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Obesity Rates, Studies, and Childhood Obesity

Public transportation could affect obesity rates

Utilizing buses and trains requires consumers to be more active in their day-to-day lives

Public transportation is a part of many consumers’ daily routine, serving as a convenient way to get from place to place. However, many consumers probably never considered the health implications of utilizing public transportation.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Georgia Tech recently conducted a study and found that when more people utilize public transportation, obesity rates are lowered.

“Opting for mass transit over driving creates ...

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    Using mass transit leads to drop in obesity rates, study finds

    Researchers say taking the bus or train increases physical activity

    The daily commute to work can often be the low point of many consumers’ day, but a new study suggests that taking advantage of certain modes of transportation can help fight obesity.

    Researchers from the University of Illinois have found that counties that rely more on their mass transit systems produce residents that have lower obesity rates. They say that putting more funds into these systems could promote better overall wellbeing.

    "As local communities seek to allocate public funds to projects that will provide the most benefit to their residents, our research suggests that investing in convenient and affordable public transit systems may improve public health by reducing obesity, thereby providing more value than had been previously thought," said researcher Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science at Illinois.

    Cutting obesity rates

    Jacobson, along with graduate student Zhaowei She and lecturer Douglas M. King, came to their conclusions after analyzing public county health and transportation data.

    After controlling for factors like household income, poverty rate, education level, access to health care, and leisure physical activity, they found that a 1% increase in a county’s population that frequently used mass transit systems correlated to a 0.2% drop in obesity rates.

    "By viewing this link at the county level, we provide a national perspective by considering data from counties throughout the United States. Our research suggests that, in addition to benefits to the environment and greater access to transportation for residents, community-level investments into public transit systems may also benefit public health by reducing obesity rates," said King.

    Increases physical activity

    The researchers explain that the health benefits of using mass transit come from the increased level of physical activity that travelers need to engage in, something that is lost when simply driving directly to their final destination.

    "For example, when someone rides a bus, they may begin their trip by walking from their home to a bus stop before boarding the bus. Then, once they get off of the bus, they may still need to walk from a bus stop to their destination. Alternatively, if they had driven a car, they might simply drive directly from their home to their destination and eliminate the walking portion of the trip," said Jacobson.

    The full study has been published in Preventive Medicine.

    The daily commute to work can often be the low point of many consumers’ day, but a new study suggests that taking advantage of certain modes of transportat...

    Do you carry your weight around the middle? Researchers say you could be at risk

    A study finds that consumers with central obesity are at greater risk of all-cause mortality

    It’s easy to lose count of the number of studies that have warned consumers about the dangers of obesity. From increased risk of cardiovascular disease to the prevalence of other conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, researchers have made it clear that being obese is a serious concern.

    But what about consumers who don’t quite fit that “classic” model of being overweight? Maybe your Body Mass Index (BMI) is completely normal but you carry your weight around your middle. If so, then a recent study shows that you may be in danger too.

    Researchers from Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences have found that consumers with central obesity have the highest risk of death from all causes compared to others who are overweight or obese and carry their weight elsewhere on their body.

    "It is yet further evidence that even if you are within a 'healthy' BMI range but you carry weight around your stomach your health is still at risk. The message here is that if you do have central obesity, no matter what your BMI, you should take steps to reduce this fat," said professor and researcher Mark Hamer.

    Risks of central obesity

    Previous smaller-scale studies have shown how risky central obesity is, but the findings had yet to be corroborated by research on a larger group. To remedy this, researchers Mark Hamer, David Stensel, and Dr. Gary O’Donovan analyzed over 42,000 participants who took part in 10 different years of the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey.

    The study categorized participants based on their BMI scores and waist-hip ratios into several different weight groups. They included: normal weight; normal weight with central obesity; overweight; overweight with central obesity; obese; and obese with central obesity.

    The findings showed that participants who had central obesity were at increased risk of all-cause mortality when compared to normal weight participants. Specifically, the researchers found that all participants with central obesity, regardless of their BMI, were at increased risk of death due to cardiovascular problems.

    "Our research does back up the findings of previous smaller scale studies which show normal weight people with central obesity are at increased risk for all-cause mortality,” said Hamer of the results.

    The full study has been published in Annals of Internal Medicine

    It’s easy to lose count of the number of studies that have warned consumers about the dangers of obesity. From increased risk of cardiovascular disease to...

