Childhood Obesity News http://childhoodobesitynews.com A resource for health professionals, parents, teachers, counselors & kids on the childhood obesity epidemic. Fri, 28 Aug 2015 10:00:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Sugar Addiction Story http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/28/the-sugar-addiction-story/ http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/28/the-sugar-addiction-story/#respond Fri, 28 Aug 2015 10:00:07 +0000 http://childhoodobesitynews.com/?p=15373 Foodbeast infographic150 pounds per year—that’s how much sugar the average American was eating a few years ago. Or maybe it was 130 pounds, according to a fascinating infographic on this page, a section of which is shown in the illustration. A more recent estimate claims the average per capita consumption could be as much as 170 pounds per year. It is silly to quibble over how accurately the number of pounds is calculated, because even a small fraction of the lowest estimate would still be far too much.

It is not only obesity we should be worrying about—it’s any kind of health problem that occurs due to a weakened immune system, which is most of them. Our white blood cells react to a can of soda by losing as much as half their ability to kill invading bacteria. The post “Sugar Critics Still Going Strong” mentioned Dr. Nancy Appleton, who has continued to compile her list of ills caused by the white drug. For the complete, mind-blowing array, see “How Sugar Affects Your Health—146 Ways,” at a website called “Allergies & Your Gut.” Their motto is, “Good gut health is central to our overall well-being,” a subject which Childhood Obesity News has been exploring.

Our post “Attitudes About Sugar Addiction” spoke of Sugar Addiction Awareness Day, which falls on October 30, the day before Halloween, and not by coincidence. We looked at what causes foods to be hyperpalatable, hedonic, or addictive, and made the following suggestion:

If you find it difficult to get excited about the sugar addiction problem, try a thought experiment. Read the labels on every food item in your kitchen, and whenever you encounter one of the many terms for sugar, mentally substitute the word “methamphetamine.”

Sugar, Addiction, and Sugar Addiction” looked at the trickery used in food product labeling, a novelistic description of addiction, a real-life description of a man addicted to soda, and some lab studies with rats.

Sugar’s Addictive Grip” mentioned the lab rats who happily gave up their cocaine addiction for sugar. This post saluted Dr. Douglas Hunt, who diagnosed his own addictive bondage to sugar, and Dr. Theron Randolph, one of the first doctors to declare that addiction is addiction, with pretty much the same mechanism whether the addictor is alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, or sugar.

This fit in with the anecdotal accounts from self-identified, former sugar addicts who realized that when they unhooked from sugar, nicotine cravings also left them. In a cultural framework where cigarette addiction is acknowledged as incredibly difficult to break, this is a meaningful discovery. It was also a significant revelation when someone discovered that naltrexone, a pharmaceutical developed to break opioid and alcohol addiction, also worked on sugar.

Sugar Addicts Speak Up” included a quotation from a doctor who admitted to being a sugar addict, and mentioned a well-known actor who wrote and performed a monologue about breaking his bondage to the substance.

Sugar Addiction Takes More Hits” discussed Laura Singer’s indie film Sweet Nothing: America’s Addiction to Sugar and some of the people who have risked the crackpot label by issuing warnings about the white drug. The post also recalled William Dufty, author of Sugar Blues, who proved to be an early adapter when back in 1975 he called out Coca-Cola as a product with the potential to ruin entire civilizations.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Foodbeast.com

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Some Obesity-Related Children’s Books http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/27/some-obesity-related-childrens-books/ http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/27/some-obesity-related-childrens-books/#respond Thu, 27 Aug 2015 10:00:12 +0000 http://childhoodobesitynews.com/?p=15370 Reading to ZacharyThere is always so much to cover that Childhood Obesity News occasionally misses the chance to comment on a book when it is first released. One such volume is Tuna Breath: A 275-Pound Teenager’s Coming of Age Story, which seems to have generated some controversy. The author, Doug Pedersen, describes Tuna Breath as a self-improvement book disguised as a memoir. He was a “super-fat kid” with a “binge eating life” who wrote the book from a belief that his words would prove inspirational. Armchair Librarian Nenia Campbell begs to differ. Her review begins:

I found this book deeply upsetting. It peddles some very dangerous views about weight loss, life choices, and physical appearance that could prove very harmful to susceptible individuals.

