Tag Archives: overweight

Obesity and undernutrition now come together — over 1 in 3 poor and middle-income countries struggle with both

Many low- to middle-income countries struggle with issues of undernutrition. Around a third of them, however, are faced with a very unusual problem: undernutrition and obesity at the same time.

Obesity and undernutrition have become increasingly connected in recent decades, a new paper reports. It explains that modern food systems are negatively impacting the health of poorer countries around the world, with the poorest being particularly affected. The authors also look at the causes, context, and possible solutions to this issue.

The faults in our food

“We are facing a new nutrition reality where major food system changes have led the poorest countries to have high levels of overweight and obesity along with undernutrition,” says Barry M. Popkin, lead author of the paper and W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina.

“Our research shows that overweight and obesity levels of at least 20% among adults are found in all low-income countries. Furthermore, the double burden of high levels of both undernutrition and overweight occurs primarily in the lowest-income countries — a reality that is driven by the modern food system. This system has a global reach and is preventing low- and even moderate-income countries and households from consuming safe, affordable, and healthy diets in a sustainable way.”

Global estimates place the total number of obese children and adults in the world at some 2.3 billion, the paper explains. It’s just one half of the issue known as the double burden of malnutrition — the other being undernutrition, a deficiency of calories or (in this context) essential nutrients.

For the study, the team used survey data from low- and middle-income countries in the 1990s and 2010s to estimate which of them were experiencing the double burden of malnutrition. If over 15% of a country’s population had wasting and over 30% stunting, over 20% of its women show thinness, and over 20% of its citizens in total were overweight, the team considered that particular country to be experiencing this double burden.

Over a third of low- and middle-income countries satisfy this condition — 45 of 123 countries in the 1990s and 48 of 126 countries in the 2010s — meaning they’re experiencing both forms of malnutrition. It was most commonly seen in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, and South Asia where 29, 9, and 7 countries were affected, respectively. In the 2010s, 14 more countries (with some of the lowest incomes in the world) had started to experience this double burden of malnutrition compared to the 1990s.

In comparison, low- and middle-income countries that enjoy the highest incomes in the category were much less likely to experience this issue, the team adds. In their view, this is indicative of a growing number of overweight people in the poorest countries even as large segments of the population face stunting, wasting, and thinness.

“Emerging malnutrition issues are a stark indicator of the people who are not protected from the factors that drive poor diets,” Popkin says. “The poorest low- and middle-income countries are seeing a rapid transformation in the way people eat, drink, and move at work, home, in transport, and in leisure.”

“The new nutrition reality is driven by changes to the food system, which have increased the global availability of ultra-processed foods that are linked to weight gain while also adversely affecting infant and preschooler diets. These changes include disappearing fresh food markets, increasing numbers of supermarkets, and the control of the food chain by supermarkets and global food, catering, and agriculture companies in many countries.”

But how can someone be both underfed and overfed at the same time? It comes down to the quality of food they can access. Ultra-processed foods are a very attractive option for people with low incomes, as they’re convenient (they require very little time investment to prepare), they seem hearty and are widely available. However, while they usually pack a caloric punch, they’re very poor in nutrients; in essence, they’re empty calories. Even worse, they usually contain a high level of additives to make them more appealing and to increase shelf-life, which can have adverse effects on health and body mass.

In an ironic twist of fate, healthy options such as fresh vegetables can be effectively out of reach for people with low incomes who may not have the purchasing power or time necessary to acquire and prepare them, or simply haven’t been educated on the drawbacks of their current diet.

The authors recommend “double-duty” policies aimed at reducing both the risk of nutritional deficiency and that of obesity and its related effects. They call for a concentrated effort from local governments, civil society, academia, the private sector, and the United Nations to create the economic conditions needed to address the double burden of malnutrition to devise and implement such strategies.

We also shouldn’t make the error of believing this issue is limited solely to ‘someplace else’. Previous research has highlighted that over half of America’s calories come from ultra-processed foods, and that they are responsible for 90% of the total added sugar intake in the country.

The paper “Dynamics of the double burden of malnutrition and the changing nutrition reality” has been published in the journal The Lancet.

Scientists warn of the risks of normalizing obesity

Normalization of obesity comes with some unwanted consequences

In a study which is bound to stir up a heated discussion, researchers have shown that the normalization of ‘plus’ body sizes may lead to people underestimating their weight, undermining efforts to reduce obesity.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: efforts to reduce body stigmatization and promote body positivity are welcome and much-needed in today’s society. However, the normalization of obesity is very dangerous, researchers warn.

The study by Dr. Raya Muttarak, from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), in Austria, analyzed data from 23,460 people who are overweight or obese, analyzing how they perceive their own weight; they found several interesting trends.

For instance, men are more likely than women to underestimate their weight, as are individuals with lower levels of education, both male, and female. As a result, these groups are significantly less likely to undergo weight-losing efforts. Members of minority ethnic groups are also more likely to underestimate their weight than the white population, however they are more likely to try to lose weight.

The results also show that the overall number of people who underestimate their weight has gone up: from 48.4% to 57.9% in men and 24.5% to 30.6% in women, between 1997 and 2015. As obesity rates are surging throughout much of the world, this is extremely important for devising health policies, Muttarak says.

“Seeing the huge potential of the fuller-sized fashion market, retailers may have contributed to the normalisation of being overweight and obese,” said Dr Muttarak. “While this type of body positive movement helps reduce stigmatisation of larger-sized bodies, it can potentially undermine the recognition of being overweight and its health consequences. The increase in weight misperception in England is alarming and possibly a result of this normalisation.

“Likewise, the higher prevalence of being overweight and obesity among individuals with lower levels of education and income may contribute to visual normalisation, that is, more regular visual exposure to people with excess weight than their counterparts with higher socioeconomic status have.

“To achieve effective public health intervention programmes, it is therefore vital to prioritise inequalities in overweight- and obesity-related risks. Identifying those prone to misperceiving their weight can help in designing obesity-prevention strategies targeting the specific needs of different groups.”

The causes of obesity are complex, Muttarak adds, and feature many socioeconomic determinants. The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that the prices of healthier foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, are often higher than processed and energy-dense foods.

Obesity has been linked with a flurry of health problems including heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, breathing problems, and gout. Over 2 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese.

Normalization of Plus Size and the Danger of Unseen Overweight and Obesity in England’, Raya Muttarak, is published in Obesityvolume 26, number 7, July 2018.

Weight gain is mostly controlled by what you eat — not genetics

If you want to blame someone for those extra pounds, the best place to look is probably in the mirror.

As the world tries to deal with its ever-growing obesity crisis, the main causes of this problem are still under debate. However, more and more studies are indicating that the main culprit is, as expected, food.

