Tag Archives: obesity

Imagine children unable to speak up for themselves

My last post and all of my posts are really about all the children – and adults – who may not be able to speak up for themselves. A magnesium bath or foot soak can be life changing with almost immediate better mood and less muscle cramps and chronic pain.

I’ve only ever had one or two close friends at a time — and I’m okay with that, I like company but I like reading a lot too. My goal in sharing information is not for me or about me but is simply about sharing my experiences in case they might be helpful for others, and actually I do write for me too, future me, so that as I read I can add notes so that I can find the information again at some point in the future. I like the internet, it is a great invention, humans are really great in many ways.

Magnesium deficiency is a widespread problem for people on the autistic spectrum but also for many other people with a variety of common chronic illnesses or who have lifestyle habits that waste magnesium. Obesity can also be a problem of nutrient deficiency which might seem unlikely but being mal-nourished in some nutrients can make weight gain much more likely. Deficiencies in vitamin D, thiamin, folic acid, iron, B12, zinc, phosphorus, B6, and potassium have been found to be more common in obese individuals. [4] And levels of vitamins A, E, and C have also been found to be significantly lower in obese individuals than in non-obese individuals. [5] [information from references 4 and 5 is from a continuing education course: 6]

Magnesium deficiency has to be very severe before it typically shows up on lab tests because it is stored within the bones and within cells more than in the blood. Calcium is more prevalent within the fluid portion of blood while magnesium is more prevalent within the interior of blood cells and other cells. Both nutrients are electrically active and provide energy for cellular functions in addition to other roles. Gastrointestinal problems can make a deficiency in the nutrient more likely however because calcium can be preferentially absorbed and magnesium can become less well absorbed.  However an early symptom of magnesium deficiency is insulin resistance which would lead to increased fat storage and increased appetite. [https://www.sharecare.com/health/diabetes/how-brain-affected-by-insulin]

The DASH diet designed originally to help reduce high blood pressure has also been found helpful for weight management. It includes more beans, nuts and seeds than many other diet plans, foods which provide magnesium, vitamin E, B vitamins and trace minerals such as zinc. [http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dash/]

The anti-psychotic medication olanzapine affects insulin and appetite [2] and causes significant weight gain in adults but even more so in children. Medicaid guidelines in some areas have it prescribed for children. Many children in foster care are being put on strong medications like olanzapine at great cost to their health and great cost to Medicaid. It is not inexpensive at over $300/month for the patent version Zyprexa.

“Between 1997 and 2004, Texas Medicaid spending on antipsychotics rose from $28 million to $175 million. In the months of July and August 2004, over 19,000 adolescents in Texas were given antipsychotics, even though pharmaceutical companies had not applied for licenses to market these drugs for use in minors. In 2003, Zyprexa pulled in $4.3 billion in sales in the United States, 70 percent of which came from state health insurance and other public health programs. …in 2009, research revealed that children being treated under Medicaid were four times more likely to get antipsychotics than children not covered by Medicaid.” [Pharmageddon, by David Healy, page 141, 1]

Pharmageddon,” by David Healy, (University of California Press, 2012, Berkeley). [1]

I keep mentioning Epsom Salt baths because they are inexpensive and very effective for people who are deficient in magnesium. And for those who are deficient in the essential nutrient, regular use of Epsom Salt baths might also be helping prevent chronic degenerative diseases like diabetes from developing or worsening. While the olanzapine/Zyprexa has been proven to be associated with a greatly increased risk for diabetes and significant weight gain [3] — and an increased risk for suicide and possibly for homicide particularly during withdrawal from the medication. The olanzapine may be causing long term changes in the brain by over-activating receptors involved in suicide. Do our foster children deserve to be experimented on just because they have Medicaid and Medicaid guidelines were set that cause doctors to feel that their job would be in jeopardy if they don’t follow the guideline?

Evidence based medicine can be very helpful and life-saving but it is better used as guidance to suggest a path to treatment rather than be a strict guideline that can be used to increase pharmaceutical company’s profits at the cost of children’s long term and short term health — and possibly that of people in their vicinity.

If our society really wants to stop suicide and mass killings than we need to address the underlying causes rather than worry only about controlling access to guns — guns don’t kill people anymore than knives or Hellfire missiles — people kill people.

4. Mechanick JI, Kushner RF, Sugerman HJ, et al. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The Obesity Society, and American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Medical Guidelines for Clinical Practice for the perioperative nutritional, metabolic, and nonsurgical support of the bariatric surgery patient. Surg Obes Rel Dis. 2008;(5 Suppl):S109-S184.

5. Kaider-Person O, Person B, Szomstein S, Rosenthal RJ. Nutritional deficiencies in morbidly obese patients: a new form of malnutrition? Part B: minerals. Obes Surg. 2008;18(8):1028-1034.

