Wednesday, June 18, 2014

4th Canadian Obesity student Meeting (COSM 2014)

Uwaterloo_sealOver the next three days, I will be in Waterloo, Ontario, attending the 4th biennial Canadian Obesity Student Meeting (COSM 2014), a rather unique capacity building event organised by the Canadian Obesity Network’s Students and New Professionals (CON-SNP).

CON-SNP consist of an extensive network within CON, comprising of over 1000 trainees organised in about 30 chapters at universities and colleges across Canada.

Students and trainees in this network come from a wide range of backgrounds and span faculties and research interests as diverse as molecular genetics and public health, kinesiology and bariatric surgery, education and marketing, or energy metabolism and ingestive behaviour.

Over the past eight years, since the 1st COSM was hosted by laval university in Quebec, these meetings have been attended by over 600 students, most presenting their original research work, often for the first time to an audience of peers.

Indeed, it is the peer-led nature of this meeting that makes it so unique. COSM is entirely organised by CON-SNP – the students select the site, book the venues, review the abstracts, design the program, chair the sessions, and lead the discussions.

Although a few senior faculty are invited, they are largely observers, at best participating in discussions and giving the odd plenary lecture. But 85% of the program is delivered by the trainees themselves.

Apart from the sheer pleasure of sharing in the excitement of the participants, it has been particularly rewarding to follow the careers of many of the trainees who attended the first COSMs – many now themselves hold faculty positions and have trainees of their own.

As my readers are well aware, I regularly attend professional meetings around the world – none match the excitement and intensity of COSM.

I look forward to another succesful meeting as we continue to build the next generation of Canadian obesity researchers, health professionals and policy makers.

You can follow live tweets from this meeting at #COSM2014

@DrSharma
Waterloo, Ontario

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Does Short-Term Weight Loss Reduce Cardiovascular Risk?

sharma-obesity-weight-gainIf you believe recent media headlines describing the findings of a paper published in The Lancet last week, you may be convinced that any weight loss – even if you don’t keep the weight off – reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease.

The study, reports on the relationship between lifelong patterns of BMI and cardiovascular risk a 60-64 year-old British  birth cohort born in 1946.

Participants were classified as normal weight or overweight or obese based on heights and weights measured during childhood (at ages 2, 4, 6, 7, and 11 years) and adulthood (at ages 36, 43, 53 and 60–64 years).

As may be expected, various measures of cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors were positively related to extent and duration of adiposity.

There were, however, two findings that may seem rather unexpected:

Firstly, adiposity in childhood did not seem to matter as a predictor of CV risk in adulthood.

Secondly, it appeared that individuals who dropped at least one BMI category at any time during adulthood, irrespective of whether or not this weight loss was maintained, had lower cardiovascular (but not diabetes) risk than did those who never lost weight.

From these findings the authors conclude that,

…cardiovascular benefit might arise from weight loss in adulthood, irrespective of when this weight loss is achieved, and support public health policies for lifestyle modifications for prevention and management of overweight and obese individuals at all ages.

While it is easy to see why sustaining weight-loss as an adult (particularly if you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease) may well be beneficial, it is hard to imagine a plausible biological pathway that would link a “short-term” weight loss to long-term improvements in cardiovascular risk.

Indeed, the authors provide no explanation for their findings. They also provide no further information on the people who lost weight compared to the people who did not.

My first response would be to look for biological plausible confounders – were people who lost weight at anytime as adults perhaps more conscious or concerned about their health than those who did not? Or, were they more metabolically healthy to start with?

Let us also not forget that this was merely an observational study – association does not prove causality.

This is not to say that the findings are entirely implausible. There is some literature on the long-term “legacy effect” of lifestyle interventions on metabolic risk factors – but the biological basis for this is unknown and some colleagues doubt wether this effect really exists.

Given that weight regain is rather common after weight loss, it will be interesting to see if other studies can demonstrate lasting benefits of short-term weight loss.

At this time some scepticism may well be warranted.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Join The Crowd: Support Pom Pom – A Flightless Bully Tale

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 1.13.00 PMThis week, my daughter’s crowdsourcing campaign to fund her second children’s book Pom Pom – A Flightless Bully Tale (her first one was Our Canadian Lovestory) is in its final stages – only 5 days left to meet her funding goal (over 85% there).

Please visit her site and join the “crowd” of 250 supporters to secure your very own personal copy(s) of this delightful anti-bullying children’s book (will make a great Christmas gift for your kids or grandkids – there are also school packages available for your local school library).

To visit the crowdsourcing site click here.

To hear Linnie read her story click here.

Thank you for helping her cross the finish line!

@ProudDad
Saskatoon, SK

 

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Help Stop Fat Bullying

Pomeroy Paulus Jr. III

Pomeroy Paulus Jr. III

Today’s post is a personal request in support of my daughter’s new children’s book project aimed at addressing anti-fat bullying.

