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The Perfect Push Up

The Perfect Push Up Exercise Gimmick Although push-ups are the most rudimentary exercise in existence, multiple companies have produced ridiculous gimmicks to help you do the Perfect Push-up!

Research Blogging Award Finalist!

Research Blogging Awards 2010 Finalist Obesity Panacea has been named a Finalist for the 2010 Research Blogging Awards! You can see all the nominees by clicking on the link below.

Powerthirst delivers gratuitous amounts of energy!

Friday, November 28, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 1 Response
After seeing a fantastic spoof on an exercise equipment infomercial on our friend, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff's blog we were reminded of a spoof on energy drinks we saw some time ago. However, while entertaining, please be advised that this video contains some 'colorful' language.

Enjoy!


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The cure for the obesity epidemic is... Triscuits???

Friday, November 28, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses

One of the primary reasons that Peter and I began this blog is that we both hate the simplistic and misleading obesity related products, diets, and training plans that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Take, for example, the recent cover story from Women's World magazine, which announced that the University of Texas had found a cure for obesity! The first line of their article asks "Ever get the feeling that you gain weight way too easily? Blame it on fructose!". Not caloric intake, diet composition or genetic predisposition, and certainly not exercise. Fructose. They go on to include a helpful chart which shows that grapes and honey both have lots of fructose, which seems to suggest that they are foods to be avoided. In contrast, Triscuits have no fructose at all and therefore are an ideal food choice.

The recommendations to avoid fructose stem from a recent article by Dr Elizabeth Parks, which can be found here. In it, they compared the effects of liquid meals containing various amounts of fructose. They report that consuming a meal consisting of 50 or 75% fructose results in significantly more fat production in the liver than meals which contain other sugars but no fructose. Thus, according to Women's World, meals that are high in fructose are the beginning and end of the obesity epidemic. And to be fair, it is probably best to avoid many of the foods that are high in fructose - these include things like soft drinks, almost anything that is high in sugar (fructose makes up 1/2 of the molecules in table sugar), and of course high-fructose corn syrup. However, fructose is also found in large amounts in fruit, and the advice to avoid fructose could easily be misconstrued as an excuse to avoid fresh fruit in general.

Here is what upsets me about such simplistic articles - they distract people from the big picture. I am willing to bet that if your diet is too high in fructose, it is likely also too high in sodium and trans-fats, and too low in fruits and vegetables. As Dr Yoni Freedhoff alluded to a recent blog post which you can read in the Speakwell newsletter, health behaviors tend to travel in packs. Focusing on one or two "evil" foods, or chasing after alleged "Superfoods" like Acai berry, allows people to avoid the unpleasant truth that they need to make an overall lifestyle change. If you are going to follow dietary advice, you could do much worse than to abide by Michael Pollan's simple suggestion to "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.". And when it comes to exercise, Participaction's advice to "move more" is also a pretty good idea. But if you find that those suggestions are just too boring you may want to try the new superfood - Triscuits!

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Accelis: the panacea for obesity? (Part 2)

Thursday, November 27, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 1 Response




Today we continue where we left off yesterday in evaluating a new off-the-counter dietary supplement - Accelis.





The purportedly medicinal ingredients in Accelis can be separated into 3 main categories:

1) Non-stimulating stimulants
- Caffeine-free green tea extract
- Caffeine-free oolong tea extract
- Caffeine-free white tea extract

2) Sedatives
- Chamomile extract
- Passionflower extract

3) Active Ingredient
-Lagerstroemia speciosa

The inclusion of caffeine and other stimulants, as we shall see in future posts, is a staple of the weight-loss supplement. Indeed, caffeine is an established ergogenic (performance-enhancing) aid, which improves performance in physical as well as mental tasks. In addition to elevating metabolic rate, caffeine also influences substrate metabolism by promoting greater reliance on free-fatty acid (fat) oxidation while sparing muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) – a good thing if you want to lose more fat while exercising. Lastly, caffeine also acts to suppress appetite. Thus, the inclusion of caffeine in weight-loss supplements makes some sense – albeit, this practice comes with some health risks (i.e. elevated blood pressure, anxiety, etc.). On the other hand, including caffeine-free stimulants in Accelis is like buying a car without an engine – likely not very useful.

