Posts Tagged ‘obesity

We can’t lick the obesity problem one person at a time

- December 9th, 2013

Obesity

(NOTE: Guest post courtesy www.troymedia.com.)

We can’t lick the obesity problem one person at a time

An interview with obesity expert Dr. Yoni Freedhoff

By Trudy Lieberman, Expert Advisor, EvidenceNetwork.ca

WASHINGTON, DC. (Troy Media) – During my recent visit to Canada, I had a chance to meet Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity expert for EvidenceNetwork.ca and an assistant professor in family medicine at the University of Ottawa. He is also the founder and medical director of Canada’s Bariatric Medicine Institute, so I figured he knew a thing or two about patient engagement when it comes to reducing obesity. What he had to say was somewhat surprising and could be useful for people who are struggling to lose weight or helping others who are.

TL: Must people be engaged in changing their behaviour to lose weight?

YF: I’m a lot less enthusiastic about behaviour change if weight loss is the whole driver of the exercise. It can’t be relied on as the sole source solution. Not everyone is interested in change. Life is difficult. We are not in this mess because people are lazy. There’s not an epidemic of laziness or gluttony.

TL: Why is life more difficult?

YF: Advertising has changed our lives, especially regarding food. It’s become the touchstone of our lives. There’s no event too small that doesn’t encourage us to eat. Plus, there is the normalization of convenience. The ubiquity of food has been a subtle, slowing growing change. Food is always around us.

TL: What’s the evidence we are eating more?

YF: We have been eating more calories per day per person among all age groups since the 1970s. We’re eating about 500 calories more per meal.

TL: How does this have to change?

YF: We have to normalize eating less, not eating more. So far, this has been a behavioral change in the wrong direction. We have to educate parents that eating more is not okay for them or their kids.

TL: Has cooking gone out of style?

YF: It’s normal to cook by mixing bottles, boxes and jars of processed food together. It’s now normal to eat out a lot. I am more likely to meet someone who eats out three or four times a week than someone who eats out two times a month. There’s so much temptation beckoning us.

TL: So then, given all these influences on eating behaviour, is society putting too much blame on people for being overweight?

YF: We are in effect telling people who should eat less to stop eating. It doesn’t work. People need to come to the realization that it’s not abnormal to have a healthy body weight. I am opposed to vilifying obesity.

TL: What happens if we continue on this path of increasing obesity?

YF: The scenario is frightening in Canada. It will be the crumbling of healthcare as we know it, and this will be staring us in the face in 10 or 20 years. The costs of treating people will be enormous.

TL: How do we move away from the “blame the victim” framing to something more effective and constructive?

YF: We are going to have to make changes in the food industry, and it won’t be easy. There was an initiative here two years ago to create awareness that we were consuming too many sugary drinks. They are totally unnecessary for life and are responsible for 7 to 8 per cent of all calories being consumed by North Americans. The Coca Cola people from Atlanta came up. Suddenly the conversation changed from consuming too many empty calories to taking away our personal freedoms.

TL: What about that argument about personal freedom? It’s persuasive.

YF: We have an acceptable bias against obesity. It allows the food industry to say obesity is all part of individual choice, so we’ve come to believe obesity is a matter of choice.

TL: Given the clout of the food industry, when is societal change likely to happen?

YF: When the cost to society from diabetes and weight-related illness is greater than the cost to politicians from speaking out against the food industry.

TL: Then you believe in taxing sugary beverages?

YF: Yes. We need a government to say “sugary drinks are not cool.”

TL: Until that happens, what should be the approach to obesity and too many calories?

YF: We don’t have a gold standard for weight reduction. People need to live their lives, and there comes a point when they can’t eat less and exercise more. We’ve gotten ourselves into the problem of trying to make them achieve A+ lives when we should be aiming at Bs. People should choose the healthiest diet they can enjoy. This is not about guilt, shame or telling everyone that we should all be skinny. The upstream problems are about cooking and the lack of skills. It’s about changing societal norms.

