Soda Pop and Video Games Adding to Childhood Obesity

If you’re a teenager and trying to lose weight, where do you go for advice?

Soda pop, video games and teenage obesityReportedly, 75% of obese teenagers are trying to lose weight, but when their methods were analyzed by researchers, it was found that certain habits and behaviors are holding them back.

These findings come from a study out of Philadelphia, where 14% of high-school students are overweight. This analysis from the Philadelphia Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, looked at about 44,000 high-schoolers to determine what kind of efforts are being made to help with weight loss and what kind of behaviors are lingering that prevent them reaching their goals.

Such behaviors as smoking, regular exercise, video game playing and the consumption of junk food were all taken into account.

Sadly, the obese weight group of female teenagers were also more likely to be smokers and even though most of these females were committed to 60 minutes of aerobic activity a day, their subsequent consumption of soda pop was standing in their way of success.

You need to exercise for 30 minutes of cardio to burn one soda pop.

Their male counterparts were less likely to exercise on a daily basis, giving up aerobic activity for video games – an average of three hours a day is spent on playing video games.

“From a health education standpoint, finding out that three-quarters of students who are obese want to lose weight is exactly what we want,” said lead researcher Clare Lenhart. “But the behavior they’re engaging in is puzzling; it’s counterproductive to what they’re trying to do.”

The researchers believe there is a lack of education amongst these teens and there needs to be a better system for raising awareness to help break bad habits causing weight gain.

“For example, among the girls who are exercising, they may not realize that one soda could undo that 30-minute walk they just took.”

Health-care providers can also do a better job at evaluating teen health with more accurate follow-up questions about their activity levels and nutritional habits.

“If a child is going to their pediatrician, and he asks them if they’re losing weight, an appropriate follow-up question might be, ‘How are you doing that?'” said Lenhart. “It could help guide those teens to more productive weight loss activities.”


Temple University. “Overweight teens want to lose weight, going about it the wrong way.”ScienceDaily, 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.

Using Brown Fat as a Treatment for Obesity and Diabetes

Obesity and diabetes are often linked in what is becoming one of the deadliest combinations in the obesity epidemic hitting America and indeed the rest of the world.

brown fatTo get to the bottom of the rise in this epidemic, researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center conducted a study on brown fat found in mice. Brown fat is unlike common white fat as it burns energy rather than storing it and discovering a pathway to stimulate it into action could be instrumental in fighting obesity and weight-related diseases.

This study identified two molecular pathways that cause brown fat cells to grow:

“We used different drugs to stimulate or block the signaling pathways that we thought were important. The result was that we defined the two pathways. We found what goes to what to cause something to happen to the cells.” ~  Dr Aaron Cypress, October issue of Endicronology.

Previous studies have also identified these two molecular pathways as an important piece of the puzzle.

“With a more detailed description of the pathways leading to (brown fat tissue), there can be more focused attempts to develop interventions using brown fat as a treatment for obesity and diabetes.”

One intervention could be to grow brown fat in a laboratory and transplant it into the bodies of people who need it. Another could be the development of drugs to stimulate brown fat growth.

Over the years, the two lead researchers involved in this study have shown that brown fat is more abundant in children and especially those who are thin and closer to puberty. They have also proven that brown fat in adults, while not as abundant, is active and could be stimulated into action.

Remember: brown fat burns energy, so the more you have, the more calories you burn.

“Brown fat burns energy. It is a special tissue. These studies have opened up a new avenue for the treatment of obesity and its related disorders. This study will help us deepen our understanding of brown fat formation and could in the future, combined with other information that we have learned, be used to develop drugs or other interventions for obesity.”


Joslin Diabetes Center. “Combating obesity and diabetes: Researchers identify pathways leading to activation of ‘good’ fat.” ScienceDaily, 23 Sep. 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2011.

Is your Neighborhood Unhealthy?

With obesity affecting more and more teens these days, parents need to take a look at their nutritional habits and their neighborhoods.