    Standing desks help children avoid obesity and perform better in school

    The key, researchers believe, is encouraging movement during class time

    A number of studies have been published recently which show that sitting for prolonged periods can be bad for your health, leading to weight gain and obesity. When you consider how long our children sit down in class when they’re at school, it starts to make sense why childhood obesity rates are so high in the U.S.

    Many experts have suggested that schools could benefit from standing desks -- tall working areas that would get students out of their chairs. A new study validates these assertions, showing that standing desks could provide both academic and health benefits to the children that use them.

    “Research around the world has shown that standing desks are positive for the teachers in terms of classroom management and student engagement, as well as positive for children for their health, cognitive functioning and academic achievement. It’s literally a win-win, and now we have hard data that shows it is beneficial for weight control,” said Dr. Mark Benden, one of the authors of the study.

    Healthier outcomes

    The “hard data” that the researchers gathered came from experiments conducted in 24 classrooms across three elementary schools in College Station, Texas. At each school, four classrooms were outfitted with stand-biased desks -- which allowed students to either sit on a high stool or stand – and four were left as standard, controlled classrooms.

    Participating students were followed over the course of two school years to see if the stand-biased desks had any effect on their weight or academic achievement. At the end of the trial period, the researchers found that students with stand-biased desks had a 3% drop in BMI compared to students who gained the typical 2% in BMI due to aging.

    Students who only spent one year with a stand-biased desk also benefitted from the experience, showing a lower mean BMI than students who never used them at all. Researchers attribute these results to encouraging active movement during class time.

    “Classrooms with stand-biased desks are part of what we call an Activity Permissive Learning Environment (APLE), which means that teachers don’t tell children to ‘sit down,’ or ‘sit still’ during class. Instead, these types of desks encourage the students to move instead of being forced to sit in poorly fitting, hard plastic chairs for six or seven hours of the day,” said Benden.

    "Sit less, move more"

    Benden and his colleagues had conducted previous studies showing that standing can allow a person to burn 15% more calories when compared to those who sit down. The results of this study seem to corroborate those findings, which could help keep our children healthy in the long run.

    “Sit less, move more. That’s our message,” concluded Brenden. The full study has been published in the American Journal of Public Health

    A stand-biased desk similar to those used in many classrooms (Staff photo)A number of studies have been published recently which show that sitting fo...

    Medical costs higher for obese children, study finds

    Adopting prevention strategies to prevent childhood obesity is key to keeping costs down

    Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the U.S., and a new study from the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health shows that the parents of obese children could be paying for it in medical bills.

    Researchers found that obese children between the ages of two and five are 2-3 times more likely to be admitted to a hospital. Additionally, parents and guardians will need to pay 60% more to cover healthcare costs.

    “Childhood obesity is a serious public health issue, and is becoming an increasing problem in children under five years old. . . In addition to the health impacts of childhood obesity, there are major economic impacts, which may occur earlier than previously thought,” said Alison Hayes, lead researcher of the study.

    Lifelong problems

    The study analyzed healthcare use for 350 children, including all doctor and specialist visits, medical tests, diagnostics, prescriptions, and other medical costs. They found that obese children were not only admitted more often, but paid a heftier price when all was said and done. The most common issues that plagued obese children included respiratory disorders and diseases of the ear, nose, mouth, and throat.

    While worldwide obesity statistics for children are at roughly 7%, the researchers point out that countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia have much higher numbers of obese children -- with some estimates showing as high as 23%. They caution that this early form of obesity can lead to lifelong problems.

    “We know that children who are obese in early childhood are more likely to be obese in later childhood, adolescence and adulthood, which can lead to serious chronic diseases that have a huge impact on our health care system,” said Hayes.

    Keeping costs down

    The researchers say that their results point to the need for early prevention strategies that can help curb the onset of obesity and keep costs down.

    “Our results are important for health care funders and policy makers because preventing obesity in the early childhood years may be a cost-effective way to tackle the obesity crisis, improve the nation’s health and reduce the economic burden of obesity,” said Hayes.

    The full study has been published in the journal Obesity.  

    Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the U.S., and a new study from the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health shows that the parents of obese...

    Report: Obesity is getting worse

    CDC research finds 40% of U.S. women can be classified as obese

    The trend has been undeniable for at least three decades. Americans are increasingly overweight and even obese.