Freedhoff says that we can’t lick the obesity problem one person at a time. There must be buy-in from the community. It’s that thing about population health versus the health of the individual. Both Canada and the U.S., too, has a long way to go.

Trudy Lieberman, a journalist for more than 40 years, writes regularly for the Prepared Patient Blog. She is a longtime contributor to the Columbia Journalism Review and blogs for its website, CJR.org, about media coverage of healthcare, Social Security and retirement.

Alberta students taking fitness app to world stage

- April 30th, 2013

Cool fitness-related news from Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures (AITF).

A team of students who attended AITF’s geekStarter workshops (an iCORE program) is garnering international recognition for an app that monitors the health of computer/office workers and prompts them to get up and exercise.

The team’s creation recently took top honours at Microsoft Imagine Cup Canadian Finals. The student are now qualified to represent Canada in the world finals this summer.

I’m told that the Microsoft Imagine Cup is “like the Olympics for computer and software engineers. Hundreds of countries participate in the competition by hosting local finals to determine which teams head to the world championships.”

The 2013 finals are in St. Petersburg, Russia this July.

The team’s app is called SANO.

SANO is an interactive system using Kinect that monitors the health of computer/office workers who sit for long hours each day, prompting them to get up and exercise. A 3D virtual trainer appears on the computer screen and asks the user to mimic the movements. Users can even create their own exercises and share them with other users and track their history and progress.

What a fantastic made-in-Alberta story.

It’s also extremely encouraging to see students use their computer smarts to tackle the obesity epidemic. I love it! All the best in Russia, Team SANO!

Here are two stories by Jennifer Hill detailing SANO’s rise to the world stage:

Microsoft Imagine Cup this weekend

By Jennifer Hill

Imagine working late yet needing to buy groceries for supper and still having enough time to make it to the next Oilers home game. You may be tempted to just eat fast food even though you know it’s not healthy for your family.

Fortunately, smarter shopping is on the way thanks to a new Windows phone app designed by students from the University of Calgary. The students entered the Microsoft Imagine Cup where they were challenged to come up with innovative software and applications. The Microsoft Imagine Cup Canadian finals are being held online, on April 13. Two of the three teams to qualify for the nationals are from the U of C.

After attending several geekStarter workshops (geekStarter is one of iCORE’s programs), these students came up with two innovative applications for the national competition: YouSave and SANO.

In their own words: “YouSave is a mobile/web based application that allows users to enter what products they want to buy along with what they want to save (for example money, time, fuel or any combination of the three). YouSave returns the best set of stores in the user area where the savings will be optimized.”

YouSave

The YouSave team (left to right): Alan Chen, Xiufeng Peter, Omar Zaarour and Mahmoud Alhajiji.

If that wasn’t ambitious enough, another three students (including Omar Zaarour, who worked on YouSave) came up with SANO, another innovative solution that could benefit many of us at AITF.

SANO is an interactive system using Kinect that monitors the health of computer/office workers who sit for long hours each day, prompting them to get up and exercise. A 3D virtual trainer appears on the computer screen and asks the user to mimic the movements. Users can even create their own exercises and share them with other users and track their history and progress.

SANO

SANO team (from left): Tamer Jarada, Omar Zaarour, Omar Addam and Fatemeh Keshavarz.

Reaching the Canadian finals is quite an accomplishment for the Alberta teams, particularly as this is their first year of Imagine Cup competition. They credit geekStarter for their success.

“We could not have reached this stage without the continuous help and motivation from the useful geekStarter workshops and amazing AITF staff. There were great workshops provided to us such as time and project management, presentation skills and dedicated video editing and production.”

Will one of our teams win the Canadian competition and represent us in Russia in July? I’ll be anxiously awaiting the email from Microsoft on Monday, April 15 with the results of the national finals on April 13.

