The Appearance of Corruption

7-up-baby-ad

The Coca-Cola Company initiates so much mischief it’s hard to keep up, and indeed several websites are dedicated to informing the public about the corporation’s ongoing and ever-inventive chain of chicanery. “Desperate” and “insidious” are two words used by AlterNet’s Ari LeVaux, a couple of years back, to describe the shameful shenanigans.

First, the writer took the opportunity to recall a ridiculous TV commercial. Its purpose was to convince viewers that they could work off the calories in a can of Coke by laughing out loud for 75 seconds. LeVaux wrote:

It recently came out that Coke is using a similar tactic, but with a more serious, respectable veneer, when the New York Times reported the company’s undisclosed ties to the nonprofit astroturf group Global Energy Balance Network, a relationship that included lots of money, and even secretly registering the GEBNs website on its own domain.

To the public eye, the Global Energy Balance Network was supposed to resemble an impartial and helpful entity, like a kindly old country doctor who still makes house calls. Actually, it was a Coke-financed astroturf group, and inevitably it was outed, and then it has disappeared. But the world-straddling corporation always has another trick up its sleeve.

We see old advertisements like the 1955 example shown on this page, in which Pepsico attempted to demonstrate that babies should drink Seven-Up. (It is paired with a satirical recreation featuring a popular brand of beer.) Our modern eyes see clearly that absurdity of giving soda to babies. Some day, people will look back at today’s advertising and ask, “How did they fall for it?”

One reason for Coke’s unpopularity among thought leaders is the appearance of corruption that taints so much of the company’s activity. People feel suspicious, and with good reason.

Last fall, polymath Cory Doctorow wrote about what happens when registered dietitians hit the social media circuit with messages against a soda tax:

Coke has a longstanding practice of paying dietitians to tout the benefits of drinking high-sugar beverages (a practice that independent scientists universally consider to be unhealthy), but the dietitians tweeting on Coke’s behalf now are being especially lax about their financial ties to the company — while some disclose that they are making “sponsored” tweets, they don’t say who’s sponsoring them.

It often turns out that the bloggers and tweeters derive tangible benefits from espousing ideas that may or may not match their privately-held (honest) views. Worse yet, they may possess or be aware of irrefutable proof that sugar is a very harmful drug, but ignore that knowledge in favor of a paycheck. Financial incentive to propagate the anti-soda-tax message comes from Coke and the American Beverage Association.

Of course, what seems like bad behavior to some appears to others as the epitome of normalcy. The party line says, “Every big brand works with bloggers or has paid talent.” And, of course, the paid talent should be experts in the field, like registered dietitians for instance, or else why should anybody care what they say?

Also, conducting tests and writing reviews fall under the heading of “work,” and people deserve to be paid for their work. And jobs are good, right?

In other words, corruption often hides behind a smiling public face, and sometimes does not even need to hide very hard, because a certain amount of dishonesty is necessary to keep the wheels of the world spinning, right?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How Coca Cola’s Obesity PR Stunt Blew Up in the Company’s Face,” alterNet.org, 08/17/15
Source: “Coca-Cola is paying dietitians to tweet scare-stories about soda taxes,” BoingBoing.net, 10/08/16
Image: Internet meme

More on Childhood Obesity and the Reproductive System

bundled-up-baby

Of all the childhood obesity epidemic’s aspects, one of the most alarming is the ever-decreasing age of puberty. Worse, each condition exacerbates the other. Obesity brings on early puberty, which in turn brings on more obesity. Side issues like low self-esteem kick in to heighten the damage even further. Nobody knows yet how it all works, but the results are undeniable.

Last summer, the American Journal of Epidemiology published research from Kaiser Permanente concerning something that had not been looked at very closely, “the association between maternal pregnancy or pre-pregnancy factors and the timing of puberty in daughters.” It was already known that early puberty adds to the risk of type 2 diabetes, certain kinds of cancer, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and other health problems.

Here is the gist of Kaiser Permanente findings:

Researchers found that girls whose mothers were overweight before their pregnancy and had gestational diabetes were 2.5 times more likely to have earlier onset pubic hair development than their peers whose mothers had normal weight and no gestational diabetes. This association was independent of race or ethnicity, household income and the mother’s age at her first menstrual cycle.

