Sunday, March 30, 2014

Positive Signs in the Childhood Obesity Fight

Obesity is a serious problem worldwide.  Approximately one third of the people in the U.S. are obese. And many researchers are attempting to discover ways to fight the disease. Because obesity is associated with so many serious illnesses, curbing the disease is an important endeavor.  And establishing effective, early life treatments for the disease is also important, since obesity-associated illnesses can start before a person is five years of age.

Experts agree that obesity during childhood puts a child at a higher risk for high cholesterol, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. And a recent "study has found that obesity can...put children at risk for...attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, allergies and ear infections. So curbing childhood obesity is important for the future."

Fortunately, there has been some success in the development of new tools to fight childhood obesity. An example of a promising treatment approach is one where a state pediatrician is working with teachers to show them how to teach kids to make healthier choices at school, and with parents, to show them how to create healthier environments at home.

And in a study, it was found that younger kids listen to older kids when the older kids teach the younger kids about exercise and nutrition. So, permitting kids to teach kids could be a good approach to fighting childhood obesity.

Although having a physician teach teachers to teach kids and having older kids teach younger kids may not be perfect approaches to childhood obesity, they are worth considering. And as we learn more about these and other approaches, we can refine and make these approaches more effective.

If community stakeholders continue to take an active role in the obesity fight by supporting methods like the ones mentioned above, we might put a dent in childhood obesity. Using the methods could reduce the chances that children will face obesity-related illnesses in adulthood. It is obvious that curbing childhood obesity is a goal requiring healthcare providers, policy makers, and citizens to work together to meet the goal.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Artificially Sweetened Drinks Can Have a Place in a Healthy Diet

There are, in general, three approaches to weight loss and weight management. The three approaches are lifestyle modification, including diet and exercise, weight loss surgery, and obesity drugs. Diet, with exercise, is often the first approach to weight loss. And some people use artificially sweetened drinks as part of their diet, since reducing the calorie intake is almost always a key factor in any attempt to lose weight. But artificially sweetened drinks are not always deemed appropriate for weight loss.

There are reasons why artificially sweetened drinks are not always deemed appropriate. Among the reasons is that sugar substitutes are sometimes considered to be dangerous. In fact, one article suggests that five of the substitutes are dangerous and have been approved for consumer use. The sweeteners are "saccharin, neotame, acesulfame potassium, aspartame, and sucralose. Of the five [sweetners], sucralose and aspartame are the most pervasive and dangerous substitutes found in products on store shelves today."

Moreover, at least one study links weight gain to artificial sweeteners. In a 2008 Purdue study, researchers concluded that 'sweet foods may prompt the body to get ready to take in a lot of calories, but when sweetness in the form of artificial sweeteners is not followed by a large amount of calories, the body gets confused, which may lead to eating more or expending less energy than normal.' And this could lead to weight gain.

Finally, some rat studies indicate that at least one artificial sweetner causes cancer. A 2006 Science Daily article concluded that "A statistically significant increase in the incidence of malignant tumors, lymphomas and leukemias in rats exposed to varying doses of aspartame appears to link the artificial sweetener to a high carcinogenicity rate.."

On the other hand, "according to the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies, there's no sound scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the U.S. cause cancer or other serious health problems."

And a recent study shows that sugar sweetened drinks are no more harmful or helpful than sugary drinks. Indeed, 'It’s looking like there’s not good scientific support to make really strong conclusions about the role of the diet beverages in either helping people or potentially causing harm.'

Like everything else, the use of sugar sweetened drinks should be done in moderation and with prudence. Further, under the right set of circumstances, in the right diet, artificial sweeteners can be a useful tool for weight loss as part of a healthy diet.

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