6. Lillian Craggs, Obesity: Beyond Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes – Learn about Obesity’s Far Reach and Ill Effects in Lesser Described Conditions, ce.todaysdietitian.com.

/Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Retraining the brain to desire healthy food

A recently released research study suggests that it is possible to retrain the reward pathways in the brain to prefer healthier food choices over more immediately pleasurable but less nutritious foods. Actual brain scans were taken of the study participants so it was a small study with only eight participants in the experimental group and five in the control group, so more research is needed to confirm the results. However it does suggest that if we stick with new dietary changes, it might become easier to stick to the new habit over time. The new habits may be replacing some of the old neural pathways so that an increased appetite might be triggered by thoughts of healthy foods instead of unhealthy foods. [link]

So thinking ourselves thin may work if we first start by practicing the healthier habits. Think the green beans look good and think the greasy fries look queasy while eating or seeing them, and soon the green beans might look better on a brain scan too and the memory of an unsettled stomach might make it easier to say no thanks to the fries.

1996, the year GM crops were planted commercially

Genetically modified crops were introduced commercially in 1996. Advantages were to include more resistance to pests and less need for herbicides however the pests and weeds have become resistant to the modifications. [1] We don’t really  know the long term effects of the foods on human health.

A disadvantage of the modified corn is that the grain itself was modified to produce internally a chemical harmful to pests. Bt corn produces a protein derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. The Bt protein content of pollen from the GM corn was found to be harmful enough to negatively impact the larval stage of Monarch butterflies in areas adjacent to corn fields. [2] Typically a pesticide is applied to the exterior of a food and is removed before eating by washing or peeling the food. Clearly a modified grain that forms a pesticide within the food itself has disadvantages in that peeling or washing can’t remove the pesticide from the food. So in 1996 an interesting experiment was begun with the food supply and it is still taking place.

The following link is to an animated map which shows the increasing rates of obesity in the US between 1985 and 2010. [3] The animation is a little fast over the 25 year time span but it can be seen that more categories had to be added during the 1990s when the map changed from mostly pale blue (10-14%), to dark blue (15-19%), and to peach (20-24%), around the year 2000, and then advanced to orange (25-29%) around 2007, and finally red (>30%). The overall rate for 2011-2012 was 34.9%. [4]

We had sugary foods throughout the 1900’s but we didn’t have Bt corn as 76% of the corn crop [5] or other genetically modified foods. Not enough is known about autoimmune and fertility risks that may be associated with Bt corn or other genetically modified crops. [6] Gliadin, one of the types of protein in wheat, may be associated with an autoimmune type of diabetes [7] as well as the autoimmune condition of Celiac disease.[8]

Overweight is starting young and lingering

An article in the Guardian summarizes a disturbing health trend that has been observed in the United Kingdom.  The number of adults and children that are significantly overweight has increased at rates similar to those seen in the United States. Some overweight children have been taken out of the custody of their parents due to the excess weight being deemed parental neglect or abuse, which has also occurred occasionally in the US. The article suggests that it is not a viable solution because there are not enough alternative homes to care for the increasing number of overweight children and worse there is no assurance that current weight loss strategies would be effective wherever the children lived. [1]

The article includes the point that the appetite is controlled more by the brain than the stomach. Photographing your meal so you can remember that you ate is a tip. This idea is an interesting use of modern technology but should it be necessary? A healthy body would have a brain that provides appetite signals that accurately reflect hunger and fullness. However in the modern food world those accurate appetite signals may be fooled by some food additives like artificial sweeteners. [2] [3] An undiagnosed thyroid problem could also increase risk of weight gain even on a diet with very few calories [4] but the condition may also be present at average weight. [5]

The obesity epidemic is not just about snacking and limited exercise, it is also about food additives that may be causing an increase in appetite signals and about undiagnosed conditions that may be inhibiting the metabolic rate. It would not be kind to hold parents or children at fault for weight gain that is due to food additives that may not even be listed on the food label. An overview article goes into more detail about the main artificial sweeteners and concludes that they are generally found to be safe. [6] However while Neotame is discuessed in the article you won’t see it listed on food labels in the US because it was approved by the FDA as an additive that doesn’t have to be listed with the ingredients. [7]

We need to stop just blaming people for eating too much and start asking why they are eating too much. What has happened to the accuracy of our hunger and fullness signals that would lead to the suggestion that we take photographs of our meals as a reminder that we ate. Accurate hunger and fullness signals will cause us to seek food when hungry and to forget about it when satisfied. However thirst signals may be confused with hunger signals.

Drinking water for thirst can be a simple strategy to help prevent mindless overeating. Thirst signals can easily be misinterpreted as hunger signals but eating won’t satisfy the brain’s thirst signals so overeating might occur before the person ever thinks to reach for a glass of water. The body is trained to expect water for thirst not calorie containing beverages. In the natural world a baby receiving breast milk is the only stage of life where caloric beverages would be typically available unless you grew up near coconut trees and could harvest them for the coconut water. But you would have to climb the tree first, and coconut water is not a very high calorie beverage.

