New research powerfully strengthens the case against soda and other sugary drinks as culprits in the obesity epidemic.
A huge, decades-long study involving more than 33,000 Americans has yielded the first clear proof that drinking sugary beverages interacts with genes that affect weight, amplifying a person’s risk of obesity beyond what it would be from heredity alone.
This means that such drinks are especially harmful to people with genes that predispose them to weight gain. And most of us have at least some of these genes.
In addition, two other major experiments have found that giving children and teens calorie-free alternatives to the sugary drinks they usually consume leads to less weight gain.
Collectively, the results strongly suggest that sugary drinks cause people to pack on the pounds, independent of other unhealthy behavior such as overeating and getting too little exercise, scientists say.
That adds weight to the push for taxes, portion limits like the one just adopted in New York City, and other policies to curb consumption of soda, juice drinks and sports beverages sweetened with sugar.
Soda lovers do get some good news: Sugar-free drinks did not raise the risk of obesity in these studies.
“You may be able to fool the taste” and satisfy a sweet tooth without paying a price in weight, said an obesity researcher with no role in the studies, Rudy Leibel of Columbia University.
The studies were being presented Friday at an obesity conference in San Antonio and were published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.
The gene research in particular fills a major gap in what we know about obesity. It was a huge undertaking, involving three long-running studies that separately and collectively reached the same conclusions. It shows how behavior combines with heredity to affect how fat we become.
Having many of these genes does not guarantee people will become obese, but if they drink a lot of sugary beverages, “they fulfill that fate,” said an expert with no role in the research, Jules Hirsch of Rockefeller University in New York. “The sweet drinking and the fatness are going together, and it’s more evident in the genetic predisposition people.”
Sugary drinks are the single biggest source of calories in the American diet, and they are increasingly blamed for the fact that a third of U.S. children and teens and more than two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight.
Consumption of sugary drinks and obesity rates have risen in tandem —
both have more than doubled since the 1970s in the U.S.
But that doesn’t prove that these drinks cause obesity. Genes, inactivity and eating fatty foods or just too much food also play a role. Also, diet research on children is especially tough because kids are growing and naturally gaining weight.
Until now, high-quality experiments have not conclusively shown that reducing sugary beverages would lower weight or body fat, said David Allison, a biostatistician who has done beverage research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, some of it with industry support.
He said the new studies on children changed his mind and convinced him that limiting sweet drinks can make a difference.
In one study, researchers randomly assigned 224 overweight or obese high schoolers in the Boston area to receive shipments every two weeks of either the sugary drinks they usually consumed or sugar-free alternatives, including bottled water. No efforts were made to change the youngsters’ exercise habits or give nutrition advice, and the kids knew what type of beverages they were getting.
After one year, the sugar-free group weighed more than 4 pounds less on average than those who kept drinking sugary beverages.
“I know of no other single food product whose elimination can produce this degree of weight change,” said the study’s leader, Dr. David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health.
The weight difference between the two groups narrowed to 2 pounds in the second year of the study, when drinks were no longer being provided. That showed at least some lasting beneficial effect on kids’ habits. The study was funded mostly by government grants.
A second study involved 641 normal-weight children ages 4 to 12 in the Netherlands who regularly drank sugar-sweetened beverages. They were randomly assigned to get either a sugary drink or a sugar-free one during morning break at their schools, and were not told what kind they were given.
After 18 months, the sugary-drink group weighed 2 pounds more on average than the other group.
The studies “provide strong impetus” for policies urged by the Institute of Medicine, the American Heart Association and others to limit sugary drink consumption, Dr. Sonia Caprino of the Yale School of Medicine wrote in an editorial in the journal.
The American Beverage Association disagreed.
“Obesity is not uniquely caused by any single food or beverage,” it said in a statement. “Studies and opinion pieces that focus solely on sugar-sweetened beverages, or any other single source of calories, do nothing meaningful to help address this serious issue.”
The genetic research was part of a much larger set of health studies that have gone on for decades across the U.S., led by the Harvard School of Public Health.
Researchers checked for 32 gene variants that have previously been tied to weight. Because we inherit two copies of each gene, everyone has 64 opportunities for these risk genes. The study participants had 29 on average.
Every four years, these people answered detailed surveys about their eating and drinking habits as well as things like smoking and exercise. Researchers analyzed these over several decades.
A clear pattern emerged: The more sugary drinks someone consumed, the greater the impact of the genes on the person’s weight and risk of becoming obese.
For every 10 risk genes someone had, the risk of obesity rose in proportion to how many sweet drinks the person regularly consumed. Overall calorie intake and lifestyle factors such as exercise did not account for the differences researchers saw.
This means that people with genes that predispose them to be obese are more susceptible to the harmful effects of sugary drinks on their weight, said one of the study leaders, Harvard’s Dr. Frank Hu. The opposite also was true — avoiding these drinks can minimize the effect of obesity genes.
“Two bad things can act together and their combined effects are even greater than either effect alone,” Hu said. “The flip side of this is everyone has some genetic risk of obesity, but the genetic effects can be offset by healthier beverage choices. It’s certainly not our destiny” to be fat, even if we carry genes that raise this risk.
The study was funded mostly by federal grants, with support from two drug companies for the genetic analysis.
