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    Advertising Roundup

    May 27th, 2016

    For many years, we have been subjected to the pitiful sight of a multi-billion dollar industry whimpering about its victimization at the hands of people who don’t want junk food propaganda poured into the eyes and ears of children. There is a vast amount of material on the subject, and Childhood Obesity News has followed it with interest. “Self-Regulation — a Food Industry Case Study” reinforced the point that, as stated by Michael F. Jacobson:

    The truth is that the food industry’s single biggest priority is preserving its ability to market junk food to young kids.

    We looked at Big Food’s rude reaction to the Interagency Working Group’s guidelines. Like a stubborn legislature refusing to consider Supreme Court nominees, the Grocery Manufacturers Association made it quite clear that it would devote its energy and resources to resisting the recommendations.

    Then there was Nestle’s audacious partnership with an august American institution. Despite its promise to not market candy to kids under 12, the giant corporation teamed up with the Girl Scouts to sell Girl Scout-branded candy. They also floated the extraordinary theory that candy with a Girl Scout logo would not attract children because “grocery stores are primarily adult-oriented venues.”

    In a post continuing that topic, we reviewed the argument that no matter what, advertising to adults will inevitably be seen, heard, and absorbed by minors. The really enjoyable aspect was discussing the other diabolically clever marketing ploy — the creation of artificial scarcity. These candy bars were sold as “limited edition” rarities, available only at certain times of year, to the point where consumers were urged to pre-order the darn things, just to make sure they didn’t miss out.

    A series on television advertising

    There is so much to say about television advertising and children, we made a 5-part series exploring the ugliness. It’s not just the United States involved in this insidious propaganda. Scotland wanted to get rid of TV junk food advertising altogether. Australia made valiant efforts to curb the flood of electronic messages to kids.

    Part 2 reviewed and rejected the argument that maybe TV advertising has no effect one way or the other. Part 3 mentioned how the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine determined the five most deplorable junk food meals, along with a technique for turning a TV commercial into a teaching opportunity, to help children develop their inner baloney detectors.

    Part 4 looked at more of the the industry’s sneaky ploys, like how, in 1983, Big Food spent an average of $2.98 per child per year, in terms of advertising. By 1998, that was up to $36.60 per capita per annum. According to figures that appear reliable, 20 years later the industry was shelling out almost $450 per year to put ideas into the mind of each and every child.

    Part 5 looked at the big media picture, encompassing not just network TV but video games, music videos, and other delivery methods, and reiterated the idea that little children are not equipped to discriminate between fact and fiction. We also mentioned research showing that kids can very easily be roped into forming emotional ties which, when connected with the food-industrial corporation, are known by the deceptively innocuous term “brand loyalty.”

    But it’s not just young children who are affected, as shown by a post titled “When It Comes to Advertising, Teens Are Vulnerable Too.” Last but not least is a post that concerns the pitiful excuse for self-regulation that the industry has repeatedly and unrelentingly tried to foist on the public. Titled “How Is That Self-Policing Thing Working Out?” it includes a quotation from an important report:

    The lack of success achieved by self-regulation indicates that other policy actions are needed to effectively reduce children’s exposure to obesogenic food advertising.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Image by Kim Støvring.

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    The Struggle Against Advertising

    May 26th, 2016

    Of course Big Food grumbled about being blamed for providing people with what people want, and muttered about their right to tell people about the available products. After all, the consumption of advertising is not mandatory. Nobody is being restrained with eyelids forcibly retracted, Clockwork Orange style, and made to watch TV ads. People are free to change the channel, turn it off, or throw it out the window.

    It does sound reasonable, that a voice should be allowed to speak and a set of ears should be allowed to hear it. Then, the mind behind those eyes and ears should be allowed to ignore that speech. It’s a solid argument, based on the First Amendment as a core American value.

    Kids are different

    The problem is, children are different, and even adolescents are a special case. Kids have to be a certain age to marry, own a gun, vote, buy cigarettes or alcohol, drive a car, or do a great number of other things. Maybe they should reach a certain age before being allowed to experience any advertising. That would be impossible, of course, but the impulse to legislate the amount of advertising kids are exposed to is totally understandable.

