Weight loss and obesity news round-up

why we're fat (photo by Honou via Flickr)

There’s been a lot of random news about weight loss, obesity and health effects in the past few weeks.  Here are some of the more interesting headlines:

  1. Weight management is more complex than just cutting out bad foods.  In other worse, that simplified “Eat this, not that” idea isn’t likely to help you lose weight (NOTE: if it was working, wouldn’t we be seeing fewer obese people by now?  Just wondering.).  Anyway, this study points out the obvious: weight loss and calorie balance are complex metabolic processes.  Anyone who’s struggled with a diet knew that already.
  2. Obesity may be connected to gut bacteria.  I’ve written about this before, and a new report notes that there is little research to help us understand how to use this concept to enhance weight loss.  How exactly is gut bacteria is linked to obesity?  Is it a causative factor?  An effect of a high calorie lifestyle?  Does it depend on what particular foods you eat?  Will changing bacteria change metabolism?  If so, which bacteria will do that?   We don’t know, so if you see some product touting weight loss effects from probiotics, ignore it.  Right now we just don’t know.  However, it can’t hurt to eat yogurt.
  3. Eliminating a mere 64 calories/day, on average, would fix childhood obesity.  It doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t, and yes cutting back on calories will eventually cause weight loss.  But this is an average figure.  While cutting back a very modest amount of food might prevent obesity in a 5 year old, it isn’t like to have much effect on an already-obese 14 year old.  The main point: better to prevent obesity in the first place.
  4. Calorie restriction reduces inflammatory markers.  This is rather important.  Since so many chronic diseases are linked to inflammation, and obesity aggravates inflammation, it makes weight loss that much more important for health.  And more good news about weight loss: it may increase success of fertility treatments.  Obesity reduces fertility and increases risk for serious pregnancy complications.
  5. I guess we’re in for a more inflamed and less fertile population.  Predictions are for 42% of Americans to be obese by 2030, up from around 33% today.  Which means everything that is affected by larger bodies will be affected as well: gasoline consumption, size of furniture, size of clothing, and demand for more medical care.  Another study links body fat to increased risk for ischemic heart disease.  I thought we already knew that.  No surprise, obesity will add at least another $190 billion in medical costs.
  6. Finally, long commutes may be making you gain weight.  Long hours spent sitting in a car mean much less time to be active.  It could also mean you rely more on convenience food that’s car-friendly and high calorie.  If you’re stuck with a long commute, and you’re trying to lose weight, you have to be that much more determined to schedule physical activity into your day.  Take advantage of longer summer mornings and evenings to be active.
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