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Why COVID-19 hits some people harder than others

12/05/2020

With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases now topping 4 million globally, the urgency to develop a vaccine has never been greater. Now something that’s been witnessed throughout this pandemic is the way COVID-19 seems to hit some people harder than others. Whether a COVID-19 patient is hospitalized and requires more serious medical interventions, like ventilation, often depends on several risk factors. Age In the United States, 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths have occurred in patients aged 65 and older. The reason for this is thought to be because elderly individuals have more chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. Diabetes A recent meta-analysis of 13 separate studies found that people with diabetes were nearly 3.7 times more likely to have a critical case of COVID-19 or to die from the disease than patients without any underlying health conditions. Heart disease and hypertension The American Heart Association says people with cardiovascular issues, including heart disease and hypertension, generally tend to suffer worse COVID-19 complications than those with no pre-existing conditions. Smoking A study from China found that 12.3% of current smokers were admitted to an ICU, were placed on a ventilator or died. This compares to 4.7% of non-smokers. Obesity Being obese has been linked to an increased severity of COVID-19 in younger patients. Furthermore, a separate study from China – which has not yet been peer-reviewed – found that obese individuals were more than twice as likely to develop severe pneumonia as compared with patients who were normal weight.  

Being obese linked to increased COVID-19 severity in younger patients

30/04/2020

Young people with COVID-19 who are obese are at greater risk of being hospitalised and experiencing more severe symptoms, new research has found. According to the study of 3,615 patients who had tested positive for COVID-19, while being overweight didn’t appear to have any negative impact on individuals aged 60+, it did in younger patients. Compared to those with a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), which is less than 30, patients with BMIs of 30-34 were twice as likely to need hospitalisation and twice as likely to need acute care. Meanwhile, while younger COVID-19 patients with BMIs of 35 or higher were also found to be twice as likely to require hospitalisation, they were three times more likely to end up in the intensive care unit. One of the study co-authors, Jennifer Lighter, MD, a hospital epidemiologist in New York City, said the findings are significant, especially in the US where 42% of the population has a BMI over 30 and is considered obese. “Our hospital was one of the first to find the association between obesity and coronavirus, but I think it will soon become very common,” Lighter said. It is important for frontline health workers to understand how being obese potentially changes a patient’s clinical outlook and consider such patients as high-risk.  

Weight gain speeds up lung function decline in older adults

03/03/2020

Gaining weight in later years has a detrimental impact on lung health, a new study suggests. People’s lungs naturally deteriorate as they age and lose functionality as the years go by. But now new research has linked moderate or significant weight gain to an even sharper decline in lung health. According to the study of 3,700 individuals in Europe and Australia, who were recruited between the ages of 20 and 44, and were studied for 20 years, people who gained weight throughout the course of the study – regardless of whether they were a healthy weight or overweight/obese to begin with – had accelerated lung function decline. Furthermore, overweight/obese individuals who lost weight during the study saw their lung functionality decline slow. Publishing their findings in the journal Thorax, the researchers said large amounts of fat in the abdomen and chest can limit the space lungs have when people inhale. It was also suggested that fat produces inflammatory chemicals that can reduce the diameter of airways and damage lungs. Speaking about the findings of the research, study leader Judith Garcia Aymerich, head of the non-communicable diseases and environment program at Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), said: “Although previous research has shown that weight gain is linked to lung function decline, ours is the first study to analyze such a varied population sample over a longer period of time.”  

Sleep apnoea likely caused by fatty tongues

14/01/2020

Sleep apnoea is a disorder that causes some individuals to experience pauses in their breathing while they are sleeping, resulting in them gasping for breath. Said pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds right up to a few minutes. But while sleep apnoea can be alleviated with certain measures, including wearing oral appliances at bedtime, its exact cause has remained open to debate. Now, a new study has revealed that having a fatty tongue could play a part. According to the research by a team from the Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, larger, fattier tongues – which are more common among obese individuals – could be a main driver of sleep apnoea. That’s why when overweight and obese people shed the pounds, including fat in their tongues, any sleep apnoea they’ve been experiencing also tends to improve. “You talk, eat and breathe with your tongue - so why is fat deposited there?" said study author Dr Richard Schwab, of Perelman School of Medicine. “It's not clear why - it could be genetic or environmental - but the less fat there is, the less likely the tongue is to collapse during sleep.” The researchers now plan to discover which low-fat diets (if any) are particularly good at reducing fat in the tongue.

Exercise labels on food help reduce calorie intake

12/12/2019

Experts say that food label warnings about the amount of physical exercise needed to burn off the calories contained in the product work. According to the researchers from Loughborough University in the UK, who looked at 14 separate studies to reach their conclusions, a simple label advising the consumer that it would take four hours to walk off the calories contained in a pizza, or 22 minutes of running to burn off a chocolate bar are effective in making people think twice about purchasing certain foods. They say the labels help people indulge less and could encourage healthier eating habits to fight obesity. Right now, it is estimated that two-thirds of the UK adult population are overweight or obese. Publishing their findings in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the researchers say this simple type of labelling could help cut about 200 calories from a person's daily average intake. The reason it works is because people don’t really appreciate calories when they see them as just numbers. But by elaborating and highlighting how much exercise is needed to burn off a particular food product, the consumer is able to make a much more informed decision. Lead researcher Prof Amanda Daley said: “We know that the public routinely underestimate the number of calories that are in foods. So if you buy a chocolate muffin and it contains 500 calories, for example, then that's about 50 minutes of running.”

