Coca-Cola Joins Fight Against Obesity Epidemic

The estimate that two-thirds of Americans are obese is a statistic that doesn’t even need to be repeated anymore because it has been echoed over and over. In fact, the problem has become such a large epidemic that even Coca-Cola of all companies has joined the anti-obesity crusade.

Coca-Cola, the manufacturer of the world’s most popular and sugar-laden soft drink, has pledged its commitment to curb the rising rate of obesity among adults and children by launching an ad campaign to reinforce its efforts to work with the government and communities to find real-world solutions to reducing America’s growing waistline.

The ad points out that of its 650 beverage products, 180 of them offer zero or reduced calories. The ad was a response to increased attacks made by health advocates against the beverage company, which was led mostly by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Back in October, the CSPI released its own animated short film known as “The Real Bears,” which was aimed at mocking Coca-Cola’s polar bear mascot and urged Americans to ditch sodas and other sugary beverages.

Coca-Cola refuted CSPI’s video and stated that the real key to combating obesity is to cut back on calories, no matter where the source of the calories comes from. CSPI, however, fired back and said that Coca-Cola only released its own ad to protect its own image and has no real intention or interest of fighting national obesity.

CSPI did, however, concede that soda, if consumed in moderation, can be a part of a healthy diet. It added that the problem is the fact that people are now guzzling soda in huge containers on nearly a daily basis. This is something that even Coca-Cola has agreed on and has pledged to address through the release of new portion-controlled sizes.

Being Overweight may not be as Harmful to Your Health as Previously Thought

Obesity has long been associated with heart disease and scores of other health maladies. However, a study is beginning to challenge this idea. A researcher has discovered that people of normal weight who develop type 2 diabetes are in fact twice as more likely to die from the disease than diabetics who are overweight.

The study
was done by Mercedes Carnethon who does research for diabetes at Feinberg School of Medicine. Her discovery is being called the obesity paradox. In further twists, multiple studies have shown that those who develop chronic diseases who are also overweight or obese tend to live longer than those who are within their recommended weight range. Separate studies have shown similar results for patients with dialysis and coronary disease; those who were overweight fared better and had an overall lower mortality rate than their normal weight counterparts.

Researchers are scrambling to find an explanation. One theory is that once a disease develops, the body will begin to use more energy and calorie reserves, which overweight people have more of stored in their body. Once those reserves are expended, the person will become malnourished.

Other researchers suspect genetics as the culprit. It is believed that thin people who develop health problems have gene variants that make them more vulnerable to the harmful effects of the illness.

Another study in 2005 showed that those who face the biggest risk of premature death were from the extreme ends of the weight spectrum: those who were either extremely obese or underweight. Those in the overweight category, however, had the lowest mortality rate of all, while those in the moderately obese category were no more at risk than those in the normal weight category.

The findings are truly puzzling and may completely change the way we think about weight and its association with disease and early death. Perhaps having those love handles may not be as bad after all.

Obesity Linked to Discount Grocery Stores

Obesity is clearly linked to people’s dietary habits and what they decide to put in their mouths. It has long been thought that obesity is linked to the nearby presence of fast food diners and stores that sell unhealthy food options. This argument was used to account for the high obesity rate in poor neighborhoods, where there is a greater concentration of fast food joints. However, new study shows that this may not be the case.

Research found that those who shop at pricier supermarkets have a lower rate of obesity, as opposed to those who primarily obtain their foods from lower priced stores.

The study consisted of a survey over the phone in which participants were asked questions about their shopping habits, such as where they shopped and food brands they normally pick out. Information regarding the surveyor’s income, education and demographics were also collected.

The findings showed that only about one in seven people selected their shopping location based on its proximity from their home. This suggests that grocery store location may not influence obesity to the degree previously suspected.

What the study did show was that the obesity rate was 27 percent for the category of those who reported shopping at low-cost and thrift supermarkets. This is compared to just nine percent for those who shop at higher priced grocery outlets.

According to a report from the American Public Health Association, the key to combating obesity is to make healthier food options more affordable, especially in low income cities.

The problem is that a box of Twinkies tends to be cheaper than a bag of apples or oranges. It is hard to make informed decisions about food choice when your selection is seriously limited by your income. People will gravitate towards healthier and natural foods when their price is eliminated as a roadblock.

Children at a Greater Risk than Ever for Heart Disease

There are multiple factors that constitute good health, and all of these need to be followed for maintaining a strong and functioning heart. This includes getting daily physical activity, eating the right foods and getting enough sleep.

A healthy lifestyle needs to be adhered to at a young age. Recent studies have shown that an alarmingly rising number of children are becoming at risk for heart related problems. The report, Heart Disease and Strokes Statistics, revealed that only half of U.S. Children are meeting the criteria recommended by experts for a healthy and active life.

A separate report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also revealed that one in five children exhibited higher than normal cholesterol levels. The American Academy of Pediatrics is now urging children from ages 9 to 11 to be screened for high cholesterol.

Dr. Stephen R. Daniels, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, suggested that the rising obesity rate is the main contributor in increased heart disease among the nation’s youth. Children who are obese are also at a far greater risk for developing further heart complications as adults.

The Center for Disease Control also revealed that about one third of American children are overweight, with about 20 percent of them classified as obese. Being overweight also correlates to high cholesterol and blood pressure.

