Category Archives: Obesity in America

Increasing waistlines signal bad news for the obesity crisis

waistlinesNews regarding the obesity crisis continues to be conflicting. Some reports would lead us to believe that if the obesity trend isn’t reversing, it may at least be stabilizing. So what’s actually going on? New information released last week isn’t as encouraging as some of the recent reports infer.

The prevalence of abdominal obesity and average waist circumference increased among U.S. adults from 1999 to 2012, according to a study in the September 17 issue of JAMA.

Waist circumference is a simple measure of total and intra-abdominal body fat. Although the prevalence of abdominal obesity has increased in the United States through 2008, its trend in recent years has not been known, according to background information in the article.

Earl S. Ford, M.D., M.P.H., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues used data from seven 2-year cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) starting with 1999-2000 and concluding with 2011-2012 to determine trends in average waist circumference and prevalence of abdominal obesity among adults in the United States. Abdominal obesity was defined as a waist circumference greater than 40.2 inches (102 cm) in men and greater than 34.6 inches (88 cm) in women.

Data from 32,816 men and nonpregnant women ages 20 years or older were analyzed. The overall age-adjusted average waist circumference increased progressively and significantly, from 37.6 inches in 1999-2000 to 38.8 inches in 2011-2012. Significant increases occurred in men (0.8 inch), women (1.5 inch), non-Hispanic whites (1.2 inch), non­Hispanic blacks (1.6 inch), and Mexican Americans (1.8 inch).

The overall age-adjusted prevalence of abdominal obesity increased significantly from 46.4 percent in 1999-2000 to 54.2 percent in 2011-2012. Significant increases were present in men (37.1 percent to 43.5 percent), women (55.4 percent to 64.7 percent), non-Hispanic whites (45.8 percent to 53.8 percent), non-Hispanic blacks (52.4 percent to 60.9 percent), and Mexican Americans (48.1 percent to 57.4 percent).

The authors write that previous analyses of data from NHANES show that the prevalence of obesity calculated from body mass index (BMI) did not change significantly from 2003-2004 to 2011-2012. “In contrast, our analyses using data from the same surveys indicate that the prevalence of abdominal obesity is still increasing. The reasons for increases in waist circumference in excess of what would be expected from changes in BMI remain speculative, but several factors, including sleep deprivation, endocrine disruptors, and certain medications, have been proposed as potential explanations.”

“Our results support the routine measurement of waist circumference in clinical care consistent with current recommendations as a key step in initiating the prevention, control, and management of obesity among patients.”

While body mass index statistics are pointing to a leveling out of the obesity statistics, abdominal obesity is still on the rise. FoodFacts.com takes this as bad news. Abdominal obesity is referred to as obesity for a reason. This is important information that speaks to the continuation of a crisis and begs from all of us a renewed commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140916162401.htm

New documentary is ‘Fed Up’ with the food industry and the fed

Fed Up DocumentaryWhat are your plans for May 9th? If your Friday night is free, you may want to check your local movie theater listings to see when you can catch a showing of the new documentary ‘Fed Up.’

In Super Size Me, Americans learned about the health risks of McDonald’s. In Food, Inc.,we saw the nutritional and environmental devastation brought on by industrial agriculture. Now, a new documentary promises to lay bare what Dr. David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, calls “one of the greatest public health epidemics of our time”: junk food and the obesity crisis.

Produced and narrated by none other than Katie Couric, one of the most mainstream voices in American media, Fed Up appears to be a broadside against the sugar industry. In the new trailer, even First Lady Michelle Obama’s exercise-first approach to childhood weight issues is subtly mocked. Commenters ranging from Bill Clinton and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, to Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman help build the argument that the obesity crisis was brought on by greedy junk food companies, permissive federal legislation and subsidies, and a government that tells us that systemic weight gain is all our fault.

The documentary looks at the decline in American health over the past 30 years, positing that the dietary guidelines first issued by the United States Department of Agriculture—and heavily influenced by the food industry—in the 1980s marked the beginning of the deterioration. In the ensuing years, Fed Up argues, government and industry have both contributed to creating the American diet that has led to skyrocketing rates in obesity and type 2 diabetes, among other health problems.

