Fat-Shaming Doesn’t Work and Can Increase Health Risks

If you think harping on someone about their weight will convince them to drop some pounds, you couldn’t be more wrong. Not only does it not work, but it may also raise their risk for heart disease and other health problems.

As someone who has battled the bulge, it seems ridiculous to me that anyone would even think that shaming an obese person would have any positive effect. And as someone who has counseled people in 12-step recovery, I can tell you that pressuring someone or making fun of someone with a weight problem – which is often a sign of an eating problem – only makes things worse.

If someone is burying their problems in food, harping on it only makes them withdraw even more into food.

To me, it’s obvious. But plenty of people – too many people – think fat-shaming is effective.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia found that overweight women who believe negative messages about their bodies – called “weight-bias internalization” – had higher rates of metabolic syndrome, a combination of health problems that increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. Rebecca Puhl, deputy director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity said that the increased risk shows that weight stigma and fat-shaming “go much deeper than the inappropriate remarks or hurt feelings.” [1]

Overweight and obese people are often viewed as lazy, unattractive, incompetent, and lacking willpower. That doesn’t give heavy people a sense of motivation and confidence; it leaves them feeling hopeless and stigmatized. Depressed, really. And we know that depression can make you physically sick.

Published in the journal Obesity, the study suggests that it’s not just the stigmatizing, but also the level of a person’s reaction to fat-shaming, that can cause health woes.

The Research

Researchers asked 159 adults how much they devalued and blamed themselves when they were stigmatized for their weight. The team also looked at how often metabolic syndrome was diagnosed among the participants.

In all, 51 of the participants met the criteria for metabolic syndrome. Those who felt the most devalued and had the highest levels of self-blame were approximately 46% more likely to have metabolic syndrome. Those participants were also found to be 6 times as likely to have high triglycerides. [1], [2]

People with the highest levels of internalizing devaluation and self-blame – in other words, they really took those nasty words and stereotypes to heart – had 3 times the risk of metabolic syndrome, compared with the lowest-level group.

The study lends support to earlier research, said Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. He said:

“Numerous studies have shown that experiencing weight stigma increases stress hormones, blood pressure, inflammation and ultimately increases the risk of several diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.” [1]

For example, studies have shown that being fat-shamed can cause increased inflammation and stress-hormone levels in the body. People who dislike themselves also have a harder time exercising and eating healthy. [2]

All of that “poking fun” at obese people has also been linked to binge eating, as I mentioned, and premature death.

Rebecca L. Pearl, PhD, said:

“There is a misconception that sometimes a little bit of stigma is necessary to motivate people to lose weight. But time and time again, research shows that this is just not the case.” [2]

So, what does all of this mean? Firstly, that you have to love yourself before you can make positive changes for your health. And secondly, it’s not OK to shame overweight people. And if you’re one of the people being stigmatized for your weight, the problem lies with the person stigmatizing you not you!

Pearl added:

“People with obesity are portrayed in negative ways in the media; there’s bullying at school and on social networks; people even feel judged by family members or in health-care settings.

Rather than blaming and shaming people and being dismissive of their struggle, we need to work collaboratively to set goals to improve health behaviors.” [2]

You Should Still Try to Make Improvements for Your Health

Now, none of this is to say that if you’re overweight or obese, you should stay that way just because you have a positive self-image. Excess weight isn’t healthy. Even if you don’t have health problems now, chances are if you don’t lose weight, you’ll develop them in the future.

If you struggle with your weight and struggle with how you feel about yourself, set small, attainable goals to help you shed the pounds. Give yourself reasons to pat yourself on the back and tangible successes to encourage you along the way.

Sources:

[1] HealthDay

[2] Health

Fat-Shaming Doesn’t Work and Can Increase Health Risks

If you think harping on someone about their weight will convince them to drop some pounds, you couldn’t be more wrong. Not only does it not work, but it may also raise their risk for heart disease and other health problems.

As someone who has battled the bulge, it seems ridiculous to me that anyone would even think that shaming an obese person would have any positive effect. And as someone who has counseled people in 12-step recovery, I can tell you that pressuring someone or making fun of someone with a weight problem – which is often a sign of an eating problem – only makes things worse.

