Filed under: Obesity
The Military Health System (MHS) has developed a new obesity and nutrition awareness campaign for the Department of Defense (DoD). This campaign will reach all the services to help improve the health and well-being of Warfighters. Menu standards at military dining facilities will be updated, the environment of military facilities will be assessed, and healthier foods will be available in dining facilities and DoD schools. For more detailed information, see the news article and the MHS blog.
Most people understand what it means to have high blood pressure, excess fat around the middle, a high cholesterol level, and the importance of addressing these health problems. What some may not realize is how serious the situation becomes when a person has been diagnosed with three or more such conditions in conjunction with other health issues.
This occurrence is called metabolic syndrome.
People who suffer from this combination of conditions (a reported one in four—50 million in the United States alone) have a dramatically increased risk for developing heart disease, type-2 diabetes, or a stroke. Individually, these symptoms pose a health risk, but identified together they raise the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a cluster of symptoms that include excess fat in the abdominal area (as measured by waist circumference), borderline or high blood pressure, high cholesterol that fosters plaque buildup in arteries, insulin resistance or glucose intolerance indicating the body can’t properly use insulin, raising blood sugar levels, and the presence of a protein in the blood, which can cause inflammation.
People with metabolic syndrome have at least three of the following risk factors:
- Excessive body fat around the waist
- Low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol
- High levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat)
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated glucose (blood sugar) levels after fasting
The complications of metabolic syndrome are serious and, if not addressed, can cause major health problems. If you are overweight and don't yet have these problems, keep in mind that the older you get, the more likely you are to develop them. Older adults can develop metabolic syndrome without being overweight, so it is important to get annual physical exams.
What can be done to prevent metabolic syndrome? If you are fall into the categories above or are overweight, one way to reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome is to incorporate healthy habits such as starting an exercise regimen. (But be sure to consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have not been active for a while.)
Diet is also key to reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome. By making small changes in your diet—such as decreasing the number of calories you take in per day; eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grain products, and low-fat meals, and avoiding fast/fried/fatty/oily foods—you can reduce your chances of developing metabolic syndrome.
If you would like to know more about metabolic syndrome, we recommend the following resources:
With the rise of obesity among children, restaurants are stepping up to help combat the issue by offering healthier menu items for children. Focusing more on fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy items, the new initiative “Kids LiveWell” is working with restaurants to offer meals that are lower in unhealthy fats, added sugars, and sodium. Read more about this initiative at Kids LiveWell.
In a recent Healthy Tip, we briefly described a notable article in the June 2011 New England Journal of Medicine about long-term weight gain. The 20-year study involved more than 120,000 healthy men and woman of normal weight. All were examined at four-year intervals and were found to have gained an average of almost a pound a year. That doesn’t seem like much—unless you consider that if you’re a fit 160 pounds at age 30, you’ll have put on 20 pounds by age 50. At that point your extra weight may be compounded by diabetes, bad joints, heart disease, and perhaps even cancer—all of which are associated with obesity. So now you’re forced to find ways to lose weight.
Wouldn’t it have been better to maintain a healthy weight all along? Some of the study’s observations regarding food choices and exercise might prove helpful in maintaining your weight as you age.
The study found that some foods were significantly associated with weight gain: potato products such as potato chips and French fries, sugary beverages (sodas, for example), red meat, processed meat products, and refined grains. On the other hand, foods associated with no weight gain were vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt.
Other factors found to be associated with weight were physical activity (increase = no gain in weight); alcohol consumption (increase = weight gain); sleep habits (less than six or more than eight hours per night = weight gain); and TV habits (more TV = weight gain), a correlation that seemed partly due to more snacking (Superbowl, anyone?) and less activity.
A single change in diet or lifestyle had less effect than several together. It makes sense that if you exercise less and eat more foods associated with weight gain, you’ll gain weight more easily than if you exercise less but still eat well.
Why some foods seem to contribute to weight gain more than others is still not fully understood, but it probably has a lot to do with what makes us feel satisfied when we eat. High-calorie food and drink that go down fast and easy and quickly enter our bloodstream may not make us feel full when we consume them, so we tend to eat more of them. High-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables fill us up and are low in calories. Even high-fiber nuts, which tend to have a lot of calories, are associated with no weight gain, perhaps because they satisfy us and keep us from eating candy and cake that do cause weight gain. Yogurt is an interesting case, since there has been a lot of interest lately in probiotics (bacteria felt to contribute positively to our health). Perhaps yogurt changes the bacterial flora in a way that contributes to weight stability and loss.