Given that Accelis is to be taken before bed, the inclusion of sedatives is appropriate – if you are looking for a sleep-aid, that is. Camomile tea is a common remedy for insomnia and restlessness, and is often ‘prescribed’ to me by my mother (Dr. Mom) with varying degrees of treatment success. Sedatives are generally included in weight-loss supplements to help offset some of the hyper-activity induced by the effects of the commonly-included stimulants (i.e. caffeine) – again, none of which are included in this product. This is much like purchasing a new ABS brake system for that engine-less, and thus immobile car I alluded to above.

Lastly, the “active ingredient” is Lagerstroemia speciosa, or more specifically, corosolic acid, which is found mainly in the banaba plant grown in the Philippines, and nearby areas. While I have been able to find some (limited but consistent) literature addressing the ability of corosolic acid to improve glucose tolerance (possibly via enhanced GLUT-4 translocation), there is very little evidence if any, reporting that this compound may induce significant weight loss.

In all, I personally doubt that taking this product will lead to any loss in body weight, although the effects of one of its ingredients on glucose metabolism are intriguing, and warrant further investigation. Until that time, save your money and stick with what works – diet and exercise.

In agreement with my lacklustre assessment of Accelis, a survey on a diet blog reports that only 4 out of 34 individuals who rated this product gave it a favourable (thumbs up) rating, while the large majority reported dissatisfaction with the product’s effect.

So there you have it – Accelis, like many of its relatives, largely fails as the panacea for obesity. It may, however, be a panacea for all that excess cash you are carrying around ($53.59 for a 40 day supply).

Peter

Related Posts:
1. Acai Berry Scam Exposed: We Called It!
2. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin for Fat Loss: "Fallacy and Hazard"
3. Metabolic Syndrome Fighter "May" Cure All Diseases*


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Accelis: the panacea for obesity? (Part 1)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses
Since we have deviated slightly from our original blog purpose of examining various obesity cures, today’s post will be part 1 of 2 in which I evaluate a weight-loss supplement that I keep coming across. Posts which assess the claims of weight-loss supplements, exercise equipment or techniques, and other gadgets (such as the Slender Shaper which I blogged about a while back) will be a regular feature on this blog.

This week’s anti-obesity elixir is called Accelis. You can purchase this product at your local drug stores or directly from this website.

Here is a brief summary of the product as provided by the manufacturer:

“Accelis® is a revolutionary stimulant-free weight-loss product that can help you lose 10.65 pounds fast. Accelis® contains a patent-pending weight-loss ingredient in an absorption-enhanced softgel delivery system. It's so simple to use: You just take one serving each night and follow a balanced, active lifestyle.”

And now, let’s begin…

I guess I should just get used to the abuse of words such as ‘revolutionary’, ‘simple’, ‘fast’, ‘effective’, etc. in such exaggerated claims, so for the sake of time I will skip the semantics.

The claim is that you can lose 10.65 lbs (the extra decimal places really carry some authority, don’t you think?) over the course of 8 weeks with the use of this product. Notwithstanding the fact that a reference to the “one 8-week double-blind, placebo-controlled study, conducted at a major research center in Miami” on which this whole concoction is basing efficacy is nowhere to be found, the manufacturers do give us something to discuss.

First, this one study (which I could not find after serious PubMed and Google Scholar searching) did not actually assess efficacy of Accelis, per se, but the efficacy of “the active ingredient” in Accelis (discussed below).

Additionally, what is only unearthed by reading much fine print, is that the placebo group in this ‘study’ lost 5.87 lbs, so we are actually talking about a less than 5 lb weight loss accomplished during 8 weeks which may be attributed to the effects of Accelis’ “active ingredient’. As a simple comparison, a randomized-controlled trial from our lab published back in 2000 showed that men who went on a caloric-restriction diet (700kcal/day) lost over 16 lbs (in comparison to a control group) during 12 weeks. And remember there was no magic potions administered in this study – people simply ate less. Thus, the weekly loss in weight in our study of 1.4lbs is more than double that reported for the active ingredient in Accelis (0.6 lbs). If the weight-loss achieved through Accelis administration is indeed “fast”, then simple caloric restriction produces “warp-speed” weight-loss!

