Outlook: Obesity

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writerbased in Wakefield, Rhode Island.

The Wonders of Vitamin D

Besides forming and maintaininghealthy, strong bones, vitamin D alsoplays a part in regulating cell growth.Low levels of vitamin D may be linkedto increased risk of cancer, heart disease,and diabetes—diseases often associatedwith obesity. It also has beenassociated with maintaining physicalstrength and balance in the elderly.Taken as a supplement or through certainfoods (eg, canned salmon), addingvitamin D to the diet of overweight orobese patients can be a step in theright direction. The Table lists recommendeddaily intake.

Eating Habits Linked to Preclinical Cardiovascular Disease

By studying the eating habits ofalmost 1300 women without cardiovasculardisease (CVD), researchersfound that certain diets significantlyraised the risk of preclinical CVD byincreasing the carotid intima mediathickness (cIMT).

Diet Type

Max cIMT

Empty-calorie diet

1.46 mm

Light-eating diet

1.22 mm

Heart-healthy diet

1.18 mm

High-fat diet

1.17 mm

The empty-calorie diet refers to highconsumption of saturated fats andsugar and low intake of fruits and vegetables.Study results were presentedat the annual meeting of the AmericanHeart Association in Orlando, Florida.

Fear of Fat Keeps Women Smoking

Several studies from the Universityof Michigan Health System confirmedsuspicions that most women smokerswill not quit for fear of putting on weight.An article in Addictive Behaviors indicatedthat women smokers have askewed body image and tend to bingeand diet more than women who do notsmoke. In fact, data showed that manywomen smokers often began smokingto lose weight.

These insights may help researcherscome up with ways to address smokingcessation in weight-concernedsmokers by pointing out that smokingcauses wrinkles, thinning hair, crackedfingernails, yellow teeth, and badbreath.

Researchers, however, must addressthe reality that nicotine does indeedsuppress the appetite and increaseresting metabolic rate, and that, onaverage, smokers weigh less thanthose who have never smoked.

It is more important to note thatsmoking cessation does not result inthe big weight gain that many womenfear. One researcher points out that 1in 4 women who quit smoking will gain<5 lb, 2 in 5 women will gain 5 to 15 lb,and 1 in 4 women will gain >15 lb.

Table

Daily Recommended Intake of Vitamin D

Age

Children

Men

Women

Pregnant/Lactating Women

Birth-13

200 IU

14-18

200 IU

200 IU

200 IU

19-50

200 IU

200 IU

200 IU

51-70

400 IU

400 IU

71+

600 IU

600 IU

IU = international unit.

Adapted from Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus,Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1999.

Recommendations from the Big Diet and Cancer Study

The landmark World Cancer ResearchFund (WCRF) report is a comprehensivedata review spanning theglobe, featuring medical records sincethe 1960s and data from 7000 studieslinking diet, exercise, and cancer. Keyfindings include:

  • Maintaining a healthy body mass index is vital to preventing cancer,particularly colorectal and breastcancers
  • Processed meats increase the riskof colorectal cancer
  • Eat no more than 500 g of redmeat in a week
  • Mothers should breastfeed exclusivelyfor 6 months and continuecomplementary breastfeedingthereafter
  • Strong evidence links alcohol tocancer
  • Cancer prevention is not likely tobe achieved through dietary supplements

Surviving Illness May Require a Few Extra Pounds

Contrary to the World Cancer ResearchFund report, a recent studypublished in the Journal of the AmericanMedical Association suggests that 25extra pounds of weight may notincrease the risk of dying from canceror heart disease after all, and the numberof deaths attributed to being overweighthave been overstated.

In fact, when compared to their normal-weight counterparts, overweightpeople are 40% less likely to die fromemphysema, pneumonia, injuries, andvarious infections, with the 25 to 59age group benefiting the most from theextra weight.

Study authors note, however, thatpeople who are overweight have anincreased chance of dying from diabetesand kidney disease and thatobese people (&#8805;30 lb overweight) areat a higher risk of dying from cancerand heart disease.

Lead author Katherine Flegel of theCenters for Disease Control and Preventionsuggested that the extraweight might offer "additional nutritionalreserves" for those fighting offcertain diseases.