Another Look at Contagious Obesity

intestines-blue-illustration

Childhood Obesity News previously quoted Dr. Franklin Tsai, who wrote:

Metagenomic studies demonstrated that certain mixes of gut microbiota may protect or predispose the host to obesity. Furthermore, microbiota transplantation studies in germ-free murine models showed that the efficient energy extraction traits of obese-type gut flora are transmissible.

Dr. Tsai and many other researchers paved the way for one of the craziest medical advances ever, the transplantation of fecal matter from one host to another.

It has always been unavoidably obvious that family members tend to resemble one other. This has been attributed to genetics (or in the old days, “blood”) and to socialization within the nuclear family, where conformity to norms is of prime importance.

At the very least, genetically related humans have microbiomes “more similar than those of people who are not related.” Also, whether they cohabitate or not, relatives “tend to share more of their gut (fecal) microbes than unrelated individuals.”

A multi-author paper titled “Cohabiting family members share microbiota with one another and with their dogs” goes on to state:

Moreover, the communities of microorganisms found in the intestines of non-related adults living in the same household are more similar than those of unrelated adults living in different households.

In other words, whatever the gut flora decide to do, it will affect not only the host but other people too, regardless of their shared or separate household status or familial relationship. The imposing Argonne National Laboratory carried out this study:

The Home Microbiome Project followed seven families, which included eighteen people, three dogs and one cat, over the course of six weeks. The participants in the study swabbed their hands, feet and noses daily to collect a sample of the microbial populations living in and on them. They also sampled surfaces in the house, including doorknobs, light switches, floors and countertops.

The study showed that married couples and their young children tend to share most of their invisible interior communities. In a household where three unrelated adults lived, the romantically involved couple shared a lot more microbial species with each other than with the third inhabitant.

People who are related and/or live together share large swaths of their microbial populations. This resonates with the mystical belief that when married, two people become one. At the same time, the influence of the microbiome saps the potency of the ancient superstitions created around “blood” as the fundamental tie between people. It begins to look as if the most basic signifier of kinship might be our shared bugs.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Cohabiting family members share microbiota with one another and with their dogs,” NIH.gov, 04/16/13
Source: “Home is Where the Microbes Are,” ANL.gov, 08/28/14
Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images via Visualhunt/No known copyright restrictions

Where Is the Flaky Fringe?

street-performer-costume

Referring to a previous post, we recall the work of science writer David Berreby, who reminds us that the energy balance model, which limits the possible influences on obesity to two (calories consumed and exercise performed) is probably not the whole story. If nothing else, the fact that it has been glommed onto and relentlessly promoted by the soda industry might be a clue to the theory’s inadequacy.

Apparently, the body’s fat metabolism is more like the weather on earth, subject to a number of influences that may or may not come into play in any given scenario. The concept of synergy has to be taken into consideration. Circumstances and conditions combine to produce results that are unexpected and indeed unpredictable. Ideas that once inhabited orthodoxy’s “fringe” have a way of slipping into the mainstream.

A formulation attributed to philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, but actually expressed in different words by many thinkers, goes like this:

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

A lot of different factors have been looked at suspiciously. How much light is in the room during the hours of sleep? Is childhood obesity caused by a virus? Industrial chemicals? Absent fathers?

In Belgium, a theory arose that maybe kids are fat because they don’t get enough beer. What if the beer proponents turn out to be correct? Ten years from now they might be basking in Nobel limelight. (Just kidding — but that is the point. Today’s absurd joke too often becomes tomorrow’s reality.)

The shocking future

When researchers first started to talk about the trillions of creatures that live in the human digestive system, skepticism was rampant. Now, the health community is getting used to the idea that the microbiota might control quite a lot of what goes on in there, so much so that fecal transplantation is an actual thing. The technique has incontestably saved human lives from the particularly menacing C difficile.

For Guardian Liberty Voice, Julie Mahfood assembled a concise primer:

C. difficile is a naturally occurring bacteria amidst the millions in the human intestine. When a person has what is known as broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment, usually before a surgery and while in hospital, much of the body’s microbiota (a new term for intestinal flora) is killed off. The antibiotics are given as a precautionary measure to prevent post-op infection, but ironically, without the usual host of microbiota to keep things in check, C. diff tends to proliferate. Once symptoms begin (diarrhea), it is very hard to combat this nasty bacteria.

