Monday, February 11, 2008

Childhood Obesity

Reuters is reporting the way you raise your kids may not have as much to do with childhood obesity than once thought.

Diet and lifestyle play a far smaller role than genetic factors in determining whether a child becomes overweight, according to a recent British study of twins.

Researchers looking at more than 5,000 pairs of twins wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that genes account for about three-quarters of the differences in a child's waistline and weight.

"Contrary to the widespread assumption that family environment is the key factor in determining weight gain, we found this was not the case," said Jane Wardle, director of Cancer Research UK's Health Behavior Centre, who led the study.

Previous studies have pointed to environmental factors as the main cause of obesity, a major problem worldwide that increases the risk later in life of type-2 diabetes, cancer and heart problems.

The World Health Organization classifies around 400 million people worldwide as obese, including 200 million children under the age of five.

The British team looked at pairs of identical twins who share all their genes and compared their measurements with those of non-identical twins who share only half their genes.

A statistical analysis found that the differences in the children's body mass index and waist circumference were 77 percent attributable to genes and 23 percent due to the environment in which the children were growing up.

BMI is calculated by dividing weight by the square of height.

"These results do not mean that a child with a high complement of 'susceptibility genes' will inevitably become overweight, but that their genetic endowment gives them a stronger predisposition," the researchers said.

The results suggest that parents whose children are at the greatest genetic risk may need support to make sure they provide a healthy environment, the researchers said.

"This study shows that it is wrong to place all the blame for a child's excessive weight gain on the parents," the researchers said.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


Maria said...

A few things in the release bother me.

1. I think that BMI is a crappy overall "tool" in defining what is and isn't "overweight." As one part of the whole picture, ok, but as the sole determinant-- no way. If you visit my blog, you will find a post on obesity in which I posted a photo of my very muscular, professional basketball playing husband. According to his BMI, he is overweight. Right.

2. Assuming that there is a more accurate measure out there that takes in to account natural differences in body size (i.e. bone structure, etc) and assuming that those sizes would be considered "normal" under that measure, undoubtedly the outcome of the study would change. Are some people naturally more petite (or larger), yes, but again, that requires looking at the entire picture.

3. No matter how you do the math, if you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Do some people have naturally higher metabolic rates? Yes. Is that genetic? Does that mean if you are a slower metabolism and consume the same as another person genetics are to blame for your "overweight" body? I'll repeat-- if you consume more than you burn, you will gain weight.

steven edward streight said...

Parents have control over how much a child eats, most of the time, right? Genetic factors are relevant, but parental responsibility, in diet, manners, ethics, self-esteem, morality, etc. is the key factor as always.

Gluttony and inordinate affection for material things are not topics you hear in sermons very often. But self control is important, exercising restraint in our desires.

If kids eat healthy, satisfying foods, and get plenty of exercise, I don't see how they could get fat, unless it's a glandular disorder.

Boundaries. Discipline in love. That's the answer.

dayoub said...

Diet soda, vaccines, SSRIs and obesity

The journal CIRCULATION released a study and found a link between obesity and metabolic syndrome/obesity. (see NY Times coverage at

The risk undoubtedly is linked to aspartame, the toxic additive found in many drinks. It works by 1) inhibiting brain mechanisms that suppress appetite and 2) reducing cell receptor sensitivity to insulin. This has been reported in other studies.

Several of the behavioral medications given to children for ADHD, etc carry black box warnings for diabetes, obesity, etc (Zyprexa for example).

Vaccines have been implicated in childhood diabetes. The vaccine components most implicated are aluminum and mercury (thimerosal).

Knight in Dragonland said...

The study in Circulation that Dayoub mentions did find a link between metabolic syndrome and diet soda consumption. However, this would need to be further explored and validated before we leap to the conclusion that aspartame, the sweetener in many diet soft drinks, is causing the metabolic syndrome.

After a quick review of the literature on aspartame and obesity, I see no evidence of a link between the two. In fact, there are several studies that discount such a link. I'm not alone in that conclusion ... the American Dietetic Association also concludes that aspartame is safe and does not promote obesity.

Perhaps overweight people (obesity is part of the metabolic syndrome) are simply more likely to drink diet soda in an effort to control their weight. Of course that conclusion doesn't excite Dayoub's penchant for paranoia and conspiracy theories.

dayoub said...

Dr Wiedman apparently did not read the Circulation research to know such an obvious confounder was controlled for in the study design. I simply refuse to exchange insults with Dr Wiedman, I don't need to stoop to his level.
I could care less what another "independent" organization thinks about a commercial product when Nutrasweet is one of their sponsors.

For those serious readers who want to be informed about the potential risks of aspatame, I suggest you buy the video documentary "Sweet MiserY" and educate yourselves at several good websites ( that include many scientific documents supporting the dangers of aspartame. Here is one email I got from a researcher that included his work presented at a medical meeting recently:

Hi David:

Here you go. We did not look into publishing this particular study as
there was a similar report that came out later that year from Purdue (I
think). This was a student project and not my main area of research so
I did not pursue it, but it did seem to be a very real effect. It was as
if the animals made up for the missing calories and then sum if they had
sweet solutions between meals.

I look forward to hearing the results of your study.