Obesity-related conditions differ between men and women

31/10/2019

Obesity is worryingly common across the world today. World Health Organization statistics from 2018 show that global obesity has almost tripled since 1975 and most of the world’s population now live in a country where being overweight or obese kills more people than being underweight. But while obesity is known to increase a person’s risk of certain health conditions, new research has revealed that it does not seemingly affect men and women in the same way. According to the study from Oxford University in the United Kingdom, the findings of which are summarized in the journal PLOS Genetics, the risks of developing different health problems as a result of being obese are different for men and women. For example, obese women are at higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes than men. Meanwhile, obese men have a higher risk of chronic kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The team says their findings add to the existing evidence that preventing and treating obesity is a crucial step in countering the emergence of other health conditions. “This study shows just how harmful carrying excess weight can be to human health, and that women and men may experience different diseases as a result,” said first author Dr. Jenny Censin. For the study, the team from Oxford University analyzed genetic information and three different obesity measures in a cohort of 195,041 men and 228,466 women.

Fat builds up in overweight people’s lungs

22/10/2019

Researchers have found fat in overweight and obese people’s lungs. It’s the first time such a discovery has been made and could provide important clues as to why overweight and obese people have an increased risk of asthma. For the research, a team from Australia analysed lung samples from 52 deceased individuals. They found the amount of fat present increased in line with Body Mass Index (BMI). Being overweight/obese is already linked to having asthma, but it was previously thought that excess weight pressing on the lungs was the main reason for this. However, the Australian researchers say fatty tissue in the walls of airways takes up space and causes inflammation, which can lead to wheezing and asthma. Speaking about the findings of the research, which are published in the European Respiratory Journal, Dr Peter Noble from the University of Western Australia said: “We’ve found that excess fat accumulates in the airway walls where it takes up space and seems to increase inflammation within the lungs. “We think this is causing a thickening of the airways that limits the flow of air in and out of the lungs, and that could at least partly explain an increase in asthma symptoms.” Experts say that more research is now needed to find out whether the build-up of fatty tissue could be reversed through weight loss. In the meantime, asthma patients should be supported to achieve a healthy weight.

Obesity now accounts for more cases of four common cancers than smoking

04/07/2019

A leading UK cancer charity has warned that obesity now causes more cases of four common cancers than smoking. According to Cancer Research UK, bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver cancers are more likely to be caused by being overweight than by smoking tobacco. The warning is particularly concerning as obese people outnumber smokers by two to one in the UK, which means millions of people are at risk of developing any of these cancers simply because they are overweight. Despite the fact that smoking remains the number one preventable cause of cancer in the UK and causes more cases of cancer than being overweight each year (54,300 vs. 22,800), for the four cancers previously mentioned, obesity causes more. However, Cancer Research UK’s latest billboard campaign highlighting the risks associated with being overweight has been accused of fat-shaming. And it’s not the first time the charity has been picked up for this either. Nevertheless, the charity remains adamant that outlining the risks of being overweight when it comes to cancer is an important step. Speaking about the Cancer Research UK warning, the British Medical Association said: “While we are very much aware of the health risks associated with smoking, less effort has been thrown behind tackling obesity, which is now a major cause of cancer.”

Children whose parents divorce are more likely to be fat

18/06/2019

Children whose parents divorce are more likely to get fat than their peers whose parents stay together, new research has revealed. According to the study by researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science, children whose parents divorce before they are six are particularly impacted. For the study, the researchers analysed data collected by the UK Millennium Cohort Study on 7,574 children born between 2000 and 2002. Of the children involved, 1,573 (around one in five) had witnessed their parents divorce by the time they were 11. These kids gained more weight in the 24-month period following their parents’ divorce than their peers whose parents remained together. Furthermore, the kids whose parents had divorced were also more likely to become overweight or obese within 36 months of their parents separating. The authors of the paper say their findings underline how much of an impact a divorce can have on children and that parental separation is “a process with potentially long-lasting consequences”. As a result, the authors are calling for more health help and support to be given to families going through a break-up. The paper also offers some reasons why children put on weight following a divorce, namely: There’s often less money in separated households for fresh fruit and vegetables Parents having to work longer hours, so there’s less time to prepare nutritious food There’s often less money for extra-curricular activities, including sport Parents with less time and energy to promote healthy eating habits in their children Emotional problems leading to parents overfeeding their children and kids eating too much sugary and fatty food

Study finds eating later in the day promotes obesity

26/03/2019

As obesity rates across the world continue to rise, understanding exactly why we put on weight has never been more important. That’s why the findings of a new study, which looked at whether there is an association between when we eat and how much weight we gain, could be very significant. Presenting their findings at the ENDO 2019 conference, which took place in New Orleans, the scientists from the University of Colorado in Denver said there is a link between eating later in the day and having a higher BMI, as well as more body fat. For the study, 31 adults who were either overweight or obese and had an average age of 36 years were closely monitored to assess their sleep, levels of activity, and diet. Interestingly, the study also showed that the participants who ate later in the day still had an average of 7 hours sleep each night, suggesting that lack of sleep may not promote obesity after all. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr. Adnin Zaman, lead author, said “These findings support our overall study, which will look at whether restricting the eating window to earlier on in the day will lower obesity risk.”

Could blocking a single gene be the key to curing obesity?