This was two years ago, and even then, it was possible to say that “many more conditions than we have previously realized may be affected by our gut flora” — including obesity.

The writer noted the conviction of researchers that it is only a matter of time before fecal transplants are used to cure many conditions, including childhood obesity. Spoiler alert — anecdotal evidence coming up. Reader Michal K. Hurst added a comment to Mahfood’s article, describing his complete recovery from ulcerative colitis, thanks to fecal transplantation:

Interestingly enough my body weight is now about 20 lbs less than it was before the fecal transplants — it matches the body weight of my donor who is also the same height.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Can Childhood Obesity Be Cured By Fecal Transplants?,” Guardianlv.com, 02/26/14
Photo credit: tabsybelle via Visualhunt/CC BY

Mexican Sugar Tax Activists Walk on the Wild Side

crosses-and-coke-billboard

The highest per capita consumption of Coca-Cola occurs in Mexico, which holds less than 2% of the world’s population but accounts for 12% of Coke’s worldwide sales. In January of 2013, the 10% soda tax started, and during the first year, purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages declined by 6%. Alejandro Calvillo, head of the consumer organization El Poder, who was largely responsible for getting the tax passed, aspires to see it raised closer to 20%, but this might turn out to be futile overreach.

At the same time, an 8% tax on junk food went into effect, and a followup study indicated that, in urban areas, the purchases of junk food decreased by around 5%. No data was available for rural parts of the country.

Melissa Healy reported for the LA Times that if the trend of reduced consumption continues, over a 10-year period the savings on diabetes treatment alone could amount to more than $900 million. Based on the first two years, researchers project that “over 10 years, the 10% excise tax could prevent 189,300 new cases of Type 2 diabetes, 20,400 strokes and heart attacks, and 18,900 deaths among adults 35 to 94 years old.”

The Mexican experience certainly seems worth some positive attention, especially if it can be achieved through imbibing only 6% less soda. But even that small diminishment of their profits is apparently too much for Coke to tolerate.

Investigative reporter Beverly Bell wrote:

To control the soft drinks market in Mexico, Coca-Cola has shown repeatedly it will break the law. The Angel Alvarado Aguero case, currently in the Mexican courts, describes how this former marketing executive of Coca-Cola was unjustifiably dismissed when he refused to carry out illegal monopolistic marketing practices as directed by the Company.

Since 2000, Coca-Cola has negotiated 27 water concessions from the Mexican government. Nineteen of the concessions are for the extraction of water from aquifers and from 15 different rivers, some of which belong to indigenous peoples. Eight concessions are for the right of Coke to dump its industrial waste into public waters.

Bear in mind that this is a country where more than 12 million people have no access to potable water. When a rival beverage called Big Cola started to capture some market share, Coke used a combination of carrot and stick — of bribery and intimidation — in what was characterized as a viciously coercive campaign to persuade the owners of small shops not to stock their rival’s product.

The company is also suspected of cheating workers out of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of profit sharing and other benefits. Also, the soda manufacturers owe the Mexican government millions in taxes.

Throughout the world, most workers are exploited, so in that respect Coke’s behavior in South America is not unusual. In Colombia, where Coke has a private mercenary army, the corporation is suspected of kicking it up a notch, disposing of at least 10 troublesome labor organizers. In Mexico, hired assassins are less obvious and the attack is more sophisticated, carried out by cyber weapons.

What do a research scientist, a nonprofit foundation director, and the coordinator of a 40-group anti-obesity coalition have in common? They, and several others in similar positions, both civilians and government employees, were harassed by phone and internet in ways designed to make them open a link that would infect their devices.

The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab figured it all out and Nicole Perlroth wrote it up for The New York Times:

The timing of the hacking coincided with a planned effort by advocacy organizations and health researchers — including Dr. Barquera, Mr. Calvillo and Mr. Encarnacion — to coordinate a mass media campaign to build support for doubling the soda tax, an effort that stalled in Mexico’s Congress in November. The three men also opposed a failed effort by Mexican legislators and soda lobbyists in 2015 to cut the tax in half.