Is your Neighborhood Unhealthy?The more junk food options available in your neighborhood, the more likely your teenagers will visit these places for meals.

“You are what you eat. You are, also, where you live,” said Susan Babey from the UCLA Center for Health Policy, “and if you live in a place where there’s a fast food restaurant or convenience store on every block, with few healthier alternatives, you are likely to eat more junk.”

It’s not just fast food outlets like burger joints but other retail outlets like convenience stores, dollar stores, pharmacies and liquor stores that dominate most neighborhoods over healthier outlets.

Babey is senior research scientist at the center and co-authored the most recent study proving this theory, using two databases – the 2007 California Health Interview Survey and InfoUSA – that measured the relationship between the number of unhealthy and healthy outlets and the teens’ eating habits and from these findings created the Home and School Retail Food Environment Index.

“Research has shown that the consumption of fast food and soda has been linked to taking in excess calories and can contribute to diabetes and obesity.”

The results showed that the average California teen lives in a neighborhood with a saturation level of unhealthy outlets of seven times the number of healthy ones and these teens are 17% more likely to drink soda every day and 18% more likely to eat fast food at least twice a week than their peers who live in healthy neighborhoods.

“It is a travesty that our kids have better access to liquor stores and other unhealthy food outlets than a grocery store,” said Robert K. Ross, M.D., president and CEO of the California Endowment, which funded the study. “We have put our children and youth in harm’s way, and they are paying the price for our carelessness. If nothing is done, this will be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents.”

These results spread over both rural and urban communities:

  • More than 70% of teens drink soda every day in San Benito, Sutter, Merced and Fresno counties
  • More than 55% of teens eat fast food at least twice a week in Tulare, Riverside, Ventura and Kern counties
  • A total of 13 counties across California had Home and School Retail Food Environment Index scores of more than 8 points and rates as an unhealthy food environment

The researchers recommended of policies that would help improve these unhealthy environments:

  • Better zoning, especially around schools
  • Farm-to-school programs that bring fresh produce into school cafeterias
  • Better incentives were needed to bring healthy food outlets, such as farmers markets and grocery stores, into underserved neighborhoods

“The research shows that how we plan and zone our communities has a real impact on our health and quality of life,” Babey said. “Policymakers need to take this into account when deciding whether to zone a new grocery store or a fast food restaurant. Hopefully, they will make the healthy choice.”


University of California – Los Angeles. “As unhealthy food outlets multiply, teens eat more junk.” ScienceDaily, 27 Jul. 2011. Web. 27 Jul. 2011.

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM

Teens Losing Sleep Over Being Thin

Females of all ages have always been under a lot of pressure from the media and society alike to be thin.

Teens Losing Sleep Over Being ThinMore and more teenagers are turning to plastic surgery to keep up with the images the media and Hollywood send out as what it means to be an attractive female, one that is accepted and revered in society.

Now research is telling us that this pressure is causing adolescent girls to lose sleep. Loss of sleep is a major cause of weight gain. It’s a catch 22.

Those most affected are white teenage girls. Results of this abstract study show there is a 4.5% variance in the number of hours per night teenage girls get.

“There is a significant amount of research in other areas regarding pressure on adolescent females to minimize body weight, but this pressure as it relates to sleep health is a less-explored topic and its consequences are mostly unknown,” said principal investigator Katherine Marczyk, a doctoral student in clinical health psychology and behavioral medicine at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. “These results are important as this discovery could be one of the first steps in this research.”

This study involved 789 female middle-school students from Texas suburbia. The average age of these girls was 12 with about 60% of them being white, 26% Hispanic and 10.5% black.

Based on a questionnaire entitled the Perceived Sociocultural Pressure Scale that measured how much pressure each girl felt to lose weight and be thin according to the media, peers, friends and family members, test subjects were asked a bunch of questions about lifestyle, self-esteem and perceived body image. One of the contributing factors is sleep based on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index that measures sleep in epidemiological studies. A correlation was drawn between the number of hours a teenage girl gets a night and how much pressure she is under to be thin.