    One objection to unbridled commercialism has always been that children don’t have the intelligence, experience, or judgment to know when a message should be ignored. How could they? At home and at school, the rule is that the grownups know best, and are to be obeyed.

    It is rather ridiculous to expect kids to understand the nuances of allowable exceptions. No matter how much music it plays or how many bright colors and adorable cartoon characters it displays, TV is just another grownup issuing directives — which children are preconditioned to obey.

    Time rolls on

    The other big problem is, while all the debate was going on, network TV became increasingly irrelevant. Gone are the days when children waited all week for the Saturday morning cartoon shows. The explosive growth of all kinds of media, and particularly the Internet, made prohibition a pipe dream. Enormous numbers of kids have unimaginable amounts of entertainment available to them 24 hours a day, with never a day off.

    Between 2008 and 2011, a combination of institutional pressure, media awareness, and public outcry caused food manufacturers to curb their acquisitive instincts a bit, and pull back on television advertising directed at children. “The Food Marketing Defense Model: Integrating Psychological Research to Protect Youth and Inform Public Policy” probably had a lot to do with that temporary relief.

    In 2009, the research team of Jennifer Harris, Kelly Brownell and John Bargh published this monumental paper (with 262 references) that seems to include everything known, posited, suspected, observed, thought, or shown about kids and advertising, up to that point in time. Both comprehensive and comprehensible, it is a surprisingly accessible academic work that an average person could read in one long evening, and emerge feeling like an expert.

    This is a very short description of the premise and the project:

    Marketing practices that promote calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods directly to children and adolescents present significant public health risk.

    We propose a food marketing defense model that posits four necessary conditions to effectively counter harmful food marketing practices: awareness, understanding, ability and motivation to resist.

    The paper also explains “why many commonly proposed solutions are unlikely to resolve the problem” and addresses one of those commonly proposed solutions, which is to let the advertising arm of the food industry police itself:

    Given the financial bonanza that is the youth market, the clear importance to industry to foster brand loyalty early in life, and the ease of convincing children to eat foods high in sugar, fat, and salt, there is every reason to distrust the motives of industry self-regulation…

    Childhood Obesity News will be talking more about that concept.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “The Food Marketing Defense Model: Integrating Psychological Research to Protect Youth and Inform Public Policy,”, 2009
    Image by Ged Carroll

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    Leaky Gut Syndrome — the Big Reveal

    May 25th, 2016

    Research is sometimes funded by, and influenced by, parties that might receive undeserved profit from the results. In other words, the Food-Industrial Complex could have a reason to promote a theory like “Leaky Gut Syndrome causes obesity.”

    If confusion can be sown in the public mind, attention is diverted, and the interrogator’s light might not shine so brightly on the often questionable ways of Big Food. It stands to reason that they might make up something with a silly name, and then blame it for the obesity epidemic.

    On the other hand, there are reasons to believe that LGS is not only “a thing,” but a serious and damaging condition. Michael Pollan describes the danger to the digestive tract’s epithelial barrier and by extension, to the entire body:

    Bacteria, endotoxins — which are the toxic byproducts of certain bacteria — and proteins can slip into the blood stream, thereby causing the body’s immune system to mount a response. This resulting low-grade inflammation, which affects the entire body, may lead over time to metabolic syndrome and a number of the chronic diseases that have been linked to it.

    Intestinal permeability is fine in its place, which is conveying properly broken-down units of nutrition into the bloodstream. But there appears to be such a thing as inappropriate intestinal permeability, which admits substances that don’t belong in the bloodstream, causing great harm. In ways that are intriguing, indirect, and not yet fully understood, LGS seems to be a causal factor in obesity.

    But what causes LGS? Childhood Obesity News has either mentioned or discussed several probable causes including alcohol abuse, mold, infection, radiation, antibiotics, parasites, Candida, lecithin, glyphosate, H. pylori, and Bacillus thuringiensis. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are also under suspicion of making the gut lining more permeable than it is supposed to be, or than is good for us.

    Among the pharmaceuticals, opiate-based medications like Vicodin and Oxycodone are also accused. So are proton pump inhibitors, a class of drugs used to treat stomach ailments and digestive discomfort. (PPIs have come to be regarded as quite hazardous for a number of reasons — heart attack, dementia, and kidney disease being only a few.)