Their computers and phones were taken over by Pegasus, malware that can track and trace every voice call, text message, and email sent or received. Unbeknownst to the owner, the spyware can turn on the device’s camera and mic and send the information to whoever wants it.

These cyber arms are made by the mysterious NSO Group, and supposedly are only sold to governments, to surveil political dissidents. But it appears that the soda industry has gotten hold of them.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Two Years In, Mexico’s Soda Tax Is Still Working,” TakePart.com, 07/07/16
Source: “Mexico’s soda tax will save 18900 lives and more than $983 million over 10 years, study says,” LATimes.com, 11/03/16
Source: “Breaking The Law: Business As Usual for Coca-Cola,” Killercoke.org, undated
Source: “Spyware’s Odd Targets: Backers of Mexico’s Soda Tax,” NYTimes.com, 02/11/17
Wall of Crosses in Nogales
Photo credit: Jonathan McIntosh via Visualhunt/CC BY

Mexico As Soda Tax Lighthouse

water-tower-jetty-lighted

An expert speculated that Mexico’s pioneering soda tax program could have a lighthouse effect, “drawing attention to soda’s role in chronic health problems.” This seems a bit off the mark, since awareness has been pretty well raised.

What we lack is empirical solidity. Whenever and wherever the idea of taxing sugar-sweetened beverages to prevent obesity is discussed people understandably react by asking for studies. Problem is, there aren’t many, because it has rarely been tried. Certainly there are no long-term studies, because the innovators started only a few years ago. We need more real-life evidence to examine. As it accumulates, someone needs to find more effective ways to sort, track, and document the multiple factors in multi-factorial problems.

The lighthouse is an archaic concept, because probably nine out of 10 people don’t know what came before electronic navigation systems. Even so, the meaning is ambiguous, because the lighthouse signaled both a safe destination and a warning of danger.

Another rarely-used term that might fit is bellwether, the lead sheep in a flock, the one that the others would follow, if only the shepherd could get it pointed in the right direction. In service of the obesity prevention cause, Mexico would have seemed an unlikely candidate for the role of bellwether, and yet here we are.

How is it working out?

Melissa Healy, writing for the LA Times, points out that in one major way, Mexico and the USA are dissimilar. In Mexico, the soda tax is a rule that comes from the top and includes everybody. In the USA, the federal government is unlikely to enact a national soda tax. The best we can do is take it state by state or city by city. The smaller the radius in which the tax is enforced, the more likely the citizens are to vote with their wheels and do their shopping in a nearby jurisdiction.

This leads to controversial results, like searches to ensure that people don’t bring contraband from no-tax areas into tax areas, and fines or imprisonment for violating the rules. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

In a couple of important ways, Mexico’s soda tax, which went into effect January of 2014, was a failure. Proponents wanted the sales tax on water to be zero, because the difference between taxed soda and taxed water would be too small to influence the purchaser’s decision. For Wired, Lizzie Wade wrote:

One popular proposal would have earmarked the earnings from the soda tax to pay for purified water fountains in schools all over Mexico. But that agreement was never finalized, and it’s hard to know where the soda tax revenues are actually going.

That concern is shared by Childhood Obesity News, along with others that will be explored.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Mexico’s Soda Tax Is Working. The US Should Learn From It,” Wired.com, 07/13/15
Source: “Mexico’s soda tax will save 18900 lives and more than $983 million over 10
years, study says,” LATimes.com, 11/03/16
Photo via Visualhunt

How Mexico Got Its Soda Tax

hecho-en-mexico-coca-cola

When you’re trying to get a public health law passed and the country’s two major TV networks decline to air your ads, a real uphill battle takes place. This was the situation in Mexico, where a former president had previously been the head of Coke’s Latin American business, and many other politicians were financially and philosophically tied to the soda manufacturer.

On the side of the angels was El Poder del Consumidor (“Consumer Power”) an organization dedicated to protecting the consumers. El Poder banded together with a couple of dozen other national groups to form the Nutritional Health Alliance (NHA), which stood for various progressive causes on behalf of human rights, small farmers, children, ancestral foods, and free water in the public schools. NHA also asked the authorities not to tax bottles of water smaller than 10 liters, so people would be motivated to buy water instead of sweetened fizzy drinks.

