Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Introducing Sadly The Line-Dancing Owl

Sadly The Line Dancing Owl

Sadly The Line Dancing Owl

Yesterday, I posted about my daughter Linnie von Sky’s 2nd children’s book Pom Pom A Flightless Bully Tale, that is now available here.

Today, I would like to introduce you to Sadly The Line-Dancing Owl, who one morning wakes up with a dark cloud over his head.

Learn how Sadly in the end overcomes his sadness and how he finds the help he needs to be his happy self again. 

After tackling immigration and bullying, Linnie turns her attention to depression – in a children’s book that she admits is somewhat autobiographical,

“Depression is REAL and it SUCKS…at least it sucked the living daylight out of me and consumes too many people I love.”

Along for the ride is the incredibly talented Ashley O’Mara as the new illustrator.  Ashley is a Vancouverite, Emily Carr Graduate, Bird Lover (she draws the cutest darn chickens I’ve ever seen) and like Linnie, knows a thing or two about how much depression hurts.  

Please consider supporting Linnie’s fundraising campaign by pre-ordering your personal copy(ies) of Sadly The Line-Dancing Owl, which will again be 100% made in Canada.

To learn more about Sadly and how you can support this venture, please take a minute to visit Linnie’s Indiegogo page.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

 

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pom Pom A Flightless Bully Tale Takes Flight

Pom Pom A flightless bully tale coverToday’s post is to announce the arrival of my daughter Linnie von Sky’s second children’s book, “Pom Pom A Flightless Bully Tale“, that hundreds of you helped fund by pre-ordering your copy(ies) about 12 months ago – your books are in the mail and should be there in time for the Holidays (a big THANK YOU from me for your support!).

To those of you, who are new to these pages, Pom Pom is the story of the slightly rotund little penguin Pomeroy Paulus Jr III., who simply hates it when people call him “Pom Pom”.  Like any boy his age he’s busy trying to impress ‘the birds’, particularly one bird: Pia. Pomeroy dreams of a pair of orange swim trunks; the ones that Pete, Pucker and Piper own. The same ones Pia said she loved. There’s just one little hiccup. The antAmart doesn’t carry them in his size.

The story tells of how mom helps Pomeroy get his own pair of orange swim trunks and how Pia saves the day when she steps up and puts bullies in their place.

Here is what Linnie had to say about the reason for writing this book in an interview with Lindsay william-Ross for VancityBuzz:

“When you talk about bullying you have to talk about how much it hurts. Kids understand that,” says von Sky, who hopes her stories ignite conversations. Of “Pom Pom,” von Sky remarks: “I think it’s an encouragement to talk about emotions. What triggers certain actions, what makes somebody want to hurt someone else. Are they hurting?”

For von Sky, whose protagonist in “Pom Pom” is picked on because of his size, the pain of bullying in the story echoes the passion she first tapped into working with the Canadian Obesity Network. “Weight bullying happens to be the one thing I’m extremely allergic to,” affirms von Sky.

For any of you  who would like to order your own copy of this delightful little children’s book about bullying, friendship, respect, sadness, empathy, standing up for friends, antarctica, penguins & above all, love (for ages 3 and up) – click here.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Does Maternal Obesity Affect the Gut Microbiome of the Offspring?

sharma-obesity-gut-buts1Yesterday, I blogged about the Maternal Resource Hypothesis, proposed by Edward Archer, as a driver of childhood obesity.

Today’s post is about another interesting finding by Jeffrey Galley and colleagues from Ohio State University, published in PLOS one, suggesting that maternal obesity may be associated with differences in the gut microbiome in children in early life.

The researchers compared the gut bugs from fecal samples from children 18–27 months of age (n = 77) born to obese or non-obese mothers.

At least in women of higher socioeconomic status, offspring of obese mothers showed significant differences in their gut bacteriome from those of non-obese mothers in a manner that has been previously linked to differences in weight and diet (differences were noted in the abundances of Faecalibacterium spp., Eubacterium spp., Oscillibacter spp., and Blautia spp).

While these findings were limited to women of higher socioeconomic status, the authors do not have a ready explanation for these findings.

Their best guess is that perhaps the etiology of obesity may differ between women of higher and lower socioeconomic status and it may well be that the extent to which maternal obesity confers measureable changes to the gut microbiome of offspring may differ based on the etiology of maternal obesity.

It is unlikely that dietary differences explain these findings:

“In our sample, we found no differences in the children from obese and non-obese mothers in terms of breastfeeding behavior, age at which solid foods were introduced, or the current frequency of consumption of meat, vegetables, and cereals/grains regardless of maternal SES. This suggests that diet did not explain the observed differences in the children’s gut microbiome related to maternal obesity and SES.”

Indeed, the authors are quick to point out that further research is needed to better understand the relevance of the observed differences in gut microbiome composition for weight trajectory over the life course of the offspring:

The potential role of the gut microbiome in this intergenerational transmission of obesity risk warrants further attention. In particular, the stability of such effects into later childhood and adolescence, the clinical relevance of abundances of specific bacteria in conferring risk for obesity, and the ultimate impact of early life microbial profiles on long-term weight trajectory remains to be explicated.”

Nevertheless, these findings are intriguing in that they suggest a link between maternal obesity and the possible transmission of obesogenic microbes to their offspring.

@DrSharma
Vancouver, BC

ResearchBlogging.orgGalley JD, Bailey M, Kamp Dush C, Schoppe-Sullivan S, & Christian LM (2014). Maternal obesity is associated with alterations in the gut microbiome in toddlers. PloS one, 9 (11) PMID: 25409177

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Are Sedentary Moms Promoting Childhood Obesity?

