December 10, 2008


So how is Minnesota doing?

According to the 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, many Minnesota adults are overweight or obese, have developed health problems and chronic diseases and continue to not
practice healthy behaviors:
- 51 percent do not achieve weekly recommended physical activity recommendations
- 81 percent consume fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day
- 1 in 4 are obese and 1 in 3 are overweight
- 33 percent have high cholesterol
- 22 percent have high blood pressure
- 6 percent have diabetes and 26 percent have prediabetes

The prevalence of risk behaviors among youth in Minnesota is setting up the next generation of adults for earlier onset and more widespread chronic disease. According to the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey:
- 67 percent of 12th grade girls report not participating in moderate physical activity five or more days per week
- 34 percent of 12th grade boys and 48 percent of 12th grade girls report not participating in vigorous physical activity at least three day per week
- 49 percent of 12th grade boys and 37 percent of 12th grade girls report watching six hours or more of television or videos per week
- 32 percent of 12th grade boys report playing computer or video games for six hours or more per week
- Fewer than 20 percent of elementary, middle and high school students surveyed report eating the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day
- 47 percent of 12th grade girls and 65 percent of 12th grade boys report drinking at least one soda a day

But Minnesota has a plan- this year the Minnesota Department of Health released an Obesity Action Plan. It can be found at

December 8, 2008

Young Doctors Exercise Less Than They Should


In comparison to the national average, young doctors get much less exercise, and this level of exercise is below recommended levels, according to a study released on December 2, 2008 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine

To assess exercise habits in doctors, the researchers surveyed junior doctors working at two hospitals in Southern England, one of which had an on-site gym. Of the the 61 total surveyed, half were women, and the average age was 27. In the group, there were equal numbers of medical and surgical specialists. The survey asked about the subjects' physical exercise habits before and after graduating and lifestyle factors, such as smoking or drinking, which were likely to affect general health.

In most categories, the doctors outperformed the national public. On average, the doctors weighted and smoked less than national average estimates. Only 7% drank more than the recommended number of units of alcohol. However, only 21% achieved recommended exercise levels, far below the national average of 44%. Additionally, examining the doctors performing too little exercise, most worked at the hospital with a gymnasium -- but one third of the doctors working there said they were unaware of its existence.

In the 35 doctors who used a gym, on-site or elsewhere, only three exercised according to the guidelines. The doctors' previous habits may be have been different, because as medical students, 64% fulfilled the guidelines. When asked why they did not meet the guidelines, the most common response was lack of time, with 58% of the total. However, 29% said they were not motivated or too tired. When asked what might increase their exercise participation, many of the subjects suggested promotion programs at work, or the availability of exercise classes or sports teams.

I think this is incredibly interesting- Doctors who are to be promoting health to their patients are not getting enough exercise themselves. This sort of research underscores the importance of health promotion program even to those whose job it is to promote health. Often times these people are so busy to think of their own health. However, I think it would be difficult to listen to a doctor or health professional who was healthy him or herself. Therefore, health promotions should target health professionals as well. This is not a usual intervention population, but apparently there is a need.


December 5, 2008

A simple scale

New research from the University of Minnesota looked at whether a scale can be a helpful tool in the fight against obesity.

The study found that teens who weighed themselves at least once a week tended to be less heavy and eat a better diet than teens who did not weigh themselves. Many experts feel that self-monitoring such as weighing onesself can help keep everyone honest - kids and adults alike - when it comes to better weight control.

Teenagers struggling with a few extra pounds might get assistance from a simple bathroom scale. According to new research from the University of Minnesota, adolescents who weighed themselves at least once a week had better weight control and healthier habits than those who didn't use the scale as often

Doctors studied 130 teenagers who were moderately overweight and found that those who regularly used a scale weighed an average of 7 pounds less and were less likely to eat junk food or meals with saturated fats. Self-weighers also exercised more and were nearly 5 times as likely to follow a structured diet. Experts say the scale provides valuable feedback to teens, allowing them to make changes in their eating behavior before their clothes get too tight. Past studies have also shown that frequent weighing helps dieters keep the pounds off over the long-term. But some nutrition experts caution parents against making their kids "slaves to the scale" -- weekly or twice weekly weighing provides useful feedback, but more than that could create an unhealthy obsession.