Genes decide a lot of things about your body — your eye color, your hair, even how you look like. But, according to a new study, it doesn’t really decide how much you weigh (as an adult, at least). Scientists at King’s College London recently carried out a study on twins to assess how the gut processes and distributes fat.

Essentially, they analyzed poop samples from over 500 pairs of twins to build up a picture of how the gut microbiome distributes fat. They also analyzed how much of this process is genetic and how much is directed by environmental factors. Overall, they found that only 17.9% of all gut processes could be attributed to hereditary factors, while 67.7% of gut activity was influenced by environmental factors — mainly, the regular diet.

This is an exciting study, not just because it confirms that what we eat governs how our weight is distributed, but because it allows researchers to understand which microbes are associated with which chemical metabolites in the gut. Ultimately, this could help scientists understand how the gut bacteria affects us, and how it can be modified for weight management.

The fecal metabolome largely reflects gut microbial composition, and it is strongly associated with visceral-fat mass, thereby illustrating potential mechanisms underlying the well-established microbial influence on abdominal obesity. Dr. Jonas Zierer, the lead author of the study, believes this could one day be instrumental in dealing with obesity.

‘This study has really accelerated our understanding of the interplay between what we eat, the way it is processed in the gut and the development of fat in the body, but also immunity and inflammation. By analysing the faecal metabolome, we have been able to get a snapshot of both the health of the body and the complex processes taking place in the gut.’

This is also good news because it means that most of the factors associated with extra pounds are modifiable. Zierer adds:

‘This new knowledge means we can alter the gut environment and confront the challenge of obesity from a new angle that is related to modifiable factors such as diet and the microbes in the gut. This is exciting, because unlike our genes and our innate risk to develop fat around the belly, the gut microbes can be modified with probiotics, with drugs or with high fibre diets.’

Head of the Department of Twin Research at King’s, Professor Tim Spector was also excited by the possibility. He emphasizes another advantage of this study — the fact that potential treatments or supplements might be implemented at a large scale through innovative approaches.

‘This exciting work in our twins shows the importance to our health and weight of the thousands of chemicals that gut microbes produce in response to food. Knowing that they are largely controlled by what we eat rather than our genes is great news, and opens up many ways to use food as medicine. In the future these chemicals could even be used in smart toilets or as smart toilet paper.’

Worldwide, over 2 billion people are overweight or obese, and over the past 20 years, obesity rates have more than doubled. The growing trend shows no sign of stopping or slowing down, as childhood obesity also grows at dramatic rates: 1000% in the past 40 years.

Journal Reference: Zierer et al. “The fecal metabolome as a functional readout of the gut microbiome.” Nature Genetics (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41588-018-0135-7


Scientists debunk ‘obesity paradox.’ No, you won’t live longer being overweight


Credit: CRISPR.

Studies published over the last couple of years had oddly suggested that people who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease can expect to live longer if they are overweight or obese. This contradictory association has been called the “obesity paradox.”

It’s well established that being overweight or obese — defined as having a body-mass index (BMI) over 25 — is linked to health risks like cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, diabetes, and cancer, to name a few. But what of this so-called obesity paradox? How can we explain it? Well, a new study published in the journal Jama Cardiology suggests there’s not much to debate — we’ve misinterpreted the data all along.

That’s according to researchers at Northwestern University. Dr. Sadiya Khan, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, along with colleagues, examined individual-level data pertaining to over 190,000 in-person examinations. At the time of enrollment, all participants were free of cardiovascular disease. This proved to be critical to debunking the “obesity paradox.”

There isn’t any paradox at all. People of unhealthy weight live unhealthily.

“Recent data have suggested that individuals with cardiovascular disease who are obese may live longer. But, we were able to investigate this in the greater context of healthspan and cardiovascular morbidity and shed light on this controversy by using a lifespan perspective beginning prior to the onset of cardiovascular disease. We are able to provide clear perspective of increased cardiovascular burden in overweight and obese,” Khan told ZME Science.

The data was sourced from 10 large prospective cohorts with an aggregate of 3.2 million years of follow-up. Over follow-up, researchers assessed whether or not participants had acquired any cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. The researchers also recorded whether fatalities were due to cardiovascular or non-cardiovascular reasons.

This thorough examination shows that there’s a similar longevity between people who are of normal weight and overweight. However, overweight and obese individuals had a much higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and spent more years with cardiovascular disease than those of normal weight.

Overall, overweight and obese individuals had higher odds of developing a stroke, having a heart attack or heart failure, or dying from heart disease than people of normal weight. Key findings from the study include:

  • The likelihood of having a stroke, heart attack, heart failure or cardiovascular death in overweight middle-aged men 40 to 59 years old was 21 percent higher than in normal weight men. The odds were 32 percent higher in overweight women than normal weight women.
  • The likelihood of having a stroke, heart attack, heart failure or cardiovascular death in obese middle-aged men 40 to 59 years old was 67 percent higher than in normal weight men. The odds were 85 percent higher in obese women than normal weight women.
  • Normal weight middle-aged men also lived 1.9 years longer than obese men and six years longer than morbidly obese. Normal weight men had similar longevity to overweight men.
  • Normal weight middle-aged women lived 1.4 years longer than overweight women, 3.4 years longer than obese women and six years longer than morbidly obese women.

This is the first study to provide a lifespan perspective on the risks of developing cardiovascular disease for normal weight, overweight, and obese individuals. Its findings are greatly welcomed seeing how the obesity paradox has seeded confusion and may even have caused harm. Suddenly, people would wonder why they should go through the effort of losing weight when research showed they are going to live longer. We now know this isn’t the case. What’s more, losing weight doesn’t only reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, but also other afflictions like diabetes or cancer.

“Future research needs to focus on strategies for primordial prevention to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in the population as a whole. We are also interested in identifying the differences in healthcare costs related to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality associated with overweight and obese,” Khan said.

At the end of the day, people should always strive to hover at a normal weight. Even if the obesity paradox were true — and it isn’t — what good is it living a bit longer in an unhealthy body?

“Maintaining a healthy or normal BMI throughout younger to older adulthood is associated with a longer, healthier life!” Khan told our readers.

Scientific reference: Sadiya S. Khan, Hongyan Ning, John T. Wilkins, Norrina Allen, Mercedes Carnethon, Jarett D. Berry, Ranya N. Sweis, Donald M. Lloyd-Jones. Association of Body Mass Index With Lifetime Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Compression of MorbidityJAMA Cardiology, 2018; DOI: 10.1001/jamacardio.2018.0022.

Being overweight is even more harmful than we thought, new study shows

We knew that extra pounds are bad for your health, but a new study claims that we may have underestimated the effect.

