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Sunday Musings: Monthly Obesity News Roundup

No guarantees that we’ll be bringing you a regular monthly Obesity News Roundup – but there has been more than enough obesity-related publishing activity in the learned press over the past four weeks to rate a special roundup that will get your little grey cells pulsating…

The Obesity Front - © via WikipediaThe Obesity Front: Promising progress proceeds apace…

“Eh bien! Zee leetle grey cells!” as Agatha Christie’s quirky Belgian detective, Hercules Poirot, often exclaimed. If the new studies hitting the learned journals lately are any indication, science is making tremendous progress on the global obesity crisis. So this Sunday, for your musing pleasure, we present an aggregation of the latest news from the obesity front…

Scientists discover 14 genes that cause obesity

University of Virginia researchers have identified 14 genes that can cause, and three that can prevent weight gain. The findings pave the way for treatments to combat a health problem that affects more than 40 percent of American adults.

“We [knew previously] of hundreds of gene variants that are more likely to show up in individuals suffering obesity and other diseases. But ‘more likely to show up’ does not mean causing the disease,” says Eyleen O’Rourke of UVA’s Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center. “We anticipate that our approach and the new genes we uncovered will accelerate the development of treatments to reduce the burden of obesity.”

A ‘cousin’ of Viagra stimulates cells to burn fat

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine have found that a drug first developed to treat Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and sickle cell disease reduces obesity and fatty liver in mice and improves their heart function — without changes in food intake or daily activity. The compound inhibits the gut enzyme known as PDE9, which regulates cells’ ability to  burn fat.

“What makes our findings exciting is that we found an oral medication that activates fat-burning in mice to reduce obesity and fat buildup in organs like the liver and heart that contribute to disease,” says senior investigator Dr. David Kass of Johns Hopkins University. “This is new.”

High-fat diets break the body clock in rats

New research published in The Journal of Physiology reveals that, when rats are fed a high fat diet, this disturbs the body clock in their brain that normally controls satiety, leading to over-eating and obesity.

Historically, it was believed that the master body clock was only located in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. However, further research over the years has clarified that some control of our body’s daily rhythms (hormone levels, appetite, etc.) lies in several other parts of the brain and body, including a group of neurons in the evolutionary ancient brainstem, called the dorsal vagal complex (DVC). Specifically, the DVC has been shown to control food intake by inducing satiety. Researchers propose that disturbance in the DVC’s timekeeping leads to obesity, rather than being the result of excessive body weight.

Changes to workplace cafeteria menus nudge workers to consume fewer calories

A study carried out at 19 workplace cafeterias has shown that reducing portion sizes and replacing higher calorie food and drinks with lower calorie options led to workers buying food and drink with fewer calories.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge (UK), who led the study, say that even simple interventions such as these could contribute towards tackling levels of obesity.

Dr. James Reynolds of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit at Cambridge, the study’s first author, said: “On average, UK adults consume 200-300 excess calories a day. This study shows that reducing portion sizes and the availability of higher calorie options in cafeterias could make an important contribution to reducing excess calories in strategies to tackle obesity.”

Meeting sleep recommendations could lead to smarter snacking

Researchers at Ohio State University report that missing out on the recommended seven or more hours of sleep per night could lead to more opportunities to make poorer snacking choices than those made by people who meet shut-eye guidelines, a new study suggests. The analysis of data on almost 20,000 American adults showed a link between not meeting sleep recommendations and eating more snack-related carbohydrates, added sugar, fats and caffeine.

“Not only are we not sleeping when we stay up late, but we’re doing all these obesity-related behaviors: lack of physical activity, increased screen time, food choices that we’re consuming as snacks and not as meals. So it creates this bigger impact of meeting or not meeting sleep recommendations.”

Now you’re up to date

Amazing, isn’t it? How so many revolutionary findings about obesity turn out to hinge on common sense and relatively small changes in behaviour?

Muse on that…

~ Maggie J.