The coalition registered strong objections to one particular Coke advertisement. El Poder’s director, Alejandro Calvillo, argues that the drinking of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is an “aspirational act” that essentially enables people to brainwash themselves into “the desire to belong to a world from which they are excluded.” Some people don’t see a problem with that. The same could be said about great books, by which generations of people have been inspired to aspire.

The difference is that books don’t cause type 2 diabetes or bring about the demise of all the teeth in a child’s mouth. Books don’t disturb the microbiome, or inject weird chemicals into the brain, or cause a person to weigh 300 pounds.

Cavillo explains his condemnation of soda:

Those instances of marketing “happiness”, of belonging to that advertised world, are accompanied by the activation of the pleasure centers in the brain by the high quantities of sugar.

In January of 2014, the 10% soda and junk food tax hit Mexico. During the first year, purchases of SSBs went down 6%, good news to a government concerned about childhood obesity. This was not good news for the corporations, which of course want to make as much money as possible, although they have bounced back by selling their potions in smaller containers and charging more per ounce.

It was statistically noticeable, once the tax took effect, that lower-income households bought less soda, which of course was the intended result. The connections between poverty, obesity and its co-morbidities are familiar territory. No government wants to deal with them, but somebody has to do something, and a sugar tax brings at least partial satisfaction to part of the constituency.

On the other hand, there are people who characterize the tax as punishment visited on the poor. They point out the cruelty of hiking the price of one of life’s few affordable luxuries. For some, the freedom to swig cheap SSBs is a deeply-held ideological tenet. Any attempt to impact the habit by, for instance, taxing it, is resisted as a fascistic encroachment on a seller’s right to sell and a buyer’s right to buy.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Taking on Big Food: How low-income countries are targeted for distribution of junk food,” Dailymaverick.co.za, 09/13/16
Source: “Sales of sugary soft drinks drop by 6% during the first year of tax introduction,”
UKHhealthForum.org, 06/22/15
Photo credit: Mike Mozart (JeepersMedia) via Visualhunt/CC BY

More Tales of Mexicoke

coca-cola-containers-beach-mexico

We saw how an advertisement depicting a town in Oaxaca caused hostility toward the Coca-Cola Company, and was withdrawn with apologies. But sensitive feelings about language, class and race are on the lighter end of the conflict spectrum. For example, KillerCoke.org reports that, in some areas, the Coca-Cola Company buys up all the water, so there is basically nothing to imbibe except their products.

Every known system of health advocacy recognizes the importance of water. Hydration is the basis of every bodily process. To cynically and greedily create a situation where people have no clean water is unforgivable.

In large parts of the country, the water is so compromised that to reach the threshold of potability it needs treatment by ultraviolet light, sediment filters, and activated carbon. If you live in a bad-water place, you basically have two choices: to buy sugar-sweetened drinks from Coke, or buy bottled water from Coke. Spurred by the increase in child obesity, the government ruled that schools must provide good water.

When Mexico’s soda tax went into effect at the beginning of 2014, the revenues would allegedly pay for free drinking water in all the public schools. The soda corporation, having helped to cause a massive public health problem, offered a little fix. Sara Jerome wrote:

The Mexican charity arm of Coca-Cola announced a plan to donate drinking fountains that purify tap water to 741 public schools… Fundacion Coca-Cola will spend $2 million, and has already installed 42 drinking fountains.

A year later Seldon Technologies, an American company based in Vermont, announced that it would be making 500,000 filtration systems to be shipped south and fitted into drinking fountains made by the Mexican company, Bebederos. It was to be a $20 million, five-year contract, juicy enough to stimulate new hires in addition to the people already employed by Seldon. But only three months after that the filter manufacturer suddenly collapsed, putting 32 Vermonters out of work.

An interesting detail is that the company had actually been bought, two years before this contract was made, by a South African telecommunications company “that has ambitions to expand into the water purification market,” wrote journalist John Lippman. Here is where things get weird:

Seldon has also been a participant in the federal government’s EB-5 visa program that grants permanent residency to investors whose investments lead to enterprises that create at least 10 jobs. In 2013, Brent Raymond, then director of the Vermont Regional Center which administers the EB-5 program in the state, told the Burlington Free Press that Seldon was approved for $20 million in EB-5 financing for research, development and expansion.

