Author Interviews, Eating Disorders, Psychological Science, Weight Research / 18.01.2016 Interview with: Samuel Chng PhD Researcher in Psychology Applied to Health University of Exeter Medical School St Luke’s campus Exeter, EX1 2LU, United Kingdom Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The study was conceptualised from the curious question from my childhood, “How did my parents influence my behaviours?” Together with my co-author, Dr. Daniel Fassnacht, we decided to explore how a specific form of parental influence, their comments, would influence the development of disordered eating symptoms. From studies conducted with Western samples that parental comments play a role in the development of eating disorder symptoms, and body dissatisfaction is one of the more studied mediator of this relationship. However, we could not find any study that investigated the influential nature of parent comments in Asia. So, we decided to focus our study on Asian parents and their children. Singapore, a developed Asian country that continues to have strong familial roots, provided an ideal population for our study, and we would expect, the relationships we found indicated some potential differences in amongst Asian families. We found that young women, compared to young men, in Singapore generally reported higher levels of parental comments (about their weight, body shape and eating habit), body dissatisfaction and disordered eating symptoms. However what we found for both young women and men was that negative comments from mothers (for example, ‘You need to lose weight’) was the only category of comments that predicted disordered eating and this was mediated by the presence of body dissatisfaction. Positive comments from parents, though suggested from past studies to be a protective factor, did not influence body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. (more…)
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, NIH, Nutrition, Sugar, Weight Research / 12.01.2016 Interview with: Dr. Caroline Fox, MD MPH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical School Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Fox: There is evidence linking sugar sweetened beverages with obesity and type 2 diabetes. There is also evidence suggesting that specific adipose tissue depots may play a role in the pathogenesis of these diseases. We found that higher levels of sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) intake was associated with more visceral fat (fat in the stomach cavity) over 6 years. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, JAMA, Surgical Research, UCLA, Weight Research / 12.01.2016 Interview with: Aaron J. Dawes, MD Fellow, VA/RWJF Clinical Scholars Program Division of Health Services Research University of California Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 90024 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Dawes: We reviewed the published literature to answer three basic questions about bariatric surgery and mental health conditions. First, how common are mental health conditions among patients being referred for or undergoing bariatric surgery?
  • Second, do patients who carry a diagnosis of one of these conditions lose less weight after surgery than patients without these conditions?
  • And, third, what happens to the clinical course of mental health conditions after patients undergo surgery? Do they get better, worse, or stay the same?
We found that mental health conditions are surprisingly common among bariatric patients, especially depression and binge eating disorder, which occur at almost twice the rate among bariatric patients than in the general U.S. population. We also found no strong evidence to suggest that patients with depression lose less weight after surgery and some evidence that the condition may actually improve after surgery. Eleven of the twelve studies on the topic found either lower rates or fewer symptoms of depression, at least during the first 3 years post-operatively. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Surgical Research, Weight Research / 10.01.2016 Interview with: Dr. Sigrid Bjerge Gribsholt MD, PhD Student Department of Endocrinology and Internal Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital 8000 Aarhus C Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Based on our clinical experiences we became aware that surgical, medical and nutritional symptoms were common in this group of patients. To enlighten the prevalence and severity we decided to undertake the study. Our main findings include that 88% of the patients felt better or much better than before surgery and 8% felt worse. Furthermore, we found that 68% of the patients had been in contact with the health care system. (more…)
Author Interviews, Nutrition, Weight Research / 08.01.2016 Interview with: Russell Keast Ph.D., CFS Professor Centre for Advanced Sensory Science (CASS) School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Faculty of Health Deakin University Melbourne Burwood Campus Burwood, VIC 3125 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Keast: Fatty acids are detected at various stages of food consumption and digestion via interactions with nutrient receptors upon the tongue and within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This chemoreception initiates functional responses, i.e., taste perception, peptide secretion and alterations in GI motility that play a fundamental role in food consumption, hedonics and satiety. In obesity, both GI and taste detection of fatty acids is attenuated and this may predispose individuals to increased consumption of high-fat foods, or foods containing greater concentrations of fat.  In other word overweight and obese people are less sensitive to fat and this is associated with overconsumption of fatty foods leading to weight gain. (more…)
