/publications/issue/2009/2009-06/OutlookObesity-0609

Outlook: Obesity Epidemic

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Preschool-Age Obesity More Prevalent in Some Races

The results of a study revealed that although obesity does not seem to discriminate by age, it does see greater occurrences among certain racial and ethnic groups. The overall obesity rate among 4-year-old American children is nearly 1 in 5, but the numbers fluctuate when racial and ethnic background is taken into account, according to the study published in the April 2009 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

American Indian/Native Alaskan children represented the highest rate of obesity among the 4-year-olds, at 31.2%, prevalence about twice that of non-Hispanic white (15.9%) or Asian children (12.8%). The second-highest obesity rate occurred among Hispanic youngsters, at 22%. Non-Hispanic black children were found to have a 20.8% obesity occurrence.

The conclusions were drawn using results from the 2005 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, which measured the height and weight of approximately 8550 children born in 2001. For the study, obesity was defined as body mass index at or above the 95th percentile for age of the sex- specific Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts.

Think Before You Drink to Avoid Obesity

Individuals seeking to lose weight are often told to watch what they eat, but it turns out that watching what they drink might have a bigger impact on their efforts to shed pounds. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (April 2009), liquid calorie intake had a larger effect on weight than solid calorie intake among trial participants, and reduced liquid calories resulted in reduced weight.

Sugar-sweetened beverages were the only type that had a significant correlation with weight change, the researchers found. Among 7 types of beverages (diet drinks, milk, 100% juice, coffee and tea with sugar, coffee and tea without sugar, and alcoholic beverages), sugar-sweetened drinks provided the highest number of liquid calories. A reduction of 1 serving was associated with a weight loss of about 1 lb at 6 months and 1.5 lb at 18 months.

Sleep It Off: The Correlation Between Insomnia and Obesity

Losing sleep over a weight problem will only make matters worse, according to researchers. Study results published in the May 2009 issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology stated that chronic insomnia results in increased appetite.

For the study, the researchers examined nocturnal levels of ghrelin and leptin, 2 hormones that regulate hunger and fullness in the body, in both healthy sleepers and chronic insomnia patients. By measuring participants' levels of the hormones several times during the course of the night, the researchers found that leptin levels evened out to about the same amount for both groups, but ghrelin levels were 30% lower in individuals with insomnia.

Lowered levels of ghrelin would typically signify a decrease in appetite, because the peptide secretes from the stomach to stimulate appetite, increasing before meals. Further research by the investigators pointed to insomnia patients having increased ghrelin and decreased leptin during the day, factors that both result in a stimulated appetite.

Mango Extract: Seed of Hope for Weight Loss?


A commonly consumed fruit in its native region, irvingia gabonensis, or African mango, has been found to hold a tool for weight loss and lowering cholesterol. According to a study published online in Lipids in Health and Disease (March 2, 2009), a seed extract from the fruit helps to inhibit the development of fat cells through a number of metabolic pathways.

For the trial, researchers randomly divided 102 healthy overweight or obese volunteers into 2 groups, each to receive either 150 mg of African mango extract or matching placebo 30 minutes to 1 hour before lunch and dinner each day. The participants were evaluated several times throughout the 10-week study to examine changes in anthropometrics and metabolic parameters to include fasting lipids, blood glucose, C-reactive protein, adiponectin, and leptin.

Individuals taking the African mango extract showed improvements in body weight, body fat, and waist circumference. In addition, the researchers observed positive changes in plasma total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood glucose, C-reactive protein, and adiponectin and leptin levels in those taking the seed extract, compared with the placebo group.

The study was the first double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial examining the African mango seed extract as a tool for weight loss. The researchers said the promising results of the trial call for more extensive studies of the extract's effects.