Obesity info: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html
BMI calculator: http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bminojs.htm
New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org
Marilynn Marchione can be followed at http://twitter.com/MMarchioneAP
On average, men and women of Mexican heritage who live in the U.S. weigh about 15 pounds and 11 pounds more, respectively, than their counterparts in Mexico, according to a study by Mexico’s National Chamber of the Clothing Industry.
Another study, published in the Journal of Nutrition this month, says second- or third-generation Mexican-Americans were more likely to be obese than first-generation ones, with young people facing a greater risk of obesity.
According to a story on Fox Latino, the average Mexican man weighs 165 pounds and stands 5 feet 4 1/2 inches tall, while the median figures for Mexican women are 151 pounds and 5 feet 2 inches, according to a study released by a group representing Mexico’s clothing industry.
The study entitled “How big is Mexico? Size does matter,” was released by Conaive, with data gathered from 17,364 adults.
According to the leaders of the business organization, Mexico is the first Latin American country to carry out a study of the average weight and height of its population.
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They said that to conduct the analysis, which was completed with the support of the Mexican economy ministry, a statistically valid sample of the population was taken by the National Geography and Computing Institute in four areas of the country.
Just over 49 percent of the 17,364 people measured were men and the rest were women. It took researchers 20 minutes to take the various measurements for each person and the fieldwork was performed from Oct. 19, 2010, through June 15, 2011.
The study found that among women 18-25 the average weight was 139 pounds while men in that age group averaged 155 pounds. The average height for young women was 5 feet 2 inches versus 5 feet 5 inches for young men.
The heaviest group of men, on average, were in the 40-50 age range, with an average of 170 pounds, while women of that age group were also the heaviest, averaging 159 pounds.
Mexico Tackles Childhood Obesity
The figures released on Wednesday do not include data from other countries, but if these averages are compared with Mexico’s northern neighbor, Mexicans are shorter than Americans and they weigh about 22 pounds less, on average.
According to official figures released in 2008, the average American male over age 20 stands 5 feet 7 inches and weighs 195 pounds kilos, while the average women in the neighboring country is 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 165 pounds.
But, curiously, according to the same data, Americans of Mexican origin weigh more than their relatives back home.
Among women standing 5 feet 2 inches tall in both countries, Mexican-Americans weighed an average of 162 pounds – 11 pounds more than their counterparts south of the border.
And among men, although Mexican-Americans are an average of 2 inches taller, they weigh 181 pounds, on average, 15 pounds more than Mexicans in their home country.
Upon presenting the study, Conaive president Marcos Cherem said that it will allow the health authorities to determine the prevalence of obesity among Mexicans.
He also said that it will contribute toward fostering among the public a culture of prevention regarding becoming overweight.
While many people try to overcome problems and issues with obesity, there are many that have difficulty gaining lean muscle mass. In short, they are at a complete loss as to how to gain weight and muscle. In a way, this can be more difficult than losing excess body fat since a person with a very fast metabolism might discover weight gain to be an elusive creature. Thankfully, we have several decades worth of successful results to look at to arrive at an answer.
First and foremost, do not employ the use of commercial weight gain shakes as a first resort. The way these products work is that they provide the body with an enormous amount of calories. A single shake may contain 2,000 calories and these shakes are intended for very hard gainers. Remember, any calories you do not burn will turn to fat. These weight gain shakes are for those individuals with very fast metabolisms and should never be used flippantly or else they will yield undesired results.
And if you must use weight gain products, select one from a reputable manufacturer. Use this as a supplement to your food, not substitute.
If there was one acceptable starting point for the answer of how to gain weight and muscle, it would be to launch a mass building exercise program. If you are performing high reps with low weights, you will not gain weight since this is a weight loss/toning strategy. If you are doing weight lifting exercises at reps of 50, you might gain slight mass but your workout will mainly be one that promotes muscular endurance.
Specifically, you will want to perform mid-level reps (6 – 8) of weights that are roughly 75% of your maximum lift. Also, you will want to train these exercises to failure. That means you will lift until you cannot lift anymore. Again, you should fail at the 6th or 8th rep. If you fail early, your weight is too heavy and this would be a strength workout as opposed to a mass building one. If you fail at 10 or higher, the weight is too light and you are working a definition/weight loss exercise concept. Stick with the 75% capacity for 6 – 8 reps and shoot for 4 – 5 sets. This will greatly aid in building mass.
Does it matter whether you perform compound exercises or isolation ones? Well, it certainly does not hurt to do both but the compound exercises will build mass significantly. The greatest mass builder of all is the squat because it helps the body increase its natural growth hormones. The next two major mass builders would be all the variations of bench presses and shoulder presses. These exercises hit all the muscle points of the upper body and greatly help enhance mass.
Isolation exercises are also good mass builders even though they do not incorporate as many muscles as compound exercises. Isolation exercises do, however, help fill out the body and create symmetry in a person’s overall physique.
Finally, when it comes to how to gain weight and muscle, it is certainly helpful to increase your protein intake. This can be achieved either through eating protein in its natural food state or by taking protein supplements. The main key is to increase protein intake since it helps repair and build muscle. Really, if you are deficient in protein you will never gain weight or muscle.
And one final point: don’t try to gain weight through a poor diet with the hopes of burning off the fat. This won’t work! You will simply look like someone who lifts weights and overeats. That is hardly the type of physique anyone should shoot for!
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