Global epidemic of obesity

September 3, 2013

Obesity statisticsThe increasing prevalence of obesity in the USA and its medical, social, psychological and economic implications has made it a national health crisis. Obesity is predicted to be the number one health problem globally by the year 2025. Although men have higher rates of overweight, women tend to have higher rates of obesity. For both, obesity poses a major health risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and certain forms of cancer. Obesity is defined as a condition of excess body fat and is associated with a large number of debilitating and life threatening disorders. It is conventionally measured as a body mass index (BMI). The BMI charts classify patient's weight as: underweight if smaller than 20, healthy 20 - 25, overweight 25 - 30, obese 30 - 40, and super-obese 40 and above, signifying increased risk of medical co-morbidities.

Studies indicate that BMI varies for different races. Mortality and Morbidity vary with the distribution of body fat, with the highest risk being linked to excess abdominal fat also known as 'central obesity'. A study by Gopalan revealed that nearly 20% of adults who were not overtly obese still had central obesity, putting them at a greater risk of developing non-insulin-dependent diabetes (NIDDM), hypertension and coronary heart disease (CHD).

With the use of WHO standardized classification of obesity the following data about the worldwide prevalence of obesity was obtained. The prevalence of obesity ranges between 5% in rural China to 75% of adults in Samoa. 22 million children under 5 years of age are overweight. Many countries have experienced a startling increase in obesity over the last 10 - 20 years, and based on current trends predictions have been made that the level of obesity would be 40 - 45% in the USA by 2025, 30 - 44% in Australia, England and Mauritius, and 20% in Brazil. The prevalence of obesity varies between socioeconomic groups as well as between developed versus 'developing countries'. The higher prevalence of obesity in lower socioeconomic groups is thought to be a measure of health awareness and education as well as cost of 'health/diet foods' or joining a gym. The higher educated have the financial stability to maintain their healthy weight.

There also exits a difference in obesity prevalence in developing versus developed countries. In developed countries, lower socioeconomic groups have a higher rate of obesity; however, in developing countries, an increased prevalence of obesity is seen in higher socioeconomic groups. This could be explained by the lower cost of fast foods, higher costs of health clubs and possibly a more sedentary life style in developed countries. In developing countries, the lower socioeconomic groups have to be more physically active, e.g. walk or take public transportation, their diets also tend to be low calorie and they have limited access to fast foods.

How to maintain glucose levels

May 8, 2013

Maintain glucoseWhen the glucose level falls too low the hormone adrenaline is released from the adrenal glands and glucagon is produced from the pancreas. Glucagon works in the opposite way to insulin and increases blood glucose by encouraging the liver to turn some of its glycogen stores into glucose to give us quick energy. If the blood glucose level stays low for a period of time hypoglycemia - low blood sugar level - can occur. Symptoms include: irritability, aggressive outbursts, palpitations, lack of sex drive, crying spells, dizziness, anxiety, confusion, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, fatigue, insomnia, headaches, muscle cramps, excess sweating and excessive thirst.

When the glucose level rises too high, insulin is produced by the pancreas to lower it. If the blood sugar level remains too high, this causes the symptoms of hyperglycemia - high blood sugar level. The extreme form of this is diabetes which is a medical condition needing expert attention and often entailing regular insulin injections. Weight cycling - weight gain, loss, then gain - may make you more prone to diabetes. Obese people have a 77 times higher chance of developing diabetes than a person at their correct weight - the greater your weight, the higher your risk of developing diabetes. During a normal day, the amount by which our blood sugar level rises and falls depends on what and when we eat.

When we eat any food in refined form its digestion is very fast. Refined foods have been stripped of their natural goodness by various manufacturing processes. Two of the most widely-used refined foods are sugar and white flour. When digestion is too fast glucose enters the bloodstream too rapidly. This also happens when you take in any food or drink that has a stimulant effect, like tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate. This sharp, fast rise in blood glucose makes you feel momentarily good, but the 'high' quickly passes, plummeting you to a low point, making you feel tired and drained. So what do you need? Another stimulant like a bar of chocolate or cup of coffee (or both!) to give you another boost.