If early maturity is considered a liability, which it pretty much is, the news gets even worse. Puberty kicks in early whether the daughter herself is obese or not. Maternal obesity already happened, and can’t be changed. Exposure, as a fetus, to gestational diabetes already happened, and can’t be taken back.

Historically, researchers have found links between early puberty and race or ethnicity. To whatever extent that has been so in humanity’s past, it no longer applies. Things have changed — and no one is entirely certain about what things — but the numbers show that BMI is a more accurate predictor of early puberty than ethnicity or race.

Dr. Frank Biro, whose home base is Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, was lead investigator for a study whose collaborators included Kaiser Permanente’s research division, New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and the California Department of Public Health. They told the press:

Researchers […] examined the ages of 1,239 girls at the onset of breast development and the impact of body mass index and race/ethnicity. The girls ranged in age from 6 to 8 years at enrollment and were followed at regular intervals from 2004 to 2011. Researchers used well-established criteria of pubertal maturation, including the five stages of breast development known as the Tanner Breast Stages.

The girls were followed longitudinally, which involved multiple regular visits for each girl. Researchers said this method provided a good perspective of what happened to each girl and when it occurred.

The expression “kids having kids” is all too accurate, and part of the reason is because the average girl is capable of becoming pregnant at a younger age than was true for her older sister or her mother. But the sheer physiological capacity to conceive is not the only causative factor.

For whatever reasons, early-maturing girls show up with a lot of other problems, like depression and low self-esteem — psychological stumbling blocks which of course are made worse by obesity. Connections are seen between premature ripeness and lower academic achievement, and what are politely called “norm-breaking behaviors.” In other words, early-maturing girls are apt to engage in exactly the kinds of behaviors that result in pregnancy.

It is not an isolated problem, either geographically or demographically. Dr. Biro and other experts in the field discuss the probability that they will be forced to “redefine the ages for both early and late maturation in girls.” The necessity to redefine norms to match up with an ever-worsening reality is not a happy prospect.

The implications of these and other studies make it clear that obesity is a problem with the potential to reverberate through succeeding generations. Even if a universal panacea or magic bullet were found tomorrow, enough harm has already been set in motion to affect the human race for millennia.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obesity, gestational diabetes in mothers linked to early onset of puberty in daughters,” ScienceDaily.com, 06/06/16
Source: “Earlier onset of puberty in girls linked to obesity,” EurekAlert.org, 11/04/13
Photo credit: Andrew Vargas (Vato Bob) via Visualhunt/CC BY

Childhood Obesity and the Reproductive System

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When the obesity epidemic was first gaining ground, many professionals found good cause to worry about the future. Researchers accumulated information about how obesity in childhood and adolescence can set off a chain of consequences that will go on to impact adult lives.

As time went by, it became increasingly clear that the future is not the only segment of time that merits concern. Obesity affects kids in the here and now, and there is more to it than name-calling or being unable to fit into clothes or school desks. Many problems fall into what Childhood Obesity News has called the “instant karma” category.

Numerous body systems are affected, and the damage is not always reversible. We’re talking about bonesearsbrainskidneys — in fact it is difficult to name an organ or system that escapes being negatively affected by obesity in the early years. All these problems are cause for great concern, and it would be difficult to rank them according to awfulness. But one has the potential to affect all of humanity in a truly unprecedented way — by contributing to the population explosion on an already overburdened planet.

A startling development

It has become obvious that, especially in girls, puberty begins earlier these days, and unfolds more quickly than in the past. It is fairly clear that child obesity sets off changes in the body’s metabolism that can, in the words of Oregon State University’s Dr. Patrick Chappell, “profoundly affect reproductive capacity.”

How profoundly? That word has to do with depth, and things going on beneath the surface, which is indeed the case. According to ScienceDaily:

Molecular mechanisms have only started to be uncovered in the past decade, the report said, and the triggers that control pubertal development are still widely debated… One theory is an impact on kisspeptin, a recently characterized neurohormone necessary for reproduction. Normal secretions of this hormone may be disrupted by endocrine signals from fat that serve to communicate to the brain.

