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TOS Responds to JAMA on Drug Treatment of Obesity
Letter from the President
As you may remember, this past April authors Steven Woloshin, MD, MS, and Lisa Schwartz, MD, MS, published an opinion piece in JAMA Internal Medicine, entitled: The New Weight-Loss Drugs, Lorcaserin and Phentermine-Topiramate — Slim Pickings? The article sparked much debate among the obesity community, prompting responses from both TOS and the Obesity Action Coalition.
I'm pleased to share that both letters were published this week in the August issue of JAMA Internal Medicine. Both relay the need to recognize obesity as a disease and take the treatment of obesity seriously.
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Preliminary Evidence of Cognitive and Brain Abnormalities in Uncomplicated Adolescent Obesity
Contributed by Christopher Ochner, PhD
Previous research has shown that type II diabetes and the metabolic syndrome are associated with structural brain abnormalities and poor academic achievement; however, it was not known whether obesity can have similar effects on adolescents independent of these two conditions. A preliminary study by Convit and colleagues published in the August issue of Obesity suggests that this may be the case.
Thirty adolescents with obesity between the ages of 15 and 19 without insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome were compared to 30 lean adolescents on a number of endocrine, academic, neurpsychological and neurostructural outcomes. Compared to the lean adolescents, adolescents with obesity showed lower academic achievement, with significantly poorer scores on tests of arithmetic and spelling skills. Trends (potentially due to the small sample) suggested possible obesity-related deficits in working memory, mental flexibility, attention-concentration and psychomotor efficiency.
Thus, it appears that adolescent obesity may have ill effects on cognitive function and structure even prior to marked metabolic or insulin dysregulation.
Get to know a TOS Fellow! Q&A Interview with Janne Boone-Heinonen, PhD, MPH
It's time for another edition of the Q&A interviews with TOS Fellows! This is the perfect opportunity to get to know leaders in the obesity field a little better, and learn a bit more about their personal lives outside of work. Here are some questions and answers from our interview with Janne Boone-Heinonen, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor at the Oregon Health & Science University:
Q: Please tell us about your current work and your professional developmental trajectory.
Read the rest of the interview with Dr. Boone-Heinonen here. These interviews will be featured bi-monthly in the TOS eNews. Don't miss the next one on August 20!
A: My ongoing research investigates environmental and behavioral determinants of obesity. Recently, I have broadened my research to include the perinatal period and developmental origins of obesity. My current research focus is to integrate multigenerational perspectives into research on obesity prevention strategies.
Q: What advice do you have for today's junior obesity researchers?
A: Based on my ongoing experience as a junior researcher, my advice is to surround yourself with junior and senior researchers who will support and critique you. The relationships you build in your doctoral/postdoctoral training will create the foundation for professional and peer networks throughout your career. Transform unsupportive criticism into ways you can improve your manuscripts, grants, and self.
Q: What are your favorite things to do when you're not at work?
A: I love spending time with my family, and occasionally by myself. I also love the challenge of pushing a Double Bob stroller up large hills.
Weight Bias Linked to Appreciation for Weight-Related Jokes
Contributed by Emily Dhurandhar, PhD
Although it's taboo to joke about an individual with a disease, the same doesn't hold true for obesity. Disparagement humor about those with excess weight, or humor about a marginalized group of individuals, is commonplace in mainstream media.
Disparagement humor is often considered offensive, however, it is usually deemed funny depending on the audience's underlying attitudes about the group of individuals targeted by the joke. A new study published by Jacob Burmeister and colleagues in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that appreciation of media clips with obesity-related jokes was associated with participants' dislike for people with obesity, their belief that weight is controllable, and belief in weight-related stereotypes. These findings are in line with the disposition theory of humor appreciation, which suggests that people enjoy a joke more if the target of the joke "deserves" it.
Their findings suggest that education of the public about obesity to reduce weight bias may reduce the audience for disparaging humor about individuals with obesity. Read more about The Obesity Society's efforts to reduce weight bias here.
How Does the MC4R Gene Affect Brain Response to Food Cues?
New research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) found that brain response to appetizing food cues varies among people with obesity. Researchers showed pictures of appetizing foods to three groups of people: those who were obese due to a genetic mutation with the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) gene, those who were obese without the genetic mutation, and those who were at a normal weight. The researchers then monitored the participants' reward-response areas of the brain.
The research revealed that people with obesity who had the MC4R mutation had similar brain activity as normal weight people. In contrast, the reward centers were underactive in participants with overweight or obesity without the gene mutation.
"For the first time, we are seeing that the MC4R pathway is involved in the brain's response to food cues," said lead researcher Agatha van der Klaauw, MD, PhD, of the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, U.K. "Understanding this pathway may help in developing interventions to limit the overconsumption of highly palatable foods that can lead to weight gain."
The full study is available here.
Can One Local Campaign Change Attitudes About Sugary Beverages?
A new study published in Preventive Medicine assessed whether a Portland, Oregon-area public awareness campaign about the amount of added sugar in soda and sugary drinks would affect consumer behavior. The researchers used nearly every channel imaginable for their campaign — including the internet, television, public transit and billboards — as they aimed to reach everyone in the Portland area.