Author Interviews, Lancet, Nutrition, Sugar, Weight Research / 08.01.2016 Interview with: Kawther Hashem MSc RNutr (Public Health) Nutritionist and Researcher Action on Sugar Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary, University of London London UK Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The calculations showed that a 40% reduction in free sugars added to Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) over five years would lead to an average reduction in energy intake of 38 kcal per day by the end of the fifth year. This would lead to an average reduction in body weight of 1.20kg in adults,  resulting in a reduction in overweight and obese adults by approximately half a million and 1 million respectively. This would in turn prevent between 274,000-309,000 obesity-related type 2 diabetes over the next two decades. Policies such as this will reduce cases of overweight and obesity and type 2 diabetes, this will have a major clinical impact and reduce healthcare costs. (more…)
Author Interviews, Exercise - Fitness, Pediatrics, Weight Research / 28.12.2015 Interview with: Michael Rebold, PhD, CSCS Assistant Professor Department of Exercise Science Bloomsburg University Bloomsburg, PA 17815 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Rebold: The obesity epidemic seen in children.  If we can make children at a young age physically active then maybe they will be more likely to be physically active into their adult years.  Since parents are the primary role models for younger children we must find ways to get the parents involved in physical activity as well, because children will model their parent's behaviors. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Rebold: The main findings from this study are that when parents are actively participating in activities with their children, their children spend more time in physical activities and less time in sedentary activities. When parents are not present and children are alone, then they spend more time engaging in sedentary activities and less time in physical activities.  When parents are actively watching their children, children still engaged in a significant more amount of time in physical activities than sedentary activities when compared to the alone condition but still not as great as with parents participating. Children also liked and were motivated to engage in additional physical activity time when parents were participating with them. (more…)
Author Interviews, Pediatrics, Weight Research / 23.12.2015 Interview with: S. Bryn Austin, ScD, Professor Dept. of Social and Behavioral Sciences Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Director, Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders and Katherine L. Record JD, MPH Massachusetts Health Policy Commission Boston  Medical Research: What is the background for this editorial? What are the main concerns regarding thinness in 'Paris' models? Response: The fashion industry has long been criticized for promoting unrealistic and patently unhealthy standards of thinness for girls and women. Furthermore, decades of psychological research have documented the pervasive and pernicious harm caused to body image and sense of self especially for adolescent girls during a most vulnerable time of development. What is often left out of the discussion, though, is the immediate and sometimes deadly harm caused to the girls and young women working as professional models as a result of what amounts to coerced starvation as a condition of employment. Most models begin working in the industry in their early or mid teens -- in other words, as children. We must ask ourselves, what other industry or employer in the United States would ever be allowed by our government to foster practices of coerced starvation of American child labor? (more…)
Author Interviews, Pediatrics, UCSD, Weight Research / 17.12.2015 Interview with: Geert W. Schmid-Schonbein, Ph.D. Distinguished Professor and Chairman Department of Bioengineering Adjunct Professor in Medicine University of California San Diego Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Schmid-Schonbein: Most approaches to control/reduce body weight focus on reducing food quantity, improving quality and promoting daily activity. These approaches, effective in the short term, only yield modest weight control. Weight management strategies recommended in the past have not significantly diminished the current trend towards childhood and adolescence obesity. We developed and tested an alternative approach to control weight gain in healthy individuals to reduce the risk for development of obesity and diabetes complications. The essence is to: “Eat deliberately slow AND stop eating when you feel no longer hungry”. The approach avoids any form of special diet, uses no drugs, can be adopted for a lifetime and used in any ethnic environment. Children in a Mexican School in Durango were instructed by a pediatrician to learn to eat deliberately slow and to stop eating when the satiety reflex sets in, i.e. the moment when the feeling of hunger has disappeared. They were instructed to:
  • quench the thirst at the beginning of a meal with water,
  • use a portable 30 second hourglass sand timer,
  • take a bite only when the sand timer was turned, and
  • stop eating when they were no longer hungry (as compared to feeling of fullness), and
  • limit food consumption after the point of satiety.