05/12/2018

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is a “global epidemic” that must be tackled if we are to prevent its ill effects. In the United States, nearly 40% of adults and 18.5% of children aged 2 to 19 are obese. Obesity is a major risk factor for type-2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. That’s why finding effective ways to treat the condition is paramount. But now scientists say they are on the verge of creating a pill that could make obesity a thing of the past - without the need for diet and exercise. Sounds too good to be true, right? Nevertheless, the team at Flinders University in South Australia say that they key to curbing obesity could lie in a single gene known as RCAN1. The team found that when RCAN1 was removed in mice and they were then fed a high fat diet, they did not gain weight. In fact, they could eat as much food as they wanted over a prolonged period of time, the researchers say. Damien Keating, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cellular physiology at Flinders, and leader of the research team, said blocking RCAN1 allows the body to transform unhealthy white fat into calorie-burning brown fat. Stunning pictures of the mice used for the trial highlight the difference when RCAN1 was blocked and when it wasn’t. The results of the research are published in the journal EMBO Reports.

Action group calls for ban on ‘grotesquely sugary’ freakshakes

15/11/2018

So-called “freakshakes” (milkshakes that contain chocolates, sweets, cake, cream, sauce and more) should be banned because they have “grotesque levels of sugar and calories,” a UK charity has said. Action on Sugar, a charity concerned with sugar and its effects on our health, has called for the belt-busting creations to be removed from sale, following a survey it conducted. For the study, the charity surveyed milkshakes sold in restaurants and fast food shops across the UK to see how much sugar and how many calories they contained. Topping the survey (not in a good way) was the Toby Carvery Unicorn Freakshake, which contains an eye-watering 39 teaspoons of sugar and 1,280 calories. That’s more than half the recommended number of daily calories for an adult and over six times the amount of daily sugar for a seven to 10-year-old. Many of the milkshakes looked at by Action on Sugar contained more than half the recommended daily amount of calories for an adult. More worryingly, out of the 46 products looked at by the charity, all would be labelled red/high for excessive levels of sugar per serving. Speaking about the findings of the survey, Action on Sugar chairman, Graham MacGregor, said: “These very high calorie drinks, if consumed on a daily basis, would result in children becoming obese and suffering from tooth decay - that is not acceptable. “These high calorie milkshakes need to be reduced immediately below 300kcal per serving.” [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]

Sit-stand desks boost work performance, study suggests

16/10/2018

Workers who utilise standing desks are less tired and more engaged, new research suggests. For the research, led by a team from Loughborough University and experts from Leicester, NHS workers were given new height-adjustable desks and set goals for the amount of time they spent standing up. At the start of the year-long study, a group of 146 mainly sedentary NHS staff were split into two groups. One group were given height-adjustable workstations, also known as sit-stand desks, while the other group continued to use their traditional sitting desks. After a year, the research team assessed the amount of time workers spent sitting and working. They found that sitting time was lowered in the group with sit-stand desks by 82.39 minutes per day at 12 months. The same group also reported that they were less tired and more engaged in their work. According to the research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the sit-stand group also reported improvements in musculoskeletal problems and a better quality of life. The sedentary lifestyles many office workers today lead are often cited as one of the primary reasons for the increasing number of obese individuals. Could something as simple as a sit-stand desk be the answer to combatting this epidemic and help us start leading healthier lives?

Obesity set to overtake smoking as number one preventable cause of cancer in UK women, charity warns

25/09/2018

By 2043, obesity will surpass smoking to be the biggest preventable cause of cancer in UK women. That’s one of the shocking new predictions to come out of a report by Cancer Research UK. At present, around 7% of cancers in women are linked to being overweight and obese, while 12% are said to be caused by smoking. But as the number of individuals who smoke continues to fall and obesity rates continue to rise, the UK cancer charity believes that gap will completely disappear over the next 25 years (assuming current trends continue). In fact, by 2035, the percentage of cancers caused by smoking and by carrying excess weight will almost be equal (25,000 cancer cases each year related to smoking vs. 23,000 related to being overweight). However, after just another eight years (by 2043), being overweight and obese is likely to be linked to even more cases of cancer in women than smoking. Interestingly, the cancer charity says that obesity will not overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer in men until some time later. The reason for this, though, is simply because more men than women smoke. While obesity is more prevalent among men too, it is thought to be a greater catalyst in women for developing cancer. Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK's prevention expert, said the UK government must act now to stem the tide of obesity-related cancers. “That's why we are raising awareness of the link between cancer and obesity and calling for measures to protect children, like a ban on junk food adverts before 9pm and for restrictions on price promotions of 'less healthy' products,” she said. Smoking-related cancers include: acute myeloid leukaemia lung bladder bowel cervical pancreatic stomach Obesity-related cancers include: bowel gall bladder kidney liver breast ovarian thyroid

Environment not genes responsible for emotional eating in children

25/06/2018

Some of us turn to food for comfort when we are feeling emotional or stressed. Likewise, some of us cut back on food when we are feeling upset. But they are habits that could be influencing our children too. That’s because new research by University College London has found that children who eat more or less when stressed or upset have learnt the behaviour rather than inherited it, suggesting home environments are the primary cause of emotional eating. Parental acts such as giving children their favourite food when they are feeling upset have been highlighted as potential reasons for the habits forming. But UK-based eating disorder charity Beat says parents shouldn’t be blamed for their children’s eating issues. "Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses and never have one sole cause," the charity said. The study, which was published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, analysed 398 four-year-old British twins. Half came from families with obese parents and half from parents with a healthy weight. The parents were asked questions about their children’s eating habits, including their tendencies to emotionally eat. The researchers compared the questionnaire data relating to eating disorders between identical and non-identical twins and found very little difference between the two, which suggests environment plays a bigger role than genes.