    What about junk food?

    As we discussed, genetically modified crops that are processed into snacks and other recreational so-called food products are full of Bt toxin, which has been indicted as a Leaky Gut Syndrome villain. Guess what else is pointed to as the cause of LGS? Excess sugar, and especially high fructose corn syrup, which is of course a prime component of junk food.

    Evidence shows that a healthy, properly diverse, exquisitely balanced microbiome does not like junk food. Probably the vast majority of junk food ingredients are not good for the healthy, diverse microbiome. One reason why the gut bugs might react against junk food is that chemicals in it wreck the walls of their home.

    Michael Pollan describes research from the lab of Dr. Patrice Cani of Belgium (the Université Catholique de Louvain) who fed his mice a high-fat, junk food diet. Pollan writes:

    The community of microbes in their guts changed much as it does in humans on a fast-food diet. But Cani also found the junk-food diet made the animals’ gut barriers notably more permeable, allowing endotoxins to leak into the bloodstream. This produced a low-grade inflammation that eventually led to metabolic syndrome. Cani concludes that, at least in mice, “gut bacteria can initiate the inflammatory processes associated with obesity and insulin resistance” by increasing gut permeability.

    The Big Reveal

    It is unlikely that a corporate cabal would invent Leaky Gut Syndrome to take the fall for its obesogenic practices. The evidence so far indicates that the stuff in junk food is exactly the same stuff that causes LGS. To set up LGS as a straw man to take the blame for the obesity epidemic would be impractical and futile, because the most cursory look at LGS shows red flags and warning signs that lead directly to the doorstep of Big Food, Inc.

    Another factor to consider is the sheer number of researchers working to tease out the secrets of the gut and what goes on within it. If the whole Leaky Gut Syndrome notion is a scam, the corporations would be paying an astonishing number of scientists and institutions throughout the world to promote it. If there is a link between LGS and obesity, it stands to reason that Big Food would keep quiet about it, because the link between their products and LGS becomes clearer every day.

    RELATED VIDEO (4:48): “Dr. Patrice Cani: The vicious cycle of gut permeability and inflammation”

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Some of My Best Friends Are Germs,”, 05/15/13
    Source: “Episode 31 with Mike Mutzel,”, 2014
    Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images via Visual hunt/No known copyright restrictions

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    Glyphosate, Leaky Gut Syndrome, the Microbiome, and Obesity

    May 24th, 2016

    Glyphosate is the toxin in the very popular weed-killer Roundup, which Ellen Brown describes as poisoning “everything in its path except plants genetically modified to resist it.” There are a lot of reasons to dislike glyphosate, including its link with obesity and its proclivity for promoting leaky gut syndrome which, in a more circuitous way, seems to also lead to obesity, one way or another.

    Also, glyphosate gets into us. When it does, it blocks the absorption of essential minerals. Quite possibly, some compulsive eaters are in pursuit of nutrients that are decreasingly available because the body can’t take them up. Unknowingly and instinctively, and misguidedly, they may be trying to self-medicate with food.

    Glyphosate is more than a broad-spectrum herbicide, it as an antimicrobial agent that kills creatures as well as plants. This appears to be one of many causes of leaky gut syndrome, which is called “nightmarish” by health journalist Leah Zerbe. She writes:

    The problem is harmful pathogens like Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella, and E. coli are able to survive in the gut, but the “good guys” in your digestive tract, protective microorganisms, bacillus and lactobacillus, for instance, are killed off.

    Some health proponents are doubly concerned about the combined effects of glyphosate and Bt proteins, which may affect the bioavailability of Roundup. A report says:

    The combined effects were not investigated in terms of glyphosate’s other known interactions with the cellular biochemistry such as endocrine disruptions. Further studies are needed to understand the combined effects of stacked herbicides and pesticides on the human body.

    “Stacked” seems to be another way of saying that mixtures can have synergistic effects. Meanwhile, just as we live on the planet, trillions of life-forms live in our guts. If they have a vote, which they emphatically do, they don’t much care for glyphosate.

    We learn from Hrefna Palsdottir how one critic reminds the public that “harmful bacteria seemed to be highly resistant to glyphosate,” while the beneficial ones can easily be vanquished – which is not what we want. Also:

    One article that received a lot of attention on the internet even hypothesized that the glyphosate in Roundup is to blame for the increase in gluten sensitivity and celiac disease worldwide.

