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    Archive for the ‘overweight’ Category

    Numbers Game: Answer

    sad-little-heart-wahh-wahhA gain of twenty pounds (of fat, not muscle) over one’s ideal body weight results, on average, in a 30 percent increase of triglycerides and an average decrease of HDL cholesterol of 8 percent.

    I always find statistics like these to be quite powerful since they illustrate the health consequences of carrying excess weight, regardless of the type of foods that led to said weight gain.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    nurse taking blood pressureCardiovascular disease risk doubles for every 10-point increase in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) and every 20-point increase in systolic blood pressure (the top number).

    This serves as a perfect reminder of the domino effect of poor health.

    It also illustrates why maintaining a healthy weight is important.  It deeply frustrates me when people argue that weight gain should not be demonized, and that all body shapes should be accepted.

    I certainly back up that argument from a social and body-image standpoint.  No one should be made to feel inferior — by others as well as themselves — because of their waist size.  The fact that you’re ten or fifteen pounds overweight doesn’t negate the fact that you can be — and feel — sexy.

    From a health standpoint, however, getting rid of excess weight is crucial.

    Not only does excess weight increase cellular inflammation (THE most important factor behind the development of a number of degenerative diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease), it also sets off a chain of symptoms and conditions.

    Excess weight increases blood pressure, lowers HDL cholesterol levels, and increase LDL cholesterol levels, thereby increasing cardiovascular disease risk.

    It also increases arthritis risk and puts excessive force on joints, often making exercise painful and difficult (thereby creating a powerful barrier against regular exercise).

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    Numbers Game: This is What Is Meant By “Healthy Weight”

    broken_heart_by_starry_eyedkid-1Excess weight  (and its health consequences) is believed to be the main factor in _____ percent of heart disease cases and _____ percent of strokes.

    a) 64/68
    b) 79/52
    c) 41/80
    d) 53/74

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Friday for the answer.

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    The Chug Seen ‘Round The World

    gal_drink_fat_glass_ad_cokeEarlier this week, the New York City Department of Health launched this to-the-point video advertisement that clearly showcases the effects of soda consumption on body weight.

    While some people — dietitians and consumers alike — balked, describing the video as “disgusting” or “over the top”, I think it is both effective and accurate.

    This video does not blame soda for all of society’s evils, but it makes a most factual statement — an extra can of soda once a day, every day, over the course of a year adds ten pounds.

    Of course, this can be avoided if one drank that can of soda and then burned off an additional 150 calories, but recommending lower soda consumption is more realistic than daily physical activity.

    Some people ask, “Why is soda getting the short end of the stick?”.

    Easy!  The United States is the world’s number one consumer of soft drinks, to the tune of 150 quarts per year, per person.

    Let me put that figure into context for you — that’s 397 cans of soda per year, per person!

    Will it be an effective campaign?  Who knows.  At the very least, it has people talking.

    What are your thoughts?

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    cataract_lRecent research from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study indicates that, diabetes aside, obese individuals (BMI > 30) have a 36 percent higher risk of developing cataracts than individuals with BMIs between 18 and 23.

    Researchers attribute this heightened risk to the increased glucose intolerance — and insulin resistance — caused by excess weight.

    Other studies have also concluded that obesity concentrated in the abdominal area (seen more commonly among men) is a higher risk factor for cataract development than excess weight that is mainly distributed in the hips and thighs.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    knee_painFive pounds of excess weight increase your risk of arthritis by 25 percent.

    This helps explain why overweight and obese individuals have higher rates of knee replacement surgery than their healthy-weight counterparts.

    An study published in the August 2009 issue of the journal Radiology concluded that “for every one-unit increase in BMI (body mass index) there was an 11% increase of cartilage loss” in the knees.

    I bolded and italicized “cartilage loss” because, once cartilage deteriorates, it does not grow back.

    Arthritis is now even seen among children as young as seven due to skyrocketing pediatric overweight and obese rate.

    Remember — excess weight produces high amounts of inflammation.  Chronic inflammation, in turn, is linked to higher risks of developing degenerative diseases like arthritis along with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

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    Numbers Game: The Invisible Effects of Excess Weight

    arthritis-3Five pounds of excess weight increase your risk of arthritis by ____ percent.

    a) 8
    b) 15
    c) 25
    d) 32

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Tuesday for the answer.