Healthy but obese women still at increased risk of CVD

31/05/2018

Have you ever encountered someone who calls themself ‘fat but fit’? It’s not uncommon to meet people who are clearly overweight, yet not perturbed by their situation because they consider themselves to be fit and healthy. However, a large study conducted in America has found that women who are overweight or obese but otherwise healthy are still at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). For the study, researchers from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke tracked the health of some 90,257 women in the US over a 30-year period. They found that women who were overweight or obese, but had none of the typical cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, excess cholesterol and diabetes, were 20% and 39% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their normal weight and metabolically healthy peers. Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Matthias Schulze, who led it, said: "Our large cohort study confirms that metabolically healthy obesity is not a harmless condition, and even women who remain free of metabolic diseases for decades face an increased risk of cardiovascular events.” The study also found women who were of normal weight, but metabolically unhealthy, were over two-times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their peers of the same weight who were metabolically healthy. Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, added: "This large scale study confirms that obesity, even if unaccompanied by other warning signs, increases risk of cardiovascular disease in women."

Public Health England tells Britain to 'go on a diet'

08/03/2018

As part of a new obesity drive, Public Health England is telling people in the UK to “get on a diet” and wants to cut portion sizes of some of the nation’s most popular foods. Pizzas, ready meals, takeaways and processed meat will all be targeted as part of the initiative to cut calorie consumption by 20% by 2024. In addition, the government agency has called on the food industry to start using healthier ingredients and encourage people to choose lower calorie foods. The drive to eat healthier will not only improve the health of the nation, but also reduce the burden on the NHS associated with obesity-related illnesses. Public Health England says the cost per year of obesity to the NHS is £6 billion. Combined with the sugar reduction programme that came into effect last year and the sugary drinks levy which comes into force next month, this new initiative will also help reduce the number of calories consumed by children in the UK. Talking about the new steps, Public Heath England chief executive Duncan Selbie said: "Britain needs to go on a diet. Children and adults routinely eat too many calories, and it's why so many are overweight or obese." Food manufacturers, supermarkets, takeaways and fast-food outlets have all been told they need to reduce the calories in the foods such as crisps and savoury snacks, cooking sauces and dressings, ready meals and takeaways, and food-to-go like sandwiches. If these companies do not listen to PHE, the agency said it would be willing to ask the government to legislate. Guidelines suggest that women eat no more than 2,000 calories a day, while men should limit themselves to 2,500.

UK millennials on course to be 'fattest generation', says leading cancer charity

27/02/2018

By the time they reach middle age, seven in 10 UK millennials (people born between the early 1980s and mid-90s) will be too fat, health experts say. In fact, millennials are on course to be the fattest generation ever since records began. In comparison, only about half of the so-called “baby boomer” generation (those born just after the Second World War) were fat at middle age. It’s a worrying revelation, especially as being fat as an adult is linked to an increased risk of developing 13 different types of cancer, according to Cancer Research UK who conducted the research. The charity said only 15% of the UK population are aware that being fat puts them at increased risk of breast, bowel and kidney cancer. Even more sobering is the fact Britain is now the most obese country in Western Europe and its obesity rates are rising faster than any other developed nation. In 1993, obesity prevalence was 15%, but that figure had almost doubled risen to 27% in 2015. Professor Linda Bauld from Cancer Research UK said: "Extra body fat doesn't just sit there; it sends messages around the body that can cause damage to cells. "This damage can build up over time and increase the risk of cancer in the same way that damage from smoking causes cancer.”

Slimming pills bought online can cause serious health problems, says medicines watchdog

05/12/2017

People who are overweight or obese will often do anything to help them lose weight and that includes taking food supplements, slimming teas and other so-called weight loss drugs. But now the UK’s medicines watchdog has issued a warning against the use of slimming pills bought online as they can cause serious health problems. A survey of 1,800 slimmers by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Slimming World found that one in three had bought weight loss pills online and two-thirds had experienced side-effects. When quizzed about why they had purchased such drugs online, 40% said it was because they had not wanted to speak to a GP or pharmacist. Some of the side-effects associated with slimming bills bought online include heart problems, blurred vision and diarrhoea. Some even contain banned ingredients. The MHRS has stressed that people should always go to their GPs for advice in the first instance. As part of its #FakeMeds campaign, the agency has also warned that buying from websites also increases the risk of being ripped off or having their identity stolen. MHRA senior policy manager Lynda Scammell said: "Quick fixes for losing weight may have serious health consequences in the short or long term, including organ failure and death. "It's essential you know what you're buying online and what the risks are. "If you don't, your weight could end up being the least of your worries."

Breast cancer screening should be more frequent for overweight women

22/11/2017

Overweight or obese women may not detect cancerous breast lumps until they are much larger and more difficult to treat, a Swedish study has found. Researchers from the Karolinksa Institute studied more than 2,000 women who developed breast cancer between 2001 and 2008, all of who had been receiving mammograms every 18 months to two years, as is standard in Sweden. They found that women with higher body mass indexes (BMIs) were more likely to have a larger tumour when detected than women who were slimmer. Lead author of the study, Fredrik Strand, said this was either because the tumours were harder to detect because overweight women have larger breasts or because their tumours grew faster. Women who are overweight are already at greater risk of developing breast cancer and, unfortunately, larger tumours carry a worse prognosis. Therefore, these women may need more frequent mammograms to help spot tumours early, say the researchers. Women who are judged to be at greater risk of developing breast cancer – such as those with a family history – are already offered more frequent screening. Speaking about the findings of the study, Strand said: “Our study suggests that when a clinician presents the pros and cons of breast cancer screening to the patient, having high BMI should be an important 'pro' argument”.