I think there has been some controvery about whether weighing oneself on a regular basis can be harmful too. At what point is a person becoming obsessed with a number on a scale. I think that is a common behavior among people with eating disorders. I think we need to be careful not to help one disease at the cost of introducing another disorder.

There is a news video on this research that can be found at

December 4, 2008

How Astronauts Stay Fit

Picture of Shuttle Endeavour delivering the advanced Resistive Exercise Device to the international space station.

A CNN article looked at how astronauts stay fit in space and on earth. Research shows that floating around in zero-G can have some serious consequences for the human body, including the weakening of bones. In fact, studies have shown that space travelers can lose 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass each month on average, according to NASA.

One way that astronauts have been fighting bone loss is through strength training. And they're getting some help with a new machine delivered this week by the shuttle Endeavour, which docked with the international space station on Sunday.

The advanced Resistive Exercise Device, aRED for short, functions like a weight machine in a gym on Earth, except it has no conventional weights. Instead, it has vacuum cylinders -- canisters with air that have had a vacuum applied -- that provide concentric workloads up to 600 pounds, NASA says.

The device works somewhat like a bicycle pump, only in reverse, said Mark Guilliams, a NASA trainer. For example, if you are squatting, the vacuum gets pulled out as you stand up, and when you squat back down, the vacuum pulls the bar back to the normal position.

The international space station also is equipped with a treadmill and a bicycle, Guilliams said.

So what's the difference between exercising on Earth and working out on the international space station?

"When you run outside on Earth, you've got 195 pounds smacking against the pavement every time you take a step," said Anderson, who weighs 195 pounds on Earth. "In zero gravity, you're trying to use bungees to hold you down."

The treadmill has clip harnesses to hold an astronaut down, such that the fewer clips used, the more force acts around the legs, making running more difficult, he said.

Both before and after space travel, astronauts go through the same kinds of exercises familiar to athletes and others who exercise on Earth, Guilliams said -- aerobic activity such as running, and weight training. Astronauts training for a flight have scheduled exercise time two or three times a week for two hours each session, but in unscheduled time, they'll go for a run, he said.

For Clay Anderson, a NASA Astronaut who played football in college and has been athletic for much of his life, space travel was "physically easy." Space walks did get fatiguing because they required him to use his forearms, hands and upper body, which don't get much exercise on Earth.

"On Earth, you tend to use your big muscle group, and in space you tend to use your smaller muscle group, especially on a space walk when you use your forearms and your hands almost exclusively," he said.

Currently, an ongoing study is measuring how much astronauts who stay on board the international space station eat and exercise, Anderson said. The experiment will determine what kinds of dietary supplements astronauts should take in addition to the food they eat, and also the appropriate level and type of exercise they should get, he said.

"I think they're making some good strides in figuring out how to keep people healthy on a six- to nine-month trip to Mars," he said

I think is great research - we don't always see tools for such small groups of people. Astronauts, may represent a small population, but reaching even those that may not even be on our planet - is extremely important in the combat towards obesity. It goes to show that small minor details can make a big difference.


December 2, 2008

Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity

The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity
Research has shown that as weight increases to reach the levels referred to as "overweight" and "obesity,"* the risks for the following conditions also increases:

Coronary heart disease
Type 2 diabetes
Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
Liver and Gallbladder disease
Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)
*Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher.


Continue reading "Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity" »

December 1, 2008

Obesity and Economics


An article the economic crisis of obesity came out today in the state of Delaware. The article discusses the obesity epidemic in light of society today. Here are a few exercepts from the article:

Today, an average family spends 40 percent of its food budget on meals purchased outside the home. Fast food makes up a large portion of that percentage because of the convenient allure of the drive through and the high number of fast food restaurants.