Over a one-year period, children not using the hourglass excessively increased their body-mass index, while in contrast children using the hourglass grew normally their body-mass index. Body surface area and waist hip ratio followed the same trend. The study shows feasibility of regulating food intake by education that is directed at developing slow eating habits and cessation of eating at satiety. A combination of behavioral training and focused eating monitoring may constitute a weight control method that may serve a life-time and can be promoted for children and adolescents at moderate costs, on a national basis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Weight Research / 16.12.2015 Interview with: Dr Anne Martin PhD Research Associate/Research Fellow Physical Activity for Health Research Centre (PAHRC) Institute for Sport, PE & Health Sciences University of Edinburgh TeleScot Research Group Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics Edinburgh Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Martin: Impairments in cognitive development during childhood can have detrimental effects on health behaviour, educational attainment, and socio-economic status later in life. Epidemiological evidence indicates an association between childhood obesity and cognition and educational attainment. Knowledge of when obesity related deficits in cognition and attainment emerge, and how large the deficits are at various ages, may be useful to support arguments for school-based obesity prevention initiatives and in translating evidence on this topic into policy aimed at preventing obesity. In this study we explored whether the adverse association between obesity and cognition emerges in early childhood. Measures of cognitive abilities included visuo-spatial skills, expressive language skills and reasoning skills. Our findings indicated that obesity in the pre-school years may be weakly associated with some poorer cognitive outcomes at age 5 years in boys, independently of socioeconomic status. Stronger relationships between obesity and cognition or educational attainment may emerge later in childhood. Evidence from an English cohort study suggested an adverse association between obesity in teenage girls and lower academic attainment in Mathmatics, Science and English. (more…)
Author Interviews, Rheumatology, UCSF, Weight Research / 07.12.2015 Interview with: Alexandra S. Gersing, MD Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging University of California, San Francisco Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Gersing:  This study is part of a larger NIH-funded project focusing on the effects of weight change in individuals at risk for and with osteoarthritis. Our group has previously shown that weight gain causes substantial worsening of knee joint degeneration in patients with risk factors for osteoarthritis and now we aimed to show that weight loss could protect the knee joint from degeneration and osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is one of the major causes of pain and disability worldwide; and cartilage plays a central role in the development of joint degeneration. Since cartilage loss is irreversible, we wanted to assess whether lifestyle interventions, such as weight loss, could make a difference at a very early, potentially reversible stage of cartilage degradation and whether a certain amount of weight loss is more beneficial to prevent cartilage deterioration. To measure these early changes we used a novel Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technique, called T2 mapping, which allows us to evaluate biochemical cartilage degradation in the patient on a molecular level. The most relevant finding of this study is that patients with more that 10% of weight loss benefited significantly more from losing weight compared to the obese controls that did not lose weight or only lost little weight. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Weight Research / 06.12.2015 Interview with: Ida Donkin MD, PhD Postdoc, Medical Doctor, PhD University of Copenhagen Faculty Of Health Sciences Copenhagen, Denmark Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Donkin: We know that children of obese fathers are more prone to develop obesity themselves – regardless of the weight of the mother. We also know that obesity and diabetes are diseases with a very big inheritable components in their aetiology. If your parents are obese, you have a risk of about 75% percent of developing obesity yourself. But we do not know how the disease is inherited from one generation to the next. Despite exhaustive research trying to investigate genes potentially responsible for this, and more than 125 genetic mutations have been discovered to associate to the development of obesity, all the genetic mutations put together cannot explain more than about 10% of the actual inheritance. So how is obesity inherited from parents to children? One explanation could be the transfer of epigenetic information from one generation to the next. Epigenetic information is established in our body’s cells in response to our lifestyle and the environment around us. We discovered that the epigenetic factors of semen cells also responds to changes in our lifestyle, and we speculated whether these might be the key to understand how obesity in dads can lead to obesity in children. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Donkin: In this study we discovered that the information kept in our semen cells responds dynamically to changes in our lifestyle. If you are obese, your semen cells will contain a different epigenetic pattern than if you are lean. Weight loss induced by gastric bypass surgery will dynamically change these epigenetic patterns, meaning that by changing our lifestyle, we can actively change the epigenetic information we pass on to our children. Other research groups have created solid evidence showing us that most these epigenetic marks kept in the sperm cells will be passed on to the embryo at fertilization. The epigenetic information can affect the development of the embryo, and thereby change the health – and the risk of disease – of our children. Our study thus provides a likely explanation for the mechanism of the inheritance of acquired traits and diseases through generations, and gives us a likely explanation as to why children of obese fathers are more prone to develop obesity themselves. (more…)
Author Interviews, Karolinski Institute, Lancet, OBGYNE, Weight Research / 03.12.2015 Interview with: Professor Sven Cnattingius Professor in reproductive epidemiology Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Department of Medicine Karolinska University Hospital Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Prof. Cnattingius: Maternal overweight and obesity are associated with increased risks of stillbirth and infant mortality. Weight gain between pregnancies increases risks of other obesity-related complications, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and preterm birth. Weight gain appear to increase these risks especially in women who start off with normal weight. As these complications increases risks of stillbirth and infant mortality, we wanted to study the associations between weight change between successive pregnancies and risks of stillbirth and infant mortality (deaths during the first year of life). Medical Research: What are the main findings? Prof. Cnattingius: The main findings include:
  • Weight gain increases risk of stillbirth in a dose-response manner.