Childhood obesity rates now 10 times higher than they were in 1975

12/10/2017

A new report by Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), reveals that obesity in children is 10 times higher today than it was in 1975. Even more startling is the report’s prediction that within five years, more children will be obese than underweight. For the research, lead author Prof. Majid Ezzati, of the School of Public Health at ICL, and his team of over 1,000 researchers examined the body mass index (BMI) of almost 130 million people living in 200 countries, including 31.5 million individuals between 5 and 19 years old – making this study the largest of its kind. They found that total childhood obesity rates have risen globally by more than 10-fold in the past forty years. More specifically, in 1975, there were 5 million obese girls. In 2016, this number had risen to 50 million. A similar trend was found for boys, with 6 million obese in 1975 compared to 74 million in 2016. The researchers say that if the trend continues, there will be more obese children in the world than underweight ones by the end of 2020. Commenting on the findings, Prof. Ezzati said: “The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and also malnourished. We need ways to make healthy, nutritious food more available at home and school, especially in poor families and communities, and regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods.” The findings of the study were published in The Lancet.

'Fat but fit' still face higher risk of heart disease

17/08/2017

People who are overweight or obese, despite appearing medically healthy, are still at increased risk of heart disease, experts warn. The notion that people can be ‘fat but fit’ is being challenged by research published in the European Heart Journal. According to the researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, who studied health data relating to more than half a million people in 10 European countries, weight is still a heart disease risk factor even if someone has normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The study found that people who appeared healthy, with healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar readings, were still 28% more likely to develop heart disease than individuals with health bodyweights. Even more at risk were people who were overweight or obese and had high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Dr Ioanna Tzoulaki, from Imperial's School of Public Health, said: "I think there is no longer this concept of healthy obese. "If anything, our study shows that people with excess weight who might be classed as 'healthy' haven't yet developed an unhealthy metabolic profile. "That comes later in the timeline, then they have an event, such as a heart attack”. So the advice if you want to maintain a healthy heart is to watch your weight, even if you think you are fit.

How waist size can predict cancer risk

25/05/2017

Men with waists over 40 inches and women with waists over 35 inches are at greater risk of certain cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes. That’s the message to come out of a study by scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is an arm of the World Health Organisation. According to Dr Heinz Freisling, the lead author of the study published in the British Journal of Cancer, a person’s waist measurement is as good at predicting cancer risk as their body mass index (BMI). His advice is for people to know their waistlines. “You only need to put a tape measure around your belly button. This is easy to do and can give a person an indication of whether their risk for specific cancers is increased or not – for instance pancreas or liver cancer which are known to be related to increased body fatness or obesity,” he said. Being overweight or obese is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and is linked to 13 types of cancer, including bowel, breast and pancreas. The study combined data from about 43,000 participants who had been followed for an average of 12 years and more than 1,600 people were diagnosed with an obesity-related cancer.

People are getting fatter, but fewer than ever are trying to lose weight - study

09/03/2017

Despite the fact the number of people who are overweight or obese has risen over the past 30 years, fewer people are actually attempting to shed weight, according to a new study, the findings of which were published in JAMA. Around two thirds of the adult population in the United States are obese or overweight, putting them at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. However, new research has found that even though there has been a significant rise in the number of people who are overweight or obese since the 1980s, the percentage of U.S. adults who are trying to lose weight has fallen. For their research, study co-author Dr. Jian Zhang and her colleagues from the Georgia Southern University, analysed the data of 27,350 U.S. adults aged between 20 and 59 years. The analyses revealed that the rates of overweight and obesity increased by 13%, from 53% in 1988-1994 to 66% in 2009-2014. Furthermore, the researchers also found that the percentage of people who attempted to lose weight over the same period actually dropped by 7%, from 56% in 1988-1994 to 49% in 2009-2014. At present, people are deemed to be overweight or obese depending on their body mass index (BMI). A BMI of 25 to under 30 is considered overweight, while a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese. A healthy diet and regular physical activity are proven to help curb weight gain, which is why we should all make a conscientious effort to watch what we eat and exercise more. [Recommended read: BMI Wrongly Labelling People Unhealthy, Finds New Research]

BMI Wrongly Labelling People Unhealthy, Finds New Research

21/02/2017

Half of people labelled 'obese' because of their body mass index (BMI) scores are actually healthy, according to new research, bringing into question the validity of the scoring system. Scientists claim the BMI scoring system is wrongly labelling millions of people 'unhealthy' when, in fact, they are actually much healthier than their slimmer counterparts. Dr. A. Janet Tomiyama, an assistant professor in the department of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said: "Many people see obesity as a death sentence. But the data shows there are tens of millions of people who are overweight and obese and are perfectly healthy." Scientists say that BMI is being used by healthcare companies to increase premiums in some countries and that the latest findings will be "the final nail in the coffin for BMI." The problem with BMI is that it can give people false hope. For example, a person can have a 'normal' BMI, yet be at risk of disease, highlighting that it is not always an accurate predictor of future health. Prof Tomiyama and her colleagues discovered that more than 54 million Americans are being labelled as "unhealthy," even though they are not. The study - the results of which were published in the International Journal of Obesity - analysed the link between BMI and several health indicators, including blood pressure and glucose, and cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It found nearly half of Americans who are labelled 'overweight' because of their BMIs (34.4 million people) are healthy, as are 19.8 million who are considered 'obese'.