On this topic, if you want a really good laugh, click here to read the frequently asked questions (FAQ) section of the Accelis website. My favourite FAQ is: “Is there a study on the key ingredient in Accelis?” Yes, this would be my first question as a consumer evaluating this product. And, nevermind the reference, or any real details, I am convinced of efficacy when a website pedalling some elixir simply answers “Yes there is” to this FAQ. That’s evidence-based medicine for you.

Click here to read Accelis Part 2, which includes info on the ingredients of Accelis, in particular the magical ‘active ingredient’, and final thoughts on this week’s anti-obesity elixir.

Peter

Related Posts

1. Acai Berry Scam Exposed: We Called It!
2. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin for Fat Loss: "Fallacy and Hazard"
3. Metabolic Syndrome Fighter "May" Cure All Diseases*


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Obesity goes to court (again)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses













My apologies for keeping my posts brief this week - I defend my MSc a week from today so it is receiving my full attention for the next few days. I was in Montreal over the weekend and my girlfriend came across this very interesting article in the Gazette. A Canadian man is appealing his 2001 conviction for murdering his wife, saying that he accidentally crushed her when he fell on her. An American woman is using a similar defense as she is tried for the murder of her 2 year old nephew. As morbid obesity becomes increasingling prevalent, I expect we will continue to see it influence every aspect of society in ways that we have yet to even imagine.

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World's fattest man consummates marriage plus other thoughts on obesity and sex

Sunday, November 23, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses


As you may have read in my profile, my PhD project is looking at the effects of lifestyle changes on sexual dysfunction in obese men. Thus, over the past year I have been reading a significant amount of literature that generally falls beyond what exercise physiologists normally concern themselves with.


Although the topic of sex research makes some colleagues a bit uncomfortable, I have found that for the first time since starting grad school, I now have a research project which stimulates much interest at dinner parties. Even my own parents are more willing to listen to my 80% Polish/20% English ramblings about my work. While I hope to post more on the area of lifestyle, obesity, sexual function, etc. in the future, I had to discuss the following story which Travis forwarded to me this weekend.


In 2006, Guiness declared Manuel Uribe of Mexico, the fattest man on earth, when he weighed in at 1230 lbs. Just last month, Uribe married his long-time sweetheart Claudia Solis, after having lost just under 600 lbs following the Zone Diet. Despite his tremendous weight drop, which gave Manuel his second Guinness title – for greatest weight-loss, he still had to be transported to his wedding ceremony on a specially-made bed on the back of a truck.


According to the Daily Star, while the ceremony (which drew over 400 guests) went off without a hitch, Uribe was not able to consummate his marriage on the big night due to the fact that he is immobilized by his still excessive weight.


Fortunately for Uribe and his new bride, loyal friends constructed a concrete-reinforced ramp, allowing Uribe to raise the lower half of his body, thus permitting intercourse.


Thanks to his friends’ ingenuity, Uribe confesses “We have finally had sex and we are a true couple in the eyes of God. We feel like we are in heaven here on Earth.”


This isolated story highlights one of the difficulties (mechanical) of engaging in sexual intercourse, particularly among morbidly obese individuals. This of course is secondary to the also common physiological sexual dysfunction among both obese men (i.e. erectile dysfunction) and obese women (i.e. difficulty with vaginal lubrication).


Some have also documented a high prevalence of reduced sexual enjoyment and avoidance of sexual encounters among obese individuals. In fact, one Freudian theory suggests that obese people gain weight in order to avoid sexual contact – substituting an alimentary orgasm for a sexual one.


In stark contrast to the above, a recent study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, suggests that not only do obese women not differ from normal-weight women on age at first intercourse, frequency of heterosexual intercourse, and the number of lifetime or current male partners, but obese women are more likely to have ever had sex. Derived from a total sample of over 7000 women, the study results document that 92% of overweight or obese women reported having a history of sexual intercourse with a man, as opposed to 87% of normal weight women.