  • In women starting off with normal weight (BMI <25), weight gain  increases risk of infant mortality in a dose-response manner.
  • In women starting off with overweight or obesity (BMI >25), weight loss reduces the risk of neonatal mortality (deaths during the first four weeks of life).
Author Interviews, Microbiome, Weight Research / 28.11.2015 Interview with: Dr. Eran Elinav PhD Immunology Department and Prof. Eran Segal PhD Department of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot , Israel Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Response: Obesity and diabetes are rising epidemics, affecting a significant portion of the world’s population. Blood glucose levels are a major contributor to these epidemics, as they are associated with obesity and with risk to develop diabetes. Normalizing blood glucose can have highly beneficial effects on the health of individuals. Therefore, we decided to study the factors that affect blood glucose. Among these factors are the macro- and micronutrient content of the meal, a person’s lifestyle, medical state, and their microbiome. We then started collecting from participants these exact parameters, and studied their effect on blood glucose. We managed to successfully predict the blood glucose response of many people to many meals and to assign for people beneficial diets based on this prediction. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Nature, Weight Research / 26.11.2015 Interview with: Dr. Andrew Whittle, joint first-author of the paper and a postdoc in the Prof. Vidal-Puig’s lab at the time the research was conducted. Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Whittle: Antonio Vidal-Puig heads the disease model core of the University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories at the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science (IMS). His laboratory has a long-standing interest in the mechanisms that regulate how adipose tissue stores, burns or releases energy. The group studies mice that have increased or reduced susceptibility to obesity and its metabolic complications, in order to dissect the molecular pathways that underpin these phenotypes. Their long-term goal is to develop more effective strategies to manipulate the body’s own regulatory pathways, both to reduce obesity itself or limit the negative impact that excess lipids have on other important metabolic organs. Professor Hideaki Bujo from Toho University Medical Center in Japan has been working for a number of years to understand the role of specific lipoprotein receptors in vascular biology. Specifically he has shown that LR11 is cleaved to release a short soluble for of the protein, sLR11, which can effect changes to vascular smooth muscle cell migration. To further his studies he generated a knock-out mouse model completely lacking LR11. One of the first observations his group made was that these mice remained leaner than control animals. I and Meizi Jiang (a postdoc in the Bujo lab) conducted a collaborative study of the LR11 knockout mice (Lr11-/-), to investigate the mechanisms by which a lack of LR11 resulted in mice being protected from diet-induced obesity.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Blood Pressure - Hypertension, CDC, Pediatrics, Weight Research / 20.11.2015 Interview with: Quanhe Yang, PhD Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlanta, GA 30341 MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Yang: Body mass index (BMI) is an important risk factor for high blood pressure among adolescents. Despite a recent leveling off in the numbers of overweight and obese youths, weight-associated health outcomes remain a problem in the U.S. Some researchers have suggested that the increased prevalence of high blood pressure among adolescents is associated with the epidemic of overweight and obesity in the U.S. As a result, we analyzed trends in pre-high blood pressure and high blood pressure among U.S. youth using data from a series of National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Nearly 15,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 were included in the surveys, which were conducted between 1988 and 2012. During that 24-year timeframe, the prevalence of high blood pressure actually decreased overall, while pre-high blood pressure remained largely unchanged. However, those rates differed based on body weight category. For example, pre-high blood pressure was consistently higher among overweight/obese adolescents (18 to 22 percent) than those of normal weight (11 to 12 percent). The observed changes in both pre-high blood pressure and high blood pressure prevalence were consistent across age group, sex and race/ethnicity. (more…)
Author Interviews, Hepatitis - Liver Disease, Surgical Research, Transplantation, Weight Research / 17.11.2015 Interview with: Barry Schlansky, M.D., M.P.H Assistant Professor of Medicine Oregon Health & Science University Medical Research: What are the main findings and significance of this study? Dr. Schlansky: This study examines how obese patients fare before and after liver transplantation. Similar to other researchers, we found that obese patients do just as well as normal weight patients after liver transplantation. We were surprised, however, to find that very obese patients died more often while on the wait list before liver transplant. (more…)