Dopamine could be to blame for people's reduced motivation to exercise

05/01/2017

The New Year is here and for many of you that will mean a new exercise regime designed to get you into shape and improve your overall health. For some people, though, sticking to a disciplined program of physical exercise is one of the hardest resolutions they can make because a lack of motivation gets in the way. But now new research sheds some light on why many people, despite understanding the benefits of regular exercise, find it hard in practice to stay physically active. Researchers from the Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), led by Alexxai V. Kravitz, focused on why obese animals also have a hard time carrying out physical activity. They found that a dysfunction in obese rodents' dopamine systems might help explain why. Mice fed on a high-fat diet started gaining significantly more weight than mice fed on a normal diet. They were also observed to have fewer movements; spend less time moving; and were slower when they did move, compared with the lean mice. Most interesting of all was that the overweight mice's changes in movements did not correlate with body weight gain. Instead, the researchers found that a deficit in striatal D2R explained the obese mice's lack of activity. "In many cases, willpower is invoked as a way to modify behavior. But if we don't understand the underlying physical basis for that behavior, it is difficult to say that willpower alone can solve it," said Kravitz.

Obese Mothers Risk Shortening the Lives of Their Children

20/10/2016

Babies whose mothers are obese or overweight are at risk of living considerably shorter lives, according to new research from Belgium. In fact, mothers who are overweight or obese risk shortening the lives of their babies by as much as 17 years. The researchers analysed information from 743 mothers aged between 17 and 44, and their newborn babies, using samples of blood from their umbilical cords immediately after delivery. Focusing on the length of the babies' telomeres, which are the caps on the end of chromosomes that protect them from damage, the researchers discovered a strong link between the Body Mass Index (BMI) of mothers and the length of their babies' telomeres. Specifically, they found that for every increase in the mother's BMI point above a normal level, the baby's telomeres were approximately 50 base pairs shorter. That's the equivalent of being 1.1 to 1.6 years older. The length of a person's telomeres is used as a good indicator of their biological age as they naturally shorten as people get older. The telomeres of babies whose mothers had a BMI of 40 suggested they were 17 years older biologically, placing them at higher risk of illness and premature death. In a statement accompanying the findings of the research, study co-author Tim Nawrot, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Hasselt University in Belgium, said: "Our results add to the growing body of evidence that high maternal BMI impacts fetal [DNA] programming, which could lead to altered fetal development and later life diseases."

Study Finds Bariatric Surgery Decrease Gout Risk

13/10/2016

A study in Sweden has found that obese individuals who underwent bariatric surgery had a 34% less likelihood of developing gout - a condition that is often associated with and aggravated by being overweight. For the study, researchers analysed two groups of individuals: one which had undergone bariatric surgery and one which had followed intensive lifestyle modifications, including advice on food choices, energy intake and exercise. They found that over 26 years of follow-ups, there were 138 new cases of gout in the group that had undergone the surgery and 201 new cases in the matched, non-surgery group. Interestingly, the patients in the surgery group had higher body mass indexes; larger waist circumferences; and worse glucose and cholesterol levels. Speaking about their findings, the team, which was headed up by Lena M.S. Carlsson, MD, of the University of Gothenburg, said: "The beneficial effects of bariatric surgery are not limited to weight loss, but they extend to improvement in metabolic parameters and to lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer." Other studies have previously suggested that bariatric surgery can lead to lower serum uric acid levels, which are the primary cause of gout.

Bariatric Surgery Best for Long-Term Weight Loss

05/09/2016

The benefits of weight loss surgery for obese and overweight individuals have been known for a long time. However, a new study now shows that the results of bariatric surgery are not just short-term, and much of the weight appears to stay off for at least 10 years. In fact, the study goes on to state that bariatric surgery is more effective than other surgical procedures and non-surgical techniques when it comes to weight loss and long-term weight management. Published in the journal JAMA Surgery, the findings are notable because they include the results of a decade-long follow-up, in addition to two separate areas of study. Lead author of the study Matt Maciejewski, who is a professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham, N.C., said: “This study suggests that patients interested in bariatric surgery, especially gastric bypass surgery, should be able to lose a significant amount of weight and keep that weight off for a very long time." For the study, the researchers first compared thousands of veterans who had received bariatric surgery to another group that hadn't. After a year, the bariatric surgery group had lost 31% of their starting weight, while the other group had lost just 1%. After 10 years, the bariatric surgery group had managed to maintain a nearly 21% greater weight loss than their non-surgical counterparts, highlighting the long-term benefits that weight loss surgery can have. The researchers then looked into how effective different types of weight loss surgery are. They found that after four years, patients who had undergone a gastric bypass had lost nearly 28% of their starting weight, while those who a had sleeve gastrectomy lost about 18% and those with gastric banding lost about 11%.

Overweight people's brains look 10 years older than those of lean peers

11/08/2016

As people grow older, their brains naturally lose a certain amount of white matter. But new brain scanning research by a team from Cambridge University has found that being overweight exacerbates that loss. Published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, the study revealed that the brains of overweight middle-aged adults appear 10 years older than those of their leaner peers. However, the greater shrinkage in the volume of white matter does not appear to affect cognitive performance. White matter is the part of the brain that transmits information, and is often referred to as "the subway of the brain" because it connects different brain regions together. Obesity has long been linked to a number of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer, but research is increasingly showing that it may also have a negative impact on the brain. Indeed, the Cambridge researchers said that the findings from their study show we need to better understand how extra weight affects the brain. The author of the study, Lisa Ronan, from the University of Cambridge, said: “This study raises the possibility that if you are overweight or obese you may be more susceptible to diseases [linked] to age-related decline such as dementia and Alzheimer’s."

