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

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

Being Overweight During Adolescence may Increase Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Being an obese teenager is not easy. As if the bullying isn’t enough, being obese during adolescence puts kids at greater risk of health problems such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. But that’s not all; a recent study suggests that being obese during adolescence could even increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer later in life.  [1]

Pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers in the U.S. and about 7% of all cancer deaths. It is often referred to as a “silent killer” because people who have the disease often have no symptoms until the cancer has spread to other organs. [2]

There are a number of risk factors for pancreatic cancer that can’t be controlled, including age, gender, race, family history, diabetes, and inherited genetic syndromes. However, obesity is one risk factor that can be reduced or eliminated through lifestyle changes.

The Israeli researchers behind the recent study found that the odds for pancreatic cancer – which is still considered a fairly rare form of cancer – can quadruple due to obesity. As a person’s weight rises, their risk for pancreatic cancer rises right along with it, the team found. It can even affect men in the high-normal weight range.

Allison Rosenzweig, a senior manager at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, who was not in involved in the study, said:

“It’s been known for some time that obesity can increase an individual’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer, and [this is] an important new finding suggesting that obesity and overweight in adolescence can also impact risk.”

Related Read: Obese Kids’ Health Improves Just 9 Days Without Added Sugar

Even if a teen is overweight or obese, that doesn’t mean they are destined to develop pancreatic cancer, but the findings support what researchers already know: Nothing good comes from being young and heavy, at least not health-wise.

Rosenzweig said:

“Because pancreatic cancer is a relatively rare disease, though to impact around 55,000 Americans this year, even those at an increased risk have a low likelihood of developing the disease.”

The retrospective nature of the study meant that researchers could not prove that overweight and obesity cause pancreatic cancer, only that an association exists.

Delving into the Study

To examine that risk, study leader Dr. Zohar Levi, of Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv University, and a team of colleagues collected data on more than 1 million Jewish men and 700,000 Jewish women between the ages of 16 to 19 who were living in Israel from 1967 to 2002.

The researchers used the Israeli National Cancer Registry to identify cases of pancreatic cancer through 2012, which led to the identification of 551 new cases of pancreatic cancer.

Some Study Results

  • Compared to a normal-weight man, an obese man’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer was found to be 4 times higher.
  • Among women, that risk was slightly more than 4 times higher.
  • Men within the high-normal body mass index (BMI) range and overweight men were 49% and 97% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, respectively, compared with men whose weight fell in the low-normal BMI category. [3]
  • Overall, 11% of the pancreatic cancer cases were attributed to teenage overweight or obesity.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Dr. Chanan Meydan, of the Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Israel, hypothesized that overweight and obesity during the teen years may increase cell-damaging and cancer-causing inflammation.

Read: 12 Tips for Extinguishing Disease-Causing Inflammation

“It would be interesting to find whether the inflammatory process in obesity has links to the inflammatory process in malignancy. Are they connected somehow?”

The National Cancer Institute explains that inflammation isn’t always a bad thing. It is a normal physiological response that causes injured tissues to heal. In the case of chronic inflammation, however, the process can begin even if there is no injury. Sometimes it is caused by infections that don’t go away, abnormal immune reactions to normal tissues, or obesity. Over time, chronic inflammation can damage DNA and cause cancer. [4]

Meydan called the mechanism behind inflammation “a delicately balanced phenomenon with grave consequences when it’s out of balance.”

The good news is, teens who lose weight may significantly lower their risk of pancreatic cancer. Adding foods to your diet that lower inflammation – such as tart cherries, onions, turmeric, and ginger – can also help reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases associated with inflammation.

The study is published in the journal Cancer.

Sources:

[1] HealthDay

[2] American Cancer Society

[3] Newsmax

[4] National Cancer Institute

Task Force: Obese People Should be Prescribed Major Lifestyle Changes

Obesity has become such a widespread issue in the United States that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended in a recent report that people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher should be prescribed intensive behavioral interventions.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 35% of men and 40% of women in the United States are defined as obese. While an overweight population is quick to undergo weight loss surgery and shell out money on unproven weight loss products, deeper issues are often ignored that spark obesity in the first place.

The USPSTF updated its recommendations from 2012 on screening for obesity in adults, saying that behavior-based weight loss maintenance interventions, including diet changes and increased physical activity, are associated with less weight gain. That’s nothing new for most people, yet it’s a weight loss method that many people brush off and ignore.

This, despite the harsh reality that obesity can kill you or leave you disabled. It puts people at an increased risk for coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, a slew of cancers, and yes, death, particularly among adults younger than 65.

In developing the new recommendations, the task force reviewed the evidence from 83 studies published since 2012 on behavioral and pharmacological interventions for weight loss and weight loss maintenance based upon a primary care setting. The experts did not include surgical weight loss interventions and nonsurgical weight loss devices in the assessment because they are outside the scope of primary care. [1] [2]

Read: Why Less Than 1% of Obese Individuals Will Reach Normal Weight

The task force wrote:

“The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that offering or referring adults with obesity to intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions [ie, behavior-based weight loss and weight loss maintenance interventions] has a moderate net benefit.”