If there is a long gap between eating, the blood glucose will drop to quite a low level and you will feel the need for a quick boost, for instance a cup of tea and a biscuit. At the same time, the adrenal glands will make the liver produce more glucose. The combination of these two acts causes high levels of glucose in the blood which again calls on the pancreas to over-produce insulin in order to reduce the glucose levels. The vicious cycle starts all over again and the adrenal glands and pancreas become ever more exhausted. To solve this problem try:

  • Grazing - develop a 'grazing' habit in your eating patterns, eating little but often. Leave behind the dieting philosophy of no food between meals.
     
  • Avoid skipped meals - maybe you thought that if you ate less by missing meals you would lose weight but the resultant swings in blood sugar are setting you up to fail. They create a biological urge that must be satisfied and you shouldn't ignore your body's demands even if you were strong enough.

Make it easy for yourself. If you stop what is causing the biological urge then you won't be constantly at war with your own body.

Fat burning vegetables

February 14, 2013

VegetablesStudy after study has confirmed that people who eat more vegetables than other folks have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases and stand a good chance of maintaining a high quality of life well into their senior years. From asparagus to zucchini, vegetables offer us a wealth of vitamins, fiber, and minerals, all of which are necessary for our wellbeing. Because our bodies can't stockpile these nutrients, we need to eat a variety of vegetables every day to ensure optimal health. Arecent study by the National Cancer Institute found that Americans are indeed eating more vegetables than they did 25 years ago. Sadly, at least one fourth of those additional vegetables are French fries.

Asparagus contains a special carbohydrate called inulin that is not digested but that helps feed the friendly bacteria in the large intestine. When we consume inulin regularly, these friendly bacteria proliferate, keeping the intestinal tract clear of unfriendly bacteria. In addition, asparagus is an excellent source of glutathione, an important anticarcinogen, and rutin, a substance that protects small blood vessels from rupturing. Asparagus provides vitamins A and C, potassium, phosphorus, and iron. It's also a good source of fiber, the B-complex vitamins, and zinc.

Detoxification contributes to weight loss while helping to prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. Worried about your cholesterol? Broccoli is known to contain a certain pectin fiber that binds to bile acids and keeps cholesterol from being released into the bloodstream. Does diabetes run in your family? At the USDA's Human Research Laboratory, a diabetes expert found that the chromium in broccoli may be effective in preventing type-2 diabetes by maintaining stable blood-sugar levels. Broccoli is also a good source of folic acid, which scientists now believe serves as a defense against Alzheimer's disease. In addition, broccoli has been singled out as one of the few vegetables that significantly reduces the risk of heart disease.

Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins C and A, providing detoxifying antioxidants to neutralize dangerous free radicals that could otherwise damage cells and escalate problems with atherosclerosis, diabetic complications, asthma, and colon cancer. In addition, tomatoes supply fiber, which has been shown to lower cholesterol levels, control blood-sugar levels, and help prevent colon cancer. Tomatoes offer a trio of notable heart-healthy nutrients: potassium, vitamin B6, and folate. In addition, studies in the U.S. and Europe have concluded that lycopene, a phytonutrient found in tomatoes, lowers cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease.6 Tomatoes improve your body's energy production by supplying a bounty of biotin and help maintain bone health by serving as a source of vitamin K.

One of the world's oldest vegetables, cabbage continues to be an inexpensive dietary staple. A member of the cruciferous family, which includes broccoli and kale, cabbage is rich in cancer-fighting nutrients, including Vitamin C, fiber, and two phytochemicals, sulforaphane and indoles. These two compounds help detoxify the body, ridding it of cancer-producing substances, including excess estrogen.

Popular diets for weight loss

February 10, 2013

Weight loss dietsThere are a growing number of popular diets on the market that are used today. Diets are divided into categories based on their macronutrient content. These categories include high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets, moderate-fat, balanced nutrient reduction diets, and low- and very-low fat diets.

High-fat, low-carbohydrate diets are probably the most popular diets used today. These diets consist of 55 - 65% fat, and < 20% of calories from carbohydrates or < 100 g of carbohydrates a day. The rational behind these diets is that high carbohydrate intake causes a rise in blood sugar, which raises insulin levels in the blood. This leads to weight gain by increasing fat deposition and by increasing hunger. Advocates of these types of diets recommend stopping the 'vicious cycle' of carbohydrate addiction and restrict carbohydrates severely enough to produce ketosis. Ketosis is a good indicator of fat mobilization. In this condition, blood glucose and blood insulin is reduced, and appetite is suppressed. The potential effects of lowcarbohydrate diets on bone health, renal function, and cancer risk have not been well established. Further, these diets typically are not nutritionally adequate, are usually low in several vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and potassium, and very high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein.

