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The Edmonton Obesity Staging System for Pediatrics (EOSS-P) better defines health risk than obesity class

As readers may recall, based on our findings that the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS) is a far better predictor of long-term mortality than BMI in adults, my pediatric colleagues developed an adaptation of EOSS for use in kids (EOSS-P). Now, Stasia Hadjiyannakis and a consortium of pediatric colleagues from across Canada, in a paper published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, show that EOSS-P is superior to BMI class (based on weight curves) in determining the burden of disease in kids. The authors looked at data from the from the Canadian Pediatric Weight Management Registry (CANPWR), a cross-sectional study of children with obesity aged 5–17 years recruited from ten multidisciplinary paediatric weight management clinics in Canada. The researchers classified the almost 850 participants into WHO BMI classes (class I as 2–3 SD scores, class II as >3 SD scores, and class III as >4 SD scores above the WHO growth standard median), and then applied the EOSS-P staging system (stages 0, 1, and 2/3) based on the clinical assessment of coexisting metabolic, mechanical, mental health, and social milieu issues. Based on BMI, 64% or participants had severe obesity (ie, class II or III) and 80% were EOSS-P stage 2/3. Overall, mental health concerns were most common (61% of participants), followed by metabolic (41%), adverse social milieu (21%), and mechanical (10%) health issues. While mental health issues (eg, anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) were equally distributed across BMI classes, metabolic health issues were slightly more common in higher BMI classes, and mechanical (eg, musculoskeletal issues and sleep apnoea) and social milieu (eg, bullying and low household income) issues increased with increasing BMI class. Of children with class I obesity, 76% had overall EOSS-P stage 2/3, compared with 85% of children with class III obesity. Thus, although kids with class III obesity do on average have higher EOSS-P stages, over 3 in 4 kids with class I obesity also carry a high burden of risk (especially mental health and metabolic risk). Thus, as in adults, BMI levels alone do not accurately reflect the actual health risk of individual kids, supporting the notion that the use of EOSS-P can better guide clinicians in managing kids presenting with obesity than BMI class alone. @DrSharmaBuenos Aires, Argentina

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Why You Need To Be At The 6th Canadian Obesity Summit in Ottawa, April 23-26

Last week, I was on a “Blues Cruise” that featured some of the best blues musicians in the world, and, as evidenced by this image, I actually got to jam with some of the best! Now, I’m back, fully recharged and ready to work on my own playing with tons of new ideas and heaps of motivation. Bottom line, if you’re really passionate about something, you want to be where the action is, so you can learn from and network with the best of the best. So if obesity is your topic – you most certainly do not want to miss the upcoming 6h Canadian Obesity Summit, which only comes around every two years – as you would guess, a lot happens in two years! This year’s Canadian Obesity Summit features well over 200 oral and poster presentations on every conceivable topic from health policy and prevention to pre-clinical and clinical obesity research, as well as updates on current obesity treatments for children and adults living with obesity – all presented by leading Canadian scientists and clinicians from coast to coast. But, there is more! The Summit also features interactive workshops on a wide range of topics, including, how to make your hospital or clinic “bariatric friendly”, how to approach “behaviour change” in children and adults, and how to manage excess weight gain during pregnancy. The Summit will also present Obesity Canada’s first national Public Obesity Workshop, aimed at Canadians living with obesity and policy makers. But, perhaps most important of all (as anyone, who has ever been to a Canadian Obesity Summit is well aware), the Summit is your opportunity to meet, catch-up, and mingle (not to mention party!) with your colleagues from across Canada and beyond. Pre-registration at reduced rates for individuals and groups is open till March 14 – hotel space is already tight – so don’t wait – this is not getting better! If I learn half as much about the latest developments in obesity at the Summit as I learnt about the blues on the cruise, the four days will be well spent – be there or be square! To register – click here To view the programme at a glance – click here @DrSharmaEdmonton, AB p.s. If any one is interested in following my musical escapades on Facebook – click here

