Category Archives: health awareness

Recipe: Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal Muffins

oatmeal-287760Celiac disorder, like any other diseases that require dietary restrictions, can be challenging. However, this does not mean that people stricken with celiac disease are compelled to eat bland foods because of their sensitivity to gluten. FoodFacts.com is happy to dispel that perception and share this easy-to-make, healthy AND delicious gluten-free banana bread baked oatmeal muffins!

Time: 15 minutes

Serving: 12

Ingredients

  • 3 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 2 over-ripe medium-sized bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • Hershey’s Simply 5 Syrup, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In one bowl, mix all the dry ingredients.
  3. In another bowl, mix all the wet ingredients.
  4. Add dry to wet and mix only until combined.
  5. Fold in the raisins.
  6. Spoon batter into lined or greased standard-sized muffin pans and silicone liners.
  7. Bake for about 11-14 minutes.
  8. Let muffins cool before drizzling Hershey’s Simply 5 Syrup, if using.

Note: Be sure to store muffin in an airtight container.

Tip: Turn this recipe vegan by replacing the eggs with flaxseed eggs and forgoing the Hershey’s syrup.

Facts about celiac disease

wheat-809444Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the digestive process of the small intestine. It affects about one percent of the population of the United States, occurring more often in women than in men. People with celiac disease have sensitivity to gluten, a type of protein found in grains such as rye and barley. Ingestion of gluten triggers an abnormal immune system response, which damages the small intestines and prevents absorption of necessary nutrients such as iron, folic acid, vitamin D and calcium.

The media does extensive coverage on celiac disease, especially in May as it is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. So much so that it has propelled the gluten-free foods trend, which somewhat deviated the focus from the disease itself. In fact, over a quarter of adults in the United States find gluten-free living appealing. The truth is, a large majority of that number do not require a gluten-free diet and should not be in it.

Since it is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, FoodFacts.com aids the medical community and other proponents in educating people with these quick facts about the disease.

Genetic disorder

Celiac disease is not simply a food allergy and/or intolerance that can be countered by an antihistamine. It is a serious, lifelong, genetically-determined disease. If a blood relative is diagnosed with celiac disease, get yourself screened immediately.

Invisible illness

Celiac disease is considered an invisible illness because it is hard to diagnose. The average time for celiac to be diagnosed correctly is between 6 and 10 years. In many cases, celiac does not even manifest itself through the most common symptoms, leaving the sufferer unaware that the illness is already destroying the small intestine.

Common symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms of celiac disease are, but not limited to:

Other health problems

Because celiac disease is difficult to diagnose, it is often untreated. When left untreated, the disease may lead to a variety of other medical maladies such as infertility, miscarriage, osteoporosis, anemia and lymphoma.

Higher risk of pneumonia

As reported in a recent article, researchers found that people with celiac disease are more susceptible to pneumonia if they have never received the pneumococcal vaccine. Doctors, therefore, urge diagnosed celiac patients to get the vaccine.

If you think you have celiac disease, call your doctor immediately and discuss a health management plan before switching to a gluten-free diet.

The all my foodfacts app can help you manage celiac disease. By selecting the types of food that you want to avoid, all my foodfacts will show you which products contain them. In this case, when you add “gluten” to your avoid list and run a search on grains, the app includes the products that contain grains which celiac patients are sensitive to in the results and indicates that you should avoid them.

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Find out if the products you are using are really gluten-free with the all my foodfacts app. Get it on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon!

The organic food movement

MarketSuperstore Whole Foods may have had to answer to some controversies in the recent years, but their multi-billion increase in sales in the second quarter indicates that the company continues to thrive. As a matter of fact, Whole Foods is slated to open more stores in 2016, and to introduce 365 by Whole Foods. The 365 by Whole Foods brand will cater to the same market, but will sell most organic products at cheaper prices.

Foodfacts.com is pleased to say that the success of Whole Foods is attributed to the growing mindfulness of the public on the importance and benefits of healthy eating. Rainbow-colored bagels and vibrant vodka+grenadine aquarium bowls may be popular in the United States (and on social media), but there is no denying that the country has also seen an undeniably significant surge in the demand for healthy food.

American consumers seem to have developed both a general awareness on nutrition as well as an appetite for organic food that cannot be sated. Proprietors have no choice but to give in to the demand. Last year, TechSci Research reported that over 20,000 food stores across the U.S., and 3 out of 4 grocery stores have sections specifically dedicated to organic products. That number is only expected to grow even more in the coming years.