If someone is burying their problems in food, harping on it only makes them withdraw even more into food.

To me, it’s obvious. But plenty of people – too many people – think fat-shaming is effective.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia found that overweight women who believe negative messages about their bodies – called “weight-bias internalization” – had higher rates of metabolic syndrome, a combination of health problems that increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. Rebecca Puhl, deputy director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity said that the increased risk shows that weight stigma and fat-shaming “go much deeper than the inappropriate remarks or hurt feelings.” [1]

Overweight and obese people are often viewed as lazy, unattractive, incompetent, and lacking willpower. That doesn’t give heavy people a sense of motivation and confidence; it leaves them feeling hopeless and stigmatized. Depressed, really. And we know that depression can make you physically sick.

Published in the journal Obesity, the study suggests that it’s not just the stigmatizing, but also the level of a person’s reaction to fat-shaming, that can cause health woes.

The Research

Researchers asked 159 adults how much they devalued and blamed themselves when they were stigmatized for their weight. The team also looked at how often metabolic syndrome was diagnosed among the participants.

In all, 51 of the participants met the criteria for metabolic syndrome. Those who felt the most devalued and had the highest levels of self-blame were approximately 46% more likely to have metabolic syndrome. Those participants were also found to be 6 times as likely to have high triglycerides. [1], [2]

People with the highest levels of internalizing devaluation and self-blame – in other words, they really took those nasty words and stereotypes to heart – had 3 times the risk of metabolic syndrome, compared with the lowest-level group.

The study lends support to earlier research, said Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. He said:

“Numerous studies have shown that experiencing weight stigma increases stress hormones, blood pressure, inflammation and ultimately increases the risk of several diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.” [1]

For example, studies have shown that being fat-shamed can cause increased inflammation and stress-hormone levels in the body. People who dislike themselves also have a harder time exercising and eating healthy. [2]

All of that “poking fun” at obese people has also been linked to binge eating, as I mentioned, and premature death.

Rebecca L. Pearl, PhD, said:

“There is a misconception that sometimes a little bit of stigma is necessary to motivate people to lose weight. But time and time again, research shows that this is just not the case.” [2]

So, what does all of this mean? Firstly, that you have to love yourself before you can make positive changes for your health. And secondly, it’s not OK to shame overweight people. And if you’re one of the people being stigmatized for your weight, the problem lies with the person stigmatizing you not you!

Pearl added:

“People with obesity are portrayed in negative ways in the media; there’s bullying at school and on social networks; people even feel judged by family members or in health-care settings.

Rather than blaming and shaming people and being dismissive of their struggle, we need to work collaboratively to set goals to improve health behaviors.” [2]

You Should Still Try to Make Improvements for Your Health

Now, none of this is to say that if you’re overweight or obese, you should stay that way just because you have a positive self-image. Excess weight isn’t healthy. Even if you don’t have health problems now, chances are if you don’t lose weight, you’ll develop them in the future.

If you struggle with your weight and struggle with how you feel about yourself, set small, attainable goals to help you shed the pounds. Give yourself reasons to pat yourself on the back and tangible successes to encourage you along the way.

Sources:

[1] HealthDay

[2] Health

MRI Reveals Brain Damage in Obese Teens

(Science Daily) Obesity in young people has become a significant public health problem. In the U.S., the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data from the World Health Organization indicates that the number of overweight or obese infants and young children ages five years or younger increased from 32 million globally in 1990 to 41 million in 2016.

The post MRI Reveals Brain Damage in Obese Teens appeared on Stillness in the Storm.

Giving Up on Losing Weight? Here’s How to Stick with It

If you’ve never tried to lose weight, let me fill you in on something: It can be hard if you don’t know what to do. What’s more, though it can be frustrating only losing a few pounds at a time, that’s the healthiest way to do it. But it doesn’t have to be as hard as it you think. I’m here to help you NOT give up on your weight loss goals.

In the United States, 1 in every 3 people are obese, compared to 1 in 5 just 2 decades ago. But unlike in years past, Americans are now less likely to try to lose the extra weight. People surveyed between 2009 and 2014 were 17% less likely overall to say they’d tried to lose weight in the previous year compared to those surveyed between 1988 and 1994. [1]

It’s a problem when the simply ‘overweight’ have given up on weight-loss the most, putting them at risk of becoming obese.

