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by James Thomas, Saturday, February 25, 2017 | Categories: Obesity

The older we get, the better care we have to take of ourselves – that’s the message drummed into us by everyone from doctors to TV personalities. But, while it’s well known that your risk for serious conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease increases as you age, it’s also a universally acknowledged fact that getting older goes hand in hand with putting on weight, slowing down and finding it harder to get energised and motivated.

Obviously, this isn’t the case for every person in middle age – especially if you’re someone who has always had an interest in exercise, healthy eating and fitness – but according to recent statistics, it does affect a worryingly large percentage of the population.

As reported by The Guardian here, eight out of 10 Brits aged between 40 and 60 are not taking good enough care of themselves. To be more specific, 87% of men and 79% of women in this age range have been found to weigh too much, drink too much or be too physically inactive.

Perhaps most concerning is the high percentage of middle-aged adults who are overweight or obese (77% of men and 63% of women). Being overweight or obese is a high risk factor for serious conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, bowel cancer and stroke. It’s often closely linked to an inactive lifestyle and drinking too much – but the experts also believe there may be some other factors at play.

Reasons for the Middle Age Health Crisis

In the past 20 years, obesity in adults has increased by 16%, which is something that flags it up as a general health crisis, not solely specific to older age categories. One of the worrying effects this has had is that it has warped the average person's ability to distinguish between a healthy and an unhealthy weight – a particular problem for parents with overweight children.

Another factor to consider is that more and more people work in jobs requiring them to sit in front of a computer screen all day; as detailed by the NHS here, a sedentary lifestyle is associated with all kinds of health risks.

Generally speaking, we also live in a fairly ageist society that often devalues or ignores people over a certain age. As a result, many older people who are looking to get fit may find it more difficult to start exercising than those from younger generations; gyms and fitness classes tend to be populated with young people, and this can be really alienating if you do feel you are "too old" and out of shape to be there.

How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy in Middle Age

Whatever age and weight you are, there is always a way to get fitter, healthier and happier. For most people, this will involve three simple things:

  • Eating a healthier diet
  • Starting to take more exercise
  • Cutting down your alcohol intake

Many people will read those words and assume that means cutting out carbs, joining and gym and going teetotal. But in fact, getting healthier is often about making a series of small, manageable changes that can be easily adopted into your daily routine.

The first step is to take a look at what you eat and drink every day, and whether it largely adheres to the recommended guidance from the NHS. The second step is to start exercising a little more each day. This can mean taking the stairs instead of the escalator, getting off the bus or train one stop early and walking the rest of the way, and even standing up from your desk chair once every hour to stretch your legs.

From there, you can implement bigger changes, like taking up an exercise class; there are many tailored specifically towards older people. If you’re struggling to control your eating, consider signing up for a healthy diet programme or visiting a nutritionist.

If you find that these tactics aren’t effective, you can also talk to a doctor about getting a prescription for weight loss medication such as Orlistat or Saxenda. As part of a healthy lifestyle, this can be a very effective tool for gradual weight loss. Learn more by visiting The Online Clinic’s Weight Loss Tips page.

by Alicia Ni Ghrianne, Friday, January 30, 2015 | Categories: Obesity

What happens to our weight when we lose it? Researchers from the University of New South Wales now think that the majority of our weight loss is breathed out in the form of CO2. Their statements are evidenced in a paper published in The BMJ.

The common believe is that the fat is converted into energy or heat, but, according to the lead researchers at NSW, this defies the law of the conservation of mass. What they found instead was that carbs and proteins are converted into triglycerides. By losing weight, we are trying to metabolize these triglycerides, simultaneously maintaining their fat-free mass and keeping it intact. The triglycerides themselves are formed of three atoms, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The only way to break down such atoms is to oxidise them, hence the CO2.

They followed these atoms and saw that when 10 kg of fat was broken down in this way, 8.4 kg of this fat was excreted from the lungs as CO2. The rest became water. This shows that the lungs play the biggest part in the getting rid of weight.

Engaging in an activity like jogging for one hour increases the rate of the metabolism by 70% but weight loss will all depend on how much you eat. It is always the same advice: lower the intake of calories and increase the amount of exercise. Keep what is coming in low and what is coming out high.

What happens to us when we lose weight? We feel happy, healthier, more in control, and, according to a recent study, losing a mere 5 pounds could decrease a woman’s risk of dying from cancer of the breast, dramatically.

A study carried out by The Women’s Intervention Nutrition Study, tracked 2,400 women, over a period of 20 years, after they had been treated. The results showed that 10 years later, mortality rates were almost 70% lower among the women who had lost weight, even the most vigorous and dangerous of the cancer types. 

This has proven that diet has even more of an impact on the development of cancer than ever thought. Related studies looked at similar women who cut out the fat intake in their diet, but not the overall calorie consumption, and, similar results were not conveyed. This shows that weight loss is likely to be more important in this regard than getting rid of fat from the diet.

These findings are being touted as just as good as any drug. For a small number of women who have very limited options, weight loss should be high on the list. This study is a real eye opener no doubt research in this area will now be coming in thick and fast. 

More information can be read here.

by Alicia Ni Ghrainne, Saturday, November 22, 2014 | Categories: Obesity

An official list of rules has been drawn up by a Danish paediatrician, Dr. Holm, specializing in childhood obesity, and is known as The Children’s Obesity Clinic’s Treatment protocol. He is thought to have helped approximately 1,300 obese children lose weight since he first launched his trial in 2008. The trial simply involved the drawing up of a list of rules that this group of obese children and their families had to adhere to, and looking at results from the recent implementation of this protocol, it seems to have worked. Health professionals should be excited about its potential implementation here. It could seriously change the ever-increasing rates of childhood obesity here in Britain. The Danes say they have cured childhood obesity and it doesn’t seem to have been too difficult a task either!