Thus, as illustrated by the results of this recent study, complemented by the story of Manuel Uribe, the commonly held belief that most obese people are sexually inactive is largely false. Some have suggested that due to such biases many physicians may not discuss issues such as sexually transmitted diseases or birth control with their obese subjects. However, as Bliss Kaneshiro, the lead author of the recent study suggests, all patients “deserve diligence in counseling on unintended pregnancy and STD prevention, regardless of body mass index."


For those who are obese or who are in a relationship with an obese partner or who are simply interested to learn more, please check out the book "Big, Big Love: A Sourcebook on Sex for People of Size and Those Who Love Them" by Hanna Blank (2000) which was often recommended on the sites that I perused while writing this post. According to an online description, this book contains “detailed and realistic information on improving self-image, partner-finding, sexual positions and activities, resources for toys and clothing and much more.”


To receive the latest obesity news and research, enter your email address in the "Subscribe Via Email" box in the upper right-hand corner of the blog.


Peter





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2-for-1 airfare for obese flyers

Friday, November 21, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled yesterday that airlines must provide obese individuals with an extra seat free of charge on flights within Canada. The ruling also applies to individuals with physical disabilities who require an extra seat for an inflight attendant, and is expected to add 44 cents to each ticket sold by Westjet, and 77 cents for Air Canada.

This ruling is understandably causing some concerns for airlines. One major problem appears to be the ruling's subjectivity - only those who are "disabled" by their obesity qualify for the free extra seat. The airlines themselves are responsible for establishing criteria for those who qualify, and will be applying these criteria on a per-person basis. The airlines are also claiming that this ruling could be easily exploited, which could increase costs far beyond those listed above. As Kevin Libin at the National Post points out "Suddenly, airlines are put in the complicated and touchy position of having to size up the legitimacy of your too-fat-for-my-seat claim, while preventing the kind of abuse of this policy that is surely inevitable."

This is a situation where everyone loses - the airlines and other passengers have to spend more so that other people can have more room. The airlines claim that this could even put some smaller carriers out of business. At the same time, I don't think for one second that anyone with 'disabling' obesity is excited that they require an extra seat. Unfortunately this situation is emblematic of the problems we are going to face if the obesity epidemic continues unchecked.

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Obesity Panacea 'In the News'

Thursday, November 20, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses


Video Snacking: another cause of the obesity epidemic?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses
What’s your video du jour? A YouTube video collage of W.’s Bushisms from his two terms? Hmm, that sounds great – I’ll snack on that, thanks.

I was first introduced to the phrase ‘video snacking’ in a January, 2008 edition of Time magazine. According to Time, video snacking is defined as “the practice of watching snippets of video on a computer or other small screen”.

Apparently, this activity is particularly popular during the lunch hour at the office – as noted by a significant spike in usage of sites such as YouTube, ComedyCentral.com, and others. I must admit, that Travis and I are both guilty of video snacking – particularly while eating our lunch at the office. In fact, we were doing it long before it was coined video snacking.

Unfortunately, given that we (like many others) spend most of our days seated in front of a computer, it probably isn’t the wisest decision to continue sitting during our lunch break. This is particularly relevant given that watching television, and presumably videos on the computer as well, can actually induce what has been called hypometabolism.

Research conducted in the 1990s suggested that the number of calories you expend while watching television is actually less than if you simply sat and did nothing at all. That is, watching television appears to slow your metabolism as though you are about to hibernate for the winter.

Thus, not only will video snacking reduce your non-leisure time physical activity, but it may actually slow down your metabolism – leading to progressively reduced daily energy expenditure. Thankfully, since Travis and I are not very proactive, we often walk to the local grocery store to get our lunch – thereby likely offsetting the hypometabolic effect of the video snacking that often follows. What will the rest of you do to offset your hypometabolic video snacking?

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Obesity epidemic spreading to pet population

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses

I came across a few interesting articles today that are related to the growing problem of obesity in pets. The first can be found on Yahoo.ca, and outlines the obesity epidemic in the dog population, as well as offering tips on ways that dog owners can help their pooches get back to a healthy body weight. Not surprisingly, the article suggests that reduced caloric intake and increased physical activity are effective strategies in reducing obesity in dogs, as they are in humans.

