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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.

The Fatter we Get, the Less We Seem to Notice

Monday, November 30, 2009 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 8 Responses
Does this look "normal" to you?

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.orgA significant number of overweight and obese individuals believe their body weight to be appropriate or normal and are satisfied with their body size. Misperception of overweight status is most common among the poor vs wealthy, African Americans vs white Americans, and men vs women. The unfortunate consequence is that overweight individuals who perceive themselves to be of normal weight are less likely to want to lose weight in contrast to overweight individuals with accurate perceptions. Such individuals are also more likely to smoke, have a poor diet, and be physically inactive.

An interesting hypothesis tested by Burke and colleagues in a recent Obesity journal article is that misperception of overweight status can actually increase over time in response to the secular increase in the average BMI of the US population. In other words, due to a possible anchoring effect, the more overweight the people around you become, the more one’s sense of “normal” weight is raised upwards, and thus the less likely you are to consider yourself overweight, even though you actually may be. Indeed, given that most individuals you interact with on a regular basis are likely to be overweight or obese, it becomes tough to define what someone with a normal weight looks like.

To answer the question at hand, the authors compared two representative cohorts of the United States population (NHANES) – one surveyed in the early 90’s and the other surveyed in the early 2000’s. Stated simply, they divided each cohort by gender and weight status (BMI) and compared the general perceptions of the individual’s weight.

What did they find?

Just as the researchers predicted, overweight individuals today are less likely to classify themselves as “overweight” in contrast to overweight individuals surveyed over a decade ago. For example, the proportion of overweight women who perceive their weight o be “about right” increased from 14% to 21%, and that among overweight men from 41 to 46%. This latter point also well illustrates the gender bias of weight misclassification.

Interestingly it was among individuals aged 20-25 that the greatest shift towards inaccurate weight classification occurred – overweight individuals in this age group were most likely to see themselves as “normal” weight.

Additionally, independent of the effect of time, this study confirmed a number of factors influencing one’s ability to accurately gauge their own weight status: those who are educated are more likely to self-classify as overweight than those who are not, those with higher incomes are more likely to feel overweight than those with the lowest incomes, married people are more likely to feel overweight than never-married people, and members of minority groups are less likely than whites to consider themselves overweight.

So there you have it – as a population, we are all getting fatter. Making matters worse, the fatter we all get, the less we seem to notice and the less likely we are to do anything about our bulging waistlines.

These are dangerous trends.


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Burke, M., Heiland, F., & Nadler, C. (2009). From “Overweight” to “About Right”: Evidence of a Generational Shift in Body Weight Norms Obesity DOI: 10.1038/oby.2009.369

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This Week: In Brief

Saturday, November 28, 2009 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 1 Response

While Travis and I regularly post lengthy discussions on Obesity Panacea, there are many research updates, news stories, videos, etc. in the field of obesity, physical activity and nutrition that we come across on a daily basis that never grace the pages of the blog. Most of these mini-stories we share with our followers on Twitter, and we encourage those of you with active Twitter accounts to communicate with us there to get real-time updates of all the stuff we are discussing (Follow Peter and/or Follow Travis). For those of you who shy away from Twitter, I thought we’d attempt to do a regular weekly feature of the best mini-stories that we came across during that week along with links to the original source so that you can follow the full story.

1. Lincoln university introduces a weight criteria for graduation and catches much flack as the story goes media viral - I bet Lincoln is regretting the move:

2. While obesity may spread through social networks like a virus, dropping your hefty friends is not the solution to your beer belly:

3. Apparently, The Biggest Loser medical staff may not be medically qualified and their weight loss practices are unsafe – Should I really be surprised?

4. The average Thanksgiving meal estimated to contain 3,000 calories and 229 g of fat:

- Probably the reason why it tastes so good. I am jealous of our US neighbors who celebrated Thanksgiving this week. Is it normal to enjoy Thanksgiving for both Canada and the US? I just have so much to be thankful for…and I really like turkey :)

5. It is suggested that the average dog owner gets more exercise than someone going to the gym:

- I would bet this all depends on how hyperactive and large your dog is – then again lugging all 3 lbs of your purse dog around all day can also burn a few kcals, I guess.

