Friday, July 13, 2012

Being fat doesn’t make kids dumb

Obesity has been blamed for a lot of things – some justified, others not so.

Of course, from a health point of view there is no denying that obesity is a risk factor for a host of undesirable conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes.

But what is not socially acceptable is that most often obese people are made the butt of jokes, and children are especially more susceptible to jibes, bullying at school and ostracism.

To make matters worse for kids, previous studies have shown that children who are heavier are less likely to do well at school – probably due to the combined effects of bullying and health problems.

But … hang on! A new study now suggests that obesity is not to be blamed for poor grades at school.

“We sought to test whether obesity directly hinders performance due to bullying or health problems, or whether kids who are obese do less well because of other factors that are associated with both obesity and lower exam results, such as coming from a disadvantaged family,” says Dr Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder from the University of York.

The research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council combined statistical methods with genetic information and concluded that being overweight had nothing to do with not doing well at school.

Researchers studied data on almost 4,000 members of the 90’s Birth Cohort Study. The data included the children’s DNA. According to a report, the researchers combined the latest developments from genetic epidemiology with statistical methodologies in economic and econometric research.

Using two carefully chosen ‘genetic markers’, the team was able to identify children with a slightly higher genetic pre-disposition to obesity.

“Based on a simple correlation between children’s obesity as measured by their fat mass and their exam results, we found that heavier children did so slightly rose in school,” says Dr Scholder.

“But, when we used children’s genetic markers to account for potentially other factors, we found no evidence that obesity casually affects exam results.

“So, we conclude that obesity is not a major factor affecting children’s education outcomes.”

These findings suggest that the previously found negative relationship between weight and education performance is driven by factors that affect both weight and educational attainment.
The finding that obesity is not a cause of poor grades is, the researchers suggest, a positive thing.

“Clearly there are reasons why there are differences in educational outcomes but our research shows that obesity is not one of them,” says Dr Scholder.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

When obesity is good for you!

Now here's a modern-day, medical conundrum: Obesity may actually be good for you – if you are a heart patient!

It may sound like something straight out of Ripley's Believe it or Not! but researchers in the United States have found that though being overweight and obese are known risk factors for developing heart disease and heart failure, once the disease has manifest itself, being overweight may provide some protective benefits!!

It's the classic "obesity paradox": A slim waist and normal weight usually associated with better health may not be good for heart failure patients, according to a new study by the University of California and Los Angeles.

"Heart failure may prove to be one of the few health conditions where extra weight may prove to be protective," says senior author Dr. Tamara Horwich, an assistant professor of cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Medifocus Guidebook on
 Congestive Heart Failure
Researchers found that in both men and women with advanced heart failure, obesity and a higher waist circumference put them at significantly less risk for adverse health outcomes.

The findings are published in the July issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.

Heart failure affects 5.8 million people, including 2.5 million women. Nearly one-half to two-thirds of heart failure patients are either overweight or obese.

Women and men are known to have differences in body composition and body-fat distribution, and this study is one of the first to specifically assess the impact of body mass index and waist circumference on women and compare it with men.

"The study provides us with more insight about how both genders of heart failure patients may be impacted by the obesity paradox," adds Dr Horwich.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on advanced heart failure patients treated at UCLA Medical Center from 1983 to 2011.

The two-year study involved 2,718 patients who had their BMI measured at the beginning of heart failure treatment and 469 patients who had their waist circumference measured at the beginning of the treatment.

At the follow-up, researchers found that in men, a high waist circumference and high BMI were associated with event-free survival from adverse outcomes like death, the need for a heart transplant, or the need for ventricular assist device placement.

Women with a higher BMI also had better outcomes than their normal-weight counterparts, and women with a high waist circumference also tended toward improved outcomes.

Incidentally, in January a report said that the global market for congestive heart failure devices was worth $3.1 billion in 2010. The following year it reached $3.4 billion and is expected to reach $5.9 billion by 2016.