    However, this needs to studied a lot more before any conclusions can be reached.

    Absolutely, and researchers are finding out more every day. Glyphosate has been the topic of a former Childhood Obesity News post, and here are the highlights:

    • Russian farmers want nothing to do with the stuff.
    • The negative effects of many substances can’t be measured over months. They need to be observed over decades, which nobody has yet done.
    • Legitimate science has made the case that America pays twice as much for healthcare as any other developed nation because of glyphosate.
    • Regarding the safety of this or any other chemical, whose word do we have for it? Assurances of these chemicals’ benign nature comes from the biotech companies that manufacture them. And they don’t have to tell the Food and Drug Administration anything.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Monsanto, the TPP, and Global Food Dominance,”, 11/27/13
    Source: “How Much Roundup Are You Eating?,”, 06/19/15
    Source: “Bt Toxin Kills Human Kidney Cells,”, 03/14/12
    Photo credit: Chafer Machinery via BY

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    Leaky Gut Syndrome and Obesity

    May 23rd, 2016

    It should surprise no one that some of what we put into our intestines can have harmful effects. Apparently, some things make tiny holes in the intestinal lining. Then, when other things come along, they can slip through those holes and gain access to the bloodstream, and from there spread throughout the body and affect various organs.

    According to this worldview, when presented with foreign materials, the body recognizes a dangerous invader that cannot be assimilated. The only other option is to attack. Attack mode includes inflammation and other harmful results, some of which lead indirectly to obesity. Science is teasing out the strange and mysterious ways in which various substances, when acted upon by diverse bodily processes, contribute to the obesity epidemic.

    Researchers wonder if interfering with the basic construction of food can somehow made it more addictive. There has been speculation about whether GMOs (genetically modified organisms) facilitate obesity, particularly the corn that makes high fructose corn syrup. It has also been noted that about 70% of processed grocery products are made from genetically modified foods, and that their consumption has increased over the same time period when the obesity epidemic has really taken hold.

    Do killers discriminate?

    Genetically modified foods and pesticides may be seen as a package deal, because the main reason for modifying a plant is to make it insect-resistant. According to one theory, LGS in humans can be caused by a bacterium that does not seem likely to be a good neighbor in the gut microbiome.

    Bacillus thuringiensis sounds like a creature we might wish to avoid. The folks at Sunrise Natural Medicine offer this alarming description:

    One of the most common genetic modifications is the addition of a gene from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that produces a toxin which, essentially, causes insects stomachs to explode by making the gut hyperpermeable…

    The Bt toxin is also isolated and used as a pesticide spray…

    It was initially determined that Bt toxin is not harmful to humans, but more recent evidence says otherwise, suggesting that the Bt toxin adversely affects human membrane integrity as well…

    Stated another way, GMO food contains a poison that blows holes in the stomachs of insects. Yet the possibility that Bt toxin might drill exit wounds through the human gastrointestinal tract has been cavalierly discarded. GMO products are the basis of the large majority of processed foods on the market. Also, they are eaten by the animals that we eat.

    Since this has become the norm, there has been a worldwide increase in food allergies, gastrointestinal inflammation, and obesity. Food sensitivities and allergies are linked to addiction, or at least to an increased vulnerability to addiction. Some force or forces have caused increased gut permeability.

    Meanwhile, Bt protein shows up in the blood of pregnant women and of newborn babies. The Institute of Science in Society reports on French research:

    This study indicates that Bt toxins are not inert on human cells, and may indeed be toxic. As Bt toxins are produced by bacterial species existing naturally in the wild, and are used for organic agriculture, inadequate safety assessments were involved in the approval of Bt crops.

    Bt crops have previously been shown to induce hepatorenal abnormalities in rat feeding studies as well as immune responses that may be responsible for allergies observed in farmers and factory workers handling Bt crops, affecting the eyes, skin and the respiratory tract.