Organic products are no longer limited to traditional sources. The market has ballooned up so drastically that there has spawned a number of start-ups in the sector. Despite the hurdles that small, new companies face when competing with large corporations like Whole Foods, high consumer demand has propelled them to success. One such success story is Los Angeles-based, online retailer, Thrive Market. The start-up sells specialty organic foods and beauty products. Within 17 months of its launch, it has already seen $10 million in sales. There are new organic products businesses that come up by the day, and venture capitalists and angel investors sure have their eyes set to seal deals to back them.

The food industry has always been an industry that is continuously evolving. Right now, there is an undisputable organic food movement in existence.

Feeding the hungry for Christmas … ‘Social Bite’ funds holiday food effort backed by George Clooney

socialbitesHere at FoodFacts.com, we spend a lot of time talking about our food supply. We’re proud of the work we do and the role we play in educating consumers about what’s really in their food. At the holidays, though, we are reminded that not every person in the world enjoys the luxury of HAVING food to understand. Hunger is a huge problem across the globe … in first-world countries, as well as third. We think this effort by Social Bite is a tremendous reminder — not to mention an incredible cause — of just that.  Our thoughts turn today to feeding the hungry for Christmas.

Scottish social enterprise Social Bite’s crowdfunded Christmas meal scheme has had a high-profile first backer in the form of Hollywood star George Clooney.

A video promoting the company’s Christmas appeal includes a clip of Clooney putting in the first fiver when he visited their Edinburgh premises in November this year.

In the clip actor and activist Clooney said: “I’m giving £5 to pay it forward at Social Bite. I hope you do too.”

The innovative scheme allows people to purchase hot drinks and meals for people who are homeless, and last year the Christmas dinner appeal was a runaway success. Social Bite had hoped to sell 800 dinners in order to provide meals on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. Collecting donations via Itison.com, they received money for 36,000 dinners, meaning meals could be available every single day of the year.

Social Bite, which has shops in Glasgow and Edinburgh, subsequently opened premises in Aberdeen and hired more staff, a quarter of whom were homeless themselves.

This year’s Christmas appeal is two-fold: as well as buying meals for the homeless in Scotland, people can also help refugees in Europe.

On Boxing Day the team will set off in a convoy of vans, heading for camps at Calais, Lesbos and the Croatia/Serbia border. They’ll distribute £5 food packs and warm clothing donated by outdoor clothing company Trespass.

“It’s about reaching out the hand of compassion, saying ‘We’re with you, not against you’ “, said Social Bite co-founder Josh Littlejohn. “We’re asking people to join us this Christmas – to help the homeless on their own doorstep, and help refugees further afield.”

Other drives to help refugees in Scotland include charity Positive Action in Housing’s appeal to collect donations for destitute asylum-seekers currently living in Scotland.

Donations can be made to fund PAIH’s crisis grant scheme, and a list of urgently-needed food and toiletry items is available at Postive Action in Housing, where people can also sign up to the ‘Room for Refugees’ scheme to offer a spare room to a destitute individual or family.

This holiday season while we’re preparing to gather around our tables with our families, let’s all spend some time remembering those for whom there will be no feast. Charities are a wonderful way to express our gratitude for what we are blessed to have. As we look ahead to the new year, we here at FoodFacts.com look forward to another year of educating our community and encouraging healthy lifestyles. Today, though, our thoughts — and our charity — are with the hungry.

Happy holidays!

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/3116/social-bite-homeless-christmas-food-scheme-backed-by-george-clooney

Coffee drinkers enjoy life more

coffee potWhile coffee lovers everywhere might look at that headline and heartily agree – there may just be more to it than you’d think. Sure, drinking coffee might perk you up so you can be more present during your daily activities and interactions. And health benefits like decreased stroke risk and Type 2 diabetes risk could help you enjoy life more. But according to a new study, coffee drinkers enjoy life more because their coffee drinking might allow them to enjoy more life. Multiple cups of joe every day may help boost longevity.

“In our study, we found people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had about a 15 percent lower [risk of premature] mortality compared to people who didn’t drink coffee,” says one of the study authors, nutrition researcher Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health. Decaf drinkers also saw benefits.
The findings, published in the journal Circulation, build on a body of evidence linking a coffee habit to potential health benefits.

Now, of course, it’s possible to overdo it with caffeine. Research has shown that consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine can interfere with sleep and create feelings of unease. And some of us are even more sensitive.

