Diabetes has become a common condition around the country, affecting about one in six Americans. But in Appalachia, the rate is twice that: One person of every three in the region is diabetic—and many people believe there’s no way they can avoid it. Over at Salon, Frank Browning details how diabetes has become an all-too-familiar part of life in the region:
[Health worker Lora Hamilton] says most people are resigned — and believe there’s nothing they can do. “They tell me, ‘I’ve got diabetes or I’m going to get it. I’m just gonna have to live with it. My granddad lost a leg. My grandmother was on dialysis.’ And what I say is, ‘Well, you know you can keep that from happening by taking care of yourself.’”
High-fructose corn syrup ups the sugar content of many
As the obesity rates continue to climb in developed countries, and research about hunger and how our bodies process food advances, researchers are finding more clues that the epidemic’s cause is more complex than simple overeating. And one contributor may be the increase in the amount of sugar in processed foods, especially with the rise of mass-produced, cheaper-than-cane-sugar high-fructose corn syrup in the 1970s.
At The Guardian, documentary maker Jacques Peretti has written a detailed history of the food industry’s role in popularizing high-fructose corn syrup and fueling obesity. Peretti’s story begins with corn overproduction in the 1970s causing a surplus, which led to the mass production of corn-based foods, including high-fructose corn syrup, long before worries about obesity had arisen.
FA=high-fat, ab libitum (eat-at-will) diet, FT=high-fat, time-restricted diet, NA=normal ab libitum (eat-at-will) diet, NT=normal diet, time-restricted
Diets tell you what you eat, but a new study suggests when you eat matters too. Of two groups of mice who were fed the same high-fat diet, the mice who could eat around the clock were much heavier than those who had food restricted to eight hours per day, in a new study published in Cell Metabolism.
Researchers in the study gave the mice a special high-fat chow, 61% of whose calories come from fat (compared to just 13% in normal feed). The mice who chowed down all day and night became, unsurprisingly, obese, but the ones who ate the same amount of hi-fat food in only eight hours per day did not. Their body weight was comparable to mice fed an equivalent amount of calories on normal feed.
When we rip open a 100-calorie snack pack, few of us have an idea of how much energy that really is–or how much walking, biking, or schlepping groceries it will take to burn it off. But what if nutrition labels included descriptions of how much exercise you’d need to burn off that candy bar?
One recent study explored that possibility by testing the effects of signs describing in one of three different ways the energy contained in a sugary drink. Researchers found that a sign that said “Did you know that working off a bottle of soda or fruit juice takes about 50 minutes of running?” halved the number of drinks purchased from a drink cooler by African American teenagers, while signs that mentioned calorie count or percentage of total recommended calorie intake did not have a significant effect. Though the study was pretty small, and thus should be verified with larger studies, the effect seems plausible, given that exercise is a much more concrete measure of energy value than calories. Some health campaigns have in fact already taken up this tactic: if you’re a New Yorker, you may have noticed subway ads using exactly this strategy, linking the calories in a 20-oz soda with the three-mile walk between Yankee Stadium and Central Park. Read More
As income rises, the frequency of fast food visits rise as well, at least until income hits $60,000 a year; sit-down restaurant visits just keep on rising. (The y axis is frequency of visits.)
Obesity rates in the United States are highest among the poor, and high up on most lists of reasons why, you’ll find the truism that fast food is cheap food, and the poor, who can’t afford healthier fare, are its main consumers. A new study suggests, however, that the people eating the most fast food are middle class, with incomes as high as $60,000 a year. Using a national database of about 5,000 people, researchers at UC Davis found that the frequency of people’s visits to fast-food restaurants increased with rising household income until $60,000, when frequency started to go down (though, interestingly, people making more than $100,000 still went to fast food more than those making $20,000). Visits to sit-down restaurants, on the other hand, increased with rising income and just kept on growing.
A Gallup poll reports that on average Americans weigh almost 20 pounds more than they did in 1990, based on the self-reports of more than 1,000 people. The average man weighs 196 pounds while the average woman is 160 pounds. And most of us—62 percent—are already overweight or obese.
But that doesn’t mean we’re ready to come right out and admit it, at least not to a telephone pollster. When asked how they would describe their own weight, only 39 percent of Americans described themselves as “overweight,” while 56 percent reported their weight was “about right.” Neither of these metrics have changed very much since the poll was first given 21 years ago.
An experimental drug causes obese monkeys to lose weight and improves their metabolic function by depriving their fat of its blood supply, researchers reported yesterday in Science Translational Medicine, offering hope that such drugs could help battle obesity in people, as well.
Researchers have long suspected that living in a bad neighborhood can be hazardous to your health—whether because of poor access to health care and a paucity of areas to exercise in and stores that sell healthy food, or some combination of other factors, living in a poor area means you have a disproportionate chance of becoming ill and obese. But how can you tell whether that effect is intrinsic to poverty, or whether it can be reversed if people move into more well-off neighborhoods? With a giant, long-term study that gives families in poor neighborhoods a chance to move to other areas.
The results of such a study, conducted by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, have now been published, and they show that moving from low-income housing projects to a neighborhood with less than 10% of people living below the poverty line does have a positive effect on health. Read More
What’s the News: Childhood obesity rates have escalated dramatically in recent years, in concert with nationwide explosion that has 34% of American adults falling into that category.
Now, scientists writing in the July 13 issue of the Journal of American Medical Association argue that much as feeding kids too little is considered child neglect, so should be feeding them too much. And if the former is grounds for removing them from their families, then the former may be as well.
As you can imagine, in the last 24 hours, numerous commentators have responded, and the ensuing debate touches on the causes of obesity and the difficulty of treating such a pervasive, devastating problem.
What’s the News: Fitting in is a perennial problem for almost everybody, especially immigrants and their children (for more, see The Joy Luck Club). And anxiety about food is definitely part of it: when your friends think your mom’s home cooking is weird, well, maybe you’ll just pretend you don’t like it either. In fact, maybe you’ll eat more French fries and pizza than is entirely healthy to fit in, something that might explain why newly arrived immigrants balloon to the rest of the U.S. population’s levels of obesity in just 15 years. In a study designed to see how being perceived as un-American changed peoples’ food choices, scientists behaved badly and then brought out the menus.