It’s getting harder to know what it means to eat ‘healthy’. That mantra of the nutrition community is becoming more difficult to put into practice.
Much has been made recently of a purported drop in childhood obesity, particularly among children age 2 to 5. (See my Oct. 2015 blog, Did the White House Spin CDC Study to show progress in childhood obesity?”) Now, a new study finds “no evidence of a decline in obesity prevalence in any age group, despite substantial clinical and policy efforts targeting the issue.” The paper by Ashley C. Skinner, Eliana M. Perrin and Joseph A. Skelton in Obesity used NHANES data from 1999-2014 and found, “A clear, statistically significant increase in all classes of obesity continued from 1999 to 2014.” They also reported that severe obesity (classII and III) showed a significant increase in adolescents and non-Hispanic black children. They state, “By including severe obesity, our results also highlight particular areas of concern. In 2013-2014, nearly 10% of adolescents met criteria for Class II obesity, and nearly 5% also met criteria for class III obesity…The 4.5 million children and adolescents with severe obesity will require novel and intensive efforts for long-term obesity improvement. With scarce resources, and increasing costs of comorbid conditions, there is an urgent need for targeted interventions to stem the rise in severe obesity among children, in addition to policies and clinical efforts designed to prevent obesity. Policy efforts are yet to yield substantive changes in obesity prevalence but few have specifically targeted severe obesity.” Amen
Gina Kolata of The New York Times has a front-page story on May 2, 2016, covering a study of winners of the TV ‘reality’ show, The Biggest Loser. The study published in the journal Obesity shows that not only is most the lost weight regained, but that the slower metabolic rate, which occurs during active weight loss, persists for up to 6 years in the subjects. This is the process of adaptive thermogenesis which we have discussed on several occasions. What the article does not mention is that most of the weight loss programs used in employer wellness programs are based on The Biggest Loser. In other words, thanks to Obamacare, employees can be penalized for failing at a weight loss program where failure is all but assured.
It has been an article of faith among the medical professions and public health authorities that the leading cause of death, heart disease, is a product of the modern society with too much processed foods and inadequate physical activity. Yet, the anthropoligical record is not bearing out this thesis. An article in the Washington Post by Peter Whoriskey points to the accumulating evidence that heart disease was part of ancient life. He writes, “By turning up evidence of heart disease in populations with widely varying diets, the mummy research suggests that some unrecognized cause besides what we choose to eat is at work.”