From left to right, a healthy, overweight, and obese man. Image credits: Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The reason, researchers say, is that the early stages of illness (when weight is often measured) associated with a higher risk of mortality are also associated with a lower body mass index (BMI). In other words, when you’re really sick, you might lose some extra pounds, and that might skew the data.

In order to reach this conclusion, Bristol researchers analyzed the (BMI),  along with health and mortality data for around 60,000 parents and their children — 30,000 mother and child pairs and 30,000 father and child pairs were assessed. The idea was to analyze them in such a way that eliminates “reverse causation” — disease causing lower BMI, not BMI causing disease.

So researchers wanted to see what would happen if instead of correlating the parent’s health with his own BMI, they correlated it with the child’s BMI. When they did this instead of conventional analysis, the harmful effects of high BMI were greater than those found in the conventional analyses.

Dr David Carslake, the study’s lead author and Senior Research Associate from the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU) at the University of Bristol, said:

“An alarming increase in obesity levels across the world which have risen from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014, according to a recent Lancet study, create concern about the implications for public health.”

Still the current recommended BMI range hasn’t changed. The BMI, which is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height, is recommended to be under 25.

“This study demonstrates that correlation is not causation and that when it comes to public health recommendations we need to be cautious interpreting data based on associations alone. We found that previous studies have underestimated the impact of being overweight on mortality and our findings support current advice to maintain a BMI of between 18.5 and 25.”

Whether or not the effects of being overweight have been underestimated or not remains a matter of debate, but it’s clear that without establishing causation, observational studies (even large-scale studies), can include large errors and significantly skew our perspective.

Journal Reference: ‘Confounding by ill health in the observed association between BMI and mortality: Evidence from the HUNT Study using offspring BMI as an instrument’ by David Carslake et al in International Journal of Epidemiology, 26.10.2017

Childhood obesity has grown by 1,000% worldwide in the last 40 years

In 2016, the number of obese children and teenagers rose to 124 million. Another 213 million children were overweight, a worrying new study shows.

Childhood obesity can lead to life-threatening conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep problems, cancer, and other disorders. Credits: Tony Alter.

The most obese children (above 30%) were in some islands in Polynesia, with the US trailing close by. At a 20% child obesity rate, the US hosts the most obese children in the world. Several Arab countries (eg Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) also had similar rates. Overall, global obesity prevalence has increased to 5.6% for girls, and to 7.8% for boys, based on the Body Mass Index (BMI).

“Rates of child and adolescent obesity have increased significantly over the past four decades in most countries in the world,” says study author Dr James Bentham, University of Kent, UK. “While average BMI among children and adolescents has recently plateaued in Europe and North America, this is not an excuse for complacency as more than 1 in 5 young people in the USA and 1 in 10 in the UK are obese. Additionally, rates of child and adolescent obesity are accelerating in east, south and southeast Asia, and continue to increase in other low and middle-income regions.


The world will have more obese children and adolescents than underweight by 2022, according to a the study by Imperial College London and WHO.

The study, led by Imperial College London in the UK and the World Health Organisation (WHO), gathered data from 2,416 studies involving 128.9 million participants worldwide. Researchers warn that despite massive alarm flags coming from scientists and physicians, governments and policymakers have been slow to react and we are now seeing the effects of this lack of action. Most importantly, we have to change dietary habits — shift away from processed foods and sodas, and focus more on fruits and veggies — through market mechanisms such as taxation. Basically, researchers are indirectly calling for taxing sugar and other unhealthy foods. They say that current policies are especially harmful to people in developing countries and the underprivileged. Unhealthy foods are often cheaper than healthier alternatives, and that’s a problem.

Professor Majid Ezzati, study author from Imperial College London, explains:

“While there have been some initiatives led by governments, communities or schools to increase awareness about childhood and adolescent obesity, most high income countries have been reluctant to use taxes and industry regulations to change eating and drinking behaviours to tackle child obesity. Most importantly, very few policies and programmes attempt to make healthy foods such as whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables affordable to poor families. Unaffordability of healthy food options to the poor can lead to social inequalities in obesity, and limit how much we can reduce its burden.”

The health issues associated with childhood obesity are complex and far-reaching. The first problems for these obese children are usually emotional or psychological. Bullying and depression go hand in hand with childhood obesity. In the long run, things are even worse, as the children are more likely to develop life-threatening conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep problems, cancer, and other disorders.

To make things even more worrying, the study also found that globally, more children and adolescents remain underweight than obese. The prevalence of moderate and severe underweight has somewhat decreased (from 9.2% to 8.4%), but food security is still a pressing issue in many parts of the world. Almost two-thirds of all underweight children live in South Asia, where 20.3% of girls and 28.6% of boys were moderately or severely underweight in 2016.

Furthermore, these children aren’t at opposite ends of the spectrum — data shows that underweight children can quickly become overweight, due to the same reasons mentioned above. Foods that are poor in nutrients but high in calories tend to be cheaper than healthier alternatives, leading kids to become both obese and malnourished.

The data is pretty much stating what we already knew, but now we get to see the exact magnitude of the problem. Hopefully, faced with the evidence, political figures will take more serious action. By now, this is a worldwide health crisis which should not be treated lightly.

The study was published in the Lancet.

Overweight Asian Americans seen as “more American” than their thinner counterparts

An unusual study suggests that body weight affects how American someone is perceived as.

Researchers from University of Washington asked more than 1,000 college students to look at photos of Asian, black Latino and white men and women. The photos had been previously edited to create thinner and heavier versions of each subject. All other image variables remained unchanged. They then asked the participants questions such as ‘how likely is this person to have been born outside the U.S.’? and ‘how likely is it that this person’s native language is English’?

The idea was to study what it is that people associate with the image of “American-ness.” Caitlin Handron, a doctoral student at Stanford University and corresponding author, explains:

‘In the U.S., there is a strong bias associating American identity with whiteness, and this can have negative consequences for people of color in the U.S. We wanted to see whether ideas of nationality are malleable and how body shape factors into these judgments.’

White and Black people were seen are more likely to be Americans, which is not really surprising. But rather ironically, people who appeared to be heavier were perceived to be more American than their thinner counterparts — something which did not carry on to participants of different descents. A second analysis showed that overweight Asian men were also perceived as less likely to be in the United States without documentation than their normal-weight counterparts.

Sapna Cheryan, a co-author of the study, discussed how being overweight, a factor that commonly leads to stigmatization, actually provides a racial buffer.

‘We found that there was a paradoxical social benefit for Asian Americans, where extra weight allows them to be seen as more American and less likely to face prejudice directed at those assumed to be foreign.’

So does this mean that there’s something about being heavy that makes people look “more American” — not really. Remember, this only carried out for Asian Americans, not for whites or blacks. However, there might be some truth to this stereotype.