Author Interviews, OBGYNE, Pediatrics, Toxin Research, Weight Research / 13.11.2015 Interview with: Joseph M. Braun PhD Assistant Professor Department of Epidemiology in the Program in Public Health Brown University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Braun:  Perfluoroalkyl substances are a class of chemicals used to produce stain/water repellent textiles, fire fighting foams, and non-stick coatings. Virtually all people in the US have measurable levels of several different perfluoroalkyl substances in their blood. There is concern that early life exposure to these chemicals can increase the risk of obesity by reducing fetal growth or promoting adipogenesis. What are the main findings? Dr. Braun:  Pregnant women in our study had perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) concentrations in their blood that were over 2-fold higher than pregnant women in the United States (median: 5.3 vs. 2.3 ng/mL) during the same time period (2003-2006). Children born to women with higher serum PFOA concentrations during pregnancy had a higher body mass index, greater waist circumference, and more body fat at 8 years of age compared to children born to women with lower serum PFOA concentrations. In addition, children born to women with higher serum PFOA concentrations during pregnancy gained more fat mass between 2 and 8 years of age than children born to women with lower PFOA concentrations. (more…)
Author Interviews, FASEB, Metabolic Syndrome, Nutrition, Weight Research / 13.11.2015 Interview with: Suzan Wopereis, Ph.D. TNO, Microbiology and Systems Biology Group Zeist, The Netherlands Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Wopereis: For the first time we could demonstrate the very subtle start of negative health effects caused by a high calorie snack diet in healthy men. We already knew about the negative consequences of such diets from so called epidemiologic studies. In such studies, scientists compare large populations (thousands of people) to better understand disease development. For example, by comparing  obese populations to a lean population, scientists could define various steps in the disease development related to obesity, like high cholesterol, onset of inflammation, high blood pressure, high glucose, etc. Yet, the early deviations from health  were difficult to study because human metabolism (the way we digest and metabolize our meals from a biochemical viewpoint)  is very flexible and able to efficiently deal with all kinds of daily stressors, such as a meal or intensive exercise. So, at TNO we decided to exploit  this flexibility by giving our healthy volunteers a ‘challenge test’, in the form of a high-fat milkshake. Next, we studied how multiple aspects of their metabolism react to such a challenge test. We showed that a snack diet for 4 weeks reduced many aspects of  flexibility of our healthy men, thus indicating very early changes in health. Both the high-fat challenge test and the integral study of many different outcomes form a novel approach of what “healthy” really means. In the study we used two groups of male volunteers. One group of 10 healthy male volunteers and one group of 9 male volunteers with Metabolic Syndrome, who had a combination of 2 or more risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems (unhealthy cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high blood lipids, and abdominal fat). In other words, subjects with Metabolic Syndrome have a suboptimal health condition. Both groups received a high-fat milk-shake, and before and up to 8 hours after consumption of this metabolic challenge-test, blood samples were taken. In these blood samples, 61 different biomarkers were measured, such as cholesterol and blood sugar. These 61 biomarkers were used for a thorough health assessment of these 2 groups in response to the challenge test. We noted that biochemical processes related to sugar metabolism, fat metabolism and inflammation function abnormal in subjects with Metabolic Syndrome. The next step was to provide the 10 healthy male volunteers with a snack diet for 4 weeks. On top of their normal diet they had to consume an additional 1300 kcal per day, in the form of sweets and savory products such as candy bars, tarts, peanuts, and crisps. After these 4 weeks the response of the same 61 biomarkers to the challenge test was evaluated. Here, we observed that signaling molecules such as hormones regulating the control of sugar and fat metabolism and inflammation were changed, resembling the very subtle start of negative health effects. Without the use of the challenge test, we would not have been able to observe that even this short period of overfeeding induces changes in the metabolism of healthy people that resemble what happens in people with metabolic syndrome. (more…)
