All About Habits
In addition to helping our bodies create Vitamin D and making us feel happy, it appears that sunshine may provide yet another health benefit.
Researchers at Michigan State University found that a certain protein released from fat in the body can cause a non-cancerous cell to turn into a cancerous one.
Two recent studies on obesity yielded some concerning findings regarding its impacts on life expectancy and heart disease.
Let’s take a look at each.
Obesity and Longevity
In April, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic and New York University School of Medicine found that obesity resulted in as much as 47 percent more life-years lost than tobacco, and tobacco caused similar life-years lost as high blood pressure.
The research team found the greatest number of preventable life-years lost were due to (in order from greatest to least) obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Of the five top causes of death, three (diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol) are treatable with medications and lifestyle changes. Obesity and tobacco use are more challenging issues to resolve: both involve complex psychological factors.
From the press release:
To estimate the number of life-years lost to each modifiable risk factor, researchers examined the change in mortality for a series of hypothetical U.S. populations that each eliminated a single risk factor. They compared the results with the change in life-years lost for an “optimal” population that eliminated all modifiable risk factors. Recognizing that some less common factors might place substantial burden on small population subgroups, they also estimated life expectancy gained in individuals with each modifiable risk factor.The reality is, while we may know the proximate cause of a patient’s death, for example, breast cancer or heart attack, we don’t always know the contributing factor(s), such as tobacco use, obesity, alcohol and family history. For each major cause of death, we identified a root cause to understand whether there was a way a person could have lived longer.
To estimate the number of life-years lost to each modifiable risk factor, researchers examined the change in mortality for a series of hypothetical U.S. populations that each eliminated a single risk factor. They compared the results with the change in life-years lost for an “optimal” population that eliminated all modifiable risk factors. Recognizing that some less common factors might place substantial burden on small population subgroups, they also estimated life expectancy gained in individuals with each modifiable risk factor.
The reality is, while we may know the proximate cause of a patient’s death, for example, breast cancer or heart attack, we don’t always know the contributing factor(s), such as tobacco use, obesity, alcohol and family history. For each major cause of death, we identified a root cause to understand whether there was a way a person could have lived longer.
Glen Taksler, Ph.D., internal medicine researcher from Cleveland Clinic and lead author of the study, said of the findings,
“Modifiable behavioral risk factors pose a substantial mortality burden in the U.S. These preliminary results continue to highlight the importance of weight loss, diabetes management and healthy eating in the U.S. population.”
Busting the “Fat but Fit” Myth
Storing too much fat in the body is associated with a number of metabolic changes, including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and altered cholesterol levels, which have been linked to numerous health problems and diseases.
However, some studies have revealed a subset of overweight people who appear to lack the adverse health effects of excess weight, leading to them being classified as “metabolically healthy obese” in the medical literature (referred to “fat but fit” in the media).
In August, researchers from Imperial College London, University College London, and other institutions across Europe found that being overweight or obese increases a person’s risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) by up to 28 percent compared to those with a healthy bodyweight – even if they have healthy blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.
For this study – the largest of its kind to date – scientists used data from more than half a million people in 10 European countries – taken from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). They found that excess weight is linked with an increased risk of heart disease, even when people have a healthy metabolic profile. Researchers focused on weight and signs of heart disease. Then, they looked at more than 7,637 people who had cardiovascular events such as death from heart attack, and compared them to more than 10,000 people who didn’t have heart problems.
Being metabolically unhealthy or having metabolic syndrome was defined as having three or more of the following at baseline:
Researchers looked for the new development of heart disease during follow-up, either self-reported or through data from GP and hospital registers and mortality records. The last follow-up ranged from 2003- 2010, with an average of 12.2 years.
They looked at the link between body fat, metabolic markers, and developing heart disease, adjusting for baseline variables of country, gender, age, education, smoking status, alcohol intake, diet, and physical activity.
After those adjustments and considerations, the scientists found that people with three or more heart risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or large waist sizes (more than 37 inches for men and 31 inches for women) were more than twice as likely to have heart disease, regardless of whether their weight was normal or above normal.
But those who were considered overweight yet healthy were still 26 percent more likely to develop heart disease than their normal-weight peers. Those considered healthy but obese had a 28 percent higher risk, the study found.
The findings, which were published in the European Heart Journal, add to a growing body of evidence that suggests being “fat but fit” is a myth, and that people should aim to maintain a body weight within a healthy range.
