Does this polluted air make me look fat? The answer is yes, because it does, in fact, make you fat, eventually. Initially, it just jacks up your insulin resistance level, LDL cholesterol, and triglicerides. That, at least, is the suggestion of research conducted in Beijing by scientists from Duke University. A Duke news release reports that researchers placed pregnant rats and their offspring in two chambers, one exposed to outdoor Beijing air and the other containing an air filter that removed most of the air pollution particles. After only 19 days, the lungs and livers of pregnant rats exposed to the polluted air were heavier and showed increased tissue inflammation, and the rats had 50 percent higher LDL cholesterol; 46 percent higher triglycerides; and 97 percent higher total cholesterol. Their insulin resistance level, a precursor of Type 2 diabetes, was higher than their clean air-breathing counterparts. The researchers conclusion: air pollution exposure results in metabolic dysfunction, a precursor to obesity. And yes, the pollution-exposed rats were significantly heavier at the end of their pregnancy even though the rats in both groups were fed the same diet.
Are you sitting down? A new study from researchers at Cornell claims that for all but the most overweight and underweight people, the consumption of soda, candy and fast food showed no correlation to BMI. A Cornell news release reports that the findings upend the seemingly self-evident conclusion that consuming unhealthy foods is the cause of high rates of obesity. According to researcher David Just, previous studies reporting a positive correlation between indulgent foods and weight status at the population level failed to take into account the distorting effects from the roughly five percent of people who are either chronically underweight or morbidly obese. For the rest of the 95 percent of the population, the consumption of those indulgent foods and beverages showed no significant difference between the habits of healthy weight and overweight individuals. “Simply put, just because those things can lead you to get fat doesn’t mean that’s what is making us fat,” says Just. “By targeting just these vilified foods, we are creating policies that are not just highly ineffective, but may be self-defeating as it distracts from the real underlying causes of obesity.” The study blames the increasing rates of obesity on “other things,” like the likelihood that you’re sitting down while reading this.
Here’s a sneaky and fun pastime. Take a look at what foods are sitting on your neighbors’ countertops, then take a look at your neighbors. See anything interesting? Researchers at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab tried it, and here’s what they saw. The Cornell Chronicle reports that researchers looked at photographs of more than 200 kitchens in Syracuse, New York, then they looked at the body mass index of the people who lived there. Ready? The envelope please…..The researchers found that women who kept fresh fruit out in the open tended to be a normal weight compared with their peers. But when snacks like cereals and sodas were readily accessible, residents were heavier than their neighbors – by an average of more than 20 pounds. In fact, women who had a fruit bowl visible weighed about 13 pounds less than neighbors who didn’t. No, it’s not that normal weight women didn’t eat snack foods, but they were more likely to stash them in a special cupboard for snacks, and they were less likely to buy food in large packages than those who are obese.
OK, this sounds like some kind of conspiracy of french fries, but researchers at the University of Georgia are convinced that it’s true: A high fat changes bacteria in our gut, and the new bacteria sends information to our brain that can impair our ability to know when we are full. The bottom line: We eat more, when eating french fries, than we would if we were eating a less fatty food, like cantaloupe. A University of Georgia news release reports that researchers at the school liken the microscopic phenomenon to the way a sudden shift in temperature might impact the people who live in the affected area: Some people will be fine. Others will become ill. Krzysztof Czaja, an associate professor of neuroanatomy in the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and a coauthor of the study, says the bacterial changes can damage gut-brain neural connections, resulting in inflammation and leading to miscommunication between the gut and the brain. Czaja plans to do more research to determine if the change is permanent. The researcher’s advice? When it comes to diet, people should “think systemically. All of the components and receptors in the body are interconnected and should work in harmony. There is not a single receptor responsible for huge physiological outcomes.” Czaja points out that throughout the history of mankind until just a few decades ago, the human body was used to foods derived from natural and whole sources, rather than artificial and highly processed. “We should be aware that on a high-fat (and high-carbohydrate) diet, balance in the intestinal microbiota and gut-brain communication—which was developing over thousands and thousands of years in humans and animals—has been interrupted by the introduction of modified foods,” he says. “This leads to the confused brain and inappropriate satiety feedback and results in obesity.”