Even in the best-case scenario some of the Mexican schools would not have gotten their water fountains for five years. Now, it looks more like never. Annoyingly, the title of the press release that trumpeted the original deal read, “Clean Drinking Water Now Available to Millions of Mexican Children,” which was an outright lie. The whole story is vague and sketchy enough to cause speculation over what kind of quasi-legitimate multinational hanky-panky might have been going on — with Mexican kids as the ultimate losers.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Breaking News,” KillerCoke.org, current
Source: “Coca-Cola Installing Clean Water Tech In Mexican Schools,” WaterOnline.com, 07/22/14
Source: “Sales of sugary soft drinks drop by 6% during the first year of tax introduction,”
UKHealthForum.org, 06/22/15
Source: “Clean Drinking Water Now Available to Millions of Mexican Children,” PRWeb.com, 07/01/15
Photo credit: Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

Tales of Mexicoke

comedor-luchita

It has been enlightening to follow along with the anti-sugar struggles in Great Britain. Today, Childhood Obesity News reluctantly tears its eyes away from that embattled land to focus on Mexico. Like everywhere else, the atmosphere is saturated with advertising, and the usual nonsense that corporations say to the press, to be passed on for mass consumption.

There was trouble over an ad, a couple years back. For New York Daily News, Keri Blakinger described the action as “a gaggle of white hipsters bringing Coke to an indigenous village in Mexico.”

This is not the raucous border town, or manicured resort, or smog-choked metropolis that North Americans might envision. It is the Mexico of small settlements in difficult terrain, containing almost 13 million people who speak 62 different languages. Also, 80% of them are below the official poverty line.

The video clip opens with pastoral scenes and an announcement that most of Mexico’s indigenous people feel left out of their society because they don’t speak Spanish. Cut to the hipsters’ home ground, a workshop where there seems to be an inappropriate amount of horseplay among the power tools. The youngsters make wooden parts whose purpose is unknown.

Their arrival in the Oaxacan village seems to aim for the Woodstock or “We Are the World” vibe. They pass out icy bottles of Coke to everyone, and construct a giant fake Christmas tree in the town square. Logistically, things don’t add up. Once built, the monumental tree seems to contain much more material than the amount they could have possibly brought along in a small caravan of pickup trucks.

Then, the big structure is shown covered with lights made from Coke bottle lids. Are we to believe that all the bottle caps are from Cokes consumed right there on the scene? Because it would have been a boxcar full of cartons and cartons of soda. Or did the merry crew warn the inhabitants ahead to time to save all their bottle caps?

How were all the top layers of the fake tree decorated? Did the villagers build a massive scaffold, or did there just happen to be a truck with a “cherry picker” attachment? How was there enough space in a car for the giant reel of wire they must have brought along? And where does all the electricity come from?

The Alliance for Food Health brought to the government the first complaint, but it wasn’t for a lack of verisimilitude. The ad has been called racist, discriminatory, condescending, offensive in tone, an attempt to force consumer culture down the throats of indigenous people, and an example of “hipster colonialism.”

Its use of the tagline #AbreTuCorazon, or “Open Your Heart,” rubbed people the wrong way for some reason, and so did the information that four-fifths of non-Spanish speakers feel excluded, which gave no source reference. Apparently, the Cokesters had really perceived themselves as sociologically responsible and culturally sensitive, and others who saw no harm in the ad came to their defense, but the turkey didn’t fly. The corporation apologized and the ad was discontinued.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Coke’s Crimes in Mexico,” KillerCoke.org, undated
Source: “Coca-Cola pulls Mexican ad after accusations of racism,” NYDailyNews.com, 12/07/15
Photo credit: 16:9clue via Visualhunt/CC BY

Coca-Cola Prospers Despite Setbacks

grocery-store

The amazing thing about Coca-Cola is, the fun never stops. The segment of the press concerned with health never has a chance to pause and catch its breath. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been imploring governments to levy taxes on sugary drinks.

Many groups have gone public about wanting to see less sugar in these products. At the same time, MeriNews.com reported on how…

[…] the whole idea of reducing the amount of sugar in soft drinks, which was being perceived as a threat to the beverage industry, has turned out to be a profitable business for Coca-Cola Co.

