Obesity not only has effects on an individual’s health, but it takes its toll on health systems as a whole. Each year budgets are increasing to help support the services that treat, and prevent, obesity and obesity related illnesses. A multi-pronged strategy is required to combat obesity and its effects. In a recent study in Australia, researchers have sought to identify those most at risk of the disease; the study included more than 1.3 million pregnant women, and is being described as the largest study and most comprehensive of its kind. The country itself has committed $20 billion to maximise the effectiveness of studies such as these and to implement the recommendations that they propose.
Experts are also hoping to use these funds to create a ‘co-ordinated national approach’ to respond to the epidemic. This approach would include a prevention strategy, stronger regulation and legislation, recognition of obesity as a chronic disease, and more education and upskilling for healthcare workers. One area that they are particularly keen to promote is education within the sphere of health practitioners, so that these workers are aware of the best treatment strategies for their patients. If an effective national approach can be developed in Australia, many countries may follow suit in order to tackle the growing problem of obesity.
There is a proven link between obesity and cancer risk, however few studies have examined the link between energy density of food and cancer risk. In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers analysed dietary energy density (DED) in the diets of post-menopausal women. DED itself is a measure of the calories per gram of weight that a food has and it is also a measure of food quality. Therefore, foods such as fruits and vegetables are low-DED foods, where processed foods such as hamburgers are high-DED as you require more to get nutrients out of them.
In total, data on 90,000 women was obtained and it was found that high DED foods were linked with a 10% increase in obesity-related cancer. This increased risk was limited to women who were of a normal weight at the start of the study. The findings show that weight management itself may not be adequate in preventing obesity related cancers, if women continue to consume a diet pattern of high DED. The exact mechanism of the link of DED and cancers is unknown, but the researchers hypothesise that it is due to metabolic dysregulation, however more research is required to be sure.Read More
A recent large study, published in Obesity, has shown that weight gain in early pregnancy has a great impact on infant size and childhood obesity. The study examined 16,218 pregnant mothers in China in all three trimesters. It found that weight gain in the first trimester, regardless of weight gain later, had the greatest impact on infant size; in fact infants born to women with weight gain that exceeds the 2009 Institute of Medicine guidelines were 2.5 times more likely to be born large. It has been known for some time that weight gain in pregnancy can lead to larger babies, but this is the first study of its kind to examine in-depth timings to gestational weight gain and its effect.
The study authors hope that women who are pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant, can use these findings to help regulate their health and subsequently their child’s health throughout their pregnancy. Especially since this early period of pregnancy is an ideal time to initiate lifestyle interventions. The study itself is one of the largest and most well-defined studies of its kind and experts are hoping that similar research will be undertaken to further our knowledge in this area.Read More
After the results of a recent study, a team of researchers are calling for a change to global dietary guidelines. Findings from over 135,000 individuals across 18 different countries were used and it was found that high carbohydrate intake is linked to a worse total mortality, while high fat intake is associated with a lower risk. For the study, food types and quantities were assessed using a country-specific food questionnaire, this was then compared with cardiovascular disease and mortality.
Currently, it is recommended to limit total fat intake to less than 30% of energy, and saturated fats to 10%. This study has found that increasing this limit to 35% with a concomitant lowering of carbohydrates could lower mortality risk. By studying the effects of fats and carbohydrates on blood lipids, they also found that whilst LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) increases with consumption of saturated fats so does HDL (‘good’ cholesterol), the overall effect is a net decrease in the total cholesterol/HDL ratio. LDL cholesterol forms the basis of many dietary guidelines, however this proves that it may not be reliable on its own in predicting the effects of saturated fat on cardiovascular events, other blood lipid markers will have to be utilised. It is hoped that these results can be replicated and the research furthered, so that accepted guidelines become more accurate.Read More
Researchers, from the University of the West of England, have found that children living closer to fast food outlets are more likely to gain a significant amount of weight between the first and last year of school. Using data from over 1,500 UK children the authors were able to discover a link between proximity of fast food outlet and weight gain over time, and published their results in the Journal of Public Health. The study also found that there is a higher density of fast food outlets within poorer neighbourhoods. Thus, highlighting the need for analysis of how the environment impacts on Public Health, and therefore the identification – and hopefully solution – of particular problems.
Matthew Pearce, the lead author, said that understanding the reasoning behind why the amount of children that are obese doubles between the first and last year of primary school is important to protect the future of health of children. However, the authors accept that their study only shows a relationship between the two measures and other aspects of each neighbourhood will also impact on the health of the children, such as cycling and walking infrastructure.Read More