    Allergies correlate with obesity. Also, while a connection may not be direct or easily identified, if Bt toxin kills kidney cells, it quite probably can do other things that we don’t happen to know about yet.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “‘Leaky Gut,’ GMOs, and Why You Should Care,”, 10/18/2012
    Source: “Genetically Engineered Food Alters Our Digestive Systems!,”, May 31, 2011
    Source: “Bt Toxin Kills Human Kidney Cells,”, 03/14/12
    Photo via Visualhunt

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    Getting to Know Leaky Gut Syndrome

    May 20th, 2016

    The analogy of the dots is back again. Backtracking for a moment, a number of the same “dots” (factors, conditions, symptoms) appear to be linked with both obesity and gut dysbiosis, or imbalance of the microbiome.

    They include diet, mental/emotional health, birth control pills, stress, addiction, immunosuppressants, allergy, metabolic syndrome/diabetes, chronic inflammation, gestational influences, C-sections, broad-spectrum antibiotics, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. Also, a lot of these things are connected with gastrointestinal hyperpermeability, also known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Is this all meaningless coincidence?

    Leaky Gut Syndrome — Is It a Thing?” was the question asked here recently, and it probably the basis for a fair amount of misunderstanding and even misdiagnosis. Why is increased gastrointestinal permeability a problem? For one thing, it’s like shooting up with a very dirty needle, injecting horrible crap directly into the bloodstream. Here is one of the many brief descriptions of LGS:

    In a properly functioning gut, only food that has been completely broken down can enter the blood stream… When particles pass from the inside of the gut into the blood stream, they are screened by the immune system into “friend” and “foreigner.”

    The immune system goes into defense mode, calling its armies to action. Once alerted to the foreign substance, the immune system is quick to activate when encounters that particle again. This causes inflammation and allergic responses — which can in turn cause more dysfunction of the tight junctions, and a more leaky gut.

    It has become clear that for the most part, our interior microorganisms can’t be simplistically categorized as “good” or “bad.” An ostensibly bad bug can become the hero who saves the day. A bug with a good reputation can turn bad under the wrong conditions. It all depends on circumstances, the most importance variables being diversity and balance of the populations.

    Tori Rodriguez wrote this for Scientific American:

    The digestive tract and the brain are crucially linked, according to mounting evidence showing that diet and gut bacteria are able to influence our behavior, thoughts and mood. Now researchers have found evidence of bacterial translocation, or “leaky gut,” among people with depression.

    Research psychiatrist Michael Maes did blood tests on a bunch of depressed patients and found that 35 percent of them had LGS, based on the unauthorized molecules and lifeforms floating around in their veins. Bacteria that are “displaced” — circulating through the body causing inflammation, rather than confined to the gut where they belong — have been firmly linked with fatigue, mood disorders, and depression (which no doubt lead to a certain amount of obesity.)

    Leaky Gut Syndrome has been associated with a huge problem of the modern age, cognitive decline, through the bacterium Helicobacter pyloriH. pylori has an extremely complicated lifestyle, some aspects of which Childhood Obesity News has outlined.

    May Baydoun, a staff scientist at the National Institute on Aging, says:

    Some laboratory evidence indicates that H. pylori cells can escape the gut and sneak into the brain. There the cells aggregate with the amyloid proteins characteristic of Alzheimer’s and instigate the buildup of plaque.

    Research in this field is in its infancy, but some things are known. We saw, for instance, how morphine can provoke the gut bugs into angry response. The microbiome leaps to the body’s defense to protect it from toxins. But the motley crew of organisms can only do good work if its constituent members remain in the GI tract. If they escape through interstices in the intestinal lining and get loose in the bloodstream, all bets are off.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “‘Leaky Gut,’ GMOs, and Why You Should Care,”, 10/18/2012
    Source: “Gut Bacteria May Exacerbate Depression,”, 11/01/13
    Photo credit: amenclinics_photos via Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

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    Why the Leaky Gut Syndrome?

    May 19th, 2016

    Having asked the question, “Leaky Gut Syndrome — Is It a Thing?” we also ask, why is it a thing now? Probably because we keep hearing about it from many different directions and in varying contexts. For instance, it is known that LGS aids and abets Candida, which can ruin a person’s life.