Moderate-fat, balanced nutrient reduction diets contain 20 - 30% fat, 15 - 20% protein, and 55 - 60% carbohydrates. The rationale behind these diets is that weight loss occurs when the body is in a negative energy balance. The goal is to provide the greatest variety of food choices to allow for nutritional adequacy and compliance, while still resulting in a slow but steady rate of weight loss. The 'Flex Plan' assigns points to each food. Each person has an individualized point budget to spend on any food they choose and the weight loss occurs if the person stays within the point budget. The 'Core Plan' controls eating without counting points by focusing on wholesome foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains and starches, lean meat/poultry/fish, and low fat dairy. With both approaches, dieters will find themselves choosing mainly high fiber, low-fat foods to stay within the guidelines. Several studies have shown that moderate-fat, balanced nutrient reduction diets reduce LDL-cholesterol, normalize plasma triglycerides, and normalize the ration of HDL/TC.

Very-low-fat diets are those containing less than 10% of calories from fat and low-fat diets contain 10 - 19% of calories from fat. Both are very high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein. The original purpose of these diets was to help slow down and even reverse the effects of dietary fat and cholesterol on heart disease. However, as Americans became fatter, they changed their focus onto the program's effect on body weight. These diets both promote lifelong changes in diet, exercise and lifestyle. The rationale behind these diets is looking at the calorie density of fat (9 cal/g) vs. carbohydrates and protein (4 cal/kg). Although these diets are very high in fruits and vegetables and whole grains, they are low in vitamins E, vitamin B12, and zinc. Further, many people struggle with sustaining a very low fat vegetarian diet over an extended period of time.

How to banish cravings

September 15, 2012

Fast foodThere's hardly a dieter in the world who hasn't experienced overwhelming cravings. You can stick quite happily to a diet for days, sometimes for weeks, then suddenly all the good work is blown in one stupid ten minute eating frenzy. It is like having two voices inside your head where one is saying 'you know you don't really need that bar of chocolate' and the other one is saying 'a little bit won't make any difference'. If you listen to the second voice it doesn't stop at a little bit. Before you know it you've eaten the whole bar, maybe even a second. You dread your scale check, you are filled with anger, and having decided that you've ruined that particular day's dieting you might as well make it a complete day of food fun and have chips and syrup pud for dinner. But why? Why do we suddenly go off the rails like that? Is it just greed getting the better of us or is it much more fundamental?

Occasionally cravings can be put down to greed, but in my opinion it's much more likely that a craving is a biochemical urge that's very, very difficult to control. The body is demanding a particular type of food, usually sugar, because it has a need for it. And when the body has a need it certainly lets us know!

Diet gurus will tell you that the way to banish cravings is to keep all tempting foods out of sight and out of reach. When a craving strikes, they'll suggest you suffer through it, which, as anyone who has experienced cravings knows, is sheer torture! It is also totally non-productive. For as well as anger and guilt, it fosters feelings of self-denial and eventually a dieter can end up feeling useless, worthless and deserving of being fat and ugly.

Rather than banish tempting foods from sight it is better to change your biochemistry so that your body does not have such uncontrollable needs. Sounds difficult? No, it is so simple that you will wonder why nobody explained it to you before. Cravings are linked with mood swings and if you adjust your biochemistry you will find yourself in control of those cravings. This chapter contains the key to controlling those Jekyll and Hyde mood swings - including pre-menstrual ones - and will help you on your way to successful weight loss.

Almost all dieters have an underlying blood sugar imbalance. Blood sugar can be the most important factor in losing and maintaining a healthy weight. Nutrition is the key to stabilizing the levels of blood sugar. After a meal, glucose from the breakdown of food (digestion) is absorbed through the wall of the intestine into the bloodstream. At this point, there is, quite naturally, a high level of glucose in the blood. The body takes what it immediately needs for energy and then produces insulin from the pancreas in an attempt to lower the level of excess glucose. Any glucose that is not used immediately for energy is changed into glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles to be used later. The glucose level in the blood then reduces to normal.