Tag Archives: obesity

What’s New in the Dietary Guidelines

There’s good news, and not-so-good news for some, in the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released Jan. 7 by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments.

If, like me, you are a fan of high-fat foods like nuts or avocados, high-cholesterol foods like shrimp or eggs, coffee or an occasional alcoholic drink, the new guidelines provide some additional reassurance. They emphasize the need to focus on a health-promoting eating pattern “across the life span” that includes these and other foods, in moderation, while cutting down on added sugar.

On the other hand, the new guidelines can be confusing, containing what seems like conflicting messages and bowing, in some cases, to industry pressures, especially with regard to meats.

The new guidelines emphasize a lifelong eating pattern that contains adequate essential nutrients, a caloric intake that supports a healthy body weight and foods that reduce the risk of chronic disease. This means diets with a rich variety of vegetables and fruits; whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese, and protein foods that contain little or no saturated fat, including eggs, shellfish, lean meat and poultry, beans and peas, soy products, nuts and seeds.

However, the new guidelines do not suggest restricting total fat, a nutrient that has been much maligned, albeit unfairly it is turning out, as something to avoid to maintain a normal body weight. While it is true that ounce for ounce, fat has more calories than sugars and proteins, it is also more satiating and can curb overeating.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

How many weekly miles should I run to improve my health?

Surprisingly few, it seems. According to a new review of studies related to running and health, jogging for as few as five or six miles per week could substantially improve someone’s health.

The reviewers found that even with such skimpy mileage, runners generally weighed less and had a lower risk of obesity than people who jogged fewer than five miles per week or (more commonly) not at all. These runners also were less likely to experience high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, diabetes, strokes, certain cancers and arthritis than the barely- or non-runners.

“It seems like the maximum benefits of running occur at quite low doses,” said Dr. Carl J. Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans and lead author of the review, which was published in September in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

As little as “one to two runs per week, or three to six miles per week, and well less than an hour per week” can be quite beneficial, he said.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

New Diabetes Cases, at Long Last, Begin to Fall in the United States

After decades of relentless rise, the number of new cases of diabetes in the United States has finally started to decline.

The rate of new cases fell by about a fifth from 2008 to 2014, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first sustained decline since the disease started to explode in this country about 25 years ago.

The drop has been gradual and for a number of years was not big enough to be statistically meaningful. But new data for 2014 released on Tuesday serves as a robust confirmation that the decline is real, officials said. There were 1.4 million new cases of diabetes in 2014, down from 1.7 million in 2008.

“It seems pretty clear that incidence rates have now actually started to drop,” said Edward Gregg, one of the C.D.C.’s top diabetes researchers. “Initially it was a little surprising because I had become so used to seeing increases everywhere we looked.”

Experts say they do not know whether efforts to prevent diabetes have finally started to work, or if the disease has simply peaked in the population. But they say the shift tracks with the nascent progress that has been reported recently in the health of Americans.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

To Lose Weight, Eating Less Is Far More Important Than Exercising More

One of my family’s favorite shows is “The Biggest Loser.” Although some viewers don’t appreciate how it pushes people so hard to lose weight, the show probably inspires some overweight people to regain control of their lives.

But one of the most frustrating parts of the show, at least for me, is its overwhelming emphasis on exercise. Because when it comes to reaching a healthy weight, what you don’t eat is much, much more important.

Think about it this way: If an overweight man is consuming 1,000 more calories than he is burning and wants to be in energy balance, he can do it by exercising. But exercise consumes far fewer calories than many people think. Thirty minutes of jogging or swimming laps might burn off 350 calories. Many people, fat or fit, can’t keep up a strenuous 30-minute exercise regimen, day in and day out. They might exercise a few times a week, if that.

Or they could achieve the same calorie reduction by eliminating two 16-ounce sodas each day.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

 Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Counting Calories Will be Easier in 2015

Now it’s official. Starting next November, menus in many places where Americans eat — like chain restaurants and some movie theaters, convenience stores and amusement parks — will have to list calories.

Consumer health advocates were jubilant when the Food and Drug Administration announced the new policy on Tuesday. Many had fought for the rule for more than a decade, believing it would be a major weapon in the fight against obesity.

But will it?

The evidence on whether menu labeling works — either to move the national needle on obesity, or to reduce the number of calories an individual consumes after looking at a menu — is pretty skimpy, in part because the practice hasn’t been around that long.

In the few places where menu labeling exists, like New York and Philadelphia, most studies have observed a few thousand people over just a few weeks and months — too small a group and too short a time to detect the subtle changes that economists expect the policy will prompt.

Brian Elbel, associate professor of population health at New York University’s School of Medicine, has spent weeks outside fast food restaurants talking to customers and collecting their receipts.

The findings have been uninspiring so far. In a study he did in 2008 in New York City, only slightly more than half of consumers even saw the posted calories, and of those, a little over a quarter (around 15 percent of the total) said the information changed what they ordered. He conducted a larger study in 2010 in Philadelphia after that city started requiring chain restaurants to post calories, and the results were similar.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Thirty Percent of World’s Population is Obese

Nearly 30 percent of the world’s population is overweight or obese, and not one country has reduced its obesity rate in 33 years, according to a new study combining three decades of data from 188 countries, published in The Lancet last month.

Though there are patterns, obesity is not evenly distributed by region, by ethnic group or by national income levels. It is more common among women than men, especially in poor countries.

Although 13 percent of the world’s obese people live in the United States, the world’s richest country, 62 percent live in poor or middle-income countries. Countries with the highest rates included Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati in the South Pacific and Kuwait, Libya and Qatar in the Middle East.

Citizens of many Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, gained the most weight over the last 30 years.

By contrast, almost all of Asia remained thin. The two Koreas, vastly different in wealth, are both low, though South Koreans are somewhat fatter.

Countries near each other may differ greatly. Few Tunisians are obese, while many Libyans are. Bhutan’s obesity rates are five times as high as Nepal’s.

The widest fluctuations were in Africa. Island nations like Mauritius and the Seychelles had obesity rates nearly 10 times those of Ethiopia and Burundi, for example. Relatively prosperous South Africa had the highest female obesity rates, but obesity was also surprisingly high in a few poor nations like South Sudan and Equatorial Guinea.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary


Jeffrey R. Ungvary