A girl's breast cancer risk may be influenced by her obese father

28/06/2016

It's been thought for some time now that a mother's weight and diet during pregnancy has the potential to affect the breast cancer risk of her female offspring. But now new research suggests that obese father's also risk raising their children's chances of breast cancer, due to the way obesity alters the gene expression of sperm. Experts have long agreed that a woman's breast cancer risk is influenced by changes in genes, and approximately 5-10 percent of these gene changes are inherited. According to Sonia de Assis, Ph.D., from the Department of Oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Washington, D.C., who led the investigative team, said few studies have previously investigated the link between a father's weight and an offspring's breast cancer risk in later life. Presenting their findings in the journal Scientific Reports, de Assis and her colleagues outlined how they had studied how both normal weight male mice and obese male mice influence the breast tissue off their offspring. They found that female pups sired by obese males had delayed breast tissue development, and were more likely to develop breast cancer as a result. They revealed that the obese males' sperm had an altered microRNA (miRNA) signature, which was subsequently found in the breast tissue of their female offspring. The researchers now plan to conduct more studies to see if the same is true in humans.

Malnutrition now being fuelled by obesity

21/06/2016

We recently told you about how obesity rates in the US continue to rise, despite significant sums of money having been spent to try and curb the trend. But now a new report has worryingly revealed that malnutrition across the world is being fuelled by obesity, and not just starvation. The 2016 Global Nutrition Report, which includes data from 129 countries, says that 44% are experiencing "very serious levels" of both under-nutrition and obesity. In other words, one in three people suffers from malnutrition even in this day and age. In fact, the report's authors said that malnutrition is now "the new normal", and while a lot of great work has been done to combat the problem of malnutrition stemming from starvation, there is a "staggering global challenge" presented by rising obesity levels needs urgently addressing. The report outlined how hundreds of millions of people are malnourished because they are obese. Many also have too much sugar, salt and cholesterol in their blood. Professor Corinna Hawkes, who co-chaired the research, said that the report should serve to highlight how the traditional image of malnutrition is changing, and it's no longer just something that is linked to starvation. "Malnutrition literally means bad nutrition - that's anyone who isn't adequately nourished," she said.

Obesity rates rising among US women

09/06/2016

A pair of studies released on Tuesday show that the battle against rising obesity levels in the United States isn't currently being won. According to the two articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 35% of men; 40% of women; and 17% of children and teenagers in the US are obese. Not overweight, obese. These startling figures are in spite of hundreds of millions of dollars having been pumped into trials, research, drugs, observational studies, and community and hospital programmes. Additional efforts in schools, communities, businesses and places of worship have also fallen short when it comes to tackling an obesity epidemic that is three decades old. Dr. Jody Zylke and Dr. Howard Bauchner, the deputy editor and editor in chief, respectively, of JAMA, which wrote an editorial to accompany the research findings, said: "Although it is impossible to know what the extent of the obesity epidemic would have been without these efforts, the data reported ... certainly do not suggest much success." One of the research's biggest surprises was that obesity prevalence among women went up by 5% over the course of a decade, while the prevalence for men remained the same. [Related reading: Study shows bariatric weight loss surgery saves lives]

Study shows bariatric weight loss surgery saves lives

07/06/2016

A new study has found that obese patients who undergo bariatric weight loss surgery have a greater chance of survival than those who do not. According to the research from a team at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, weight loss surgery decreased the chance of death by as much as 57% compared with not having it. Being obese or overweight has been linked to many diseases, including heart attack, stroke and several different cancers, and can increases a person's risk of death as a result. Of the 48,693 patients (aged 18 to 74 years old), 22,581 underwent bariatric surgery - a gastric band was fitted in 92.8% of cases. The remaining 26,112 obese patients had no surgery at all. The researchers, led by Dr Christina Persson, found that the mortality rate in the group that did not have surgery was 4.21% compared to just 1.1% for the surgical group. That's equivalent to 7.7 deaths per 1,000 people each year versus just 2.1. Cardiovascular disease was the most common cause of death in the non-surgical group, followed by cancer, while external causes of mortality, such as suicide and accidents, were found to be the most common causes of death in the surgical group. "The study indicates that the overall all-cause mortality is considerably lower among obese individuals who undergo bariatric surgery compared to non-surgical obese individuals, and the differences lies mainly in cardiovascular disease and cancer," said Dr Persson. The findings of the study were presented at the recent European Obesity Summit in Sweden. To find out how France Surgery can help you undergo bariatric weight loss surgery, contact us today.

More obese people in the UK should undergo weight loss surgery, say surgeons

12/05/2016

Surgeons in the UK have said that the number of weight loss operations performed on the NHS each year needs to rise dramatically, so that people become healthier and the health service itself saves money. Writing recently in the British Medical Journal, the bariatric surgeons said that less than 1% of people who could benefit from weight loss surgery are getting treatment, and the numbers are actually dropping, despite rising rates of obesity and diabetes. [Related article: Mediterranean diet reduces heart attacks and strokes] The surgeons also highlighted that the UK is lagging behind its European counterparts when it comes to weight loss surgery, and that there are 2.6 million people in the country who stand to benefit from surgery. According to the surgeons, people who have stomach shrinking operations lose 25-35% of their body weight, on average, in just a year. In comparison, the average loss through diets and weight loss drugs is just 7% a year. It's thought that a quarter of adults in the UK are now classified as obese - the second highest rate in Europe behind Hungary - and this reality is putting a huge strain on NHS resources and funds. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has previously indicated that surgery should be considered for severely obese people who have unsuccessfully tried all other means to lose weight. Find out more about bariatric surgery with us in France here.