In a new marketing strategy, Coca-Cola Co has started offering its sugary drinks in smaller bottles and cans… It means that the company charges more for lesser product, translating into higher margins and profits.

The same source also pointed out that Coke, Pepsi and their ilk had stepped up the aggressiveness of their marketing campaigns, especially in developing and poverty-stricken countries like India, Kuwait, Ghana, and Peru. Obesity is classified by WHO as a noncommunicable disease, but it looks as if even that definition will need revision in the near future, as revelations are made about psychological epidemiology, the microbiome, and other previously ignored factors.

In some ways, multinational corporations resemble dinosaurs, whose very size impedes their ability to dodge some types of threats. But Coke has found a haven of congenial adaptation to requests for decreased sugar, by the simple expedient of selling drinks with the same proportionate amount of it, but in smaller units. The genius of it cannot be denied.

In all fairness, the company says it is in the process of reformulating some 200 of its potions to cut down the sugar content, which introduces another set of problems. The still, or non-fizzy, beverages are gaining in popularity, but juice, coffee and tea still face the same need for sweetening. Last year, the corporation’s North American sales went up 3.3% to reach $2.66 billion.

This year has barely started, but it looks like Coke will do even better financially. A disturbing report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that on any given day, around two out of three American children consume at least one sugar-sweetened beverage, be it soda, sports drink, or fruit juice.

But that’s the average. Some hardcore kids — about 10% of them — consistently swig three of these things in a single day. Teenagers get almost 10% of their daily calories from sugar-sweetened beverages. One more statistic — currently, the childhood obesity rate in America is about 17%.

Between laws and self-policing, the overall effect on public health remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, the landfills will definitely be receiving more plastic and metal debris, thanks to all that extra packaging. But what does that matter, as long as the Coca-Cola Company continues to rake in billions?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How Coca-Cola Co has turned the battle against sugar into a profitable business?,” MeriNews.com, 10/27/16
Source: “Alarming number of kids are slurping down sugary drinks, survey finds,” USAToday.com 01/26/17
Photo credit: Mike Mozart (JeepersMedia) via Visualhunt/CC BY

The Ongoing Saga of Coke & Friends

coke-bottles

Usually, news on the sugar-sweetened beverage beat is a boring succession of the same old outrage fodder. The industry will fudge scientific reports, take advantage of local economic conditions, invade brains with the most advanced and insidious advertising techniques, and so on.

Last fall, that routine took a turn, when TIME magazine reported that French authorities discovered 800 pounds of cocaine in a Coca-Cola manufacturing facility. Apparently the contraband was hidden amongst a shipment of orange juice from South America.

A couple of days later, the regional president of Coke gave a statement that employees had already been cleared, which is speedy police work where an alleged $54 million worth of product is involved. Oddly, there seems to be no subsequent reportage on the incident, and no word on whether anyone was charged or convicted.

Nik Bonopartis, writer for Opposing Views, hypothesizes that the stash might be connected with accusations that Coca-Cola hired Colombian terrorists to assassinate labor leaders and human rights activists.

On a lighter note

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) was urging governments to tax soda and other sugary drinks. WHO has a lot of resources at its disposal. By means of a meta-review, it set out to learn what policies result in better diet and the most efficient prevention of lifestyle diseases (i.e., obesity and diabetes):

The evidence was strongest and most consistent for the effectiveness of sugar-sweetened beverage taxes in the range of 20-50% in reducing consumption.

WHO’s objective, of course, is to reduce suffering and save lives, and also to reduce the costs of health care. Not surprisingly, the International Council of Beverages Associations issued a stern refutation:

We strongly disagree with the committee’s recommendation to tax beverages, as it is an unproven idea that has not been shown to improve public health based on global experiences to date.

PepsiCo informed the public that 63% of its sales resulted from water, juice, and snacks — not sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages. This was a misdirection strategy, because juice and snacks certainly contain plenty of sugar and other harmful ingredients. The company also issued statements indicating that it would significantly reduce the sugar in its soft drinks by 2025.