The United States contains one of the highest percentage of obese people in the world, with every two out of three Americans being overweight or obese. This is not only unhealthy but also very costly. It’s estimated that approximately $147 billion is spent on obesity-related medical expenses per year within the United States.

Image credits: Caitlin Handron et al — Unexpected Gains: Being Overweight Buffers Asian Americans From Prejudice Against Foreigners.

How much does the Earth and its population weigh?

Planet Earth has a mass of 5.972 × 10^24 kg, something we’ve known since the 18th century. By one estimate, the total world population mass or ‘global biomass’ is of around 287 million tonnes.

How much does the whole human population weigh?

Researchers evaluated the impact humans have on the environment by calculating the total mass of the population, instead of actually counting heads. To find out how much humanity weighs, British researchers simply calculated the product of population size and average body mass.Their findings conclude that humanity weighs as much as 5,400 Titanics or 287 million tonnes.

“When people talk about sustainability, they quickly get into concerns about population,” says Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK.

The sheer number of human individuals, however, fails to measure properly the real impact of our race. By evaluating weight, scientists hope to provide data that is easy to read and more adaptable to modeling extra factors, like over-consumption. “This is a statistic that measures both,” Roberts says.

For their study, the researchers employed data from a 2005 census, which also had information regarding body mass index (BMI) and average height. Body mass index is defined as the individual’s body mass divided by the square of a person’s height and serves as a reliable indicator. If you’d like to know if you’re underweight, normal, overweight or obese, check this graph (in pounds).

By factoring in population data, distributed over each country, the researchers concluded that the total adult population of the world weighed 287 million tonnes; the true figure, however, is larger as this estimate doesn’t include children. Also, the world’s population is far greater than in 2005 now totaling 7.5 billion. Of the total world population mass, 15 million tonnes were attributed to individuals who were overweight. Speaking of which, 34 percent of the global biomass attributed to obesity is found in North America despite the continent houses only 6% of the world population. In contrast, Asia has 61% of the world population but contains only 13% of the biomass attributed to obesity. If all countries had the same BMI as the United States, the added biomass would be equivalent to an extra 935 million people of average body mass, as reported in BMC Public Health.

How much does planet Earth weigh?

Cavendish torsion balance and Cavendish Signature image via Wikimedia Commons | composite image by Lalena Lancaster

Cavendish torsion balance and Cavendish Signature. Credit: Wikimedia Commons, composite image by Lalena Lancaster

In many ways, measuring the mass of Earth is easier than measuring that of its population. In fact, it’s as easy as you would measure your own weight on a scale. What a scale does is measure how hard Earth’s gravity is pulling you. The first to measure how much Earth weighs was the eminent scientist  Henry Cavendish in 1798. Cavendish made his own experimental apparatus which looked much like a large dumbbell with two-inch lead spheres stuck to the ends of a six-foot rod. A wire was tied to the rod’s center of mass, keeping the rod suspended and free to move. A second, much larger dumbbell, this time carrying twelve-inch 350-pound lead spheres, was put near the first one so the larger spheres would attract the smaller ones. This exerted a small torque on the suspended rod. Cavendish reportedly would watch for hours as the rods oscillated, always taking measures to minimize outside factors like air movements and so on. Eventually, the oscillation could be used to measure the gravitational force of the larger sphere on the smaller one. The density of the spheres is known, so the ratio of the two forces could be used to determine Earth’s density (volume/mass). He reported that the density of Earth was 5.48 times the density of water, which was stunningly accurate considering the currently accepted value is 5.52.

From here it’s very simple. It’s all a matter of multiplying the density of the planet by its volume to find the mass, which is roughly 5.972 × 10^24 kg. As for Earth’s weight, a relative term that refers to a measure of the gravitational forces acting on a body, it has a value of 3.52 x 10^22 Newtons considering the sun’s gravitational field.

Here’s an interesting fact: the planet is losing more mass than it gains. Every day dust, comets, and meteors breach the atmosphere and land on Earth, adding to its mass. At the same time, mass is lost as gases escape our atmosphere. According to Dr Chris Smith, a medical microbiologist and broadcaster who tries to improve the public understanding of science, every year the planet adds 40,000 tonnes of mass from space dust, but loses 95,000 tonnes of hydrogen and 1,600 tonnes of helium. That’s a net loss of 50,000 tonnes each year or 0.000000000000001%. Not to be worried though. It would take trillions of years for all the hydrogen on the planet to get depleted but we can’t the same about our helium resource. Some have cautioned the world could run out of helium in the next three decades at the current rate we’re squandering it.

It’s not just humans — 1 in 3 US pets are also overweight

A new worrying report found that over a third of all US pets are too plump.

Exercise can do wonders for plump pets, doctors recommend.

The study analyzed data from 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats in the United States, taken from 975 veterinary hospitals run by Banfield, a chain that operates in 42 states. According to a standard veterinary check, a third of them weighed more than they should. It’s worth noting that Banfield’s numbers are actually lower than other commonly cited figures from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). According to APOP, over half of all American pets could lose some weight.

This is a trend that’s getting more and more prevalent with every passing year. Banfield says it tracked a 158 percent increase in overweight dogs over the past 10 years, and an even more impressive 169 percent increase in cats. It’s not exactly clear why this is happening, though there are several reasonable causes that contribute.

For starters, now more than ever, pets are being considered part of the family, and as a result, they’re being spoiled. Treats, extra food, scraps — dogs especially enjoy a lot of special treatment. The idea of a normal pet body is also switching. Many pet owners don’t understand that their pet is overweight, which is why they don’t worry and don’t do anything about it. The genetic effects of breeding might also be at play. Just last year, researchers identified a variation in a gene in Labrador retrievers which causes them to often overeat. A similar gene might be present in many other breeds, though this hasn’t yet been established. Breeds might actually be causing numerous long-term problems, as this video (not related to the report) illustrates.

There’s also widespread confusion among owners regarding food. What food should you give your pet? Different doctors recommend different things, the advertising for products is all the same, so what do you do? There’s no universal solution, different animals might require different nutritional inputs, but this might be a problem of quantity rather than quality.

The solution, as is the case with humans, is simple in essence but difficult to apply: diet and exercise. Sure, feeding your pet healthy food is essential, and your vet would surely be able to recommend one of many existing solutions, but too much of anything will make animals overweight. For dogs, there’s a simple way to do that: walk them more. You’ll reap the benefits alongside your dog, and you’ll both be healthier. Apartment cats can also benefit from exercise. Laser pointers, toys, or simple hands-on play can make a big difference. Even just ten minutes every day can have long-term positive impacts, researchers say. To add a bit of motivation, this will also save you money in the long run — healthy pets require less medication and fewer medical procedures, which often cost a lot of money. But the main motivation, of course, should be the well-being of your furry friends.