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    In The News: Careful, Doc!

    doctor-examining-patientEarlier today I was reading an article on BBC News‘ website which discussed efforts by members of Great Britain’s Size Acceptance Movement to have “so-called “fat-ism” be made illegal on the same grounds as race, age and religious discrimination.”

    While the organization makes the not-exactly-groundbreaking point that overweight individuals are perceived as less desirable in a multitude of arenas — from the workplace to dating — I was most horrified by this piece of information:

    Protesters want the UK to follow San Francisco, where a law bans “fat-ism” in housing and employment and stops doctors pressing patients to slim down.  Sondra Solway, a San Francisco lawyer, said: “The San Francisco ordinance says you may want to mention weight to the patient but if the patient says they do not want to talk about that then you are asked to respect those wishes.”

    Excuse me while I pick up my jaw from the floor.

    San Francisco, I love many things about you, but this law is not one of them.

    What is this absolute nonsense of letting a patient decide what can and can not be discussed within the framework of a health consultation?

    This is precisely my problem with the “size acceptance movement” in general — it makes absolutely no distinction between health and aesthetics.

    As far as doctors and professionals in the nutrition field are concerned, weight loss is not about having Ryan Reynold’s washboard abs or fitting into a size 0 blouse.

    Decades of research have made it absolutely clear that excess weight increases the risk of a multitude of conditions and diseases, from diabetes to heart diseases to cancer.

    The fact that a medical professional is supposed to tiptoe around the issue with a patient in fear of being sued for “discrimination” is absolutely preposterous.

    Meanwhile, I challenge you to find one formerly overweight (or formerly obese) individual who, from a health standpoint only, would rather return to their days of excess weight.  Good luck!

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    In The News: Speak Up, Doc!

    Stethoscope_around_doctor_s_neck_uid(3)Earlier this week, The Los Angeles Times published a most interesting article by board-certified specialist in preventive medicine Valerie Ulene, who offered a unique perspective on the overweight and obesity problem in the United States — specifically the lack of awareness on behalf of overweight and obese individuals coupled with the minimal help offered by some general practitioners.

    “A National Consumers League survey conducted by Harris Interactive in 2007 found that… eighty-two percent of obese people surveyed considered themselves to be simply overweight; among those who were in fact only overweight, close to 1 in 3 believed that they were normal weight,” the article reports.

    Even worse, “a 2005 study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only about 40% of obese people are actually advised by their healthcare professional to lose weight.”  Yikes!

    I was particularly enraged — and rather disgusted — by this tidbit:

    “Physicians are reluctant to bring up weight because it’s such a loaded issue,” says Dr. William Dietz, director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the CDC. It’s a difficult and often emotional conversation to have with patients, so some doctors just avoid it.”

    Absolutely ridiculous!  How much longer are these physicians planning on hiding their heads in the sand like ostriches?

    I am flabbergasted that a medical professional would be so fearful of a “loaded” and possibly emotional conversation as to ignore a blatant health problem in a patient.  With that logic, then patients would also not be told of cancer or HIV diagnoses.

    If so many doctors are apparently so paralyzed by “difficult conversations” that they render themselves useless, maybe medical schools should seriously consider adding a few courses on counseling skills to the curriculum.

    Besides, I am not sure why general practitions are so weary of expressing concern for an overweight or obese patient’s health.  All they really should be doing is voicing their concern and then referring them to a professional (such as a Registered Dietitian) who can take it from there.  I know many doctors have deity complexes, but no one — including myself — is expecting them to tackle nutrition in their practice.

    My blood pressure rose a little more upon reading this:

    “Sometimes doctors feel they have little to offer in the way of a solution. Weight-loss counseling frequently proves ineffective, weight-loss medications produce only modest results and obesity surgery isn’t appropriate for most people.”

    Considering that the vast majority of doctors in this country are completely unfamiliar with nutrition concepts, it is no wonder they think weight-loss counseling proves ineffective.  Additionally, the mere fact that they push weight-loss medications shows a basic lack of understanding.  How can we expect the general population to stop seeking out a magic pill when many doctors apparently think one exists?

    Doctors: remember that Registered Dietitians are out there.  Refer to them!  And, if you don’t think you can handle telling a patient their health is at risk because of their weight, consider another profession.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Body Mass Index

    bmi-comparisonHow accurate is the Body Mass Index?