    One reason why LGS is currently in the public consciousness: because there didn’t used to be so much of it, and now there is more than ever before. People see connections with other phenomena that have also multiplied. There is a relationship between the now-ubiquitous inclusion of high fructose corn syrup in food, and the obesity epidemic, and there is a relationship between HFCS and leaky gut syndrome. If nobody has proven it yet, evidence apparently does lean in that direction.


    Dr. Rick Sponaugle’s specialty is environmental medicine, and he speaks of the “toxicity syndrome” that encompasses food allergies and leaky gut syndrome. He is largely concerned with how the toxic environment affects the brain, and finds one of the biggest toxic sources to be mold.

    Others are the 80,000 synthetic chemicals that American laboratories have produced in the past century or so, many of which we ingest, inhale, or otherwise come into contact with. Most of them are lipophilic, meaning they have an affinity for fat cells, which is what we are basically made of. He writes:

    Every cell in our body has a fatty membrane, kind of like the outer shell of each cell… Industrial toxins… being lipophilic or fatty in nature, freely move through the fatty membranes of the body’s cells migrating to and depositing in the fattiest body tissue.

    Since the brain is 60% fat, environmental toxins tend to migrate to and settle in it, blocking the ability of neurotransmitters to do their job. The myelin sheath, which serves as insulation for nerves, is 80% fatty and so very susceptible to having toxic molecules glom onto it. What other body part has a lot of nerves, all wearing toxin-attracting overcoats? The gut, which is also becoming known as the “second brain.”

    Scientific American says:

    There are hundreds of million of neurons connecting the brain to the enteric nervous system, the part of the nervous system that is tasked with controlling the gastrointestinal system… The network of neurons in the gut is as plentiful and complex as the network of neurons in our spinal cord…

    Now, back to Dr. Sponaugle:

    The intestinal lining is extremely sensitive to toxicity, and excessive toxicity causes malabsorption and multiple nutritional deficiencies… All the fatty toxins, including pesticides, destroy the intestinal lining, but the most damaging toxin I have seen to the intestinal mucosa is the trichothecene T2 toxin produced by the black mold Stachybotrys…

    Another researcher investigating the same area is microbiologist Sarkis Mazmanian of CalTech, who finds that…

    […] microbes don’t just affect the permeability of the barrier around the brain but also influence the intestinal lining, which normally prevents certain bacteria from leaking out and others from getting in. When the intestinal barrier was compromised in his model, normally “beneficial” bacteria and the toxins they produce seeped into the bloodstream and raised the possibility they could slip past the blood-brain barrier.

    The thought here is that particles of undesirable matter escape from the intestines into the bloodstream where they don’t belong, and where they are free to damage numerous bodily systems — the same systems that are also involved, in various ways, with causing obesity. That they do escape is undeniable, so their presence probably needs to be addressed.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Mold, Toxins, and Chemicals: What Are They Doing to Us and What Can We Do About Them?,”, undated
    Source: “Gut Feelings — the ‘Second Brain’ in Our Gastrointestinal Systems,” ScientificAmerican, 05/01/16
    Source: “Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood?,”, 06/23/15
    Photo credit: Patrick Denker via BY

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    Leaky Gut Syndrome — Is It a Thing?

    May 18th, 2016

    Many medical professionals hold that leaky gut syndrome is indeed a thing. For instance, Dr. Noel T. Mueller says:

    It is believed that increased gut permeability can lead to immune-mediated inflammatory cascades that ultimately result in obesity and other metabolic diseases.

    When items penetrate the gut wall that aren’t meant to, the gut is said to be leaky. Toxins, endotoxins, metabolic waste products, viruses, proteins, bacteria, yeast, food that is partially undigested — these substances are not supposed to be running around loose in the bloodstream, and when they are let through, trouble ensues.

    The intestinal lining’s degree of permeability is not always the same but can be affected by what Dr. David. M. Marquis calls “chemically mediated conditions.” The examples he gives are elevated cortisol because of an argument, and fluctuating thyroid hormone levels provoked by staying up late to study for an exam.

    Dr. Marquis explains how the lining of the gut, if spread out flat, could have a surface area equivalent to two tennis courts, every bit of it covered with microvilli. Damaged microvilli can’t do their job, can’t soak up the nutrients and enzymes they are stationed there to capture.

    Things that are supposed to get through, can’t. Even worse, junk molecules get through the membrane that aren’t supposed to, and the body identifies them as enemies, and sets up a defense.