Whatever the root cause, the mysterious paradoxical effects of youthful obesity can disrupt the timing of puberty, paving the way to pregnancies and births, and can also “lead to a diminished ability to reproduce.” With obesity, the onset of puberty only adjusts in one way, toward the premature end of the spectrum. Early maturation can be a disaster, contributing to the epidemic of “kids having kids” in a world where it is increasingly difficult to support even oneself.

The early maturation caused by obesity results in greater obesity risk, making it a self-generating and self-sustaining problem. Early puberty is also associated with “hypertension and several cancers — including breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer.” And there is no need to wait around for long-term effects. “Instant karma” shows up more and more frequently and in diverse ways:

Early onset puberty has also been associated with increased rates of depression and anxiety in girls, studies have found, as well as increased delinquent behavior, smoking and early sexual experiences in both girls and boys.

Various studies have shown that obese teens may be depressed, and may engage in norm-breaking behaviors. In the summer of 2015 a University of Michigan study of around 900 young women suggested something else to worry about. Obese teens who are sexually active are less likely than their normal-weight counterparts to use birth control.

The 18- and 19-year-old subjects of standard weight reported using contraception 78% of the time, compared to 68% in the obese group. Furthermore, overweight and obese teens tend tend to use less reliable methods, according to lead author Dr. Tammy Chang.

One reason for this cavalier attitude toward birth control is suspected to be lower self-esteem. Girls who already are, or feel, fat have heard that birth control pills cause weight gain, which they want no part of. Feeling less confidence, they may be unable to resist demands for unprotected intercourse. Adolescents of either sex, if obese, might fear ridicule when purchasing contraceptives, and decide to go without.

(To be continued…)

Source: “Childhood Obesity May Affect Timing of Puberty, Create Problems,” ScienceDaily.com, 07/31/12
Source: “Obese teens less likely to use birth control,” CBSNews.com, 07/01/15
Photo credit: Sean MacEntee via Visualhuntcom/ CC BY

A City Refurbished for Health

chesapeake-boathouse

Childhood Obesity News has been following along with the story of Oklahoma City’s transformation, as described by Ian Birrell for MosaicScience.com. Mayor Mike Cornett led the people to undertake what was described as a war on fat. Local corporations and institutions pitched in to help with such cornerstones as the website ambitiously titled, “This City is Going on a Diet.”

First, Cornett challenged the locals to lose a million pounds. Apparently, the combat paradigm makes sense in this neck of the woods, because it recruited tens of thousands of residents who joined groups according to their family ties, neighborhood affiliations, clubs, churches, or whatever.

Wellness classes were held in libraries and businesses set up friendly fat-shedding competitions. The website dispensed weight-loss advice, information on recreational activities, the opportunity to pair up with an accountability partner, and much more.

Rather than try to tax particular substances like sugar-sweetened beverages, the mayor took the bold step of asking the populace for an across-the-board 1% sales tax hike, and they voted it in. With this annual extra $100 million, and some other available funds, the city was able to start making changes. The concept was to provide more recreational opportunities and green spaces and in general, anything that would make the car-friendly cityscape more appealing to humans.

Things looked up

The positive activity encouraged businesses to invest in upgrading their buildings and surroundings. Developers built new hotels and other projects that gratifyingly lowered the unemployment rate. All those employed people spent their paychecks buying things and contributing to funds that the sales tax amassed.

But aside from launching that tax, at the beginning there really was no “grand plan.” Birrell wrote:

The mayor began to look afresh at the culture and infrastructure of his city… This unleashed an incredible range of initiatives, including the creation of parks, sidewalks, bike lanes and landscaped walking trails across the city. Every school is getting a gym.

An incredibly ambitious and costly project turned the urban eyesore of a dried-up river into a three-mile-long water feature “fringed with lush landscaping, futuristic-looking boathouses, bike lanes and floodlights” and, best of all, created “the world’s finest rowing and kayaking centre in a Midwest town with no tradition of the sport beforehand.”

