week while on vacation, the researchers said.

The findings are alarming, according to study author Jamie Cooper, an associate professor in the department of foods and nutrition at the University of Georgia.

Childhood obesity is a national emergency, says Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, has described the rise in childhood obesity as a “national emergency” and promised a “gamechanging” response from the government.

In an interview on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, he said the government would introduce either a sugar tax or something “equally robust” when it publishes its childhood obesity strategy.

Hunt was speaking after the chef Jamie Oliver told the same programme that he and fellow campaigners would “get more ninja” and “less nice” if the government refused to introduce a sugar tax, of which he is a longstanding supporter.

Until relatively recently David Cameron was firmly opposed to imposing a tax on sugary drinks, with the government instead focusing on trying to persuade the food and drinks industry to reduce sugar content voluntarily. Shortly after the general election George Freeman, a health minister, was reprimanded by No 10 after he publicly suggested a sugar tax might be justified.

But last month Cameron indicated he had had a change of heart. Although still reluctant in principle to impose new taxes, he suggested he was now considering introducing a sugar tax because the obesity crisis was so serious.

Hunt told Marr: “We have got to do something about this. I’ve got a one-year-old daughter, and by the time she reaches adulthood a third of the population will be clinically obese. One in 10 will have type 2 diabetes. It is a national emergency.”

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bear belly might hold clues to obesity in humans

(HealthDay News) -- Changes in their gut microbes help bears prepare for hibernation, according to laboratory research that may hold clues for combating obesity in people.

As they prepare to hunker down for the winter, bears eat as much as possible, to boost their body fat. Despite the rapid weight gain, they don't suffer the health problems associated with obesity in people, Swedish researchers noted.

The team analyzed fecal samples from wild brown bears and found seasonal changes in gut microbe populations. In the summer, the gut microbe population is more diverse and takes in more energy from food.

In winter, during hibernation, the gut microbe population is less diverse, according to the study published Feb 4 in the journal Cell Reports.

The researchers transferred the gut microbes from the bears into mice. Those that received the bears' summer gut microbes put on more fat and weight than those that received the bears' winter gut microbes.

Despite putting on more fat and weight, the mice that received the bears' summer gut microbes had either no change or even a slight improvement in their sugar (glucose) metabolism, compared to those who received the bears' winter gut microbes, the study found.

Potentially, the findings could point to new ways to manage obesity in people, said study leader Fredrik Backhed, of the University of Gothenburg.

Nagging adults about their weight won’t solve the obesity crisis – teaching children about nutrition might

It will take a decade to change attitudes to food, and cooking has to be a central part of the school day, with compulsory school meals that pupils help to prepare

The NHS is going bust and hospitals, facing a £2.2bn overspend this year, have been told they have no option but to balance their books. Radical cuts will be implemented, and staffing levels will suffer.

The people who will notice the difference in service will be the patients – the people who pay for the NHS in the first place. Experts agree that the NHS is “full of waste”; this week a report reckoned that £1bn could be saved annually by releasing patients who are fit earlier, freeing up to 5,500 beds a day. This proposal is like shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic: bed-blockers have got to go somewhere – residential or outpatient care or rehabilitation, or supported care in their own homes – and who is going to pay for that? Home-care visits are already so short that there’s no time for more than a wash and a wipe, and no chat.

One way of saving money would be to disband pointless quangos like the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which regularly comes up with inane suggestions about how to improve the nation’s health. It would like GPs to get paid for encouraging patients with a body mass index (BMI) in the obese range to attend Weight Watchers and be offered advice about a healthier lifestyle. This morbid obsession with targeting the nation’s fatties is doomed. Being large does not necessarily mean you are unfit.

Obesity continues to threaten young children

A recent report by the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) draws attention to the alarming rise of childhood obesity and the serious threat it poses to the health of children under the age of five years old.

Weekend Breakfast's Sam Cowen and Africa Melane spoke to Dr Anniza de Villiers, who specialises in obesity in children at the Medical Research Council.

There are 42 million children in the world that are obese, not just overweight. And that in the African region alone it's about 49 million children.

Medical Research Council
I think it's not just what parents do wrong. I think parents aren't the only guilty ones. It's advertising, it's parents, it's what happens even before the pregnancy, it's breastfeeding, it's physical activities at school. It's a multi-layered problem. It's difficult for parents because they have to raise their children in obesogenic environment.