    A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows more women and children are now classified as obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and above.

    By one accounting, 38% of all U.S. adults are obese and 40% of U.S. women are now in that category.

    More distressing for health researchers, one-third of adults are overweight, meaning that they have a BMI of between 25 and 30. People who are overweight are at risk of becoming obese.

    By the study's accounting, fewer than a third of all adults in the U.S. have a normal, healthy weight.

    Women gaining weight faster

    This latest study finds women have been putting on weight faster than men, at least they have recently.

    “For women, the prevalence of overall obesity and of class 3 obesity showed significant linear trends for increase between 2005 and 2014,” the authors wrote. “There were no significant trends for men. Other studies are needed to determine the reasons for these trends.”

    Analyses of data from 2013-2014 found that for both men and women, the likelihood of obesity varied by race. For men, it also varied by smoking status. Men who smoked cigarettes were less likely to be obese, compared to those who never smoked. For women, there were no significant differences by smoking status. However, women who had attended college were significantly less likely to be obese.

    More pessimistic

    The report, compiled by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is more pessimistic than last year's annual obesity assessment from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. It found obesity had increased in isolated spots, but had held steady in the country overall.

    Health researchers have spent a lot of time and effort trying to pinpoint the cause for the unhealthy surge in obesity. Some have pointed to a much more sedentary American lifestyle. Others point to high calorie diets, in particular, diets heavy on processed food.

    Health advocates are trying to reduce America's obesity rate, since the added weight can lead to a whole host of conditions, from diabetes to heart disease.

    To see whether you are normal weight, overweight, or obese, use this BMI calculator from the National Institutes of Health.

    The trend has been undeniable for at least three decades. Americans are increasingly overweight and even obese.A report published in the Journal of the...

    Childhood obesity rates continue to climb, study finds

    Researchers say that severe obesity, in particular, is on the rise

    Despite signs that healthier eating habits have been emerging amongst millennials in recent years, it seems that obesity rates are still very high. That’s the takeaway from a new study conducted by researchers at the Duke Clinical Research Institute.

    Most alarmingly, the researchers have found that childhood obesity rates are increasing, a conclusion that contrasts with other reports that state the opposite.

    “Despite some other recent reports, we found no indication of a decline in obesity prevalence in the United States in any group of children aged 2 through 19. . . This is particularly true with severe obesity, which remains high, especially among adolescents,” said Dr. Asheley Skinner, associate professor at Duke and lead author of the study.

    Severe obesity on the rise

    Dr. Skinner and her colleagues came to their conclusions after analyzing data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES), a compilation of U.S. statistical data that covers decades of information. The researchers found that roughly a third (33.4%) of children between the ages of two and 19 were classified as “overweight” for the 2013-2014 reporting period. From that number, 17.4% were classified as obese.

    These numbers closely mirror findings from the last reporting period between 2011 and 2012, but Skinner notes that one disheartening increase was in the number of children classified as being “severely obese.”

    Someone with severe obesity is classified as having a body mass index (BMI) number of 35 or higher. For the 2012-2014 reporting period, 6.3% of overweight children fell into this category – which is also designated as class II obesity. Another 2.4% of children fell under class III obesity, which is a designation for those who have a BMI of 40 or higher.

    “An estimated 4.5 million children and adolescents have severe obesity and they will require new and intensive efforts to steer them toward a healthier course. . . Studies have repeatedly shown that obesity in childhood is associated with worse health and shortened lifespans as adults,” said Skinner.

    Time for improvement

    Skinner and her team admit that there are limitations to their study, but assert that using data from the NHANES is a more accurate gauge of obesity rates than the metrics that other studies have used to show that obesity rates have declined.

    The researchers want to make it clear that their work is not meant to put people into despair about the state of childhood obesity. Instead, it should serve as a jumping-off point for future improvement.

    “We don’t want the findings to cause people to become frustrated and disheartened. . . This is really a health problem that will require changes across the board – food policy, access to health care, school curriculums that include physical education, community and local resources in parks and sidewalks. A lot of things put together can work,” said Skinner.

    The full study will be published in the journal Obesityon April 26. 

    Despite signs that healthier eating habits have been emerging amongst millennials in recent years, it seems that obesity rates are still very high. That’s ...