About the Microsoft Imagine Cup

The Microsoft Imagine Cup is like Olympics for computer and software engineers. Hundreds of countries participate in the competition by hosting local finals to determine which teams head to the world championships. The 2013 finals are hosted in St. Petersburg, Russia this July. (Coincidentally, St. Petersburg is also hosting the world championships of the Association for Computing Machinery programming contest in July. geekStarter is supporting teams from Lethbridge and Calgary who will be competing.)

* * *

Team SANO off to Russia!

By Jennifer Hill

We are very pleased to announce that the AITF-supported Team SANO has won the Canadian finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup this past Saturday and will be representing our country at the International finals in St. Petersberg, Russia, this July!

We support talented teams of students in the fields of ‘Omics and ICT through the iCORE program called geekStarter. geekStarter support of the ICT sector is very recent, as we are finishing our pilot year. It certainly seems to be as successful as our iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) teams! With grants and super-stellar workshops, we provide students with extra experiences and training that lift them from the ranks of their peers, helping them to achieve even greater personal success.

AI_Tech_RGB

 

ParticipACTION releases annual report

- October 16th, 2011

9798873Loyal readers of this blog know that ParticipACTION, the not-for-profit national voice of physical activity and sport participation in Canada, ceased to exist in 2001 after government funding dried up.

But it was resuscitated in 2007, thanks to a $5-million lifeline from the feds (Sport Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada).

These days, the organization that was originally established in 1971 seems to be stronger than ever.

And that’s a good thing. In this era of skyrocketing obesity rates, ParticipACTION is needed more than ever.

Click HERE to see ParticipACTION’s annual report.

And here’s a message from the organization, which prides itself in being the “galvanizing force that moves Canadians to move more.”

Dear Friend of ParticipACTION,

We are delighted to share our 2010/2011 ParticipACTION Annual Report with you. The important programs we have launched in the past year with our incredible partners have moved us closer to our vision of making Canada the most active nation on earth.

Thank you to all our partners and supporters. Your ongoing commitment is crucial to helping us achieve our mandate of getting Canadians to move more, every day. To those who have supported, encouraged or embraced physical activity for themselves or on behalf of others, we salute you. You are helping us make a difference today and for future generations. And to every Canadian, we extend an invitation to join our cause. Together, let’s move Canada to get moving!

Yours in action,

ParticipACTION

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Healthy habits good for heart: study

- September 22nd, 2011

File this under: “Well, d’uh!”

A new study confirms that a healthy lifestyle is … good for the ol’ ticker!

Really. You don’t say?!

Here’s the press release, which is rather redundant in my humble opinion but still worth posting — for a few guffaws at the very least:

heartHealthy Lifestyle Habits Lower Heart Failure Risk

Study Highlights:

• Adults who don’t smoke, maintain a healthy weight, get regular physical activity and eat vegetables lowered their heart failure risk.

• Each additional healthy behaviour helped to decrease heart failure risk.

• Healthcare workers should discuss and encourage healthy lifestyle habits with patients.

* * *

DALLAS (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — If you don’t smoke, aren’t
 overweight, get regular physical activity and eat vegetables, you can
 significantly reduce your risk for heart failure, according to research 
reported in Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association 
journal.

In a new study, people who had one healthy lifestyle behavior decreased 
their heart failure risk, and each additional healthy behavior further
 decreased their risk.

 Heart failure affects about 5.7 million Americans. At age 40, a
 person’s lifetime risk of developing heart failure is one in five.

“Any steps you take to stay healthy can reduce your risk of heart 
failure,” said Gang Hu, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and 
director of the Chronic Disease Epidemiology Laboratory at the
 Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.

“Hypothetically, about half of new heart failure cases occurring in
 this population could have been prevented if everyone engaged in at
 least three healthy lifestyle behaviors.”

Previous research has shown an association between healthy lifestyle
 behaviors and lower risk of heart failure in men. The new study is the 
first to find a similar connection in women.

Researchers followed 18,346 men and 19,729 women from Finland who were
 25 to 74 years old. During a median follow-up of 14.1 years, 638 men
 and 445 women developed heart failure. Participants were classified by
 BMI: normal weight (less than 25 kg/m2); overweight (25-29.9 kg/m2);
 and obese (greater than 30 kg/m2).

After adjusting for heart failure risk factors, such as high blood 
pressure, diabetes and a past heart attack, researchers found:

• Male smokers had an 86% higher risk for heart failure compared to never-smokers. Women smokers’ risk increased to 109%.

• Being overweight increased heart failure risk by 15% in men and
 21% in women compared to normal-weight people. The risk increased to 75% for obese men and 106% for obese women.

• Moderate physical activity reduced the risk of heart failure by 21% in men and 13% in women compared to a light physical activity level. High levels of physical activity lowered the risk even
 further: 33% in men and 36% in women.

• Eating vegetables three to six times per week decreased heart failure risk by 26% in men and 27% in women compared to those who ate vegetables less than once per week.

Furthermore, the more healthy lifestyle behaviors a person engaged in,
 the greater the decline in risk. Engaging in all four healthy lifestyle
 behaviors decreased the risk for heart failure by 70% in men and
 81% in women, compared to 32% in men and 47% in
 women who engaged in only one healthy behavior.

Many people remain unaware of the link between unhealthy lifestyle
 behaviors and heart failure risk, researchers said.

 Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart 
muscle is unable to pump enough blood through the heart to meet the
 body’s needs for blood and oxygen. Basically, the heart can’t keep up
 with its workload.

“Healthcare workers should discuss healthy lifestyle habits with their 
patients and stress that they can do more,” Hu said.

The Finnish Academy and Special Research Funds of the Social Welfare
and Health Board, City of Oulu funded the study. 

Co-authors are Yujie Wang, M.Sc.; Jaakko Tuomilehto, M.D., Ph.D.; Pekka
 Jousilahti, M.D., Ph.D.; Riitta Antikainen, M.D., Ph.D.; and Peter T. Katzmarzyk, Ph.D. Author
 disclosures are on the manuscript.

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart
 Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors 
and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position.
 The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their 
accuracy or reliability.

The association receives funding primarily 
from individuals; foundations and corporations (including
 pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make
 donations and fund specific association programs and events. The
 association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from
 influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and
 device corporations are available at
 www.americanheart.org/corporatefunding.

For more information, tools and resources for living healthy and
 reducing your risk for heart disease, including heart failure, visit
 www.MyHeartMyLife.org.

Ten steps to living longer and healthier

- September 15th, 2011
ES_graci30

Sam Graci is giving a free lecture at 7-9 p.m. today at St. Albert's Enjoy Centre, 101 Riel Dr. (Photo by Cary Castagna)

(Note: The following guest post is courtesy greens+ guru Sam Graci.)

Ten steps to living longer and healthier … now!

When looking at our increased rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer to name just a few, it’s becoming more and more obvious that we’re not as healthy as perhaps we once were. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, we all have the power to influence our health and well-being through the choices we make every day, and I would like to help you realize these powers.

By following these 10 easy steps, not only will you protect your body against disease and slow the aging process, you will enjoy the healthiest, most vibrant and energetic daily life you deserve, naturally:

1. Give THANKS
Begin all meals with a reflective “grace” or “thanksgiving”: A simple reflection before your meal helps to generate a feeling of healthy cohesiveness, which often lasts the rest of your day.

2. Eat as if your life depended upon it!
Eating is a very intimate and important process. Consider each food before you eat it. Also try to eat a diet that contains 75% alkalizing foods and 25% acidifying foods. This will keep your body chemistry in perfect balance and therefore able to operate at peak performance. Have a green drink like greens+ daily. It is a convenient alkalizing ‘superfood’ containing a variety of phytonutrients, antioxidants and more.

3. Exercise daily
Exercise is life supporting. Our bodies were meant to move in a natural, neurologically coordinated way. Walking in particular, is a high quality locomotive movement we should engage in each day. It has a harmonizing effect on the entire central nervous system.