Timing may be everything, or at least a lot, when it comes to metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes. And that, according to researchers at Texas A&M University, is why it’s important that our internal biological clocks run properly. Yes, Virginia, there is an internal biological clock. In fact, there’s one in every cell, and it controls the 24-hour cycles that tell our bodies when to sleep and regulate many physiological processes, including inflammation and metabolism. Now the important part: researchers at Texas A&M are convinced that a high-fat diet “dysregulates” our biological clock, and that such dysregulation can encourage inflammation and fat deposition and lead to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. How do they know? A Texas A&M news release reports that the researchers fed two groups of mice different diets: one high-fat and one low-fat. Yes, you guessed right: they found that a high-fat diet changed the functioning body clock from a 24-hour cycle to a 30-33 hour cycle, particularly in immune cells involved in inflammation. This, in turn, can make critical inflammatory and metabolic processes occur at abnormal times throughout the day. It’s a bad thing. “Keeping our body clock running properly is vital,” said study author David Earnest. “To promote health, we need to eat healthy foods, and more importantly keep a healthy lifestyle, which includes avoiding sleeping late and eating at night. Time your body right and it will work better.”
Imagine this: you’ve got an entire civilization of microbes living, somewhat happily, inside of you, and they make many of the decisions about your health. Now comes a group of researchers from the National Institute for Agricultural Research in France, who analyzed the microbes in the guts of 292 Danish people. As NPR reports, the researchers found that lean people had far greater (40 percent) microbial diversity than obese people. Wait, it gets worse: People who had less microbial diversity — whatever their weight — were more likely to have a variety of risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Those risk factors included insulin resistance and inflammation. What can you do about it? The researchers don’t have recipe for greater microbial diversity, but they do think a better diet–fewer calories, more grains– and also fewer antibiotics will help. Read more from National Public Radio.
Most doctors will tell you that bonding and empathy are essential in a good doctor-patient relationship. What they won’t tell you, and what was revealed in a study at Johns Hopkins Medical School, is that they have less patience with overweight and obese patients than with people of healthy weight. A John Hopkins news release reports that the research analyzed recordings of visits of 208 patients with high blood pressure who saw 39 primary care doctors. The recordings showed no difference related to body mass index (BMI), a ratio of height to weight, in terms of time spent with each patient or in weight counseling. But when they were analyzed for expressed words of empathy, concern or encouragement, the differences popped out. Patient weight played no role in the quantity of physicians’ medical questions, medical advice, counseling, or treatment regimen discussions, but the doctors were much more likely to express empathy, concern and understanding in interactions with patients of normal weight than with overweight and obese patients.
In a finding that contradicts just about everything we’ve been told about the health hazards of being overweight, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that people with a few extra pounds are less likely to die in any given period than people of normal weight. Wait, it gets better: even moderately obese people don’t have a higher-than-normal risk of dying. What’s up with that? The Wall Street Journal reports that the researchers, who analyzed 97 studies involving nearly three million people and 270,000 deaths around the world, did find that seriously obese people, those with a BMI of 35 or higher, have a 29 percent greater risk of dying. But the pleasantly plump, those with a BMI of 25 to 30, have a 6 percent lower risk of death than people whose BMI is in the normal range of 18.5 to 25. Remember those New Year’s resolutions? Forget them.
The notion that testosterone drops dramatically with age appears to be an exaggeration, according to researchers at the University of Adelaide. The researchers, who analyzed testosterone levels in 1,382 men, ranging in age from 35 to 80 years, with an average age of 54, found that while testosterone does decline with age, that decline is very gradual, less than one percent a year. The researchers found that men with the greatest drops in testosterone were those who became obese, had stopped smoking, or were depressed. They also found that unmarried men had greater testosterone drops than married men, possibly because married men tend to be healthier and happier than unmarried men, and because regular sexual activity tends to increase testosterone. Read more in a release from the Endocrine Society.
To halt the continuing and medically expensive march of obesity, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken a step that other politicians are afraid to even mention: he has proposed a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts. The New York Times reports that the sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle would be prohibited if the move is approved. BusinessWeek, which, oh yeah, is owned by Bloomberg, reports that the city’s health board will vote on it after three months of public comment, and no other authorization from the state or city would be required. What do you think? Should sugary beverages bigger than 16-ounces be outlawed? Let us know in the comment space below.