While nominal food prices dropped 38 percent between 1978 and 2005, the most dramatic drop was in soft drinks, sweets and fatty snacks, he said.

While the sticker price of fatty food may be lower than healthy items like fresh fruits and vegetables, there are more costs to consider than dollars and cents, Carter said. Milk costs more than soda, but milk is also more valuable for the body than soda, so it is impossible to compare healthy and unhealthy foods based only on price, she said.

Nationally, a 2008 Conference Board report found that obesity is associated with a 36 percent increase in spending on healthcare services, more than smoking or problem drinking, and that obesity costs the private sector a super-sized $45 billion a year in medical expenses and lost productivity.

In another report that examined national numbers from multiple organizations, overweight and obesity costs were estimated to cost the U.S a whopping $117 billion (Direct cost, $61 billion. Indirect cost, $56 billion). The study estimated that the direct costs of physical inactivity alone were more than $24 billion.


November 30, 2008

Eating Locally for Thanksgiving

the Thanksgiving Local and Organic Food Challenge. The Thanksgiving Challenge aims to inspire Americans to learn more about local, sustainable or organic food by using Eat Well Guide's comprehensive online tool for finding local ingredients for at least one dish they will prepare as part of their holiday meal.

"At a time of numerous food safety issues, produce and meat recalls, and rising food prices, consumers want to know where their food is coming from, how it's being produced, and what carbon footprint, or 'foodprint,' it might have," said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union. "There are many great reasons to buy local: Fresh, local fruits and vegetables may retain more nutrients than produce shipped hundreds of miles. Local food can help cut back on climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions. If they are grown organically, they will help protect air, water and soil quality."

"For Americans, Thanksgiving is the year's peak travel weekend, but there's no reason the food for our feasts has to travel thousands of miles as well," said Eat Well Guide Director Destin Joy Layne. "With the holidays around the corner, and fuel-inflated food costs soaring, this is the perfect time to use our interactive Eat Well Guide to find locally produced turkey, fruit, vegetables, baked goods, dairy, meat and more, wherever you live."

"When it comes to food, local is best," says Mario Batali, chef/owner of many restaurants in New York City, including Babbo, Lupa, Esca, Casa Mono, Bar Jamn, Otto and Del Posto. "As a chef and as a dad, there's a responsibility that comes with the food I cook and the food we eat. Being thoughtful of where our food comes from, who makes it and how it's made is paramount in all my kitchens.

"The local food movement is about sustainability, broadly defined," Eat Well Guide's Destin Layne said. "This not only means consuming wholesome food that sustains our bodies and spirits, but supporting agricultural practices and distribution networks that sustain family farms and local economies-something that's especially important in these economically uncertain times. Consuming local food also helps to preserve the soil, air and clean water that support life on Earth-something we can all be thankful for!"


November 22, 2008

Obesity Consortium Presentations

Obesity Consortium of Minnesota
Upcoming Presentations:

Thursday, Dec. 4, 20089:00-11:00 AM Center, Cowles Audtrm.
Obesity Prevention Efforts in the Netherlands: Mass Media Education, Worksite and School-Based Interventions. Johannes Brug, PhD, Director, EMGO Institute for Trans & Extramural Health & Medical Research and Professor of Epidemiology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Sr. Academic Associate, Faculty of Health, Medicine, Nursing & Behavioral Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.

Friday, Dec. 5, 2008 10:00-11:00 AM 364 WBOB
Web-Based Computer-Tailored Nutrition Education: Efficacious but Not Effective. Johannes Brug, PhD, Professor, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Sr. Academic Associate, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.

Physical Inactivity and Lack of Sleep Linked to Cancer

Putting on your walking shoes and sleeping a full eight hours a night can help reduce a woman's risk of getting cancer, according to a recent study.

A study by the National Cancer Institute found that exercising can reduce a woman's risk of cancer by as much as 20 percent.

