Category Archives: Obesity

Kids and Cholesterol Drugs

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that under the current guidelines, thirty per cent of the nation’s children are overweight or obese.  Many doctors fear that a rash of early heart attacks and diabetes will strike these children as they grow older.

The nation’s pediatricians are therefore recommending wider cholesterol screening for children – starting at age two – and more aggressive use of cholesterol-lowering drugs starting as early as eight years of age in hopes of preventing adult heart problems.

Because statins (cholesterol drugs) have been around since only the mid-1980s, there really is no evidence to show whether giving statins to children will, indeed, lower the risk for heart attack in middle age.

The main problem is that we live in a culture which is largely hooked into electronic entertainment and spend too much time feeding one end and not moving the other.

If You’re a “Metabo,” You’ll Be Fined

Japan has instituted one of the most serious campaigns in the world to get its citizens to be fit.  This action is motivated by the rapidly aging society’s ballooning health care costs, as most Japanese are covered under public health care or through their employment.

The term “metabo,” comes from the medical concept of “metabolic syndrome,” i.e., the factors that heighten the risk of developing vascular disease and diabetes.  They are:  obesity, high blood pressure, high glucose, and high cholesterol.  The term “metabo” has become the nation’s nickname for “overweight.”

Under a two month-old national law, companies and local governments must measure the waistlines of people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of annual checkups.  That amounts to 44% of the population of Japan.

The International Diabetes Federation’s (www.idf.org) guidelines for Japan of no more than 33.5 inches for men’s waistlines and 35.4 inches for women is being used as the standard.  When folks are over those measurements and have a weight-related ailment, they will be given dieting guidance and education.

The government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet these targets.  NEC, a Japanese personal computer production company, said to the New York Times (6/13/08) that if it failed to meet its targets, it could incur almost 20 million in penalties.

A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics in the U.S.A. found that the average waist size for Caucasian American men was 39 inches, a full inch smaller than the 40 inch maximum established by the International Diabetes Federation.

Ladies didn’t do as well:  the average waist size of Caucasian American women was 36.5 inches, about two inches above our threshold.  (The differences in thresholds between Japanese and Americans and men and women have to do with height and body type).

New Global Warming Threat

“Obese and overweight people require more fuel to transport them and the food they eat, and the problem will worsen as the population literally swells in size,” a team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine says.  This adds to food shortages and higher energy prices, say the School’s researchers, Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts, who wrote about this subject in the most recent issue of the medical journal Lancet.

At least 400 million adults worldwide are obese.  The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that by the year 2015, 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese.  The researchers calculate that these fat and obese people require 18% more energy than someone with a stable Body Mass Index (BMI).

Is the next step giving tax breaks to those who are thin and fit?

Fit, Not Fat

A study by Harvard-affiliated researchers published in the Archives of Internal Medicine challenges the notion that you can be fat and fit.  They found that being active can lower, but not eliminate heart risks faced by women who are fat or obese.

This new study involved nearly 39,000 women, average age of 54, who filled out a questionnaire at the beginning of the study detailing their height, weight and amount of weekly physical activity in the past year, including walking, jogging, bicycling, and swimming.  They were then tracked for approximately 11 years.

Women were considered “active” if they followed government-recommended guidelines, and got at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.  Women who got less exercise than that were considered “inactive.” Weight was evaluated by body mass index (BMI):  a BMI between 25 and 29 is considered overweight, and 30 or higher is considered obese.

Compared with normal-weight active women, the risk for developing heart disease was 54% higher in overweight active women, and 87% higher in obese active women.  By contrast, the risk for developing heart disease was 88% higher in overweight inactive women and 2 1/2 times greater in obese inactive women.

About two in five American women at age 50 will eventually develop heart attacks or other cardiovascular problems according to the Associated Press report (4/29/08).  Excess weight can raise those odds in numerous ways, such as increasing blood pressure and increasing the risks for diabetes, as well as increasing “bad” (LDL) cholesterol.  Exercise counteracts all three.

If there’s one place in the world where there is no excuse for being inactive, it’s southern California.  Between the glorious weather, the hiking trails in the mountains, marked bicycle lanes and more, it’s almost impossible to excuse or explain being out of shape.

How About Putting a “Sin Tax” on Fast Food?

We already have taxes levied on cigarettes, purportedly to pay for education to stop smoking.  So, what’s so wrong with a tax on fast food to subsidize education about “eating less and moving more,” considering that two-thirds of the American population is fat or obese?

Lawmakers in New Jersey are considering such a tax, and planning to use the revenue from it to fund struggling hospitals.  Obviously, the old hat argument comes out that condemns such a tax as specifically aiming at the poor. When you want to budget money for eating, why not consider eating at home and brown-bagging it for lunch?  Everyone knows that this is a cheaper and more nutritious alternative.

As one taxpayer pointed out, “It costs $12.86 for fries and this little chicken wrap….” This taxpayer was complaining about adding a tax.  Yipes.  This taxpayer should have been complaining about how much money he’s wasting on such a menu.  He did also comment that “if they raise it [i.e., the price with a tax], I’ll stop buying it.”    Brilliant!  If it’s unhealthy, he’ll eat it.  If it has a “sin tax,” he’ll stop.  I think that’s a good enough reason for the tax.