    Michael Pollan mentions the collaborative process with the microbiome. While most of the body’s tissues get their nutrition from the bloodstream, the colon’s epithelial cells get theirs from short-chain fatty acids made on the spot by gut bacteria. If that epithelial barrier doesn’t receive its preferred nourishment, it becomes more permeable.

    Apparently, quite a few adverse conditions can increase the permeability of the barrier. One appears to be the selfish burrowing activities of the bacterium H. pylori.

    Others are said to be parasites and a high-sugar diet. Still others, listed by, include:

    Regular use of painkillers, regular use of antibiotics, infections (such as HIV), autoimmune disorders, alcohol abuse, inflammatory bowel disease, gluten hypersensitivity, severe food allergies, radiation therapy, inflammatory disorders, psychological stress, exhaustion.

    On the outside of our bodies, the skin has seven layers. In contrast, the epithelium inside the gastrointestinal tract is only one layer thick, so nutrients can pass through it into the bloodstream. Only food that has been completely broken down is welcome, and that is the problem.

    The word “barrier” is used, but it is misleading, because the epithelium is so thin, it doesn’t present much of a challenge to aggressive particles that also want to penetrate it. There are big spaces between its cells.

    When a condition of “increased GI permeability” exists, and molecules get through that don’t belong, the immune system identifies them as foreign, and calls on its resources to attack the invader. The resulting dysfunctions can adversely affect the tight junctions even more.

    When auto-immunity kicks in, all hell breaks loose. The auto-immune responses and resulting inflammation can set off an internal chain reaction that includes depression and fatigue. A tired, depressed person does not have the initiative to cook a healthful meal from fresh foods. A tired, depressed person sits down with a few beers and a bag of chips, and the cycle of destruction continues.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “The Gut Microbiome and Childhood Obesity: Connecting the Dots,”, June 2015
    Source: “How Inflammation Affects Every Aspect of Your Health,”, 12/08/16
    Source: “Some of My Best Friends Are Germs,”, 05/15/13
    Source: “Gut Bacteria May Exacerbate Depression,”, 11/01/13
    Source: “Episode 31 with Mike Mutzel,” SigmaNiutrotopm/com, 2014
    Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images via Visualhunt/No known copyright restrictions

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    Emotions and Food, a Sad Legacy

    May 16th, 2016

    “Associations Between Adult Attachment Style, Emotion Regulation, and Preschool Children’s Food Consumption” is the title of a study published by the journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, which attempts to better understand the roots of childhood obesity. The questions that drove the researchers’ curiosity are explained by Prof. Kelly Bost:

    We wanted to discover the steps that connect attachment and obesity. Scientists know that a person’s attachment style is consistently related to the way he responds to negative emotions, and we thought that response might be related to three practices that we know are related to obesity: emotion-related feeding styles, including feeding to comfort or soothe; mealtime routine; and television viewing.

    Routine is another word word for habit, which Childhood Obesity News recently discussed as one of the pillars on which the house of sustained weight loss is built. Because humans revert to habit in times of stress, the importance of establishing useful habits in small children is paramount.

    In the matter of feeding styles, “secure attachment” is similar to “unconditional positive regard,” in that both phrases are science-speak for a word that seemingly is unsuitable for scientific papers: love. Here, secure attachment is defined by the availability and responsiveness of the caregiver(s). In other words, someone is with the child, and not just physically present but emotionally available enough to interact.

    Responsiveness is a double-edged sword. It is a psychological truism that a child finds even negativity, criticism, and punishment preferable to being ignored. As millions of tragic case histories throughout the ages can attest, painful attention is better than no attention at all.

    If the primary care physician were free to explore that path, strewn with emotional landmines, many children who are now obese might not have been. How many families are likely to have the opportunity of full-blown therapy for all members? Or the willingness to undertake it? But those are questions for another day.

    Insecure attachment

    This University of Illinois study broke some new ground by showing a multi-generational dynamic that had not previously been defined. We take the liberty of personalizing the premise by inventing a fictitious character, Norma. In childhood, the emotional base that supported her was shaky. Her hard-working parents were rarely seen, and she was raised by a series of baby-sitters, au pairs, and nannies. Consequently, Norma was always anxious and uncertain in close relationships.