Lack of sleep comes with a whole gamut of other health issues such as mental health, anxiety and depression. Sleepy teens do not learn as readily as those who get the required amount of sleep per night. Sleepy teens are less likely to become involved in school activities and may become reclusive and this can lead to depression and low self-esteem.

Lack of sleep also affects eating patterns and the brain demands more and more carbohydrates to stay alert after a restless and interrupted night’s sleep.

It is a very sensitive issue. Parents want what’s best for their children by enforcing healthy food options and opportunities to engage in physical activities. On the other hand, if parents are too obsessive about these issues, this can create a toxic environment for children and have detrimental effects.

It is important for parents to be good role models for their children. While leading an active and healthy lifestyle is essential to good health, if children are living with a fanatic parent who is obsessed with her own body image, this sets up an unhealthy and stressful environment for their child.

Take some time to educate your children about the media and how women are objectified. Teach them the difference between a healthy body and one that is impossible to achieve and maintain in the real world. Celebrities, models and media darlings have the time and money to invest in maintaining their zero dress sizes and have the benefit of highly skilled photographers and hair and makeup crews to make them look as skinny and beautiful as they do.

This is not real life. Being desirable does not mean slimming down to near anorexic proportions and fitting into a zero dress size.


American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “White adolescent girls may be losing sleep from the pressure to be thin.” ScienceDaily, 15 Jun. 2011. Web. 10 Jul. 2011.

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM

Teenage Boys Lack Motivation to Keep Fit

There’s an alarming number of children that are either overweight or obese in this country. Part of the problem is to do with the ease and affordability of fast foods and part of it is to do with the belief that you need a gym and expensive equipment in order to stay in shape.


Helping Teens Find Motivation to Stay ActiveThis misconception about keeping fit needs to be put to rest once and for all. If kids aren’t signed up for soccer, karate or tennis lessons, then they don’t know what to do with themselves. If you’re from a low-income family, this belief can seriously hamper a child’s activity and fitness levels. In this case, there’s an absence of exercise. The belief that you need a facility and money to sign up to a club in order to stay in shape is killing the motivation of most teenagers these days.

In a recent study out of Michigan State University, published in the Journal of School Nursing, sixth-grade boys were studied in an after-school exercise program. These boys were divided into seven focus groups and scientists measured their attitudes towards physical activity.


“Recent data show less than 12 percent of boys at this age are reaching federal recommendations for physical activity. There is an urgent need to intervene as soon as boys reach middle school to help prevent long-term health problems.”

Boys of this age should exercise at least one hour a day, but the study found that the majority preferred video games to actual exercise. Others identified a lack of equipment and places to exercise was a major drawback.

“Although boys are more active, only a small percentage engages in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. A lot of boys in both single- and dual-working parent homes care for themselves after school while their parents are at work. Many have limited opportunities for physical activity that are safe, accessible and affordable; this type of situation can lead to unhealthy eating habits.”

While this study spurned plans to develop more after-school programs to encourage exercise among adolescent boys, there is still a need to educate kids on how to exercise at home. You don’t need a lot of space or equipment to stay in shape. There are many household objects that can double as weights and there are enough bodyweight exercises to compose a decent circuit training program. This kind of attitude needs to be instilled in kids.

“Clearly, to reach boys at this age, we need to offer physical activities that are fun and appealing, providing a viable alternative to the sedentary activities they enjoy now. In addition, at this age group, it is critical to have someone serving as a source of help or motivation.”

Motivation is a challenge for the majority of people, no matter what age they are. Having support systems in place for kids at school is one way to instill healthy practices and habits that will carry over into their adult lives.

“School nurses can work with principals, classroom teachers, physical education teachers and the school board to raise awareness about the need for and details of effective programs. Innovative strategies are needed to enhance nurses’ visibility as resources in helping students achieve physical activity recommendations.”

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM