Your body is home to about 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes, collectively known as your microbiome. Naturalists first became aware of our invisible lodgers in the 1600s, but it wasn’t until the past few years that we’ve become really familiar with them. This recent research has given the microbiome a cuddly kind of fame. We’ve come to appreciate how beneficial our microbes are — breaking down our food, fighting off infections and nurturing our immune system. It’s a lovely, invisible garden we should be tending for our own well-being. But in the journal Bioessays, a team of scientists has raised a creepier possibility. Perhaps our menagerie of germs is also influencing our behavior in order to advance its own evolutionary success — giving us cravings for certain foods, for example.[more inside]
“This is not your grandmother’s hunger,” says Janet Poppendieck, a sociologist at the City University of New York. “Today more working people and their families are hungry because wages have declined.”
"... trolling wasn’t the work of just a few bad apples. Instead, there were many, many people who sent us mean messages saying that they simply thought the blog shouldn’t exist." Amanda Levitt of FatBodyPolitics.com writes about the role that trolling, up to and including threats of violence and doxxing, plays in maintaining privilege and furthering oppression.
IF you walk into a farm-supply store today, you’re likely to find a bag of antibiotic powder that claims to boost the growth of poultry and livestock. That’s because decades of agricultural research has shown that antibiotics seem to flip a switch in young animals’ bodies, helping them pack on pounds. Manufacturers brag about the miraculous effects of feeding antibiotics to chicks and nursing calves. Dusty agricultural journals attest to the ways in which the drugs can act like a kind of superfood to produce cheap meat. But what if that meat is us?
Neurobiologist Stephan Guyenet provides two video introductions to his intriguing hypothesis about the cause of obesity: frequently eating highly palatable processed foods (foods with high "reward" effect in the brain) alters the hypothalamus, raising the body's homeostatic set point. [more inside]
There Is No Childhood Obesity Epidemic Paul Campos in TNR reviews the latest report from the Journal of the American Medical Association. [more inside]
Study may bust myth of 'fat and fit' healthy obesity. Being healthy and obese is a myth, researchers say. People who are obese and have normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood-sugar readings will still be unhealthy and die sooner compared with people who have a normal body weight, according to researchers. [more inside]
What No One Tells You About Losing Lots of Weight. For at least some newly thin people, there’s a meta-dissatisfaction in feeling that significant weight loss has made life anything other than perfect: Any discomfort you may feel with your body is compounded by a sense of shame at not feeling unmitigated pride at a moment you expected to be triumphant. [more inside]
Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity, from the New England Journal of Medicine. Among the myths discussed: Small sustained changes in eating or exercise make a big difference in weight; losing big amounts of weight quickly is less effective long-term than slow and gradual loss; that PE classes help reduce weight; and, tragically, that "a bout of sexual activity burns 100 to 300 kcal for each participant." But take heart! The authors point out that presumptions around the badness of snacking and yo-yo dieting are not supported! (There is also a correction to the original article, because the issue of breakfast remains contentious.)
In 1954, Life magazine published an article entitled "The Plague of Overweight" with a series of photos of a woman named Dorothy Bradley. The story features some now-familiar tropes about fat people ("197-pound Dorothy ... covered up embarrassment by being jolly and gregarious"; "Dorothy envies slim girl's milkshake"). It is also notable as an early appearance of the concept of an obesity "epidemic".
In a remarkable paper Allison et al. (2011) gather data on the weight at mid-life from 12 animal populations covering 8 different species all living in human environments. Dividing the sample into male and female they find that in all 24 cases animal weight has increased over the past several decades.
A layperson-friendly analysis of a seminal (1100+ cites) study on obesity that found no correlation between environment/upbringing and obesity, whilst finding very strong correlation between genetic heritage and obesity. To sum up: adopted children's body weight matches their biological parents, not their adoptive parents.
"The story of American families facing food insecurity is as frustrating as it is heartbreaking, because the truth is as avoidable as it is tragic. Here in the richest country on earth, 50 million of us — one in six Americans — go hungry. More than a third of them are children. And yet Congress can’t pass a Farm Bill because our representatives continue to fight over how many billions to slash from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. The debate is filled with tired clichés about freeloaders undeserving of government help, living large at the expense of honest, hardworking taxpayers." Bill Moyers spends an hour with two of the creators of the documentary "A Place at the Table." [more inside]
Fat City. Physician Karen Hitchcock writes eloquently in The Monthly on obesity in Australia and the obesity-as-disease paradigm.
The true secret of Easter - but are toys replacing candy (or, more awfully, live animals) as the traditional Easter gift? And is that a bad thing?
Everyone's favourite shit-disturbing pediatric endocrinologist recently became a published author of popular science. He's not doing it for money, and given the upturned noses of some of his brethren, probably not for love, either. The parade of overweight kids passing through his clinic at UCSF's Benioff Children's keeps getting longer, and the man is angry. So angry, he's going to law school to help quarterback the fight against the processed food industry himself. Previously.
291 diseases and injuries + 67 risk factors + 1,160 non-fatal complications = 650 million estimates of how we age, sicken, and die
As humans live longer, what ails us isn't necessarily what kills us: five data visualizations of how we age, sicken, and die. Causes of death by age, sex, region, and year. Heat map of leading causes and risks by region. Changes in leading causes and risks between 1990 and 2010. Healthy years lost to disability vs. life expectancy in 1990 and 2010. Uncertainties of causes and risks. From the team for the massive Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010. [more inside]
American paratrooper Arthur Boorman suffered debilitating injuries during the first Gulf War. Doctors told him he'd never walk unassisted again. 15 years later.... [more inside]
I would have come up with a better title if I could bother to lift my chubby fingers to the keyboard
Rapid Increase of Worldwide Laziness as Global Physical Activity Levels Decline. According to this study, most of the world just sits around getting fat now.
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts. Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal requires the approval of the Board of Health, a step that is considered likely because the members are all appointed by him, and the board’s chairman is the city’s health commissioner, who joined the mayor in supporting the measure on Wednesday.
Consequences, Choices, Children in Crisis, Challenges. HBO’s multi-part research documentary The Weight of the Nation examines obesity in America in four parts, marshaling leading doctors, epidemiologists, economists, researchers, and community leaders to understand and explain the individual costs and public solutions to a multi-faceted social and individual problem. The documentary both explores large picture statistics, while giving voice “to those that often too seek to be invisible: members of the nearly 70 percent of Americans currently diagnosed as overweight or obese. (AV Club Review)” [more inside]
That the conventional wisdom of 3,500 calories less is what it takes to lose a pound of weight is wrong. The body changes as you lose. Interestingly, we also found that the fatter you get, the easier it is to gain weight. An extra 10 calories a day puts more weight onto an obese person than on a thinner one. [more inside]
Nichelle Gainer (whose Vintage Black Glamour blog was seen previously on MeFi) responds insightfully to a NY Times editorial by author Alice Randall called "Why Black Women Are Fat."
The food desert has been a regular topic here on MetaFilter, posts about which often highlight a particular narrative about the effects of meager food choices for poorer urban communities, negatively affecting health and choice among low income people. Though not always. Some new studies indicate the situation in the US might be more like the latter, not quite as dire as is usually asserted. [more inside]
A new study conducted by Dr. Eric Braverman, president of the nonprofit Path Foundation in New York City, and Dr. Nirav Shah, New York State’s Commissioner of Health suggests that the Body Mass Index significantly underestimates the rate of obesity in America, especially for women. Based on BMI, about one-third of Americans are considered obese, but when other methods of measuring obesity are used, that number may be closer to 60%. [more inside]
The Link Between Adult Obesity and Childhood Trauma (Time magazine article) Felitti wondered if there was something similar barring weight loss in other patients — or causing obesity itself. In the late '80s, he began a systematic study of 286 obese people, and discovered that 50% had been sexually abused as children. That rate is more than 50% higher than the rate normally reported by women, and more than triple the average rate in men....
Ask for Amazing WATE-ON. Retronaut's collection of dietary supplement ads offers some historical perspective on the obesity epidemic. [more inside]
As discussion rages over what to do about rising obesity rates, scientists study environmental toxins called obesogens. Last night, Canadian program The Nature of Things aired Programmed to Be Fat? The documentary admits the fatty pitfalls of Western living, but asks that if this is the only factor, why has infant obesity risen 73% in the past 20 years? Babies aren't terrific Big Mac consumers. [more inside]
Stark billboards and television commercials that feature overweight kids are part of a controversial anti-obesity campaign in Atlanta. The goal of the "Stop Sugarcoating It, Georgia" ads is to shock families into recognizing that obesity is a problem.
The Fat Trap (NYT pop review): Overweight individuals in Western nations (and, increasingly, beyond) face interpersonal and institutional stigma for their bodies*. Oftentimes, these stigmas are predicated on the belief that being overweight is a moral failure, that being overweight is usually a result of laziness, decadence, and/or characterlogical poor impulse control. However, an emerging consensus among obesity researchers points toward strong, common physiological and individual genetic factors as causative for heightened BMIs in the modern world and the general failure of dieting to produce BMI outcomes. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine (paywalled) adds to this body of evidence, suggesting that chemical messengers held to contribute to altered "efficient" metabolism and increased hunger in the wake of low-calorie dieting are (on average) significantly elevated up to a full year (if not longer) following a substantial drop in weight from dieting.> [more inside]
Obese monkeys lose weight by new drug that kills off fat cells. Adipotide is the newest weapon in the war on obesity. Unlike other weight-loss drugs that try to suppress appetite, boost one's metabolism, or block the absorption of fat, Adipotide blocks the blood supply that feeds fatty tissue. Studies show monkeys lost 11% of their body weight after 4 weeks of treatment.
Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit "My goal is to inspire people to get fit, teach them how to do it and give them hope that it IS possible to get fit and stay fit. " [more inside]
You know those Coke Freestyle machines? Where you can make your own combos? Like, 127 of them? [more inside]
"Believe it or not, Twinkies have an expiration date. Some day very soon, Life's little Twinkie gauge is gonna go... empty."
Taxpayers in the San Francisco area spend $2,762,295 each year in junk food subsidies, but only $41,950 each year on apple subsidies. [LATIMES] A new report released this week has found that, among the billions of dollars spent each year in federal subsidies for commodity crops, a steady flow of these taxpayer dollars are going to support high fructose corn syrup and three other common food additives used in junk food. The report, “Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food” by CALPIRG and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, studies the interesting question of whether the nation's problem with obesity is fueled by farm subsidies.
Food Fight: Does Healthy Food Have to Be More Expensive? In which the blog Get Rich Slowly chronicles an argument about nutrition vs cost and then invites readers to chime in.
Obesity Epidemic Grows: [CNN.com] "Two-thirds of all adults and about a third of all children and teenagers in the United States are overweight or obese according to a report release Thursday by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). According to "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011,"[PDF] adult obesity increased in 16 states during the past year and rates soared to 30% or more in these 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. Four years ago, only one state - Mississippi - had an adult obesity rate of more than 30%. No state showed a decrease in it obesity rate in Thursday's report."
A recent study shows that people who drink diet soda tend to have larger waist circumferences over time. But is there an actual link? [more inside]
Hello, I am fat. This is my body (over there—see it?). I have lived in this body my whole life. I have wanted to change this body my whole life. I have never wanted anything as much as I have wanted a new body. I am aware every day that other people find my body disgusting. I always thought that some day—when I finally stop failing—I will become smaller, and when I become smaller literally everything will get better (I've heard It Gets Better)! My life can begin!
Why Wal-Mart Is Making Our Health Its Problem - "So what's behind the [healthier-eating] initiative? In a word: scale. In a recent article in HBR, Chris Meyer and I argued that we'll see companies taking more and more ownership of externalities they could ignore because of changing sensibilities and better sensors (meaning detection and reporting of impacts by third parties). But we also identified a third driver: the scale of modern business. Whereas in the past, a single grocer could not have much impact on society, in today's highly consolidated market, Wal-Mart touches a significant percentage of the nation's food intake. Once you reach a scale where your decisions have ramifications for millions, it is hard to pretend that the impacts, even as distant ripples, are not your problem."
Michelle Obama promotes an anti-obesity campaign, telling her children that "dessert is not a right." Sarah Palin takes a shot at her on a reality show, making s'mores and saying, "This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert." There's hooting and hollering from all sides. And then there's this -- is Sarah Palin courting the fat vote?
From Obesity Panacea, a blog is written by two obesity researchers: a 5-part series delving into the fascinating and seemingly paradoxical research on people who remain metabolically-healthy despite being obese: 1) Introduction: An Oxymoron? 2) Prospective Risk of Disease 3) Lower Risk of Mortality? 4) Is Weight Loss Detrimental? 5) Is Weight Loss Beneficial? [more inside]
How downloading music has literally saved my life: a lightly punctuated personal essay about obesity and compulsion.
About-Face aims to provide women and girls with skills to critically examine media messages that affect their positive self-image. Their website is a one-stop shop for simple, direct, teen-friendly educational materials about female self-esteem and body image. [more inside]
Weighing 607 pounds, Bruce Snowdon was a sideshow fat man from 1977 to 2003, billed as "Harold Huge". His death on Nov. 9, 2009, at the age of 63 marks the end of a long tradition dating back centuries. [more inside]
The health care bill requires chains with 20 or more restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus, as is already the law in New York and Philadelphia. A study published last fall suggested that the labels didn't change the eating behavior of low-income New Yorkers. A recent study at Yale, conducted under laboratory conditions, found the opposite. Corby Kummer at the Atlantic says calorie labeling works -- once you understand the point is to change the behavior, not of the consumer, but of the vendor. Will calorie labels lead the way to a healthier America, or a part-skim socialist dystopia? Or is the call of the Thickburger just too strong for mere numbers to dispel?