Researchers highlighted another interesting aspect, for which they have no explanation yet. They were expecting a correlation between human and pet obesity rates, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, in some cases, there was a strong inverse correlation. Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi — which have some of the nation’s highest rates of human obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — all rank in the bottom five states for pet obesity.

These are the states with the most overweight dogs:

  1. Minnesota
  2. Nebraska
  3. Michigan
  4. Idaho
  5. Nevada
  6. New Mexico
  7. Washington
  8. Utah
  9. Indiana
  10. Oregon

These are the states with the most overweight cats:

  1. Minnesota
  2. Nebraska
  3. Iowa
  4. Idaho
  5. Delaware
  6. Michigan
  7. Nevada
  8. Kansas
  9. Utah
  10. New Mexico


Stormtroopers Exercise.

Cash 4 Weight Loss programme shown to work and make people excited about exercise

Researchers from the Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) and Singapore General Hospital (SGH) have shown that selling rewards to people who are trying to lose weight makes for a very cost-effective way of improving both the magnitude and the duration of their loss.

Stormtroopers Exercise.

Image credits Andrew Martin.

Today’s abundance of food, coupled with the relative lack of physically active jobs, have dramatically increased the prevalence of overweightedness and obesity. With these, the occurrence of non-communicable diseases associated with these two factors — such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or cancer — has also gone up, promoting absenteeism among employees, rising healthcare costs both for the private and public sector, and impacting the quality of life for those affected.

Weighing in

The good news is that weight (in most cases) can be kept in check simply by making healthier food choices and exercising regularly. The bad news is that junk- and fast-food is like catnip for your brain, and it’s also not big on you spending calories. It’s why we feel lazy when we think about exercise, but temptation when thinking about chocolate-covered chocolate. In other words, the effects of jogging will become visible (making you feel good) in time, but eating the whole bucket of ice cream will feel good now. And “now” is a very convincing argument.

In a bid to paint the benefits of long-term health with the bling of short-term temptation, Duke-NSU Professor of Health Services and Systems Research Program Professor Eric Finkelstein and Dr. Kwang Wei Tham from SGH used some tricks from behavioral economics to create and test a Rewards programme which they hope will make people lose weight — and feel good while at it.

Over an eight-month long Trial on Incentives for Obesity (TRIO) held in Singapore, 161 overweight or obese participants paid S$234.00 (US$170.00) to enroll in a 16-week intensive weight loss programme. It required participants to attend weekly sessions at the Lifestyle Improvement and Fitness Enhancement (LIFE) Centre in SGH, where they were taught how to maintain a healthier lifestyle and were encouraged to shed at least 5% of their body weight. They also paid a further S$165.00 (US$119.50) for the Rewards programme.

As part of the Rewards programme, they could earn monthly rewards for meeting monthly weight loss and step goals. These could be either a straight-up cash sum or as a lottery ticket with a one in ten chance of winning 10 times that sum. Additional rewards were offered for reaching the 5% or 8% weight loss goal at months four and eight of the programme. . Participants who were randomized to the control group had their money returned but were ineligible for rewards.

Slimming out

The Reward group had markedly better results than the control participants overall. The average weight loss was as follows (Reward group vs control group):

  • 3.4 kgs vs 1.4 kgs / 7.5 lbs vs 3lbs after the first 4 months, with 40% vs. 12% of participants reaching or surpassing the 5% weight loss mark.
  • 3.3 kgs vs 1.8 kgs (7.3 lbs vs 3.9 lbs) at month 8, with 41% vs 21% participants reaching or surpassing the 5% weight loss mark.
  • 2.3 kgs vs 0.8 kgs / 5 lbs vs 1.75 lbs at month 12, with 28% vs. 17% participants reaching or surpassing the 5% weight loss mark.

Overall, the walked away with a S$225.00 (US162.90) reward — meaning that if this program was founded by an employer, their costs would be around S$60.00 (US$43.50) per participant (rewards minus initial fees). That’s a huge boost to employee’s health, quality of life, and implicitly productivity, for a comparatively minor investment.

It also made a huge difference for the employees. Although only 42% of them made more money than they initially paid, around 80% reported being happy or very happy with the programme — and I dare you to find a gym where 80% of people are enjoying themselves.

“Our findings not only show the value of rewards to increase weight loss and weight loss maintenance, but they show it can be done in a manner that minimizes third party payments, such as those by employers or insurers. This should help to expand access to these types of programmes.” said senior author Dr Finkelstein, a professor in the Duke-NUS Programme for Health Services and Systems Research.

The best part is that over time, that tiny investment on the part of the company can domino into huge savings and quality of life improvements for their workforce. Even small amounts of weight loss, if sustained over time, lead to great health benefits and help prevent chronic disease, meaning less expenditure on health insurance by the company, as well as a happier, healthier employee base to boost productivity.

In the end, everyone wins.

The paper “Applying economic incentives to increase effectiveness of an outpatient weight loss program (TRIO) – A randomized controlled trial” has been published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

This protein might be the key to developing the fabled slim-pill — that actually works

Either because of the quality of our environments or due to the radical shifts in diet and lifestyle we’ve seen since the industrial revolution, more and more people around the world are becoming overweight. This translates into a growing number of patients suffering from associated conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. As most of us can’t muster enough motivation to exercise (sans drugs, that is) many pin their hopes on the pharmaceutical industry finding a pill to burn love handles right off.

And such a pill could be available sooner rather than later — an international team has discovered that by inhibiting Gq protein production in adipose tissue, cells can be re-purposed from storing fat to burning it.

Prof. Dr. Alexander Pfeifer and Katarina Klepac from the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at University of Bonn.
Image credits Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn

Adipose or fat tissue is usually made up of white cells that store energy, brown cells that burn it to heat us up when we’re cold and beige cells that can perform either role. In the case of significantly overweight people this type of tissue contains a large number of white cells but lacks the brown variety. Prof. Dr. Alexander Pfeifer from the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Bonn has spent the last few years researching a way to make the cells switch from one role to the other.

“We are looking for targets for new pharmaceutical products to one day be able to effectively combat obesity as the cause of numerous widespread diseases, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease,” Pfeifer said.

Pfeifer worked closely with a team made up of members from San Diego and Bethesda, USA, Gothenburg, Sweden and the Universities of Heidelberg and Leipzig in Germany. They observed that mouse and human brown fat cells have a particularly high number of Gq protein receptors. As this protein is known to function as a medium for information transfer within the body, the team decided to test if it could perform the switch they were looking for.

When they activated the Gq protein in mouse fat cells, the number and quality of the brown cells decreased.

“On the other hand, if Gq is blocked with an inhibitor, more brown fat cells mature,” says Ph.D. student Katarina Klepac from Prof. Pfeifer’s team.