Senior researcher Dr. Jian Zhang, an associate professor of epidemiology at Georgia Southern University, says:

“This is not good. We are missing the opportunity to stop overweight from becoming obesity.” [1]

Mixed Messages

It’s hard to adhere to a healthy eating pattern when you’re not sure what that even means. Dr. Mitchell Roslin, chief of obesity surgery for Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says:

“First they were told don’t eat fat, and now we are telling patients to reduce simple carbohydrates. While I believe that reducing carbohydrates is key, what the public hears is, ‘I might as well eat what I like because all this advice has not worked.’” [1]

It wasn’t long ago that fat was considered a harbinger of stroke and heart disease, and weight gain. People turned to low-fat and fat-free food, believing them to be the healthy alternatives. In reality, these products are loaded with added sugar to improve flavor, which leads to an increase in those health conditions, as well as diabetes and obesity.

The other sad reality is that people are so used to hearing about the obesity epidemic in America, many have come to believe that obesity is the “new normal” and something they must simply accept.

Read: 4 Mantras for Lasting Weight Loss

Overweight is the New Norm

The researchers behind a study published last year point to a 2010 study in the journal Obesity which detailed “a generational shift in social norms related to body weight.” According to that body of research, between 1998 and 2004, both men and women became less likely to classify themselves as overweight, even when their body mass index (BMI) proved otherwise. [2]

Then there’s the very real frustration of having lost weight only to regain it. It’s easy to feel like a failure when you’ve watched the pounds you’ve shed start to creep back onto your frame. The authors of the new report wrote:

“The longer adults live with obesity, the less they may be willing to attempt weight loss, in particular if they had attempted weight loss multiple times without success.” [2]

According to a 2011 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, after dieting, the body undergoes a series of changes designed to make sure that all the lost weight is gained back.

Thanks for that slap in the face, nature.

6 Simple Tips to Just ‘Stick with It’

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you need a plan. And no matter how often the food and ‘nutrition’ industry shifts, stick to that plan and see if it works. As many people can tell you, simply deciding to “diet” and getting rid of unhealthy food in your home may not be enough to sustain you for the duration of your weight-loss.

Here are a few tips to help you on your journey.

1. Set Reasonable Goals

If you want to lose, say, 100 pounds, then you need to start small. There’s no way you can really lose 100 pounds quickly, so you need to set smaller goals that help you get to your ultimate one.

June Kloubec, Ph.D., a professor in the department of nutrition and exercise science at Bastyr University, explains:

“Most experts agree that losing more than 2 pounds per week is difficult to sustain and an unhealthy way to manage weight loss.” [3]

Read: Eating These 3 ‘Fatty’ Foods Can Make You Thinner

Instead, try setting a goal of losing just 5 pounds. You could pick a date to achieve that goal by – but I would simply aim to lose 1-2 lbs per week. If you don’t lose that for 2 weeks straight, re-evaluate your lifestyle and think about cutting something else from your normal diet.

The absolutely best thing you can do for yourself, at least for a few weeks or months, is to vehemently track your calorie intake. No one wants to do it, but it may be the key to your weight loss goals.

2. Reward Yourself

When you reach a new goal, don’t just pat yourself on the back, celebrate! Try including a reward for each 5 pounds lost, for example, so that you have further motivation. I would recommend that you stay at that goal for at least 2 weeks, though, before rewarding yourself.

3. Make Yourself Accountable

There’s a reason people have weight loss blogs. It’s easier to stick to something when there are other people holding you accountable. If you mess up and “fall off the wagon,” confess it to someone. Consider some safe-but-annoying repercussions, too, like completing a household chore you’ve been avoiding. Maybe wash the dishes by hand, even if you have a dishwasher. [4]

4. Invest in Your Health

Got an extra $150 burning a hole in your wallet? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’d only spend that money on something you’re really serious about, because that kind of cold cash doesn’t come around often. If it does, consider joining a gym or athletic club. If you’re not wild about the idea of working out in front of other people, buy a piece of exercise equipment.

