TAG: "Obesity"

Study finds link between high-fat, high-calorie diet and pancreas cancer


UCLA results support low-fat, low-calorie diet as preventive measure against disease.

Guido Eibl, UCLA

Guido Eibl, UCLA

Researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that mice made obese by high-calorie, high-fat diets develop abnormally high numbers of lesions known to be precursors to pancreas cancer.

This is the first study to show a direct causative link in an animal model between obesity and risk of this deadly cancer.

The study, published today (Sept. 30) in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, was led by Dr. Guido Eibl, a member of the Jonsson Cancer Center and a professor in the department of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, or cancer of the pancreas, is one of the most deadly forms of cancer in humans. Overall five-year survival rates are approximately 3 to 5 percent, and the average survival period after diagnosis is just four to six months. It is a particularly aggressive disease, one that is often beyond the point of effective treatment by the time symptoms appear.

Since current treatments are limited in quantity and effectiveness, researchers are turning to prevention strategies to try to make headway against the disease before it reaches advanced stages.

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For healthier kids, focus on lifestyle changes, not weight loss, study suggests


UCLA findings underscore need to focus on changing diet and increasing exercise.

Christian Roberts, UCLA

Christian Roberts, UCLA

A UCLA School of Nursing study has found that both healthy-weight and obese children who participated in an intensive lifestyle modification program significantly improved their metabolic and cardiovascular health despite little weight loss.

“These findings suggest that short-term lifestyle modifications through changing diet and exercise can have an immediate impact on improving risk factors such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” said Christian Roberts, an associate research professor at the UCLA School of Nursing and the study’s lead author. “This work underscores the need to focus on changing lifestyle as opposed to focusing on body weight and weight loss.”

This study is believed to be the first to compare the effects of changing diet and exercise in both normal-weight and obese children. The article is published online in the American Journal of Physiology.

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Sleep deprivation linked to junk food cravings


UC Berkeley study sheds new light on the link between poor sleep and obesity.

Stack of cheeseburgersA sleepless night makes us more likely to reach for doughnuts or pizza than for whole grains and leafy green vegetables, suggests a new study from UC Berkeley that examines the brain regions that control food choices. The findings shed new light on the link between poor sleep and obesity.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), UC Berkeley researchers scanned the brains of 23 healthy young adults, first after a normal night’s sleep and next, after a sleepless night. They found impaired activity in the sleep-deprived brain’s frontal lobe, which governs complex decision-making, but increased activity in deeper brain centers that respond to rewards. Moreover, the participants favored unhealthy snack and junk foods when they were sleep deprived.

“What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified,” said Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience and senior author of the study published today (Aug. 6) in the journal Nature Communications.

Moreover, he added, “high-calorie foods also became significantly more desirable when participants were sleep-deprived. This combination of altered brain activity and decision-making may help explain why people who sleep less also tend to be overweight or obese.”

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New herbal supplement helps slim and trim without side effects, studies show


Supplement made from extracts of a wild herb and a tropical fruit rind.

Judith Stern, UC Davis

Judith Stern, UC Davis

Study participants who took a new herbal supplement, while also exercising and controlling their food intake, had greater success in losing weight and slimming down than did those who didn’t take the supplement, report researchers at UC Davis and in India.

The researchers suggest that the supplement — made from extracts of a wild herb and a tropical fruit rind — may be a safe and effective aid for dealing with excess body weight and obesity, which affect more than 60 percent of adults in the United States.

Two clinical trials involving the supplement were conducted at Alluri Sitarama Raju Academy of Medical Sciences in India. Results from both trials combined are reported in the June issue of the Journal of Medicinal Food, while results from just the second of the two trials appears in the May issue of the journal Obesity.

Data analysis and study communication was led by Judith Stern, distinguished professor of nutrition and internal medicine at UC Davis.

“The results from our study are promising, and we did not see significant side effects with this supplement extract,” Stern said. “This was a short-term study, and we don’t know what happens in the long run; along with a diet and exercise program, the results may be even greater,” she said.

Stern noted that study results indicate that the herbal supplement may cause these positive effects by interfering with the formation and storage of fatty compounds in the body.

Funding for the studies was provided by two grants from InterHealth Neutraceuticals Inc. of Benicia.

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Among Indian immigrants, religious practice and obesity may be linked


Association found for Hindus and Sikhs but not Muslims.

