outlook: OBESITY epidemic
Spice It Up!
Experiments by food scientists inTaiwan have shown that the size of fatcells can be reduced by capsaicin—thenaturally occurring compound that givesred peppers their hot and spicy flavor.Previous research asserted that obesitycould be contained if immature fat cells,known as adipocytes, were preventedfrom developing into mature cells. This isnot the first study to tout the positiveeffects capsaicin may have on obesity.Other studies have linked the spicycompound to a decrease in the amountof fat tissue as well as a decrease inblood fat levels. In this latest experiment,researchers found that capsaicin preventsthese pre-adipocytes from fillingup with fat. The level of spicinessrequired to enjoy these effects would beslightly greater than that found in a typicalIndian or Thai diet. Capsaicin worksby sending biochemical signals to fatcells, causing them to undergo apoptosis,a cell self-destruction process.
As Weight Increases,TestosteroneDeclines
As time passes for men, their testosteronelevels naturally decrease, butsomething that can speed up thatprocess is weight gain, according to arecent report in the Journal of ClinicalEndocrinology and Metabolism. This hormonedecrease could, in turn, lead tohealth problems such as diabetes, boneloss, loss of muscle mass, and sexualdysfunction.
A data review of 584 men aged 40 to70 years, who were followed for about 15years, revealed various causes of testosteronedecline besides aging. Researchersnoted this decline in men who hadchronic illness, men who had lost aspouse, men who took 6 or more medications,and men who quit smoking.
They also found that men whose bodymass index increased by 4 to 5 pointsexperienced a testosterone declineequal to that seen in 10 years of aging.On the bright side, these results also suggestthat a healthy lifestyle could possiblydecelerate age-related testosteronedecline.
New Book Sheds Light on TeenDieting
In her new book, I'm, Like, So Fat:Helping Your Teen Make Healthy ChoicesAbout Eating and Exercise in a Weight-Obsessed World, Diane Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, "encourages people tothink less about weight, talk less aboutweight per se, and really place theemphasis on engaging in these behaviorsfor long-term health, of which ahealthy weight will be one of the outcomes."Dr. Neumark-Sztainer also is leadauthor of a study out of the University ofMinnesota which suggests that teenswho go on diets are more likely to skipbreakfast and binge eat. As part of thestudy, researchers interviewed 2516teens in 1999 and again in 2004. In 1999,56% of the girls were dieting; 5 yearslater, these girls had gained 0.69 morebody mass index points than their nondietingclassmates. Ultimately, Dr.Neumark-Sztainer says parents shouldsteer their teens away from dieting andtoward healthy eating habits and physicalactivity that they will be able to sustainthroughout their lives.
What to Expect from Weight-lossSupplements
When Alli becomes available over thecounter this summer, it joins a diversegroup of other OTC weight-loss pills. It isimportant to note that, although thesepills occupy pharmacy shelves, they havenot been approved by the FDA, and theirlong-term effects have yet to be determined.The Table lists some importantinformation about common weight-losssupplements.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medicalwriter based in Wakefield, RI.