Even among teens, 17 percent of boys and 30 percent of girls fall way short of the recommended one hour of daily physical activity.

Children model after their parents and what they see in the media. They need to learn early on that there are serious health consequences down the road if they do not take care of their bodies. Parents need to get their children to exercise and eat right. They may not always like it, but this is where parents need to be parents instead of being their friend.

Sleep Can Help Regulate Obesity Gene

It can really seem unfair when you pack on the pounds whenever you indulge in your favorite foods. Meanwhile, a select few can still maintain a trim figure even after pigging out on cheeseburgers and chocolate cake.

Some people are just born lucky and have favorable genes. They have a naturally faster metabolism and can get away with eating more without suffering the consequences afterwards. Chances are that you are not one of these people. However, a new research suggests that the extent to which your genes affect your weight is actually dependent on the amount of sleep you get.

In a recent study, 1,088 pairs of twins, both identical and non-identical, had their sleeping habits analyzed. One twin was given nine hours of sleep, while the other got seven hours or less. The twin with the more sleep showed a body mass index that was 51 percent dependent on environmental factors, such as diet and exercise, with 32 percent being due to genetic makeup. For the twin that slept less, about 70 percent of their BMI can be attributed to their genes, while only about four percent was due to environmental influences.

The study was headed by Nathaniel Watson, M.D., the co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center. The use of twins for the study provided far better results. Since twins share identical DNA, any difference in their weight can be attributed to environmental factors rather than their genes.

Researchers have so far identified about 20 genes that are linked to the risk of obesity. This includes genes that regulate your blood sugar metabolism and appetite. It is believed that the amount of sleep can influence how these genes behave.

More sleep is generally a good thing. The research also now shows that if you want to keep a tight and solid tummy, then you should spend more time in dreamland.

Childhood Obesity on the Rise despite Efforts of the First Lady

It is common knowledge that poor urban areas tend to have a higher rate of childhood obesity. Since her husband took the presidential office more than three years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama has campaigned vigorously to encourage physical activity and sensible eating among America’s youth.

While studies have showed that there are more fast food diners and convenience stores in poor neighborhoods, there were also more grocery stores, which made fruits and vegetables far more accessible. Recent studies have also showed that there is no noticeable correlation between obesity and number of fast food diners within a city.

This raises questions whether increasing access to healthy foods is really the answer as the First Lady has been advocating for. According to federal data, childhood obesity rates remain relatively the same in spite of efforts and programs to get Americans to exercise and eat healthier foods.

Michelle Obama’s crusade for a healthier and leaner nation has also included a call for schools to serve more nutritious meals. Her campaign has been praised by liberals while criticized by some conservatives, claiming that it is a move towards a nanny state.

Helen Lee, a member of the Public Policy Institute of California, conducted a study of 8,000 children in urban areas. The results indicated that poor neighborhoods did indeed have about twice as many fast food joints compared to more affluent neighborhoods. However, they also had just about as many super markets and grocery stores.

Childhood obesity is without a question a growing epidemic. However, the notion that children in poor neighborhoods are at a disadvantage due to a lack of access to healthy foods is just an excuse. It is the responsibility of parents to ensure that their kids get daily exercise and eat a proper diet. If given a choice between a hamburger and a plate of vegetables, children are obviously going to go for the burger because it tastes better. This is where parents need to be the role model and help them make the right decisions. Government intervention is not the answer.

Food Industry to Change Fast With New Health America

fast foodOne aspect of the health care bill taking immediate effect is that chain restaurants will now be required to display nutrition information. What we are witnessing could well make a seismic shift in the changing of the food landscape of America.

The Associated Press Reports:

More than 200,000 fast food and other chain restaurants will have to include calorie counts on menus, menu boards and even drive-throughs.

The new law, which applies to any restaurant with 20 or more locations, directs the Food and Drug Administration to create a new national standard for menu labeling, superseding a growing number of state and city laws. President Barack Obama signed the health care legislation Tuesday.

The idea is to make sure that customers process the calorie information as they are ordering. Many restaurants currently post nutritional information in a hallway, on a hamburger wrapper or on their Web site. The new law will make calories immediately available for most items.

This rule will also apply to vending machines carrying convenience foods.

So how will this change be manifested to the American food system?

Americans’ appetite for cheap and processed foods and factory-farmed meat impacts everything from carbon emissions to water quality to pesticide and farms’ use of antibiotics.

The Oscar-nominated documentary “Food, Inc.” had a huge effect on informing people about the problems in the industrial food system. Oprah brought author and food expert Michael Pollan on her show to discuss the documentary, which she called “thought-provoking” and “eye-opening”. Michael Pollan also made appearances on The Daily Show and told Jon Stewart in January that he thought the passage of health care reform would have a large impact on changing the way people eat, because health insurers would have a financial motive to keep people away from eating unhealthy foods that will cause long-term health problems.

Michelle Obama has also become a public spokeswoman of increasing access to real food, gardening and fighting childhood obesity with her Let’s Move campaign. Last week she spoke to the Grocery Manufacturers Association about completely reassessing the ‘junk’ food which they sell:

“We need you not to just tweak around the edges but entirely rethink the products you are offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children.”