The “dirty little secret” of the food industry, the doc’s press kit reads, is that “only 30% of people suffering from diet-related diseases are actually obese; while 70% of us—even those of us who look thin and trim on the outside—are facing the same consequences, fighting the same medical battles as the obese among us.”

The combative approach, combined with Couric’s familiarity and talking heads such as Bill Clinton, has the film blog Indiewire asking, in a headline, “Will ‘Fed Up’ Be the Last Straw for the American Food Industry?”

“The tragedy, her film argues, is that the pervasiveness of the food industry and the misinformation it disseminates has stacked all the odds against them,” Indiewire’s Robert Cameron Fowler continues. “Personal responsibility and freedom of choice has always been Big Food’s counter to accusations of public endangerment, but if the American people has been so intricately misled, where is the personal freedom to make the right decision for one’s health?”

“The government is subsidizing the obesity epidemic,” Michael Pollan says in the trailer.

“Junk food companies are acting very much like tobacco companies did 30 years ago,” commented Mark Bittman, also in the trailer.

Seems to leave us with the question, “Are our food choices really our own?” While FoodFacts.com has certainly commented on many of the players in “Big Food,” and on the vague and hazy approval processes for food ingredients and nutritional recommendations coming out of the U.S. government, we do have to wonder how many consumers are familiar with these concepts. We hope that this new documentary can drive those messages to a much larger audience. The subject matter certainly deserves to be an important topic of conversation for the masses.

http://www.takepart.com/video/2014/04/15/fed-up-trailer?cmpid=tp-ptnr-100days

Childhood obesity: there’s more than a physical price to pay

Cost of Childhood ObesityWhile there has been some good news recently regarding the obesity crisis, there’s still a long way to go. With about one in every three children and teens in the U.S. either overweight or obese, there are many health concerns related to childhood obesity. This life-altering condition is a burden for the millions of children affected by it, both emotionally and physically.

Now, we’re learning more details about the financial burden as well.

For the first time, the costs of the condition, called “one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization, have been quantified by researchers. The findings are shocking: The epidemic has an estimated $19,000 price tag per child.

The cost analysis was led by researchers at the Duke Global Health Institute and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, who measured direct medical costs, such as doctors’ visits and medication. Additional costs, such as lost productivity due to obesity, were not included.

The figure becomes more frightening when the number of obese children in the U.S. is taken into account: Lifetime medical costs for 10-year-olds alone reach $14 billion.
With this new research, the incentive to reduce childhood obesity comes with economic benefits in addition to health, said Eric Andrew Finkelstein, the lead author of the study.
“These estimates provide the financial consequences of inaction and the potential medical savings from obesity prevention efforts that successfully reduce or delay obesity onset,” he said.

Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released numbers last year touting a surprising 43 percent drop in obesity rates among two- to five-year-olds in the last decade, they don’t take into account the bigger picture. Obesity rates still go up as children age. The condition is also associated with premature death later in life and remains a global epidemic.

FoodFacts.com tries to keep our community up to date with news and research regarding the obesity crisis. As we said, there’s still so much work to do. As our children’s caregivers, it’s up to us to begin healthy habits for them right from the start. Fresh, real foods and plenty of activity should help to set them up for a healthier life that doesn’t include the emotional, physical and financial problems connected with obesity.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/04/12/childhood-obesity-epidemic-costing-almost-20000-child

Finally, some good news in the midst of the obesity crisis

198561_10150136837518407_7743506_n.jpgThere are real efforts being made in the fight against obesity, but it’s still a global crisis affecting millions. While FoodFacts.com has devoted many blog posts to research findings and changes to government nutrition standards for our schools, the data has remained fairly negative. Today though, we can report on some significant data that may indicate a turning of the tides here in the U.S.

New federal data published Tuesday show a 43 percent drop in obesity rates among children ages 2 to 5 during the past decade, providing an encouraging sign in the fight against one of the country’s leading public health problems, officials said.
The finding comes from a government study considered a gold standard to measure public-health trends. Researchers found that just over 8 percent of children 2 to 5 were obese in 2011-2012, down from nearly 14 percent in 2003-2004. Although the drop was significant, federal health officials noted that obesity rates for the broader population remain unchanged, and for women older than 60, obesity rates rose about 21 percent during that period.

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, comes on the heels of data released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found that obesity rates among low-income preschoolers participating in federal nutrition programs declined broadly from 2008 to 2011 after rising for decades.

