January 10, 2012
The Wall Street Journal
By Melinda Beck
Losing weight is simple: Eat less and exercise more. Why that’s so difficult for so many people is embedded deep in the human psyche.
A growing body of research is finding intriguing connections between personality traits and habits that can lead to obesity. The same parts of the brain that control emotions and stress response also govern appetite, several studies have shown. Early life experiences also set the stage for overeating years later, researchers have found.
“If we can understand how personality is contributing to weight gain, we can develop interventions to help people deal with it,” says Angelina R. Sutin, a researcher at the National Institute on Aging who led a study published last year comparing the body mass index, or BMI, and personality traits of nearly 2,000 Baltimore residents over 50 years.
In the study, those who scored high on neuroticism—the tendency to easily experience negative emotions—and low on conscientiousness, or being organized and disciplined, were the most likely to be overweight and obese. Impulsivity was strongly linked to BMI, too: The subjects in the top 10% of impulsivity weighed, on average, 24 pounds more than those in the lowest 10%. People who rated themselves low on “agreeableness” were the most likely to gain weight over the years. The study was published in July in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
July 14th, 2011
By: Stephen Adams
Scientists at Aberdeen University have discovered that those of European origin are more likely to have genes which urge them to gorge on fatty foods, beer and wine, than Asians.
Dr Alasdair MacKenzie explained that the genes controlled the strength of a “switch” that helped determine appetite.
He said: “The switch controls the areas of the brain which allows us to select which foods we would like to eat and if it is turned on too strongly we are more likely to crave fatty foods and alcohol.”
He went on: “The fact that the weaker switch is found more frequently in Asians compared to Europeans suggests they are less inclined to select such options.”
Dr MacKenzie believed the fact that Europeans in the past had to survive through long cold winter by relying on brewed drinks and fat-rich foods, meant they became genetically predisposed through natural selection to like them.
He said: “These results give us a glimpse into early European life where brewing and dairy produce were important sources of calories during the winter months.
“Thus, a preference for food with a higher fat and alcohol content would have been important for survival.
“The negative effects of fat and alcohol we see today would not have mattered so much then as life expectancies were between 30 to 40 years.”
However, Dr MacKenzie said that those of Asian origin who moved to Western countries were not immune from obesity or heavy drinking habits, and that physiology was only a small part of the picture.
Galanin is a brain chemical called a neuropeptide, which previous research has identified as crucial to determining appetite for carbohydrate and fat-rich food.
May 25th, 2011
By: Mary West
Those who try to lose weight by monitoring calories and increasing exercise may now have another weapon in their obesity-fighting arsenal — a good night’s sleep. A new European study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition augments existing evidence that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, not only by increasing appetite, but also by slowing metabolism. Some American doctors have expressed caution against drawing definitive conclusions, however.
The research conducted in Uppsala University in Sweden suggests that habitually getting sufficient sleep is a helpful aid in the pursuit of weight loss, Reuters reports. Christian Benedict, who led the study, states the investigation found as little as a single night’s sleep deprivation can significantly lower energy expenditure in healthy men. This indicates that sleep plays a prominent role in determining daytime energy production.
Previous research has revealed an association between sleep loss and weight gain and also has found that sleep disorders affect blood levels of stress and hunger hormones. In a quest to determine the exact means by which a lack of sleep affects weight, the team of investigators induced differing degrees of sleep conditions in 14 male college students. They divided the men into three groups, consisting of no sleep, normal sleep and limited sleep. The men were then assessed in regard to alterations in factors such as metabolic rate and amount of food consumed.
The results revealed that as little as a single night of curtailed sleep reduced metabolism the following morning. The energy outlay for activities such as breathing and digestion was lessened by 5 to 20 percent. Higher levels of appetite-regulating hormones and stress hormones were also noted. Even though the appetite hormones were affected, the men did not eat more during the day.
In spite of these findings, experts say the link between sleep loss and weight gain has not been proven. Sanford Auerbach, of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Boston Medical Center, recommends the results of the new study be kept in context, as sleep is a complex condition influenced by other factors. He states that although the study’s results reveal sleep loss produces physiologic changes that could cause obesity, evidence is lacking to conclusively substantiate the proposed link.
