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Some Young Europeans Are Starting To Eat Like Americans

For years I have touted the health benefits of the “Mediterranean Diet” and encouraged patients to eat like the Europeans.   Fresh farm vegetables, olive oil, fish and red wine have been linked with longevity and good health.  I just read in NPR news that young Italians are forgoing the eating patterns of their elders and are imitating the “U.S. diet”.  The result is soaring obesity, just like in the United States.

According the the article, young Italians ages 6-12 are sitting in front of the TV and are eating fast foods and soda.  In just three generations, the eating habits and activity of kids has changed from their healthy grandparents.  Italian health officials say obesity is reaching epidemic proportions.

Part of the diet changes are a result of Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

More Bad News About The Obesity Epidemic In America

A report released recently by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health issued some grim warnings about the current and future state of the U.S.’s obesity epidemic.

Bluntly titled “F is for fat: How obesity threatens America’s future 2011,” the report found that obesity rates rose in 16 states since 2010 and that more than 30% of people are obese in 12 states, compared with one state just four years ago. The South is still the worst-faring region—nine out of 10 states with the highest obesity rates are located there.

The report compared today’s data with data from 20 years ago, when no state’s obesity rate exceeded 15%. Now, only one state—Colorado—has a rate below 20%. The report also points out that despite the increased attention paid to obesity by government (not to mention the media), no states posted a decrease in rates over the past year. Diabetes and hypertension rates have also risen sharply over the past two decades, the report said.

Recommendations to address the problem include preserving and in some cases restoring federal funding for obesity prevention and implementing legislation to improve nutrition in schools, among others.

Meanwhile, two researchers are making headlines for proposing a more extreme solution: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Are The Benefits Of Smoking Cessation Eclipsed By Obesity?

Epidemic by Tobyotter via Flickr and a Creative Commons license

Obesity is filling in for smoking as a cause of death in working class women, concluded researchers after reviewing mortality rates from a nearly 30-year study in Scotland.

In Europe, wealthier people either aren’t starting to smoke or are finding it easier to quit, which accounts for up to 85% of the observed differences in mortality between population groups, researchers noted.

Their analysis showed higher rates of being overweight or obese among those who’d never smoked in all occupational classes, with the highest rates in women from lower occupational classes. Almost 70% of the women in the lower occupational classes who had never smoked were overweight or obese, and severe obesity was seven times more prevalent than among smokers in higher social positions. Among women who had never smoked, lower social position was associated with higher mortality rates from cardiovascular disease but not cancer.

To investigate the relations between causes of death, social position and obesity in women who had never smoked, Scottish researchers conducted a prospective cohort study. They drew from the Renfrew and Paisley Study, a long term prospective community based cohort named for two neighboring towns in west central Scotland from which all residents then aged between 45 and 64 were invited to participate from 1972 to 1976.

Researchers reported their results online Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Surgeon Shames People Into Having Bariatric Surgery

Say you’re a bariatric surgeon. You’d think Americans would be beating a path to your door. After all, this is the land of Instant Gratification! Who wants to just eat less for the better part of a year to lose 50 lbs when one can be cut open and have one’s gastrointestinal anatomy rearranged — resulting in the necessity of eating less, but why quibble — to lose that same 50 lbs (or more)? Changing lifestyles is boring; surgery is exciting!

Funny how it turns out that in order for the surgery to succeed long-term, patients have to commit to lifestyle changes anyway. In fact, before any reputable bariatric surgeon will operate, patients have to demonstrate their dietary commitment by actually losing some weight on their own, prior to surgery. What I don’t understand is why people then go ahead with the damn surgery anyway? Logically, it’s almost like you have to prove you don’t need it before you can have it. Hey, I’ve never said I understand people.

Perhaps overcoming this paradox is the explanation for the behavior of a certain bariatric surgeon, brought to my attention by a mutual patient. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

Accepting Different Body Types, But Not Embracing Obesity

I just learned (yes, I’m a little late to the party) about the Body Shop anti-barbie controversy from a post on Facebook. The ad to the left has been banned from most countries, because it was believed to be in bad taste. For me, it raises some very interesting questions.

First of all, it’s been my experience that the media has been relentless in its portrayal of feminine beauty as being a dress size zero. This is an unattainable goal for most of us, and a very narrow view of what is truly attractive and physically healthy. I can’t imagine how many young girls feel deeply flawed when they compare themselves to Barbie et al. If unchecked, that self-doubt and insecurity can become a lifelong self-esteem issue or worse. Eating disorders are becoming more and more common, and carry with them the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

That being said, I’ve often had mixed feelings about the few “love your body as it is” campaigns* that have tried to push back against the rail-thin ideal. While we all have different body types, it’s still not healthy to be obese. Just as our favorite pets are born with different natural shapes (Chihuahuas, Whippets, Golden Retrievers, and Great Danes), we humans are different sizes too. But that doesn’t mean it’s “ok” to be excessively fat. Read more »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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