Thursday, May 10, 2012

Obesity crisis examined in HBO documentary series "The Weight of the Nation"

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that if nothing is done to reverse the nation's current obesity trends, 42 percent of Americans could be obese by 2030. With the obesity current rate at 36 percent, the nation would add 32 million obese people in less than two decades. Sleep apnea, heart disease, diabetes and countless other debilitating and chronic health problems linked to obesity would devastate the national health and cost the health care system an estimated $550 billion.

A new public health campaign promises to be the first shot in the national battle against obesity. Next week, HBO will premier "The Weight of the Nation", a four-hour, four-part documentary in conjunction with the CDC's conference of the same name. The campaign is a co-effort by HBO and the Institute of Medicine, with support from the CDC, the National Institutes of Health, Kaiser Permanente and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

The documentary, which will be available for free online, will educate Americans on the science of obesity, the consequences of being overweight and social and economic factors that contribute to obesity. The program also promises to present solutions for individual weight loss and healthier lifestyles.

View the trailer below:

In advance of the premier of the documentary, HBO has launched an educational website as a companion piece. The website, which is rather excellent, provides easy to disseminate information on obesity, including definitions, infographics and plans of action to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Parts 1 & 2 of the "Weight of the Nation" will air on Monday, May 14 at 7 p.m. CST. The second half of the series will air the same time on the following night, Tuesday, May 15. The entire series will be available on-demand on the network's HBO GO Platform and for free on starting on May 14.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Excessive sleepiness may be cause of learning, attention and school problems

Children with learning, attention and behavior problems may be suffering from sleepiness. Penn State researchers divided 508 children into two groups. One group had parents who reported their children experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness. Parents of the second group reported their children alert during the day. The sleepy kids were more likely to experience learning, attention/hyperactivity and conduct problems.

What surprised researchers was that the tired students got just as much sleep as the other children. Measurements in the lab confirmed it. The researchers suggested that the sleepiness was being caused by obesity or symptoms of inattention, depression or anxiety. Asthma and parents reporting that their children had trouble falling asleep also seemed to contribute to the sleepiness.

Researchers said parents and educators are good resources for determining if a child seems excessively sleepy in the daytime. Their complaints should be taken seriously by health professionals examining the children. Otherwise, the learning and behavior problems could have further consequences in the child’s life.

The study appeared in the May issue of the journal SLEEP. Read more about children’s sleep needs and ways to evaluate whether or not your child is sleepy. For professional assistance, contact an accredited sleep center in your area.

Image by Pondspider

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Longer sleep times counteract obesity related genes

Toss out another old wives’ tale. Sleeping too much does not make you fat. Quite the opposite, according to a new study examining sleep and body mass index (BMI) in twins. Researchers found that sleeping more than nine hours a night may actually suppress genetic influences on body weight.

The study looked at 1,088 pairs of twins in the Washington state area. Twins sleeping less than seven hours a night were associated with increased BMI and greater genetic influences on BMI. Other studies have shown that genetic influences on weight include things like glucose metabolism, energy use, fatty acid storage and satiety. This study determined that the heritability of BMI was twice as high for short sleepers than for twins sleeping longer than nine hours a night.

The results demonstrate a gene-environment interaction between sleep habits and BMI, researchers said. This suggests that shorter sleep provides a more permissive environment for the expression of obesity related genes. Or that extended sleep protects by suppressing the expression of obesity genes.

More research is needed, the study concluded, but these preliminary results suggest that behavioral weight loss measures would be most effective when genetic influences are weakened through sleep extension. The study appeared in the May issue of SLEEP.

Image Courtesy NewBirth35