Category Archives: Obesity

Eating for Health and The Skinny on Obesity

750The UCTV series Eating for Health and The Skinny on Obesity are excellent resources for those eager to live healthy and prevent common nutrition related illnesses. In today’s world, it is easy to fall prey to the temptations of comfort foods and drinks. Dr. Robert Baron, UCSF Associate Dean for Graduate and Continuing Medical Education, values the opportunity to share results from the latest scientific research regarding nutrition to help people make healthier choices in their everyday lives.

25717Internationally known endocrinologist and star lecturer of the popular UCTV video, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, Dr. Robert Lustig analyzes the issue of obesity in the new documentary, The Complete Skinny on Obesity. Dr. Lustig and his UCSF colleagues Elissa Epel and Barbara Laraia explain why what we eat is just as important as how much we eat and look into the effects of stress and other factors on obesity rates.. Learn about the root causes of obesity, and why experts anticiapte that the next generation will die significantly younger than it’s predecessor due to obesity its related health issues.

25641Powered by the UCSF Osher Mini Medical School for the Public, Eating for Health is a new series that explores the topics of health and nutrition, as well as the prevention and treatment of common nutrition-related illnesses. In Fat Chance: Fructose 2.0, Dr. Lustig gives an update on the effects of processed sugar on our hormone systems and how this contributes to obesity. Read How Sweet is Sweet? for more information about everyday sweeteners.

Be sure to visit Eating for Health and The Skinny on Obesity websites for more from UCSF’s doctors, nurses and nutritionists as they explore eating for health (and pleasure).

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Sleep, Stress & Obesity: A Weighty Issue

Obesity is our nation’s greatest epidemic and public health challenge and the folks at the UCSF Center for Obesity, Assessment, Study and Treatment (COAST) have found an interesting new angle in which to approach it — through sleep.

In one of the first scientific conferences to focus on the interactions between sleep, stress and obesity, COAST gathered together leading researchers from across the country to examine the problem from a variety of interesting angles, including how sleep and stress impact our metabolism and brain function, why adequate sleep and stress reduction may be the 21st century pillars of health, and more. And now you can join in on this groundbreaking exchange of information.

Watch “Sleep, Stress & Obesity: A Weighty Issue” on UCTV.

Here are the first two programs in the five-part series, with more coming online each week. And check out the COAST series page for more obesity-related video.

Sleep and Weight Gain

Sleep Epidemiology

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UCTV December Highlights

Featured This Month
Program Highlights
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FEATURED THIS MONTH

Study Abroad Students Enroll in Adventure

From witnessing history at the Berlin Wall to saving lives in a remote West African community, the new UCTV Prime original series “Going Places” shares the life-changing stories of participants in the University of California’s pioneering education abroad program. As the program marks 50 years of educating and inspiring global citizens, this series explores how UC study abroad students are influencing the world – and how the world is changing them.

Going Places: UC Education Abroad

Sleep, Stress & Obesity: A Weighty Issue

The UCSF Center for Obesity, Assessment, Study and Treatment presents one of the first scientific conferences to focus on the interactions between sleep, stress and obesity – our nation’s greatest epidemic and public health challenge. Leading researchers from across the country examine the problem from a variety of interesting angles, including how sleep and stress impact our metabolism and brain function, why adequate sleep and stress reduction may be the 21st century pillars of health, and more.

Sleep, Stress & Obesity: A Weighty Issue

Big Dreams Bring Big Change

We continue our presentations from The Atlantic Meets the Pacific forum held at UC San Diego in October. This month you’ll be joined by The Atlantic’s James Fallows, “The Happiness Project” author Gretchen Rubin, video game designer Jane McGonigal, Calit 2’s Larry Smarr and more, all talking about improving the world –and our lives– through innovation, entrepreneurship and technology.

The Atlantic Meets the Pacific

Human Origins and Autism

This fascinating and important series from UC San Diego’s Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA) explores the newest understandings of the roots of autism disorders from the foremost researchers in the world.