One important note here is that you don’t need cardio to lose weight – you simply need to burn more calories than your taking in. So, if you hate cardio, just focus on diet.

5. Make it Sustainable

Don’t make the mistake that I did. About a decade ago, in an attempt to lose weight, I ate mostly salad for lunch every day at work, with things like apples and bananas for snacks. There wasn’t any protein in those salads, either. I didn’t lose any weight, but I was starving and miserable.

The tricky thing about losing weight is that is usually means you need to eat less…but if adopt a diet that is simply unsustainable, you’ll binge and ultimately end up kicking yourself while your down.

Pick something that works for you. There are so many different diets, and 99% of them can work as long as your body is burning more calories than it is taking in. The Mediterranean diet, the Ketogenic diet, the Paleo diet, and many more are tried and true ways to lose weight – if the diet works for you.

Read: Eat More Protein to Lose Weight and Prevent Diabetes

6. When You Mess up, get up, Dust Yourself off, and Keep Going

Accidents happen. Office birthday cakes happen. You get the idea – temptation is everywhere so you might as well accept that you’re going to “mess up” sometimes. It’s OK. In fact, you shouldn’t really deny yourself your favorite foods. It’s more important that you eat them in moderation, and infrequently.

When you do mess up, though, remember that it doesn’t cancel out the great progress you’ve already made. Even if it’s Day 2 and the only victory you have under your belt so far is that you ate more green beans than meat at dinner last night.

Sources:

[1] HealthDay

[2] Los Angeles Times

[3] Self

[4] Everyday Health

With 79.4 Million Obese Citizens, the U.S. is Leading in Obesity

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from health problems due to being overweight or obese. Oh, and the United States was the 3rd fattest country on Earth. [1]

China is more populated than the U.S., yet the U.S. has more ‘obese’ citizens – 79.4 million compared with 57.3 million. [2]

Approximately 30% of the world’s population lives with excess body weight, and 10% of those individuals qualify as obese. People were classified as overweight if their body mass index (BMI) was between 25 and 29, while obesity was defined as having a BMI of 30 or over. [1]

Researchers wrote that the findings represent “a growing and disturbing global public health crisis.”

When looking at the 100 most populated countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the U.S. had the highest obesity rates, at 27.5%, 26.8%, and 26.5% of people respectively having a BMI over 30. [3]

Source: Weight of the Nation

For the study released just 2 years ago, the Global Burden of Disease 2015 Obesity Collaborators analyzed data on 68.5 million people to establish body weight trends from 1980 to 2015, and to get a more complete picture of the obesity crises’ effect on the world.

Seventy countries saw their obesity rates double since 1980, and the rates of people carrying unhealthy, excess weight has increased in almost all other nations. Overall, almost 108 million children are now considered obese, and over 600 million adults.

The authors wrote:

“Although the prevalence of obesity among children has been lower than among adults, the rate of increase in childhood obesity in many countries was greater than that of adults.”

The U.S. had the highest childhood obesity rate of the 100 most populated nations, with 12.7% of children classified as obese. The remaining top 5 included Saudi Arabia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and Chile.

The researchers also found that weight-related illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, had claimed the lives of 4 million people in 2015, and that number is only expected to rise.

Read: Obesity Found to Spark 500,000 Cancer Cases Annually

Ashkan Afshin, lead author of the study, said:

“Excess body weight is one of the most challenging public health problems of our time, affecting nearly one in every three people. Over the past decade, numerous interventions have been evaluated, but very little evidence exists about their long-term effectiveness.

Over the next 10 years, we will closely with the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in monitoring and evaluating the progress of countries in controlling overweight and obesity. Moreover, we will share data and findings with scientists, policymakers, and other stakeholders seeking evidence-based strategies to address this problem.”

Why Are So Many People Battling Excess Weight?

Urbanization, poor diets, and reduced physical activity are believed to be the primary drivers behind increasing obesity rates. Though researchers found fewer obese children than adults, the rates at which their numbers increased was greater. That means today’s children will have lived more years with a high BMI. [2]

Assistant professor or global health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Goodarz Danaei said:

“This re-emphasizes what we already know about the obesity epidemic. But it raises the alarm that we may be facing a wave of obesity in the coming years across high and low-income countries.