Cynthia Ogden, a CDC epidemiologist and lead author of the most recent study, said that the data offer good news in at least one age group.

“We see hope in young kids,” she said.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey tracks obesity data by measuring height and weight. The data are released every two years.

CDC officials said that last year’s data represented the largest and most comprehensive report of declining obesity rates in poor children. Nineteen states and U.S. territories had a lower percentage of obese children ages 2 to 4.

“We continue to see signs that, for some children in this country, the scales are tipping,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. Federal researchers have also seen encouraging signs from communities across the country with obesity-prevention programs, including Anchorage, Philadelphia, New York City and King County, Wash., he said.

“This confirms that at least for kids, we can turn the tide and begin to reverse the obesity epidemic,” Frieden said.

Researchers say that they don’t know the precise reasons behind the drop in obesity rates for children 2 to 5. But they noted that many child-care centers have started to improve nutrition and physical activity standards over the past few years. Ogden said that CDC data also show decreases in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among youth in recent years.

Another possible factor might be improvement in breastfeeding rates in the United States, which helps fight obesity.

In a statement, first lady Michelle Obama praised the progress in lowering obesity rates among young children and said that participation in her Let’s Move! program was encouraging healthier habits.

A child is considered obese if his or her body mass index, calculated using weight and height, is at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex, according to CDC growth charts.

The new information is certainly encouraging and the findings of declining consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages for young children is very good news! We’re hopeful that in future reports, we’ll be able to observe significant decreases in obesity for other age groups. Proposed changes to nutrition labels and the possible ban on trans fat in our food supply may prove to have positive effects for the entire population.

Good news about the obesity crisis … it’s a nice change!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/new-cdc-data-shows-43-percent-drop-in-obesity-rates-among-children-2-to-5/2014/02/25/b5b3a3fa-9e65-11e3-9ba6-800d1192d08b_story.html

School BMI screenings may not be perfect but they are a useful tool in the fight against childhood obesity

FoodFacts.com has been keeping an eye on the recent information in the news regarding parental responses to the in-school BMI screenings that are currently occurring in 21 different states (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia). Children are screened in school for their BMI and then parents whose kids are determined to be overweight or obese by their BMI measurement are sent letters with the specifics of those measurements. It certainly isn’t helping that the letters have been labeled “fat letters” by students and teachers.

Those opposing the practice are voicing a number of different concerns including bullying, self-esteem issues and eating disorders. It is felt that, especially for girls, this BMI-driven approach to combating obesity is sending the wrong message. Already bombarded by “perfect body” images in the media, young girls can now be told they are the wrong “number” and that could encourage a rise in eating disorders. There is a definite cultural attitude towards obesity that somehow associates the overweight with being less appealing and less likeable. Folks are reasonably concerned that a letter home regarding a child’s BMI can certainly be a cause for their child to experience bullying from other kids because they’ve been labeled “fat” by their school system.

But most concerning are the reports from outraged parents whose children aren’t overweight at all who are receiving these letters anyway. These children are typically athletes – kids whose muscle mass accounts for more of their weight than it would for non-athletes. In some cases, the children’s height was recorded incorrectly. And in some cases, it’s been a combination of the two. Bottom line, in these instances the BMI measurement wasn’t an accurate picture of the child’s health.

Recent data reveals that 31.9% of children and teens in the United States are overweight or obese. We can all agree that this percentage is far too high and that too many of our children are at risk for adult obesity. We can all agree that obese children are at greater risk for suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure and that the lifestyles of children can be drastically altered due to their weight. Doesn’t that sound like we need a way to measure and track those kids who are obese or at risk for being obese?

In 2005, the US Preventive Services Task Force found that BMI is the preferred measure for detecting overweight children. BMI measurements not only identify children at risk for adult obesity and weight-related problems, they can also be correlated with long-term outcomes.

The biggest criticism for identifying children at risk for obesity through BMI measurement is the misclassification of athletic children. Kids with a higher lean body mass may fall into higher BMI percentiles and therefore may be identified as overweight or even obese when they aren’t. This is true of the system – but it is only applicable to a relatively small population of kids. Proponents of the system, state that this is why BMI is used as a screening tool and not a diagnostic tool.