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Conversation Cards for Adolescents© – Helping adolescents make healthy lifestyle changes 

Today’s post comes from Maryam Kebbe, a fourth year Doctoral student studying under the supervision of Dr. Geoff Ball in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta. Maryam has a passion for patient-oriented obesity research in children and plans to continue doing health research in this area after completion of her PhD. As readers are probably well aware, often times, the first line of treatment for adolescents seeking health services for obesity management consists of behavioural changes targeting nutrition, physical and sedentary activities, and sleep habits, including an addressing possible issues of mental health. However, health professionals often encounter a lack of adherence to a healthy behaviours by adolescents with overweight or obesity, resulting in challenges in maintaining or losing weight. This may be due to a number of factors, including difficulties in changing established habits and a lack of consideration for adolescents’ priorities in managing weight. To help with clinical consultations, both adolescents and health professionals can benefit from tools and resources that can be tailored to adolescents with obesity attempting to change their lifestyle habits. Our team conducted a multi-phase project that included adolescents, health professionals, and researchers to develop Conversation Cards for Adolescents (CCAs), an adolescent-tailored, bilingual (English and French) clinical tool aimed at streamlining conversations and facilitating lifestyle behavior change in adolescents via collaborative goal- setting. Specifically, we completed a review of the literature (1) and a qualitative study including in-person interviews, focus groups, and patient engagement panels (2-5) from which we identified 153 factors that help, may help, or deter adolescents with obesity from adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors. Next, we asked adolescents to prioritize (online survey) and validate (telephone consultations) these factors to help refine our tool (6). The design of this tool included another three rounds of refinements with The Burke Group in collaboration with Obesity Canada. CCAs comprise a deck of 45 cards. Each card contains an individual statement pertaining to a barrier, enabler, or potential enabler (15 statements per category) that adolescents often encounter in making and maintaining healthy lifestyle changes. These cards are organized across seven categorical suits: nutrition, physical activity, sedentary activity, sleep, mental health, relationships, and clinical factors. CCAs are intended to be used by adolescents and health professionals and are complementary to an already existing deck of cards (Conversation Cards©) created for parents and health professionals by our research team in 2012 (7-10). Our future steps… Read More »

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No One Should Be Surprised That There Are Skinny Genes

Anyone who has ever seriously looked at the genetics of obesity should be well aware that body weight and size is a highly heritable trait. As one may expect, this heritability extends across the entire spectrum of body size. Thus, if there are genes that explain obesity, then perhaps certain variations of these very same genes may do the exact opposite – i.e. promote “skinniness”. In fact, we all  know these people, who appear to be highly weight-gain “resistant”, in that they can apparently eat all day without gaining a gram of body fat or simply find it very difficult to “overeat” even when surrounded by highly-palatable food. Now, a study by Fernando Riveros-McKay and colleagues, published in PLOS Genetics, compares the genetics of thinness with that of severe obesity. Using genome-wide association studies, the researchers not only show that the heritability of thinness was comparable to that of severe obesity but they also confirmed the existence of 10 genetic loci that had been previously associated with obesity (as well as an addition obesity and BMI-associated locus (PKHD1). As there may well be non-genetic reasons for people to fall into the “thin” end of the size spectrum, the researchers were careful to only include individuals who appeared in good health and especially excluded individuals with anorexia. Overall, these finding are consistent with animal studies that have also identified loci/genes associated with thinness/decreased body weight due to reduced food intake/increased energy expenditure/resistance to high fat diet-induced obesity, mechanisms that the authors hypothesise may also contribute to human thinness. Clearly, further genetic and phenotypic studies focused on persistently thin individuals may provide new insights into the mechanisms regulating human energy balance and may uncover potential anti-obesity drug targets. @DrSharma Edmonton, AB

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Why Obesity Is A Chronic Disease

While I am currently teaching at a Harvard Medical School course on obesity for obesity educators here in Las Vegas, I thought it may be appropriate to post a link to my recent Obesity Canada webinar (about 60 mins) on why obesity is a chronic disease. The full video can be accessed by clicking here @DrSharma Las Vegas, NV