Although research data is inadequate to prove the link between sleep loss and weight gain, evidence is quite sufficient to suggest it. According to Dr. Michael Breus of AOL Healthy Living, data collected over the past 50 years reveals an inverse relationship between obesity rates and average sleep time, with the highest obesity percentages found in adults getting the least amount of sleep. Another study cited by Dr. Breus found that women who received seven to eight hours of sleep had the lowest incidence of significant weight gain.
The optimal amount of sleep for adults recommended by The National Sleep Foundation is seven to nine hours every night.
March 28th, 2011
By: Hilary Parker
A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.
In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.
“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”
In results published online Feb. 26 by the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, the researchers from the Department of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute reported on two experiments investigating the link between the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and obesity.
The first study showed that male rats given water sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup in addition to a standard diet of rat chow gained much more weight than male rats that received water sweetened with table sugar, or sucrose, in conjunction with the standard diet. The concentration of sugar in the sucrose solution was the same as is found in some commercial soft drinks, while the high-fructose corn syrup solution was half as concentrated as most sodas.
The second experiment — the first long-term study of the effects of high-fructose corn syrup consumption on obesity in lab animals — monitored weight gain, body fat and triglyceride levels in rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup over a period of six months. Compared to animals eating only rat chow, rats on a diet rich in high-fructose corn syrup showed characteristic signs of a dangerous condition known in humans as the metabolic syndrome, including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides and augmented fat deposition, especially visceral fat around the belly. Male rats in particular ballooned in size: Animals with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained 48 percent more weight than those eating a normal diet.
“These rats aren’t just getting fat; they’re demonstrating characteristics of obesity, including substantial increases in abdominal fat and circulating triglycerides,” said Princeton graduate student Miriam Bocarsly. “In humans, these same characteristics are known risk factors for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes.” In addition to Hoebel and Bocarsly, the research team included Princeton undergraduate Elyse Powell and visiting research associate Nicole Avena, who was affiliated with Rockefeller University during the study and is now on the faculty at the University of Florida. The Princeton researchers note that they do not know yet why high-fructose corn syrup fed to rats in their study generated more triglycerides, and more body fat that resulted in obesity.
High-fructose corn syrup and sucrose are both compounds that contain the simple sugars fructose and glucose, but there at least two clear differences between them. First, sucrose is composed of equal amounts of the two simple sugars — it is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose — but the typical high-fructose corn syrup used in this study features a slightly imbalanced ratio, containing 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose. Larger sugar molecules called higher saccharides make up the remaining 3 percent of the sweetener. Second, as a result of the manufacturing process for high-fructose corn syrup, the fructose molecules in the sweetener are free and unbound, ready for absorption and utilization. In contrast, every fructose molecule in sucrose that comes from cane sugar or beet sugar is bound to a corresponding glucose molecule and must go through an extra metabolic step before it can be utilized.
This creates a fascinating puzzle. The rats in the Princeton study became obese by drinking high-fructose corn syrup, but not by drinking sucrose. The critical differences in appetite, metabolism and gene expression that underlie this phenomenon are yet to be discovered, but may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles.
In the 40 years since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup as a cost-effective sweetener in the American diet, rates of obesity in the U.S. have skyrocketed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1970, around 15 percent of the U.S. population met the definition for obesity; today, roughly one-third of the American adults are considered obese, the CDC reported. High-fructose corn syrup is found in a wide range of foods and beverages, including fruit juice, soda, cereal, bread, yogurt, ketchup and mayonnaise. On average, Americans consume 60 pounds of the sweetener per person every year.
“Our findings lend support to the theory that the excessive consumption of high-fructose corn syrup found in many beverages may be an important factor in the obesity epidemic,” Avena said.
The new research complements previous work led by Hoebel and Avena demonstrating that sucrose can be addictive, having effects on the brain similar to some drugs of abuse.
In the future, the team intends to explore how the animals respond to the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in conjunction with a high-fat diet — the equivalent of a typical fast-food meal containing a hamburger, fries and soda — and whether excessive high-fructose corn syrup consumption contributes to the diseases associated with obesity. Another step will be to study how fructose affects brain function in the control of appetite.
The research was supported by the U.S. Public Health Service.
March 10th, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Dean Praetorius
The hCG “Diet” has been stirring quite a bit of controversy after Dr. Oz took a closer examination of the already controversial weight-loss program.
