HEALTH

Food intake may contribute more to obesity than lack of exercise, study suggests

BY Alaric DeArment

AMSTERDAM Conventional wisdom has it that the American obesity epidemic results from lack of exercise, but a study presented in the Netherlands Friday suggests otherwise.

The study, led by researchers in Australia and presented at the 17th European Congress on Obesity in Amsterdam, indicates that while exercise remains important, the main cause of the obesity epidemic is that Americans eat too much.

“To return to the average weights of the 1970s, we would need to reverse the increased food intake of about 350 calories a day for children and 500 calories a day for adults,” lead study author Boyd Swinburn of Australia’s Deakin University said in a statement. That would mean eliminating a can of soda or small portion of French fries from a child’s diet or a large hamburger from an adult’s.

The researchers started by testing 1,399 adults and 963 children to find how many calories they burn on an average day. They combined those results with national food supply data on how much food Americans ate between the 1970s and early 2000s. They then calculated how much weight they would expect Americans to have gained in the 30-year period if food intake were the sole influence, using national survey data that recorded the weight of Americans during that period.

“For adults, we predicted that they would be 10.8 kg heavier, but in fact they were 8.6 kg heavier,” Swinburn said. “That suggests that excess food intake still explains the weight gain, but that they may have been increases in physical activity over the 30 years that have blunted what would otherwise have been a higher weight gain.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30% of American adults are obese, which health experts define as having a body mass index of 30 or greater.

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CDC confirms 896 swine flu cases

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The number of confirmed H1N1 cases in the United States climbed to 896 cases, with two deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday morning.

“The ongoing outbreak of novel influenza A (H1N1) continues to expand in the United States,” the agency stated. “CDC expects that more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from this outbreak will occur over the coming days and weeks.”

CDC has issued guidance for health care providers on the use of antiviral medications during the current outbreak. The priority use for influenza antiviral drugs is to treat severe influenza illness and people who are at high risk of serious influenza-related conditions.

And CDC has developed a PCR diagnostic test kit to detect this novel H1N1 virus and has now distributed test kits to all states in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. This increase in testing capacity is likely to result in an increase in the number of reported confirmed cases in this country, which should provide a more accurate picture of the burden of disease in the United States.

Click here to see a larger map.

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Diatherix Laboratories releases first clinically available swine flu test

BY Michael Johnsen

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. Diatherix Laboratories on Thursday released the first clinically available test that can definitively diagnose the current strain of H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu, in six hours or less. The test is now commercially available to hospitals, private physician practices and public health departments for the rapid confirmation of suspected H1N1 patients.

Until now, it took several days to confirm a suspected H1N1 patient due to the numerous rounds of testing needed to make a definitive diagnosis, the company stated.

“Due to the highly mutative nature of the H1N1 strains, it can be very difficult to diagnose the H1N1 virus with many of the current testing methods,” stated Jian Han, laboratory director at Diatherix and faculty investigator of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. “Because our Tem-PCR technology can test for multiple genetic targets at one time, it is the only rapid molecular test that, from a nasal swab, can detect and differentiate multiple influenza strains and nine other respiratory viruses in a single test. This advanced technology provides physicians an accurate and definitive diagnosis.”

“Since the Diatherix test allows physicians to quickly differentiate H1N1 patients from those who have similar symptoms, infected patients can be provided proper antiviral therapy in a timely manner,” commented Dennis Grimaud, Diatherix CEO. “For example, if in 24 hours or less we could verify a suspected student was not infected with the H1N1 virus, this could prevent a school district from closing.”

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