Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Does The Media Depiction Of Obesity Hinder Efforts To Address It?

sharma-obesity-stop_hand

A study by Paula Brochu and colleagues, published in Health Psychology, suggests that the often unflattering depiction of people living with obesity in the media (as in the typical images of headless, dishevelled, ill-clothed individuals, usually involved in stereotypical activities – holding a hamburger in one hand and a large pop in the other or pinching their “love handles”), may well play a role in the lack of public support for policies to address this issue.

The researchers asked participants to read an online news story about a policy to deny fertility treatment to obese women that was accompanied by a nonstigmatizing, stigmatizing, or no image of an obese couple. A balanced discussion of the policy was presented, with information both questioning the policy as discriminatory and supporting the policy because of weight-related medical complications.

The findings of the study show that participants who viewed the article accompanied by the nonstigmatizing image were less supportive of the policy to deny obese women fertility treatment and recommended the policy less strongly than participants who viewed the same article accompanied by the stigmatizing image.

Given that negative and stigmatising images of people with obesity are the rule rather than the exception in media reports about obesity, the authors suggest that simply eliminating stigmatizing media portrayals of obesity may help reduce bias and foster more support for policies to address this problem.

Readers may wish to visit the Canadian Obesity Network’s image bank Picture Perfect At Any Size of non-stigmatizing images of people living with obesity that are available for free download for educational and media purposes.

@DrSharma
Copenhagen, DK

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pregnancy Weight Gain Study

Enrich logoToday’s post is for health professionals who provide care to pregnant women in their practice?

Researchers from the University of Alberta are conducting a short online survey to get a better understanding of the barriers and challenges you may experience related to gestational weight gain, and about what may help and support them to help women achieve healthy weights during pregnancy.

The researchers are also asking you to assess the strengths and limitations of the 5As of Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain, a new resource from the Canadian Obesity Network.

This information will help to inform the development of universal strategies that promote healthy dietary intake and appropriate weight management in pregnancy and postpartum.

Your participation in this short survey is much appreciated.

Click here to take the survey.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Activity Trumps Weight Loss For Health?

Despite the sharma-obesity-exercise2The fact that it is better to be fit and fat than skinny and unfit is not new – indeed, I would regard the evidence on this as pretty conclusive.

Nevertheless, for those, who still harbour any remaining doubts, the study by Ulf Ekelund on behalf of the EPIC Investigators, recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition should drive this message home.

This analysis looks at the relationship between physical activity and all-cause mortality in 334,161 European men and women followed for about 12.4 y (corresponding to 4,154,915 person-years).

No matter how the researchers looked at the data, activity levels appeared a better predictor of mortality than BMI or waist circumference.

Thus the authors calculated that while avoiding all inactivity would theoretcally reduce all-cause mortality by 7.35%, trying to maintain a “normal weight” (or rather a BMI less than 30) would reduce mortality by only 3.66% (although avoiding obesity AND inactivity did have the greatest effect).

Despite the limitations of these type of cross-sectional analyses, which as a rule, tend to overestimate the potential benefits of an actual intervention, the message is clear – it appears that even small increases in physical activity in inactive individuals can have substantially greater benefits to health than obsessing about losing a few pounds.

This is indeed useful information, as we have long known that increasing physical activity in most cases does surprisingly little in terms of weight loss but rather a lot in terms of increasing health and fitness.

So do not despair if the hours your patients are putting in at the gym are not changing those numbers on the scale – the health benefits are still worth the effort.

@DrSharma
Reykjavik, Iceland

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Anti-Inflammatory Effects Of A Healthy Nordic Diet

Nordic Diet Food Pyramid

Nordic Diet Food Pyramid

During my current visit to speak at the Icelandic Medical Association Annual Conference and meet with policy makers, my hosts are doing a wonderful job of introducing me to their “Nordic” fare consisting largely of fish, rye bread and other local produce.

Reason enough to post on this recent article by Marjukka Kolehmainen and her team of Scandinavian colleagues, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which examines the effects of a Nordic diet on the expression of inflammatory markers in adipose tissue of individuals with the metabolic syndrome.

Participants in this 18-24 week study were randomised to either a Nordic or control diet in the SYSDIET study, whereby participants for this “substudy” were selected from centres in Kuopio, Lund and Oulo. Importantly, subjects chosen for this analysis were relatively weight stable, having lost or gained less than 5% of their body weight during the course of the study.

In accordance with recommendations for a healthy Nordic diet, subjects in the intervention group were counselled to increase their consumption of whole-grain products, berries, fruits and vegetables, rapeseed oil, have three fish meals per week, and chose low-fat dairy products, while avoiding sugar-sweetened products. In contrast, the control group was advised to consume low-fiber cereal products and dairy fat–based spreads while limiting their fish intake to that generally consumed by the average Nordic population.

Gene expression studies were performed in biopsies from subcutaneous fat tissue and showed differential expression of about 130 genes between the two dietary groups – most of which were related to pathways involved in immune and inflammatory response, including genes involved in leukocyte trafficking and macrophage recruitment (e.g., interferon regulatory factor 1, CD97), adaptive immune response (interleukin32, interleukin 6 receptor), and reactive oxygen species (neutrophil cytosolic factor 1).

Together, the analyses showed a significant reduction in many of these markers consistent with an “anti-inflammatory” effect of the Nordic diet.

As the authors point out, these beneficial effects were seen with very little or no weight loss, suggesting that they are indeed attributable to the changes in dietary intake.

These findings may well have implications for us here in Canada, where eating a “Nordic” diet with local ingredients, may well be a far better alternative than trying to emulate a “Mediterranean” diet, the green house impact of which would be anything but healthy.

@DrSharma
Reykjavik, Iceland

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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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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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