Category Archives: obesity

Healthy, overweight or obese? Surprisingly we can’t tell by looking

chris-christie-townhall_mediumWith all of the news surrounding obesity and the focus we all seem to put on weight, you would probably assume that you (and everyone else) is able to determine whether or not someone is a healthy weight simply by their visual image. Especially when it comes to obesity, this doesn’t seem like a difficult determination.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool say most of us — even healthcare professionals — are unable to visually identify whether a person is a healthy weight, overweight or obese.

The researchers asked participants to look at photographs of male models and categorize whether they were a healthy weight, overweight or obese according to World Health Organization (WHO) Body Mass Index (BMI) guidelines.

The majority flunked. They underestimated weight, often believing that overweight men were a healthy weight.

In a related study of healthcare professionals, the researchers also found that general practitioners and trainee GPs were unable to visually identify if a person was overweight or obese.

The researchers also examined whether increased exposure to overweight and obese people affected a person’s ability to estimate the weight of a person. Their findings suggested that exposure to heavier body weights may influence what people see as a normal and healthy weight and causes people to underestimate a person’s weight.

“We wanted to find out if people can identify a healthy, overweight or obese person just by looking at them,” said Dr. Eric Robinson, who conducted the research. Primarily we found that people were often very inaccurate and this included trainee doctors and qualified doctors too. Moreover, we found that participants systematically underestimated when a person was overweight or obese.”

“Our study of GPs also found a tendency to underestimate weight which has important implications as it means that overweight and obese patients could end up not being offered weight management support or advice,” he said.

Recent studies have found that parents underestimate their overweight or obese child’s weight and this could also act as a barrier to intervention.

FoodFacts.com wonders if the tendency to underestimate obesity by sight has something to do with people not having a clear understanding of their own weight. Of course there are weight ranges easily available that categorize healthy weights by gender, age and height. Those weight ranges do vary by source, however and may serve to confuse some. Those ranges also can’t take body type into account. While we understand that people shouldn’t be overly focused on weight for a number of good reasons, we do think that we should all have a reasonable understanding of where we stand on the healthy weight scale. Our doctors should also undoubtedly be able to guide us to what a healthy weight should be for each of us. If we can’t “see weight,” we do need that guidance. While we might be thinking it’s just “a few extra pounds,” the reality may, in fact, be quite a bit different. We owe it to ourselves to find out.

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/whos-fat-most-of-us-cant-recognize-obesity-111214.html

Nutritionally, it’s all about the first 1,000 days of life

the-importance-of-fiber-during-pregnancy-newFoodFacts.com has devoted a lot of blog space discussing the importance of children’s nutrition. We’ve certainly had plenty of good reasons for that — the obesity epidemic has affected our kids in a profound way, compromising their health and altering their young lifestyles. Much has been done in an effort to change and ultimately reverse the crisis. School lunches are under new regulations. First Lady Michelle Obama has done a wonderful job with her groundbreaking Let’s Move campaign. We’ve even seen some major manufacturers commit to ditching artificial food colors in products our children love.

But what if we started earlier in our children’s lives? What if healthy eating started, say, at conception, and lasted throughout the first 1,000 days of a child’s life?

That is what Lucy Martinez Sullivan hopes to drill into the national and international conversation with her organization, 1,000 Days. “I realized how little attention and how little money had been focused” on this stage in life, she said.

The most important time to pay attention to a child’s nutrition is from the time of conception until they are 2 years old. Good nutrition during this critical window can change their lives, leading to better growth of brain and body.

Certainly, some of the important focuses of 1,000 Days are conditions in poorer countries without great infrastructure. But the U.S. ranks among the top 10 worst-performing countries when it comes to several major factors of child and maternal health. We are a part of this as much as anywhere else.
Sullivan is on a campaign to get the message out to decision makers, world leaders, and perhaps most important, parents.

To try to help her expand the reach of her campaign, she partnered with a woman so many of us know, Heidi Murkoff — otherwise known as the writer of the “What to Expect” books.

“The lack of interest” in the earliest years of life “is just startling,” Murkoff said. “The whole focus is on elementary school kids. They’re already 9 years old.”

