Currently viewing the tag: "obesity"

Los Angeles chiropractorA long-time client of mine recently remarked while speaking about Covid that he, in his late fifties, has lived a good, long life and when it’s his time…it’ll be his time. I found this notion odd because, as a whole, he is a remarkably fit guy. He exercises at least five days per week, eats healthfully and moderately, and has meaningful relationships, a number of enriching hobbies, and a professional purpose which gives some meaning to his life. So I had to think about this idea with regard to lifespan and quality of life as we get older, but particularly with respect to how we view the aging process, what we do with the time we have left remaining, and how to think about our inevitable deaths.

My client’s remark struck me as odd since the average life expectancy for an American male is 78.6 years old. Now let’s think about this for a minute. When talking about the average, or mean value, for a (usually large) number in a set, it is important to remember that we are talking about the value in the center of all other values put together. To put it more simply, the average is in the center of a particular range of numbers and will have nearly equal parts bigger and smaller numbers. Thus, if the average American male lives 78.6 years, that means roughly half of American men will live longer. The law of large numbers guarantees that outliers (like existence a 120-year-old person) will not skew the average. That being said, what does the average life expectancy say about each individual’s potentiality for longevity and quality of life?

The average American is overweight. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 75% of the U.S. population is overweight. Two in five people (42.4%) in the U.S. are obese. Let me rephrase that: Take a group of five Americans randomly…four will be overweight, two of them will actually be obese, and only one will be “healthy weight.” Now overweight has some wiggle room; I mean, a body mass index (BMI) of 25 is still considered overweight. Therefore, a 6’0” man at 185 lbs. has a BMI of 25.1. A BMI between 18.5 – 24.9 is a healthy weight, so I would not consider a BMI of 25 problematic. Nonetheless, as you start to push the BMI toward 28-29 (6’0” 210 lbs.), you are just a few pounds short of obesity (BMI 30). If you want to calculate your BMI, you can do so here:

Los Angeles chiropracticIf the average American is overweight, and almost half the population obese, then any individual who is not overweight or obese has a pretty good chance of living into his or her eighties. And their quality of life will be greatly enhanced. How can I be so sure? Well overweight and obese are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and death from Covid. In fact, being overweight or obese greatly increases your risk of death overall. The top five causes of death worldwide are: high blood pressure, tobacco use, high blood glucose, physical inactivity, and overweight and obesity. My client’s well-managed weight almost ensures, in the absence of any accidents or violence, that he will live past the average life span. You should never stop working at weight management, no matter how many times you slip. Get back up and try again if you do – it is most certainly worth the work.

How about drugs? Well first we have prescription meds – 131 million Americans take at least one prescription medication. In a country with 329.5 million people, that’s 40% of the population which is medicated. In fact, the U.S. is the greatest consumer of drugs around the world. That means that either the U.S. is the sickest nation in the world (might be if looked at clearly: U.S. obesity statistics are alarming) or the big business of pharmaceuticals, replete with its white-coat pushers, has found the ultimate market in America. And just to add some spice to these numbers: The U.S. population is roughly 20% children (72 million). So pulling children off the total U.S. population number, it means more than half of American adults take at least one prescription medication regularly. Here is the kicker, though: of these people, the average number of medications taken is FOUR! You must never forget that ALL medications come with side-effects. The longer a person takes a medication (lifestyle drugs) the greater the chance of having his or her physiology affected. Why do you think doctors always ask which meds you’re on? Because medications affect the body, period – no escaping it. The less you take, the less disruption to your physiology. My client, who takes only one prescription medication regularly, is still on the lower rungs of the mile-high medication ladder. If you, like me, take zero meds, then you will have the least amount of medication-disrupted physiology and the highest probability of longevity.

Beverly Hills chiropracticHow about the other drugs – the fun ones? Alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit substances. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 165 million Americans aged 12 years or older currently abuse drugs – that is ~60% of the population (Minus kids under 12). Alcohol consumption is the highest at 139.8 million Americans 12 and over (~51%). Next is tobacco at 58.8 million people (~20%). Finally are the illicit drugs (coke, methamphetamine, heroin, and so on) – 31.9 million Americans use them (~12%). Need I go over all the damage caused by drugs and alcohol neurologically, organically, psychologically and in mal-quality of life to chronic users? My client is a rare drinker at most, putting him at an almost zero risk to health and longevity. And if you are a total abstainer, then your potentiality of living a long, healthful life is rather high.

The one area my client seems to skimp on is getting adequate sleep. My understanding is that his sleep is often interrupted (perhaps from the one medication he takes), and I will say that this one negative element actually can be impactful. At the very least, his lack of restful sleep may lead him to question, psychologically, whether he is expressing his best health. When tired, life can seem a little dragging to anyone. It might also lead one to “feel old”, something I hear quite regularly in my West Hollywood chiropractic practice. When people are in physical pain they do, it turns out, feel older. However, when chiropractic helps relieve their pain, their vibrancy increases, and they appear lighter on their feet and in their attitudes. Getting proper rest can have the same effect on a person. Just take that much-needed vacation you’ve been putting off to see this principle in action. Getting sufficient rest is as important as healthy diet, regular exercise and keeping drugs/alcohol to a minimum.