We don’t really know what the long-term effects will be if exposed to high BMI over 20, 30, 40 years. It may be larger than we have already seen.”

What is the Root of Increasing Obesity Levels?

China, Saudi Arabia, and the United States are wealthy countries, but that didn’t seem to make a difference in the study. Obesity levels increased among all the nations studied, regardless of income.

The authors wrote:

“Changes in the food environment and food systems are probably major drivers. Increased availability, accessibility, and affordability of energy dense foods, along with intense marketing of such foods, could explain excess energy intake and weight gain among different populations.”

This is especially true for people who live in cities, which are often home to food deserts.

What is a food desert? It’s an area of the country where there are mini-marts on practically every street corner, but few or no supermarkets to speak of. Mini-marts offer snacks, sodas, candy, and lots of fattening prepared foods, but no fresh produce or other healthful foods. As of 2015, as many as 23.5 million people in the U.S. lived in food deserts.

Much of the time, people who grow up in a food desert know little about healthy eating, or how to prepare healthful foods. A lack of education is as much a problem as a lack of nourishing foods.

Source: Be First food Friendly

Read: Chance of Obesity, Diabetes Rises When McDonald’s is Nearby

Additionally, urbanization has led to reduced levels and opportunities for physical activity, though the authors said these are “unlikely to be major contributors.”

Whatever the cause, people who don’t take their weight seriously could be in for years of needless suffering and early death.

Said study co-author Dr. Christopher Murray:

“The people who shrug off weight gain do so at their own risk – risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions.”

Sources:

[1] USA Today

[2] CNN

[3] Newsweek

Weight of the Nation

Be First Food Friendly

Can You Be Fat but Fit? Not Likely, Study Says

People who are overweight or obese are a bit misinformed if they believe that just because they don’t have any immediate health problems, it means that they can be “fat but fit.” Furthermore, they actually set themselves up for health problems by believing that they have the same disease risk as healthy-weight people, a study by scientists at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. suggests. [1]

Researchers examined the health records of about 3.5 million people in the U.K. from 1995 to 2015 who didn’t have heart disease at the start of the study, and then grouped them according to body mass index (BMI) and whether they had diabetes, high blood pressure, or abnormal blood fat levels.

Source: Drexel Medicine

Those who had a high BMI but no other health problems were categorized as “metabolically healthy obese,” yet they were found to have a 50% increased risk of heart disease, a 7% higher risk of stroke or heart attack, and an 11% greater risk of developing poor circulation to the limbs.

Rishi Caleyachetty, Ph.D., co-author of the study and an epidemiologist at the university, said:

“This is the largest prospective study of the association between metabolically health [sic] obesity and cardiovascular disease events.” [2]

“The priority of health professionals should be to promote and facilitate weight loss among obese persons, regardless of the presence or absence of metabolic abnormalities. At the population level, so-called metabolically healthy obesity is not a harmless condition, and perhaps it is better not to use this term to describe an obese person, regardless of how many metabolic complications they have.” [3]

The study contradicts past research, which has indicated that metabolically healthy obese people don’t have the complications normally associated with obesity, including high blood pressure, diabetes, or poor blood sugar control. [3]

Read: The Average American Woman Now Weighs as Much as 1960s Man

A study by Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam published earlier this year seemed to indicate that obesity doesn’t necessarily equal poor health, and that exercise reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke, regardless of BMI. [3]

However, that same study found that if people had a combination of obesity and inactivity, they were a third more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Now, in light of the latest study’s findings, researchers are calling for the term “metabolically healthy obesity” to be changed. [3]

Right now in America, more than one-third of adults are obese, according to the CDC. Not a single state in the union has an obesity rate of less than 20%. [2]

Source: Population Reference Bureau

Apart from future health problems, overweight people statistically earn less in their careers than normal-weight people, and women are the most affected.