One study found that 200 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of about two cups of coffee) is an optimal amount to enhance cognitive function and mood among sleep-deprived people. But we don’t all metabolize caffeine the same way.

As we’ve reported, the caffeine amounts in coffee vary wildly. One analysis, conducted by Bruce Goldberger, found a 16-ounce cup of caffeinated coffee from Starbucks could contain anywhere from 250 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams of caffeine.

“Not everyone reacts to coffee in the same way,” says Andrew Maynard, who studies risk assessment at Arizona State University. He summarizes the benefits documented in this study as “small.”

He says this study does not prove cause and effect between drinking coffee and living longer. Rather, it points to an association. “There are a lot of unknowns as to what [may explain] the increase in life expectancy,” Maynard says.

Here’s a conversation from The Salt about the findings with study co-author Walter Willett, edited for length and clarity.

So, what do you think might explain this association? In the study, you point to compounds in coffee — such as lignans, quinides and magnesium — that may help reduce insulin resistance and inflammation. Prior studieshave pointed to these as well.

We’re not sure exactly how coffee is [linked] to all these benefits. The coffee bean itself is loaded with many different nutrients and phytochemicals. And my guess is that they’re working together to have some of these benefits.

We [see] similar benefits from caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. That’s important, because it suggests that caffeine is not responsible for [the benefit].

So this may be welcome news to people who drink decaf?

Yes, because too much [caffeinated] coffee can cause insomnia and loss of sleep, and that’s not a good thing!

The reduced risk of death was not seen among the coffee drinkers in your study who were smokers or former smokers.

Definitely. It’s extremely important to disentangle the effects of coffee from the effects of cigarette smoking.

So, what’s the take-home here? Is it that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle?

I think if people like coffee, it’s fine to include it [as part of your daily habit]. So, certainly, [people] should not feel guilty about moderate coffee consumption. It definitely can be part of a healthy lifestyle.
I wouldn’t suggest that someone who doesn’t like coffee go out and drink it.

Are you a coffee drinker? Are these findings likely to influence your own behaviors?

Well, I really like a good cup of coffee. But if I have more than two cups a day, I really don’t sleep as well. So, I’ve been switching more toward decaf or half decaf/half regular.

In this study, you also analyzed how coffee influenced the risk of specific diseases — or categories of diseases. What did you find?

We went beyond total mortality and looked at specific causes of death. And we found that people who drink moderate amounts of coffee have lower risk of [death] from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurologic disease [such as Parkinson's] and suicide.
Your findings come from data from two Nurses’ Health Studies, which included about 167,000 women. And it also looked at the 40,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
As you point out, the participants in these studies are about 95 percent white, largely middle-class and well-educated. Can you extrapolate to other populations?
Yes, I’m quite sure these findings would apply to other populations. This is a biological relationship. And we basically have a common biology.

FoodFacts.com is always happy to see more good news associated with our favorite hot beverage. And while it’s always important for all of us to understand how much is too much, it certainly appears that there’s a lot more going on in that cup than just the caffeine!

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/11/16/456191657/drink-to-your-health-study-links-daily-coffee-habit-to-longevity

Is the salmon on your dinner plate the same as the salmon you ordered for dinner? All about salmon fraud …

salmon-fraud-restaurants-600x380If you’re first response is, “Of course it is!” FoodFacts.com invites you to read further because this interesting study all about salmon fraud may really surprise you.

Would you be able to tell if the wild Alaskan sockeye salmon you ordered for dinner was swapped out for a less expensive piece of farm-raised salmon?

For the observant, the color difference between the two would likely be the first give away. (Sockeye has a deeper red-orange hue.) Or maybe you’d notice the disparity in the thickness of fillet. (Sockeye is flatter and less steaky in appearance.)

But what if you ordered the most coveted of salmon species — king salmon? (It’s also known as Chinook.) Much like farmed Atlantic salmon, its light in color, thick in texture and similarly marbled with fat. It’s also significantly more expensive. And according to a new report released Wednesday by conservation group Oceana, it’s a fish where you’re more likely to get duped — especially if you order it from a restaurant during the winter.

In its latest attempt to uncover seafood fraud, Oceana collected and tested 82 salmon samples from restaurants and grocery stores in Virginia, Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York between December 2013 and March 2014. Results showed that 43 percent of salmon samples tested were mislabeled, and that far more of that mislabeling is occurring in restaurants than in large supermarkets.