The exertion of rowing will strip the pounds right off a person. The journalist wrote:

People on paddleboards and school parties on dragon boats share the water with US Olympic teams in training under the searing sun. Efforts are made to attract people from across society: 50 firms have joined a corporate rowing league, while eight local high schools have their own boats.

The first of a series of “Wellness Campuses” was built in an mostly African-American neighborhood:

The slick new building — filled with medical clinics, communal meeting rooms and kitchens for cooking demonstrations — sits in verdant grounds dotted with walking and bike trails. Patients at the private–public partnership can see specialists in everything from nutrition to domestic violence, taking home prescriptions for food boxes and soon even for running shoes and vests.

When enough time had gone by to assess the progress, health professionals confirmed that the obesity rate was growing more slowly, having dropped from a yearly 6% increase to a mere 1%. Other vital statistics improved noticeably too, including a measurable decrease in the overall mortality rate. If other cities haven’t already done so, it would be an excellent idea for them to take a close look at what OKC did and continues to do.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The fat city that declared war on obesity,” MosaicScience.com, 10/13/15
Photo credit: Allison Meier via Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

Oklahoma City and the Combat Paradigm

bricktown-oklahoma

In Oklahoma City, Mayor Mike Cornett led the people to undertake what was described as a war on fat. Before looking at more of the fascinating information collected by journalist Ian Birrell about the nuts and bolts of that campaign, let’s digress for a moment and reflect on semantics.

Some Americans are tired of all the Wars on Everything, and wish that activists and the press could branch out and employ some other metaphor to name things. A sentence in this article illustrates the problem:

The battle is being done with, rather than against, the fast food industry and soft drinks manufacturers…

Despite some objections of the “sleeping with the enemy” variety, the city leaders seem able to elicit cooperation and sponsorship from businesses, which is great, but does it have to be that they are allies in a war? Even a sentence that begins with a more neutral framing, finishes up with bellicose terminology:

The experiment is unusual in terms of its ambition, breadth and cost, all of which take it beyond anything being attempted by other American cities in the fight against fat.

Also like a war, there has to be triage, which practices the art of resource allocation to accomplish the greatest possible amount of good. In a makeshift hospital next to a battlefield, someone has to decide whether to pour copious time and energy into saving a few badly wounded victims, or to use the supplies and the staff’s time to patch up a larger number of troops who are less seriously hurt.

These practical aspects have to be sorted out, to get the most bang for the available buck. In OKC, some municipal districts needed more help than others, as explained by Birrell:

Six years ago the city started poring over all available data to find its least healthy zip codes, discovering that some disadvantaged parts suffer five times as many deaths from strokes and cardiovascular conditions as wealthier areas. This led to the redirection of funds to places most in need.

Here is another example of how closely the combat paradigm is followed:

Overweight people are targeted at home and at work to alter their lifestyles…

Why “targeted”? Targeting is what the advertising industry rudely does to demographic groups it has researched, and maybe the good guys would do better to think in terms of addressing people, instead. Although, to be fair, the writer also describes the program as “relying largely on persuasion instead of coercion.”

For more depth on the persuasion angle, Birrell consulted the City-County Health Department’s Alicia Meadows, who held the office of Director of Planning and Development. She described the outreach team of eight people who go out and mingle with the crowds at events where ordinary city residents tend to show up.

In the overwhelmed neighborhoods where the data show that help is most clearly needed, the department understands the importance of meeting people where they are. An outreach worker from the same ethnic community may even go door to door distributing information and asking people about their needs. Meadows told the reporter:

We make it clear we don’t want to see their papers; we know many are undocumented. But their health impacts on the city’s health… If you direct significant resources into areas of greatest health inequalities, we think you make the biggest difference.

Next: More about the amazing transformation of Oklahoma’s capital city.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The fat city that declared war on obesity,” MosaicScience.com, 10/13/15
Photo credit: Raymond Bucko, SJ (kiszka king) via Visualhunt/CC BY

When a City Goes on a Diet

oklahoma-city-mayor-mick-cornett

For MosaicScience.com, Ian Birrell paints the picture of a concerted effort by many people, encompassing an entire city, and led by a public official who is “hailed as an urban visionary.” The journalist describes what he calls “a remarkable attempt to tackle obesity.” The place is Oklahoma City, located in what some coastal snobs call a “flyover state.” Considerably more than 600,000 people live there, spread out over a spacious 620 square miles, so of course the automobile reigned supreme for decades.