Sources:

[1] Men’s Fitness

[2] New York Post

[3] Express

Drexel Medicine

Population Reference Bureau

Obesity may be the Cause of Increasing Cancer Rates in Millennials

Early detection and improvements in treatment have reduced overall rates of new cancer cases and cancer deaths, but lifestyle factors are keeping rates somewhat inflated across the board, even if some rates are going down overall. Actually, some types of cancer are increasing among Millennials, and researchers think obesity is fueling these increases.

A report from the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) shows that obesity has been on the rise among all age groups for years. The latest federal numbers show that nearly 36% of American adults ages 20-39 are obese, and that may be an underestimate. If those numbers continue on an upward trajectory, 57% of all U.S. children will be obese by the time they reach the age of 35.

Between 1995 and 2014, the rates of 6 obesity-related cancers increased among adults ages 25-49, the report shows. These cancers include multiple myeloma, colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney, and pancreatic.

Although cancer is often associated with older age, the research shows that the sharpest increases were found in younger people.

Between 1995 and 2014, the incidence of cancer rose:

  • 0.77% annually among adults ages 45-49
  • 2.47% among those ages 30-34
  • 4.34% among people ages 25-29

Rates of kidney cancer had the sharpest annual increase for young Americans during that period: 6.23%.

Cancer is fueled by a great many things: genetics, environmental toxin exposure, smoking, activity level, diet, and numerous other lifestyle factors. What we may not have known years ago was how big of an impact obesity has on cancer development. Approximately 40% of all U.S. cancer cases can be blamed on obesity. It is a risk factor for some of the most common types of the disease, including breast, ovarian, and liver.

Prevalence of Self-Reported Obesity Among U.S. Adults by State and Territory, BRFSS, 2017

Read: Obesity to Become the Leading Cause of Cancer Among Women in the U.K.

By 2014, obesity was at the root of 60% of endometrial cancers, 36% of gallbladder cancers, 33% of kidney cancers, 17% of pancreatic cancers, and 11% of multiple myelomas among adults age 30 and older, the report says.

Study author Ahmedin Jemal, scientific vice president of surveillance and health services research with the American Cancer Society, said in a statement: [2]

“Although the absolute risk of these cancers is small in younger adults, these findings have important public health implications.”

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2015 show there were more than 183,000 new cancer cases among adults ages 25-49, while there were more than 252,000 new cases among those ages 65-69.

Jeffrey Meyerhardt, clinical director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said:

“The risk of getting colorectal, multiple myeloma, or kidney cancer is still much less in a 25- to 49-year-old than someone in their 60s and 70s, but that rate is what is sort of surprising and concerning.”

Obesity Influences Cancer Risk in Numerous Ways

Obesity influences cancer risk in a number of ways. Excess weight can increase inflammation in the body, which can cause several different types of chronic conditions – including Type 2 diabetes – as well as fuel cancer cell growth.

Sex and growth hormones, such as insulin, can be altered by obesity and lead to the proliferation of cancer cells.

What’s more, some of the foods that can spur obesity are known carcinogens in and of themselves, including red and processed meats, as well as prepared food and junk food. [1]

Read: Obesity Found to Spark 500,000 Cancer Cases Annually

The report does not directly link obesity to cancer, but it is impossible to ignore the fact that increases in cancer for young people coincided with a doubling in rates of childhood and adolescent obesity between 1980 and 2014. Leukemia and a type of lower stomach cancer were the only non-obesity-related cancers to increase among young people during the study.

The authors wrote that healthcare providers should do all they can to screen for and prevent obesity in their patients. If obesity-related cancers continue to climb, it could wipe out decades of public health progress.

“The future burden of these cancers might be exacerbated as younger cohorts age, potentially halting or reversing the progress achieved in reducing cancer mortality over the past several decades.”

The report is published in the journal Lancet Public Health.

There is an obesity epidemic in the United States. In September, the nonprofit groups Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a report showing that 7 states had adult obesity rates over 35% in 2017. Only Hawaii and Colorado had obesity rates under 25%. [2]

Obesity costs the nation $149 billion annually in directly related healthcare spending and an additional $66 billion a year in lowered economic productivity.

Sources:

[1] Time

[2] USA Today

E-mails Show Coca-Cola Tried to Influence CDC Health Officials

The 2 most important keys to a healthy lifestyle are diet and exercise. But Coca-Cola desperately wants people to believe that diet isn’t as important as exercise, which isn’t much of a surprise, considering the products the company makes. But what you may not know is that Coca-Cola is willing to sink to low levels in order to deceive the public in order to sell more products.