Study: Childhood obesity in US remains high

28/04/2016

From 1999 to 2014, rates of severe obesity among kids in the US climbed, highlighting that the issue still very much continues to plague American children today. Examining national data over the 15-year period, researchers found that a third of children in the US aged between two and 19 were overweight. They also found, more worryingly, that nearly a quarter were obese and two per cent severely obese. Lead researcher Asheley Skinner, from the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, N.C., said: "Despite other recent reports, all categories of obesity have increased from 1999 to 2014, and there is no evidence of a decline in the last few years." Skinner added that there are currently 4.5 million obese kids in the US who urgently need treatment because they have a heightened risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, compared with children their age who are not obese. "Unless we make big changes on a national level, we're not going to see huge changes in obesity," Skinner said. By changing school lunches; increasing opportunities for physical activity, and allowing parents access to more healthy food options, the problem of childhood obesity can be tackled head-on, according to Skinner. The study, the results of which were published in the journal Obesity, also found that rates of obesity were higher in black and hispanic children, suggesting these groups need particular help going forward to combat the problem.

Study: Mental Health Conditions Common Before Bariatric Surgery, but Fall Afterwards

20/01/2016

Patients who are seeking and undergoing bariatric surgery commonly suffer from mental health conditions, such as depression and binge eating disorders. However, following successful bariatric surgery, the rates of these conditions fall, according to a study published in JAMA. Bariatric surgery is a highly accepted method of promoting weight loss in obese individuals and can also serve to reduce their risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain kinds of cancer. Dr. Aaron J. Dawes, from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, led a research team which wanted to discover how common mental health conditions were in people seeking and undergoing bariatric surgery. The findings of their research show that 23% of bariatric surgery patients were affected by a current mental health disorder, with depression (19%); a binge-eating disorder (17%); and anxiety (12%) the most common. Following surgery, a fall in the rate of depression was observed. Of the 27 studies analysed by the research team, seven revealed an 8-74% drop in the rate of depression after surgery, while six reflected a 40-70% reduction in the rate of depressive symptoms. The report authors noted: "Previous reviews have suggested that self-esteem, mental image, cognitive function, temperament, support networks and socioeconomic stability play major roles in determining outcomes after bariatric surgery." They suggest incorporating these factors into future studies, which would help form part of "an optimal strategy for evaluating patients' mental health prior to bariatric surgery."   Photo via: Bassett Healthcare Network 

Obese People Can Preserve Their Knee Cartilage by Losing Weight, says Study

02/12/2015

A new study presented at the recent Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) meeting in Chicago, Illinois reveals that knee cartilage degeneration is significantly slowed in obese patients who lose a substantial amount of weight. Over 500 overweight patients were assessed for the study, which used an MRI scanner to measure the progression of knee cartilage degeneration, allowing the researchers to investigate the impact that different amounts of weight loss can have. The researchers discovered that patients who lost more than 10% of their body weight had slower knee cartilage degeneration, also known as osteoarthritis. The knee is one of the most common parts of the body to be struck by osteoarthritis and patients often need to have their entire knee replaced if the disease progresses too far. Study leader Dr. Alexandra Gersing, from the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), said that while the effects of osteoarthritis cannot be reversed without surgery, “obese patients who lose weight can slow down the progression of cartilage degeneration in the knee.” The study was conducted over a four year period and involved over 500 overweight and obese patients. The researchers are now planning to conduct a further study, which will investigate how diabetes, which is closely linked to obesity, also affects cartilage degeneration. For the time being, however, overweight and obese individuals can slow their cartilage degeneration by losing weight. And while that’s not always as easy as it sounds, weight loss surgery is sometimes an option for obese patients to consider.      

Obese Teens at Increased Risk of Bowel Cancer

26/05/2015

A new study has suggested that obese or very overweight teenagers are at twice the risk of developing bowel cancer in later life than their slimmer peers. Bowel cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in the UK and adult obesity has long been thought to increase the risk of contracting it. But now a team of researchers in the US have studied the records of some 240,000 men born in the early 1950s, who then went on to undergo a compulsory conscription assessment for the Swedish military in their late teens. The difference between being overweight and obese all depends on a person’s body mass index (BMI). Having a BMI of 30 or more sees someone labelled ‘obese’ but even over 25 is still considered ‘overweight’. All of the individuals were assessed in terms of their weight at the time of their conscription and while 81% were considered of ‘normal’ weight, 1.5% had a BMI of over 25 and 1% over 30. An analysis of their health 35 years later discovered that 885 had been positively diagnosed with bowel cancer. Scientists found that those in the uppermost weight bracket were 2.38 times more likely to develop the condition. While further research is needed, especially in women, the study by the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts was published in the journal Gut and its authors said: "Even with these limitations it is important to recognise the unique strengths of this study.”   Photo credit: CSIRO

New Study Suggests Parents Can’t Recognise their Children’s Weight Problems

21/04/2015

Childhood obesity is a complicated disease that’s on the rise globally and now affects over twice as many children as it did 30 years ago. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In an attempt to understand how the link between parents and obese children can be used to improve paediatric health, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine studied the responses given by 2,976 questionnaire respondents – 369 of which had children who were heavily overweight. During the study, the researchers uncovered that 31 percent of the parents interviewed were unable to classify their own child’s BMI scale range. This is worrying because it suggests that many parents simply do not acknowledge when their child is overweight and, therefore, are unlikely to do anything about it. The study’s senior author, Dr. Sanjay Kinra - reader in clinical epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – said: "If parents are unable to accurately classify their own child's weight, they may not be willing or motivated to enact the changes to the child's environment that promote healthy weight maintenance.” Staggeringly, more than one third of American children are either overweight or obese and that’s a problem which will only worsen unless parents start taking measures now. Another of the study’s authors, Professor Russell Viner - an academic paediatrician at the UCL Institute of Child Health – said: "Measures that decrease the gap between parental perceptions of child weight status and obesity scales used by medical professionals may now be needed in order to help parents better understand the health risks associated with overweight and increase uptake of healthier lifestyles.”   Photo credit: U.S. News      

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