Nazleen Bharmal, UCLA

Nazleen Bharmal, UCLA

Asian Indians are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, and roughly half a million people of Indian ancestry live in California — more than any other state. Individuals from this group are strongly predisposed to obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, due in large part to physical inactivity, diets low in fruit and vegetables, and insulin resistance.

Among other racial and ethnic groups, research has shown that religious practices and religiosity have been associated with obesity and greater body weight, but no one had studied this potential link among Indians.

Now, a UCLA-led research team that examined the relationship between religious practices and obesity among Indian immigrants has found that religiosity in Hindus and Sikhs — but not Muslims — appears to be an independent factor associated with being overweight or obese. The findings are published online in the peer-reviewed journal Preventive Medicine.

“This is the first known study to examine the relationship between religiosity and obesity among Asian Indians in the United States and among traditional Asian Indian religious subgroups,” said the study’s primary investigator, Dr. Nazleen Bharmal, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“These different subgroups have different practices: Muslims may abstain from alcohol or avoid pork, and Hindus and Sikhs may eat only plant foods,” Bharmal said. “We were surprised to find an association between religiosity and obesity for Hindus and Sikhs but not Muslims.”

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Scientists explore stress, weight loss and our brain


Discoveries could help society fight obesity, improve individual efforts to lose weight.

Kevin Laugero, UC Davis

It’s not just our imagination: We really do eat differently when we’re stressed.

Nutritionists at UC Davis and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Human Nutrition Research Center are shedding light on the important link between stress, our brain and body weight — discoveries that could help society fight obesity and improve our individual efforts to lose weight and keep it off.

“It is becoming clear that stress degrades our ability to make healthy food choices for long-term well-being,” said Kevin Laugero, a research nutritionist with the Western Human Nutrition Research Center and an adjunct professor with the UC Davis Department of Nutrition.

“Knowledge of dietary guidelines is important, but we also have to help people, from a very early age, find ways to manage stress and develop their capacity to choose long-term gain over short-term reward,” he said.

Laugero is a member of the obesity and metabolism research unit at the center, which was established in 1980 in San Francisco and relocated to a new facility at UC Davis in 2006. The center is equipped with a human calorimeter for measuring 24-hour energy expenditure, as well as a metabolic kitchen for live-in studies.

Dieting involves an ongoing series of decisions, essentially weighing short-term reward against long-term consequences (e.g., “I know I should choose the apple, but that apple pie sure smells good”). The researchers have studied decision-making issues such as: Does our ability to recognize the long-term consequences of our decisions affect our weight management? Are there physiological factors, like stress, that affect how we make decisions?

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Prader-Willi syndrome associated with interference in circadian, metabolic genes


Finding could point way to new therapies for disease that can lead to morbid obesity.

Janine LaSalle, UC Davis

Researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute and Agilent Laboratories have found that Prader-Willi syndrome — a genetic disorder best known for causing an insatiable appetite that can lead to morbid obesity — is associated with the loss of non-coding RNAs, resulting in the dysregulation of circadian and metabolic genes, accelerated energy expenditure and metabolic differences during sleep.

The research was led by Janine LaSalle, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology who is affiliated with the MIND Institute. It is published online in Human Molecular Genetics.

“Prader-Willi syndrome children do not sleep as well at night and have daytime sleepiness,” LaSalle said. “Parents have to lock up their pantries because the kids are rummaging for food in the middle of the night, even breaking into their neighbors’ houses to eat.”

The study found that these behaviors are rooted in the loss of a long non-coding RNA that functions to balance energy expenditure in the brain during sleep. The finding could have a profound effect on how clinicians treat children with Prader-Willi, as well as point the way to new, innovative therapies, LaSalle said.

The leading cause of morbid obesity among children in the United States, Prader-Willi involves a complex, and sometimes contradictory, array of symptoms. Shortly after birth children with Prader-Willi experience failure to thrive. Yet after they begin to feed themselves, they have difficulty sleeping and insatiable appetites that lead to obesity if their diets are not carefully monitored.

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After-school exercise, nutrition programs can help reduce childhood obesity


UCLA researchers implement, evaluate effectiveness of pilot health-promotion program.

Wendy Slusser, UCLA

FINDINGS:
Research has shown that children from low-income neighborhoods are at higher risk of being obese and overweight than children from affluent neighborhoods; in fact, one-third of low-income children enter kindergarten either overweight or obese.

In an effort to address this issue, UCLA researchers implemented and evaluated the effectiveness of a pilot after-school health-promotion program that focused on increasing students’ opportunities for physical activity and healthy snacks — and boosting their knowledge about physical activity and nutrition — at four low-income, diverse elementary schools in Los Angeles County (four additional school sites were used as comparisons). The study involved students in grades 3 through 5.

After-school staff members were trained by UCLA researchers to implement the evidence-based, sequential nutrition and physical activity curriculum. Data were collected by researchers on students’ nutrition and physical activity knowledge and behavior, and their height and weight measurements, at the beginning and end of the academic year.

Results showed that the proportion of children who were obese or overweight in the intervention group decreased by 3.1 percent by the end of the school year, compared with a 2.0 percent reduction among children in the comparison group. The study found mixed results regarding diet and physical activity knowledge and behavior.

The authors conclude that enhancing after-school physical activity opportunities through evidence-based programs can potentially benefit low-income children who are overweight or obese.

IMPACT:
Findings from this study indicate that after-school programs have the potential to provide opportunities for enhanced physical activity and the development of healthy habits in children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families who may have limited access to nutritious foods and environments conducive to physical activity outside of school.

In addition, as approximately 60 percent of the students in the study were Asian American, the study helps address the dearth of published research on childhood obesity among Asian Americans. This is an important public health concern, given that Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the U.S., and the literature suggests that current definitions of obesity underestimate the disease risk among this subgroup, the study authors said.

AUTHORS:
Study authors included Dr. Wendy M. Slusser, Michael L. Prelip, Mienah Z. Sharif and Janni J. Kinsler of UCLA; Jennifer Toller Erausquin of the North Carolina Division of Public Health; and Daniel Collin of California State University, Long Beach.

JOURNAL:
The article, “Improving Overweight Among At-Risk Minority Youth: Results of a Pilot Intervention in After-School Programs,” is published in a supplement to the current edition of  the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.

FUNDING:
The study was supported by funds from the California Vitamin Settlement Fund (#20063972).

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Researchers find synthetic compound effective in anti-obesity study


Originally developed from sun anemone venom, ShK-186 boosts metabolism, UC Irvine scientists find.

George Chandy, UC Irvine

Scientists at UC Irvine have discovered that a synthetic compound originally derived from a sun anemone toxin enhances metabolic activity and shows potential as a treatment for obesity and insulin resistance.

The findings, published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, present the first evidence that the drug candidate – which in March got positive results in a phase-one safety clinical trial – may work in an anti-obesity capacity.

UC Irvine licensed ShK-186 to Kineta Inc., a Seattle-based biotechnology company, in 2009; it’s the company’s lead drug candidate. Kineta is developing the compound to treat autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, psoriatic arthritis and lupus. It has also licensed ShK-186 for the treatment of metabolic syndrome and obesity.

Potassium channels regulate cell membrane activities and control a variety of other cellular processes. ShK-186 selectively blocks the activity of a protein that promotes inflammation through the Kv1.3 potassium channel. Earlier research using mice without a Kv1.3 potassium channel gene suggested that Kv1.3 may regulate body weight and the basal metabolic rate.

In the current study, Dr. George Chandy and colleagues evaluated ShK-186 in tests on obese mice that ate a high-fat, high-sugar diet. They found that the therapy reduced weight, white fat deposits, liver fat, blood cholesterol and blood sugar by activating calorie-burning brown fat, suppressing inflammation of white fat and augmenting liver function. The compound had no effect on mice that ate standard chow.

“This is a new twist in a sustained journey of discovery made over 30 years that charts the course for expeditious translation to humans who suffer from potentially lethal consequences of metabolic syndrome and autoimmune diseases,” said Chandy, a UC Irvine professor of physiology & biophysics and a Kineta scientific adviser.

“Knowing that ShK-186’s unique mechanism of action may have broad applications across multiple therapeutic disciplines, such as autoimmune diseases and now obesity, further adds to the potential of this compound. This study also shows how medical progress can be made through academic and private-sector partnerships,” added Charles Magness, president and CEO of Kineta.

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Man loses 200 pounds with surgery, lifestyle changes


UCSF’s bariatric surgery program offers care for obese patients.

Unless you weigh more than 400 pounds, it’s difficult to imagine walking a mile in James Dials’ shoes. In fact, for most of his life, he couldn’t do that either.

The gregarious 62-year-old limousine driver made friends easily, escorting musicians and athletes all over town. Sometimes they would shower him with choice tickets to concerts and sporting events.

Stanley Rogers (left) and James Dials

But Dials always had to turn them down.

Not because of a company policy or because he didn’t enjoy public events. Not too long ago, Dials weighed 434 pounds, and he couldn’t walk 10 feet without having to stop and catch his breath. The walk from the parking lot to the venue would have been a Herculean task for him to accomplish.