The instances of salmon fraud were significantly higher than during an earlier 2013 nationwide study by the same group. That study included far more — 384 samples, which showed salmon fraud at only 7 percent. But the jump isn’t being attributed to a sudden increase in unabandoned label swapping, rampant menu hijinks or differences in sample size. This survey was designed to measure fraud during the winter months, when salmon was not in season, and the marketplace would be shorter on supply, says Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist at Oceana who authored the new report.

“In D.C. in summer, I don’t think we had any salmon mislabeling. Same for Chicago,” says Warner.

To select samples for the newest study, Oceana searched online menus for restaurants touting “wild salmon” and sought out salmon labeled “wild” in grocery stores.

What the group found was that when wild salmon was out of season, the testing netted significantly different results. Diners were likely to get duped 67 percent of the time when ordering salmon in restaurants, compared with 20 percent of the time when buying in large grocery stores — which have to comply with country of origin labeling (COOL) regulations. And when diners were deceived, it was more likely to be an incident of farmed salmon being passed off as more expensive wild (69 percent of the time).

Erica Cline, an associate professor at the University of Washington Tacoma, conducted a similar study published in 2012. Initially, she also found higher rates of farmed salmon being swapped for wild during winter months. But her ongoing testing in the years since has found that fraud tends to fluctuate regardless of season. Like Oceana’s report, “we still see substantially higher rates of substitution in restaurants than in [grocery] stores,” Cline says.

Oceana says this kind of fraud is a real economic problem: Salmon-loving consumers aren’t always getting what they’re paying for, and responsible American salmon fishermen are being forced to compete with fraudulent products “receiving less cash than they should be for their hard-won catch,” according to the report.

And Warner says it’s an environmental problem for those consumers who go the extra mile to consult seafood sustainability ratings like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, which ranks seafood as “best choice,” “good alternative” or “avoid.”

Salmon fraud is a real concern for seafood consumers and as the winter months approach, it’s important for us to understand that we’re actually getting what we pay for. Let’s make sure that the salmon we’ve ordered at our favorite restaurant is the salmon that’s being served to us.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/28/452539969/that-salmon-on-the-menu-might-be-fraudulent-especially-in-winter

If you’re over 50, your calcium intake has very little effect on your bone density

cs-osteoporosis-boost-bone-health-722x406We’ve all heard for years that calcium is a significant contributor to our bone health as we age. So after the age of 50 we’re all fairly cognizant of how much calcium we’re getting and how we’re getting it – through supplementation and diet. FoodFacts.com wants us all to be aware of some recent research that calls into question how important calcium is to bone density as we age.  In fact according to recent studies, calcium has little effect on bone density.

Calcium, eaten in foods or taken as supplements, has little or no effect on bone density or the risk of fracture in people over 50, according to two large reviews of studies in BMJ.

One analysis reviewed 59 randomized controlled trials of the effect of dietary and supplemental calcium on bone density. Together, the trials included 13,790 men and women over 50. The data showed that more calcium in the diet or taken as supplements increased bone density about 1 percent to 2 percent — too little to have any effect on fractures.

The other review pooled the results of 55 studies of calcium intake and fractures and found no significant association of overall calcium intake with broken bones. Some studies of supplements showed a slightly reduced risk for vertebral fracture, but none for hip or forearm fractures. The four most rigorous, randomized controlled trials of calcium supplements included more than 45,000 participants and showed no association between supplements and the risk of fracture at any site.

“We found no evidence that calcium intake is associated with the risk for fracture,” said the senior author, Dr. Mark J. Bolland, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, “so if you have a normal diet, you don’t need to worry about your calcium intake.”

It’s certainly different information from what we’ve all been told in the past. It’s so important for all of us to keep abreast of the latest findings and how they may affect our dietary decisions. Our regular, every day diets may give us enough calcium to sustain our bone density. That’s great news for the over 50 crowd! We’ll continue to bring our community updates on this as well as other evolving health information.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/10/05/study-reviews-find-calcium-doesnt-improve-bone-density/?rref=health&module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Health&action=keypress&region=FixedRight&pgtype=Blogs

Toxic chemicals are damaging our health

151001100058_1_540x360We hear it all the time … the level of chemicals we’re exposed to can’t hurt us – it’s not high enough. The population used to be told that about BPA in plastics. Turns out that wasn’t true. The truth is that no one has really been able to tell us how pesticides, preservatives, dyes, and other toxic chemicals are damaging our health. FoodFacts.com thought everyone in our community could really benefit from this new information.

Dramatic increases in exposure to toxic chemicals in the last four decades are threatening human reproduction and health, according to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), the first global reproductive health organization to take a stand on human exposure to toxic chemicals.

