Saturday, October 13, 2012

The great cola ban war begins!

As expected, the big guns have, indeed, come out blazing!
Soda manufacturers, restaurateurs and other businesses have sued New York City over its plan to restrict the sales of super-sized calorie-filled, sugary drinks in its efforts to check runaway rates of obesity.
Exactly a month ago, the city’s Board of Health approved a motion to limit the size of sweetened beverages to 16 ounces or less at restaurants, street carts and entertainment and sports venues.
The suit, filed in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, contends that the board did not have the authority to ratify the rules unilaterally.
It also claims “the Board of Health’s decision … usurps the role of the City Council, violating core principles of democratic government and ignoring the rights of the people of New York City to make their own choices”.
The American Beverage Association's 61-page filing says, among other things, that the Board of Health adopted the ban, first proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, completely ignoring the public objection of 17 members of the City Council, the legislative body elected by the people.
However, the mayor’s office dismissed the lawsuit as “baseless”, maintaining that the Board of Health “absolutely has the authority to regulate matters affecting health, and the obesity crisis killing nearly 6,000 New Yorkers a year”.
Runaway obesity rates are threatening not just New York.
A report, titled F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012, says that the number of obese adults will increase dramatically in every state in the country over the next two decades – and along with it related disease rates and health care costs.
Which means, by 2030 more than half the population in the United States will be obese – if corrective measures are not taken, starting now.
Obesity increases the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic illnesses.
Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index above 30, while overweight means a Body Mass Index of between 25 and 29.9.
The ban, scheduled to take effect in March 2013, applies to any establishment, in New York City’s five boroughs, with a food-service license, including fast-restaurants, workplace cafeterias, delis, movie and Broadway theaters, the concession stands at Yankee Stadium and the pizzerias of Little Italy.
Violations would incur a fine of $200.
Interestingly, the lawsuit’s preliminary statement starts thus:
“This case is not about obesity in New York City or the motives of the Board of Health in adopting the rule being challenged.”
Further on it says, “The ban at issue in this case burdens consumers and unfairly harms small businesses at a time when we can ill afford it.”
The bottom line here seems to be that the soft drinks industry would stand to lose a considerable sum of money should Bloomberg’s ban come to fruition.
Besides, if everybody agrees that obesity rates need to be brought down, shouldn’t they welcome any, or all, steps taken to achieve that?
In related news:
Controversial designer Karl Lagerfeld says Obesity is more dangerous than being overweight.
A study shows that nearly 50 per cent of students at Sultan Qaboos University are either overweight or obese.
Obesity is on the rise in children as well as adults in Vietnam, says a report.

Do you think the soft drinks industry is right in challenging New York City’s ban on super-sized sugary beverages? Please leave your comments below.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Obesity raising risk of strokes in young adults

When someone uses the word ‘stroke’, what is the first thing that crosses your mind?
‘Older people’, right?
And you won’t be too far wrong. That is because for many years we have tended to believe that only elderly people are prone to strokes.
In fact, according to some statistics, 83 per cent of strokes occur in people who are aged 59 and above, with the most first strokes occurring in people in their 60’s and 70’s.
However, over the years rapid changes in lifestyles have meant that younger people have now also become more susceptible to strokes.
The risk factors in these cases include obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Two studies in the US, reported in the journal Neurology, have found that the rate of strokes in younger adults, aged between 20 and 54, increased between 1999 and 2005.
The studies were conducted in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region and stroke data were studied between July 1, 1993 and June 30, 1994 and in 1999 and 2005.
Researchers found that the mean age at stroke significantly decreased from 71.2 years in 1993-1994 to 69.2 years in 2005 and the proportion of all strokes under age 55 increased from 12.9 per cent in 1993-1994 to 18.6 per cent in 2005.
In the 20-54 years age group, incident stroke increased from 26 per 100,000 in 1993-1994 to 48 in 2005 among white patients, and 83 in 1993-1994 to 128 in 2005 among African-American patients.
Firstly, is it possible that younger adults have been prone to strokes all along, only that with the advances in technology it has been more easier for doctors to detect strokes in young people more often?
“I really don’t think that's the major reason,” said lead researcher Brett Kissela, of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
“We’re definitely seeing a higher incidence of risk factors for stroke now.”
Secondly, can studies conducted in just two states apply to the entire United States?
An editorial accompanying the findings thinks so.
“The estimates in the (current study) are comparable to contemporary estimates from other countries and other parts of the United States,” it said.
A few weeks ago, a report, titled F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012, said that the number of obese adults will increase dramatically in every state in the United States over the next two decades – and along with it related disease rates and health care costs.
The report suggested that the doomsday scenario could be avoided 
if only the states could reduce the average Body Mass Index of their residents by just 5 per cent by 2030.
“The study shows us two futures for America’s health,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which had commissioned the study.
“At every level, we must pursue policies that prevent health, prevent disease and reduce health care costs.
“Nothing less is acceptable.”
Trust for America’s health executive director Jeff Levi said increasing physical activity times in schools and making fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable can help make healthier choices easier.
“Small changes can add up to a big difference,” he says.
“Policy changes can help make healthier choices easier for Americans in their daily lives.”
Those suffering from hypertension and atherosclerosis are the most likely candidates for a stroke, though smoking and high cholesterol levels are also significant contributing factors.
Add obesity to the equation and you are looking at a disaster in the making.