6. Great editorial in Archives of Internal Medicine on how crooked pharmaceutical companies can be – will do anything to sell more drugs, despite potential danger to public and awareness of much cheaper, equally efficacious, and less harmful alternatives. Vioxx serves as a perfect example of how greed can overcome ethics.

7. New study: The diabetes population and the related costs are expected to at least double in the next 25 years in US:

8. New Study: People who report work- or finance-related stress are more likely to have the metabolic syndrome. Just another example how our increasingly fast-paced lives are taking a toll on our health. This is particularly true for those of us who are high-strung to begin with. Let’s all just take a deep breath…

9. The government of Ontario is deliberating giving prescription rights to Naturopathic Doctors. Not surprisingly many are opposing the move, such as this fuming editorial in the National Post:

10. And finally, according to a new study, Ginko Biloba has no effect on reducing CVD risk & "cannot be recommended for preventing CVD":

Do you have any interesting stories to share? Do you have any thoughts and comments on this week’s top stories? Let’s have a chat using the comments section!

Also, don’t forget to follow us on twitter!

Have a great weekend,


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OSIM uKimono: Fat Loss Gimmick

Friday, November 27, 2009 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 2 Responses

It is simply stunning how many utterly useless products are manufactured and marketed for purposes of “fat burning” and “muscle sculpting.”

Just over a year ago I discussed the ridiculous claims made regarding the Slender Shaper, basically a vibrating belt you place around your mid-section which ““helps 'melt' away unwanted fat and build muscles without exercising.”

Yup – complete nonsense.

Based on the recent launch of the OSIM uKimono (from the makers of many other gimmicks such as the uGallop), it turns out that the market for silly fat loss gimmicks is much more competitive than I expected.

What is the OSIM uKimono, you ask?

Basically…it’s the Slender Shaper, but it comes in a variety of snazzy designs.

Yeah, because that’s where the Slender Shaper really failed – in aesthetics.

According to the manufacturer, the OSIM uKimono:

“breaks down fatty tissue in the tummy, butt and thighs, tighten muscles and create a perfectly trimmed body.”

Now just in case you were rightly skeptical of the ability of some vibrating belt to actually induce localized fat loss, the makers of OSIM uKimono even fetched themselves an endorsement from an emeritus MD, Dr. Koto Takayoshi who states:

"uKimono's combination of Twin Power Osimotion and Double Kneading massage helps to break down fatty tissue, enabling the effective and efficient burning of fat."

In terms of scientific validity and physiological plausibility, the above statement is simply a non sequitur (latin for “does not follow” or nonsense).

As I had previously argued, fat does not “melt away” or “burn” but rather individual adipose tissue (fat) 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.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 OSIM uKimono is just that – passive (not requiring any actual muscle activity), it is unlikely to lead to significant energy expenditure – a prerequisite for fat loss.

Also, 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 OSIM uKimono, this stimulus would be so small to have little chance of actually building any muscle.

But the makers of OSIM uKimono don’t stop there – plenty more nonsense is used in an attempt to dupe the na├»ve consumer into buying this gimmick.

Here are some purported benefits of using the OSIM uKimono:

“Knock out the fats in problem areas for slimming effect.”

- Nope, it certainly does not. The notion of spot reducing fat mass has no scientific validity – fat is lost from everywhere, when in caloric deficit.

“Double up as a massager to improve circulation of blood & prevent built up of fat cells & cellulite.”

- I’ll give them the massager part, but preventing build-up of fat cells – that makes absolutely no sense!?!?!?

“Perfect for "lazy" / time-poor users. No fancy diets to follow. No tough-to execute/tiring exercise regime.Perfect for those are inactive due to other health reasons. Time-efficient as users can use it while watching TV, reading a magazine, or surfing the Internet.”

- Of course a gimmick ad would not be complete without the propaganda against things that actually would help the consumer – like an alteration in lifestyle – including changes in diet, physical activity patterns, and a reduction in sedentary behaviours – such as watching TV.

“Fashionable, Fun, Chic, Stylish. Available in 3 chic, contemporary colours (purple, orange and red) to let you knock out your fats in style.”

- Fashionable? FAIL
- Fun? FAIL
- Chic? FAIL
- Stylish? FAIL
- “Knocking out fats”? Absurd FAIL

Check out the sweet video advert for the OSIM uKimono below – you don’t need to understand the Cantonese to get a good chuckle (email subscribers must log onto Obesity Panacea to view).