Human Origins: Lessons from Autism Spectrum Disorders


PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS (PACIFIC TIMES)

 

All programs repeat throughout the month. Visit the Program Schedule on our web site for additional air dates and times.

Health & Medicine

Prostate Cancer Screening 

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Science

Return From the Deep

Intelligence and the Brain: Recent Advances in Understanding How the Brain Works with Jeff Hawkins

Intelligence and Machines: Creating Intelligent Machines by Modeling the Brain with Jeff Hawkins

Where the Swell Begins

Restoring Sight to the Blind: Bridging the Medical Gap with Science

Space Junk: Traffic Cops in Space

On Intelligence with Jeff Hawkins – Conversations with History

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Public Affairs

A Conversation with Harold Koh – Legally Speaking

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Humanities

Revelle Forum: TC Boyle

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Arts & Music

The Art in Science, The Science in Art – La Jolla Playhouse

Daughter of the Regiment – San Diego OperaTalk with Nick Reveles

Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor – La Jolla Music Society SummerFest

Gabriel Kahane: Come On All You Ghosts – La Jolla Music Society: SummerFest 2012

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Education

Intellectual Odyssey with Leon Wieseltier – Conversations with History

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New Online Videos and Podcasts

Happiness and Ultimate Good with Peter Singer

Manufacturing Life: How Synthetic DNA Will Change Our World, with J. Craig Venter

Onward California: California’s Water Tower

more videos and podcasts >>

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Reigning in Sugar with Regulation – “The Skinny on Obesity” Series Finale

This week we wrap up “The Skinny on Obesity” series with an argument for why obesity is a public health and economic threat that’s worthy of the same treatment as other public health problems like smoking and drug abuse. For our experts, nothing short of wholesale change in what we expect from the food industry will make a dent in America’s obesity problem.

Some might call Dr. Lustig’s argument for the regulation of sugar as the creation of a “nanny state,” but he insists that food manufacturers already benefit tremendously from government subsidies and have limited  consumer choice to predominantly high-sugar foods– precisely how we got so fat in the first place. It’s a provocative argument and one worth hearing out. Watch “The Skinny on Obesity: Drugs, Cigarettes, Alcohol..and Sugar?”

But don’t stop there. We’ve made plenty of resources available, including an editorial by UCSF Public Health Professor Laura Schmidt, who backs up the argument for sugar regulation, as well as an overview of the research that supports such interventions.

We hope you’ve gotten as much out “The Skinny on Obesity” as we have working on it. I know many of us here at UCTV have already made changes in how we eat and think about food. While we still have the ocassional birthday cake in the office, you can be darn sure that we’re calculating the toll it takes on our bodies, brains and society at large. It still tastes pretty good though.

Stay tuned in June for the next UCTV Prime series, “Our Digital Life.” The three-part series premieres June 15 and explores how researchers at UC Merced are using digital technology to inform and influence our lives.

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Regulation of Sugar – Strategies That Work

As suggested by the experts in “The Skinny on Obesity: Drugs, Cigarettes, Alcohol..and Sugar?” public policy intervention is one possible tactic to put the brakes on America’s obesity epidemic. Whether you consider the regulation of sugar-enriched food products regrettable or a revelation, it helps to know what the research says. Lucky for us, UCSF Health Policy Professor Laura Schmidt offered up an overview.

 

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

So far, evidence shows that individually focused approaches, such as school-based interventions and warning labels on product packaging, demonstrate only salutary efficacy. Conversely, for both alcohol and tobacco, there is robust evidence that “supply side” control strategies —taxation, distribution controls, age limits –- lower both consumption of the product and accompanying health harms.

WHAT DOES WORK

Taxation
Successful interventions for alcohol, tobacco and sugar all share a common end-point: curbing availability. Taxation — in the form of special excise duties, value added taxes, and sales taxes — are the most popular and effective ways to reduce the overall volume of drinking, and in turn, substance abuse and related harms.

Taxes are easy to collect and cause little market distortion. We have robust evidence of their beneficial effects on both acute (e.g., injuries) and chronic (e.g., cirrhosis) alcohol-related health conditions. Moreover, alcohol taxes disproportionately impact youth – a group at particularly high risk for alcohol-related harms.