However, the important point here is that the findings of the stroke study suggest increased efforts towards stroke awareness and education to reduce stroke incidence in young adults, particularly in minority communities.
The need for a healthy lifestyle also cannot be emphasized enough here because while a person who suffers from a small stroke may recover with minor disabilities, a major stroke can cause permanent disability or even death. 
sportEX journals / Free Photos

Photo credit: sportEX journals / Foter / CC BY-ND

Friday, October 5, 2012

New York hospitals face junk food ban

Nearly two weeks after getting the nod for a ban on sugary, super-sized colas in almost all public eateries, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has set his sights on banning sugary and fatty foods from both private and public hospitals in the city.
“If there’s any place that should not allow smoking and try to make you eat healthy, you would think it’d be the hospitals,” he said, while announcing the initiative.
Hospitals, which have already signed up to the Healthy Hospital Food initiative, said it would be hypocritical of them to serve unhealthy food to patients who are often suffering from obesity and other health problems.
But sadly enough, the fact remains that most people, who visit hospitals, are already in such a distressed state that they easily fall prey to “emotional eating”, which usually involves “comfort” or junk foods.
It is an established fact that emotions, most often, dictate our diet with the result that depression, anxiety, frustration and stress can often result in overeating and unwanted weight gain.
Gorging on junk food seems to be some form of a coping mechanism, according to an Australian study.
For instance, when you are happy, you tend to opt for steak or pizza; when you are sad, your choice could be ice cream or cookies and when you are bored, you could reach out for potato chips.
Not healthy choices, by a long chance!
And, as New York’s health department’s director of nutrition strategy Christine Curtis, pointed out: “People sometimes don’t have healthy options. So you are there at 2 in the morning and maybe your only choice is soda and chips.”
A report recently said that, if the current rates of obesity rise continue, by 2030 more than half the population of the United States will be obese.
The new crackdown in hospitals will:
  • Ban deep fryers;
  • Make leafy green salads a mandatory option;
  • Allow only healthy snacks to be stocked near the cafeteria entrance and at cash registers;
  • Ensure half of all sandwiches and salads are made or served with whole grains;
  • Ensure that half-size sandwich portions are available.
The move, though voluntary, has its critics.
For instance, Brooklyn Hospital Centre president and CEO Richard B. Becker said that visitors to the emergency room of his hospital prefer the junk food-filled vending machines to healthy snacks.
In times of crisis, he reasoned, most people prefer something “delicious” like junk food rather than some nutritious alternatives.
Other critics have pointed to Bloomberg’s new measure as another evidence of his intention of turning New York into a “nanny state”.
Most hospital have, however, overhauled their vending machines by allowing only two types of 12-ounce high-calories beverages at each vending machine – and they must be featured on the lowest rack. Most vending machines have also phased out most baked good for snacks like granola bars and nuts.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Healthy weight can cut cancer risk

Being obese or overweight raises the risk of cancers of the breast, bowel, pancreas, kidney, womb, oesophagus and gall bladder.
Researchers in the United Kingdom maintain that excess fat is the second biggest cause of cancer – next to, of course, smoking.
Researchers from the World Cancer Research Fund said that an alarming 63 per cent of the population in the United Kingdom is either obese or overweight – one of the highest levels in Europe.
However, they also claimed that 18 per cent of the 123,000 weight-related cases of cancer in the United Kingdom could be prevented every year if only people maintained a healthy weight.
They also claim that 22,000 Britons suffer from cancer every year because they are too fat, according to a report in the Daily Mail newspaper.
Anyone with a Body Mass Index of 30 and above is classified as obese while 25 and above falls in the overweight category.
Calculate your body mass index.
Professor Alan Jackson, chairman of the fund’s continuous update project panel and professor of human nutrition at the University of Southampton, said: “A significant number of cancer cases could be prevented by people maintaining a healthy body weight.”
The fund is carrying out a study of existing research to determine how many cancers are caused by people’s lifestyles.
“Through keeping levels of body fat low, a lot of people will avoid getting cancer in the first place – forestalling the pain and anguish associated with the disease.”

It would be nice to hear your views. Please leave your comments below.