One objection Campbell makes is that it can’t really be called a “coming of age” story because there is very little childhood material. Her main problem is that Pedersen conducted himself like an anorexic teenage girl, severely under-eating and engaging in other dangerous practices. His account of a hitch in the Marines is very off-putting, and (although Campbell doesn’t mention this) his vulgar vocabulary might alienate some readers. The reviewer is genuinely and justifiably alarmed at Pedersen’s next career choice—coaching the mothers of overweight kids.  She goes on to say:

Usually, with books like these, I donate them to a local high school so kids can at least read them, but I’m not going to do that because I really do believe that the views in this book could be very harmful to a susceptible adolescent struggling with body image.

A sample chapter can be found at BookDaily, so the reader can judge.

More Obesity-Related Books

In 1998, Benny Hardouin published a book written for kids age 4 and older, Cumulus the Puffy Cloud: A Story About Dealing With Childhood Obesity, which does not seem to have generated a single review anywhere.

But Who Invented Vegetables?,  published by Stuart Ballan in 2007, had more success. Determined to make the book widely available, the Israeli author convinced a major corporate entity to get on board. He describes the result:

Supersol, one of the largest Israeli supermarkets, placed Who Invented Vegetables? between the actual vegetables…The supermarket promoted the book with the slogan, “Buy 5kg of vegetables, and get the book at a discount,” and 10,000 copies sold in a few weeks.

Ballan is seriously perturbed about many things, including: the tendency of parents to use food as a pacifier or bribe; the general decrease in physical activity accompanied by the increase in screen time; the military unpreparedness a nation suffers when so many potential recruits are obese; and the needless toll that the obesity epidemic has taken in both money and lives.

He is particularly irritated by the grocery store trick of displaying fatty, sugary treats at the eye level of small children, and it would be interesting to know whether Supersol made any policy changes in that area. At any rate, the encouragement spurred Ballan to reach out to elementary schools, where he visited kindergarten classes to give readings from the text. Of that experience he wrote:

Words cannot express the satisfaction that by the end of a book reading, I could motivate 90% of a class of 4 to 6 year olds to not only be eating vegetables, but also be clambering over me, “begging” for more.

Incidentally, for a book we can heartily recommend, see Michael Prager’s Fat Boy Thin Man.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Tuna Breath: A 275-Pound Teenager’s Coming of Age Story,” 2013
Source: “Tuna Breath,” Blogspot.com, 06/30/14
Source: “Supermarkets to slow the ‘train of obesity’?,” TimesOfIsrael.com, 05/19/15
Image by James Emery

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One Young Man’s Struggle With Obesity http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/26/one-young-mans-struggle-with-obesity/ http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/26/one-young-mans-struggle-with-obesity/#respond Wed, 26 Aug 2015 10:00:09 +0000 http://childhoodobesitynews.com/?p=15367 CalebJarvisIn the study of obesity, the hard sciences count for a lot. Yet every version of hard science has its drawbacks. Scientists can study lab mice under rigorously controlled conditions and make discoveries that might point the way toward ending obesity. Still, no matter how precise the microscopes or how stringent the algorithms, the truth is inescapable. While the subjects might share many characteristics with humans, they are small rodents.

The soft sciences also have an enormous role in understanding the obesity epidemic. The marketing of fast food, for example, is a frankly vicious competition between techniques of mind control. One approach to improved general health involves teaching kids how to look at advertising and recognize its manipulative illusions.

A popular and effective journalistic convention is the close biographical study of an individual. Sometimes that notion is expanded, as in the film Bite Size,  which brought together the stories of four teenagers. Today, Childhood Obesity News looks at an example of the more basic format—one reporter, one subject, and a story in print. Louise Knott Ahern interviewed 17-year-old Caleb Jarvis about being an obese youth.

The writer begins by admitting that every obese kid is unique, having arrived at her or his predicament by a different path. Furthermore, her subject “isn’t interested in being anyone’s poster child.” Talking about his obesity bothers Caleb so much that he asks for a meeting at school rather than at home. Of course his parents are well aware of his physical condition, but discussing it with a reporter in their presence seems impossibly embarrassing.

The Early Years of an Obese Youth

The story relates how Caleb started to be conscious of his obesity in 5th grade, when shame set in. In middle school his personality alternated between reticence and boldness, and in the bold phases he became something of a class clown, to divert attention from his physical condition. At the same time, he resented feeling like a stereotype. Ahern quoted him:

When you’re the fat kid, he says, you’re supposed to fit into a role. You’re supposed to be either the bully or the clown, either mean or jolly…I don’t want to be defined by this.

In high school, Caleb found satisfaction in playing football, where size is an advantage. He discovered a talent for singing, and performed in the school’s theatrical productions, where he experienced another kind of belonging. He found himself playing typical fatlogic mind games, like swearing that he’d never let himself top 300 pounds. Then, when that happened, he mentally moved the disaster point to 400. Among addicts, this is a familiar pattern. An alcoholic reasons that, as long as he doesn’t pour a drink before 5:00 PM, everything is okay. Gradually, the marker is moved back, until he decides that the real red flag is drinking before noon.