Do you, or someone you know own a Slender Shaper or the OSIM uKimono? Please share your thoughts or concerns with this product in by posting a comment.


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Scala Bio-Fir Anti-Cellulite Pants: A Review

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 Author: Travis Saunders 14 Responses

A few months back, Peter wrote a fantastic post on the Equmen Core Precision Undershirt, which is essentially a girdle for men. Somehow the ridiculousness of the shirt was only exceeded by its popularity on both sides of the Atlantic. Today we bring you an even more impressive product from the United Kingdom - pants which are reported to literally melt the fat off your legs!

The Scala Bio-Fir Anti-Cellulite Pants look like regular tights, but contain crystals which heat up on contact with the skin. Although somehow this heat remains undetectable to the wearer, the Daily Mail from the UK claims that this heat results in "[improved] circulation in the thighs, bottom and stomach, encouraging fat cells to 'melt' into a liquid" (emphasis added). That's right, heat that is so small that you can't feel it, yet is somehow powerful enough to melt your fat cells, while causing no damage whatsoever to muscle or other cells.

Now this might seem a little fantastical, but the Daily Mail includes a figure titled "Now for the science bit" which breaks it down for the skeptics.

Now I'm a bit embarrassed. You see, despite spending the past few years studying physiology, I had no idea that fat cells melted when exposed to undetectable heat/increased blood flow. I guess that means every time I go for a run, or a shower, or put on a pair of warm pants, my fat cells are melting into my bloodstream, where the fat is somehow excreted by my kidneys into my urine. Which explains all those fat droplets in your urine on a hot day.

But what if my skepticism is misplaced and these pants do cause fat cells to melt? Well, that could actually be very bad from a health perspective. Fat cells are meant to store fat, so they tend to do it pretty well and with minimum health risk, especially subcutaneous fat cells in the lower body. However, when these subcutaneous fat cells fill up, or when they somehow disappear (e.g. your pants cause them to melt) fat begins to overflow into the liver, heart, and skeletal muscle, causing all sorts of metabolic problems. This is exactly what happens to many individuals who receive Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy for HIV - they lose fat cells in the arms and legs, causing increased visceral and liver fat accumulation and severe metabolic dysfunction. So if the magic crystals in these pants do somehow cause your fat cells to melt, that could actually be a pretty big health concern.

As far as I can tell, the pants are currently only being carried in the UK, where they are said to be selling like hot cakes. They are being sold by John Lewis for £30 (~$50 USD), although pairs are now popping up on eBay for anyone in North America who is eager to have some magic pants of their own. Personally, if you're looking to spend $50 on your health I'd suggest a pedometer or a terrific book on healthy eating like Food Matters, but that's just my opinion. And if for some reason you desperately want to have pants that cause your legs to heat up, I suggest a nice pair of snow pants, which have been keeping us Canadians warm for centuries.

Hat tip to reader Kate Tolley for bringing this product to our attention.


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WiFi Body Scale: Tweeting Your Way to Less Pounds?

Friday, November 20, 2009 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses

Travis and I often remind our readers that adopting healthy behaviours is the goal, even if weight loss does not occur. That is, simply improving your current diet and increasing your daily physical activity will make you healthier and reduce your chance of countless diseases regardless of whether or not the number on your scale budges. However, the huge caveat to this notion is that individuals who adopt these healthy behaviours AND manage to lose at least 5-10% of their weight will benefit the most.

Additionally, while we often suggest that people look beyond the bathroom scale when adopting a healthy lifestyle, a number of studies have shown that the regular use of a scale may actually be helpful when it comes to losing weight.

For example, Vanwormer and colleagues nicely summarized the effect of regular weighing on weight loss in a systematic review of the literature published just last year. They included a total of 12 individual studies in their final analysis and found a number of interesting trends.

Evidence from 11 of the 12 studies suggested that more frequent self-weighing was associated with greater weight loss or weight gain prevention, with those individuals who weighed themselves daily or weekly having about a 1-3kg weight loss lead on their non-weighing counterparts.

