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Sleep your way thin?

Yes my friends, I’m afraid it’s true… lack of sleep can pack on the pounds! In 2004 a couple of researchers were analyzing the NHANES database, and noticed that sleep deprivation was an independent risk factor for obesity. Since that observation, more studies have confirmed that sleep debt is associated with weight gain. It’s not completely clear how this works – but one writer summarizes:

“Sleep causes changes in the brain, leading to abnormal secretion of hormones which can result in several body disturbances that include excessive daytime sleepiness, mood changes such as depression or anxiety, altered hunger and eating patterns, and ultimately further sleep disturbances. It’s a vicious cycle!… Throw out the diet bars, and fluff up the pillows.”

I bet my sleep expert colleague, Dr. Steve Poceta, has some further thoughts on this. Let’s ask him!

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.

Metabolism: does exercise boost it?

Well, I always hoped that the rumors were true – that gaining muscle mass would increase one’s resting metabolism. How many times have you heard fitness gurus tell you that if you bulk up with muscle you burn more calories even when you’re sitting around, watching TV?

Unfortunately, the truth is that even the most impressive muscle gains result in only a tiny increase in resting metabolic rate. In one case I recall a man who lost ~40 lbs of fat and gained ~20 lbs of muscle. His metabolism increased by a mere 50 calories/day.

In my experience, metabolism seems to be more a factor of nature rather than nurture. You’re born with a certain internal engine – and not much changes that (at a given body weight). However, exercise burns calories – and that can lead to weight loss, etc. It’s just that the baseline metabolism doesn’t change all that much.

Stay tuned for my next blog entry where I’ll explain why metabolism may be linked to diet failure.

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.

Gastric Bypass Surgery – Gain Weight To Get It?

In Britain, the National Health Service used to pay for gastric bypass for individuals with BMIs greater than 35, but a new rule has raised the qualifying BMI to 45 and above. So many people were having gastric bypass, that it was overburdening the system. In response, some people are trying to gain weight to qualify for the surgery!

Here’s what a couple of British folk have to say:

“It’s grossly unfair and incredibly short-sighted. There are hundreds of other people like me who can’t afford private surgery, and the message seems to be pay up or pig out.”

“Instead of surgery and rehabilitation my only option is McDonalds and ice cream”This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.

Thin People More Likely To Die

Just when you thought being super thin was best for your health… the Mayo Clinic published a short news brief in their December newsletter, “Mayo Clinic Connection” that casts some doubt on the benefits of being thin:

“Whereas obesity is a strong risk factor for heart disease, the standard test for measuring obesity – Body Mass Index (BMI) – may be of little use in predicting the risk of death. Results from studies involving 250,000 heart patients showed that those with the lowest BMIs had the highest risk of death. People who were overweight – but not obese – had a lower risk.”

Having a low amount of body fat has its advantages (like for rock climbing or marathon running) but being ~10 pounds overweight may actually be advantageous for your heart health. This is not an invitation to gain weight – just a little encouragement that “pleasantly plump” is not always such a bad thing. At least, that’s what I tell myself!

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.

Chewing gum drug could help curb obesity?

I came across a news headline: “Chewing gum drug could help curb obesity.”  I couldn’t help but be intrigued, so I decided to dig a little deeper.  The news release, as it turns out, is based upon the work of professor Steven R. Blum, a British researcher who is a consultant for many major pharmaceutical companies (Merck, GSK, Roche, Novartis, Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca, J&J and others).  In addition to owning stock in Thiakis, a new biopharmaceutical company created in 2004, the professor has just received 19 million dollars in VC money (and a 5 million dollar grant from the Wellcome Trust) to further investigate the use of pancreatic polypeptide – an appetite suppressing hormone – for the treatment of obesity.

The amount of money flowing into Blum’s research tells me one thing for sure – Big Pharma is placing a bet on gut hormones as the next big breakthrough in obesity management.  Whether this is money well spent, I’m not sure.  Leptin (an appetite suppressant hormone produced by fat cells) proved to be a big disappointment to researchers, as obese individuals proved to be resistant to leptin.  Pancreatic polypeptide also has a flaw that may prove to limit its use: it is rapidly broken down in the blood stream by enzymes, causing its appetite suppressing effects to be quite transitory.

Evidence to date is limited in humans (as far as I can tell previous studies have mostly focused on mice – I’ll let my GI colleagues correct me here) and Bloom cites a study in which 17 obese adults ate ~15 -25% less at a buffet after being injected with pancreatic polypeptide (compared to 18 others who were injected with saline).

I’d like to believe that gut hormones will lead to an appetite suppressing pill that will reverse or slow our obesity epidemic.  But I remain skeptical at this point.  What do other people think about this?


This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.

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