In 2004 when Mick Cornett first became mayor, there were no bike lanes, and maybe not that many sidewalks. The urban environment was ultra pragmatic and alienating. As time passed, a number of factors coalesced and inspired Cornett to become the prime mover of a renaissance. https://mosaicscience.com/story/fat-city

There were troubling reports from the medical sector, of high cholesterol counts in children too young to start school, and of older kids with orthopedic problems more usually found in the middle-aged. Sugar consumption, especially in the form of soft drinks, was off the charts.

Enter the media

At one point, it came to the mayor’s attention that a fitness magazine declared his city to have the worst eating habits in America, along with the highest density of fast food joints. In national obesity statistics, the citizens made a poor showing. Also, Cornett realized that he himself was obese. The job entailed constantly showing up for breakfast or lunch meetings, and all kinds of other events where food and drink are served and consumed.

The obligations attached to his position in life made many demands, and provided an excuse to carelessly eat the wrong things, and too much of them. In this way, the mayor was just like anybody else. As a human facing an obese future, he was no different from a typical OKC resident the writer introduced for contrast.

Velveth Monterroso moved to the capital of Oklahoma as an adult, and eventually noticed that her weight had increased by 50%. Only 34 years old, she weighed one and a half times as much as when she arrived, and was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. She and her husband worked long hours and were too exhausted to prepare healthy meals although, ironically, they were both employed as cooks. “The shoemaker’s children go barefoot” is a cliche for a reason.

Even when their second child was born and Monterroso became a stay-at-home mom:

She was tired and her family encouraged her to drink lots of atole — a heavily sweetened corn-based drink popular in central America — to aid the breastfeeding of her new daughter…

Obesity is a menace that cuts across lines of gender, class, race, and economic status, in every American city. But this place had something different — a mayor who left behind a 20-year career as an on-air television personality. Mick Cornett had been a professional sportscaster, and was a past master of the art of public relations. He challenged the citizens to collectively lose a million pounds.

A total of 47,000 people signed up, who in January of 2012 were found to have lost around 20 pounds each. The million-pound win was decreed in January of 2012 — and that was only the beginning of the story, which will continue next time.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The fat city that declared war on obesity,” MosaicScience.com, 10/13/15
Photo credit: Michigan Municipal League (MML) via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

The Amazing Placebo Effect

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Last time, Childhood Obesity News looked at research indicating that in the pursuit of weight loss, “soft science” factors like a human support system and attention from a caring professional might be more effective than calorie counting. This is all part of the phenomenon called the placebo effect, explained as the generic term for good outcomes that stem from the context of the doctor-patient encounter and the “ritual of treatment.”

The placebo effect […] is characterized as representing the interpersonal component of healing, as distinct from spontaneous natural healing and technological healing dependent on physiologically active pharmaceuticals or procedures.

The communicative interaction of practitioners with patients, both verbal and nonverbal, may produce placebo effects even without the use of discrete treatments.

Those sentences are quoted from a 2009 publication with three authors (Dr. Franklin G. Miller of NIH, Dr. Luana Colloca of Turin’s National Institute of Neuroscience, and Dr. Ted J. Kaptchuk of Harvard’s Osher Research Center) who emphasize the importance of the doctor-patient relationship. They go further than that, and assert that research such as theirs “has the potential to revitalize the art of medicine.”

The paper discusses at great length the difference between disease (biological dysfunction that affects the organism) and illness (the lived experience of the person affected by the disease). The authors emphasize that the placebo effect does not kill germs or knit bones, which are in the realm of biological dysfunction. The placebo effect operates on illness, to alleviate such symptoms as pain, anxiety, and fatigue, and it does a heck of a job.

