Weight management is a key component of a healthy lifestyle although keeping one’s weight on track is often a frustrating and perplexing task. To get the whole family involved in the weight management effort may seem almost impossible.
Simply identifying a younger member of the family as overweight can be a challenge.
A 2015 study from the U.K. found that 31% of parents underestimated their child’s weight status. For a child who is “very overweight” per government guidelines there was an 80% chance the parent would classify the child as healthy weight. Teens themselves are not very good at identifying themselves as overweight as 80% of overweight teenaged boys and 71% of overweight teenaged girls perceived themselves as normal weight. Recognizing that a child is overweight is crucial to preventing the progression to adult obesity. 72% of overweight kindergartners were obese by the time they reached 8th grade. Continue reading →
Without question the eating habits we develop as kids helps determine if we are going to be a heavy adult. Almost a third of children and adolescents in the US are classified as either overweight or obese (JAMA 2014; Ogden, CL). Many of these children become obese adults. If a child’s parents are heavy their risk is doubled for becoming an overweight adult.
Metabolism.com is involved in finding ways to reduce childhood obesity. The first step is to raise awareness of the dangers of childhood obesity and how crucial it is for young people to learn how to eat properly. For this reason we are kicking off a Facebook and Instagram campaign called “ Food Flashback”. The campaign is being hosted on the Facebook page “CSSdiet” and Instagram @CSSdiet.
Food Flashback means sharing memories of how each of us first learned about food and nutrition. Most of us have some vivid recollections of family meals, watching our parents cooking, favorite foods and snacks as a child etc.
Metabolism.com received this message from one of our readers. Her story seems typical of the sort of dilemma so many people face today. The best advice usually comes from others who face the same problem. It would be helpful to hear what others would do in her situation.
Tara’s message: “I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease in 2009, I had RAI in 2011, after my daughter turned 3 months. Being pregnant with Severe Grave’s was the scariest thing in my life at the time. I gained weight prior to my pregnancy, during, and after RAI. My family doctor told me no matter how much you ate while severe Hyperthyroid you should have been anorexic, so something else is wrong. ” Continue reading →
If you ask the average person to define diabetes, a typical response might be “it’s when you have unhealthy eating habits and an overabundance of sugar in your blood.” Although that is not far from the truth, a more accurate definition is that diabetes is a disorder in the way our body uses insulin to process digested food for energy and storage. A good part of what we eat is broken down into glucose, the principle form of sugar in the blood. Diabetes occurs when there is not enough insulin to push the glucose into our cells. This deprives the body of the energy it needs because glucose is metabolized as fuel by all the organs in the body. Therefore in diabetes despite an elevated amount of sugar in the blood,the cells are actually starving for energy.We sometimes conceive of glucose in the blood as the enemy , but without it we would die. Continue reading →
Understanding of the various ways vitamin D effects the body is growing rapidly. Originally this vitamin was thought to only effect calcium in the blood and bone but recent research shows it possesses important influences on the immune system and cancer development. A study just published in Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism June 2012 now shows that this same vitamin can possibly influence metabolism. A common disorder of metabolism known as Syndrome X or the Metabolic Syndrome is characterized by high triglycerides and low good cholesterol (HDL), abdominal obesity, along with elevated blood pressure and blood sugar. The researchers discovered those with vitamin D levels between 16 and 20 were 75% more likely to develop the Metabolic Syndrome within 5 years than those with vitamin D levels above 34 (levels below 30 are considered low).
Whether low vitamin D is the cause of the Metabolic Syndrome is unclear. Vitamin D prevents fat cells from reproducing, helps the natural process of triglyceride breakdown and helps regulate blood sugar by making insulin work more efficiently. Without enough vitamin D the fat cells could multiply faster, triglyceride levels accumulate and blood sugar rise as is seen in Metabolic Syndrome.
As I have explained in previous posts at metabolism.com, vitamin D is also related to development of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and obesity in Type 2 Diabetes which could be considered a more advanced form of Metabolic Syndrome.
Doctors’ efforts to monitor vitamin D levels are being hindered by new regulations by Medicare and private insurance carriers to deny payment for vitamin D screening. Lately, a number of my patients’ vitamin D tests were denied by insurance carriers with patients being charged over $200 per test because it was not “indicated”.
