by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Obesity

Aug 15 2007

Playing with Obesity Maps

The Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley passes along information from RevolutionHealth about that site’s interactive maps that display the rise in rates of obesity in the United States from 1990 to 2006, for the entire United States, and by state. Watch the colors of the states get darker as the rates increase. Click on Texas and you can see the rates more than double from 12.3% to 26.1% of the population. But if you are from Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, or Nevada, you are out of luck; the maps have data for all states except those.

Aug 6 2007

Do School Diet Interventions Work? Yes!

At last, some good news. Joel Moscowitz of the Center for Family and Community Health at Berkeley’s School of Public Health frequently sends out articles he has collected about obesity prevention. The latest is a “meta-analysis” (meaning an analysis of data collected from many research studies on the same topic) of 12 projects that use a combination of diet and physical activity to help school children lose weight. According to the authors of this article, published in the International Journal of Obesity, diet and activity work remarkably well, especially when families are involved. Doesn’t this seem promising?

Aug 6 2007

Using the Law to Counter Obesity

The Spring 2007 issue of the Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics and the April 2007 issue of the Maryland Law Journal both have collections of excellent articles on childhood obesity. The articles talk about how to use laws and regulations to improve school food and restrict marketing of junk food to children, among other actions. Tired of waiting for food companies to make voluntary improvements? These articles provide lots of good ideas for encouraging companies to do what they promise.

Aug 3 2007

Everybody causes obesity?

And now yet another study, this one in the July 2007 Economic Inquiry, says that social factors influence body weight. This study doesn’t say friends make friends fat, but says that the average body weight in a population has a “social multiplier” effect. This, they say, in conjunction with low food prices, encourages weight gain. Read what Dr. David Katz at Yale has to say about obesity “contagion.” He says: “There was virtually no obesity 100 years ago, but I’m pretty sure people did have friends back then. What they did not have was cars, suburban sprawl, fast food, and video games. Human nature and relationships are not the root cause of epidemic obesity; the obesigenic modern environment is.” Indeed.

Jul 26 2007

Friends Make Friends Obese?

So the latest report from the Framingham Heart Study tells us that obesity travels in social networks. You are likely to be overweight if your friends are, and vice versa. Gina Kolata has a great account of the study in today’s New York Times, but the paper itself is worth reading for its gorgeous diagram of this particular social network. It is also noteworthy for its ability to expand your otherwise boring vocabulary. Did you know that homophily is the tendency for people to choose relationships with people who have similar attributes, and alter is a person connected to the ego who may influence the behavior of the ego? Not me.  Never mind.  Go see what The Onion has to say about this.

Jul 25 2007

Diet Sodas and Metabolic Risks?

The Framingham Heart Study has just released new results suggesting that people who drink one or more 12-ounce sodas a day have a greater chance of developing “multiple metabolic risk factors” such as obesity, high blood pressure (hypertension), high blood sugar (diabetes), or low HDL-cholesterol (the good kind). The story made headlines in USA Today and other publications because diet sodas–which have no calories–were associated with the same level of risk as that of sodas made with corn sweeteners. As might be expected, soda industry officials find this result ridiculous but I think it makes sense if you think of sodas–diet and not–as an indicator of poor dietary habits. Plenty of evidence suggests that many (although certainly not all) people who habitually drink sodas of any kind consume more calories, have worse diets, and are more likely to be overweight than people who do not. For some individuals, using artificial sweeteners helps maintain weight. But on a population basis, the huge increase in use of artificial sweeteners since the early 1980s has occurred precisely in parallel with rising rates of obesity. So lots of people must be making up for the calories they save in diet sodas by eating other junk foods. When it comes to food, I don’t care for anything artificial so I try to avoid artificial sweeteners as much as I can. And you?

Jun 26 2007

Charlie Rose: Obesity and Nutrition

I participated in a panel with Charlie Rose last night on the science of obesity. With five people around the table, it was hard to get a word in edgewise, but I did the best I could (take a look and judge for yourself). The central issue for the conversation was whether obesity is the result of genes or the environment. If it’s genes, let’s find a drug and solve the problem. If it’s environment, things get much more complicated because no drug can fix a society that makes food available everywhere, at rock bottom cost, in enormous portions. Genes matter, of course; not everyone who overeats gains weight. But rates of overweight started to zoom up just in the past 25 years or so, too recently for genetics to have changed. While the science types are working hard to find a magic–and highly profitable–bullet, people need to find ways to handle a food environment that encourages overeating. I’m in favor of policies to make it easier to eat more healthfully, ranging from restrictions on marketing junk food to children to elimination of farm subsidies. I’m sure you can think of more. I’m collecting a list. Send suggestions.

In the meantime, I have a bit more to say about these issues at Eating Liberally.

Jun 21 2007

Fixing School Lunches

I am an occasional contributor to Huffington Post where I recently commented on the need to take action–now–on childhood obesity and school lunches.