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Experimenting And Reevaluating

If there is one thing for sure, when it comes to managing obesity, one size does not fit all. In the same manner as there are hundreds of paths that lead to obesity, predicting the treatment that works best for any given patient is almost impossible – what works for one, may do nothing for another (treatments fail patients, patients never fail treatments). Thus, in our analysis of interviews with patients and providers, published in Clinical Obesity, the eighth theme that emerged, was the importance of experimenting and reevaluating. “Participants experimented with different actions, arranged appointments with interdisciplinary providers, or tried out community resources. Some changed their action plan and implemented different behaviours inspired through the consultation. During follow-up interviews, people reflected on what worked, what did not and what needed adjusting. Participants found that having someone ask how things are going was helpful for accountability and motivation. These conversations also helped them develop solutions for barriers. It became glaringly obvious that, as with any other chronic disease, obesity care needs creating a supportive long-term relationship in order to respond to emerging barriers, shifting experiences, illness and treatment burden – what works great at one point may stop working when situations change. Things that seem impossible at first may well become possible over time. If there is one thing that I have learnt in my dealing with patients, it is modesty in professing to have the solution for every problem. As I have said, people who think there is a simple answer to every question, generally don’t even understand the question. @DrSharma Madrid, ES

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Fostering Reflection

As should be clear by now, obesity management often involves reframing the story, changing misconceptions about obesity, managing expectations, reorienting from weight to health goals. All of this requires reflection both on part of the patient and the provider. Thus, fostering reflection was one of the key themes that emerged from out interviews with patients and providers published in Clinical Obesity. “For many participants, the insights and shifts in beliefs about self and health required time to reflect and integrate.People processed new understandings in different ways and internalized them to different degrees.” While some patients went though this process of reflection in conversations with family, friends or their clinician, many reported that keeping a journal of their progress was a key instrument: I routinely tell my patients to write down key events, emotional issues, stressors, milestones, challenges, and successes in their journals (not just their food intake and physical activity). Many have told me how helpful they find this and how much they have discovered about themselves through this exercise. @DrSharma Copenhagen, DK

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Orienting Actions On Value Goals

Although many of the comorbidities associated with obesity are directly linked to excess body weight, and losing weight has been shown to dramatically improve overall health and well-being (at least in people living with obesity), it is always important to remember that the ultimate goal of obesity management is to improve health and not just move numbers on the scale. In this context, it is important to help patients identify and focus on health rather than on weight goals – indeed, patients tend to do best when they focus goals that are important to them – independent of what may or may not happen to their weight. Thus, in our recent analysis of patient and provider interviews, published in Clinical Obesity, we found that both patients and providers agree on the importance of orienting all actions on goals valued by the patient. “Context integration and priority setting led into thinking about what actions, strategies and resources may be of interest for the patient. Providers and patients identified a functional or value goal that served as an overarching orientation for action planning. A majority of participants wanted to plan actions, some chose to first reflect on thenew understandings gained from the conversation. Possible actions emerged from the conversation and differed widely between patients. They included addressing mental health, pain, sleep, seeking financial and social supports, considering anti-obesity medication or bariatric surgery.” This is where it is always important to remind ourselves that losing weight cannot be a behavioural goal, as it is not a behaviour (losing weight is something your body may or may not do in response to a behaviour – you can control your behaviour but not how your body responds to this behaviour). Also, healthy behaviours will always improve your health, irrespective of whether or not you lose weight. “While helping with accountability and motivation, action planning was described as less decisive than the cognitive and emotional work that led to context integration and priorities. However, this perception shifted over time, andmany participants later reflected on the benefits of planning specific and achievable actions for outcomes.” Again, obesity management is best done in a long-term therapeutic partnership (as with any other chronic disease), and reorienting patients away from weight to non-wieght goals is a process that takes time but reaps significant rewards. @DrSharma Copenhagen, DK

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