Tag Archives: obesity

Obesity: The Public Health Epidemic Sweeping America

The prevalence of obesity in the United States has skyrocketed in the past few decades, leading to jarring statistics that indicate a rapidly increasing global public health epidemic. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey states that more than 2 in 3 adults are considered overweight or obese; yet perhaps more disconcerting is the fact that approximately one-third of children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 19 qualify as overweight or obese.

While the causes of obesity vary, factors include genetics, nutrition habits, lifestyle habits, geographic location, and socioeconomic status. The epigenetics of obesity demonstrate that genetic makeup plays an innate role, but can be mitigated and lessened by one’s activity choices and environment. As obesity is one of the primary risk factors for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and a host of other critically severe health problems, there is a pressing need for increased awareness and action steps surrounding the epidemic.

A recent study based at and conducted by UT Southwestern Medical Center reveals a strong genetic-environmental interaction: obesity significantly exacerbates the effects of gene variants that increase the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) by various metabolic pathways. If untreated and unmonitored, NAFLD can ultimately lead to cirrhosis—chronic liver disease—and liver cancer. Scientists found that the PNPLA3 gene variant spurred the strongest genetic-environmental interaction: “the first genetic cause of NAFLD ever identified.” One of the lead researchers in the study explains that people with lower BMI indexes are unlikely to have excess fat in the liver, despite having the PNPLA3 risk alleles. A longitudinal study further revealed that the risk of having cirrhosis among those with the risk allele increased 5.8 times, compared to those who were obese but lacked the risk allele.

The findings demonstrate an interaction between obesity and genetics, confirming the importance of both genetic screenings and early interventions. Nevertheless, DNA is not the sole culprit; while genetics inevitably account for some of a person’s obesity risk, genes can be countered and curbed by the implementation of healthy lifestyle interventions. Increasing data and studies indicate that sleep hygiene is a necessary element in terms of obesity prevention, coupled with consistent physical activity and exercise.

Thus, although there is no single approach to prevent or treat overweight and obesity, the importance of diet and exercise cannot be understated—particularly with younger children and adolescent, as childhood obesity almost inevitably leads to adulthood obesity. While some studies suggest that the epidemic will worsen and hit new highs, others advocate for the imminent urgency of different treatment approaches, including collaboration with the food and restaurant industries regarding calories and portion sizes. Regardless of societal and external factors, the epigenetics of obesity can be influenced by our behavior and actions: namely, positive and healthy lifestyle interventions.

To learn more about personalized approaches & strategies to address weight management and obesity, attend our pre-conference Obesity Management Workshop in Las Vegas on December 13th, 2017. 

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The Power of Ginger

A new review published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences assesses findings of 60 studies surrounding ginger—as a supplement, or ingredient in food and drink. Although experts have not yet determined a specific dosage for preventive purposes, the review concludes that ginger consumption is medically sound and helpful.

The studies “have built a consensus that ginger and its major constituents exert beneficial effects against obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and related disorders,” wrote authors from China Agricultural University. The researchers focused their studies on the different aspects of metabolic syndrome—a combination of three or more risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Metabolic syndrome now affects almost a quarter of the world’s population: a growing health problem that has reached reportedly pandemic proportions.

Scientists have researched potential strategies in order to both prevent and treat metabolic syndrome, specifically non-pharmaceutical options. As ginger has a long history of treating a variety of ailments and illnesses, due to its phytochemicals and antioxidants, the general consensus is that there are several mechanisms behind ginger’s ‘superfood powers.’ The paper details the ways in which the spice plays a significant role in fat burning, carbohydrate digestion, and insulin secretion; ginger has also demonstrated an ability to inhibit oxidative stress—a form of cellular aging—in addition to anti-inflammatory properties.

During a study in which ginger was fed to rats, ginger significantly reduced body weight and systemic inflammation, while simultaneously lowering cholesterol and blood sugar. The accumulation of studies suggest that consuming ginger can also enhance calorie burn and reduce feelings of hunger, likely associated with weight loss in overweight adults. Associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University Marie-Pierre St-Onge states that while the field is still developing in terms of assessing the impact of various spices, on humans, “The research is very promising.”

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“Fat But Fit”–No Such Luck

Medical scientists from the University of Birmingham are actively countering the theory that people can be simultaneously overweight and medically fit, presenting new research that reinforces that obese people are at a far greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease than people of a normal, healthy weight.

Researchers claim that the term ‘fat but fit’ is a fallacy that spurs the spread of obesity, a global public health epidemic. The study—presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Portugal—assesses the medical records of 3.5 million people in the United Kingdom between the years 1995 and 2015, in order to evaluate the legitimacy of the theory ‘fat but fit.’

Previous medical research suggests that obesity can have little impact on a person’s susceptibility to various harmful diseases, if they are considered to be otherwise medical healthy. Yet the research, which consistently tracked obese but “metabolically healthy” people, found that they were still at a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes and other heart-related conditions.

Specifically, the study found that obese people were 50 percent more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, and between 7 and 11 percent more likely to develop cerebrovascular disease and peripheral vascular disease. The United Kingdom’s largest funder of cardiovascular research, The British Heart Foundation, has stated that this research will help to dispel an ‘age-old myth.’

The data further estimates that approximately 28.1 percent of adults in the U.K. qualify as clinically obese, with a Body Mass Index greater than 30. In the United States, the statistics rise to approximately 66 percent.

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