Up until today I didn't realize that the obesity epidemic extended outside of our own species, but I am wondering if this phenomenon can be explained by reports that obesity and health behaviors act as social contagions, as I discussed last week. Dogs in particular need to be walked by their owners - if their owners are inactive, I would think that it would be quite easy for the dogs to become inactive as well. Similarly, I would expect physically active owners to be more likely to ensure that their animals receive plenty of exercise as well. These idea are expanded upon here, in an article that also outlines how the move from a semi-wild life outdoors to a tame existence indoors has also influenced obesity in "companion animals".

And finally, I came across an article on Yahoo.ca which reports that a reality TV show in Britain will follow 8 of Britain's fattest pets as they attempt to lose weight in a format similar to Biggest Loser or Celebrity Fit Club. The goal of the program is to raise awareness of obesity in pets, so that owners will stop "killing their pets with kindness" by overfeeding them unhealthy human snacks. No word on whether the show will be available on this side of the Atlantic.


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If you’re pudgy rather than svelte, will Santa Claus still come to your town?

Monday, November 17, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 2 Responses

“All Santa wants this Christmas is for kids to lose a few of those extra pounds”, reads the opening line to an article published today by the Calgary Herald, which you can read here.

The prevalence of childhood obesity has indeed been increasing dramatically in the recent past, giving rise to global concern. But who knew that the childhood obesity epidemic would have an impact on how Santa Claus does business? Apparently, if you are a “pudgy” rather than “svelte” kid Santa Claus may still come to your town, but he is unlikely to have you sit on his lap, suggests the article.


The official Santa Claus manual of operating procedures, as developed by Victor Nevada, who has portrayed jolly St. Nick for over 2 decades, has recently been updated to include specific procedures on dealing with morbidly obese children. This new chapter warns against allowing obese children to sit on Santa’s lap to avoid possible damage to Santa’s knees and back – problems which Santa is already prone to on account of carrying heavy sacks of toys and climbing up and down chimneys. Instead, when faced with an obese child, all Santas are instructed by Nevada to “bring them in close and establish a bond.”

Thus, obese kids, who already endure tremendous discrimination are now also instructed by St. Nick, as the song may soon go, ‘to be lean for goodness sake.’ This instruction is particularly hypocritical coming from Santa. All joking aside, I find it astonishing how many aspects of society are affected by our collectively burgeoning waistlines – from the size of plane seats, and now apparently to a weight cut-off for Santa’s knee.

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Is Obesity Contagious?

Friday, November 14, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses
I am in the process of completing my Master's Thesis on regional body fat distribution and metabolic disease risk in elderly men and women. In doing so, I have spent hour upon hour thinking about the relationship between obesity and cardiometabolic risk, as well as their impact on Canadian society as a whole. While writing up my general discussion last night, I came across two very interesting article by Christakis and Fowler, both published in the New England Journal of Medicine. I am willing to bet that many if not most academics are fairly logical, rational people. As such, we tend to spend a lot of time worrying about "translating" our information for the public so that they can become more informed about obesity, physical inactivity and related health risk, and use that knowledge to make rational decisions about their health. However, the work of Christakos and Fowler suggests that health behaviors may not result just from our rational decision making processes. Instead, their work suggests that positive and negative health behaviors flow from one person to another like social contagions, eventually "infecting" entire social networks.

In their first article from 2007, Christakis and Fowler reported that our social networks have a dramatic influence on our risk of developing obesity. For example, they report that if an individual has a friend who develops obesity in a given period of time, their own risk of developing obesity increases by 57%. Similarly, their risk of developing obesity increases 40% if a sibling develops obesity. These findings suggest that we could see an exponential increase in obesity as more and more members of each social network become obese, increasing the risk of obesity in those around them. Perhaps we have already reached this obesity tipping point, setting off a chain reaction that will not end until the vast majority of Canadians are obese.

Although these social networks could be our collective undoing, they may also be our salvation. A subsequent study by Christakis and Fowler suggests that while obesity may be “contagious” among our social networks, so too are positive health choices. For example, they report that if an individuals’ spouse quits smoking in a given period of time, that individual becomes 67% more likely to quit smoking themselves. Further, they report that entire groups of interconnected people stopped smoking simultaneously, and that those who continued to smoke became increasingly marginalized within their social networks.