The protocol includes a list of rules and simple guidelines which include; not allowing second helpings of food within a 20 minute period (to help facilitate this, pots and saucepans are kept off the table and in the kitchen): rationing sweets to one occasion per week: both juices and soft drinks are only allowed once a month; and children have to walk or cycle to school where feasible in terms of distance. These sound like easy steps to take but thanks to this four-year observation, they have now been found to make all the difference.

About one in three children in Britain suffer with weight problems or are obese before they leave primary school and this number only looks set to increase over the coming years. Dr. Holm’s intervention includes a thorough medical exam per child, before tailor-making them and their families a specific set of rules regarding diet and lifestyle that they must follow.

The Danish trial began in 2009 and involved 1,900 patients. A whopping 70% are said to have lost significant amounts of weight over the last four years and furthermore, have succeeded in keeping it off.

Between 2012 and 2013 there were 6.6% less hospital admissions with an obesity diagnosis than between 2011 and 2012 here in Britain, however, the figure is still nine times higher than it was between 2002 and 2003 according to data collected by the Health and Social Care Information Centre. These figures are alarming and yet, nothing is happening in the way of national intervention.

According to The McKinsey Global Institute, obesity is costing the economy as much as smoking or armed conflict does worldwide. The institute also promotes the need for a national response to the obesity crisis right now. They contend that it is no longer sufficient to pour money into educational messages and hope to penetrate the individual. Rather, action across the work force, society and government is required.

Perhaps taking example from Dr. Holm’s, so far successful, protocol would be a good start.

You can read more about the study at Parentdish.

by Alicia Ni Ghrainne, Thursday, October 30, 2014 | Categories: Obesity

With so little in the UK/EU pipeline in terms of weight loss treatments, there is a great focus now on the phase III trials of Beloranib, a prospective obesity drug made by Zafgen. Xenical is currently the only treatment on the market for weight loss and is a lipase inhibitor rather than a fat burning drug or appetite suppressant.

The mechanism by which the drug works is very different to other obesity drugs in that Belnoarib redirects the way the body deals with fat. It encourages the release of fat stored in adipose tissue and restores the ability of the liver to deal with fat. As well as working as a fat burner, the drug works independently of the hypothalamus, as an appetite suppressant. Previous clinical trials have shown that the drug is very successful and approval by the Food and drug Administration (FDA) looks promising.

For initial approval, Zafgen are not looking to approve the drug as an out and out obesity drug, and rather, a treatment for a condition known as Prader-Willi Syndrome. This syndrome is a genetic disorder which can cause an insatiable hunger in patients and eventually, very serious and life-threatening obesity. Patients who suffer from this syndrome can choke on their food, overeat to dangerous levels and rupture their stomachs. The average life span for sufferers is on average, only 32 years of age.

The latest phase III study is looking at obese adolescents and adults with the condition in a placebo controlled, double blind, randomized, trial. 84 patients with this condition are being tested, some who will receive the drug and others who will receive a placebo. Phase 2a results were encouraging so good results are expected here too.

All going well, it is likely that the drug will be approved for patients with this condition. Zafgen also suggest that the drug will be appropriate for patients who have suffered from hypothalamic injury, and therefore, have issues with weight control as a result. Perhaps patients who are at the upper end of obesity and who are at high risk of mortality might also benefit in time, but not right now. Now the focus is on this particular syndrome and perhaps those with obesity problems related to brain damage. However, plans are in place for a drug that might be better suited to the broader population. Here’s hoping that exciting results are on the way. In the meantime, Xenical is still available for obese patients to try and is the only weight loss treatment on the market. This drug does not work on the central nervous system and is not an appetite suppressant but can work well with some patients.

You can read more here.

by Marijana Domazet, Saturday, August 31, 2013 | Categories: Obesity

We often talk about the complex issues related to the development of obesity, both on an individual and societal level. Recently, we were frustrated to read an editorial on the importance of genetics in the development of obesity that seemed to interpret research findings in this field far too narrowly.

In general, the three most commonly discussed genes have been the so called- Mrap2 gene, the FTO gene and the SIM1 gene. We are aware of many studies, using both animal and human participants, which have shown intriguing results as to what genes may play a role in the development of obesity.

Naturally these findings are encouraging as they may one day lead to the development of treatments targeting those genes, or even develop treatment that can complement current treatments. This is unlikely to happen in the near future, as establishing research findings is a lengthy process followed by an even longer process of treatment trials.

There is little denying that some individuals may be more likely to become obese due to their genetic make-up. However, not all individuals that could become obese actually develop obesity, and not all obese individuals have “obesity genes”. This is probably due to that fact that obesity is a result of the interaction between an individual’s vulnerability (certain genes etc.) and their environment (easier access to certain foods, inability to exercise due to time constrains, obesity side effect of other treatment etc.). To say that an individual is obese as a result of their genes is passive and implies that all that is required is the right treatment or just accepting obesity.

This is why a wide range of research into obesity, from understanding community interventions to looking into adipose tissue, is warranted. Obesity has never been a simple issue, and it is our hope that individuals struggling with obesity never assume that it is not possible to treat obesity as a result of their genes. It is not easy to treat obesity, but from our experience we certainly know it’s not impossible.

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