Posts Tagged ‘obesity’

Obese Are More Susceptible to Respiratory Infections

If you are overweight, you are at increased risk for catching the flu and other potentially serious respiratory diseases.

So say the results of a new study that adds more evidence that obesity alters the body’s immune system, leaving heavy people vulnerable to respiratory infections.

“Being sick — even if it is just a cold — is not fun, and reducing the frequency of respiratory infections is desirable for anyone.

Most obese patients are already well aware of the risk of diabetes and other chronic conditions associated with obesity, but they probably aren’t aware of the immunosuppression and increased risk of acute infections as well,” said Jeffrey Kwong, MD, from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Earlier studies have shown that antibodies produced in response to flu shots plunge dramatically among obese people compared with those who have healthy weights.

The Heavier the Person, the Higher the Risk

Dr. Kwong and colleagues, including lead author Michael Campitelli, MPH, conducted a retrospective cohort study for a period of 13 years involving more than 100,000 persons in Ontario, Canada, who responded to population health surveys.

The researchers published their results in the January 2014 issue of the International Journal of Obesity.

They observed higher rates of outpatient visits to a physician’s office or emergency department for acute respiratory infections during the influenza season for those who were overweight and obese compared with normal weight people — even though the heavier people were more likely to be vaccinated.

The increased risk was highest among those who were the heaviest.

The rates were 20% higher in severely obese people who had a body mass index (BMI) of 35 kg/m2 or higher than in people of normal weight.

The researchers also saw lower but similar increased risks of respiratory infections among the obese people during seasons when flu was not circulating.

Increased Risk of Flu

“Obese people with a BMI of 30 or higher had more outpatient visits for acute respiratory infections during both influenza and non-influenza seasons,” said Dr. Kwong.

“This suggests that obesity not only increased the risk for influenza infection, but for other respiratory pathogens, likely both viral and bacterial.”

Deficits in the immune system can impair the response to respiratory pathogens and enhance susceptibility to infections.

“Both animal and human studies have noted immune function deficiencies among those who are obese,” Dr Kwong said.

Losing Weight Boosts the Immune System

In fact, losing weight may help boost the immune system for obese people.

“Studies of cell function in obese people have shown improvements in immune responsiveness following weight loss or dietary restriction,” Dr. Kwong said.

“For example, obese individuals showed increased T-cell responsiveness to mitogen following a weight reduction program.

Therefore, reducing weight in an obese person may help improve some of the obesity-related immune deficiencies, leading to a more robust response against respiratory pathogens.”

The bottom line is that “this represents yet another potential motivator for obese people to lose weight,” said Dr. Kwong.

Tackling Obesity: Governments Called to Action

There is a growing need to tackle rising levels of obesity and related diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and cancer, through government-sponsored, health-promoting policies, according to a new policy briefing issued by the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO).

“In isolation, governments are reluctant to undertake market interventions, as they don’t want to be seen to restrict people’s freedoms.

However, there is a good case for clear traffic-light labeling on products, for banning junk-food marketing to children, and for adjusting the existing subsidies and taxes to increase the consumption of healthier foods,” said IASO policy director Tim Lobstein, PhD.

“As obesity and consequent diseases put increasing strain on health services, governments will have no choice but to act.

The sooner they start, the cheaper and more effective their actions will be.”

The policy briefing notes that the rapid rise in obesity prevalence worldwide indicates that diet and lack of physical activity are replacing tobacco as the leading cause of preventable disease and that the disease burden from obesity-related conditions is already putting health services under stress.

In a statement about the policy briefing released in mid-January, Dr. Lobstein called on all governments to take a strong leadership stance on this issue.

The IASO has issued a 10-point action plan that calls for governments to create health-promoting environments.

“This includes building the case for intervention, so that public health has a stronger voice in cross-government strategic planning.

It means encouraging advocacy and developing social marketing campaigns to increase public support for population-wide interventions, and it means making a series of interventions in the marketplace to reduce over-consumption and protect consumer health,” the policy briefing states.

Industry lobbying power is significant and undermines public health, the briefing states.

In 2012, more lobbyists were employed by the US food and beverage industry (327 lobbyists) than by the alcohol industry (256 lobbyists) or the tobacco industry (174 lobbyists) to influence the US Congress.

Government Must Take Action

The release of the policy briefing coincided with National Obesity Awareness Week, sponsored by the United Kingdom Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO), which noted that two-thirds of adults and one-third of children are overweight or obese.

The ASO called on the UK government to take action to treat those persons currently affected by obesity and to transform the food environment to make it easier for everyone to make healthier choices.