I am not by any means suggested that we should socially marginalize individuals with obesity or increased cardiometabolic risk – far from it! What I do believe, however, is that positive lifestyle choices may be “contagious” within a social network, leaving those with predominantly unhealthy behaviors increasingly marginalized within their social network. Eventually these healthy behaviors could become social and cultural norms, just as unhealthy behaviors like smoking were in the past. This may not "cure" obesity, but it would certainly lead to longer, healthier lives for people of all shapes and sizes.

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Media Inquries

Friday, November 14, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses
In addition to regularly writing for Obesity Panacea, both Peter and Travis have appeared in regional and national newspapers and magazines either as writers or expert interviewees (Click here for a list of recent examples). Their goal is to use any opportunity and any venue available to educate the public about all matters related to health, fitness and exercise, with particular interest in debunking popular health myths and fraudulent health products or services.

If you would like to interview Peter and/or Travis on a relevant health topic, particularly one they have discussed on Obesity Panacea, please send them an email.

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This apple does not keep the doctor away

Thursday, November 13, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses
By now, hopefully all are aware that body weight on its own or relative to height, as used to derive the body mass index (BMI), is a very imprecise indicator of health risk. In fact, research suggests that approximately 25% of individuals with an obese BMI are perfectly healthy, whereas 18% of individuals with “healthy” BMIs present with obesity-related metabolic complications.

One key factor mediating the health risk of an individual at any weight or BMI is the location of their excess fat – are they apple or pear shaped? We now know that carrying your weight predominantly in the central or abdominal region (apple shaped) is particularly dangerous.

Just last year, along with Drs. Janssen and Ross, I had published a paper in the journal Diabetes Care (which you can read in full here) which investigated the ability of an elevated waist circumference (an indicator of abdominal obesity) to predict risk of disease independent of BMI as well as commonly obtained metabolic risk factors (such as levels of blood glucose and lipids, blood pressure, etc.). Our results were the first to clearly demonstrate that even after you account for your BMI and common clinical markers, those that are apple-shaped (elevated waist circumference) carry a significantly higher risk of diabetes.

Thus, the results of a study which was just published yesterday in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine demonstrating that an elevated waist circumference predicts greater risk of death from all causes regardless of BMI level, should not come as much of a surprise. While prior studies have shown the same effect, this study (which you can read in full here) is important due to its sheer magnitude – including a ~10 year follow-up of about 360,000 Europeans. Specifically, the authors found that for a given BMI, an increase in waist circumference of 5cm was associated with a 13-17% increased chance of death in both men and women.

These results, along with countless prior studies, are in complete agreement with current clinical guidelines which recommend that physicians measure waist circumference along with BMI to assess a patient’s risk of disease. Thus, if your waist circumference is greater than 102cm (men) or 88cm (women), you may be at risk of disease and premature death even if you are at a healthy weight. Conversely, if your BMI is in the overweight or obese range, but your waist circumference falls below the above cutpoints, you may not have much to worry about.

If you take away nothing else from the above, understand that the number on your bathroom scale tells you little about your health, while the shape of your body tells all.

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Inactive kids get old before their time

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses
Here is a very interesting news article that I came across last night. The article and accompanying video suggest that the neck arteries of obese children actually look like the neck arteries of 45 year olds, and not surprisingly, these obese children also have a host of metabolic risk factors. In fact, the article is very reminiscent of the recent ParticiPACTION ad campain "Inactive Kids Get Old Before Their Time" (click here to see the videos). Not surprising information, but one more reminder of the dramatic health effects which often accompany obesity.


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The Slender Shaper: Another Fat Loss Gimmick?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 7 Responses
As an obesity researcher, there is nothing that makes the blood boil more than an infomercial pedaling another fat-loss gimmick. The ridiculous claims made on such adverts have ruined many of my weekend mornings and were actually the impetus behind the development of this blog.


While eating my oatmeal and channel surfing on a fine Saturday morning, it took mere minutes before I was transfixed – jotting down notes on a pad of paper while enduring the mental torture of the 1 hour Slender Shaper infomercial (segments of which you can watch here). In short, according to the manufacturer, the Slender Shaper is “revolutionary total body shaping equipment [which] actually does the exercise for you!” It does the exercise for you - imagine that!