While the wildly popular doctor said the treatment requires “further examination,” many doctors don’t approve. However, some dieters disagree.
The program, which has dieters consume less than 500 calories per day, is supplemented by “daily shots of a hormone produced by pregnant women called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG).”
But the question of whether it works or not has raised a lot of questions about the “diet.” While hCG proponents claim to lose up to 30 pounds in a single month, those results aren’t unexpected on such a restricted diet.
One variation of the hCG diet, involving homeopathic supplements, has reportedly been dismissed as illegal and fraudulent by the FDA. Elizabeth Miller, who leads the agency’s Internet and health fraud team, tells USA Today that even if not dangerous, the products are, at minimum, “economic fraud.”
From Dr. Oz’s Website:
What about the hCG injections — doesn’t that make the diet more effective? No. Promoters of the hCG diet claim that when people are injected with hCG hormone they don’t feel hungry even though they’re not eating. The idea of using hCG injections to curb appetite was introduced over 50 years ago and has been carefully studied in over a dozen well-done trials. Every single well-done trial showed that the hCG injections were no better than injecting a salt-water placebo. In other words, people injected with hCG lost the same amount of weight as people injected with a salt-water placebo.
According to Dr. Oz, the shots don’t even make the restricted diet any safer.
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December 10th, 2010
By: Susan Heavey
The first new weight-loss pill in a decade moved closer to U.S. approval on Tuesday, when a panel of expert advisers backed Orexigen Therapeutics’s Contrave despite heart risk concerns.
It was the third new weight-loss drug to come before U.S. regulators this year, the Food and Drug Administration having rejected two rival medicines in October.
Orexigen’s stock more than doubled to $12.20 from Monday’s close of $4.76 when it reopened in after-hours trade Tuesday. Shares of competitors Vivus Inc and Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc also rose, as investors bet Contrave’s approval could revive their fortunes.
The advisers were not overly impressed with the modest weight loss seen in patients taking Contrave, but some said rejection could quash development of such drugs at a time when two out of three Americans are overweight or obese.
“My concern is … we will potentially kill development of these medications, and it is the most serious disease that the United States is facing,” said panel chairman Abraham Thomas, head of endocrinology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
The outside experts voted 13-7 to back approval of Contrave but urged the FDA to require the company to conduct a larger clinical study to look at potential heart risks over time.
Contrave combines the alcohol and drug addiction drug naltrexone with the antidepressant bupropion in an attempt to boost metabolism while curbing appetite and cravings.
Study data showed a slight increase blood pressure and pulse rates for Contrave patients versus those given a placebo.
The pill met FDA effectiveness guidelines, in that at least 35 percent of patients studied lost at least 5 percent of their weight.
The FDA usually follows panel recommendations. A final ruling is due by January 31 but analysts said there could be a delay while post-marketing study details are agreed.
Analysts said the panel vote was particularly good news for Vivus, the FDA having already asked for more data on heart risks of its Qnexa.
“This is great news for Vivus,” said Ira Loss, who follows the FDA for Washington Analysis Corp. “The panel recommended a post-approval study and that tells me that will be the case for Vivus as well.
Shares of Vivus rose 12 percent in extended trading to $8.75 and shares of Arena, whose drug was rejected over cancers seen in animal studies, rose 10 percent.
The shares of all three companies have been volatile in recent months as their fortunes have shifted and investors swapped allegiance with each advisory meeting and FDA action.
The fate of Contrave is key to California-based Orexigen, which focuses solely on obesity drugs and has no products on the market so far.
According to data from BioMedTracker, Contrave sales could reach $1.2 billion by 2018. That figure would make it the top player in a U.S. weight-loss drug market that sees just $382 million in sales annually, according to IMS Health.
Drugmakers seeking a pill to help people slim down have been thwarted for decades by serious side effects, and few options remain on the U.S. market.
Xenical from Roche Holding AG, approved in 1999, remains an approved prescription weight-loss drug. GlaxoSmithKline markets a lower-dose, over-the-counter version called Alli. Both can cause serious liver problems, uncontrolled bowel movements and gas.
Abbott Laboratories’ Meridia, on the market since 1997, was removed in October over concerns about heart risks.
Some panelists who rejected the drug said they feared Contrave could echo Meridia’s history, especially if long-term data is delayed.
