Pharmacy Times

Outlook: Obesity Epidemic

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Spare Tires Need More Air: The Belly Fat–Lung Function Connection

Excess pounds around the abdominal area cause more than just bathing suit woes, researchers found. Along with the other health issues that can stem from abdominal obesity, decreased lung function poses a threat, according to a study published in the April issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

For the study, researchers analyzed health data for about 120,000 people in France, including demographic information, smoking history, alcohol consumption, and lung function, while also taking into account body mass index, waist circumference, and other metabolic health barometers. Abdominal obesity was defined as having a waist circumference of >35 inches for women and >40 inches for men.

The study results revealed a positive relationship between decreased lung func tion and metabolic syndrome, a link that was largely credited to abdominal obesity. The connection was deemed independent of other factors, such as smoking, drinking, and overall obesity.

As Food Prices Fluctuate, So Does Weight

In the current economy, especially, prices steer Americans’ purchases. Research published in the March issue of The Milbank Quarterly takes things a step further to show that changes in food pricing can spur changes in weight, even ones far-reaching enough to affect obesity rates.

Increasing the prices of less healthy items like fast foods and sweets, while lowering the prices of healthier foods like fruits and vegetables, results in lower body weight and lower obesity rates. The groups most receptive to such pricing changes are the overweight, children and adolescents, and low-income individuals, according to the researchers.

Although the results look encouraging, the researchers pointed out that the pricing changes would have to be somewhat sizable to produce significant changes in obesity occurrence.

For the study, the investigators analyzed research published between 1990 and 2008 that explored the concept of weight and body mass index in connection with pricing and taxes.

White Tea Extract Shows Promise for Combating Fat

Move over, green tea. White tea also has benefits to tout. An extract of the tea, which is purer than its black and green relatives, has been shown to inhibit the generation of new fat cells, as well as stimulate fat mobilization from mature adipocytes, according to the results of a study. In addition, the researchers found that after treating pre-adipocytes with the extract, fat incorporation in the origin of new adipocytes was reduced.

Made from the buds and first leaves of the tea plant Camellia sinensis, which is also used to make green and black teas, white tea goes through less processing than other teas and contains more of the ingredients considered active on human cells. The researchers called the plant “an ideal natural source to modulate the adipocyte life cycle at different stages and to induce antiobesity effects.”

The study was published in the May issue of Nutrition and Metabolism.

Increasing Intake of Calcium Can Aid Weight Loss

Lots of coverage is given to the importance of calcium for bone health, but a lesser-known benefit of the mineral is emerging. For those who lack the proper amount of calcium in their diet, upping intake to meet with daily recommendations aids in weight loss, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (March 11, 2009).

The researchers conducted a 15-week weight-loss program for obese women, which enrolled participants who took an average of <600 mg of calcium daily. The women followed a low-calorie diet and were instructed to take 2 tablets per day, which contained either a total of 1200 mg of calcium or placebo. Those taking the calcium lost close to 13 lb throughout their participation in the program, compared with about 2 lb for those in the control group.

Hypothesizing about the study results, the investigators concluded that the brain detects calcium deficiency and tells the body to feed itself to make up for the lack. On the other hand, a sufficient intake of calcium appears to suppress excessive appetite, they said.