My first issue with the Slender Shaper ad is in the use of the word revolutionary – a malapropism if I ever saw one. Indeed, as pictured below, this sort of nonsense was all the rage back in the 1950 when the field of physiology and the understanding of energy metabolism were rather primitive.



My second issue with this product is regarding the various claims made in reference to its efficacy. According to the manufacturer, the Slender Shaper “helps 'melt' away unwanted fat and build muscles without exercising.” First of all, contrary to this statement and the computer generated video in the ad, fat does not “melt away”, but rather individual adipose cells reduce in size (but not number) by liberating their stores of triglycerides in the form of glycerol and free-fatty acids - a process called lipolysis. These liberated products are then used to provide energy for the metabolic machinery of one tissue or another.

Secondly, the only way to actually reduce the amount of fat tissue one carries is through a caloric deficit – as induced by either decreasing food intake or increasing energy expenditure. Given that the passive movement of subcutaneous fat accomplished by the Slender Shaper is just that – passive (not requiring any actual muscle activity), it is unlikely to lead to significant energy expenditure – a prerequisite for fat loss.

Thirdly, the claim that this will somehow lead to building muscle really boggles the mind. Muscles are stimulated to hypertrophy in response to overloading – as is done in resistance training with weights, elastic bands, calisthenics, and others. Even if the muscles are mildly engaged in an antagonistic manner to oppose the vibration of the Slender Shaper, this stimulus would be so small to have little chance of actually building any muscle.

Finally, the notion that irks me the most is the acid-coating or blatant truth-bending of the information on established modes of exercise. First, the infomercial instructs the naïve viewer: “Forget about painful situps!” For one, if situps are painful – you are likely not doing them right, so please seek advice. Two, if you want to strengthen your abdominal muscles, the crunch is the most rudimentary and most effective exercise for the cause.

Also, did you know that the Slender Shaper is 17-times more effective at working the abs as is running on a treadmill!? Well, maybe not exactly…This provocative statement is based on a rather invalid test – comparing the movements tracked by an accelerometer attached to a machine which vibrates at some crazy frequency while the person wearing it stands by idly (Slender Shaper) versus that recorded by an accelerometer attached to the waistline of a man running on a treadmill. Although the misplaced accelerometer may have recorded more movement when attached to the vibrating Slender Shaper, who do you think expended more calories – the man running on a treadmill or the girl standing?

Nevertheless, if you are undeterred by logic and you want to get the “healthy and sexy body” as promised by using the Slender Shaper for just 10 minutes a day, please place an order here. Otherwise, you can follow the following revolutionary fat-loss system as recently pioneered by scientists: eat less and move more.



UPDATE: Read about The Shopping Channel's attempt to peddle the Slender Shaper System here.


Peter

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Can willpower cure obesity?

Saturday, November 08, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses
Today I came across a report from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care titled "Healthy weights, healthy lives". Although the report itself is excellent, the introduction from Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sheela Basrur surprised me. In it, Dr. Basrur claims that obesity is caused "In part... by our genes or our lack of willpower." I don't think that many would dispute that genes play an important role in the development of obesity. However, to say that obesity is caused by a "lack of willpower" promotes the old-fashioned and unhelpful perspective that individuals with obesity are lazy, or simply lack the will or motivation that are clearly exhibited by their leaner (and theoretically healthier) peers. Further, statements such as these also ignore the effect of physical activity on health independent of obesity. In fact, it has been suggested that it is better for your health if you are "fat and fit" rather than "lean and unfit".

The complexity of the obesity epidemic is described admirably in the "Healthy weights, healthy lives" report. In fact, it is an excellent resource for those who would like to learn more about the role of obesity in our health as a nation. However, unless we can somehow increase the will of millions of overweight Canadians, I don't think that "willpower" will provide a cure for our current obesity epidemic.

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A CB1 update

Friday, November 07, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses
There have been dramatic developments this week for a class of weight loss drugs known as CB1 antagonists, which Peter brought up earlier this week. Dr Arya Sharma has an excellent post on his blog describing the risks and benefits of this class of medications, and what we can expect now that they are no longer available. A great read for anyone who is interested in the medical treatment of obesity.