Recent Updates to Caleb’s Obesity Story

This story, published four years ago, inspires curiosity about what its Caleb Jarvis is doing these days. The answer is that he is going to college. He is easily found on Twitter, where his current weight is not published, but he still looks big. His contributions range from self-reflective to flippant, with occasional evidence of a sly and irreverent sense of humor. One of the most recent tweets notes:

I’m living with three girls this year so I oughta be able to get somebody to make me a sandwich anytime I want one.

Another tweet wishes someone would come over and wait for a UPS delivery so he can go out and find food. Another promises to love his future child unconditionally—except, “I will not have a sissy vegetarian living in my house.” Originating from a different mood, one communication asks, “Why am I not striving to be the best version of myself every single day?” This one is heartening:

GIRLS: If you feel pretty with make up on, wear it. If you feel pretty without it, don’t wear it. Don’t let other women tell you what to do.

This tweet reflects the sensibility of someone who knows what it’s like to be stereotyped, and does not wish to subject anyone else to that fate; someone who knows how it feels to be a different person inside than outward appearance would indicate. Childhood Obesity News congratulates Caleb for the courage he showed as a teenager in making his story public, and wishes him health and happiness.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “’I don’t want to be defined by this’
LansingStateJournal.com, 09/24/11
Image by Caleb Jarvis

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Coca-Cola Supports Fatlogic and Consultants http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/25/coca-cola-supports-fatlogic-and-consultants/ http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/25/coca-cola-supports-fatlogic-and-consultants/#respond Tue, 25 Aug 2015 10:00:41 +0000 http://childhoodobesitynews.com/?p=15362 Buzios, Rio de JanerioIf a website deals with obesity, it can’t go too long without mentioning the Coca-Cola Company and its works and ways. Childhood Obesity News recently remarked on the ground-breaking scientific research that Coke is funding. They claim to have already proven that calories don’t count, and their munificent financial backing of the Global Energy Balance Network guarantees that further studies will continue to demonstrate that, in terms of obesity, what a person eats or drinks does not matter.

According to the party line, health requires only the time, ability, and inclination to exercise all the calories off. This news was greeted with skepticism and cries of confirmation bias. Word on the street is that Coca-Cola deliberately seeks out researchers who are constitutionally incapable of finding any significance in caloric intake. Anahad O’Connor reported in the New York Times:

A recent analysis of beverage studies, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that those funded by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the American Beverage Association and the sugar industry were five times more likely to find no link between sugary drinks and weight gain than studies whose authors reported no financial conflicts.

After mentioning questionable relationships between certain corporations, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and The American Society for Nutrition, O’Connor throws down another example of corruption by revealing that dietitians can be bought. A few bad apples have succumbed to temptation and touted Coke and other products as healthful snack choices. Using their access to news organizations and social media influence, they not only originate stories, but refute research that doesn’t fit with the corporate message.

In return, food manufacturers shower them with such perks as free continuing education, which does not sound very culpable unless the seminars are held, as many are, at pricey vacation resorts. When experts are questioned about pro-junk food articles, sometimes they even forget whether they received compensation. The fruits of their journalistic labors may or may not be identified as paid propaganda. Candice Choi writes:

One column is marked at the bottom as a “sponsored article,” which is an ad designed to look like a regular story. It ran on more than 1,000 sites, including those of major news outlets around the country. The other posts were not marked as sponsored content, but follow a similar format.

But wait, it gets better, in the sense of even becoming even more ludicrous.

PepsiCo Inc. has also worked with dietitians who suggest its Frito-Lay and Tostito chips in local TV segments on healthy eating. Others use nutrition experts in sponsored content; the American Pistachio Growers has quoted a dietitian for the New England Patriots in a piece on healthy snacks and recipes and Nestle has quoted its own executive in a post about infant nutrition.

Compliant experts also co-opted American Heart Month and Black History Month, using these awareness campaigns to spread the word about the snack-time appropriateness of a can of Coke. In a stunning display of fatlogic, the company pushes the idea that sugar-sweetened beverages are harmless if consumed from “mini” cans (which, by strange coincidence, cost more per ounce than larger cans). Critics employ such phrases as “opaque sponsored content” and “media ethics.” They diagnose this trend as blatant abuse of authority, since the entire structure of modern society depends on training and requiring the public to trust experts.

