Archive for obesity and weight loss
Big shocker: There is a growing obesity rate in America. And it’s starting in childhood. Some factors are obvious, some not so. This one came as a surprise to me.
The list of things that have been shown to contribute to obesity is quite long and seems to be growing every day. As mentioned, some are very obvious, like too many calories, too many refined carbs, skipping breakfast, chemical exposures like BPA in plastic water bottles and not enough exercise. Others, like having the right blend of bacteria in your gut, are less obvious, but still play a potentially large role.
This particular article highlights a new factor in the rising tide of obesity. Light at night.
Yep. Something as simple as too much light at night may have a very large impact on both your weight and your cholesterol levels. This goes doubly for night shift workers. Who would have thought?
Researchers measured the amount of light in the bedroom of 528 seniors over the course of 2 nights and broke them into 2 categories: low lux group (<3 lux) and a light-at-night (LAN) group (> 3 lux). For reference, a typical nightlight is under 3 lux and the first hints of twilight are about 3 lux. This means that the LAN group likely had a light or TV on while they were sleeping. This is not the time to get into a discussion about blue light (from computers, TV, room lighting, cell phones) and how it disrupts our sleep patterns, but feel free to research on your own.
Here is what the researchers found:
- Those with higher light exposure at night had an 89% greater risk of being obese (Tweet this).
- This group also had a 72% higher risk of having cholesterol problems (Tweet this).
While the research on the problems with night shift work as it relates to conditions such as cancer and depression is not new (previous posts on the negative effects of night shift working can be read by clicking here), this is the first time I’ve come across anything on this topic.
The bottom line is that you need to be very careful of the lighting that you have in your room at night, if any. This of course needs to be balanced against the chance of tripping over your dog in the middle of the night (we’ve got four–the odds are pretty high of this happening…). Consider a non-blue night light or looking into blue blocking glasses if you spend time watching TV or are on the computer at night. Especially for your young children who need some light at night.
What kind of light are you exposed to at night? But question–what kind of light are your kids exposed to?
There are all kinds of concerns running around with antibiotic resistant bugs. Headlines lately are claiming that the era of antibiotics is coming to an end and soon we will have nothing left to combat our infectious diseases. Rarely, if ever, do I hear the real story highlighted in the media or in the medical literature.
I firmly believe that the rampant use of antibiotics in our newborns, infants and toddlers is wreaking massive havoc on our short term and long term health. I can think of few things as devastating to the immune system than destroying or disrupting the development of the appropriate intestinal flora that begins the second that baby hits the birth canal.
It is difficult for me to describe how important healthy, normal bacterial flora is. There just are not the words to convey everything that the presence of the right blend of bacteria in your gut does for your health. The short list can include:
- Develops tolerance in the immune system so it attacks what it should (bacteria, viruses) and and doesn’t attack what it shouldn’t (our own tissues).
- Forms a layer along the entire gastrointestinal tract that breaks down harmful toxins to keep them from being absorbed.
- It curbs inflammation in the gut, leading to a stable membrane that improves absorption of nutrients and minerals.
- It produces natural antibiotics that keep disease-causing bacteria and yeast at bay.
- It allows for the proper hormonal messages to be sent to the rest of the body–the gut is considered the 2nd brain. Would you want your first brain getting all screwed up as bad as your gut?
As I’ve mentioned, the list is long and can get very, very complex. The research backing these statements up includes published journal articles numbering well into the thousands if not tens of thousands. There is NO LONGER any valid excuse for a pediatrician or family practice doctor to write a prescription to an infant or toddler unless it is literally life-threatening. The damage is just too great.
If you think I’m a little to strong on this topic, consider a single study linking the development of an incredibly serious autoimmune condition of the gut. The use of antibiotics in the first year of life increased the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease 551%. Yes, 551%.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg, but it clearly shows that antibiotics have a massive potential to completely screw up our immune system. And yet I can’t begin to tell you how many patients come in on a daily or weekly basis that were given antibiotics for things like an upper respiratory tract infection, for which there is no evidence that antibiotics should be used. On the contrary, probiotics have been shown to lower the risk of upper respiratory tract infections. This could, ironically, mean that antibiotics will actually make an upper respiratory condition worse.
All of this brings me to this particular article. This is not the first time there have been suggestions that the bacteria in our gut can lead to obesity. In this article, researchers looked at how the alteration of the gut bacteria in mice could play a role in markers of inflammation and diabetes (specifically fasting blood glucose, plasma TNFα and triglyceride levels).