The opinion was written by obstetrician-gynecologists and scientists from the major global, US, UK and Canadian reproductive health professional societies, the World Health Organization and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

FIGO, which represents obstetricians from 125 countries and territories, published the opinion in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics on Oct. 1, 2015, just prior to its Oct. 4 to 9, 2015, world congress in Vancouver, BC, where more than 7,000 clinicians and scientists will explore global trends in women’s health issues.

“We are drowning our world in untested and unsafe chemicals, and the price we are paying in terms of our reproductive health is of serious concern,” said Gian Carlo Di Renzo, MD, PhD, Honorary Secretary of FIGO and lead author of the FIGO opinion. According to Di Renzo, reproductive health professionals “witness first-hand the increasing numbers of health problems facing their patients, and preventing exposure to toxic chemicals can reduce this burden on women, children and families around the world.”

Miscarriage and still birth, impaired fetal growth, congenital malformations, impaired or reduced neurodevelopment and cognitive function, and an increase in cancer, attention problems, ADHD behaviors and hyperactivity are among the list of poor health outcomes linked to chemicals such as pesticides, air pollutants, plastics, solvents and more, according to the FIGO opinion.

“What FIGO is saying is that physicians need to do more than simply advise patients about the health risks of chemical exposure,” said Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD, a co-author of the FIGO opinion and past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which issued an opinion on chemicals and reproductive health in 2013. “We need to advocate for policies that will protect our patients and communities from the dangers of involuntary exposure to toxic chemicals.”

Chemical manufacturing is expected to grow fastest in developing countries in the next five years, according to FIGO. In the U.S. alone, more than 30,000 pounds of chemicals per person are manufactured or imported, and yet the vast majority of these chemicals have not been tested. Chemicals travel the globe via international trade agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which is being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. Environmental and health groups have criticized the proposed agreement for weakening controls and regulations designed to protect communities from toxic chemicals.

“Exposure to chemicals in the air, food and water supplies disproportionately affect poor people,” said Linda Giudice, MD, PhD, MSc, a FIGO opinion co-author, past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and chair of the UCSF department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences. “In developing countries, lower respiratory infections are more than twice as likely to be caused by chemical exposures than in developed countries.”

Exposure to toxic environmental chemicals is linked to millions of deaths and costs billions of dollars every year, according to the FIGO opinion, which cites the following examples:

• Nearly 4 million people die each year because of exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution as well as to lead.
• Pesticide poisonings of farmworkers in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to cost $66 billion between 2005-2020.
• Health care and other costs from exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in Europe are estimated to be at a minimum of 157 billion Euros a year.
• The cost of childhood diseases related to environmental toxins and pollutants in air, food, water, soil and in homes and neighborhoods was calculated to be $76.6 billion in 2008 in the United States.

“Given accumulating evidence of adverse health impacts related to toxic chemicals, including the potential for inter-generational harm, FIGO has wisely proposed a series of recommendations that health professionals can adopt to reduce the burden of unsafe chemicals on patients and communities,” said FIGO President Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, MBBS, who is also past president of the British Medical Association.

FIGO proposes that physicians, midwives, and other reproductive health professionals advocate for policies to prevent exposure to toxic environmental chemicals; work to ensure a healthy food system for all; make environmental health part of health care; and champion environmental justice.

Chemicals count. Our environment contributes to our health and well being and our environment carries toxins. Our food supply didn’t have to be chemically laden. Pesticides didn’t need to be uninvited guests in our body tissue. But they are. We’ve all got to advocate to eliminate the exposure to toxic chemicals in our environment and our food supply. It’s already affected us all far too much.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151001100058.htm

Can chili peppers kill cancer cells?

1441705070647After FoodFacts.com read about this new finding, we reflected on how it might alter how people describe the heat associated with chili peppers. “It was so hot it made my eyes water.” “It was so hot my ears turned red.” “It was so hot my mouth was on fire.” Someday we just might hear, “It’s hot enough to kill cancer cells.” What an amazing thing.

Capsaicin, the compound responsible for chilis’ heat, is used in creams sold to relieve pain, and recent research shows that in high doses, it kills prostate cancer cells. Now researchers are finding clues that help explain how the substance works. Their conclusions suggest that one day it could come in a new, therapeutic form. Their study appears in ACS’The Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

About 10 years ago, researchers reported that capsaicin can kill prostate cancer cells in mice while leaving healthy cells unharmed. But translating that dose to humans would require them to eat a huge number of chili peppers per day. Figuring out how capsaicin works could help researchers transform it into an effective drug in the form of an injection or pill.