Why on earth is this date almost 10 years in the future? Does it really take so long to fine-tune the ponderous machinery of production to simply out in less sugar? It’s as if Pepsi is competing with Coke to be the poster child for the Promote Child Obesity While Pretending to Care club.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Police Found $56 Million Worth of Actual Coke at Coca-Cola Factory,” GrubStreet.com, 09/02/16
Source: “Colombia: Coca-Cola Financed Terror Group,” OpposingViews.com, 09/02/16
Source: “Tax Soda To Fight Obesity, WHO Urges Nations Around The Globe,” NPR.org, 10/11/16
Source: “PepsiCo Promises to Cut Product Calories and Sugar to Help Fight Obesity,” Yahoo.com, 10/17/16
Photo credit: Alan Stoddard via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

The Microbiome and Prader-Willi Syndrome

demons

Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) is a rare condition that can result from three different kinds of genetic errors — deletion, uniparental disomy, or imprinting mutation. The newborn generally starts out with feeding difficulties and seems unable to thrive. As childhood progresses, the patient develops a voracious appetite which has been attributed to an overproduction of the “hunger hormone” called ghrelin.

The constant desire to eat entails a high risk of obesity and diabetes. There are other endocrine abnormalities, like a deficiency of human growth hormone, and patients may experience dental problems, sleep disorders, scoliosis, or skin picking. The Foundation for Prader-Willi Research forthrightly states that currently there is no cure, and adds that:

To date, no medications have proven effective in regulating appetite in PWS, and therefore, strict environmental control and constant supervision are the only ways to prevent life-threatening overeating and extreme obesity at present.

Finally, management and treatment of the psychiatric and behavioral issues associated with PWS also can be very challenging. A combination of behavioral therapy, environmental control, and medication may be needed.

In the face of this discouraging prognosis, researchers are trying out or contemplating several paths — genetic manipulation, appetite-curbing drugs, cognitive therapy, electric stimulation of the brain, and more.

A small but intriguing study hints that what has up until now proven to be an intractable condition might be vulnerable to intervention. The small number of subjects is not surprising because PWS is, after all, a very rare condition. To put this information together must have taken a lot of outreach. The credits include numerous author names from 12 institutions in five countries.

The study

The August 2015 issue of EbioMedicine published the study by Prof. Liping Zhao and colleagues showing that obese children “have similar gut microbiota dysbiosis regardless of their genetic makeup, whether it is simple obesity (no underlying pathology) or genetic obesity (Prader-Willi syndrome).” The editors noted that the microbiome profile was changed by a four-week dietary intervention.

According to the report:

A diet rich in non-digestible but fermentable carbohydrates significantly promoted beneficial groups of bacteria and reduced toxin-producers, which contributes to the alleviation of metabolic deteriorations in obesity regardless of the primary driving forces.

Our multi-omics-based systems analysis indicates a significant etiological contribution of dysbiotic gut microbiota to both genetic and simple obesity in children, implicating a potentially effective target for alleviation.

To speak of a “potentially effective target for alleviation” is sober, responsible scientist talk for “This might actually work!” Time will tell whether it is a major breakthrough, or just another promising, but misleading, path.

When interviewed for the High Intensity Health podcast, Prof. Liping Zhao specified that the patients’ diet, derived from traditional Chinese foods and medicines, was “helpful, recovering their gut microbiome, losing weight and recovering from associated issues.”

The Foundation for Prader-Willi Research elaborated on what happens when the wrong kinds of organisms take over:

The altered gut bacteria balance allows more absorption of calories with increased weight gain on fixed oral calories. We hypothesize that individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome have an altered balance in gut bacteria which may influence weight gain and appetite.

Consequently, the Foundation has funded further research by Dr. Robert Schulman of Baylor College of Medicine, which is underway.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Diagnosis and Treatment,” FPWR.org, undated
Source: “Getting Healthier Through Microbiome Makeover,” NIH.gov, August 2015
Source: “Dietary Modulation of Gut Microbiota Contributes to Alleviation of Both Genetic and Simple Obesity in Children,” NIH.gov, August 2015
Source: “#123: Liping Zhao, PhD: Changing Gut Bacteria Ecology w/Chinese Medicines and Berberine,” HighIntensityHealth.com, 12/08/15
Source: “Gut microbiome in individuals with PWS,” FPWR.org, undated
Photo credit: shankar s. via VisualHunt/CC BY

Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
Copyright © 2014 eHealth International. All Rights Reserved.