But according to the corporate point of view, as long as they call the professional accomplices “consultants” and make the required disclosures, everything is hunky-dory. Except, on at least one occasion—a major one—disclosure was not made. The Global Energy Balance Network put up its website with no mention of which pockets the funding came from. The University of Ottowa’s Dr. Yoni Freedhoff inquired, and the oversight was corrected. But the chief characteristic of scammers and con artists is that they always have another trick up their sleeves.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets,” NYTimes.com, 08/09/15
Source: “Coke as a sensible snack?,” StarTribune.com, 03/16/15
Image by Taylor White

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Fast Food and Obesity http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/24/fast-food-and-obesity/ http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/24/fast-food-and-obesity/#respond Mon, 24 Aug 2015 10:00:20 +0000 http://childhoodobesitynews.com/?p=15357 foodies welcome

Research at Washington University showed that fat lab mice have in their intestines more Firmicutes, which are a type of bacteria. Thin mice have more Bacteroidetes. When both groups of mice are given the identical amount and type of food, the Firmicutes mice extract more calories from the food and grow fatter. Extrapolating from this, it is possible that patients who insist that they are eating sensibly, yet remain obese, are not lying.

Dr. Tim Spector teaches genetic epidemiology at King’s College, London. His new book, The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat, is all about how our chosen diet affects our inner colonies of bacteria, for better or worse. His particular interest is fast food, an interest shared by another family member. A report from WRVR.com tells how…

…his 23-year-old son put himself on a strict diet of fast food for 10 days as part of his dissertation project. It stripped his gut microbiome of about a third of its 3,500 bacterial species. Bacteria that have been linked obesity flourished.

The story goes on to recall a 2014 study that recruited 20 subjects in rural South Africa and 20 African Americans in the U.S. to swap diets. In other words, the South Africans switched to meats and fried foods, while the Americans switched to root vegetables and cornmeal porridge. The report says:

After only two weeks of diet “Westernization,” the microbiomes of Africans were producing about half the levels of a molecule called butyrate, which has been linked to lower inflammation, as before their diet intervention. In contrast, the microbiomes of Americans started churning out about twice as much butyrate after they went on the healthier African diet. The Africans also acquired more bacteroidetes, the same group of obesity-associated bacteria that took over Spector’s son’s microbiome.

The astute reader will have noticed an apparent contradiction regarding the role of bacteroidetes, which is not within the scope of this post to explore. Study of the gut microbiome is in its infancy, and the mysteries greatly outnumber the certainties. Any reader who wishes to grasp the full, bewildering spectrum of possibilities being explored can glean a notion of the complexity from “Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes,” which includes a further list of recommended reading.

Sugar Strikes Again

A book called How to Quit Drinking Without AA by Jerry Dorsman, reminds us that…

…your body converts alcohol to sugar, and physical addiction to this sugar contributes to dependence on alcohol. Consuming foods high in refined sugars may sustain this physical addiction, making it more difficult to give up alcohol or stay on a sobriety plan.

Fast food, of course, is mentioned as an obesity villain because of its abundance of refined flour, which the body also converts into sugars. It also contains a massive amount of saturated fats, which certain species of gut bacteria are known to like. When laboratory mice received transplants of lean bacteria, they could stay at a normal weight as long as saturated fats were absent. But as soon as special food pellets laced with saturated fats were introduced to their diets, they lost the ability to fight off weight gain.

This points to two conclusions. One, it is unlikely that junk food manufacturers, even with the intention of turning the spotlight away from their culpability in causing childhood obesity, would want to sponsor research on the gut microbiome. They would be reluctant to back such research because of the many indications that their products are the very ones that the useful bugs shun.

The other conclusion is that even if lean bacteria transplants work on humans, manipulation of the microbiome is no magic bullet. People can mess up that fix, just like they mess up their expensive and traumatic bariatric surgery. Anyone who wants to retain the title of “formerly obese” will still need to work very hard, with the help of such programs as W8Loss2Go, and extensively re-train themselves to become followers of a very different lifestyle.

Bonus Fact:

From Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ, by Giulia Enders, here is a little contribution to the re-education of children and teens who are fighting obesity. When the stomach “growls” or “grumbles,” it’s not a sign of hunger.

The small intestine loves to clean and it’s very busy all the time, moving things forward. When we haven’t eaten for a while, the small intestine is like, ‘Okay, no need to digest. Everything that’s still here, I’m going to wipe it out,’ so it creates this muscular wave.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!