Launched on Feb 26, World Anti-Bullying day, this Indigogo campaign is aiming to raise money to self-publish, “Pom Pom – A Flightless Bully Tale“, the story of a little slightly rotund penguin, Pomeroy Paulus Jr III, whose friends and family call “Pom Pom”.

But Pomeroy hates his nickname and would prefer to be called by his real name. And, like any boy his age he’s busy trying to impress ‘the birds’, particularly one bird: Pia. This is why Pomeroy dreams of owning 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 his size.

Your support can help this story get published so that readers will learn how mom helps Pomeroy get his orange swim trunks, see that Macaroni penguins are not made of mac’n’cheese, and watch Pia save the day when she puts bullies in their place.

Here is how Linnie puts it:

FOUR GREAT REASONS TO SUPPORT OUR PUBLISHING DREAM

(because four are better than three)

♥  You’ll help us stand up against bullies and lend your voice to someone so big that his voice has become small: Fat jokes are not funny and they hurt!

♥  You’ll allow us to produce (illustrate, edit, scan, post produce, book design & print in Canada) every part of Pom Pom - A Flightless Bully Tale 

♥ You’ll own a copy of the book you helped us publish (and maybe even your own custom arctic character)

♥  You’ll help fund Rebecca’s 2nd year of Art School. By paying Rebecca (21) real market value for her art work we were able to fund her first year of Art School with “Our Canadian Love Story” (Linnie’s 1st book) without her having to bag groceries. How cool is that?

To join Linnie’s campaign and reserve your own personal copy(s) of “Pom Pom – A Flightless Bully Tale” (and perhaps even your own arctic character) CLLICK HERE!

Your support is much appreciated.

@DrSharma
Banff, AB

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Results Not Typical: FTC Clamps Down on Fraudulent Weight-Loss Claims

sharma-obesity-weight-loss-supplementsOnce of the big news items this week was the announcement of a $34 million settlement with four marketers of weight-loss products that made misleading claims (L’Occitane, which claimed that its skin cream would slim users’ bodies but had no science to back up that claim, and HCG Diet Direct, which marketed an unproven human hormone that has been touted by hucksters for more than half a century as a weight-loss treatment, LeanSpa, LLC, an operation that allegedly deceptively promoted acai berry and “colon cleanse” weight-loss supplements through fake news websites).

According to the US Federal Trade Commission, this is part of its “Operation Failed Resolution” to stop misleading claims for products promoting easy weight loss and slimmer bodies. The FTC will make these funds available for refunds to consumers who bought these allegedly fraudulent products (although it appears that some of these companies may not have enough funds to pay up).

The agency also announced that additional charges have been made against the marketers of two other products.

The FTC is also calling upon broadcasters and other media outlets to stop promoting weight-loss products that promise results that defy science (and common sense) and has release a new guidance document to help spot such fraudulent weight-loss claims.

In a letter to be sent to US publishers and broadcasters, the FTC states that,

“Every time a con artist is able to place an ad for a bogus weight loss product on a television or radio station, in a newspaper or magazine, or on a legitimate website, it undermines the credibility of advertising and does incalculable damage to the reputation for accuracy that broadcasters and publishers work hard to earn.”

Here is the “business” rationale that the FTC has to offer to publishers and broadcasters for refusing to running such ads:

  • No legitimate media outlet wants to be associated with fraud. Accuracy is your company’s stock in trade. Why sully your good name by being known as a publication or station that promotes rip-offs?
  • If scammers are willing to cheat consumers, there’s a good chance they’ll cheat you by not paying their bills. By the time fly-by-nighters have made a quick killing, they’ve disappeared – and left you holding a stack of worthless receivables.
  • You want to protect loyal readers, listeners, and viewers from bogus products that can’t possibly work as advertised.
  • Reputable advertisers don’t want to associate their brands with media outlets used by con artists.

The FTC advises publishers to run a “Gut Check” and to think twice before running any ad that says a product:

  • Causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise;
  • Causes substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the consumer eats;
  • Causes permanent weight loss even after the consumer stops using product;
  • Blocks the absorption of fat or calories to enable consumers to lose substantial weight;
  • Safely enables consumers to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks;
  • Causes substantial weight loss for all users; 
  • Causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin.

Furthermore, all weight-loss ads should include “clear and conspicious” disclosure of how much weight consumers typically can expect to lose. (emphasis mine)

Whether or not publishers and broadcasters will actually heed such advice remains to be seen. My guess is that running such ads may be far too lucrative a business for these agencies to simply give up.

To educate broadcasters and the public, the FTC has released an online “Gut Check” test, where you can check your own ability to spot false weight loss claims – to take the test click here

While the FTC is to be commended for taking these steps, we have yet to see similar punitive action against irrational and unscientific weight-loss claims here in Canada – I wonder why.

If you would like to see more regulation or have had your own experience with such products, I’d love to hear from you.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

Hat tip to the many readers who sent in links to news articles about this announcement.

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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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