Author Interviews, Sugar, Weight Research / 12.11.2015 Interview with: Prof. Peter J. Rogers PhD School of Experimental Psychology University of Bristol, Bristol, UK Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Prof. Rogers: In recent years low-calorie sweeteners have been in the headlines because of concern that they may undermine rather than help with healthy weight management. That concern is based on selective reporting of studies and outright speculation. Our aim was to review the totality of evidence on this subject, which included results from human and animal (mouse and rat) studies. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Prof. Rogers: We found that randomised, controlled intervention trials in humans showed consistently that low-calorie sweeteners versus sugar consumption reduced energy intake and body weight, with no effect or even reduced body weight compared with consumption of water. These types of studies provide the strongest form of evidence – superior to animal and observational studies. In the animal studies, exposure to low-calorie sweeteners was mostly not representative of how people consume low-calorie sweeteners. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Race/Ethnic Diversity, Weight Research / 06.11.2015 Interview with: Joan C. Han, MD Director, Pediatric Obesity Program, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital Associate Professor, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology Department of Pediatrics, University of Tennessee Health Science Center Memphis, TN 38103 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Han: Obesity has become a world-wide epidemic. Our research group studies the genetic factors that contribute to the development of obesity. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein that plays a key role in regulating appetite. We found that a common genetic variant of the BDNF gene is associated with lower expression of this gene in the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that controls energy balance. The mechanism of this reduced gene expression appears to be due to diminished binding of the transcription factor hnRNPD0B. We also observed that this genetic variant is associated with higher body mass index and higher body fat in children and adults. The obesity-predisposing variant of the BDNF gene occurs more commonly in people of African-American or Hispanic backgrounds, which could have important clinical implications given the higher rates of obesity in these populations. (more…)
Author Interviews, Nutrition, PLoS, University Texas, Weight Research / 04.11.2015

Dr. Marcia C. de Oliveira Otto MD PhD Division of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences The University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health, Houston, Interview with: Dr.  Marcia C. de Oliveira Otto MD PhD Assistant professor  Division of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences The University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health, Houston, Texas  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Dr. Otto: Eat a variety of foods, or food diversity, is a long standing public health recommendation because it is thought to ensure adequate intake of essential nutrients, to prevent excessive intakes of less healthy nutrients such as refined sugars and salt, thus promoting good health. However there hasn’t been empiric evidence from populational studies testing this hypothesis. In our study, we characterized three metrics of diet diversity and evaluated their association with metabolic health using data from 6,814 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, including whites, blacks, Hispanic-Americans, and Chinese-Americans in the United States, including the total count (number of different foods eaten in a week), evenness (the distribution of calories across different foods consumed), and dissimilarity (the differences in food attributes relevant to metabolic health, such as fiber, sodium or trans-fat content). We then evaluated how diet diversity was associated with change in waist circumference five years after the beginning of the study and with onset of Type 2 diabetes ten years later. We also examined the relationship between diet quality and the same metabolic outcomes. Diet quality was measured using established scores such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the Alterative Healthy Eating (AHEI) score. When evaluating both food count and evenness, we found no associations with either increase in waist circumference or incidence of diabetes. In other words, more diversity in the diet was not linked to better metabolic outcomes. Participants with greater food dissimilarity actually experienced more central weight gain, with a 120 percent greater increase in waist circumference than participants with lower food dissimilarity. Contrary to what we expected, our results showed that participants with greater diversity in their diets, as measured by dissimilarity, had worse diet quality. They were eating less healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and more unhealthy foods, such as processed meats, desserts and soda. When evaluating diet quality, we found about a 25 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes after 10 years of follow up in participants with higher diet quality. There was no association between diet quality scores and change in waist circumference.  (more…)
