Heart-healthy lifestyles can spread through social networks

Nov. 19, 2013, Medical Xpress

Heart-healthy lifestyles can be contagious to your family and friends.

In a late-breaking clinical trial presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2013, people in social networks who received an intervention to tackle their weight problems together lost an average 6½ pounds more and trimmed an extra 1¼ inches from their waists compared with those who received standard individual care. In addition to weight and waistline benefits, the social network intervention also saw 4-5 mmHg drops in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Benefits lasted beyond the 10 month program up to even six months after.

Researchers with the Randomized Trial of Social Network Lifestyle Intervention for Obesity assigned groups of 2-8 friends and family members per group into ‘microclinic’ social network clusters to attend weekly social and health activity sessions focused on physical activity, nutrition, and health education for 10 months in rural Kentucky, where medical care is limited and rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are high. Continue reading

Teens who beat obesity at risk for eating disorders

Sept. 9, 2013, USA Today

By Michelle Healy

Teens who were once overweight or obese are at a significant risk of developing an eating disorder as they lose weight, but identification and treatment of the condition is often delayed because of their weight history, researchers say.

“For some reason we are just not thinking that these kids are at risk. We say, ‘Oh boy, you need to lose weight, and that’s hard for you because you’re obese,’ “ says Leslie Sim, clinical director of the eating disorders program at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and lead author of a case study report in October’s Pediatrics, published online today.

In the report, Sim and colleagues review two cases in which teens with a history of obesity developed severe, restrictive eating patterns in the process of losing weight. But indications of an eating disorder went unidentified and untreated by medical providers for as long as two years despite regular check-ups. Continue reading

Obesity gene tests may not hamper weight-loss efforts

Sept. 6, 2013, U.S. News & World Report

Genetic testing for obesity risk does not discourage people from trying to lose weight —instead, it may help reduce how much they blame themselves for their weight problems, according to a small new study.

Research has shown that genes influence a person’s risk of becoming overweight and one gene, called FTO, appears to have the greatest effect. The “A” variant of the gene is associated with a greater risk of weight gain, while the “T” variant of the gene is associated with a lower risk.

One in two people has at least one copy of the A variant. People with two A variants — one from their mother and one from their father — are 70 percent more likely to become obese than those with two T variants, according to the study authors at University College London (UCL). Continue reading

Can personal technology stop the obesity epidemic?

Sept. 25, 2012, Scientific American

By Katherine Harmon

So much of our information from — and interaction with — the world is now mediated by computers, cell phones, and tablets that health experts have been practically running themselves ragged trying to find ways to use these conduits to help people make healthier choices. Continue reading