outlook: OBESITY epidemic

JULY 01, 2007
Susan Farley

High BMI Linked to Pancreatic Cancer
A data review of 21 studies and almost 3.5 million patients, including 8062 patients with pancreatic cancer, made a connection between high body mass index (BMI) and pancreatic cancer. The study, which appeared in the May 2007 issue of the International Journal of Cancer, made the following link: obesity (especially adipose weight) can lead to adult type 2 diabetes, which can lead to long-standing diabetes, which has been linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

Walking Workstation = Weight Loss
A recent study showed that a combination stand-up desk/treadmill employed by obese office workers for a few hours a day resulted in an average weight loss of 44 to 66 lb in 1 year. Results of the study were published in the May 15, 2007, issue of British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Strategies for HC Professionals to Erase Stigma of Obesity
The North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO), the Obesity Society, a Web site for keeping the medical community and public informed of new advances in obesity research, has addressed the issue of biased attitudes against obese patients among medical professionals - the bias being that obese patients are lazy, unintelligent, and weak-willed. As a result of this bias, obese people may be hesitant to seek professional medical care, and research has proven that obese and overweight patients are more likely to cancel or postpone health services, particularly women. The NAASO has compiled the following list of strategies for health care professionals to help eliminate stigma and develop empathy for obese and overweight patients.

1. Consider that patients may have had negative experiences with other health care professionals regarding their weight, and approach patients with sensitivity.

2. Recognize the complex etiology of obesity, and communicate this to colleagues and patients to avoid stereotypes that obesity is attributable to personal willpower.

3. Explore all causes of presenting problems, not just weight.

4. Recognize that many patients have tried to lose weight repeatedly.

5. Emphasize behavior changes, rather than just the number on the scale.

6. Offer concrete advice (eg, "Start an exercise program," "Eat at home," etc, rather than simply saying, "You need to lose weight").

7. Acknowledge the difficulty of lifestyle changes.

8. Recognize that small weight losses can result in significant health gains.

9. Create a supportive health care environment with large, armless chairs in waiting rooms, appropriately sized medical equipment and patient gowns, and patient-friendly reading material.

Company Explores Obesity as Virus
After Richard Atkinson, MD, discovered that the adenovirus-36 (Ad-36), a common human virus, caused obesity in animals, he went to work to find out how this virus affects humans. By testing for antibodies to the virus in more than 500 human patients, he found that almost 30% of obese people have antibodies to Ad-36, while only 10% of non-obese people carry Ad-36 antibodies. Research also indicated that obese people with Ad-36 antibodies were, on average, at least 50 lb heavier than their leaner counterparts, but they had much lower amounts of blood cholesterol and triglycerides. While researchers do not yet know how Ad-36 causes obesity, they have found that the virus? DNA is present in the fat tissue of infected animals; they posit that Ad-36 alters the metabolism of fat tissue to make fat cells larger and more abundant.

Dr. Atkinson is the founder of Obetech, an obesity research center that has the technology to test humans for Ad-36. According to the company Web site, "A positive test means that a person has been exposed to this virus, and the infection may have contributed to weight gain or difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. Normal-weight people who have a positive test may be at risk for developing obesity, so they should see their primary care provider to institute a program of healthy eating, daily physical activity, and, if indicated, treatment with drugs to prevent weight gain." For more information, visit the Obetech Web site at www.obesityvirus.com.