Specifically, the ASO recommended that policymakers invest in the management of obesity by expanding the provision of specialist bariatric services and incentivizing general practitioners to take greater action to address obesity and to take action to control the marketing of energy-dense foods and sugary drinks, particularly to children.

GP Professor Paul Aveyard, Department of Primary Care, University of Oxford, said: “GPs could do much more to tackle obesity.

We now know there are simple and cheap treatments that would help our patients lose weight and their health would improve. GPs worry that talking about weight will upset our patients, but our fears are largely groundless.”

Added Sweeteners Could Be Main Contributor to Obesity Epidemic

Here’s another reason to give New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg a pat on the back for wanting to ban the sale of large sodas and sugary soft drinks:

Young Hispanic women, a group who are at high risk for continued weight gain and obesity, felt hungrier and more desire for savory foods after ingesting a sugary drink in an experiment to test how high-calorie foods stimulate the brain’s appetite control center.

The sugar in the drinks activated brain regions involved in reward and motivation for food, which “suggests that added sweeteners could be one of the main contributors to the obesity epidemic,” said lead researcher Kathleen Page, MD, assistant professor at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

In fact, just looking at images of high-calorie foods stimulates the brain’s appetite control center and results in an increased desire for food, according to the study presented today at The Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.

“We thought this was a striking finding, because the current environment is inundated with advertisements showing images of high-calorie foods,” Page added.

The largest driver of increases in obesity and caloric consumption is sugary drinks, according to New York city officials when the Mayor announced his proposed ban last month.

Americans now consume 200 to 300 more calories daily than 30 years ago, they said.

Men given 18 ounces — compared with 12 ounces — of beverage drank 26% more while women drank 10% more, with no decrease in food consumption and no difference in reported fullness or thirst, city health officials said.

Yes, there are concerns about freedom of choice, vociferously voiced by the Beverage Association and others.

But we have to do something to combat widespread obesity.

These kinds of public health mandates have worked to curtail smoking, and I think they could work for weight loss, too.

I’m behind Mayor Mike’s larger-than-16-ounce-drink ban, and I hope it becomes a nationwide trend.

Six Ways to Control Your Weight

Healthy Weight Week (January 15 to 21) kicks off today to celebrate healthy diet-free living habits that last a lifetime and prevent weight problems.

Two-thirds of the American population is overweight or obese, and obesity numbers will continue to rise unless Americans stop eating more calories than they use, according to Brian Sharkey, a leading fitness researcher and author of Fitness Illustrated (Human Kinetics, 2011).

“In ages past, when the human food supply was unpredictable, people could not count on three square meals a day; as a result, the human body learned how to store energy in the form of fat,” Sharkey says.

“Today, most of us enjoy access to a dependable and plentiful food supply, but our bodies still store energy even though the need for doing so is gone.”

To lose weight, Sharkey says people often turn to restrictive diets, which can backfire and cause weight gain.

“When you diet, your body becomes more fuel efficient and your metabolic rate declines,” Sharkey explains.

“As a result, even more dieting or exercise is required in order to reduce excess weight.

During this cycle, your weight loss slows, and you regain weight three times faster.”

When a person is on a diet, the body uses protein for energy, which means a person can lose muscle protein with each dieting cycle.

As muscle is lost, the capacity to burn calories is reduced.

“Thus, each time you diet to lose weight, you lose lean tissue and must therefore decrease your caloric intake in order to avoid subsequent weight gain,” Sharkey adds.

“As a result, the only way to minimize the loss of lean tissue while dieting is to exercise.”

The safest way to lose weight and keep it off is to eat fewer calories and burn more with physical activity.

In Fitness Illustrated, Sharkey offers six keys to maintaining a healthy weight:

1. If you are active, consume 55 to 60 percent of each day’s calories in the form of complex carbohydrate (beans, brown rice, corn, potatoes, or whole-grain products) and fruit.

2. Limit your fat intake and avoid saturated fat and trans fat.

3. Eat a sufficient amount of lean, high-quality protein (15 percent of your daily caloric intake) to meet your protein needs during training.

4. Achieve weight control by balancing your caloric intake with your caloric expenditure.

5. Since metabolic rate declines with age, you will have to eat less, engage in more activity, or do both in order to maintain a healthy weight.

6. Remember that dieting often leads to future weight gain, especially when it is done without physical activity.

Exercise Can Help You Eat a Healthy Diet

Calories in, calories out.

That’s the tried and true way to lose weight – eat less, exercise more.

A new compilation of epidemiological evidence of weight loss shows that exercise can, in fact, help you eat a more healthy diet, say Harvard researchers.