A more recent prospective cohort study (2009) by the same authors provides further evidence of the positive effect of regular self-weighing on weight-loss success. In this study, 100 obese subjects were enrolled in a 6 month behavioural weight-loss program (consisting of telephone counseling and a written manual) which encouraged subjects to regularly weigh themselves. The study found that participants lost an additional 1 pound of weight for every 11 days they weighed-themselves. Looking at the data another way, individuals who weighed themselves at least weekly were more than 10 times as likely to reach a weight-loss of 5% (considered the cut-point for clinically significant weight loss) at the end of the 6 month intervention.
Thus, self-monitoring of your weight may be helpful if weight-loss is your goal.

While it is a VERY rare occurrence that we actually like a product, a new gadget I came across online while in Vancouver actually struck me as rather neat – especially given what I described above. The gadget I am alluding to is the Withings WiFi Body Scale, a bathroom scale which can do the following:

1) Assess your body fat percentage using bioimpedance (albeit pretty inaccurately)

2) Via WiFi connection, it can upload your daily body weight, % body fat, and BMI to a secure online tracking website or a specifically made iPhone app. That’s right – everytime you step on the scale it automatically tracks your information via whatever means you choose.

3) It allows you to set up profiles for up to 8 different people, so that all can individually track their weight on a regular basis.

4) Lastly (and this may be a bit much), for those on Twitter, and who like to be publically accountable for their progress, you can set up the WiFi Body Scale to automatically tweet your weight to all your followers.

If you’d like to purchase the Withings WiFi Body Scale, you can click here to purchase for 159.00 at

While the price is a bit outside of my budget, this falls into the very small category of gadgets which I would actually like to own.

You can also view a brief video below on how the WiFi Body Scale works (email subscribers please log onto Obesity Panacea to view).

Have a great weekend,


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Vanwormer JJ, French SA, Pereira MA, & Welsh EM (2008). The Impact of Regular Self-weighing on Weight Management: A Systematic Literature Review. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 5 PMID: 18983667

VanWormer JJ, Martinez AM, Martinson BC, Crain AL, Benson GA, Cosentino DL, & Pronk NP (2009). Self-weighing promotes weight loss for obese adults. American journal of preventive medicine, 36 (1), 70-3 PMID: 18976879

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Exercise Prevents Regain of Visceral Fat (But Not Body Weight)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses

Peter and I have often discussed the links between visceral fat and metabolic risk.  Visceral fat is the fat which surrounds the internal organs, and is thought to mediate much of the risk between obesity and disease.  For example, individuals with excess body weight tend to have more visceral fat, which is likely responsible for the relationship between body weight and numerous chronic diseases.  However, as Peter discussed on Monday, subcutaneous fat (the fat beneath the skin) does not seem to have these same negative associations with health.  This means that regardless of body weight, individuals with excess visceral fat tend to be at increased health risk, while those with low amounts of visceral fat tend to be at low risk.  This probably explains why up to 30% of obese individuals are metabolically healthy - these individuals are likely to have lots of subcutaneous fat, but not much visceral fat.

Given this link between visceral fat and chronic disease, it is interesting that exercise preferentially reduces visceral fat.  In other words, even when exercise does not result in reductions in body weight, it still results in reductions in visceral fat (which is likely one reason that exercise results in dramatic health benefits even without a change in body weight).  Perhaps just as importantly, a new study in the journal Obesity suggests that even small amounts of exercise can prevent the accumulation of visceral fat, even when total body weight is increasing.

In this new study, Dr Gary Hunter and colleagues at the University of Alabama followed a group of women for 1 year after completing an intervention which resulted in significant weight loss (~25 lbs).  The authors divided the women into three groups - those that were to perform aerobic exercise twice a week, those that were to perform resistance exercise twice a week, and a control group which performed no exercise at all.  As is often the case, body weight gradually increased following the intervention in all three groups.  However, among the exercisers, body weight increased by much less than in the non-exercisers (~7.5 lbs vs ~13.5 lbs).  What is even more interesting (and probably much more important from a health perspective), is that visceral fat levels increased by over 20% in the non-exercise group during the 1-year follow up, while there was no change in visceral fat levels in individuals who performed resistance or aerobic exercise.