"This is one of the first studies that has shown that in women who do not have a history of breast cancer, they can actually reduce their risk by exercising," said Dr. Susan Boolbol, with Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

However, researchers found that exercise can't help if a woman does not get a good nights' sleep.

Sleeping less than seven hours a night eliminates the cancer-fighting benefits of exercise. In some cases, lack of sleep increased the risk by 50 percent

Researchers say they need to do more work to determine the exact connections between exercise, rest and cancer. But in the meantime, what's known should help women reduce their risk of cancer.

I think this is a rather complicated finding- which points to the need for further research to elucidate the relationship between exercise and sleep for reducing cancer risk. It goes to show how being healthy is difficult and it takes not only a lot of work, but also just the right amount of rest.


There is also a video of this research that can be seen at

November 19, 2008

Weight Loss Surgery Helps Obese Women Have Healthier Babies


An article appeared in the New York Time on how weight loss surgery can help obese women have healthier babies online on November 19, 2008.

This review looked at 75 studies and found that pregnant women who lose weight after bariatric surgery may have lower rates of complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia and do almost as well as non-obese women. Their babies are also healthier and may be less likely to be born prematurely or to be very small, the authors found.

“Intuitively, it makes sense to me that the maternal outcomes are better after bariatric surgery — they lose weight and approach the outcomes of normal women,? said Dr. Melinda A. Maggard, a general surgeon at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an author of the study. “To me that wasn’t a surprise.?

About one-third of American women are obese, and doctors usually encourage them to lose weight before becoming pregnant. Obese women are at greater risk for developing pregnancy-related health problems; their babies are more likely to be born prematurely, stillborn, to be very large or to have a neural tube defect.

Dr. Laura Riley, medical director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said it’s important for patients to know about these risks. “I often see women who come in who are morbidly obese, and they say they’ll try to lose 10 or 15 pounds. That’s nice, but the majority don’t lose the weight and just come back pregnant,? she said. “With this kind of data, it’s easier to say, ‘You are better off having bariatric surgery and losing 100 pounds and then getting pregnant.’?

The most serious complications during pregnancy following weight loss surgery were bowel obstructions, mostly internal hernias, which were rare but serious. The researchers identified 20 reports of complications requiring surgery, including instances in which three mothers and five neonates died. These complications can occur to anyone who has undergone bariatric surgery, Dr. Maggard noted.

While it makes sense to have women become healthier before giving birth to a child, I would be concerned about the nutritional effects of weight-loss surgery. Most of all I would be worried the child wouldn't be getting an adequte amount of vitamins and minerals on a restricted portion/calorie eating regimen. All in all though- while I think research like this is important- I think it is something previous literature has already told us.


November 18, 2008

Minnesota Obesity Center

The Minnesota Obesity Center is an Obesity Nutrition Research Center funded by the National Institute of Diabetes, and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

MNOC has a strong and diverse research base consisting of 68 active investigators with 114 funded projects in obesity, energy metabolism and eating disorders, generating over $32 million per year in grant support for their investigations.

The Center incorporates 60 principle investigators who are studying the causes and treatments of obesity. These investigators are from the University of Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center, Hennepin County Medical Center, and HealthPartners Research Foundation.

MNOC awards small research grants through its Pilot and Feasibility Program, with additional support provided through the Core Facilities. The Education Enrichment Program for MNOC provides the general public with a source of information on the happenings of the Center and on the current developments in the field of obesity. This program includes a biomonthly seminar series.

The Minnesota Obesity Center is a proud member of the Obesity Consortium of Minnesota. The Consortium was formed to further facilitate multidisciplinary collaboration and foster cooperation in obesity research, education, and outreach efforts. Co-chairs of the Consortium are Robert W. Jeffery, PhD and Allen Levine, PhD.

The mission of the Minnesota Obesity Center is to find ways to prevent weight gain and secondarily the onset of obesity and complications of obesity.