The reason we discuss this study in more depth is twofold. First, it highlights the fact that Americans have a tendency to gain weight as they get older. Knowing that, we can be vigilant of what we eat and how active we are in order to help prevent this weight gain. Second, it warns us of the most common food offenders to avoid—and those to embrace—and underscores the concept that weight is a balance between the calories we consume (foods and beverages we eat) and the calories we expend (physical activity). Make sure you find the proper balance when you’re young, so you won’t be overweight—and perhaps sick—when you’re older.
The amount of sleep a person gets prior to the age of 11 has been associated with adult body weight. A 2008 study in the Journal of Pediatrics of 1037 individuals found that shorter sleep times at age 5, 7, 9, and 11 were associated with higher Body Mass Index (BMI) at age 32. This relationship does not depend on BMI as a child, socioeconomic status, TV watching, adult physical activity and smoking, and BMI of a person’s parents.
Overall healthy food choices may help prevent long-term weight gain. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that potato chips, other forms of potatoes, sugary drinks, and both processed and unprocessed meats can contribute to long-term weight gain. Gradually including more vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt in one’s diet contributed to less weight gain. Other creeping changes that affect long-term weight gain are physical activity, watching TV, and sleep duration. Read more about the study details in an article from Medical News Today.
Childhood obesity has become a significant health problem, putting children and adolescents at risk for developing asthma, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, as well as other serious health risks. The American Academy of Pediatrics website has a parenting corner, helpful links, and resources on this topic. See their “Overweight and Obesity” section.
You may have heard time and time again that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that eating a big breakfast could help you lose weight. One explanation for this claim is that starting the day with a big breakfast prevents food cravings and induces weight loss. Is this true? And is there scientific evidence to support this claim?
Some scientific findings suggest that consuming an energy-rich breakfast causes a person to eat less during the rest of the day. Other findings suggest that increasing the size of breakfast is linked to overall greater food intake. A WebMD article examined this conflicting evidence in light of a recent study conducted by a group of German scientists at the Else-Kroner-Fresenius Center of Nutritional Medicine, Technical University of Munich. Naturally, a study has to be well designed and executed in order for the results to hold up to scrutiny by the scientific community. In this case, which involved a large group of participants, several measures were introduced to encourage accurate record keeping and sound statistics to analyze the results.
Generally speaking, the study suggests that individuals who consume bigger breakfasts in hopes of losing weight may actually end up consuming more calories than anticipated, as they are likely to eat the same amounts of food during lunch and dinner that they would following a small breakfast. This particular finding is worth sharing because it creates awareness of this behavior and may encourage people to consciously watch what they eat for lunch and dinner if they do have a big breakfast or, alternatively, reduce the size of their breakfast. This could be a key for people in their efforts to maintain or lose weight.
All the same, we wish to remind readers that there is no magic formula when it comes to losing weight. Well, maybe there is…
Higher Caloric Expenditure + Lower Caloric Intake = Weight Loss
This is a good general formula to keep in mind in your efforts to lose or maintain your weight. So for instance, while being physically active increases your caloric expenditure, reducing a high-fat diet lowers your caloric intake. And in this instance, refraining from eating a bigger breakfast than usual could contribute to reducing your caloric intake for the day.
In short, we encourage you to eat regular, healthy meals. However, if you decide to eat a bigger-than-usual breakfast, balance it out by eating less during the rest of the day. We hope that the results of this study help you make informed decisions about the number of calories you consume for breakfast.
First Lady visit to Fort Jackson will highlight the impact of obesity and decreased physical activity on military recruitment
First Lady Michelle Obama will visit South Carolina on January 27 for the first time since moving into the White House when she comes to Fort Jackson to highlight the impact of childhood obesity and decreased physical activity on military recruitment. Ms. Obama will spend a good chunk of the day at Fort Jackson, the Army’s largest training base, where she will discuss the “Let’s Move” campaign she launched two years ago with the aim of eliminating childhood obesity in a generation.
Click below to access the article.
KENS Channel 5 in San Antonio, TX has posted an article on their website that reports that, according to the military, the number of prospective recruits are just too fat to enlist, which is making it difficult to fill their ranks.
The article cites a non-profit group called Mission Readiness, made up of retired senior military leaders, who feel there is a solution to the problem.
The group has a three-point approach that would solve the obesity problem for prospective recruits:
- Get the junk food and high-calorie beverages out of our schools.
- Increase funding for the school lunch program.
- Support the development, testing and deployment of proven public-health interventions.