I find these results to be very encouraging.  Individuals in this study performed just 80 minutes of exercise per week, which is well below most recommendations, and frankly isn't much exercise at all.  And yet, these individuals still prevented any increase in visceral fat.  So while 80 minutes of exercise may not be enough to completely prevent weight gain (although it did dramatically reduce it), it might still be enough to prevent the accumulation of visceral fat, which is likely to also help prevent the accumulation of metabolic risk factors.  These results are also a reminder that exercise can have dramatic effects on body composition and metabolic health, regardless of what is happening with your body weight.  So whether your body weight is increasing, decreasing, or holding steady, if you are exercising regularly, you are likely reducing your visceral fat levels, as well as your health risk.


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ResearchBlogging.orgHunter, G., Brock, D., Byrne, N., Chandler-Laney, P., Del Corral, P., & Gower, B. (2009). Exercise Training Prevents Regain of Visceral Fat for 1 Year Following Weight Loss Obesity DOI: 10.1038/oby.2009.316

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Grow More Fat and Improve Metabolic Health: Insights from TZD Treatment of Obese

Monday, November 16, 2009 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 3 Responses

By now, readers of Obesity Panacea (which just celebrated its 1 year anniversary!) have hopefully learned that excess weight is not directly predictive of health risk, and that excess fat mass is not in itself unhealthy. Recall that approximately 30% of individuals who are classified as obese by their body weight turn out to be metabolically healthy, and in fact seem not to get much metabolic benefit (or may even get worse) when they lose weight. Also consider that individuals who have NO fat tissue (e.g. lipodystrophy) have extremely elevated metabolic risk factors, meanwhile others who can apparently indefinitely grow more fat mass (multiple symmetric lipomatosis – think Michelin man) have metabolic profiles we’d all like to have.

The emerging theory of why obesity is associated with disease risk suggests that it is not the excess amount of fat that results in problems – but rather, it is the inability of the fat tissue (specifically subcutaneous, or under the skin fat) to expand enough to store all the excess calories being ingested. In other words, if obese and metabolically unhealthy individuals could somehow develop more subcutaneous fat tissue, they could theoretically become healthier.

That’s right – get fatter and yet healthier.

While these notions surely seem like heresy or simply void of logic to many of you reading, a study just published ahead of print in the journal Obesity, beautifully illustrates the theoretical argument I just described.

In the study, 12 overweight or obese and metabolically unhealthy subjects were given a drug (Pioglitazone) for a duration of 12 weeks. While the exact actions of this drug, and more generally the thiazolidinediones (TZD) class of drugs are beyond the scope of this post, it is important to understand that these drugs seem to upregulate the production of healthy new fat cells (a process known as adipogenesis) – that is they make you fatter. By doing so, these drugs increase the storage capacity of your fat tissue – something that is limited in unhealthy obese individuals.

And that is precisely what happened in these subjects following 3 months of Pioglitizone administration. First, they gained about 2kg of body weight. Their amount of subcutaneous fat in the belly went up by about 10% and that in their butt/thigh by about 24%. Interestingly, their amount of dangerous visceral fat decreased by about 11%. (Some suggest that visceral fat really begins to accumulate and potentially lead to metabolic problems when benign subcutaneous fat runs out of storage space. Thus, not surprising to see an increase in storage capacity of subcutaneous fat and yet a reduction in visceral accumulation).

Also, a fat biopsy from the belly of the subjects showed that the increase in fat mass was due to an increase in the number of small and healthy adipocytes (fat cells) which are better able to take up more circulating fat.

Alright, so people with excess fat and metabolic problems took drugs for 12 weeks which apparently made them fatter, and what happened to their insulin sensitivity (a major metabolic marker of diabetes risk)?

Their insulin sensitivity improved by over 28%!

That’s right – they got fatter and yet healthier.

Interestingly, the authors were able to show a close correlation between the relative increase in new subcutaneous fat cells and insulin sensitivity – the more new fat cells a subject developed, the more their insulin sensitivity improved.

Still believe the “fat is bad” mantra? As this study illustrates, matters related to excess fat and health risk are much more nuanced than what many would have you believe.

Brief note: Our annual Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology conference is now over and Travis and I are en route back to Toronto as I write this post. Travis is sitting directly behind me and two rows ahead of me is one of the stars (Brent Butt) of the Canadian sitcom “Corner Gas”. Catching up with friends and colleagues at the conference was quite nice. Our respective presentations went very well, and we attended some very interesting talks on topics ranging from the regulation of natural health foods or supplements, to video games for enhancing lifestyle, to a debate on whether waist circumference is superior to body mass index as a predictor of obesity related health risk. Thanks to all for another great meeting!