Source: “Microbes: The Trillions of Creatures Governing Your Health
,” SmithsonianMag.com, May 2013
Source: “How fast food could wreak havoc on your gut microbiome,” WRVR.com, 05/27/15
Source: “Foods to Avoid for Alcoholics,” Livestrong.com, 11/03/10
Source: “Say hello to your little friends: Making sense of gut bacteria,” TheGlobeandMail.com, 06/07/15
Image by Dr. Pretlow

 

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Another Partial Sugar Roundup http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/21/another-partial-sugar-roundup/ http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/21/another-partial-sugar-roundup/#respond Fri, 21 Aug 2015 10:00:26 +0000 http://childhoodobesitynews.com/?p=15351  

Tsar Bomba mushroom cloudIn reviewing the Childhood Obesity News posts concerned with sugar, we suggested that the discovery of how to extract and refine sugar from plants might be the cultural equivalent of humankind’s discovery of how to obliterate itself with nuclear weapons. Both have inspired a lot of controversy and caused a lot of deaths. Equally regrettable is the fact that both radioactive weaponry and refined sugar have been responsible for making many human lives unproductive and miserable because of the illnesses they cause.

In a post titled “How Addictive is Sugar?” we mentioned a website called My Addiction, which lists almost 30 known addictions. Sugar is in its own category on the site, not even included with the rest of food. We mentioned addiction specialist Dr. Joel Rice, who calls sugar “the most commonly used white drug,” and says that it is the most prevalent addictor of all. He also predicts that 85 percent of the American population will be overweight by 2030.

Sugar Junkies Out Themselves” discussed the social acceptability of sugar addiction. It is the substance abuse problem to which most people most readily admit. In fact, talking about one’s pathological dependence on sweets is, in some circles, considered pretty darn cute. We also talked about how difficult it is to eliminate sugar from one’s diet, because it appears in almost every variety of processed food. It appears in nearly three-quarters of packaged foodstuffs under 60 different aliases. What on earth is it doing in ketchup? What is it doing in salad dressing? In bran cereal? Only the manufacturers know.

The Gateway Drug: Sugar, Part 1” introduced Dr. Frank Lipman, who pointed out that most people don’t believe sugar is addictive, and certainly deny that they are personally addicted to it—until they try to quit. Then, the veil of illusion is torn away and the ugly truth becomes apparent. Dr. Lipman comes right out and says it: “Sugar is the first addiction for almost everyone with addictions later in life.”

When doing painful things to babies, medical professionals sometimes use sugar as an analgesic. The only good thing that can be said for that is that it’s probably slightly better than morphine. For more information on the problems that result from such an early introduction, readers are referred to Dr. Pretlow’s guest post on the Fooducate website, titled “Food Supplements and Childhood Obesity.”

A lot of suffering stems from the fact that children learn very young that the answer to pain, anxiety, and other experiences is a substance. Specifically, a sweet substance. As they grow a little older, sugary treats are what they often get in lieu of parental attention, and as a reward for good behavior or as a bribe to circumvent bad behavior. Going forward, the body’s natural fondness for sweetness is reinforced by adding the emotional layers that pile up when a treat is used as a substitute for other things.

In the sequel to that post we further explored the idea that the much-discussed “gateway drug” posited by some addiction specialists is actually sugar. One consequence of this relationship is that, as Dr. Mark Hyman says, alcoholics tend to recover only from alcohol, but not from sugar, whose only advantage is that it is legal.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Andy Zeigert

 

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Where Are the Roots of Addiction? http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/20/where-are-the-roots-of-addiction/ http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/20/where-are-the-roots-of-addiction/#respond Thu, 20 Aug 2015 10:00:31 +0000 http://childhoodobesitynews.com/?p=15348 delicious (237_365)

From profiling the microbiomes of many people, science has learned that only about one-third of each person’s internal bacteria are like other people’s. As Honor Whiteman explains for MedicalNewsToday.com:

…two thirds of the gut microbiome is unique to each person, and what makes this unique is the food we eat, the air we breathe and other environmental factors. Some studies have even suggested the makeup of the gut microbiome is influenced by genes.

Wency Leung of The Globe and Mail summarizes another astonishing fact about the tens of thousands of species that live inside us—there are no “good guys” or “bad guys.”

Rather, the microbiome is now understood to be a complex and bustling community, where even potentially disease-causing strains can be useful neighbours and friendly ones can turn against us.

Individual microbiomes are like fingerprints! They are all different, and even organisms of the same kind can act in different ways and have varying effects on the metabolisms of their hosts. By taking antibiotics, we can cause a mass extinction event among the microbiota, but aside from killing them, we can’t really control what they do—not consciously, anyway. But one theory holds that our genes can say Yea or Nay to quite a few questions. Consider the Enteric Nervous System:

The ENS and its connection to the brain also causes foods to affect your mood. For example, fatty foods can make you feel good because they contain fatty acids that are detected by the gut wall, which then sends out feelings of comfort to the brain.

Research has suggested possibilities to explain how the microbes get their way. Julie Beck wrote for The Atlantic about potential mechanisms that the critters might use to induce in us the sensations that we describe as cravings:

They may change the expression of taste receptors, making certain foods taste better; they may release hunger-inducing hormones; or they may manipulate the vagus nerve (which connects the stomach to the brain) to control their hosts’ eating behavior.

In a piece titled “Your Gut Bacteria Want You to Eat a Cupcake,” Beck mentions how individuals who are “chocolate desiring” and those who are “chocolate indifferent” may eat identical diets and yet have different microbial metabolites in their urine, and what that appears to mean.

Psychologist and evolutionary biologist Athena Aktipis teaches at Arizona State University, where she studies how the gut, with its links to the nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system, could be sending out signals that influence our physiologic and behavioral responses. These, presumably, would include addictive behavior, whether the behavior involves hard drugs, alcohol, or food. How could this happen? Maybe through the vagus nerve, “which connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain.” Aktipis writes:

Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good.

Given all this, is it possible that the particular arrangement of intestinal fauna in each individual could be responsible for the development of addictive behaviors? Can the little critters make a person shoot heroin into his or her own antecubital vein? Can they make a person eat a pound of cheese for a bedtime snack?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The gut microbiome: how does it affect our health?,” MedicalNewsToday,com 03/11/15
Source: “Say hello to your little friends: Making sense of gut bacteria,” TheGlobeandMail.com, 06/07/15
Source: “Get to Know Your Microbiome for Health & Wellness,” CarpeVitaInc.com, 06/05/15
Source: “Your Gut Bacteria Want You to Eat a Cupcake,” TheAltantic.com, 08/19/14
Source: “Do gut bacteria rule our minds?,” UniversityofCalifornia.edu, 08/15/14
Image by Tim Pierce

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An Open Letter to Justin Williamson http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/19/an-open-letter-to-justin-williamson/ http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/19/an-open-letter-to-justin-williamson/#respond Wed, 19 Aug 2015 10:00:35 +0000 http://childhoodobesitynews.com/?p=15345 JustinWhile we can’t set these words to music, we hope Justin Williamson will take them to heart anyway. The outstandingly talented, morbidly obese youth has embarked on a path of changing his life and inspiring others to do the same. As Dr. Pretlow says, “This teen has quite a voice!” That he can belt out a song is undeniable, and Childhood Obesity News looks forward to Justin’s success in achieving a healthy weight, along with his dream of singing and acting on the Broadway stage. Now, here are some words for the singer from Dr. Pretlow.


As an intelligent young man who has gone to school, you must be familiar with the basic tenets of nutrition. Like so many others who struggle with excess weight, you have also realized that facts about nutrients and calories are not enough. The task in front of you involves learning a whole new way of life, and I have no doubt of your ability to put in the work and reap the rewards. You have already made a great start.

There are many coping skills and practices that can help. When you feel the urge to eat, relax and concentrate on your breathing for a while. Put off snacking for five minutes, then for five minutes more. Soon, you will be able to aside whole chunks of the day. Eliminate snacking in the morning, then in the afternoon, then evening and night. At home, ask your family to cooperate by not bringing in high-calorie treats, and by keeping food put away so the sight of it doesn’t trigger the urge to eat.

Learn to recognize any vicious circle that is impeding your progress. For instance, don’t let a slip turn into a slide. If you make a mistake and indulge too much, don’t let remorse tempt you into overeating even more to relieve the bad feelings. Forgive yourself and move on. Each time you are able to break a vicious circle, the small victory will make the next battle easier.

Find a variety of physical activities that you can do, and vary them to avoid boredom. Find access to a swimming pool. Even walking around in the shallow end can be useful exercise, and the buoyancy is a delightful preview of how it will feel to weigh less. Even the most dedicated artist can’t spend every waking moment practicing and performing. Cultivate other interests that hold your attention and divert your thoughts from eating. Cultivate activities, such as whittling or drawing or doing needlepoint (like football player Roosevelt Grier), that keep your hands busy.

Write your problems down and “think out loud” to yourself on paper. Find a source of professional help, like cognitive behavior therapy or some other type of counseling, to build your life-coping skill set. Of course, you will need to identify your problem foods and withdraw from them, one by one. This is totally possible, and cravings will soon go away. You will need to weigh the amounts you eat at mealtime, and gradually decrease them.