A report published January 29 in the health policy journal Milbank Quarterly reveals that e-mails between Coca-Cola and top officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the company tried to use its influence with the agency to push the World Health Organization (WHO) to emphasize exercise over diet as the solution to the obesity epidemic.

The report is new, but the methods are not.

The Coca-Cola Deception

Back in 2013, the corporation came out with an advertising campaign centered on the nation’s status on health and obesity. In the ads, Coca-Cola claimed to be doing its part to fight obesity by creating products that help people lose weight. In other words, diet soda.

As we wrote in 2013, Coca-Cola explains in the campaign how it can play an important role in fighting obesity by offering low- and no-calorie beverages, and stresses that the obesity epidemic is not caused simply by consuming the calories in its products.

Coca-Cola has been accused in the past of paying scientists to shift the blame away from junk food and sugary drinks for causing the obesity epidemic. The company was even caught red-handed donating large sums of money to “charities” that published propaganda telling people that soda has nothing to do with obesity, diabetes, and the many other health problems associated with obesity. It was further revealed that Coca-Cola paid health writers, bloggers, and spokespeople to push soda on the public as a healthy beverage.

This time, consumer groups are accusing the company of trying to sway the CDC toward policies that would benefit its products by corresponding with top agency officials and donating to the CDC Foundation. These alleged actions were discovered through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

For example, former Coca-Cola senior vice president Alex Malaspina wrote in one newly discovered e-mail that the WHO “should not only consider sugary foods as the only cause of obesity but to also consider the lifestyle changes that have been occurring throughout the universe.”

The report states:

“The e-mails we obtained using FOIA requests reveal efforts by Coca-Cola to lobby the CDC to advance corporate objectives rather than health, including to influence the World Health Organization.”

There is little doubt that the Western diet, as a whole, is contributing greatly to obesity worldwide, particularly in America. Americans’ lust for over-consuming fast food, junk food, and processed food is insatiable and the eating pattern carries much of the blame for the nation’s expanding waistline. But the Western diet is also sugar-laden, and that’s the information Coca-Cola wants kept out of the public eye.

And it’s not just Coca-Cola. PepsiCo and other beverage makers have sought to shift the blame away from sugar and toward a lack of physical activity by influencing policymakers and lawmakers, and through misleading marketing campaigns and so-called philanthropy for years.

Peter Lurie, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said:

“One of the things the sugar industry has so far been quite successful in is denying the strong and emerging science related to the adverse effects of sugary drinks.”

Even before there were thousands of soda options to choose from, the sugar industry was trying to convince Americans that sugar was near-harmless. In the 1960’s, the industry paid Harvard scientists to author studies showing that the worst health effects of sugar were cavities and hyperactivity. It laid the blame for obesity and heart disease on fat, and the American public blindly bought into the propaganda. It wasn’t long before no-fat and low-fat products became commonplace.

In reality, low-fat foods contain about 20% more sugar than full-fat products. So while Americans were gobbling up more sugar and less fat thinking they were being healthy in doing so, the sugar industry lined its pockets on the money it made off of people’s naiveté and trusting natures. After all, if Harvard scientists say something is good for you, surely it is. Right?

Coca-Cola is still betting that buyers don’t understand the relationship between health and diet.

Nason Maani Hessari, a research fellow in the Department of Health Services Research and Policy at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, who was first author of the new paper, said that:

“…these e-mail exchanges show what appear to be attempts to leverage personal relationships at the CDC to further these goals at the expense of population health – and lead to questions about whether organizations like the CDC should refrain from engaging in partnerships where there is such a potential for conflict of interest.” [2]

CDC: A Willing Partner

Dr. Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences in the Boston University School of Public Health called the depth of collaboration between Coca-Cola and the CDC “a little bit scary.” He also co-authored of a paper published in 2016 in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine detailing how Coca-Cola and PepsiCo sponsored at least 96 national health organizations at the same time the companies were lobbying against public health bills intended to reduce how many sugary sodas people drink.