This also holds true for beige cells, and the team now has their hopes pinned on them. As they don’t have a fixed role in adipose tissue, blocking the Gq protein causes them to develop primarily into fat-burning mechanisms. The team re-checked their theory using human cells cultured in the laboratory, with the same effect.

“Even in human fat cells, it was shown that brown fat cells can grow much better once Gq proteins were blocked,” says Prof. Pfeifer.

According to him, this could be the starting point for the development of active substances which boost fat burning in obese patients. But their work is still in an early phase, and more work has to be done before it can lead to a safe and efficient drug.

“To date, there are no drugs which directly cause white fat cells to convert into brown fat cells. However, we still have a long way to go,” Pfeifer concludes.

The full paper, titled “The Gq signalling pathway inhibits brown and beige adipose tissue” has been published online in the journal Nature Communications and can be read here.


distance long

Overweight people judge distances as being farther, making it harder to exercise

Our perception does not always reflect reality, as evidenced by numerous studies. The information sent by the eyes to the brain is processed and contains many short-cuts and assumptions which makes things more optimized, but also leads to biases. One study, for instance, found that people who are overweight will judge an object as being farther than it really is. This suggests that physical characteristics — people who thought they were overweight, but weren’t in fact, did not share this bias — plays a major role in defining perception.

distance long

Image: Pixabay

Sixth-six normal, overweight and obese Walmart shoppers were recruited for the study. They were asked to estimate distances, inclines but also play tennis, golf and virtual tennis.

Everyone estimated distances poorly, but overweight and obese individuals tended to overestimate. Image: Acta Psychologica

Everyone estimated distances poorly, but overweight and obese individuals tended to overestimate. Image: Acta Psychologica

Everyone seemed to judge distances poorly. What was interesting is how the bias was dependent on body weight. While people of normal weight judged distances as being shorter than they really were, overweight individuals perceived objects as being farther than they really were. On average, obese people see distances at least 10% farther than those with an average weight. As for inclines, people of all heights and weight “grossly overestimate” how steep hills are.

The Ebbinghaus illusion (sometimes called the "Titchener illusion") is an optical illusion of relative size perception. The two orange circles are exactly the same size; however, the one on the left seems smaller.  Image: New World Encyclopedia

The Ebbinghaus illusion (sometimes called the “Titchener illusion”) is an optical illusion of relative size perception. The two orange circles are exactly the same size; however, the one on the left seems smaller. Image: New World Encyclopedia

The findings suggest that overweight people “may choose to perform less physically demanding actions not as a result of how they perceive their bodies, but as a result of how they perceive the environment,” the researchers write in the journal Acta PhycologicaThis seems to create a vicious cycle of perception and behaviour.

The other experiments further exemplified how perception affects our ability to act. When the researchers used a Ebbinghaus illusion to make a golf course hole seem smaller, participants performed worse and, conversely, when the illusion made the hole seem bigger performed better. A virtual tennis ball was perceived to travel faster when participants held a larger racket, and slower when using a smaller racket, the Colorado State University Fort Collins researchers found.

Do you see a normal face when the mask rotated to the hollow section?  Our prior knowledge of a normal face is that the nose protrudes. So, we subconsciously reconstructed the hollow face into a normal face. Image: PiktoChart

Do you see a normal face when the mask rotated to the hollow section? Our prior knowledge of a normal face is that the nose protrudes. So, we subconsciously reconstructed the hollow face into a normal face. Image: PiktoChart


It would be interesting to find the root of this kind of behaviour. Seem biases are good and clearly seem to have an evolutionary advantage. Trekking through the woods, people often mistake twigs for snakes because it’s better to be wrong than take the risk. Similarly, cars seem to travel faster than they really do because it gives you ‘more time’ to think and act.



Conditioned reflex to food might cause people to overeat, NOT hunger

Obesity is a huge problem in the developed world, with some places worse off than others (i.e. the US). There are a slew of environmental factors that contribute to obesity, like eating unhealthy, hectic work schedules, genetics and so on. Researchers at University of California have a different hypothesis in mind that explains why people overeat. It’s not that they’re hungry, rather it may be a issue having to do with a heightened Pavlovian response to food cues in the environment. The findings support this idea and trials have already begun to test whether or not conditioned reflexes to food can be overrun.

The reflex to overeat


An important reason why people may overeat is because of a conditioned reflex to food. Image: Kung Fu Panda

During the 1890s Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov was looking at salivation in dogs in response to being fed, when he noticed that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever he entered the room, even when he was not bringing them food. When Pavlov discovered that any object or event which the dogs learnt to associate with food (such as the lab assistant’s white coat) would trigger the same response, he realized that he had made an important scientific discovery –  the discovery of the conditioned response. 

In our case, a form of conditioned response would be to order a hamburger or fries right after you see the “Golden Arches” logo. In our case, the conditioning associates a brand, message or picture with an irresistible urge to consume. It’s an advertiser’s dream, and an obese person’s nightmare.

To test this idea, the team University of California’s San Diego School of Medicine enlisted 16 overweight and 17 lean student who were shown three visual cues and respective rewards: Every time they saw a square, they got a sip of chocolate milk; every time they saw a circle, a sip of water, and for a triangle, nothing. The cues were shown in random order, while an electrode attached to the back of the participant’s neck recorded the rate of swallowing. Swallowing is a measure of salivation, and to this day a hundred years after Pavlov it’s still used as a base test for reflex conditioning.

By the tenth trial, the overweight students were swallowing three times as often as lean students when presented with the “I-am-going-to-get-chocolate-milk” square.

“We think that people who are overweight are more likely to form conditioned responses to food, which can easily lead to over eating,” said Kerri Boutelle, PhD, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry. “Our study is the first to show a difference in the acquisition of Pavlovian learning in overweight and lean individuals.”

Sticking it to Pavlov

Comic: Hate and Anger

Comic: Hate and Anger

Advertising has been always identified as a key contributor to obesity. More studies have shown that children who spend more time in front of the tube are more likely to eat higher-calorie foods, drink sugared sodas and grow up to be overweight adults. In a U.K. study that followed children over 30 years into adulthood, for every additional hour of TV youngsters watched on weekends at age five, their risk of being obese as adults rose by 7%. And in some cases, it doesn’t even take that long for the extra pounds to accumulate: a Japanese study found that children who watched more TV at age three were more likely to be overweight at age six.  The average American child sees nearly 8,000 commercials on TV for food and beverages, and only 165 of these are for nutritious options like fruits and vegetables.

A less known fact about the Pavlovian response is that it can be reversed. The response is there in the first place because of an association, so one only needs to change it – which is a lot easier said than done. The process involves exposing a person to the original cues that caused the conditioning, absent the reward. In other words, showing the square but withholding the chocolate milk. Eventually, the square becomes no more enticing than the no-reward triangle, the researchers report in Contemporary Clinical Trials.