A. Kurt Thaw*, Valerie Lauro*, & Holly McNeal, Millsaps College,
Jackson, MS 39210

Aspartame discussions have been common in the scientific and lay literature for over a decade. Opponents suggest various maladies caused by Aspartame, while supporters tout its useful applications. A significant point of contention concerns whether Aspartame is effective as a diet aid. The assumption that Aspartame leads to fewer calories consumed per day may be intuitive, but perhaps premature. The established physiological effect known as Early Cephalic Reflexes is a response to sensory stimuli that prepares the body for incoming nutrients. Insulin release is the primary effect. Aspartame consumption leads to Early Cephalic Reflexes without the delivery of sugars which may increase hunger. To test the hypothesis that Aspartame consumption leads to excess food intake 32 rats were divided into 2 groups of 16. Each group had ab libitum access to food from 1400h to 0900h each day. From 0900 to 1400 all food was removed and 50ml of either sucrose (group 1) or aspartame (group 2) was made available. After 2 consecutive weeks the sweet solutions were reversed for the groups. Each rats' feeding behavior and bodyweight were recorded daily. Results indicate an increase in total calories, weight gain, and rate of food intake for the Aspartame group. When the groups were switched this trend switched as well. With this procedure significant increases in calories and weight gain occur with Aspartame consumption compared to
sucrose intake.

Andrew Kurt Thaw, Ph.D.
Psychology Department
Millsaps College
1701 North State Street

Knight in Dragonland said...

Ahhh ... so the American Dietetics Association is corrupted by their association with aspartame manufacturers? That's interesting since the U.S. patent on aspartame (initially marketed as NutraSweet) expired 15 years ago. It's also rapidly losing market share to Splenda-based products. I seriously doubt its manufacturers wield that much clout anymore. Dr. Dayoub of course has extensive evidence to back up his claims of corruption ...

(Sound crickets chirping)

Or maybe not.

The study mentioned by Dayoub (unpublished, as most of his sources are, since no link to a journal was provided) is certainly interesting. However, other published studies (like this one, for example) have actually looked at the effects of aspartame in humans. These human subjects did not show any increase in energy intake or hunger when they consumed aspartame.

I do not discount the possibility that aspartame may be involved in the effect observed in the Circulation article. However, there is enough contrary evidence in the literature that I refuse to make the logical leap of faith that the good Dr. Dayoub seems anxious to make.

This observation needs to be further investigated by those with an open mind to all the possibilities. Maybe it is the aspartame. Maybe its another ingredient or combination of ingredients in diet soft drinks. Maybe this observation will be blown away completely under more intense scrutiny. This is not a matter to be judged by the narrow-minded and paranoid who already have their minds made up.

dayoub said...

Dr Weinerman did not read my post closely, as he was in too much of a hurry to discredit me.

I included a statement by the animal study author that claimed his work was unpublished and below is a reference from a study that is published finding the same thing....i did not attempt to hide that fact. He presents at the Amercian Heart Association meeting several years ago and his work was covered by the media. Generally, there is a peer review process to get even an abstract at a meeting accepted, so he was given some level of credibility.

Here is a direct quote from the Circulation paper....

"Diet soda also was positively associated with incident
MetSyn [metabolic syndrome], with those in the highest tertile of intake at 34%
greater risk than those in the lowest tertile. The strength of
this association was surprising. However, it is consistent with
recent data from the Framingham Heart Study, which found a
56% increased risk of MetSyn among those consuming 1
serving of diet soda per day.26 Furthermore, in a recent
cross-sectional study, diabetics who consumed diet soda had
poorer glucose control than those who consumed none.44 A
study in rats suggested that consumption of artificial sweeteners
impairs the ability of the body to predict the caloric
content of foods and may lead to increased intake and body

I do not appreciate your comments about me being paranoid, it is innapropriate and umprofessional, obviously, you have some real anger issues, maybe AnchorMom can start aa anger management blog for you.
This is a public forum of free exchange, I just cited published literature. The fact that childhood obesity is epidemic and pediatricians seem to have no answers other that attacking those who find legitimate answers is indicative of the sick society we live in, quite literally.

Diane Vespa said...

I do think there is a link between "fake" sugars and health problems. Several years ago I gave up all sodas and anything artifically sweetened. I can't tell you the difference it has made in my life. I am happier, healthier, and have a lot more energy. I know it is purely anecdotal, but I definately feel there is a link between artificial sweeteners and the health problems we face today. Now my family eats only real sugar or nothing.

dayoub said...

That is great to hear
I am convinced that the more natural a sugar is the better it is and easier to digest. We use the rawest form we can find in the health food store. Processed sugar is probably better than artificial. Some doctors of course won't believe you unless there is a study published. In fact there is one study i know of that showed things like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue improved after removing aspartame. I have had several co workers and patients benefit from stopping, things like migraines, palpitations, fatty liver (abdomen pain), et. Sometimes you have to do your own research and make your own decisions. Organized medicine does not have it all figured out yet. Aspartame has the most FDA consumer complaints than any other regulated product, that tells you something.

Diane Vespa said...

Dr. Oz, author of many diet and lifestyle books and a frequent guest on "Oprah" recommended Stevia, a natural sweeter. So I do keep that in the house and use it occassionally if I have a sweet tooth, which thankfully is not very often anymore. said...

Diane, I can't believe you no longer have a sweet tooth! How can I get rid of mine? Was this just luck on your part?

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