Friday, February 5, 2016

BMI mislabels 54 million Americans as 'overweight' or 'obese,' study says

Good news for some in the high-BMI crowd: A new study from UCLA finds that some 54 million Americans who are labeled as obese or overweight according to their body mass index are, when you take a closer look, actually healthy.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Obesity, reveal that employers could potentially saddle people with unfairly high health insurance costs based on a deeply flawed measure of actual health.

“This should be a final nail in the coffin for BMI,” said lead author A. Janet Tomiyama, a psychologist at UCLA.

Obesity associated with ADHD in females

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has been linked to obesity development in females, according to recent research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The incidence of childhood and adult obesity has risen dramatically over the past 30 years, and there is evidence of a link with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Research has previously suggested an overlap between ADHD and obesity due to underlying behavioral, neurobiological and genetic mechanisms.

Behavioral factors could involve the impulsivity and inattention characteristic of ADHD leading to irregular eating patterns. Genetic and neurobiological dysfunctions could imply a role for dopamine-related systems or brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF).

An earlier study proposed that shared etiologic pathways might lead to the development of both obesity and ADHD. A possible interaction could involve overnutrition contributing to ADHD and cognitive hyperstimulation contributing to obesity.

Obesity Impact on Generational Cancer Risk 'Needs Study'

More research is needed to unravel the complex relationship between obesity and cancer risk, including the transmission of cancer risk across generations via maternal obesity, argue two experts in a review of the current scientific evidence.

Kelle H Moley, MD, and Graham A Colditz, MD, DrPH, both of Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri, write that, given the high levels of obesity among women of reproductive age, research efforts should focus on associated cancer risks both in their offspring and later in their lives.

"The current evidence indicates that with the exception of childhood and adolescent adiposity reducing breast cancer risk, obesity generally increases cancer risk," they say in the article, published in Science Translational Medicine on January 27.

Drs Moley and Colditz add: "Disentangling the timing of exposure to excess adiposity in relation to transmission of cancer risk across generations is a difficult task, and thus this topic remains insufficiently studied."

"However, this issue is important for future generations, as the global increase in obesity results in more pregnancies and deliveries among overweight and obese mothers."

Thursday, February 4, 2016

San Marcos restaurants take on childhood obesity

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — The fight to end childhood obesity in our country is far from over, and one Central Texas city in particular has been losing the battle.

Researchers at Texas State University say children in San Marcos have higher rates of being overweight or obese than the rest of the state and nation.

“I think it’s probably the most important health issue in our nation,” said Sylvia Crixell, Professor of Nutrition at Texas State. “It starts with pregnancy or the health of the mom, but children have from the time of birth, the option of living a healthy life or not.”

'Imitation' food labels could solve obesity epidemic: expert

Introducing the word 'imitation' to the labels of highly processed food products could be the answer to solving the obesity epidemic, according to an American economist.

Australia's obesity rate is larger than ever, with more than 63 per cent of adults and a quarter of Australian children now overweight or obese, despite consumers having access to highly detailed food labels on packaged food.

Economist Dr Trent Smith, from the University of Otago, is currently in Canberra for the Annual Conference of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.

Dr Smith has studied the history of food labelling and behavioural psychology in food choices.

He said it should be the responsibility of governments to ensure companies label their food clearly, so consumers can make simple choices.

"Trans fats are a very good example of a success story," Dr Smith said.

Trans fats were introduced to the food supply in 1913, by the American company Crisco.

The shape of the future: Is obesity a crisis or just the latest stage of evolution?

As early as April, a new obesity treatment could be approved in the U.S. (and soon after in Canada) that allows users to “aspirate,” or drain, 30 per cent of the food they eat from their stomachs, before their bodies can absorb the calories.

The procedure involves implanting a skinny tube into the upper part of the stomach and connecting it to a loonie-sized port on the outside of the abdomen. After meals, a small device is attached to the port’s valve, the valve is rotated open and some of the gut’s contents can be emptied into a toilet.

The device’s makers claim it’s a low-risk, minimally invasive and totally reversible way to lose weight, although it sounds suspiciously like engineered bulimia. But then, our hunger for something – anything – to make us thinner knows no bounds.

On any given day, 10 million Canadians are on a diet. We’re wading through the tens of thousands of books on Amazon with “weight loss” in the title, and tuning into reality shows like A&E’s new Fit to Fat to Fit, where personal trainers gain globs of weight so they can lose it with their clients.

