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 weight loss diets

August 14, 2012

Popular dietsVery low calorie diets are diets which are based on restricting calories to sometimes fewer than 500 a day. This is achieved by using complete meal replacements. Some of these very low calorie diets provide the back-up support of a counselor but for the majority you have to manage on your own. Replacement meals take the form of milk shakes, soups and bars. The replacement meals are designed to give the British recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals.

These diets require a lot of willpower and by their nature are very boring. The weight loss can be dramatic but in almost starving yourself you can lose not just fat but muscle as well, which is medically unwise. To lose heart muscle, for example is potentially fatal. Many of these diets don't change long established bad eating patterns nor do they offer help once the diet is over. Also, as the body is being starved, it will automatically lower the metabolic rate in order to protect itself. So as the person returns to their normal eating pattern with a slower metabolism, more weight can be gained.

High protein/no carbohydrate diet was popular in the 1970s and was based on eating lots of protein such as meat and eggs but no carbohydrate such, as bread, pasta, rice or potatoes. Initial weight loss was good - up to 6 kg (1 stone) in the first week but, unfortunately, it was water loss not fat. When the body is starved of carbohydrates it looks for energy in its glycogen stores and because 4 g (0.140 z) of water cling to every gram of glycogen, it is possible to lose a lot of weight very quickly. It is only when the glycogen stores are depleted that the body starts to dissolve the fat. This happens very slowly so it seems that the diet has stopped working. These protein only diets can cause an abnormal metabolic state called ketosis because there is not enough carbohydrate stored in the liver for the body to use.

A difficulty with these high protein ketogenic diets is that they can bring about changes in the fat cells causing them to accumulate even more fat when the person comes off the diet. They have also created problems with mood changes, such as tension and irritability, resulting in cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods and fatty snacks.

Hip and thigh-type diets concentrate on being very low fat, sometimes no fat, which is a dangerous concept. The dieter is asked not to eat fat including oils, nuts (except chestnuts), seeds, oily fish, cheese (except cottage cheese), milk (except skimmed), egg yolk (egg white is acceptable), crisps and avocados and to remove all fat and skin from poultry.

The reduction of fat in specific areas of the body (such as hips and thighs) has never been proved possible, but these diets do seem to help with general weight loss. It's true that we generally eat too much fat - on average between 50 and 60% of our calorie intake is from fat. Logic tells us that if we cut out all fat we will lose weight, but at what cost to our health? Certain fats, known as essential fatty acids (EFAs) are, as their name suggests, essential for our health and it is unwise to go on a diet that eliminates them along with all the non-essential fats such as saturated fat. The body cannot produce essential fats, so the only source of these is from what we eat. Totally fat-free diets have resulted in joint stiffness, skin problems and mood swings.

Drinking water helps losing weight

August 6, 2012

Water and cleansingDid you know that the average person loses 10 cups of water each day just by breathing, perspiring, and using the bathroom? Yet, a recent survey conducted by the International Bottled Water Association found that most Americans drink no more than 5 cups of water a day. While additional water is absorbed from the foods we eat, the math still doesn't add up, especially when many people counteract their intake of water by consuming caffeine-filled teas, coffees, or sodas, which inhibit the reabsorption of water. It's no wonder that a Cornell University survey showed that 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated!

Even mild dehydration, such as a 2 percent drop in body water, can produce problems, including memory deficits, an inability to focus, and daytime fatigue. Some subtle signs of dehydration include dry lips, dark colored urine, muscle or joint soreness, headaches, crankiness, fatigue, and constipation. Ironically, if you don't drink enough water, your body senses trouble and begins to hang on to every bit of water it can. If you fail to hydrate your body, it stores water between cells and you end up carrying excess water weight.

To make matters worse, if you are dehydrated, your body stores more fat. Why? Without water, your kidneys are forced to call on the liver to help perform their functions. This keeps the liver from being able to burn as much fat as it normally would, so the fat gets deposited - often around the belly. In addition to reducing fat deposits and ridding the body of toxins, consuming generous amounts of water is an effective way to reduce cravings. Because water is a natural appetite suppressant and helps you feel full, you may not feel hungry if you drink it regularly throughout the day.

Still not convinced? Keep in mind that water is a powerful tool for a clear, beautiful complexion. Your body prioritizes where the water goes, and since vital organs take precedence, your skin is last on the list. If you fail to drink enough water, your skin will suffer more than any other part of your body. Being well hydrated also helps reduce constipation and, because water allows for efficient elimination, has even been shown to decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45 percent. Furthermore, a 2002 study concluded that a daily intake of at least five glasses of water cut the risk of heart disease in half!