“To me, the most disturbing aspect was the extent to which CDC officials were actually helping the company achieve its lobbying objective, and there were examples of giving them advice, providing contact information, helping them try to fight against soda taxes.

The larger implications of this, in my view, are that it really highlights the need to put up barrier walls – talking about building walls – but we need to have some barrier walls built between our government agencies and these corporations to prevent undue influence from occurring.”

Here is the truth: The occasional sugary drink is fine, but it should be a treat, and not part of your daily lifestyle – no matter what anyone says.

Sources:

[1] The Washington Post

[2] CNN

Scientists Find Link Between Excessive Body Fat and a Smaller Brain

If it seems like your clothes are shrinking, it could be that you’ve gained weight and your clothes aren’t really shrinking. But researchers have found that something even more important may be shrinking due to excess body fat – your brain.

It seems that having excessive body fat around the middle can lead to brain shrinkage, according to recent research. Specifically, shrunken gray matter volume. Gray matter contains the brain’s 100 billion nerve cells. The brain’s white matter contains the nerve fibers necessary for connecting brain regions.

Study author Mark Hamer, a professor of exercise as medicine at Loughborough University in England, said the findings support those of previous studies.

“Previous studies have shown associations between gray matter atrophy and risk of developing dementia.”

For the study, published in the journal Neurology, Hamer and his colleagues measured the body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio of 9,652 middle-aged adults in the U.K. A BMI score between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy, while a score above 30 is considered obese. A waist-to-hip ratio above 0.90 for men and above 0.85 for women indicates that a person has a bigger belly than hips.

Read: Energetic Walking Found to Increase Brain Size, Preserve Cognition

Nearly 1 in 5 of the participants were found to be obese.

The team also used MRI scans to look at the participants’ brain volume. They factored in age, physical activity, smoking, and high blood pressure, all of which can shrink brain volume.

The study revealed that people with both a higher BMI and waist-to-hip ratio had the lowest gray matter volume.

Hamer wrote:

“The reductions in brain size increase in a linear fashion as fat around the middle grew larger.”

By comparison, excessive body weight appeared to make no difference in white matter volume. However, fat around the middle did shrink other regions of the brain, including the pallidum, nucleus accumbens, putamen (linked only to a higher BMI), and caudate (linked only to a higher waist-to-hip ratio). These brain regions are associated with motivation and reward.

But which comes first? Brain shrinkage or obesity?

Hamer said:

“It’s unclear if abnormalities in brain structure lead to obesity or if obesity leads to these changes in the brain.”

It’s possible that brain shrinkage actually causes obesity, but there is evidence to suggest it’s the other way around. Fat around the mid-section, called visceral fat, is linked to a number of health problems: [2]

  • Heart attacks
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Breast and colorectal cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Harvard Health explains that fat cells – primarily abdominal fat cells – are biologically-active and should be thought of as organs. This is because visceral fat produces hormones and other substances that can have a negative impact on your health. Immune system chemicals that promote cardiovascular disease called cytokines are produced by fat cells. Cytokines and other biochemicals “are thought to have deleterious effects on cells’ sensitivity to insulin, blood pressure, and blood clotting.” [3]

Visceral fat is not the flab you can grab with your hands around your mid-section. Rather, it refers to fat that builds up around the body’s organs.

Read: 4 Proven Natural Weight Loss Tips for How to Lose Visceral Fat

In addition, due to the location of visceral fat near the portal vein, which carries blood from the intestinal area to the liver, substances released by the fat can enter the portal vein and travel to the liver, where they can affect the production of blood lipids. This is why excessive fat around the middle is linked with higher total cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol, lower HDL “good” cholesterol, and insulin resistance.

In the recent study, the researchers hypothesized that excessive visceral fat may cause brain shrinkage by producing inflammatory substances that may play a role in brain atrophy. [4]

Dr. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, who was not involved with the study, said:

“Brain gray matter shrinkage … seems to be associated with obesity and with increased visceral fat. All this goes to show that good general health is very important for good brain health.”

Sources:

[1] CNN

[2] Medical News Today

[3] Harvard Health Publishing

[4] Live Science

BrainScape