Yet despite a US$60-billion diet industry and increasingly urgent messages about the health problems linked to excess weight — diabetes, coronary artery disease, the list goes on — the world grows fatter. The prevalence of obesity has more than doubled since 1980, and is rapidly advancing in the oddest of places — China, India and North Africa.

In Canada, 14.2 million adults said they were overweight in 2014. One in four, or about six million, were obese. By some estimates, by 2019, half the provinces will have more overweight adults than those of normal weight.

Our collective overeating has become such a health risk, Statistics Canada recently warned it threatens to undo life expectancy gains from medical advances and decent drinking water.

But, as the race to find a “cure” for obesity intensifies, emerging research is challenging the panic over our growing girth. It suggests excess fat may not be putting most of us in mortal danger and proposes a provocative theory for our struggle to lose weight and keep it off: some kind of evolutionary shift in body shape is underway, a change perhaps in average height or the size of our brains, that will leave softer, doughier generations looking back at our hand-wringing and wondering what all the fuss was about.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Childhood obesity 'could spiral out of control'

Cape Town - Big retailers which display sweets and chocolates in their check-out aisles and at tills may have to do away with these items or swop them for more healthier options as the government cracks down on childhood obesity.

Joe Maila, spokesperson for Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, said the department was also having discussions with various government departments, including the Department of Education, to discourage schools from selling unhealthy foods in their tuck shops or advertising these foods on billboards.

“We are so concerned about levels of obesity that if we don’t act now things might spiral out of control.

“In fact, we are not only concerned with obesity, but its end results, which add on the incidence of other non-communicable disease.

“Our children are often the victims of these enticing marketing strategies, and we want to end that,” he said.

Maila was responding to the latest report by the World Health Organisation, which raised the alarm about the rise in childhood obesity.

This week the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (Echo) described obesity in children as an “exploding nightmare”, particularly in the developing world.

The commission, which has been assessing obesity levels over the past two years in more than 100 WHO member states, found that the number of children under five years who are overweight or obese had risen to 41 million, from 31 million in 1990.

Obesity, diabetes during pregnancy linked to autism

Mothers-to-be who are both obese and diabetic have a higher risk of giving birth to a child with autism than healthy women, a new study suggests.

The two conditions in combination nearly quadrupled the risk that a child would receive an autism diagnosis, said researchers who looked at more than 2,700 mother-child pairs.

Individually, maternal obesity or diabetes was linked to twice the odds of giving birth to a child with autism compared to mothers of normal weight without diabetes, the study found.

"The finding is not a total surprise," said study author Dr. Xiaobin Wang, director of the Center on Early Life Origins of Disease at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "Many studies have shown that maternal obesity and diabetes have an adverse impact on developing fetuses and their long-term metabolic health."

"Now we have further evidence that maternal obesity and diabetes also impact the long-term neural development of their children," added Wang.

Will scientists soon be able to switch OFF your obesity gene?

Exciting new research has revealed why obesity is triggered in some children, but not others - findings that could prove important for the current obesity crisis.

The study found a ‘switch-like mechanism’ that causes some individuals with identical genetic material - such as twins - to be lean or obese.

Much like a light-switch there are only two outcomes - on and off.

The team had previously observed that large numbers of twin mice displayed significant variations in bodyweight, despite being genetically identical.

The researchers were therefore keen to explore the mechanisms that make identical twins come out not so identical, and how these mechanisms contribute to disease.

Senior author J. Andrew Pospisilik, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics said: “If twins can come out substantially different from one another, it means that each of us could have come out differently than how we did."

More specifically, the researchers wanted to figure out if the genes associated with obesity risk could be altered.

They did this by testing twin mice with the same obesity gene (Trim28) mutation. When Trim28 mutates it can either trigger an obese or lean outcome.

They did this by testing twin mice with the same obesity gene (Trim28) mutation. When Trim28 mutates it can either trigger an obese or lean outcome.The team were able to turn genes on and off in a process called ‘polyphenism’ in order to see which would affect obesity.

The mice deficient in Trim-28 had strikingly different body masses to their twin with the Trim28 gene.

A Trim-28 deficiency impacted other genes that altered growth and body weight.

To further their study, the researchers looked at fat tissue from 22 lean and 18 obese children and the results were intriguing.