Did you know, according to the Journal of Obesity in 2012, that french fries are the most common “vegetable” among 12-15 month olds in North America? With 18.5 percent of them eating fries at least once a day? Or that by 19 to 24 months, 62 percent of toddlers had eaten a baked dessert, 20 percent consumed candy, and 44 percent had consumed a sweetened beverage, according to the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2013?

So while many countries that Sullivan deals with are in crisis mode because the children are undernourished, ours are poorly nourished. And that means their brains aren’t growing, they are in trouble physically, and it will be hard to dig out from under the damage already done.

So what now? As far as these two powerhouses are concerned, they will work together to try to engage the next generation of moms, policy makers and advocates to ensure a better start for babies worldwide.

Murkoff said she wants to see healthy food become more affordable and available. She wants to see more help to support breastfeeding for those who are able. “It’s a process that doesn’t come naturally,” she said. But many women want to, they just don’t know how. Or they are forced to return to work, many times to a place or shift work that doesn’t allow for pumping.

What does this mean for you and me? We need to change the way we all look at nutrition, childhood obesity and what causes a lack of good health — from the earliest days. That will help us prevent the worst diseases and health outcomes for the newest generation.

And, Murkoff noted, we have to “nurture the nurturer.”

That sentiment, Sullivan noted, will happen if we work to change policies, like a lack of paid maternity leave. How can we feed our children well, or even attempt to breastfeed them, if we have to return to work shortly after birth? How can we watch what goes into their little bodies if we can’t cobble together good childcare for those of us who do work? How can we feed them fresh fruits if we live in areas that have nothing but corner stores?

“The more we neglect populations…the more these families get locked into a cycle of bad health,” Sullivan said. “We need to set moms up to succeed.”

There’s so much critical information that’s revealed here. The research cited is fairly astounding. And it certainly points to the idea that we can do so much better for our children here in the U.S. We can remember when people were appalled when ketchup was considered a vegetable in school cafeterias and now we’re finding out that french fries are the most common “vegetable” for a substantial percentage of one-year-olds. It’s absolutely time to focus more energy on the nutritional quality of diets for the youngest among us. We’ll be doing so much for the health of future generations — and, in doing so, we’ll have a better opportunity reverse the obesity crisis once and for all.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/10/21/good-nutrition-during-the-first-1000-days-of-life-is-critically-important/

Fast food menus claiming less calories … sort of

fast food slimmingFoodFacts.com ran across some seemingly encouraging news today regarding calories and fast food menus. As we read further, though, we realized that there’s a bit of a “smoke and mirrors” component going on with these claims.

A comprehensive new report is revealing that fast-food chains have been cutting calories on their menus.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, menu items introduced by big chain restaurants—including McDonald’s, Chipotle, and IHOP—had, on average, 60 fewer calories than items released in 2012. That’s a 12 percent drop in calories.

The study looked at 19,000 menu items served in 66 of the 100 largest restaurant chains in the U.S. from 2012 to 2013. The biggest drops were in new main course offerings (67 calories), followed by new children’s (46 calories) and beverage (26 calories) items.

However, the overall mean calories didn’t budge. The burger chains aren’t cutting the calories of their signature burgers; they’re just adding healthier items, such as salads, to the menu. Time posits that the lower-calorie menu additions are popping up because restaurants with 20 or more locations in the U.S. have to list calorie counts on menus.

But according to the study’s lead author, Sara N. Bleich, 200 extra calories a day can contribute to obesity.

“You can’t prohibit people from eating fast food, but offering consumers lower calorie options at chain restaurants may help reduce caloric intake without asking the individual to change their behavior—a very difficult thing to do,” Bleich said in a statement.

“This voluntary action by large chain restaurants to offer lower calorie menu options may indicate a trend toward increased transparency of nutritional information, which could have a significant impact on obesity and the public’s health,” Bleich said.