Sham and verum acupuncture

For instance, one trial recruited more than 1,000 subjects with chronic low back pain, and divided them into three groups. Some were treated with genuine — or “verum” — acupuncture. Some were treated with fake — or “sham” — acupuncture, which they believed to be the real thing. Those groups both had 10 treatments (or “treatments”) of 30 minutes each, over a five-week period.

The third group got traditional physiotherapy, and pain meds as needed. The improvement rates were 48% for the real acupuncture, 42% for the fake acupuncture, and a measly 27% for the “usual care” group.

The authors go on to say that over the past 30 years, lab research has shown that “placebo interventions can elicit quantifiable changes in neurotransmitters, hormones, and immune regulators.” Brain imaging has shown that neurobiological mechanisms are at work and “placebo analgesia is mediated by release of endogenous opioids.”

This will blow your mind

The paper reports in great detail on another experiment in which subjects with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (known as a “difficult-to-treat patient population”) were divided into three groups. In one group, the participants received no treatment at all, but were included and followed under the pretext of being on a waiting list. The other two groups both received sham acupuncture — that is, the simulated or fake kind — twice a week for three weeks.

In other words, it was not a question of whether acupuncture works or not, because nobody had real or “verum” acupuncture. The researchers wanted to know what would happen when IBS patients believed they were being treated with genuine acupuncture.

So, why two groups of sham acupuncture recipients? This is the interesting part. The two categories were treated differently in terms of social intervention. In the group called “limited,” the interactions between patient and practitioner started with only a five-minute talk at the first session, and remained brief and business-like throughout. The other group, called “augmented,” had a lot of attention lavished upon them, beginning with a generous 45-minute initial interview “structured to be supportive and empathic and to promote positive expectations…”

The subjects were questioned at the end of the three-week treatment course, and again at a follow-up three weeks later. The results? Adequate symptom relief was reported by 62% of the “augmented” group — the ones who got fake acupuncture and plenty of attention.

Adequate symptom relief was also reported by 44% of the “limited group” — who also got fake acupuncture, but minimal attention. Even in the waiting list group, 28% of the subjects felt better. They experienced therapeutic benefit from nothing but anticipation, and knowing that somebody cared.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The placebo effect: illness and interpersonal healing,” NIH.gov, Autumn 2009
Photo credit: Wonderlane via Visualhunt/CC BY

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

martin luther king day text on usa flag background

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

We will return with our regular post tomorrow, Tuesday, January 17.

Image by belchonock/123RF Stock Photo.

“Dieting” for Weight Loss

ballet-class

Childhood Obesity News mentioned a meta-study on the long-term effects of dieting. The trio of researchers, from UCLA and the University of Minnesota, wrote that their intention was to “evaluate whether weight loss improves health.”

Just a moment, please! With rare exceptions like anorexia, isn’t it pretty much universally accepted, that weight loss improves health?

Academic productions like this might be where the Fat Acceptance movement found some of its ideology. One paragraph of the article, first published by Social & Personality Psychology Compass, reads:

The objective of this review is to assess the long-term health outcomes of weight-loss diets…

Our review of randomized controlled trials of the effects of dieting on health finds very little evidence of success in achieving this goal.

If diets do not lead to longterm weight loss or long-term health benefits, it is difficult to justify encouraging individuals to endure them.

Believing that the ultimate goal should be not weight loss, but health improvement, these authors address the possibility that the reducing diet accomplishes neither weight loss nor anything else except frustration and feelings of inadequacy and failure.

As is the custom, the researchers pored over a large number of publications to choose the 21 studies that fulfilled their criteria. They specified five particular lab-measurable health outcomes to track: cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose.

Did weight loss lead to those looked-for improvements? Not really. The improvements were minimal, and not correlated with weight change. Weight loss did correlate with less diabetes and fewer strokes, and allowed some patients with diabetes or hypertension to cut down on their medications.

Motion to the rescue

The researchers found that exercise itself seems to be responsible for many health benefits — just the exercise, not the consequent loss of weight due to exercise. In other words, it “leads to health benefits in the absence of weight change.” While the reducing diet does not seem to count for much — nor the shedding of pounds — what makes the difference, apparently, is activity alone. Interestingly, and although this was not tested, they suspect that such factors as social support and engagement with the health care system may count for more than calorie reduction.