“I could only take about 20 steps and stop and catch my breath,” Dials said. “Then, 20 more steps and then stop.”

He says low self-esteem and his love of his native Southern down home cooking contributed to his gradual weight gain. Before he knew it, Dials passed the 400-pound mark.

“My life was very uncomfortable,” Dials said. “I was a diabetic and I injected insulin. I had high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and high cholesterol. I was on all kinds of medications.”

That’s when he discovered the UCSF Bariatric Surgery Center, a Level 1 accredited center for weight-loss surgery by the Bariatric Surgery Center Network of the American College of Surgeons, which means they provide complete bariatric surgical care. It is a nationally certified “center of excellence,” which offers a multidisciplinary approach to weight loss.

“James had relatively advanced obesity,” says Stanley Rogers, M.D., chief of minimally invasive surgery and director of the Bariatric Surgery Center and Liver Tumor Ablation Program at UCSF Medical Center. “And we know that weight loss either with or without surgery can significantly impact those medical problems, and can make these medical problems called co-morbidities go away as weight loss occurs.”

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Subway food may not be much healthier than McDonald’s for adolescents


They consume nearly as many calories at Subway as at McDonald’s, UCLA study finds.

Lennard Lesser

Subway may promote itself as the “healthy” fast food restaurant, but it might not be a much healthier alternative than McDonald’s for adolescents, according to new UCLA research.

In a study published May 6 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the researchers found that adolescents who purchased Subway meals consumed nearly as many calories as they did at McDonald’s. Meals from both restaurants are likely to contribute toward overeating and obesity, according to the researchers.

“Every day, millions of people eat at McDonald’s and Subway, the two largest fast food chains in the world,” said Dr. Lenard Lesser, who led the research while a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar in the department of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “With childhood obesity at record levels, we need to know the health impact of kids’ choices at restaurants.”

The researchers recruited 97 adolescents ages 12 to 21 to purchase meals at McDonald’s and Subway restaurants at a shopping mall in Carson. The participants went to each restaurant on different weekdays between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., and paid for the meals with their own money. Researchers used the participants’ cash register receipts to record what each customer ate and estimated calorie counts from information on the chains’ websites.

The researchers found that the participants bought meals containing an average of 1,038 calories at McDonald’s and an average of 955 calories at Subway.

“We found that there was no statistically significant difference between the two restaurants, and that participants ate too many calories at both,” said Lesser, who is now a researcher at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute.

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Global forum provides food for thought


UC convenes discussion on how to sustainably feed 8 billion people by 2025.

Michael Specter moderates a panel discussion on feeding a world of 8 billion people. (Click image for larger view.)

By Alec Rosenberg

The University of California, through its Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, hosted a wide-ranging, provocative discussion Tuesday (April 9) on how to sustainably feed 8 billion people by 2025.

Several themes emerged from the UC Global Food Systems Forum: Take a bottom-up approach. Focus on solutions. Pursue low-hanging fruit. Decrease food waste. Be practical. Be innovative. Involve education. But opinions differed on how to balance small- and large-scale farming, the role of genetically modified organisms, and what should be the most important area of focus.

More than 475 people attended the food forum in Ontario, Calif., which also reached a worldwide virtual audience. A live webcast received 1,500 unique viewers from 34 countries, while a steady stream of tweets at #Food2025 made the conversation a trending topic on Twitter. With more than 1 billion people going hungry every day and 1 billion people overweight, the conversation was timely.

“We must act now to improve the food and nutrition supply of people in poor countries and communities throughout the world,” said keynote speaker Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and president of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice.

Mary Robinson and Barbara Allen-Diaz at the UC Global Food Systems Forum. (Click image for larger view.)

Myriad challenges

The daylong forum, part of ANR’s statewide conference, addressed the challenges faced by food producers, suppliers and consumers in a world of growing population, strains on natural systems, climate change, shifting geopolitics and other converging forces. The event convened some of the world’s leading experts — farmers, researchers, policymakers, economists, environmentalists and others — with the New Yorker’s Michael Specter moderating a global panel and author and journalist Mark Arax moderating a California panel. The speakers offered thoughtful insights and solutions.

“This is fundamental to our mission as a land-grant university,” said UC ANR Vice President Barbara Allen-Diaz. “Our goal is to take these brilliant ideas and turn them into brilliant plans of action.”

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UC Davis: Investigating liver cancer disparities

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