4. Drink water
Aim for 6 to 12, 8-ounce (250mL) glasses of pure water a day: Clean water is one of the most important things you can give your body.  To help digestion and for extra flavour, try adding freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice.

5. Go organic!
Eat 10 servings of organically grown fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and sea vegetables every day. Whenever possible, purchase foods that have not been exposed to pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and ripening-retardant chemicals. Be alert to the new wave of bioengineered foods and foods that have been irradiated. Avoid chemical-laden and overly processed foods containing MSG, excess sugar, and hydrogenated oils.

6. Balance your foods
Eat low-fat proteins, quality fats, and low-glycemic, complex carbohydrates at every meal: Eat lean cuts of meats and remove all visible fat before cooking. Try to eat salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout two to three times a week. Only consume fat-free dairy products and eat free-range eggs when possible. If you are vegan or vegetarian, try to incorporate nutritional yeast, spirulina, chlorella, and soy isolate protein powder.

7. Reduce stress — naturally
Breathe deeply and reduce stress naturally: Conscientious breathing revitalizes the body with both oxygen and energy. Each morning and each evening take five minutes to breathe calmly and perform breathing exercises.

8. Let the sunshine in
Expose yourself to sunlight and fresh air: Expose your skin without sunglasses, glasses, or contact lenses to the sun for 10 minutes in the early morning and/or 10 minutes in the late afternoon. This limited and gentle sun exposure naturally promotes the production of Vitamin D in your body, while helping your skin build a natural tolerance.

9. Remember your good fats
Take fish oils: Best known for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, skin conditions and arthritis, there is now exciting research showing the positive impact of Omega-3s on brain health and function. Unfortunately, there’s been a radical shift in the Western diet over the last half-century leaving a nutritional void that can easily be filled through proper supplementation. Look for fish oils derived from small, wild and clean sources such as anchovy, sardines and mackerel.

10. Sleep well
Get sufficient sleep: Determine the number of hours of sleep you require to regenerate awake feeling rested and refreshed and aim to get this amount every night. Some people rejuvenate quickly with a 20-minute “power nap” during the day. Practice your breathing and meditation prior to falling asleep to both relax and deepen yourself. Honour your sleep requirements by keeping a regular bedtime and waking time schedule.

By incorporating these 10 steps every day, not only will you feel more energized and full of vitality on a daily basis, but you will also reap the rewards that come with a natural, preventive approach to health and healing such as reduced risk for disease, improved stress management, immune protection and more.

Remember, your health is won or lost each day at the cellular level and only YOU have the power to make the right choices. Eat wisely, feel healthy, live long and be happy — naturally!

About Sam Graci

Since first introducing Canadians to greens+ in 1993, Sam Graci has remained one of North America’s leading experts on nutrition, specifically focusing on the importance of eating healthy, fresh foods for achieving optimal health. Sam is a true believer that eating well and living well go hand-in-hand.  And through Sam’s expertise and inspiring educational approach, he is on a mission to inspire all of us to lead a more energetic, vibrant life.

Without question, the award-winning and research-proven success of greens+, based on over seven years of intense research, helped make Sam a natural leader in the development of a whole new and dynamic category of products known as ‘green superfoods’. Continuing on this path, Sam recently used his expertise to develop two new green formulas: greens+ extra energy and greens+ daily detox. Working together with Genuine Health (the company that makes greens+, proteins+ and other leading health supplements), these new formulas enhance the original greens+ blend to meet your specific health needs.

Always a source of healthy inspiration, Sam is uniquely recognized for his endless energy and vitality. He is regularly featured as a guest speaker at a number of consumer shows, in addition to his popular appearances on a variety of television and radio programs.  Sam continues to write many informative articles on nutrition and health for magazines and newspapers, and has authored two books: The Power of Superfoods (1998) and The Food Connection (2001). His new book The Path to Phenomenal Health: An Inspirational Journey to Vitality and Wellness is due out in September 2005.

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