Author Interviews, NYU, Weight Research / 03.11.2015 Interview with: Brian Elbel, PhD MPH Associate professor, Department of Population Health NYU Langone Medical Center and at NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Elbel: Since New York City implemented in 2008 its mandatory calorie counts in all chain restaurants, including in fast-food eateries, public health officials and the general public have wondered what impact it’s having on curbing the obesity epidemic gripping the nation and the city. An estimated third of adult Americans are obese (with a body mass index of 30 or more), and that number is expected to rise to 42 percent by 2030, among the highest of any country in the developed world. Our study looks at the effects of so-called calorie counts some six years out from when the law took effect. Between 2013 and 2014, a team of NYU Langone researchers analyzed the receipts of some 7,699 diners at fast-food restaurants in NYC and in nearby NJ cities to see if the menu labels reduced the overall number of calories that consumers of fast food order and presumably eat. Our research team compared calories consumed at fast-food eateries with and without calorie labels. Researchers found that the average number of calories bought by patrons at each sitting between 2013 and 2014 was statistically the same as those in a similar survey we conducted in 1,068 fast-food diners in 2008, when New York City initially imposed menu labeling. Diners were surveyed at major fast-food chains: McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Wendy’s. Calorie counts in the 2013-2014 analysis averaged between 804 and 839 per meal at menu-labeled restaurants, and between 802 and 857 per meal at non-labeled eateries; whereas, they averaged 783 per meal for labeled restaurants and 756 per meal for non-labeled restaurants shortly after the policy was introduced. For the surveys, diners entering the fast-food restaurant were asked to return their itemized receipt to research assistants and answer some follow-up questions in person in exchange for two dollars. Our study suggests that menu labeling, in particular at fast-food restaurants, will not on its own lead to any lasting reductions in calories consumed. (more…)
Author Interviews, Weight Research / 30.10.2015 Interview with: Joshua H. West, Ph.D., MPH Department of Health Science Brigham Young University Provo, UT 84602 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. West: Americans consume too much food. Yet most of our focus is on the qualitative aspects of food. Overconsumption of ‘good’ food can also negative outcomes. Most diets are confusing, costly to the individual, and difficult to adhere to. Even counting calories can be cumbersome and time-consuming. We found that participants lost weight by prioritizing worrying less about what they were eating and simply reducing how much they were eating, as estimated using a bite counting method. (more…)
Author Interviews, Blood Pressure - Hypertension, Weight Research / 29.10.2015 Interview with: Mirna Azar MD Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism University of Ottawa Weight Management Clinic The Ottawa Hospital Ottawa, ON, Canada  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Azar: Previous studies have shown an association between beta-blockers and weight gain but little is known about the effect of beta-blockers on weight loss. Here we demonstrate that patients treated with beta-blockers exhibit a reduced ability to lose weight in response to a standardized 900 kcal meal replacement program. From a database of 3,582 patients who participated in a 6-week 900 kcal/day Optifast meal replacement weight loss program, 173 patients were on beta-blockers. We determined differences in rate of weight loss and changes in waist circumference in the first 6 weeks of meal replacement program in these subjects as compared to controls, matched for sex, age and initial weight and to the entire population with adjustment for age, sex, initial body weight, ACE inhibitor and diuretic therapy and existing cardiovascular disease. In comparison with matched controls, beta-blocker treated subjects lost a mean of 0.67 kg less than their matched controls (P = 0.01) and their percent weight loss was 0.6% lower (P = 0.0001). Differences were also noted for changes in waist circumference (-24.2 vs -25.2 cm, P= 0.04). Findings were not altered after adjustment for cardiovascular indications for beta-blocker therapy. (more…)
Author Interviews, Nature, NYU, Weight Research / 28.10.2015 Interview with: Dr. Margaret E. Rice, PhD Professor, Department of Neuroscience and Physiology Neurosurgery NYU Langone Medical Center Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Rice: Insulin is released from the pancreas into the bloodstream in response to a rise in circulating glucose levels when we eat. In most cells in the body, including those of liver and muscle, insulin acts at insulin receptors to promote glucose transport and other metabolic functions. Insulin also enters the brain and acts at brain insulin receptors, particularly in the hypothalamus where insulin acts as a satiety signal to indicate that we are full and should stop eating. The rising incidence of obesity, in which circulating insulin levels are chronically elevated, suggests insulin may play a role in other brain regions, as well, including regions that regulate motivation and reward. Indeed, our new studies introduce a new role for insulin as a reward signal that acts in the dorsal striatum to enhance release of dopamine.  Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter in reward systems; most drugs of abuse enhance release of dopamine, which contributes to their addictive properties. We found that insulin, at levels found in the brain by the end of a meal, enhances dopamine release by activating insulin receptors on acetylcholine-containing striatal cells that boost dopamine release. Consistent with a role of insulin in signaling reward, companion behavioral studies in rodents indicate that insulin signaling in the striatum communicates the reward value of an ingested meal, and thereby influences food choices. These studies reveal the dual nature of insulin in the brain, which not only tells us when to stop eating, but also influences what we eat. (more…)