Edward Archer, PhD, University of Alabama Birmingham

Edward Archer, PhD, University of Alabama Birmingham

Last week, Edward Archer from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), published a paper in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (to much media fanfare), suggesting that the primary driver of childhood obesity is the shifting of nutrient energy to fetal adipose tissue as a result of increased maternal energy availability paired with decreased maternal energy expenditure, resulting in fetal pancreatic b-cell and adipocyte hyperplasia – a theory, which Edwards labels the “maternal resource hypothesis”.

The primary process for these changes, as readers of these pages will have read before, is through epigenetic modification of DNA, which, together with other non-genetic modes of transmission including learned behaviours and environmental exposures (socioenvironmental evolution), leads to “phenotypic evolution”, which Edward describes as,

“…a unidirectional, progressive alteration in ontogeny that is propagated over multiple successive generations and may be quantified as the change over time in the population mean for the trait under examination (eg, height and obesity).”

Since the beginning of the 20th century, socioevironmental factors have significantly altered the energy balance equation for humans

“Socioenvironmental evolution has altered the evolution of human energy metabolism by inducing substantial decrements in EE imposed by daily life while improving both the quality and the quantity of nutrient-energy availability.”

“For example, as thermoneutral environments became ubiquitous, the energy cost of thermoregulation declined, and improved sanitation (eg, clean water and safer food) and vaccinations decreased the energy cost of supporting parasites (eg, fleas) and resisting pathogens (eg, communicable diseases and diarrheal infections).”

Over the past century, these developments have led to profound phenotypic changes including,

“progressive and cumulative increases in height, body stature and mass, birthweight, organ mass, head circumference, fat mass/adiposity as well as decreases in the age at which adolescents attain sexual maturity…”

Archer goes on to describe some of the many factors that may have changed in the past century, whereby, he singles out sedentariness as one of the key drivers of these developments (not surprising given Archer’s background in exercise science).

Thus, although one could perhaps make very similar arguments for any number of factor that may have changed in the past century to, in turn, affect insulin resistance and ultimately energy partitioning (change in diet, sleep deprivation, increasing maternal age, endocrine disruptors, antibiotic use, gut microbiota, medication use and many other factors I ca think of), Archer chooses to elevate sedentariness to being the main culprit.

While this may or may not be the full story, it does not change the thrust of the paper, which implies that we need to look for the key drivers of childhood obesity in the changes to the maternal-fetal (and early childhood) environment that have put us on this self-perpetuating unidirectional cycle of phenotypic evolution.

Ergo, the solution lies in focussing on the health behaviours (again, Archer emphasizes the role of physical activity) of moms.

While Archer largely focusses on maternal transmission, we should perhaps not forget that there is now some also evidence implicating a role for epigenetic modification and intergenerational transmission through paternal DNA – yes, dads are getting older and more sedentary too (not to mention fatter).

I do however agree with Edward, that this line of thinking may well have important implications for how we approach this epidemic.

For one,

“…the acknowledgment that obesity is the result of non-genetic evolutionary forces and not gluttony and sloth may help to alter the moralizing and demoralizing social and scientific discourse that pervades both public and clinical settings.”

Secondly,

“Future research may be most productive if funding is directed away from naive examinations of energy balance per se and redirected to investigations of interventions that alter the competitive strategies of various tissues.”

Thirdly,

“From the standpoint of the clinician, accurate patient phenotyping (inclusive of family obstetric history and metabolic profiling) may allow the targeting of women most likely to be a part of populations that have evolved beyond the metabolic tipping point and therefore require significant preconception intervention.”

While none of this may be easier or more feasible than other current efforts, they may well point us in a different direction than conventional theories about what is driving childhood obesity.

@DrSharma
Calgary, AB

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Social Network Analysis of the Obesity Research Boot Camp

bootcamp_pin_finalRegular readers may recall that for the past nine years, I have had the privilege and pleasure of serving as faculty of the Canadian Obesity Network’s annual Obesity Research Summer Bootcamp.

The camp is open to a select group of graduate and post-graduate trainees from a wide range of disciplines with an interest in obesity research. Over nine days, the trainees are mentored and have a chance to learn about obesity research in areas ranging from basic science to epidemiology and childhood obesity to health policy.

Now, a formal network analysis of bootcamp attendees, published by Jenny Godley and colleagues in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Healthcare, documents the substantial impact that this camp has on the careers of the trainees.

As the analysis of trainees who attended this camp over its first 5 years of operation (2006-2010) shows, camp attendance had a profound positive impact on their career development, particularly in terms of establishing contacts and professional relationships.

Thus, both the quantitative and the qualitative results demonstrate the importance of interdisciplinary training and relationships for career development in obesity researcher (and possibly beyond).

Personally, participation at this camp has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career and I look forward to continuing this annual exercise for years to come.

To apply for the 2015 Bootcamp, which is also open to international trainees – click here.

@DrSharma
Toronto, ON

ResearchBlogging.orgGodley J, Glenn NM, Sharma AM, & Spence JC (2014). Networks of trainees: examining the effects of attending an interdisciplinary research training camp on the careers of new obesity scholars. Journal of multidisciplinary healthcare, 7, 459-70 PMID: 25336965

 

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In The News

Diabetics in most need of bariatric surgery, university study finds

Oct. 18, 2013 – Ottawa Citizen: "Encouraging more men to consider bariatric surgery is also important, since it's the best treatment and can stop diabetic patients from needing insulin, said Dr. Arya Sharma, chair in obesity research and management at the University of Alberta." Read article

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