“We need to make sure we get it right the first time,” said panelist Sanjay Kaul, a cardiologist at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles who voted against approval.
The FDA and Orexigen are already in talks about another trial to look more closely at whether the heart changes seen signal potential for greater cardiovascular side effects.
Orexigen CEO Mike Narachi told reporters after the meeting that the company was not surprised by the issues raised Tuesday and would hold a conference call Wednesday afternoon to give more comments.
Orexigen, which has partnered with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, had said the 25-year history of both ingredients in Contrave is an advantage because many safety issues are already known.
But many panelists had reservations about Contrave, including some who voted for approval.
November 18th, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
Taking antidepressant drugs like Risperdal (risperidone) and Seroquel (quetiapine fumarate) could cause you to gain a lot of weight very quickly, according to a recent report in CNN. Atypical antipsychotic drugs are responsible for causing voracious hunger episodes in roughly 30 percent of patients who take them, which can lead to some seriously rapid weight gain.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began an investigation into antipsychotic drugs and their link to weight gain. The announcement came shortly after the agency approved two popular antipsychotic drugs for children between the ages of 13 and 17.
The drugs — which include the aforementioned as well as Zyprexa (olanzapine), Abilify (aripiprazole), and Geodon (ziprasidone) — appear to trigger enzymes that induce appetite. In one case, a young girl taking risperidone gained 5.5 pounds, or 14 percent of her body weight, within one year. And a 19-year-old college student on the same drug as well as other anti-anxiety medications gained 25 pounds in just six months.
A 2007 study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Vermont found that both Zyprexa and Clozaril (clozapine) increased appetite levels by 400 percent. And earlier this year, a study published in the journal Obesity found that men who took Zyprexa for a mere two weeks increased their eating consumption by an average of 18 percent.
Experts are urging the public to be cautious about the use of such antipsychotic drugs. Not only do they induce appetite and subsequent weight gain, but they can also lead to high blood pressure, elevated blood-sugar levels, heart disease, and diabetes.
November 3rd, 2010
Medical News Today
According to a new study being published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the flagship journal of the American College of Physicians, lack of sleep may hinder a dieter’s ability to shed excess body fat.
Ten overweight but otherwise healthy adults on a moderate calorie-restricted diet were randomly assigned to sleep either 5.5 hours or 8.5 hours each night in a closed clinical research environment. After two weeks, researchers measured loss of fat and lean body mass. Compared to participants who slept 5.5 hours a night, the dieters that slept for 8.5 hours lost 56 percent more body fat. The dieters in the sleep restricted group had lost less fat and more lean body mass.
“These results highlight the importance of adequate sleep for maintenance of fat-free body mass when dieting to lose weight,” said Plamen Penev, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Section of Endocrinology, at the University of Chicago and lead author of the study.
While measuring fat loss was the primary objective of the study, researchers also assessed other factors including levels of hormones that affect the appetite and weight. In addition, participants in both groups were asked to report how much hunger they experienced during the study.
“Among other hormonal effects, we found that sleep restriction caused an increase in ghrelin levels in the blood,” said Dr. Penev. “Ghrelin is a hormone that has been shown to reduce energy expenditure, stimulate hunger and food intake, promote retention of fat, and increase glucose production in the body. This could explain why sleep-deprived participants also reported feeling hungrier during the study.”
The researchers conclude that even short periods of sleep deprivation can undermine efforts to lose weight. When restricting calories, dieters should consider obtaining adequate amounts of sleep to ensure that they retain lean body mass and lose fat.
June 23, 2010
By Alan Zibel
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of new homes collapsed in May, sinking 33 percent to the lowest level on record as potential buyers stopped shopping for homes once they could no longer receive government tax credits.
The bleak report from the Commerce Department is the first sign of how the end of federal tax credits could weigh on the nation’s housing market.
The credits expired April 30. That’s when a new-home buyer would have had to sign a contract to qualify.
“We fear that the appetite to buy a home has disappeared alongside the tax credit,” Paul Dales, U.S. economist with Capital Economics,” wrote in a note. “After all, unemployment remains high, job security is low and credit conditions are tight.”
New-home sales in May fell from April to a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 300,000, the government said Wednesday. That was the slowest sales pace on records dating back to 1963. And it’s the largest monthly drop on record. Sales have now sunk 78 percent from their peak in July 2005.