McLaughlin, T., Liu, T., Yee, G., Abbasi, F., Lamendola, C., Reaven, G., Tsao, P., Cushman, S., & Sherman, A. (2009). Pioglitazone Increases the Proportion of Small Cells in Human Abdominal Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue Obesity DOI: 10.1038/oby.2009.380

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Obesity Panacea heads to CSEP 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses
I am writing this post from the Ottawa airport as I prepare to head to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) annual scientific meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. CSEP is the major Canadian conference for exercise physiologists like ourselves, and it’s always a great chance to see other researchers and practitioners, as well as visiting with old lab mates – Peter and I have only seen each other once since I began my PhD here in Ottawa, so it will be great to see him and the rest of my former labmates from Queen’s. The schedule looks very good this year, with presentations ranging from athletic performance to health and well-being. There is a session this afternoon on the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, and a debate later in the week comparing the effectiveness of Body Mass Index and Waist Circumference in the clinical setting. Peter’s advisor Dr Bob Ross will be arguing for the waist circumference side of the debate, and it should be a very entertaining and informative session.

For our part, Peter and I are both presenting in a session on obesity and health. Peter is presenting data on the effects of weight loss in metabolically healthy obese individuals (if they are already healthy, is weight loss actually bad for them?) and I will be presenting on the positive health effects of a single session of exercise (they are bigger than you might expect). Several good friends of the blog, including Ashlee McGuire, Dr Jen Kuk, and Dr Chris Ardern will also be presenting in the same session, so I am really looking forward to it. Our free communication session starts at 4:30 on Thursday afternoon for anyone who would like to check it out.

If you happen to be in Vancouver this weekend and would like to check out the conference, it will be taking place at the Fairmont hotel downtown. For more info on the conference you can check out, which has the entire schedule and a list of all the poster and oral presentations. And if you happen to see Peter or myself around the conference, be sure to come up and say hello.

Enjoy the conference!


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Want To Be More Physically Active? Quit Your Job!

Monday, November 09, 2009 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 3 Responses

On numerous occasions Travis and I have written on the independent benefits of maintaining an active lifestyle (view my recent lecture on the topic) as well as the dangers of increased sedentary time, such as sitting.

A new study by McCrady and Levine published online in the journal Obesity investigated the role your job might have in making you sedentary.

In the study 11 men and 10 women were monitored for a duration of 10 consecutive days to assess physical activity (or inactivity) using a Physical Activity Monitoring System composed of four inclinometers and two triaxial accelerometers that are attached to the torso, thigh, and trunk using special clothing. This methodology allows the researchers not only to get an estimate of physical activity patterns but the postures taken and thus distinguish one form of inactivity from another (standing vs. sitting vs. lying down).

What did this study find?

1. During work days people sat for 110 minutes longer than on their leisure days (597 min/day vs. 484 min/day).

2. Conversely, work days were associated with 76 less min/day of standing and walking in contrast to leisure days.

3. Based on calculations, the authors approximated that during leisure days people expend an additional 59 calories through walking than on word days (586 vs 527 calories). This may not seem like a lot, but the lack of expending 300kcals every week can really add up over the year (15 600 kcals/year or ~5 lbs of fat/year).

4. Generally, people who were more active on their work days also tended to be more active during their leisure time. This is rather reasonable – I can’t sit still for more than about 30 minutes at a time, and it doesn’t matter whether I am at work or home.

5. Lastly, the obese subjects and lean subjects in the study showed similar patterns of inactivity at work and activity during leisure – with no differences between the groups.

So given that physical inactivity is a major cause of many chronic diseases, disability, and early mortality, what is one to do?

While quitting your job may not be a viable option, being cognizant enough to increase your normal amount of activity at work is likely a good idea. You can refer to our Top 10 Ways to Become Active for some ideas.


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McCrady, S., & Levine, J. (2009). Sedentariness at Work: How Much Do We Really Sit? Obesity, 17 (11), 2103-2105 DOI: 10.1038/oby.2009.117

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Obesity as a Disorder of Neural Function

Friday, November 06, 2009 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses

Image by brunosan.

