Outlook: Obesity Epidemic
Federal Funds to Fuel CDC Fight against Obesity within Communities
Increasing the availability of healthy foods in communities and making neighborhoods more conducive to fitness activities may be keys to thwarting the nation’s status as the world leader in obesity, according to a July report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that “a significant amount” of the $1 billion appropriated by Congress for disease prevention would go toward battling obesity.
Entitled Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States, the report outlined techniques for combating the epidemic on the local front. Each of the 24 recommendations is accompanied by rationale for implementation, as well as a method by which to measure whether a community is following it to the prescribed level.
Among the suggestions are an increase in the availability of healthy foods and beverages and a decrease in the availability of unhealthy options at public service venues, along with an overall reduction in portion sizes; making supermarkets, as well as food from local farms, accessible to underserved areas by providing incentives; limiting ads for unhealthy foods and beverages; limiting the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages; and promoting breast feeding.
To increase physical activity, the CDC recommends more exercise in schools, as well as making communities more conducive to fitness activities like bicycling and walking through improved safety, mixed-use zoning, and access to public transportation.
Loneliness, Anxiety Experienced by Overweight Kids
Although childhood is generally considered a carefree time in one’s life, that may not be the case for little ones who are overweight. Kids who are overweight experience loneliness and anxiety from the time they are in kindergarten, according to a University of Missouri study.
Not only were youngsters who were overweight from kindergarten through third grade saddled with more negative emotions than their normal-weight counterparts—they also faced the reality of those feelings growing worse as time went on, said Sara Gable, PhD, the study’s lead author.
Girls are especially affected. Those who are overweight, or even nearing a weight beyond the normal range, had diminished social relations and showed less self-control and increased acting out as compared with girls who had always been of normal weight. Boys showed opposite tendencies, with the overweight population showing less aggressive behaviors than boys of normal weight, and their social interactions not being affected by weight.
Fat as a Weight-Loss Mechanism?
Brown fat, once thought only to exist at substantial levels in babies and rodents, regulates body temperature by burning energy to create heat. After research revealed that the “good” fat exists in adult humans, scientists set about using the knowledge to create new obesity treatments. One group has succeeded in creating brown fat using cells from hu mans and mice, opening the door to using it to fight the battle of the bulge.
The team of scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute deciphered a molecular switch that occurs in the womb, which causes muscle cells to become brown adipose tissue (BAT), or brown fat, as they are forming. Armed with that knowledge, they were able to create the switch in other embryonic cells. By transplanting the engineered BAT into adult mice, the scientists were able to observe a high rate of calories burned. The discovery carries with it major implications for treating obesity if the process can be duplicated in humans.
High BMI, Cholesterol Do Not Necessarily Go Together in Kids
Using body mass index (BMI) as a gauge for high cholesterol levels in children is not an effective measure, according to a University of Michigan study published in the August 3, 2009, edition of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The researchers found that a multitude of overweight or obese children had healthy cholesterol levels, and many youngsters of normal weight had high cholesterol levels.
The study followed in the wake of last year’s change to cholesterol screening guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics. New guidelines sought to address the importance of cholesterol testing in kids with an increased heart disease risk, a population largely comprised of overweight and obese children. The researchers stated that their findings point to a possible need to modify the testing guidelines.