Author Interviews, Columbia, OBGYNE, Weight Research / 26.10.2015

Elizabeth M. Widen, PhD, RD Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Medicine, Institute of Human Nutrition & Department of Epidemiology Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health New York, NY Interview with: Elizabeth M. Widen, PhD, RD Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Medicine, Institute of Human Nutrition & Department of Epidemiology Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health New York, NY 10032 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Widen: The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health Mothers and Newborns Study was started in 1998 and is based in Northern Manhattan and the South Bronx. Pregnant African American and Dominican mothers were enrolled from 1998 to 2006, and mothers and their children have been followed since this time. Pregnancy weight gain and maternal size and body fat was measured at seven years postpartum, allowing us to examine the role of nutrition in pregnancy on long-term maternal health. We found that high pregnancy weight gain, above the Institute of Medicine 2009 guidelines, was associated with long-term weight retention and higher body fat at seven years postpartum among women who began pregnancy with underweight, normal weight and modest overweight body mass index (BMI). These findings suggest that prepregnancy BMI and high pregnancy weight gain have long-term implications for maternal weight-related health, especially among mothers who begin pregnancy with lower prepregnancy BMI values. (more…)
Author Interviews, Pediatrics, Weight Research / 24.10.2015 Interview with: Brian S. Schwartz, MD, MS Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, Epidemiology, and Medicine Co-director, Program on Global Sustainability and Health Senior Investigator, Geisinger Center for Health Research (Danville, PA) Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Baltimore, Maryland 21205 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Schwartz: Sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics (not a high enough dose to treat an infection in the animal) have been added to animal feeds for decades to promote weight gain. An increasing number of studies of therapeutic uses of antibiotics in humans have reported weight gain, mostly in young children. Using electronic health record data on over 163,000 children between 3 and 18 years of age from the Geisinger Health System, our study was the first one to study the full childhood age range among mostly healthy children; to find effects of antibiotics on weight gain at all ages; to find that the more the cumulative number of antibiotics the greater the weight gain; and that some of the effects were progressive, in that the cumulative number of antibiotics caused an increasing divergence of the body mass index trajectory over time from the trajectory in children who had not received antibiotics. (more…)
Author Interviews, Endocrinology, Genetic Research, Weight Research / 22.10.2015

Urszula T. Iwaniec, Ph.D. Associate Professor Skeletal Biology Laboratory School of Biological and Population Health Sciences Oregon State University Corvallis, OR Interview with: Urszula T. Iwaniec, Ph.D. Associate Professor Skeletal Biology Laboratory School of Biological and Population Health Sciences Oregon State University Corvallis, OR 97331 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Iwaniec: Excessive weight gain in adults is associated with a variety of negative health outcomes. Unfortunately, dieting, exercise, and pharmacological interventions have had limited long-term success in weight control and can result in detrimental side effects, including accelerating age-related bone loss.  Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells plays an essential role in weight regulation. Delivery of leptin directly into the hypothalamus by gene therapy normalizes body weight. We investigated the efficacy of using hypothalamic leptin gene therapy as an alternative method for reducing weight in skeletally-mature female rats and determined the impact of leptin-induced weight loss on bone. Our findings show that hypothalamic leptin gene therapy reduced body weight with minimal effects on bone mass or microarchitecture. (more…)
Author Interviews, Metabolic Syndrome, Weight Research / 22.10.2015

Robert Wong, M.D., M.S. Attending Physician, Gastroenterology & Hepatology Director, GI Education & Research Highland Hospital A member of Alameda Health System Oakland, CA Interview with: Robert Wong, M.D., M.S. Attending Physician, Gastroenterology & Hepatology Director, GI Education & Research Highland Hospital A member of Alameda Health System Oakland, CA 94602 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Wong: The rising prevalence of obesity and diabetes has led to concurrent rise in metabolic syndrome in the U.S.  Identifying metabolic syndrome is important to implement targeted treatment as metabolic syndrome contributes to cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and overall mortality.  However, while obesity is a major risk factor for metabolic syndrome, out study highlights the importance of considering metabolic syndrome even in individuals who do not meet criteria for obesity.  We demonstrated that nearly 20% of adults who do not meet current definitions of obesity still have metabolic syndrome in the U.S. (more…)