One of the most interesting (and most complicated) things about obesity is its very strong neural component.  Now of course at its most basic level, body weight comes down to the balance of energy intake versus energy expenditure.  Unfortunately, many aspects of this energy balance equation are outside the influence of conscious control.  The brain is constantly sensing nutrients like glucose, and hormones like leptin and insulin in order to determine current energy stores, and using this information to adjust energy intake and energy expenditure as needed.  It does this by influencing our hunger and satiety, in order to keep body weight around a chosen set-point, or to return to a set-point after a short-term perturbation (e.g. a crash diet).  So even though an individual may have decided to cut back on their caloric intake and increase their physical activity levels, this is obviously not so easy if their brain is making them feel hungry and lethargic all the time.  As you might expect, research suggests that this neural control of energy intake and energy expenditure plays an extremely important role in obesity, weight maintenance, and weight reduction.

One study that nicely illustrates the link between obesity and these neural mechanisms was performed by Dr C.W. le Roux and colleagues at the Imperial College of London titled "Attenuated Peptite YY Release in Obese Subjects is Associated with Reduced Satiety".  Peptide YY (aka PYY) is a hormone which is secreted from the intestines in response to a meal, and through its effects on the brain has a strong influence on satiety.  The larger a meal, the more PYY that is released and the fuller you feel.  In this study, Dr le Roux and colleagues examined the PYY response in lean and obese individuals. Each subject received 6 different meals throughout the course of the study, varying in both size and caloric density.  They report that for a given caloric load, obese individuals had a dramatically lower PYY response, which was matched by a lower feeling of fullness.  In fact, obese individuals required roughly double the meal calorie content to match the PYY levels in the lean subjects.  However, when the authors injected PYY into the subjects, it produced similar feelings of fullness in both the lean and obese participants.  These results suggest that PYY secretion is lowered in obese individuals, but unlike leptin, central sensitivity to PYY does not appear to be affected.

Unfortunately, the $64,000 question remains - does obesity cause changes in PYY secretion, or does a deficiency in PYY secretion cause obesity?  That question, to my knowledge, has yet to be definitively answered (although I'm going to guess it's a bit of both, which always seems to be a safe bet with this type of thing).  The point, however, is that body weight management is not quite so simple as telling someone to eat less and move more, although those behaviors are still the end goal.  If an individual never feels full, they are obviously going to find it more difficult to lose weight than someone who always feels full.  That's one of the reasons why gastric bypass is so effective - with a smaller stomach, people feel full much sooner!  The more that we know about the neural control of long-term energy balance, the more effective strategies we will be able to develop to help prevent or reduce obesity in the future.

If you find the role of the brain in obesity as interesting as I do, you may be interested in a free presentation by Dr Barry Levin at the University of Ottawa Health Sciences Campus at 1pm on Nov 20.  Dr Levin is an internationally renowned researcher on the area of the brain-obesity connection, and it looks to be a terrific presentation.  It is open to the public, so if you live within driving distance of Ottawa and are interested in obesity research, this event might be for you.  For more info on Dr Levin's presentation, please click here.

Have a great weekend,


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ResearchBlogging.orgle Roux, C. (2005). Attenuated Peptide YY Release in Obese Subjects Is Associated with Reduced Satiety Endocrinology, 147 (1), 3-8 DOI: 10.1210/en.2005-0972

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International Obesity Expert Barry Levin to give FREE Lecture at University of Ottawa

Thursday, November 05, 2009 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses

International obesity expert Dr Barry Levin will be giving a free lecture at the University of Ottawa Health Sciences campus at 1:00pm on Friday, Nov 20 titled "Strategies for preventing diet-induced obesity".  Dr Levin's work focuses on the role that the brain plays in obesity, and it is expected to be a terrific presentation.  Although the lecture is being hosted by the University of Ottawa chapter of the Canadian Obesity Network Student and New Professionals, it will be open the the public, and I highly recommend that anyone within driving distance of Ottawa consider attending (I'm looking at you, Queen's University!  McGill too!).  For more information you can contact Dr Siham Yasari or myself (I share a lab with the co-chair of the event).