And while it isn’t difficult to see the association of BMI screenings and the subsequent letters sent home to parents and bullying, self-esteem issues and an increase in eating disorders, in the state of Arkansas studies have shown that the BMI screening system has not shown any negative consequences for those children involved. At the same time, those studies have found that since the screenings began more Arkansas parents have signed their children up for sports or exercise classes and that the quality of family diets has increased.

FoodFacts.com is well aware that there are a number of valid concerns being raised in relationship to in-school BMI screenings. On the other hand, we’re just as aware of the 31.9% of America’s children classified as obese who are at a higher risk of adult obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and other preventable medical problems. If BMI screenings can give us a more accurate picture of the health of our children, help encourage lifestyle changes for those that need them and help lower weight associated health risks as a result, perhaps we need to hang in there through this process. While obviously not perfect, BMI screenings appear to be able to help the population. Perhaps the processes will be improved over time so as to ease the concerns expressed by parents and caregivers. As we seek ways to reverse the obesity crisis and assure that our children live longer, healthier lives we are called on to embrace the changes that will help us achieve our goals.

http://pediatricsde.aap.org/pediatrics/september_2013?pg=15#pg20

More bad news about fructose

FoodFacts.com knows that most in our community understand that added sugars have been playing a key role in obesity and insulin resistance. We also understand that most grasp the concept that the majority of added sugars like fructose and sucrose are not getting into our diets from our own sugar bowls. Instead, they are coming to us in the vast variety of processed foods and beverages available in our grocery stores, retail food establishments and quick serve restaurants.

Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine have recently reported that the cause of obesity and insulin resistance may be tied to the fructose your body makes in addition to the fructose you eat. Numerous studies suggest that the risk from added sugars may be due to the fructose content.

But in the study published in the Sept. 10 edition of Nature Communications, the team led by researchers at the CU School of Medicine reports that fatty liver and insulin resistance may also result from fructose produced in the liver from non-fructose containing carbohydrates.

The study, whose first authors are Miguel Lanaspa, PhD, and Takuji Ishimoto, MD, reported that mice can convert glucose to fructose in the liver, and that this conversion was critical for driving the development of obesity and insulin resistance in mice fed glucose.

“Our data suggests that it is the fructose generated from glucose that is largely responsible for how carbohydrates cause fatty liver and insulin resistance,” said Lanaspa.
Richard Johnson, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the division of renal diseases and hypertension at the School of Medicine and senior author of the paper, said: “Our studies provide an understanding for why high glycemic foods may increase the risk for obesity and insulin resistance. While some of the weight gain is driven by the caloric content and the effects of stimulating insulin, the ability of high glycemic foods to cause insulin resistance and fatty liver is due in part to the conversion of glucose to fructose inside the body.

“Ironically, our study shows that much of the risk from ingesting high glycemic foods is actually due to the generation of fructose, which is a low glycemic sugar. These studies challenge the dogma that fructose is safe and that it is simply the high glycemic carbohydrates that need to be restricted.”

FoodFacts.com notes that we’re ingesting fructose on a fairly consistent basis due to the high levels of the sweetener in our food supply. In addition to that, our bodies are producing even more as glucose in converted to fructose. And that may very well be adding fuel to the already raging fire of the obesity epidemic.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910142341.htm

Severe obesity rising among American youth

FoodFacts.com makes every effort to keep our community up to date on the latest news regarding the obesity crisis. We’ve got a long road ahead of us as we, as a nation and a world, attempt to reverse a trend that’s making our population prone to preventable conditions and diseases. Sadly, the news we read today speaks to the idea that we aren’t where we need to be in order to realize the turn-around we so desperately need.

About 5 percent of U.S. children and teens are “severely obese,” and the numbers are rising, according to a new statement from the American Heart Association.

Although recent data suggesting that the rate of childhood obesity has started to level off, “a worrisome trend has emerged in the form of severe pediatric obesity,” the researchers wrote in their study published today (Sept. 9) in the journal Circulation.

“Severe obesity in young people has grave health consequences,” said study author Aaron Kelly, a researcher at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. “It’s a much more serious childhood disease than obesity.”

Severely obese children have higher rates of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues at younger ages, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and early signs of atherosclerosis – a disease that clogs the arteries.