When the W8Loss2Go smartphone app launches, you might want to give it a try, because it is designed to help in all these ways and more. Something you can do right now is to download the booklet “Addiction Model Intervention for Obesity in Young People.” Another thing you can do right now is visit the Weigh2Rock website, where thousands of young people have found inspiration, useful tools, ideas, facts, answers, companionship, and understanding.

“Saving Justin” is a worthy goal. In one way you are incredibly fortunate, because of the very thing that has brought you into the public eye. Your determination to become a professional entertainer has almost magical power, and because of it you enjoy an advantage over multitudes of unmotivated youth who don’t even know what incentive would light their fires. You are far ahead in another way, too, because you already know that helping others is an effective way to help yourself. For you and for them, there is hope, and a way out.


Someday, Dr. Pretlow would enjoy hearing Justin sing “Over the Rainbow.” The choice brings a bittersweet memory of another vocalist, Israel “Iz” Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole, whose rendition of that song is beloved by millions. The world-famous Hawaiian singer, whose physique was almost cubical, reached a weight of over 750 pounds and died from a heart attack at age 38.

A tragedy of this kind is not inevitable. With the help of the Saving Justin team, and most of all through the courageous young man’s determination to save himself, Childhood Obesity News is confident that Justin Williamson will achieve his dream.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Saving Justin

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The Amazing Dream of Justin Williamson http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/18/the-amazing-dream-of-justin-williamson/ http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/18/the-amazing-dream-of-justin-williamson/#respond Tue, 18 Aug 2015 10:00:30 +0000 http://childhoodobesitynews.com/?p=15342 Justin at airport

When Justin Williamson was invited to California to be a guest on TV show “The Doctors,” the big question was whether he would even be allowed to fly there from Texas. A video clip on his homepage was made on the day of his preliminary visit to the airport to find out. The picture on this page shows the triumph of learning that he could fit on a Southwest Airlines plane.

To the best of anyone’s knowledge Justin, at 18 years and 670 pounds, was the nation’s most obese teenager. What made him more than that was an extraordinary talent for singing that he had discovered in 8th grade. Flying is kind of a theme here, because it is how he describes the feeling that comes from giving voice to a melody. A theater teacher also encouraged him toward acting, and the desire to develop these two abilities combined into an ambition to perform in Broadway shows. His biography says:

At fifteen, Justin knew something had to change. He had to get healthy to pursue his dreams. Try as he could, though, he just didn’t have the resources he needed to do it on his own. Like too many people, Justin found himself believing he was trapped in a body and a life marked by mental, physical and financial challenges.

For instance, to make the trip to California, plane fare was needed not only for Justin but for his mother and sister, who were also invited. For such an occasion, a good set of clothes could not just be bought off the rack. But the family did not have to face these challenges unaided.

When Justin decided “I don’t want to die with the music still inside me,” an advocate showed up to help share the process of turning the dream into reality. In charge of media outreach is Joe Ostaszewski, whose credentials include losing 147 pounds during the 14th season of the TV show “Biggest Loser” and partnering with the National 4-H Council with the aim of motivating and mobilizing American youth into a state of fitness.

Justin’s team organized a crowdfunding effort that quite recently succeeded in meeting its stated goal. Through a link on the Kickstarter page, we can hear Justin’s rendition of “Amazing Grace.” The next step will be to launch his first single, and the money will go toward coaching, technical support, marketing, and travel. In another short video clip, which is also available via YouTube, Justin can be heard singing part of the National Anthem. There is also a bit where his mom admits, “The pain and the guilt that I feel by enabling him is beyond words,” and other brief words from her and Justin’s sister.

The family’s appearance on “The Doctors” was a step toward engaging an entire country in cheering for this teenager’s potential to turn his life around. Justin hopes to become living proof that other young people can reverse the course of morbid obesity and pursue their own ambitions. But this wish is about more than outward, worldly achievement. It’s about inner satisfaction and meaning. Justin says, “When I sing at home in my room alone, it feels like church to me, my church. I’d like everyone to know how that feels for themselves.”

His goal is to help people see the potential in themselves, and translate that vision into action as they “step up and start working together to create change.” He is showing the way. One of the Kickstarter updates announced that he had already gotten below 600 pounds—a weight he had passed in 10th grade. “Justin lost 4 bowling balls,” is how they put it. He has many supporters, like Home Depot, which donated equipment for his workouts. Another supporter is Jeff Koz, founder and CEO of hum music, where the recording will be made.