“Physical exercise seems to encourage a healthy diet.

In fact, when exercise is added to a weight-loss diet, treatment of obesity is more successful and the diet is adhered to in the long run,” says the lead Harvard researcher Miguel Alonso Alonso.

His study was published in the October issue of Obesity Reviews.

Regular physical exercise also causes changes in the working and structure of the brain, in particular, in executive functions, which include inhibitory control.

“In time, exercise produces a potentiating effect of executive functions including the ability for inhibitory control, which can help us to resist the many temptations that we are faced with everyday in a society where food, especially hypercaloric food, is more and more omnipresent,” says Alonso Alonso.

Basically, that means that exercise also helps your brain know when your belly is full so you can better control your appetite.

So go out and exercise.

Your brain, and your belly, will thank you for it.

Gastric Bypass Helps the Whole Family Lose Weight

One of the biggest risks for becoming an obese child is having an obese parent.

But what happens if an obese parent makes the changes necessary to lose weight?

What if that includes undergoing gastric bypass surgery?

A new study shows that the obesity rate in children of mothers who have had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is 52% lower after surgery compared with the obesity rate in children born to the same mothers before surgery.

“If one member of the family makes drastic lifestyle changes following surgery, it is possible that other family members will adopt similar healthy habits,” writes Gavitt A. Woodard, MD and colleagues from Stanford University School of Medicine in the October issue of Archives of Surgery.

The Stanford doctors observed the weight and lifestyle changes of 35 patients who had gastric bypass surgery as well as 35 adult family members and 15 children under age 18.

As expected, one year following surgery the patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery lost a typical amount of weight, the doctors say.

What’s more, all adult family members dropped an average of 22 pounds, from 220 to 198 pounds.

And obese children had a lower body mass index than was expected for their growth curve at the one-year follow-up.

How did the family members lose weight?

A year following surgery, both patients and adult family members made significant changes in their eating habits.

The gastric bypass patients also significantly increasing cognitive control of eating while decreasing uncontrolled and emotional eating.

Adult family members significantly decreased uncontrolled eating and emotional eating.

Additionally, children of the surgery patients were twice as likely to report being on a diet to lose weight one year post-surgery.

Children also benefited from fewer daily hours of television watching and increased hours of physical activity after a parent underwent gastric bypass surgery.

“Obesity is a family health concern,” say the Stanford doctors.

“This study demonstrates that performing a gastric bypass operation on one patient has a halo of positive effect on the weight, eating habits, activity level, and health behaviors of the entire family.”

In addition to purchasing food for the family, parents serve as role models for healthy behavior.

Parents who examine their own habits and make healthy changes, even ones as drastic as gastric bypass surgery, can play a significant role in the battle against childhood obesity.

The No. 1 Health Concern for Children

What is the top health concern adults have for children?

The answer is obesity (tied with drug abuse), according to the 5th annual survey of the top 10 health concerns for kids conducted by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and the cause comes with good reason.

More than 23 million American children and teenagers are overweight or obese, which puts them at risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even stroke, diseases usually only seen among adults.

Last year, the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, created by the president as part of first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, aimed to solve the childhood obesity epidemic.

“Let’s Move” set out 4 primary goals: educate and empower parents, provide more-healthful foods in schools, increase access to healthful foods in underserved neighborhoods and encourage more physical activity.

But prevention programs alone are not enough for children who are already obese, particularly minorities, say University of Michigan researchers.

“Because so many children are already obese, there need to be greater efforts focused on treatment if we’re going to have success,” says Joyce M. Lee, MD, MPH, a clinician at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Prevention strategies alone, particularly for minority children, will not help the White House Task Force reach its goal, wrote Lee, the lead author of an article published online ahead of print in Obesity Journal.

Rates of childhood obesity in the U.S. are much higher for minority children, with 20% of black and Mexican-American children affected, compared with just 15% for Caucasian children.

Better diet, including access to healthful and affordable foods, is just one part of the solution for minority children.

Last December, research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise noted that the most overweight and obese ethnic groups are also some of the most active.

Combating childhood obesity is a complex mix of physical activity, nutrition, weight management, and fitness.

The Awareness Month is one of the creative solutions needed to help curb this epidemic.

To find out more about National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, check out the website that offers a free, downloadable toolkit filled with resources and ideas.

The website includes an events calendar, so you can list events taking place in your community that support the goals of the month.

To make it more personal, you can take small steps on your own — eat more balanced meals and snacks and engage in physical activity more regularly — and let family members and friends know about your personal plan and commitment.