by Marion Nestle
Sep 1 2011

Obesity research and commentary: today’s roundup

My mailbox is overflowing with new reports and commentary about obesity.  Here are some examples:

State medical expenses: The journal, Obesity, has an analysis of the cost of obesity to states.  Obesity costs states an additional 7 to 11% in medical expenses. Between 22% (Virginia) and 55% (Rhode Island) of state costs of obesity are paid by taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation series on preventing childhood obesity: 

From the Campaign to End Obesity:

Obesity Rates Projected to Soar, ABC News, 8.25.11Will half the U.S. population be obese by 2030? The current trajectory would see 65 million more obese adults, raising the national total to 164 million. Roughly one-third of the U.S. population is currently obese.

In U.S., Obesity Rates Remain Higher Than 20% in All States, Gallup, 8.25.11: Colorado continues to be the state with the lowest obesity rate in the country, at 20.1% in the first half of 2011. West Virginia has the highest obesity rate in January through June 2011, at 34.3%, which is also the highest Gallup has measured for any state since it began tracking obesity rates in 2008.

Reversing the obesity epidemic will take time, LA Times, 8.26.11The old rule that cutting out or burning 500 calories a day will result in a steady, 1-pound-per-week weight loss doesn’t reflect real people, researchers say. For the typical overweight adult, every 10-calorie-per-day reduction will result in the loss of about 1 pound over three years.

I’ve commented on some of these in previous posts.  If you find the avalanche of studies overwhelming, you are in good company.  I do too, but will summarize my take on the literature in my forthcoming book with Malden Nesheim, Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics, due out from University of California Press in March 2012.  Stay tuned.

  • chuck

    A very important book just came out Tuesday. It is called Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis MD. Anyone in nutrition or healthcare needs to read this book. It does a great job illustrating how genetic modifications of wheat in the last 40 years has had dramatic effects on the health of our population (obesity being one issue). Bottom line is these “healthy whole grains” are not the same stuff our grand parents grew up on.

  • All these research reports make me think of this hysterical cartoon by Jonny Hawkins …

  • Jon

    One thing I read in Time. Obviously they had to include margarine as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle, in reference to a new study. Never mind that people lived for millennia without margarine, and never had a problem. Or that margarine was one fat Ancel Keys strongly correlated to heart attacks. Or that they used a specific recipe, not the one most people don’t use. Or that they were changing MANY variables, margarine being exactly one of them.

    *sigh* Can’t we just say calories and leave it at that?

  • Cathy Richards

    I just did some quick math.
    500 calories/10 calories = 50
    1 pound/3 years x 50 = 50 pounds/3 years
    50 pounds divided by 3 years divided 52 weeks per year = 0.3 pounds per week.
    So the researchers could have given us that hypothesized equivalent (very hypothetical).
    I’ve heard other researchers say that estimating the weight lost by calorie deficit (eating less, burning more) is extremely difficult because as you lower calories, or lose weight, or gain muscle, your resting metabolic rate changes.
    Yes, weight is absolutely all about calories. But there are no rules that fit everyone, nor rules that fit a single person.

  • Cathy Richards

    I have a little saying that is a little rude, but it has struck chords with people:
    “All foods fit, as long as your pants do.”
    If loose pants are no longer loose, adjust your lifestyle a tweak before you need to buy a larger size.
    Simplistic I know.

  • I spent a little time arguing with my Central PA school district’s nutrition manager that they should not offer sugary milks with “regular” milk to k-3 students. What kid is NOT going to choose chocolate or strawberry milk. Her reply: a flyer form dairy council quoting some professor saying sugary milk has more calcium than soda.

    So, essentially, thanks for your input, now go away.

    I feel like I have to be a full time activist to make marginal change.