Recommendations for vitamin D supplementation are debated. When skin is exposed to sunlight it manufactures vitamin D so there is thought that people who get sun exposure should not need vitamin D supplement but that is not borne out in reality. Previously the recommended daily allowance (RDA) was 400 units per day an amount which has been increased slightly for the elderly. Some experts recommend 1000 unit daily or more. In my practice I generally recommend starting at 1000 units and then rechecking 25 hydroxy vitamin D levels a few months later. Some individuals require 4000 unit or more daily to achieve vitamin D levels over 30. When purchasing vitamin D the D3 form appears to be converted in the body more rapidly than the D2 variety. High priced brands of vitamin D, in my opinion, are a waste of money.
The old saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” implies there is a deep connection between emotions and eating. My guess is no one is really surprised by this idea. Both men and woman can identify ways in which their mood and appetite are intertwined and it is no mere quirk of man’s personality that this is true.
Evolution tells us that we were born to eat. The earliest creatures in the world’s history were simple eating machines. Their bodies consisted of an entrance for food, a digestive tract and an exit for refuse. In order to become more efficient at getting food creatures developed a system to locate food and to move toward it. This system is known as a nervous system. The first creature to have this ability is the worm. Eventually the nervous system controlling the digestive system (enteric nervous system) began to sprout nodes which were early brains. As time went on and the brain became better developed it split off from the nervous system that controlled the digestive tract. Everything that followed in evolution, has served the purpose of developing increasingly efficient brains (central nervous system) for acquiring the fuel of life.
Another example of how deeply connected the gut and brain are, is to look at the development of the fetus. When a human fetus is still just a lump of jelly, the digestive and nervous systems are one structure. Soon this organ splits into two, one to become our gastrointestinal tract and the other the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Even though they become physically separated the chemical signals used by the gut and nervous system remain virtually identical. These chemicals comprise the groups known as neurotransmitters and hormones.
The same chemicals in the digestive tract that cause the intestines to twist and convulse (peristalsis), in the brain stimulate the emotion of anxiety. This explains why people get “butterflies” in the stomach or diarrhea when they are nervous. The brain chemicals involved in depression can cause constipation. The syndrome of irritable bowel disease (IBS) with its cycles of diarrhea and constipation is thought to be a reflection of an emotional rollercoaster. The chemical relationship between mood and appetite is even more complex but no less real. One of the most common side effect of mood altering drugs is increased appetite and weight gain. Just ask anyone who has been on an anti-depressant drug such as Prozac, Zoloft or Abilify. The chemical in marihuana that gets people high is famous for triggering the eating binge called “the munchies”.
Appetite suppressant drugs often have effects on mood and can be the source of major side effects. One new generation of appetite suppressants being developed, Acomplia, failed to be approved by the FDA because it caused severe depression and suicidal thinking.
In the next part of this series we will look at ways we can influence the brain to control our appetite.
Puberty occurs when areas within the brain awaken beginning a cascade of hormone signals which conclude with the gonads (ovaries and testicles) increasing their production of the female and male sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. Under the influence of these hormones a child begins the transition from childhood to sexual maturity. In boys puberty is associated with a growth spurt, the appearance of facial, axillary (arm pit) and pubic hair, acne, deepening of the voice, growth of the testicles and penis while girls undergo a growth spurt, develop breasts, acne, pubic and axillary hair, and growth of the clitoris.
Historical data shows the average age of puberty today is many years sooner than in previous generations. Most experts attribute earlier puberty to better nutrition. A recent article in metabolism.com reviewed how “over-nutrition” accelerates obese children into puberty sooner (referred to as precocious puberty) than normal weight children. The latest studies on causes of precocious puberty suggests that a child’s social environment also exerts an important influence on the timing of puberty. Researchers in Madrid publishing in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 95:4305 2010 analyzed the age of puberty in normal children, adopted children and children whose families immigrated (children not adopted but subject to high levels of personal stress) to Spain. Adopted children were 25 times more likely than other groups of children to undergo precocious puberty (breast development before the age of 8 years in girls, and boys under 9 years of age with testicular growth). Over-all girls were 11 times more likely than boys to demonstrate precocious puberty.
Researchers speculate that socio-emotional stresses early in life of children who are later adopted result in changes in the brain that cause premature maturation of vital nerve pathways. This early brain maturation later results in stimulation of the pituitary gland, turning on the hormone pathways that cause puberty. This seems strange to me because various forms of deprivation in childhood can also delay puberty. For example, girls who have anorexia remain child-like in their body development and may fail to menstruate even into their late teens. A decade ago I studied hormone levels in adults during the stress of illness and surgery and found this lowered the sex hormone levels in their blood. This makes sense from an evolutionary point of view because during stressful conditions nature wisely cuts off the reproductive hormones. Why make babies if the environment is hostile in some way? Why the opposite occurs in children under stress of adoption is an interesting but unanswered question.
Gary Pepper, M.D.,