The researchers followed up the study with a post-campaign survey to assess awareness of the campaign and attitudes toward sugar-sweetened beverages. In the group that reported awareness of the campaign, researchers found greater agreement that sugar causes health problems and greater intention to offer less sugary drinks to children. They did not find a difference in self-reported soda consumption.
The full study is available here.
NIH Launches New Program to Research Poorly Understood Genes
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently launched a new $5.8 million initiative to improve human health by exploring poorly understood genes that have the potential to be modified by medicines. The effort is part of an NIH Common Fund three-year pilot project called Illuminating the Druggable Genome (IDG).
According to predictions based on genomic information, as many as 3,000 genes could be altered by medicines, yet only about 10 percent of these "druggable genes" are targeted by FDA-approved drugs. The IDG program is designed to address this gap by supporting research of understudied genes in four gene families: nuclear receptors, ion channels, protein kinases and G-protein coupled receptors, often called GPCRs.
The money will be awarded to eight institutions that will have the responsibility of researching uncharacterized genes and sharing what they learn publicly so the larger scientific community can build on their findings with both basic research and clinical translation. They will also develop ways to identify and describe the genes they explore, creating a common language that can be applied across experimental systems, from individual cells to complex biological models.
Survey suggests kids okay with healthy school lunches
Contributed by Health Central
Once school kids get over their initial objections, they don't seem to mind the healthy school lunches now required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). At least that's what's suggested by a survey taken by the Institutes for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
The researchers sent questionnaires to schools nationwide during the spring of 2013 and a total of 482 schools responded. School administrators and food service personnel were asked to answer questions about their schools' food offerings, whether lunch sales had changed from the previous year, and if students ate more or less of their meals. The respondents were also asked if students complained about the new lunches.
The results showed that at 56 percent of schools, respondents said that kids did complain at first. But 70 percent of the survey participants said that kids liked the lunches at the time of the survey in 2013. At rural schools, though, respondents were more likely to say that fewer kids were eating school lunches and that more were complaining about the new food offerings.
Obesity drug safety debate escalates in medical journal
Medscape (Login required)
Disagreement over the safety of 2 weight-loss drugs recently approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has escalated in the pages of a major medical journal.
On Feb.10, 2014, JAMA Internal Medicine published online a "special communication" written by Steven Woloshin, M.D., and Lisa Schwartz, M.D., from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Lebanon, New Hampshire, in which they call lorcaserin and phentermine-topiramate "slim pickings" for the treatment of obesity.
Childhood obesity: Is it being taken seriously?
Medical News Today
"Childhood obesity is not a cosmetic issue or something the child will just grow out of. Obese children tend to become obese adults, and there are many medical issues associated with obesity. Children are now taking the same type of medications as their parents to manage blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol. This is frightening but true," Dr. Rani Whitfield, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, told Medical News Today.
Nutrition Society: Processed food is vital in US diet
Medscape (Login required)
Processed foods are an important part of the U.S. food supply and ensure that Americans have food to eat and food that meets nutritional guideline requirements, according to a controversial scientific statement issued by the American Society for Nutrition and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
8 ways to fight childhood obesity
While childhood obesity rates are on the decline, it's still a prevalent problem in the U.S. Obesity in children is linked to increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke later in life. Early obesity prevention is crucial. Here's how you can keep your kids on the healthy track.
1 step to combat obesity: Make stairs more attractive
If there's a single invention that helped shape New York City, literally, it might be the elevator. Along with steel frame construction, the elevator allowed New York City to grow up.
But according to architect David Burney, former New York City commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction, it's time to celebrate the steps.
No TV or obesity, but ancient people still had heart disease
HealthDay News via Everyday Health
They may not have had fast food, TVs or cigarettes, but people of ancient times commonly developed clogged heart arteries — and a new research review speculates on some reasons why. Using CT scans of mummified remains from ancient Egypt, Peru, the Aleutian Islands and the American Southwest, researchers have found evidence of widespread atherosclerosis — the hardening of heart arteries from fatty substances that build up, eventually leading to heart attack or stroke.
Study says early DDT exposure may set up females for obesity, diabetes
Los Angeles Times
As they reached adulthood, female mice who were exposed in utero and just after birth to the pesticide DDT showed metabolic changes that put them at greater risk for obesity and type-2 diabetes, a new study says.
11 foods that make you hungrier
Feeling hungry? You should eat. But what if the foods you're eating actually make you hungrier than you were before you dug in? It's a more common conundrum than you might think. "Hunger is a result of many complex interactions that occur in the stomach, intestines, brain, pancreas, and bloodstream," says weight-loss specialist and board-certified internist Sue Decotiis, MD. Problem is, it's a circuit that's easily hijacked. Here are 11 foods that can make you feel like you’re running on empty — even when your stomach is stuffed.
The Obesity Society eNews
Mollie Turner, News Editor, The Obesity Society
Colby Horton, Vice President of Publishing, 469.420.2601
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Caitlin McNeely, Senior Editor, 469.420.2692
Disclaimer: eNews is a digest of the most important news selected for The Obesity Society from thousands of sources by the editors of MultiBriefs, an independent organization that also manages and sells advertising. The Obesity Society does not endorse any of the advertised products and services. Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the author and not of The Obesity Society.
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