Researchers have figured out that the molecule binds to a cell’s surface and affects the membrane, which surrounds and protects the cell. That finding prompted Ashok Kumar Mishra and Jitendriya Swain to try to gain a deeper understanding of capsaicin’s effects so it might be harnessed in the future for new medicines.

The scientists were able to detect how the compound interacts with cell membranes by monitoring its natural fluorescence. The study showed that capsaicin lodges in the membranes near the surface. Add enough of it, and the capsaicin essentially causes the membranes to come apart. With additional research, this insight could help lead to novel tools against cancer or other conditions.

It’s always exciting when research establishes links between natural foods and improving outcomes of disease. A natural approach that can be proven as effective will ultimately always be a better option than unnatural methods. Cancer treatment is exceptionally hard on the human body. More natural options would be welcome to the millions of people undergoing treatment. We look forward to hearing more about this fascinating development.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150909125003.htm

Obesity crisis may be bigger than we originally thought

shutterstock164062556We’ve been hearing that 30% of the population is overweight or obese for quite a while now. Thirty percent is a big enough number and certainly speaks to the prevalence of the condition of obesity. But today FoodFacts.com learned that it really may be much larger than that.

New estimates have revealed the extent of one of the biggest public health problems facing the US, as a research letter reports that more than two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese.

The authors of the research letter, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, are Dr. Graham A. Colditz and Lin Yang of the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO.

Their paper describes an analysis of the most recent data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES, 2007-12) to calculate the prevalence of overweight and obesity.

Researchers had conducted a similar study around 20 years ago, analyzing data taken from 1988-1994 to work out the chronic disease burden associated with body mass index (BMI). The findings of that study were used to inform clinical practice and prevention strategies.

“Compared with 1988-1994, the distribution of the population’s weight status has increased in the past 20 years,” write the authors of the new research letter. “The rising trends in overweight and obesity warrant timely attention from health policy and health care system decision makers.”

In the new analysis, overweight was defined as a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9. Obesity was defined as a BMI of 30.0 and above and was divided into three different classes. BMIs of 30.0-34.9 were defined as class 1, BMIs of 35.0-39.9 were class 2 and BMIs of 40 and above were class 3.

Data were obtained for 15,208 men and women aged 25 and above in a sample representative of over 188 million adults. The researchers estimated that around 36.3 million men (39.96%) and 28.9 million women (29.74%) were overweight, with around 31.8 million men (35.04%) and 35.9 million women (36.84%) obese.

These findings make alarming reading when considering that overweight and obesity are associated with numerous chronic health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. There is also a financial cost to the problem; the American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that obesity costs $190 billion each year in weight-related medical bills.

Such is the scale of the problem that a Gallup Poll conducted in November 2013 found that obesity was considered to be the third most urgent health problem facing the US, behind cost and access but ahead of cancer and heart diseases, the two leading causes of death in the country.

Dr. Donna H. Ryan – professor and associate executive director for clinical research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge – suggests a number of possible triggers for the obesity epidemic.

These suggestions include changes to sleep patterns, increased availability of food and more sedentary lifestyles fueled by the decreased physical demands of many jobs and increased “screen time” with the use of televisions, computers and smartphones.

“Population-based strategies helping to reduce modifiable risk factors such as physical environment interventions, enhancing primary care efforts to prevent and treat obesity, and altering societal norms of behavior are required,” state the authors.

Dr. Ryan believes that society must learn to treat obesity as a disease rather than a consequence of a lack of willpower, becoming more accepting of people with the condition:

“If you have not had a friend, family member or colleague who has struggled with their weight and particularly if you haven’t tried to lose weight yourself, then it’s easy for you to ascribe negative stereotypical traits to overweight and obese people. It’s a lot like alcohol and drug addiction. Our society is more accepting of these conditions as a disease and less so for obesity.”

Previously, Medical News Today reported on a study finding that stepping on the scales daily and tracking the results on a chart is an effective way of losing weight and keeping it off.

We’ve been referring to obesity as a disease medically. But we know that in the minds of the population it isn’t necessarily viewed as other diseases. Instead, as the article states, obesity is looked upon more as a lack of willpower — some sort of a character flaw. It involves shame and sometimes shunning. It’s time to rethink our views in order to arrive at solutions for this tremendous health crisis.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/295734.php