In the United States alone, in 2010 the market was worth $1.6 billion – nearly 52.5 per cent – and is expected to reach $3.2 billion in 2016. For Europe the figures were $936 million in 2010 and forecast to increase to $1 billion by 2016, as the following graph shows:

Source: BCC Research. Email: editor@bccresearch,com
Global Markets for Devices for Treating Congestive Heart Failure (HLC095A)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cancer group seeks obesity study

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has really set the cat among the pigeons – by proposing, in May, to limit the sale of soft drinks to 16 fluid ounces in restaurants, movie theaters and other public venues!
The latest to jump on the anti-obesity bandwagon is the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which has urged the Surgeon General of the United States for a sweeping study of the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on consumer health.
It has emphasized the scientific evidence linking a third of all cancer deaths to poor diet and lack of exercise – two behaviors also associated strongly with obesity.
Such a study “could have a major impact on the public’s consciousness and perhaps begin to change the direction of public behavior in their choices of food and drinks”, says the lobby group’s president Christopher W. Hansen in a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“We know there is a direct link between excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity, and the adverse health effect can be profound.”
Obesity has become a talking point in America after it was found that two-thirds of the people are overweight or obese and health costs are spiraling.
Obesity accounts for $190 billion in annual medical costs in the United States – or almost 21 per cent of the total, according to a study.
Sugary drinks have become the latest target in the fight against burgeoning obesity after the American Medical Association declared that 46 per cent of the nation’s intake of added sugars comes from these beverages.
Also supporting Bloomberg’s point of view was the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, which has called for more policies to reduce the over-consumption of sugary drinks.
The beverage industry is, as expected, not happy.
In response to the letter, Karen Hanretty, a spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, said: “We already have studies from the federal government and independent third parties that demonstrate soft drinks are not a unique or significant contributor to obesity.”
However, Dick Woodruff, vice-president of federal affairs of the Cancer Action Network, says the group is seeking an unbiased review of all available science.
"There is an obesity epidemic. One in three cancer deaths are due to nutrition and physical activities, including overweight and obesity," he tells Reuters.
But, as Hansen points out: “There seems to be a consensus about the problem and the cause, but what is lacking is an articulate, science-based and comprehensive national plan of action.”
He is hoping for a repeat of the landmark 1964 report by the Surgeon General first revealing to the American public the dangers of tobacco consumption and which led to a drastic reduction in smoking.

Scientists discover control mechanism for obesity

Scientists from the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and the Singapore Bio-imaging Consortium today announced the path-breaking discovery of the mechanism that controls obesity, atherosclerosis and, potentially, cancer.

The findings were published in the journal, Cell Metabolism, and may help doctors in the treatment of obesity and atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a progressive disease of the large arteries that can lead to many cardiovascular diseases and along with obesity is blamed for more than a third of deaths in the Western world.

Obesity and atherosclerosis are accompanied by the accumulation of lipid droplets in fat cells and foam cells, respectively.

Foam cells can rupture, damage blood vessels and worsen atherosclerosis.

The team of scientists found that mice deficient in a particular gene, even when fed a high-fat diet, were resistant to obesity and atherosclerosis by preventing the accumulation of lipid droplets.

Dr. Dmitry Bulavin, senior principal investigator at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and lead author of the paper, says: “We are building on this research to investigate if the same mechanism could also control tumor progression and hence potentially unlock new treatments in cancer.”

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cola companies fight back over NYC plan

The multi-billion-dollar beverage industry in the United States has fired the first salvo in its fight against New York City's plan to ban the sale of large colas, according to a report in The New York Times newspaper.

In May, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had tabled a proposal to ban the sale of large colas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in a  major push to combat rising obesity.

If approved, the first-of-its-kind ban on any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces could come into effect as soon as March next year.

The expected, aggressive action by the big soda companies has come in the form of a coalition called New Yorkers for Beverage Choices which will co-ordinate public relations efforts in the campaign to fight Bloomberg's proposed plan.

The campaign, being led by the Washington-based American Beverage Association, includes lobbyists meeting mayoral candidates and New York City Council members, New Yorkers being urged to sign petitions and Facebook and Twitter pages telling readers to "say no to a #sodaban".

The association also distributed a 'fact sheet' to New York City Council members, detailing data showing calories from sugar-sweetened beverages declining even as obesity figures keep going up.

"Food is the No. 1 source of added sugars, not sugar-sweetened beverages," says the document, insisting that calories from soda and other sugary drinks form a small fraction of the American diet.

However, NYC officials are also doing their bit to raise awareness, spending almost $3 million since 2009 over advertisements showing a link between sodas and obesity.

The day of reckoning in this battle between federal officials and big industry is July 24 when the New York Board of Health, which must approve the proposed restrictions, plans a public hearing on the proposal.