    Norma grows up, has a child, Sandy, and instantly begins a career of ineffective parenting. One day, Norma hears about an academic study, and volunteers to answer questions about how she deals with Sandy’s negative emotions. The researchers want to know if she and the other participants use “emotion-related, pressuring feeding styles known to predict obesity.”

    Norma answers all the questions honestly. She cops to using food treats to reward or bribe Sandy, and quite a few other counterproductive activities. Like many other parents in her situation, she becomes overwhelmed by stress and takes the easy way out. The very idea of trying to enforce a set mealtime is exhausting. If Sandy doesn’t want to eat at regular times, fine. Meanwhile, Sandy is the biggest kid in the class.

    One thing that parents do is to punish or dismiss the sad or angry feelings of a child, which only leads to more sad and angry feelings, and eventually, to some kind of crisis. This is Prof. Bost again:

    The study found that insecure parents were significantly more likely to respond to their children’s distress by becoming distressed themselves or dismissing their child’s emotion…

    Clinicians can help address children’s obesity by giving parents practical strategies to help kids deal with negative emotions like anger, sadness, and boredom. That means helping them describe what they’re feeling and working on problem-solving strategies with them.

    The researchers’ ultimate question is, will Norma’s relationship with her own mother increase Sandy’s chance of obesity? Sadly, it looks like the answer is yes.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Could your relationship with your mom increase your child’s chances of obesity?,”, 01/30/14
    Image by Internet meme

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    The Quit Smoking, Quit Sugar Drugs

    May 13th, 2016

    Recently, Childhood Obesity News mentioned the recent discovery that drugs like varenicline, which have been used to help people quit smoking, also seem able to help people who are hooked on sugar, by treating the sensory addiction component of eating addiction. As Dr. Pretlow has written, eating addiction results from a mixture of sensory and behavioral addiction components in varying ratios. Anything that approaches the problem from either angle should be examined for potential usefulness.

    Apparently, varenicline and related drugs also affect lab animals that are habituated to artificial sweeteners like saccharin. Prof. Selena Bartlett, the Queensland University of Technology neuroscientist who did the research, hopes that this class of pharmaceuticals will provide a “novel new treatment strategy to tackle the obesity epidemic.”

    Unfortunately, humans are likely to experience disturbing side effects. Varenicline, sold under the proprietary name of Chantix, has been found to produce stomach pain, indigestion, nausea (that may persist for several months), constipation, vomiting, gas, and blood in the urine or stool — and that’s just the digestive system. Farther up, at the digestive system’s receiving end, patients have reported dryness and an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

    There have been reports of sleep disturbance and insomnia, unusual dreams, mental confusion, severe headaches, weakness, and fatigue. When treatment with this type of drug is initiated, the patients is warned to be on the lookout for chest pain and shortness of breath; vision, speech, and balance anomalies; blistering skin rash; easy bruising; and coughing up blood. Additionally:

    Patients may experience psychiatric symptoms such as behavioral changes, agitation, depressed mood, and suicidal behavior while using Chantix.

    Now, let’s look at Dr. Pretlow’s Huffington Post article about his W8Loss2Go program, which warns of the following harmful side effects: none. Dr. Pretlow writes:

    The sensory addiction component is treated similarly to drug addiction by withdrawal/abstinence, first from each problem food, one-by-one, until cravings or difficulty resisting the food resolve. Next comes withdrawal from snacking (non-specific foods), accomplished by advancing snack stoppage time periods — morning, afternoon, evening, night time — with the aim of zero snacking for the entire day. Lastly, withdrawal from excessive portions at home meals is achieved by weighing and recording typical amounts of frequent foods served and incrementally reducing amounts.

    Using the W8Loss2Go smartphone application results in no yucky taste in the mouth, no disfiguring rash, no weird dreams, and best of all, no risk of spewing up stomach contents that look like coffee grounds due to the presence of coagulated blood. With W8Loss2Go, absolutely no gastrointestinal distress is involved except for normal feelings of hunger, which diminish over time.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Treating sugar addiction like drug abuse,”, 04/17/16
    Source: “Chantix,”, undated
    Photo credit: DavidFlam via Visual Hunt/CC BY

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Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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