Only people who do research can comprehend the mountain of detail involved in such chores as, for instance, determining that dozens or scores of studies have enough essential commonalities to justify matching them against each other, or combining the evidence they contain. Imagine how difficult it must be to compare studies with non-conforming timeframes.

And yet, for some reason, the various practitioners of science don’t always make things easy for each other. The paper includes an intriguing paragraph, worth lengthy consideration, about what the authors call an “odd convention” of their field:

The most widely accepted standard for a “successful diet” is that set by the Institute of Medicine (1995), which states that an individual must maintain weight loss for a year. Although our focus is on long-term health outcomes rather than on weight loss, we use the same timeframe of assessing outcomes at least one year post-diet. The Institute of Medicine, however, counts the one year as beginning when the diet begins, rather than when the target weight is reached.

Social science researchers have discovered that life situations can improve just because a person has signed up for a program, and not even done anything yet. Often, finding kinship in a support group or receiving attention from a counselor can help a person heal through the beneficent effects of connection. Even though it does not involve pills or other physical intervention, this phenomenon is a type of placebo effect, which we will talk about next time.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Long-term Effects of Dieting: Is Weight Loss Related to Health?,” DishLab.org, 2013
Photo credit: Flavio~ via Visualhunt/CC BY

Another Look at Long-Term Weight Loss

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As we have seen, when a person intentionally loses 5% of their original body weight, and maintains that loss, this is considered a success, and 10% is an epic win. In certain cases, even 3% can be declared a victory.

Of course, no 300-pound person should be discouraged from making the attempt, but how much better is it, really, to end up 9, 15, or even 30 pounds lighter? That’s still 270, which is considered to be in the healthy range only if the person is seven feet tall, which few are.

Even to achieve modest results, the cost is unmanageable for many people, and not just the price in cash for nutrition classes, gym memberships, and special delivered meals. Mental stress takes a toll. A person listens to a friend who swears it’s all in what you eat; and to another friend who affirms that you must sweat for at least an hour a day; and another who advises you to get your gut bugs squared away; and the one who says to forget all that other stuff because the only answer is meditation.

It gets worse

Of course, if a person needs more reason to be discouraged, there is always the set-point theory, which says if the body wants to be a certain size, the human will can do nothing about it. If all else fails, a person can embrace obesity from the vantage point of identity politics, and turn it into a matter of pride.

Some obese people are overwhelmed by conflicting advice and, even worse, so destructively influenced by advertising that they spend thousands of dollars on equipment they will never use. Everything is just too much of a hassle. Consequently, many people give up before even starting a weight-loss journey.

Clarification

One reason to appreciate a paper titled “Long-term Effects of Dieting: Is Weight Loss Related to Health?” is the authors’ generosity of spirit. A. Janet Tomiyama, Britt Ahlstrom, and Traci Mann assume that their report will be read by people who are not medical or science professionals, so they clarify:

The word “diet” has numerous meanings, which include both “weight-loss diets” and “healthy diets” with no intent of weight loss.

When a certain eating regimen is prescribed, the intent could be a number of different things. For a hospitalized patient, the doctor orders up a clear liquid diet, a diabetic diet, or whatever. Some hyperactive children respond well to a restricted diet.

Also, diet may be faith-based, with a whole different set of rules. In the broadest sense, a creature’s diet is whatever that creature eats. But somehow, in the popular imagination, the word has been whittled down to where “on a diet” means you want to reclaim your true bikini body that is hiding in there somewhere.

Whenever people say that more education is needed, they are both right and wrong. As Dr. Pretlow has learned, most American kids feel that they know enough about calories and vitamins. They don’t need more education about those things.

There is, however, an urgent need for more education about such practical aspects as how to find reputable answers on the Internet, and how to recognize advertising claims for what they are. Especially, people need to know more about the inner workings of their own minds, and how to use their energy for self-betterment rather than self-destruction.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Long-term Effects of Dieting: Is Weight Loss Related to Health?,” Dishlab.org, 2013
Photo credit: Leonard J Matthews via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

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