    Mine is on the very highest edge of the “normal” spectrum, but just from looking at myself I can tell that I am not close to being overweight.

    — Corey Clark
    (Location Unknown)

    Body Mass Index (BMI) is a popularly used calculation based on height and weight that provides an estimate for an individual’s percentage of body fat.

    If interested, you can easily calculate your BMI online.

    The results are then interpreted in the following way:

    • < 18.5 = Underweight
    • 18.5 – 24.9 = Healthy weight
    • 25.0 – 29.9 = Overweight
    • 30.0 – 34.9 = Obesity (Class 1)
    • 35.0 – 39.9 = Obesity (Class 2)
    • >40.0 = Hyper Obesity

    Although BMI is usually accurate, it has its drawbacks.

    The main one?  Height and weight alone leave out important information.

    As the accompanying illustration (property of HowStuffWorks.com) shows, a muscular athlete may have the same BMI as a sedentary individual with a high amount of adipose tissue.  While both may classify as overweight according to BMI, the sedentary individual is at a much higher risk for developing certain diseases (including heart disease and cancer) than the muscular athlete.

    This is why, except in the case of high obesity, most nutrition professionals like to compound BMI calculation with waist circumference measurements.

    Scientific research has found an undeniable link between waist circumference and disease risk.

    In that case, here are the values to keep in mind:

    • In women, waist circumference of 30 inches or less is deemed healthy.  31 – 35 inches points to an increased disease risk, while measurements over 35 point to high disease risk.
    • In the case of men, waist circumference should be at 36 inches or below.  Measurements between 37 and 40 inches indicate increase disease risk.  Any values over 40 indicate high disease risk.

    For example, a muscular male athlete may have a BMI of 28 (considered ‘overweight’) but a waist circumference of 32.

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    In The News: Britain Opens Pandora’s Box

    Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom_3x5Today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports on the latest — and mega controversial — developments in Britain’s public schools: “[elementary] school [students] identified as overweight will automatically be offered a place on a state-funded diet and exercise scheme.”

    Here’s how it will work:

    • At the beginning of this school year, all elementary school students will be weighed
    • Weights will also be recorded at the end of the school year
    • At that time, parents will receive a report that identifies their child(ren) as underweight, healthy, overweight, or very overweight
    • Children who do not fall into the “healthy” category will be offered state-funded weight management services for the summer.  Those identified as ‘very overweight’ will also be referred to pediatricians

    Some parent associations are up in arms, claiming that branding children as overweight will encourage bullying, and that this measure is akin to a dictatorship.  I say — bollocks!

    How, exactly, does this measure encourage bullying?  Results are confidential and only shared with parents, not the student body.

    The unfortunate truth is that if a child is obese, he or she is probably already a target of mean-spirited harassment by classmates.  An official — and confidential — classification is a moot point.

    In fact, teachers could take advantage of this new policy to address body image issues in the classroom.

    In middle school, I was relentlessly made fun of by my gym class for being a horrible basketball and baseball player (whenever I see a baseball glove I twitch and mentally take myself to a “happy place”), but that doesn’t mean I would support the removal of physical education from school curricula.

    As for cries of “dictatorship”?  Unwarranted.  Parents are being offered — not forced to send their children to — weight management services.

    I have spoken to so many parents of overweight children who feel so impotent and helpless and, from what they’ve told me, would be thrilled to receive this type of support and help from schools.

    I think the real issue here is that parents don’t want to hear that their children are overweight because they somehow perceive that as a critique of their parenting skills.  This is not an “identify the bad parents” initiative!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Type-2 Diabetes, Excess Weight, & Genetics

    type2diabetesWhat do you think of this website?

    It claims that overweight is a symptom (rather than the cause) of diabetes, and that diabetes is simply genetic.

    — Courtney (last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    While there is most certainly a genetic component to type-2 diabetes, environmental (AKA dietary) factors determine whether or not this “genetic potential” is ever reached.

    Renowned obesity researcher George Bray perfectly encapsulates the delicate interplay between “nature” and “nurture” with this quote:

    Genes load the gun, the environment pulls the trigger.

    The dramatic surge in type-2 diabetes rates can not be solely attributed to genetics.

    According to figures from the American Diabetic Association and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adult type-2 diabetes cases in the United States doubled between 1990 and 2005.

    Keep in mind, too, that once upon a time type-2 diabetes was appropriately known as “adult-onset diabetes”, since it was only diagnosed in the adult population.