The excess weight itself may not be increasing the risk of heart disease directly, but rather indirectly through mechanisms such as increased blood pressure and high glucose, the researchers said.
Lead author Dr. Camille Lassale explained,
“Our findings suggest that if a patient is overweight or obese, all efforts should be made to help them get back to a healthy weight, regardless of other factors. Even if their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol appear within the normal range, excess weight is still a risk factor.”
Dr. Ioanna Tzoulaki, from Imperial’s School of Public Health, added,
“I think there is no longer this concept of healthy obese. If anything, our study shows that people with excess weight who might be classed as ‘healthy’ haven’t yet developed an unhealthy metabolic profile. That comes later in the timeline, then they have an event, such as a heart attack.”
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Are you stressed out? Is it hard for you to lose weight? Is there excess fat hanging around in your belly area?
Warning: This article may trigger an intense desire to obsessively clean your residence.
Overeating, sedentary lifestyles, lack of exercise…these are known contributors to the world’s obesity epidemic.
But a new study suggests a common household annoyance may play an unexpected role: dust.
Small amounts of house dust containing common environmental pollutants can spur fat cells to accumulate more triglycerides, or fat, in a lab dish, researchers at Duke University found.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health in the US, and was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology.
The implicated pollutants are known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). They are synthetic or naturally occurring compounds that can interfere with or mimic the body’s hormones. EDCs, such as flame retardants, phthalates, and bisphenol-A, are known for their potential effects on reproductive, neurological, and immune functions.
But animal studies also suggest that early life exposure to some EDCs – known as “obesogens” – can cause weight gain later in life.
Some manufacturers have reduced the use of EDCs in products, but many are still ubiquitous in consumer goods. They wind up in indoor dust that can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that children consume 50 milligrams of house dust each day. Concerned about the potential effects EDCs in dust might have on children’s health, the researchers wanted to see if the compounds in house dust might have an effect on fat cells.
They took samples of indoor dust from 11 homes in North Carolina, and tested extracts from those samples in a mouse pre-adipocyte cell model.
According to the researchers, extracts from seven of the samples triggered the cells to develop mature fat cells and accumulate fat. Extracts from nine samples spurred the cells to divide, creating a bigger pool of precursor fat cells. Only one sample showed no effects. The researchers concluded that house dust is a likely source of chemicals that may disrupt metabolic health, particularly in children.
In a press release, the American Chemical Society elaborates:
Additionally, among the 44 individual common house dust contaminants tested in this model, pyraclostrobin (a pesticide), the flame-retardant TBPDP, and DBP, a commonly used plasticizer, had the strongest fat-producing effects. This suggests that the mixture of these chemicals in house dust is promoting the accumulation of triglycerides and fat cells, the researchers say. Amounts of dust as low as 3 micrograms — well below the mass of dust that children are exposed to daily — caused measurable effects.
Head researcher Dr. Heather Stapleton said of the findings,
“What our study demonstrates is that exposure to mixtures of chemicals found in our home can change the metabolic function of our cells.“At this point it’s difficult to provide advice on how to avoid exposure…cleaning more with wet techniques (e.g. mopping) can help remove and reduce dust particles […] dry dusting can sometimes release more dust particles to the air which can then be inhaled.”
“What our study demonstrates is that exposure to mixtures of chemicals found in our home can change the metabolic function of our cells.
“At this point it’s difficult to provide advice on how to avoid exposure…cleaning more with wet techniques (e.g. mopping) can help remove and reduce dust particles […] dry dusting can sometimes release more dust particles to the air which can then be inhaled.”
If this study inspires you to scrub down every surface and vacuum every corner of your home, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Most of us could use a bit (okay, a LOT) more exercise.
But keep in mind that this study is very small, and it didn’t look at whether those whose homes are dustier than others are exposed to more chemicals. And, we don’t know if the effects on the mouse cells would be seen in human cells.
The study does, however, build on previous research, also led by Dr. Stapleton. And, other studies on the relationship between endocrine disruptors and obesity have yielded similar findings – some referring to obesogens as an emerging threat to public health.
A new study shows another risk associated with PPIs: Long-term use of the drugs carries an increased risk of early death.
A new “study” claims that low-gluten diets may be associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes, but red flags abound.
Despite the ability to get vitamin D from food, supplements, and the sun, an estimated one billion people worldwide are deficient.
Another study has shown that a common food additive – emulsifiers – is linked to intestinal inflammation and colorectal cancer.
A new study has shown that gluten sensitivity is NOT in your head – it is in your gut.