Some 60 obese children in the San Diego area have already complete a 16 week program meant to decrease their Pavlovian response to the foods they crave the most. The children will be tracked for several months ahead to see if the program had any effect, like weight loss or improve cognitive learning skills.

“Just telling parents to help their child exercise more and eat less is not enough for most families,” Boutelle said. “We need to provide families with ways of dealing with their food cue reactivity and cravings.”


Obesity in the developing world quadruples since 1980


Photo: west-info.eu

The world is changing awfully fast, and with change expect many paradigms to shift or crumble entirely to dust. Over the course of a mere couple of decades, world’s politics has changed dramatically. Superpowers have fallen, the Cold War is well behind us and countries which not long ago were considered hallmarks of poverty have significantly changed their status. I sincerely recommend you watch some of Hans Rosling’s TED talks on the subject (he has a couple of extremely insightful keynotes).

The gist of Rosling’s talks concerns debunking myths about the developing world. People still have outdated, at times far fetched, impressions of how life in such countries as Vietnam, China or India is like. The truth is, these countries are catching up with the affluent west, and with these countries, their population is also experiencing the growth that comes with increased wealth. A new report released by the  Overseas Development Institute claims that since 1980 the number of overweight and obese adults in the developing world as quadrupled, rounding the whole figure at 1 billion. Overall, in the whole world, one in every three people is overweight or obese. The percentage of adults classed  as overweight obese has increased from 23% to 34% between 1980 and 2008.

The developing world is catching up, but it’s picking up bad habits too

The saddening figures are aimed at policy makers, in hope that better health plans may be introduced at a national level. The figures become even more disheartening when we take into account that most of the obesity growth comes from developing countries like Egypt or Mexico. Countries like the US or UK are, of course, at the top of the obesity chain in the world, however developing countries severely lack the necessary infrastructure to battle obesity and, moreover, local governments show that they have learned nothing from developed countries and their fight against obesity which has been going on for decades.


The report, titled Future Diets, suggests that the 904 million people in developing countries  now classed as overweight or above (BMI of more than 25) have grown in this startling number due to a dietary shift from mainly cereals and grains to  more fats, sugar, oils and animal products.

[READ] Sugar, not fat, the main culprit behind the obesity ‘epidemic’ 

The greatest growth in overweight people occurred in south east Asia, where the percentage tripled from a lower starting point of 7% to 22% since 1980. On a country level, China and Mexico experienced the greatest obesity growths, as  overweight and obesity rates had almost doubled.


The report, as others before it, pin the fattening of the world on increased wealth. Particularly, the rapid growth of the middle class in the developing world definitely shows its mark.

“People with higher incomes have the ability to choose the kind of foods they want. Changes in lifestyle, the increasing availability of processed foods, advertising, media influences… have all led to dietary changes,” writes one of the report authors, Steve Wiggins, for BBC.

Why the world is becoming overweight

The actual mechanics that contribute to obesity are a bit complicated. During my research, however, I came across a most helpful piece written by Daniel Hoffman, a research fellow at the New York Obesity Research Center. Hoffman outlines a few key factors that lead to the rapid fattening of the world’s population including: urbanization (a tremendous amount of people have migrated towards the city in the past thirty years), diets (resulting from urbanization and wealth), lack of physical activity (a worldwide sedentarism), early life malnutrition (making people predisposed to becoming overweight when food is plentiful) and even genetics.

[RELATED] Find out how much the entire world’s population weighs 

What can be done? The Future Diets report author offer South Korea  as an example where  efforts to preserve the country’s traditional diet have included public campaigns and large-scale meal preparation training for women. Clearly, a combination of education (good calories/bad calories) and good policy making is in order. How many people would be willing to pay a tax on fatty foods, though? What about big junk food lobbyists? In the U.S., things are getting desperate, as people are becoming overweight in an increasing proportion and at an ever earlier age. It’s no wonder, considering 90% of the food endorsed by professional athletes is junk food!  People are kept in the dark about their health, and apparently there are good reasons, for some, to maintain the status quo.

“We need to act urgently to deal with the scandal of millions of cases of extreme hunger and under-nutrition in children, but we also need to think what happens if we provide lots of extra calories, containing few vitamins, and encourage excess consumption,” said Alan Dangour, a reader in food and nutritional global health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

 “Clever, joined-up policies are needed.”
(c) FastFoodHealth.org

Overweight kids overcome junk food addiction by staring at it

Counter the popular dictum “out of sight, out of mind”, Kerri Boutelle, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at University of California, San Diego’s School of Medicine, wants to tackle junk food addition in a novel way. In her experiments, she instructs overweight kids to stare at foods like french fires or cheetos  in order to overcome their urges and develop willpower. Her research has yet to be published, however preliminary findings suggests her method works.

(c)  FastFoodHealth.org

(c) FastFoodHealth.org

Junk food can be extremely addicting, and when consumed regularly in large quantities it can cause a variety of health problems. For children, who often aren’t aware of the health hazards associated with it, junk food can be particularly appetizing. Subsequent complications include obesity, chronic illness, low self-esteem and even depression, as well as affecting how they perform in school and extracurricular activities.

Often , it’s not enough teaching kids that junk food is bad for them. Smokers know they can get cancer, but they go on with it day by day. Typically, junk food addiction is battled by keeping kids as far away from it as possible. Boutelle takes an alternate route. In her study, she enlisted children between the ages of 8 and 12 and asked them to rate their cravings for a particular food. The kids then had to sniff it, take a bite, stare at it for five minutes, and then report their cravings for a second time.

“We are teaching kids to tolerate their cravings and not eat when they’re not physically hungry,” she told the Wall Street Journal.

Boutelle claims her study works in the lab and for about six months afterwards as well after subsequently tracking the children’s eating habits. Her experiment has yet to be published, however Boutelle is currently working on tracking other kids as well.

Time to start that diet

Leading a Healthy Lifestyle: 8 Gadgets That Can Help

In our increasingly health-conscious world, the marketplace has been flooded by gadgets that insist they’ll help us achieve our fitness goals. But for every useful innovation there are several destined to collect dust. Read on to discover the health inventions worth investing in.

Monitor Your Body with the Basis B1 Watch

Time to start that diet

Image via Flickr by Alan Cleaver

Heart-rate monitor watches are all the rage, but the Basis B1 watch has a few extra features that help set it apart. In addition to monitoring your heart rate, this watch charts your perspiration and skin temperature. Wear it all day to see what your body is doing during a workout, at rest, and even while you’re sleeping. You don’t need to be wrapped up in chest straps or body patches either, as the Basis B1 watch has its own built-in sensors.