The song Justin sings, “When I Sing,” was written by Siedah Garrett, who has won a Grammy award and been nominated twice for the Academy Award for best original song. She feels this song could “give voice to the millions of individuals facing similar challenges.” Here are some parting words from Justin Williamson himself:

If I can help others through this experience, that would be amazing. Now I have a process to do what I couldn’t do alone. I’m part of a team of people who care about me and who can help me share the experience and the tools with other people who might feel trapped, who have a voice they want to share, but for one reason or another, feel like they can’t.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Saving Justin”
Source: “Saving Justin – When I Sing”
Image by The Doctors

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Does the Microbiome Call the Shots? http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/17/does-the-microbiome-call-the-shots/ http://childhoodobesitynews.com/2015/08/17/does-the-microbiome-call-the-shots/#respond Mon, 17 Aug 2015 10:00:09 +0000 http://childhoodobesitynews.com/?p=15339 GarlicAccording to one hypothesis, the microbiota that colonize us do not simply sit around waiting for nutrients to arrive. They have their likes and dislikes, and ways of enforcing those preferences. Like college students with Dad’s credit card, they phone out for pizza or sesame chicken and in this paradigm, we are mere delivery boys servicing a bunch of microscopic brats who may not even tip us. About a year ago, researchers from three major American universities undertook a meta-study that proved something rather startling:

Microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on…Optimizing the balance of power among bacterial species in our gut might allow us to lead less obese and healthier lives.

Garlic enthusiasts have always existed, and the oft-repeated joke is that they are so healthy because nobody can bear to get close enough to transmit any communicable diseases. Probably every American has, at one time or another, known someone who believes raw garlic is the elixir of life, and who consequently eats a ton of it.

Maybe now we finally know why. Inulin is a fiber found in wheat, barley, leeks and—you guessed it—garlic, and research has shown that a healthy population of inner bugs enjoys these foods very much. Some scientists go so far as to call them “general fertilizers for the microbiome.” An article titled “How fast food could wreak havoc on your gut microbiome” says this:

Inulin helps encourage the gut microbiome to produce butyrate, which is an acid that feeds cells in the colon and keeps inflammation in check…Studies have also suggested that diets high in inulin lead to increases in health-promoting bifidobacteria, which break down carbohydrates to short-chain fatty acids, which may in turn decrease the risk of cancer, digestive and heart disease.

Disease prevention is wonderful, but the basic usefulness of these short-chain fatty acids is routine feeding of the cells of the intestinal lining, which don’t obtain their nutrients from the bloodstream. A paper titled “Contributors to Pediatric Obesity in Adolescence: More than just Energy Imbalance” begins with a monumental understatement:

Disentangling the etiology of pediatric obesity continues to challenge researchers.

The increasing trends in pediatric obesity are not accounted for solely by increased energy intake and decreased physical activity. Indeed, under similar conditions of energy balance, inter-individual variation in fat accumulation has been consistently noted.

It is becoming more evident that additional factors may contribute independently and/or synergistically to the increase in obesity. Such factors include (but are not limited to) metabolic programming in utero and in early childhood, the hormonal environment, endocrine disruptors…

The microbiome plays a part in metabolic programming, the hormonal environment, the effect of endocrine disruptors, and so much more. It has even been called our “second brain,” and more is discovered every day about its activities and influence. Consider these words from Dr. Pretlow about the W8Loss2Go studies:

It seems that the brain will glom onto any behavior which distracts from or eases nervousness, stress, anxiety, or tension… In the face of further stress/tension, the behavior will be repeated, which likewise eventually results in brain changes. Furthermore, the behavior becomes self-perpetuating, as trying to resist the behavior is, in itself, stressful, and stress is handled by eating. Participants in our studies reported that trying to resist taking more than the app-specified weighed amounts at meals “drove them crazy,” such that they ended up taking even more, during or after meals.

In compulsive eating, who really does the compelling? What if the feelings we interpret as stress, tension, anxiety, and being driven crazy actually arise from a pitched battle between our two brains? One brain knows better, tries to resist bad eating habits, and does not want to be destructively reprogrammed. The other brain, made up of trillions of microorganisms, contains a subpopulation of bugs that do nothing but compellingly chant “eat eat eat eat eat eat….” Is it possible?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Do gut bacteria rule our minds?,” UniversityofCalifornia.edu, 08/15/14
Source: “How fast food could wreak havoc on your gut microbiome,” WRVR.com, 05/27/15
Source: “Contributors to Pediatric Obesity in Adolescence: More than just Energy Imbalance,” NIH.gov, 2011
Image by ilovebutter

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