Obesity is clearly a major source of illness and death, and is the most common nutritional ailment in the United States. Despite its prevalence, there is little known about effective measures to prevent obesity, and therefore its attendant complications. Further, it is well known that obese individuals can more easily lose weight than maintain the loss. It now seems clear that the emphasis should be prevention of initial weight gain, and failing that, prevention of regain after weight loss.

With the mission of prevention defined, our vision establishes three goals:
1. Find the underlying problems that lead to obesity;
2. Identify behaviors that lead to obesity and find ways to help change those behaviors;
3. Determine public health and public policy measures that will reduce the frequency and severity of obesity.


November 17, 2008

Fast Food Ingredient

Research looking at what fast food is made of- found that corn was the main ingredient.

In a study that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences November 2008 Issue, the researches sampled foods from McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.

They sampled hamburgers, fries and chicken sandwiches within the different geographically distributed fast food restaurants in the U.S.

Using carbon isotopes that researchers were able to trace what the animals consumed based on the conspicuous carbon-13 signature of corn.

The statistically significant results showed conclusively that the beef and chicken meat used to make the sandwiches was from animals whose food source was mainly corn. The animals are feed the corn to maximize their calorie intake and also to maximize their tissue growth in attempt to keep up with the ever increasing demands of the fast food industry.

The results for the French fries also showed that Wendy’s used corn oil for deep-frying while burger king and McDonalds which favored other vegetable oils.

In the US it is not required for food suppliers to trace their sources for ingredients or materials used in their food production.

I think people should have a right to know what their food is being made of - especially when it comes to fast food or restaurant food- which we have a no control over. Some places are now offering some nutritional information - but sometimes it is very hard to get. I think it will take a long time for these regulations to get into place -- but some cities such as New York are attempting to make it manadatory for large restaurant chains to have their nutritional information on the menus. This would be a huge step forward. A great documentary to check out if you are interested in food policy and the agriculture system I would recommend "King Corn.' Its worth the rental.

November 13, 2008

Physical Activity Among Seniors


Health for Life -- Senior Physical Activity-Falls
Marita Campbell, Public Health Nurse

Q: I am 68 years old and recently retired. My family says that I spend too much time watching television and not enough time being active. I could get more exercise but shouldn’t someone my age take it easy to avoid falling and maybe breaking my hip?

A: First let me congratulate you on your retirement. It is a major transition in life when you no longer have to meet the demands that work puts on your time. It is an opportunity to relax and take it easy, but also an opportunity to make changes in your physical activity level that can actually improve your health.

It is important that you don’t look at retirement as a time to slow down. Try to keep the level of strength and agility you have. Engaging in regular, moderate physical activity will make you feel better, perhaps sleep better, improve the health of your heart and also lessen your risk for falls. A fear of falling often causes people to stay indoors and avoid physical activity. If you were to do this, the inactivity could lead to loss of flexibility and bone and muscle strength that actually puts you at a greater risk for falls and injuries.

Since you have not been active recently, you should talk to your doctor or health-care provider before making big changes. Start with activities you can easily add to your daily routine that will build your endurance, flexibility, strength and balance. Here are a few examples to get you started:


Take a 10-minute walk each day, gradually increasing the pace and distance. In cold weather, meet your friends at Intercity Shopping Centre and take part in the Shake, Chatter and Stroll Program.


Gardening, yard work, golf, bowling, T’ai Chi or anything that gets you bending stretching or reaching will help you meet your flexibility needs.

Strength & Balance:

Climbing the stairs, carrying laundry or groceries or even standing up and sitting down several times in a row will put you on your way to building your strength and balance.

Even if you have not been very active, you will see that once you make a commitment to regular activity, you’ll have more energy and find yourself spending less time in front of the television. Start with small steps but try something, anything you enjoy doing. Even a little bit of exercise every day will make a big difference.

Despite the well-established benefits of physical activity for older adults, seniors ages 75 and above are among the most sedentary of Americans. Staying active even though ones retirement may be difficult, but it is just as important. Especially now with the baby boomer generation going into retirement.


November 9, 2008