Soda taxation will likely prove an efficient, effective public health strategy. European experience with sugar taxation thus far strongly supports this conclusion.  However, one problem is that the current U.S. soda tax debate centers on adding one penny per ounce, which would raise the price of a can of soda by only 10-12 cents. Statistical modeling suggests the price should double to significantly impact soda consumption. Another question is whether juice consumption would be similarly taxed, as it contains an even higher average fructose load than does soft drinks (1.8 vs. 1.7 gm/ounce).

Controls at the Point of Sales
Other successful tobacco and alcohol control strategies target limits on product availability through distribution controls on opening hours or days for retail sales, the controlled placement and location of retail markets, and density of sales outlets, as well as limits on who can legally purchase the products. Reducing the density of retail alcohol outlets, through stricter state licensing and local zoning ordinances, especially in lower income communities, has been shown to reduce alcohol-related problems in controlled studies.

A reasonable parallel for sugar would tighten licensing requirements on vending machines and snack bars that sell sugary products in schools and workplaces. States could apply zoning ordinances to control the number of fast food outlets and convenience stores in low-income communities, and especially around schools, while providing incentives for the establishment of grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Another option would be to limit sales during the time intervals of school operation, or to raise the age limit for purchase of soft drinks.  Indeed, parents in South Philadelphia recently took this upon themselves by blocking children from entering convenience stores after school. Why couldn’t a public health directive do the same?

Controls on Advertising and Marketing
Advertising shapes children’s perceptions about alcohol and tobacco, encouraging pro-drinking attitudes and greater consumption. Voluntary agreements among manufacturers and distributors have rarely been enforced or monitored, and, naturally, sugar vendors favor voluntary policing.

In contrast, government-imposed regulations on the marketing and promotion of alcohol to youth have been quite effective. Thus far, the U.S. government has not imposed a ban or careful monitoring of the marketing of high-sugar content products to children. Some communities, such as Santa Clara and San Francisco, CA, have however instituted toy bans on Happy Meals.

Subsidization
Reduced fructose consumption could also be fostered through subsidization — by limiting access to soft drinks and promoting access and consumption of healthy alternatives in low-fructose, high-fiber foods. Promotion of such foods in U.S. low-income programs such as Women, Infants, and Children, and Food Stamps is an obvious place to start.  Unfortunately, the petition by New York City to stop subsidization of soft drinks within the Food Stamp program was denied by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Recommended Actions for the FDA
Ultimately, food producers and distributors must reduce the amount of sugar added to foods. But sugar is cheap, sugar tastes good, and sugar sells, so companies have little incentive to change. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration already has the power to instigate change at every step in the production pipeline: from farmers, to food processors, to marketers, to suppliers, and ultimately, consumers. Although one institution alone can’t turn this juggernaut around, the FDA could “set the table” for change.

Since fructose acts as a chronic, dose-dependent liver toxin analogous to alcohol, the FDA should consider removing fructose from the Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) list, which currently allows food manufacturers to add unlimited amounts to any food.  Opponents will argue that other nutrients on the GRAS list, such as iron and vitamins A and D, can also be toxic when over-consumed. However, these substances have no abuse potential, as does sugar. Removal from the GRAS list would send a powerful signal to the European Food Safety Administration and the rest of the world, now facing the same crisis of obesity-related illness that America has been struggling with for the past 30 years.
REFERENCES

Babor, T., Caetano, R., Casswell, S., Edwards, G. & Giesbreacht, N. Alcohol: no ordinary commodity: research and public policy. Oxford University Press (2003).

International Regulation of Alcohol: Room, R., Schmidt, L.A., Rehm, J. & Mäkela P. Br. Med. J. 337, a2364 (2008)

Soda Taxes, Soft Drink Consumption, and Children’s Body Mass Index: Sturm, R., Powell L.M., Chriqui, J.F. & Chaloupka, F.J. Health Aff.  29, 1052-1058 (2010).

 

 

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