One group was given the antibiotic vancomycin and the other was given a probiotic that was known to produce an antibacterial compound naturally (referred to as bacteriocin-producing Lactobacillus). While the researchers found that the vancomycin group had positive changes and the Lactobacillus group did not, I’m pretty sure this doesn’t mean that we should all run out and get a prescription for vancomycin in lieu of your lap band surgery.
What it clearly suggests is that destruction of certain bacteria in the gut led to an alteration of the way the body was responding in regards to diabetes and inflammation. To me, this would mean that, not setting up the scenario of the obesity-promoting bacteria in the first place (which leads us back to the antibiotics in infants and toddler scenario) is critical.
Developing countries could derail global anti-obesity plan
This is definitely the “tribute to big money” issue of the Updates. Basically, the US, under pressure from the junk food industry, does not think the World Health Organization’s plan to address diet, physical activity and lifestyle to fix obesity is a good idea. If these organizations can have this much of an effect outside the US, think of the effect while they serve on the committees to decide the AHA and ADA dietary plans. Your health has very little impact on the recommendations of these committees.
bmj.com Fleck 328 (7440): 604 -
Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity
The first line in this abstract says “Obesity is a major epidemic, but its causes are still unclear.” Huh?? Unclear? How about an increase in processed, high refined carb, high trans/sat fat foods? Sometimes researchers can be so disconnected from reality as to make the results of their studies pointless. Do you think any high school student out there doesn’t think increased consumption of soda pop can make you overweight?
AJCN — Abstracts: Bray et al. 79 (4): 537 -
Every public health recommendation pushes dairy as a healthy food for kids. Milk for toddlers is almost a requirement. But is this true or extreme misguidance?
Food pyramids. School lunches. The CDC. The commercials pushing dairy as the solution to every woe facing children today. Someone who was strongly against dairy much be absolutely crazy.
Or maybe just well educated.
First, we need to address a few things. First, I’d really like to know the first upright mammal that looked at a cow’s udder and thought to him or herself, “I’ve GOT to try some of that!!” Most of us remain very distanced from the collection of milk and it’s easy to forget where it comes from when you’re drinking it out of a plastic jug or cardboard carton.
Second, many patients, with a look of horror when I tell them that milk is not a healthy food for kids and adults, ask how they are going to get their calcium to protect bones if they don’t drink milk?? I then ask if cows actually drink milk for their calcium. Pretty much ends the conversation there (the answer is NO–cows don’t drink milk).
Lastly, we all need to refresh our minds on what mammalian milk is designed to do. It is designed to take a newborn to a more self sufficient mammal. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about humans, cows, sheep or dogs, the goal of mother’s milk is the same. And no other mammal uses milk for toddlers, teens or adults.
One of the needs of a rapidly growing newborn is glucose. The brand new cells of the little growing creature need lots and lots of glucose to support all of the metabolic activity going on. And how do these cells get the sugar they need? From insulin, of course. Mammalian milk is well known to stimulate the release of insulin so that the sugar can make it into the cell where it is so desperately needed.
More insulin. Great idea for a newborn. NOT a good idea as we get older. As a matter of fact, the prediabetic state is already having problems with too much insulin because insulin is not working the way it is supposed to. Forcing the body to release even more is probably not a great idea.
Now that you have some background, we can move on to this particular study. A group of overweight adolescents (12-15 years old) were studied for 12 weeks on diet that included 1 liter of either skim milk, a drink containing casein, a drink containing whey or water. Casein and whey are the principle proteins found in milk.
They looked at whether these milk drinks caused the pancreas to work harder to release more insulin (the term is insulinotropic) and whether they contributed to weight gain. The results?
- BMI scores adjusted for age increased with skim milk, casein and whey groups. (Tweet this)
- C peptide release (a marker of insulin release by the pancreas) went up in the casein and whey groups.
This is not good news, but not truly unexpected if you understand what mammalian milk was designed to do. When we give milk for toddlers up through our adult years, you are trying to stimulate rapid growth. That is what it is SUPPOSED to do. This, of course, is not such a good idea if you’re already overweight.
With this in mind, do you think we should still promote dairy and milk products as healthy food for kids?