On the other hand, FoodFacts.com just wants to put out there that these voluntary actions by large fast food chains may be more about seeking to change public perception than an attempt to increase nutritional transparency of menu items. Since there is no chain that’s actually reformulating their signature items in attempt to decrease calories, we do have to think this might be true. While it’s important for fast food restaurants to introduce lower calorie options, as long as their main offerings remain as they are, it’s somewhat misleading to say that menus are slimming down. It all depends on what the consumer chooses to eat, not on the concentrated efforts of chains to reduce calories in items across their menus.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/10/12/fast-food-menus-are-slimming-down–theres-catch

Obesity link in cancer

Cancer &-fatOctober is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so we want to spend time spotlighting new research illustrating possible nutritional links with cancer that can be of help to the FoodFacts.com community. Knowledge is power — especially when it comes to helping us avoid health conditions and disease. So let’s look at some new research that can make us more powerful in the fight against cancer.

You likely know that being overweight increases your risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. But did you know it also increases your risk for cancer?

If you didn’t, you’re not alone. While around 90% of Americans know that smoking is linked to higher rates of cancer, Dr. Clifford Hudis says, the inverse is true for obesity and cancer; less than 10% of us realize how fat is related to this chronic disease.

“Obesity is a major, under-recognized contributor to the nation’s cancer toll and is quickly overtaking tobacco as the leading preventable cause of cancer,” Hudis and his colleagues at the American Society of Clinical Oncology write in a new position paper.

In fact, as many as 84,000 cancer diagnoses each year are linked to obesity, according to the National Cancer Institute. Excess fat also affects how cancer treatments work and may increase a cancer patient’s risk of death, either from cancer or from other related causes.
The key word, Hudis says, is preventable. While we can’t change the fact that we’re all getting older (incidence rates for most cancers increase as patients age), we can change our weight through diet, exercise, sleep and stress management.

In 2003, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a study that included more than 900,000 American adults. Researchers followed the healthy study participants for 16 years, and found the heaviest participants were more likely to develop and die from cancer than participants who were at a healthy weight.

After their analysis, the study authors concluded that excess fat “could account for 14% of all deaths from cancer in men and 20% of those in women.”

Since then, research has simply strengthened the link between obesity and cancer. Studies have found a relationship between weight and the risk of as many as 12 cancers, says Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, including endometrial, colorectal, esophageal, kidney and pancreatic cancers.

A recent report published in the American Association for Cancer Research’s journal predicted the top cancer killers in the United States by 2030 will be lung, pancreas and liver — in part because of rising obesity rates.

“It’s not enough to say there’s an association between obesity and cancer. We need to know why,” Hudis says. “With the why, we can do something about it.”

Scientists are exploring several hypotheses on how excess fat increases a person’s risk for cancer. The answer may be slightly different for each type of cancer, but the encompassing explanation seems to be that obesity triggers changes in how the body operates, which can cause harmful cell growth and cell division.

Many of these changes may be linked to inflammation. In general, inflammation occurs when your body is reacting to something out of the norm — say a virus or a splinter in your foot. Obesity seems to cause chronic inflammation, which in turn may promote cancer development.

Take for example, Hudis says, hormone-sensitive breast cancers. Chemicals in the body meant to regulate inflammation also increase production of the hormone estrogen. And studies have shown excess estrogen can cause breast cancer tumors.

Fat tissue also produces hormones called adipokines, which can stimulate or inhibit cell growth, according to a fact sheet from the oncology society. If these hormones are out of balance, the body may not be able to properly fight cell damage.

Obesity can affect a cancer patient’s outcome from diagnosis to remission, Hudis says.
Obesity-related pain or unbalanced hormone levels may distract patients from the early warning signs of some cancers. Fatty tissue can also make it difficult for doctors to see tumors on imaging scans. And a late diagnosis often means a lower chance for survival.
The relationship between cancer and obesity also matters after diagnosis. Cancer treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, may be hindered by a patient’s size. If the patient needs surgery, studies show excess fat puts them at a higher risk of complications, infections and death.

A recent study of 80,000 breast cancer patients found that pre-menopausal women with a BMI over 30 had a 21.5% chance of dying, compared to women with an average BMI who had a 16.6% chance of death.

Remaining obese as a survivor can also increase your risk of developing what’s called a secondary cancer, the authors of this new position paper say.

In general, “people should be aware that overweight and obesity, as common as they are in our population, have serious consequences,” Hudis says. “Cancer is really just another one.”