The Basis B1 watch uploads your data to an online portal so you can easily monitor your fitness and heart health. It’s Bluetooth-enabled too, so you can retrieve this data anywhere with Wi-Fi access.

Stay Motivated with Fitbit Flex

Fitbit was a fitness pioneer when it released its first motivational self-tracking digital pedometer in 2008. This May, Fitbit released its latest model: the Fitbit Flex. Instead of clipping onto clothes like the Fitbit Classic, the latest innovation is an easy-to-wear wristband.

Like its recent predecessors, the Fitbit Flex tracks your steps, distance traveled, and calories burned all day, and your sleep time and quality at night. However unlike the rest it’s water-resistant, so you can wear it at the beach or even swimming laps at your local pool. It features five LED lights which show whether you’re reaching your personal fitness goals and achievement badges to keep you motivated. Fitbit Flex sends the information it collects to your computer and favorite mobile devices so you can track your progress.

Sit Right with the LUMOback Posture Sensor

Poor posture can be much more serious than sore necks and backs. The spine has such a close relationship with the brain and overall organ function that slouching can lead to decreased brain and organ function.

You can avoid these debilitating health conditions with the LUMOback Posture Sensor, which transmits a gentle vibration whenever you slouch. You do need to strap it onto your lower back, but its slim design is made for maximum comfort. The system is also Bluetooth-enabled, so you can monitor your posture over time.

Have a Check-Up with the Tinke

It’s got a funny name, but this thumb-drive sized gadget is a serious bit of gear which literally puts your health results at your fingertips. Its optical sensors measure the thickness of your blood to determine its oxygen levels. It also notes your heart and respiratory rates.

The Tinke can send your vitals to your iOS-compatible smartphone or tablet or share your scores with your Facebook friends. Keeping an eye on your Tinke statistics will help you spot any changes before they become serious health concerns.

Measure Your Weight with Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale


Image via Flickr by Stiftelsen Elektronikkbransjen

America’s love of processed meals, high fructose corn syrup, and fast foods isn’t doing its people any favors. World Health Organization surveys from between 2000 and 2008 show that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. That makes the United States the third fattest nation in the world. If you’re looking to shed some pounds, it’s time to swallow your pride and step on your scales.

Ordinary scales tell you how much you weigh, but they don’t give a complete picture of your health. The Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale fills in the gaps, with information about your lean and fat mass as well as your pounds. Withings knows it’s hard to remember your details over time, so it uses Wi-Fi to send your information to iPhones, Google Android devices, or its secure website. The whole family can work on their weight too, as these scales will hold the profiles of eight people.

Don’t Miss Pills with e-Pill 7-Day Organizer and Medication Reminder

We all make every effort to order safe medications, but there’s nothing safe about taking your pills irregularly. Studies suggest that if 35 percent of 100,000 patients don’t take their medication as directed “there will be 16 heart attacks, five strokes, and seven deaths.”

You can avoid these serious side effects with e-Pill’s 7-Day Organizer and Medication Reminder. It takes the old-fashioned pill box into the digital age with four large pill compartments and a multi-alarm to organize a range of prescriptions. The flexible design allows you to set an early alarm for weekday mornings and a later one for lazy weekends. Remove a single day’s pills for regular use or take the entire organizer with you on vacation.

Juice on the Go with Oster My Blend Blender

It looks like your average kitchen appliance, but the Oster My Blend Blender has one major advantage for busy people. The 20-ounce container easily detaches from the body to become a portable sports bottle for your protein shakes and fruit smoothies. It’s also scratch-resistant so it won’t age, and as it’s made form BPA-free plastic you can enjoy your beverages without any chemical nasties. The convertible Oster My Blend Blender makes it so easy to get your five a day!

Eat Well with HAPIfork

As it’s not released until November the HAPIfork is a bit of an unknown quantity, but the concept is intriguing. It encourages diners to slow down and savor their meals with an indicator light which flashes when you’re chowing down too quickly. It also measures how long it takes you to eat your meal, the amount of “fork servings” you take each minute, and the time between bites. A USB connector sends this data to your online dashboard, which integrates with a coaching program to improve your eating habits.

Admittedly CIO.com called the HAPIfork one of the dumbest products of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, but the science certainly supports this gadget. Studies show it takes 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to say you’re full. As most Americans eat far too quickly, they might have polished off a main meal with sides in that time. A recent Japanese study found eating more slowly left participants feeling fuller sooner, so they consumed fewer calories.

Simply buying these gadgets won’t help you drop those extra pounds or get washboard abs, but using them regularly will help you become stronger, fitter, and healthier.


Obesity linked to dementia

Obesity linked to dementia, study says

Obesity linked to dementiaAccording to a recently published study reported by Swedish scientists, people who are obese and middle aged are up to four times more likely do develop dementia than people of normal weight.

Published in the journal Neurology, the research was conducted 8,534 Swedish twins over the age of 65, of which data showed that 350 had been diagnosed with Alzheimer or vascular dementia, while a further 114 had possible dementia. Using records of the patient’s past weight compared to their age, researchers found that middle aged people who were overweight are 71 per cent more likely to develop dementia than for people who are of a normal weight.

An person is considered overweight when his body mass index (BMI) falls between the 25 and 30 ratio, while a ratio between 20 and 25 corresponds to a person of normal weight. What’s extremely curious, and more or less supports the hypothesis of the link between dementia and obesity, is that persons falling under a BMI greater than 30 (clinically obese) in their midlife had an almost four times (300%) higher risk of dementia.

“Currently, 1.6 billion adults are overweight or obese worldwide and over 50% of adults in the US and Europe fit into this category,” said Weili Xu of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, who led the research. “Our results contribute to the growing evidence that controlling body weight or losing weight in middle age could reduce your risk of dementia.”

lmost 30% of those in the study, 2,541 in total, had been either overweight or obese between 40 and 60 years of age.

“Although the effect of midlife overweight on dementia is not as substantial as that of obesity, its impact on public health and clinical practice is significant due to the high prevalence of overweight adults worldwide,” said Xu.

Scientists still don’t know why exactly overweight is linked to obesity, by they believe higher body fat is associated with diabetes and vascular diseases, which are related to dementia risk.

Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This robust study adds to the large body of evidence suggesting that if you pile on the pounds in middle age, your chances of developing dementia are also increased.By eating healthily and exercising regularly, you can lessen your risk of developing dementia. Not smoking and getting your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly is also very important.”

Sorensen said that further research was needed to find the links between being overweight and dementia. “One in three people over 65 will die with dementia, yet research into the condition is desperately underfunded.”

It is believed that about one in 20 people over the age of the 65 has some form of dementia.  Similar studies have been made in 2004 and 2005, both leading to the same conclusion that indeed obesity can influence the development of dementia.