Treating children and teens with of severe obesity is challenging, the researchers said. Many treatments that are commonly used with some success in overweight and obese children, such as lifestyle changes, are less effective in those with severe obesity.
The researchers recommended using a standard definition for severe obesity in youth; they define children over age 2 as severely obese if they have a body mass index (BMI) at least 20 percent higher than 95 percent of other children of the same age and gender. The researchers also said any child with a BMI of 35 or higher should be considered severely obese.

Based on this definition, a 7-year-old girl of average height weighing 75 pounds, or a 13-year-old boy of average height weighing 160 pounds, would be defined as severely obese.

Most experts recommend treating severely obese children first with the least intensive treatment options such as lifestyle changes, the researchers said. More intensive treatments such as medication and potentially surgery should be considered after other treatments have failed.

Increased funding will be needed for research into whether new medications and other treatments, including surgery, are safe and effective in treating children with severe obesity, the researchers said.

FoodFacts.com will continue to follow news and research regarding the obesity crisis. We know there will continue to be reasons for hope and encouragement as new research leads us to the kinds of treatment that will have a lasting and positive effect, finally reversing the existing trends of the growing crisis.

http://www.livescience.com/39509-severe-obesity-youth.html

New report shows U.S. obesity leveling off at an extremely high level

FoodFacts.com follows new information regarding the obesity crisis as closely as possible. We’re all aware of the problems that stem from U.S. obesity levels. The health of our population has suffered greatly, with increasing rates of heart disease and diabetes, just to name a few of the debilitating effects of this growing problem. Today we read new information we wanted to share with our community.

Obesity levels among adults appear to be holding steady across the United States, adding to recent evidence that the growth rate for U.S. waistlines is slowing, according to an analysis released on Friday. But within the holding pattern there is a dramatic rise in “extreme” obesity among adults and children.

The annual “F as in Fat” report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the proportion of adults who are extremely obese – at least 100 pounds (45.4 kilograms) overweight – has climbed over the last three decades from 1.4 percent in the late 1970s to 6.3 percent in 2009-2010.

That is about a 350 percent increase, researchers for the health nonprofit groups said. About 5 percent of children and teenagers are also now severely obese, they added. Rates of extreme obesity were nearly twice as high for women as for men, and were also particularly high for Hispanic boys and black girls.

“As long as we continue to see those increases in extreme obesity, I think we need to be worried,” Trust for America’s Health Executive Director Jeffrey Levi told Reuters.
Overall, the report found obesity rates stabilizing across the United States, though at historically high levels with nearly 36 percent of U.S. adults obese as of 2010. Only one state, Arkansas, had an increase in obesity levels.

“After decades of bad news, we’re finally seeing signs of progress,” researchers for the two health groups wrote in Friday’s report that said government efforts to encourage healthier diets and more exercise were paying off.

“I’m delighted but not surprised,” said Kelly Brownell, dean of Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. “The collective effect is having an impact and turning things around … We’ve managed the plateau, we may remain there. We will have to do more to achieve a downturn.”

The analysis, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underscored America’s continuing battle with weight.

Rates for those ages 45 to 64, the bulk of the so-called Baby Boomer generation, were a concern as their obesity rates were 30 percent or higher in 41 states. In Alabama and Louisiana, their rate reached 40 percent.

Increasingly heavy men also narrowed the obesity gender gap. “Ten years ago, the obesity rate for women was significantly higher than the rate for men,” 33.4 percent compared to 27.5 percent, researchers wrote. Now, their “rates are essentially the same” at nearly 36 percent, they said.

Health experts agreed with the report’s conclusion that various government programs making school lunches healthier, mandating calorie counts on menus, discouraging soda consumption, integrating physical activity into the daily life and other weight-conscious changes were adding up to widespread behavior changes.

The report recommended strengthening such programs. It said food and beverage companies should market only their healthiest products to children, the nation’s transportation plans should encourage walking and biking, and everyone should be able to buy healthy, affordable foods close to home.

While FoodFacts.com is encouraged that programs targeting the obesity crisis are beginning to show progress, we are still in the midst of that crisis. In addition to strengthening existing programs, we’ll all need to continue to spread the message of nutritional awareness throughout our own networks. Processed foods and beverages are unnecessary additions to American diets. Our best defense against obesity is our own ability to make healthy dietary choices.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/16/us-usa-obesity-idUSBRE97F0QI20130816