Start reducing your risk now: Stay active. Eat nutritious foods that are low in calories. Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Manage your stress levels. All these behaviors will help you reach a healthy weight.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology is recommending more research be done on weight loss in the cancer survivor population to determine the best intervention method — and whether losing weight after a diagnosis improves patient outcomes. The results of these future studies could help persuade insurance providers to reimburse patients for weight management programs.

There’s so much great information here that gives us all significant reasons to continue our commitment to a healthy lifestyle. So many contributing risk factors for cancer are within our own control. We do have power here and can work to make the decisions that will ultimately improve our health and well being.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/01/health/obesity-cancer-asco/

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

Can you walk off the negative health effects associated with high-fructose corn syrup?

Pouring a glass of colaWe all know the details of the controversies surrounding high-fructose corn syrup. We all remember the “corn sugar” commercials that tried to convince us that “sugar is sugar.” And we know that just about everyone in the FoodFacts.com community remembers the angrily disputed research linking high-fructose corn syrup to obesity, diabetes and even cancer. There have been some attempts by manufacturers to remove it from a variety of products, but for the most part, high-fructose corn syrup is still a far too popular ingredient in far too many common products, including — and most especially soda.

We’re pretty comfortable with the idea that the consumption of high fructose corn syrup puts people at risk for developing a variety of health problems. But the risk drops substantially if those people get up and move around, even if they don’t formally exercise, two new studies found.

The problem with the sweetener is that, unlike sucrose, the formal name for common table sugar, fructose is metabolized primarily in the liver. There, much of the fructose is transformed into fatty acids, some of which remain in the liver, marbling that organ and contributing to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

The rest of the fatty acids migrate into the bloodstream, causing metabolic havoc. Past animal and human studies have linked the intake of even moderate amounts of fructose with dangerous gyrations in blood sugar levels, escalating insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, added fat around the middle, obesity, poor cholesterol profiles and other metabolic disruptions.

But Amy Bidwell, then a researcher at Syracuse University, noticed that few of these studies had examined interactions between physical activity and fructose. That was a critical omission, she thought, because movement and exercise change how the body utilizes fuels, including fructose.

Dr. Bidwell sought out healthy, college-aged men and women who would agree to drink soda in the pursuit of science. They were easy to find. She gathered 22.

The volunteers showed up at the university’s physiology lab for a series of baseline tests. The researchers assessed how their bodies responded to a fructose-rich meal, recording their blood sugar and insulin levels, and other measures of general and metabolic health, including cholesterol profiles and blood markers of bodily inflammation. The students also completed questionnaires about their normal diets and activity levels and subsequently wore an activity monitor for a week to gauge how much they generally moved.

Then half of the volunteers spent two weeks moving about half as much as they had before. The other 11 volunteers began moving around about twice as much as before, for a daily total of at least 12,000 steps a day, or about six miles.

After a rest period of a week, the groups switched, so that every volunteer had moved a lot and a little.

Throughout, they also consumed two fructose-rich servings of a lemon-lime soda, designed to provide 75 grams of fructose a day, which is about what an average American typically consumes. The sodas contained about 250 calories each, and the volunteers were asked to reduce their nonfructose calories by the same amount, to avoid weight gain.

After each two-week session, the volunteers returned to the lab for a repeat of the metabolic and health tests.

Their results diverged widely, depending on how much they’d moved. As one of two new studies based on the research, published in May in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, reports, after two weeks of fructose loading and relative inactivity, these young, healthy volunteers displayed a notable shift in their cholesterol and health profiles. There was a significant increase in their blood concentrations of dangerous very-low-density lipoproteins, and a soaring 116-percent increase in markers of bodily inflammation.

The second study, published this month in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, focused on blood-sugar responses to fructose and activity, and found equally striking changes among the young people when they didn’t move much. Two weeks of extra fructose left them with clear signs of incipient insulin resistance, which is typically the first step toward Type 2 diabetes.

But in both studies, walking at least 12,000 steps a day effectively wiped out all of the disagreeable changes wrought by the extra fructose. When the young people moved more, their cholesterol and blood sugar levels remained normal, even though they were consuming plenty of fructose every day.