Weight loss can be an overwhelming, uphill battle, but shedding even a minimal number of pounds can be significant for health. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers a weight loss of 5% as clinically important. So, if a person weighs 200 pounds, a 5% weight loss equals 10 pounds.

The majority of behavioral weight loss interventions considered by the USPSTF lasted 1-2 years, and most of the patients had 12 or more sessions in the first year.

The task force also recommended:

  • Screening for abnormal glucose (blood sugar) levels and Type 2 diabetes
  • Statin use in those at increased risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Counseling for quitting smoking
  • Aspirin use to prevent cardiovascular disease in certain people
  • Behavioral counseling interventions that promote healthy eating and physical activity to prevent cardiovascular disease in adults

The task force said that doctors should recommend these lifestyle changes for obese patients but in many cases, it doesn’t happen. [2]

Chyke Doubeni, a University of Pennsylvania primary care physician and professor of family medicine and community health who is on the task force, said that:

“…the evidence suggests that primary care doctors are not talking to their patients about obesity and not offering them the services that could be helpful in losing weight and maintaining physical fitness.”

Read: NYC Allows Doctors to Prescribe Fruits and Veggies Instead of Pills

The reason? Well, one possible explanation is a lack of time. Unfortunately, many doctors are quick to push patients out of the examining room after only a few minutes. It’s not that doctors don’t care (though some likely don’t), it’s that there are only so many hours in a day and a waiting room full of patients can put a lot of pressure on a doctor.

Ashley Mason, a behavioral psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco’s Biology and Experience of Eating Lab, remarked:

“Those 14-minute visits with your [primary care physician] aren’t enough time for everything.”

And when an obese patient walks out of their doctor’s office without a game plan for losing weight, they take with them the growing likelihood of developing conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

But there’s a way for primary care physicians to work around time limits, said Debra Haire-Joshu, who directs the Center for Obesity Prevention and Policy Research at Washington-University in St. Louis.

Instead of trying to take on the burden of obesity by themselves, primary care physicians should refer these patients to others in the health community, such as dieticians, lifestyle coaches, and psychologists.

“We know what works. Now we’ve got to find a way to deliver something better than what we’re doing right now.”

The task force’s report is published in JAMA.

Sources:

[1] UPI

[2] NPR

CDC Survey: Obesity is Still Growing in America

One of the largest surveys of health in the United States reveals some sobering, though not entirely unexpected news: Americans are fatter than ever. Ouch.

The CDC has been asking Americans 18 and older about their health and their family members’ health every year since 1957. The National Health Interview Survey, which contains data from 2015 on more than 100,000 people, shows that more Americans had health insurance and smoked fewer cigarettes in 2015 than in previous years, but obesity and diabetes rates are still climbing.

In 2015, 30.4% of Americans age 20 and older said they were obese, up from 29.9% in 2014. It’s not a huge increase, but it represents a continuation of a trend that has been going on since at least 1997, when researchers began using the current survey format. At that time, the obesity rate was only 19.4%. [1]

cdc-obesity-study
Source: BGR

Brian Ward, health statistician at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and one of the authors of the report, told CNN:

“That is not a good trend there. But it is not necessarily anything unexpected.”

However, according to other surveys, the obesity problem is far worse than the CDC’s suggests. In 2012, the National Health and Nutrition Survey found that 34.9% of adults age 20 and over were obese. To reach their conclusions, the researchers behind that survey measured the height and weight of more than 9,000 Americans to calculate their body mass index (BMI). The current survey relied on respondents self-reporting their body size.

Michael W. Long, assistant professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, said the National Health and Nutrition Survey is probably more accurate, because people tend to exaggerate their height and downplay their weight.

That’s a discouraging thought. The CDC’s findings show that more than 97 million U.S. adults are grossly overweight, but that number might actually be much higher.

Other findings from the CDC survey included:

  • The rates of obesity among blacks were higher than Hispanics and white adults. About 45% of black women reported that they were obese, compared with 32.6% of Hispanic women and 27.2% of white women. Similarly, 35.1% of black men said they were obese, compared with 32% and 30.2% of Hispanic and white men, respectively.
  • Adults between the ages of 40 and 59 had the highest rates of obesity. In this age group, 34.6% of people said they were obese, compared with 26.5% of adults 20 to 39 years old 30.1% of adults 60 and older.

Long said:

“[The 40 to 59 age group] is really where you see a lot of the effects of obesity on diabetes-related morbidity and mortality, and you see premature deaths related to heart disease and are starting to see some of the cancers related to obesity.”

The survey showed that diabetes is on the rise, too – a natural consequence of rising obesity. Among people 18 and older, 9.5% said they had diabetes in 2015, compared with 9.1% in 2014. Again, the increase isn’t big, but it indicates an ongoing trend.

In 1997, only 5.1% of Americans had diabetes.

Additional Sources:

[1] BGR


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