I would also like to congratulate the local chapter of the Canadian Obesity Network Student and New Professionals organization for managing to scrounge up enough money to fly in a world-renowned obesity expert, AND to provide free beverages and snacks for those in attendance (that's right - snacks and beverages!).  This is likely going to be a top-notch presentation, and it is thanks to the hard work of several already over-worked graduate students, as well as the financial support of the University of Ottawa and the Canadian Obesity Network.  Well done to Zach, Angela, and everyone else who has contributed to what promises to be a great event.

Hope to see you on the 20th!


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Video Lecture: Physical Activity and Obesity: Beyond Weight Loss

Wednesday, November 04, 2009 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 4 Responses
That's right!

For something a little different, I decided to record and post on Obesity Panacea a lecture I gave this Monday to a 2nd year Physical Activity and Health course at Queen's University. The title of the lecture was: "Physical Activity in the Treatment of Obesity: Beyond Weight Loss."

In the lecture I covered topics such as:

How much weight loss is enough?

Is physical activity without weight loss a failure?

The importance of looking at body composition, cardiovascular fitness, and metabolic risk instead of body weight when assessing the benefit of a physical activity intervention.

And many others...

Enjoy the lecture as posted below in six 10-minute segments. (Reminder to our email subscribers, you must log onto Obesity Panacea to view the videos)

Special thanks to Jenn Tomasone who provided fantastic technical assistance. Also, thanks to the class of KNPE255 for being one of the best classes I have had the pleasure to teach.


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Are Podcasts The Cure for Obesity?

Monday, November 02, 2009 Author: Travis Saunders 1 Response

Image by Dan Taylor.

I came across a very cool study last week which was published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. In this new paper, Dr Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy and colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined the impact of listening to a weight-loss podcast on body weight, physical activity, and fruit and vegetable consumption in overweight men and women. Subjects were randomly allocated to one of two groups; the control group which received a popular and freely available podcast focused on avoiding over-eating, and the experimental group, which received an "enhanced" podcast created by the study authors.  This enhanced podcast was based on Social Cognitive Theory, and included specific information on what to expect when attempting to lose weight, specific goals to achieve, and knowledge about how to achieve these goals.  Both groups received 2 podcasts each week for 12 weeks, and only met face-to-face with the researchers at the baseline and post-testing sessions.

So, what happened?  In comparison to the control group, the group which received the "enhanced" podcast experienced significant increases in their knowledge of weight loss topics, fruit and vegetable consumption, and their level of vigorous physical activity.  Finally, the enhanced group also experienced a 2.9 kg (~6.5 lb) reduction in body weight.

Now I find this study very interesting for several reasons.  First and foremost, it was done in the real world.  This was not a study where the authors strictly controlled the diet and physical activity levels of their participants.  In fact, they purposely minimized contact with their participants!  This is the opposite of many studies, which strictly control the lifestyle of their participants, effectively sequestering them from the day-to-day life.  So while the weight loss and positive lifestyle changes in the experimental group were modest, there is good reason to think that they could persist over the long-term, since they have presumably been incorporated into normal daily life.  And if any type of lifestyle change is to be maintained over the long-term, this is what has to occur.  I also find the idea of podcasting interventions extremely appealing because they are cheap and easy to make as well as to download, making them incredibly accessible.  And finally, in contrast to interventions which provide information in print, people don't need to sit down to listen to a podcast!  I listen to podcasts all the time during my ride to work, during workouts, and when walking to school, and it really is an easy way to take-in information.

Now keep in mind, this study was only 12 weeks long, and the participants in the experimental group only lost about 6.5 lbs.  Also, diet and physical activity measures were obtained through self-questionnaire, rather than being objectively measured, which introduces quite a bit of error.  And finally, the control podcast - which the authors report is a very popular weight-loss podcast - had absolutely no impact on body weight or any other variable of interest. So to answer my own question in the title of this post, podcasts are probably not the cure for obesity.  But evidence-based podcasts like the "enhanced" podcast in the present study may provide a useful tool for people looking to make a positive lifestyle change, and that's definitely a good thing.

A big hat tip to my girlfriend Daun for sending me the link to this study.


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Turner-McGrievy, G., Campbell, M., Tate, D., Truesdale, K., Bowling, J., & Crosby, L. (2009). Pounds Off Digitally StudyA Randomized Podcasting Weight-Loss Intervention American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 37 (4), 263-269 DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.06.010

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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.


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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