The lesson from these studies is not that we should blithely down huge amounts of fructose and assume that a long walk will undo all harmful effects, said Dr. Bidwell, who is now an assistant professor of exercise science at the State University of New York in Oswego. “I don’t want people to consider these results as a license to eat badly,” she added.

But the data suggests that “if you are going to regularly consume fructose,” she said, “be sure to get up and move around.”

The study did not examine how activity ameliorates some of the worst impacts of fructose, but it’s likely, Dr. Bidwell said, that the “additional muscular contractions” involved in standing and taking 12,000 steps a day produce a cascade of physiological effects that alter how the body uses fructose.

Interestingly, the young people in the study did not increase the lengths of their normal workouts to achieve the requisite step totals, and most did not formally exercise at all, Dr. Bidwell said. They parked their cars further away from stores; took stairs instead of elevators; strolled the campus; and generally “sat less, moved more,” she said. “That’s a formula for good health, in any case,” she added, “but it appears to be key,” if you’re determined to have that soda.

FoodFacts.com still thinks that avoiding high fructose corn syrup AND soda is really what makes the most sense. What is striking here is that keeping our bodies moving can have such a tremendous effect on our health — and how that effect can be achieved with small efforts. Staying active can sometimes appear daunting — getting to a gym and exercising for a certain period of time each day can seem constricting and time consuming for some. But our bodies seem to appreciate increased activity in even the most basic of forms. Regardless of our dietary habits, it’s in our best interest to get moving and stay moving!

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/10/drink-soda-keep-walking/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

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

Great news for chocolate lovers — your favorite sweet may help prevent obesity and diabetes

iStock_000013818677Small.jpgEvery chocolate lover carries just a little guilt over indulging in their favorite sweet. As more and more research is released revealing the health benefits of moderate chocolate consumption, that guilt dissipates a bit. But the newest research may prove to be the most surprising of all, unexpectedly linking chocolate to the possible prevention of both obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In a mouse study, led by Andrew P. Neilson of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, researchers discovered that a certain antioxidant in cocoa – the main ingredient in chocolate – prevented mice from gaining weight and lowered their blood sugar levels.

This is not the only study to suggest that consuming chocolate can prevent such health conditions.

Earlier this year, a study claiming that chocolate, as well as wine and berries, protects against type 2 diabetes, while other research found that teens who eat lots of chocolate tend to be slimmer.

Such studies claim that the reason chocolate may have these health benefits is because of the flavanols it contains. These are types of antioxidants.

But the researchers of this most recent study say that not all flavanols are the same. In fact, cocoa has several different types.

In their study, published in the Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry, the investigators set out to determine exactly which flavanol may be responsible for preventing weight gain and lowering blood glucose levels.

For the research, the investigators assigned mice to one of six different diets for 12 weeks.

These consisted of high- and low-fat diets, and high-fat diets supplemented with either monomeric, oligomeric or polymeric procyandins (PCs) – types of flavanols. Mice were given 25 milligrams of these flavanols each day for every kilogram of their body weight (25 mg/kg).

The research team found that a high-fat diet supplemented with oligomeric PCs was the most effective for maintaining weight of the mice and improving glucose tolerance – a factor that could help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Commenting on the findings, the researchers say:

“Oligomeric PCs appear to possess the greatest antiobesity and antidiabetic bioactivities of the flavanols in cocoa, particularly at the low doses employed for the present study.  Additional studies of prolonged feeding of flavanol fractions in vivo are needed to further identify the fractions with the highest bioactivities and, therefore, the greatest potential for translation to human clinical applications at reasonable doses.”

The investigators point out that the doses of flavanols used in this study are significantly lower than doses used in past research and are more feasible when translated into flavanol levels for human consumption.

“Therefore, our data suggest that moderate doses of cocoa flavanols or cocoa powder have the potential to be more effective in human clinical trials than previously thought,” they add.

While FoodFacts.com understands that this study is by no means suggesting we all stock up on our favorite candy bars, it is exciting news for chocolate lovers everywhere. It’s also fascinating to understand that chocolate — which has for so long been thought of as an unnecessary source of calories — may actually help prevent the diseases with which it has been associated. Hearing good news about a food we love is always a welcome thing … especially when that food is such a sweet indulgence!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275008.php

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