Saturday, June 30, 2012

Preventing obesity in children -- research highlights physical activity levels

A British study, involving 5,500 children and published in the latest issue of PLoS Medicine, used accurate methods to measure the ‘fat mass’ of the children and the amount of physical activity they were taking. The researchers, based at the University of Bristol, concluded that low levels of activity, particularly moderate and vigorous activity, play an important role in the development of obesity.


While it would appear to be commonsense that anyone who is overweight or obese has been doing less physical activity than other people, body fat and energy expenditure are both hard to measure accurately. It has not therefore been clear which factor – eating too much or doing too little – is most responsible for the rising prevalence of obesity. The researchers employed advanced techniques – an Actigraph accelerometer for activity and an X-ray emission absorptiometry scanner for fat mass. They considered that the top 10% of the children in terms of fat mass were obese.

The results show consistently that the lower the level of children’s activity the higher their fat mass. The effect was stronger in boys than in girls. The statistical association was found to be greater for moderate and vigorous activity than for total activity. While the researchers acknowledge their work to have some limitations, they urge that encouraging greater activity, especially moderate and vigorous activity, should be a key part of policies to address the obesity epidemic.

The research was part of the long-term Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which is looking at many different aspects of health.




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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Childhood obesity linked to increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in adulthood

Childhood obesity is a widespread global epidemic (1) and in parallel with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)(2) is now the leading cause of liver disease among children. New data presented today at the International Liver Congress™ 2012 furthers this concern by showing that childhood obesity is positively linked with developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) - the most common form of liver cancer(3) - in adulthood.(4)


The Danish study monitored birth weight and BMI at school age of 165,540 men and 160,883 women born between1930 and 1989. The study authors calculated and compared the risk of developing HCC from the 252 participants that had developed HCC at follow-up. At age 7 the risk of developing HCC increased by 1.12 per unit of increase in BMI; however, at age 13 this risk increased to 1.25. Therefore, as units of BMI increased into adulthood, so did the risk of developing HCC. This was consistently similar across the sexes and ages.

EASL Scientific Committee Member Dr. Frank Lammert commented: "Childhood obesity not only leads to the development of many adverse metabolic conditions, such as Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, but also fatty liver disease, which may subsequently result in liver cancer. The importance of maintaining a healthy childhood BMI cannot be underestimated. These alarming study results point to a potential correlation between childhood obesity and development of liver cancer in adulthood."

Other factors in the development of liver cancer include alcoholic conditions, infection by hepatitis B and C and other liver diseases.(5) Results did not change when participants with these co-morbidities were removed from the study, indicating that childhood obesity was the major factor in the development of HCC. Only around 10-20% of liver cancers can be removed completely with surgery and if this is not successful the disease is usually fatal within 3-6 months.(3) Therefore prevention is the best protection against the development of liver cancer.

This study was funded by and carried out as part of the FLIP (Fatty Liver Inhibition of Progression) consortia, built around practising clinical hepatologists, basic scientists and two industrial partners who focus on research into the underlying mechanisms and management of patients with NAFLD. The aim of the FLIP project is to understand and prevent the progression of NAFLD into more severe conditions, such as cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. The project is supported by the European Commission through the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development and has been running since January 1st 2010.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Childhood obesity -- what are the health risks?

It is widely suspected that the current wave of obesity among children will result in greater rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes over the next few decades. But a second systematic review of research into childhood obesity and metabolic disease in adult life has shown there is little evidence of a direct link and suggests that treating obesity during childhood will remove any risk of lasting harm.


This new study, and the second of its kind carried out by nutrition experts at The University of Nottingham, has strengthened their original findings that we could in fact be more at risk of health problems if we are lean as children and become obese as adults. Unexpectedly the work suggests that there could even be a slight protective effect if we are overweight as children and reduce our Body Mass Index (BMI) in adulthood.

The research, funded by the Organix Foundation, and published online in the International Journal of Obesity, warns that as a result dieticians and nutritionists are missing an important at-risk group.

This second review has been performed by Louise Lloyd, a graduate student in nutrition, Dr Sarah McMullen, lecturer in Human Nutrition, and Professor Simon Langley-Evans, Chair in Human Nutrition, all based in the Division of Nutritional Sciences (School of Biosciences). The Division carries out research which focuses on the basis of the individual response to diet, development and ageing.

Their review shows that previous studies suggesting that childhood obesity permanently raises risk of disease failed to take into account adult BMI. As a result, there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate links with long term-risk which are independent of adult BMI.



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