Phenotypic effects of leptin replacement on morbid obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypogonadism, and behavior in leptin-deficient adults
Remember that leptin is a hormone secreted by the adipose cell that, in a healthy state, will decrease appetite and speed up metabolism. It should act as a regulator of body weight–more adipose tissue, more leptin and faster metabolism to lose the fat–less fat, less leptin and metabolism slows down again. I really do believe that somewhere in the leptin pathway lies an important approach to obesity. As soon as we start to learn ways to make cells more responsive to leptin’s message, we will begin to see more effective approaches to weight loss.
PNAS — Abstracts: Licinio et al. 101 (13): 4531 -
As parents, we all try to do our best to raise our children with the best of morales and the most ideal of health. No parent looks at their child and thinks, “I love little junior, but I’m going to feed him McDonalds three times per week so he can grow obese and develop heart disease and diabetes.” Rather, the effects on our kids are more subtle.
Prevention of Obesity and Insulin Resistance in Mice Lacking Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1
Don’t feel bad–I’m new to the concept of PAI-1 being used as a marker for insulin resistance/Syndrome X as well. Research is still ongoing, but PAI-1 is a compound that increases the “stickiness” of platelets and this make be associated with (some think a causative factor in) Syndrome X. We really do need a solid, accurate method to assess presence and degree of insulin resistance. It would be nice if this compound turns out to be our answer.
Diabetes — Abstracts: Ma et al. 53 (2): 336 -
The latest diet craze seems to focus on the HCG weight loss program. While many to initially lose weight, what about long term HCG side effects from the program?
Here in AZ, the HCG diet has been quite the craze the past few years. HCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin. For those of you well versed in physiology, you may recognize this as the hormone that is produced by the placenta during pregnancy and is the hormone that is used in pregnancy tests.
Not sure when the last time I saw a pregnant woman take off weight, but it seemed to work to fool a lot of patients. There are clinics that devote thousands in advertising to HCG weight loss programs and have the entire business model centered around the product.
There are a few common threads to the providers and websites that promote HCG:
- The HCG injections curb your appetite.
- HCG weight loss injections cause your body to lose unwanted fat (Lose up to a POUND of fat per day!!)
- The HCG diet plan resets your hypothalamus that has been misprogrammed by years of poor lifestyle choices.
The first time I was exposed to the HCG program and the Simeon’s diet, I spent quite a bit of time researching it. Let me rephrase that–I spent quite a bit of time trying to find research related to HCG and weight loss that had been published in the last 30 years. With the exception of a study done in the past few years finding no benefit to using HCG injections over using the diet alone, there just isn’t any.
So what do I have to say to the 3 points above? I’ll address them individually.
1) In published studies done on water only fasting to lower blood pressure, the authors were surprised that hunger was not an issue for the participants in this study beyond day 2 or 3. In other words, the body quickly adapts to the lack of calories and hunger is curbed anyway.
2) Really? A pound of pure fat loss per day? Does anyone actually believe this? First of all, every ounce of weight loss is associated with fat, muscle and water loss. It’s all a matter of how much we lose of each.
This brings us to #3.
This is the big push for the people selling the program. The hypothalamus is responsible for setting our body’s internal temperature, among other things. It would certainly sound appealing if HCG injections could help restore the settings of our hypothalamus to our younger days.
There is just no evidence to suggest the HCG does this. This particular study, on the other hand, suggests just the opposite.
Researchers looked at what happened to mice fed a calorie restricted diet and then later allowed to eat as much as they would like. Turns out these calorie restricted mice had a much greater tendency to eat more and to gain weight. In other words, there was no “resetting” of the mice’s hypothalamus and body weight regulation.
There was something that changed as a result of the very low calorie diet that seemed to be long term. This is consistent with many people on the HCG weight loss plan who later regain much of the weight they lost.
Does this mean that very low calorie diets are a bad thing? Absolutely not. Even in this study, there were clear benefits to the mice’s health under the calorie restriction.
But anyone undergoing this type of plan needs to understand that this is the beginning of the rest of your life with less calories. If not, you WILL put the weight back on after you’re done with the HCG diet plan.
Not to toot our own horn (although I am clearly going to…), our office offers a very low calorie diet plan. There are two differences with our program. First, as mentioned, we explain to every participant that this program is the beginning of the rest of his or her life with less calories.
Second, we use a supplement specifically designed to support your physiology during a very low calorie diet. This product helps to ensure that your thyroid and adrenals don’t go into starvation mode and cause you to preserve fat.
So, before you jump on board the HCG weight loss plan because some flashy ad made it sound like the most effective method of weight loss since amputation, consider this post.
If you did try the HCG plan, did you have a problem maintaining the weight loss you achieved?