    However, according to the CDC, “The incidence of type 2 in adolescents has increased 10 times over the last decade and now constitutes just under 1/3 of new pediatric diabetes cases (it was 2% 20 years ago).”  Genes don’t change over the course of ten or twenty years.

    As for excess weight not being a symptom of type-2 diabetes, it goes against the conclusions of hundreds of top-notch research studies.  Not only has excess weight been shown to increase diabetes risk; the loss of excess weight also undoubtedly decreases risk!

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    In The News: Excess Weight Goes To Your Head

    brain scanAn absolutely fascinating study courtesy of the journal Human Brain Mapping — “obese people have 8 percent less brain tissue than normal-weight individuals [and] their brains look 16 years older than the brains of lean individuals.”

    Those in the overweight category, meanwhile, have “4 percent less brain tissue [and] brains [that] appear to have aged prematurely by 8 years.”

    The neurosurgeons who conducted the study noted that obesity has a particularly depleting effect on cognitive reserves, increasing one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

    Also of note — “obese people had lost brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes, areas of the brain critical for planning and memory, and in the anterior cingulate gyrus (attention and executive functions), hippocampus (long-term memory) and basal ganglia (movement).”

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    In The News: Is Overweight the Picture of Health?

    peopleScalephotoNo!  There’s just a lot of irresponsible reporting.

    The New York Times is sharing the findings of a new study published in Obesity (that’s the title of the journal) — basically, that “people who [are] overweight but not obese [are] actually less likely to die than people of normal weight.”

    The first sentence of the article already irritated me:

    Being overweight won’t kill you — it may even help you live longer.

    That’s certainly not the most accurate conclusion.  Sure, it catches readers’ attention, but also completely misinforms them.

    There are three main points to keep in mind with this kind of study:

    1. It is solely looking at the risk of death associated with different body weights.  There is absolutely no mention — or measure — of quality of life issues.  Are these overweight people who are living longer taking ten different medications, each with their share of side effects?  Do these overweight individuals feel more pain on their joints when they go up and down stairs?  Do they run out of breath much quicker?
    2. We have no idea what these participants’ dietary habits were like.  Did the overweight participants have overall healthier diets (i.e.: more fruits and vegetables, healthier fats, more whole grains) than those in the “normal weight” category?
    3. A very likely explanation for these results, as explained in the article, is that “many health conditions associated with being overweight, like high blood pressure, are being treated with medication.”

    So, in that case, it’s not being overweight that extends someone’s life, but being overweight in a time and society where many of the complications associated with that can be managed with medication that may add a few years.

    My other concern is that the only measurement used in the study was BMI (Body Mass Index).

    BMI can be tricky because all it takes into consideration is height and weight.  As a result, a healthy and muscular man may be classified as “overweight”, thereby skewing results.

    It is also important to note that falling into the “overweight” category as a result of being 4 pounds above one’s ideal body weight is very different from a 15 pound difference.

    This study would have been a lot more useful — and may have resulted in different results — if waist circumference was also taken into account.  It has been well established that increases in that number are certainly associated with higher risks of many health conditions.

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    In The News: Firefighters Wanted… Healthy Hearts A Must!

    fire-truckFirefighters in Plano, TX are being told to shape up — or ship out.

    According to Fire Engineering Magazine, “Plano Fire Chief Hugo Esparza wants the department’s least-fit members to shape up or face reassignment, even termination.”

    Annual mandatory fitness tests will determine which firefighters stay on duty and which ones are assigned probationary desk jobs — and given one year to get in shape if they wish to continue on the squad.

    The tests measure body fat, upper body strength, and cardiac health, and are tailored by age and gender.

    Although firefighters are presumed to be in great shape (as the best-selling shirtless calendars appear to demonstrate), statistics tell a different story.  “In Boston, three of every four recruits were recently found to be overweight or even obese, according to published reports.”

    Plano, TX proudly spent millions of dollars to add gym space and brand new gym equipment to its 12 stations (along with orders to supervisors to allow everyone on the squad an hour to exercise during their shift), but I am disheartened to see that nutrition has been completely left out of this picture.

    No nutritionists stopping by for cooking demonstrations or healthy eating workshops, no distribution of literature regarding healthy meals and snacks, and practically no acknowledgment that improvements in health and fitness go beyond how many push-ups you can do.

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