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As the new president, can Obama thwart the US obesity epidemic?

Thursday, November 06, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses
In short, I doubt so. I pose this question more in jest than seriousness based on a magazine cover I saw last night in the check-out counter at the local grocery store.

While I have become conditioned to seeing the face of Obama Barack on the cover of most of the Time magazines I get in the mail, seeing him on the cover of this month’s Men’s Health was a bit of a surprise. Apparently, this periodical considers Obama one of the top 20 Heroes of Health and Fitness – along with Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and others. Back in May of this year, Men’s Fitness Magazine had also declared Obama among the 25 most fit men in America.


According to the recent article (which you can read in full here) Obama exercises for 45 minutes on six days of the week, thus even exceeding the Surgeon General’s recommended level of physical activity (30 minutes at a moderate intensity on most days of the week). Although he alternates doing cardio and weight lifting – the perfect prescription for fighting off the sarcopenic obesity that develops as we age – Obama’s main mode of physical activity is basketball, what he considers his “first love.” (Click here to watch an interview with Obama centered on physical activity as well as clips of him playing a game of pick up b-ball).

‘Slick Willy’ Clinton taught us how to play the sax and get the ladies. W. introduced a slew of new vocab and taught us how to clear bush around the farm. And while Obama is unlikely to single-handedly thwart the US obesity epidemic, leading by example will hopefully motivate the majority of the population, which is currently sedentary, to follow their political leader and play a game of pick-up.

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Top 10 Posts

Tuesday, November 04, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 1 Response
Since starting Obesity Panacea last November, we have written over 200 posts on a wide range of obesity and physical activity related topics. Here are our 10 most popular posts.

1.  High fibre breakfast enhances fat burning during exercise.

2.  Obesity and sex.

3.  Misguided TIME article concludes that exercise won't make you thin.

4.  Is losing fat from hips and thighs bad for your health?

5.  10 simple ways to become more physically active.

6.  Get fat, live longer???

7.  Can sitting too long kill you?

8.  Sedentary lifestyle and belly fat increase risk of erectile dysfunction.

9.  Liposuction does not make you healthy.

10.  Drinking water prior to meals enhances weight loss.

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As one anti-obesity drug bites the dust, another hopeful emerges

Tuesday, November 04, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses
In response to a recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on October 23, 2008, Sanofi Aventis suspended the European sales of its anorectic (appetite suppressant) anti-obesity drug, rimonabant (Acomplia). By blocking the CB-1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system – the same system which induces the “munchies” in response to cannabis smoking, rimonabant not only suppressed appetite, but not surprisingly, also had negative effects on mood. Apparently, the administration of ribmonabant was associated with anxiety and depressive mood disorders - the same side-effects which initially prompted the US FDA to refuse approval of rimonabant back in 2007. Additionally, in the same month, Merck suddenly ended 5 of its phase-III clinical trials investigating the effects of another CB-1 blocker, taranabant. Thus, what many hoped would be the new obesity cure, has once again fallen short of predictions.

While the above may make you more depressed than taking rimonabant, those searching for an obesity panacea may just be in luck! The very same day that EMA derailed rimonabant, a very interesting phase-II clinical trial for another anti-obesity drug was published online in the prestigious journal Lancet (Read the article here) . According to this study, tensofensine - a norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin uptake inhibitor – is much more successful at achieving weight loss than other drugs – including rimonabant. By acting as an appetite-suppressant, akin to rimonabant, tensofensine was shown to reduce body weight by 10kg and waist circumference by 7cm over the placebo group during the 6-month intervention – approximately double that achieved by already available obesity drugs. In contrast to rimonabant, however, this drug does not seem to predispose to negative mood disorders, but it does cause the usual array of effects including headaches, GI distress, dry mouth and insomnia. Thus, phase-III clinical trials will shortly follow, along with the usual public and media hysteria over the new and all-powerful anti-obesity potion. We’ll just have to wait and see whether tensofensine eventually becomes another rimonabant, or taranabant, or leptin etc.

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About Us

We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.

Disclaimer

The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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