Metabolic paths may begin sooner than birth

The nutrients and hormones that an infant is exposed to during pregnancy may increase risk of some metabolic changes. Genes may be activated or inhibited based on what occurs during the pregnancy and early infancy. Limited nutrient availability during pregnancy followed by rapid weight gain during early infancy may increase the infant’s risk for obesity later in life. [7] Smoking during pregnancy or having excessive weight gain during pregnancy or having to deliver the infant by C-section also may increase risk of obesity for the infant later in life. [8] More research is needed to understand these associations.

Excess androgens/testosterone during some phases of pregnancy may increase risk for the infant to have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome(PCOS). PCOS is typically thought of as a problem associated with the female reproductive system as suggested by the inclusion of the word ovarian in the name, however it is a hormonal disorder affecting the interactions between the hypothalamus and pituitary glands and the gonads which also may occur in men. PCOS may be an underlying cause of infertility for women with the condition. Insulin resistance and difficulty losing weight may also be symptoms. The condition is estimated to be present in 8-12% of women of reproductive age. [1][4]

The endocrine disorder may also occur in men where it is called Stein–Leventhal syndrome. Symptoms in men may include insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease, however it is not considered to be a cause of infertility in men. Medications found helpful for PCOS in women may be helpful for men with the similar genetic-based syndrome. Male pattern baldness beginning before age 30 in the man may be a visible symptom and reason to seek  a diagnosis especially when female relatives have been diagnosed with PCOS. [2, 3]

Excessive androgen production may occur in women who have PCOS or in those who have Cushing’s disease, a disorder of the pituitary gland. [5] Women with Addison’s Disease may have excessive androgen resulting from over production of ACTH. [6]

Obesity in America – look in your glass and then in your mirror

I know something about obesity. I have had success with my own over-weight problem and have worked with women and young families regarding their personal concerns – high or low weight gain. A loved infant who isn’t gaining weight can tug your heart strings as much as the youngster who can hardly move well from too many rolls of flesh in the way.
     Weight control is a multi-faceted problem. I have peeled off several layers of lifestyle and health problems that hindered my progress towards a stable healthy weight. Pysch-social features can be as difficult as lack of money or knowledge. I have been fortunate in having access to healthy foods and the money and knowledge to use them but I still struggle with choosing to take care of myself versus living in the moment of work or pleasure. Quick easy snacks don’t nourish in the long run as well as balanced meals, but I choose a carrot and an apple a day to help keep the cancer surgeon away. I also choose water as my main beverage choice.
     Juice, milk, soda pop, sports drinks, sweet tea, and other beverages can add up in calories and acidity. The calories pack on weight in the obvious way – more in plus less out equals weight stored for the long haul. A piece of fruit has more concentrated calories than vegetables but juice is even more concentrated. A 12 ounce soda or glass of juice has around 180 calories – roughly the calories of three small apples. The apple would fill up the stomach sooner and send a stop eating signal to the brain. The fiber would also help strengthen the intestinal jelly lining, the glycocalyx, and help strengthen immunity.
      The acid content of most beverages promotes obesity by draining magnesium stores. The kidney uses magnesium to flush excess acid waste in the urine. Our long term stores in the bones start running out as we get older or have had children. Anorexics, alcoholics, intensive care patients and burn victims are a few types of people that use excessive amounts of stored nutrients quickly and can show deterioration in health over a short time. Coffee can pack on calories and weight from sweeteners and creamers but the acidity of black coffee may add to weight problems too.
      The body’s reaction to magnesium deficiency is to increase insulin levels. Insulin increases appetite which increases eating. Historically, our ancestor’s food supply would have provided plenty of magnesium from most foods. Our farm soil, however, is no longer as rich and there isn’t much magnesium in most fertilizers. More calories are required to be eaten in order to provide the same amount of magnesium that was provided in the past, unless more nutrient dense food sources are chosen. Our appetite is telling us we are missing something and “will power” has to rein in the subconscious hunger that is signaling a nutrient deficiency and eventually eating too many calories ultimately leads to weight gain.
     Choosing low calorie pH neutral beverages can help make weight gain  a problem for other people worry about instead of you.
     I may be over encouraging the nut/bean/seed group as good magnesium sources; potatoes also have magnesium and our nation is eating fewer whole potatoes. Deep-fried fries aren’t great, potato chips are simply crispy salt delivery units in my mind – a negative treat – but American skillet fries or oven baked potato wedges are good and good for us.
     Portion control and variety is key to good health. A half cup of root vegetable with a cup of lower calorie vegetables like onions, peppers and broccoli would make a good skillet scramble. Add a half cup of tofu or an egg or 1/8th cup of walnuts for protein an you have a great brain wake up for the day.
     /Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes and is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./