Category Archives: obesity

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

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

Walnuts reduce health risks for overweight adults

While FoodFacts.com understands that we are far from reversing the obesity crisis and reducing the number of those who are overweight or obese globally, we try to keep up with information that may make a difference for those affected. There are many health risks associated with being overweight, mainly diabetes and heart disease. Today we found positive research regarding a simple dietary addition that may help those who are overweight avoid these difficulties.

Medical researchers from the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Connecticut have found evidence suggestive that adding walnuts to one’s diet can protect against diabetes and heart disease in at-risk individuals.

For the study, a sample of 46 adults aged 30-75 were selected. Participants had a Body Mass Index larger than 25, and a waist circumference exceeding 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. They were also required to be non-smokers, and all exhibited one or more additional risk factors for metabolic syndrome, a precursor of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The group was randomly assigned to two 8-week sequences of either a walnut-enriched diet or a diet without walnuts. Those chosen for the walnut diet were instructed to consume 56g of shelled, unroasted English walnuts per day as a snack or with a meal.

“We know that improving diets tends to be hard, but adding a single food is easy,” explained Dr. David Katz, Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and lead author of the research team. “Our theory is that if a highly nutritious, satiating food like walnuts is added to the diet, there are dual benefits: the benefits of that nutrient rich addition and removal of the less nutritious foods.”

The research found that daily intake of 56g of walnuts improves endothelial function in overweight adults. The addition of walnuts to the diet does not lead to weight gain. Further study on the topic is still suggested. “The primary outcome measure was the change in flow-mediated vasodilatation (FMD) of the brachial artery,” wrote the research group. “Secondary measures included serum lipid panel, fasting glucose and insulin, Homeostasis Model Assessment-Insulin Resistance values, blood pressure, and anthropometric measures. FMD improved significantly from baseline when subjects consumed a walnut-enriched diet as compared with the control diet. Beneficial trends in systolic blood pressure reduction were seen, and maintenance of the baseline anthropometric values was also observed. Other measures were unaltered.”

FoodFacts.com knows that there are so many ways to add walnuts to your daily diet. They can be added to hot cereal for added texture and flavor. They’re great in salads for a little crunch. And they’re a great snack. Walnuts bring many health benefits for everyone. But this new research illustrates additional advantages for those who are overweight. What a simple and interesting way to help prevent serious health difficulties!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130923101947.htm

The correlation between your brain’s perception of sweetness and carbonation

FoodFacts.com has followed a lot of information that’s come to the forefront about artificial sweeteners and diet soda. We know that artificial sweeteners are chemical concoctions that serve no purpose nutritionally and have been linked to cancer. Interestingly, in the last 12 months, studies have linked drinking diet soda to diabetes and weight gain, negating their original purpose in the food supply.

Today we came across a new study that sheds new light on why artificial sweeteners may be adding to the obesity crisis. Carbonation, an essential component of popular soft drinks, alters the brain’s perception of sweetness and makes it difficult for the brain to determine the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners, according to a new article in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.

“This study proves that the right combination of carbonation and artificial sweeteners can leave the sweet taste of diet drinks indistinguishable from normal drinks,” said study author, Rosario Cuomo, associate professor, gastroenterology, department of clinical medicine and surgery, “Federico II” University, Naples, Italy. “Tricking the brain about the type of sweet could be advantageous to weight loss – it facilitates the consumption of low-calorie drinks because their taste is perceived as pleasant as the sugary, calorie-laden drink.”

The study identifies, however, that there is a downside to this effect; the combination of carbonation and sugar may stimulate increased sugar and food consumption since the brain perceives less sugar intake and energy balance is impaired. This interpretation might better explain the prevalence of eating disorders, metabolic diseases and obesity among diet-soda drinkers.

Investigators used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor changes in regional brain activity in response to naturally or artificially sweetened carbonated beverages. The findings were a result of the integration of information on gastric fullness and on nutrient depletion conveyed to the brain.

Future studies combining analysis of carbonation effect on sweetness detection in taste buds and responses elicited by the carbonated sweetened beverages in the gastrointestinal cavity will be required to further clarify the puzzling link between reduced calorie intake with diet drinks and increased incidence of obesity and metabolic diseases.

FoodFacts.com has never been a fan of soda consumption. Sugary sodas and diet sodas alike are chemical formulations in cans and bottles. They do nothing to fulfill our nutritional requirements and replace better beverages in our diets. The allure of zero calories for consumers is quite powerful and often people believe that as long as something is “diet” it’s a better choice. We are hopeful that information regarding the many downsides of artificial sweeteners helps consumers to understand that these beverages are not healthier options. While we certainly don’t need the equivalent of a little over 10 teaspoons of sugar in the average can of soda, we also don’t need an artificial substance replacing that sugar – especially since it appears that in the long run, people can gain weight just as easily relying on zero calorie sweeteners. Let’s help others in our network become more nutritionally aware of the health effects of diet sodas!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/266292.php

Ongoing nerve damage from obesity alters the ability to keep weight off permanently

Today, FoodFacts.com found more obesity insights in the news. There’s so much research and information about the obesity crisis coming to light. And while there is hope on the horizon, not all of the news is uplifting all the time. Here at FoodFacts.com, however, we even consider the bad news to be helpful – illustrating for all of us that nutritional awareness and dedication to healthy lifestyle are of the utmost importance for the entire population.

Today we read new information that concludes that the way the stomach detects and tells our brains how full we are becomes damaged in obese people but does not return to normal once they lose weight. This is according to new research from the University of Adelaide.

Researchers believe this could be a key reason why most people who lose weight on a diet eventually put that weight back on.

In laboratory studies, University of Adelaide PhD student Stephen Kentish investigated the impact of a high-fat diet on the gut’s ability to signal fullness, and whether those changes revert back to normal by losing weight.

The results, published in the International Journal of Obesity, show that the nerves in the stomach that signal fullness to the brain appear to be desensitized after long-term consumption of a high-fat diet.

“The stomach’s nerve response does not return to normal upon return to a normal diet. This means you would need to eat more food before you felt the same degree of fullness as a healthy individual,” says study leader Associate Professor Amanda Page from the University’s Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory.

A hormone in the body, leptin, known to regulate food intake, can also change the sensitivity of the nerves in the stomach that signal fullness. In normal conditions, leptin acts to stop food intake. However, in the stomach in high-fat diet induced obesity, leptin further desensitizes the nerves that detect fullness.

“These two mechanisms combined mean that obese people need to eat more to feel full, which in turn continues their cycle of obesity.”

Associate Professor Page says the results have “very strong implications for obese people, those trying to lose weight, and those who are trying to maintain their weight loss.”
“Unfortunately, our results show that the nerves in the stomach remain desensitized to fullness after weight loss has been achieved,” she says.

Associate Professor Page says they’re not yet sure whether this effect is permanent or just long-lasting.

“We know that only about 5% of people on diets are able to maintain their weight loss, and that most people who’ve been on a diet put all of that weight back on within two years,” she says.

“More research is needed to determine how long the effect lasts, and whether there is any way — chemical or otherwise — to trick the stomach into resetting itself to normal.”

While FoodFacts.com understands that this isn’t the best news for those suffering with obesity, or even those just trying to lose some weight and keep it off, we do think there’s a tremendous message here. Healthy eating is a lifestyle. When we avoid high-fat, processed foods, and remain nutritionally aware, we avoid conditions and diseases that are preventable. We put ourselves in a better position to live longer, healthier lives.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130916103352.htm