So again, I found it surprising when my client spoke of his life as if he were on his last legs – living in his golden years. A man in his late fifties should be contemplating what his final contributions to the world will be in service and creativity, thinking about his family and estate, and the ways in which he will enjoy his next forty years. One’s golden years seem to me to be no earlier than in one’s seventies. I do believe, though, that my client’s perspective was being colored by his lack of sleep. That will certainly make anyone feel older. I do not profess an easy solution to this problem, as the cause of insomnia may be varied and complex; however, in the simplest way possible, I must emphasize that if this is also your problem you really should work on fixing the problem sooner rather than later – your quality of life will improve dramatically by doing so. The average life expectancy of an American male is 78.6 years – higher for a female at 78.8 years. Just remember that the average American is also overweight/obese, takes 1-4 prescription drugs, and abuses drugs and alcohol. These are real facts, ugly or not. If very few of these apply to you – or even none! – then you will most likely, in the absence of accident or violence live long into your eighties, nineties, and for some, even hundreds.

In this time of rapid and uncertain change, some things remain constant, like the ways to keep your body healthy and strong. A simple question would be: who stands the greater chance of withstanding the symptoms of a viral infection, one who maintains the health of one’s environment, or one who does not? Unfortunately, too many people fail to ask that basic, valuable question and instead argue over treatment options. Treatments are important, for sure, but whatever any particular treatment might be, the person who cares for his or her environment will handle the treatment better than if he or she does not. This is not a deep philosophical statement – it is simple logic. It does not depend on the virulence of the pathogen, either – in every way, people who care for their environment will have a greater probability of handling illness.

Staying Strong in the Era of Covid-19Athletes take many physical hits and stresses. They absolutely must condition themselves to withstand these stresses. So too warriors and soldiers of yesterday and today: only the conditioned can take the battering which results from their call of duty. Would you choose a conditioned horse for which to win a race, or would you place your bets on an older, deconditioned horse? There are almost always exceptions to the rules, but all in all, a properly conditioned person tends to fare better than a deconditioned one.

What can you do to strengthen your body? I have written a book on maintaining optimal health, so I could probably ramble on for pages. But let me keep things relevant to our current climate surrounding the coronavirus and its associated illness, Covid-19. Since it is mostly a lung cell attacking virus, keep your lungs as clean and conditioned as possible. I will not bore you with a quit smoking or quit vaping sermon, but I am certain that everybody understands that each habit increases risk. By no means would I share smoking paraphernalia at this time – bongs and hookahs might just be things of the past – smoking in the era of Covid-19 should be a solitary act. Personally, I would not hinder my resistance with any recreational drug whatsoever, but if you must, then stay moderate. Partying hard can, and often does, inhibit the immune system. If you are going to party, then just make sure you get plenty of sleep. Definitely do not go hard two days in a row.

Don’t run with masks onYou should maintain your cardiovascular conditioning. If you can run without pain, do so. Running outside on pavement is probably better than on a treadmill. Either way, get to a point of heavy breathing and sweating every time you challenge your cardiovascular system. Do not run with a mask on. Get fresh air: oxygen is paramount to cardiovascular health. Can’t run? Skip rope. Shadow box. Dance. Do whatever it takes to get your heart rate up and into a sweat. Strong lungs may not be immune to infection, but the greater the surface area of the lungs to absorb oxygen, the better for you if, in fact, you fall ill.

As always, eating whole, natural foods will keep you vibrant and well-functioning. Take this time of quarantine to cook most of your meals at home. Keep the dining out to a minimum. Try bringing down your caloric intake, if you are overweight, and exercise daily. I realize these are not always the easiest things to implement, but in my opinion they are the necessary things to do. As always, results will come down to your desire and commitment. However, keep in mind that one of the highest risk factors with regard to Covid-19 is obesity. This is not surprising information. I have made similar warnings throughout the years: Obesity exponentially increases the risk of falling ill. The reasons are many, and not necessary to delve into here, just suffice it to say that you almost always have a better chance of wellness by keeping fit and trim. Take the first step, the rest will follow.

Quiet your mind and talk to Self Keeping the mind balanced is probably the greatest key to staying strong in the era of Covid-19. The first, and most important, action you can take is to write down all the knowns and unknowns with regard to this virus. Do the research, look at the numbers. I think this activity is worthwhile, so much that I did exactly that last month with a group of students and clients (ask me how); it was enormous in reducing any anxiety we were feeling and putting things into perspective. The purpose of the exercise is to reduce fear, which can be a killer with regard to healing or worsening symptoms. Chronic fear rarely leads to better healing, so try neutralizing your fears around the virus. I can start you off with one major known: The virus is mostly mild, meaning the vast majority of people recover quickly. Some people do not even know they have it. “Vast majority” is well over 90%. Please put that number into your awareness. Seriously, research the virus, the illness, and the numbers. I am certain that one simple exercise will liberate you.

Finally, take the time to go within yourself: meditate. Quiet your mind and talk to Self – that part of you which is beyond words, thoughts, and ideas. Do this daily. Great inner strength comes from this practice. Add plenty of quality sleep and you will find your peace of mind is enhanced dramatically.

These tips are the absolute best things you can do for yourself in the era of Covid-19: Exercise, eat well, minimize smoking, sleep plenty, and balance your mind. These are the same health-enhancing behaviors I would recommend even outside a world-stopping pandemic. As I have said: some things may change rapidly, but the behaviors that strengthen the body remain constant. The numbers show that, for the most part (>90%), you will be fine. But take the time to increase your chances in that regard. Do the right things for your body and mind, and you might find this lockdown a great blessing.

130620_MEDEX_CIGAR.jpg.CROP.article568-large (Copy)A big fat duuuuuuuhhhhhh in the world of health today, as a new study discloses that half of all cardiovascular deaths are due to preventable factors. Why duh? I have been reporting on this phenomenon since I wrote my quintessential health manual, The Six Keys To Optimal Health, a decade ago. Okay, okay, to be fair, many of you have not read it; and I am certain many of you do not peruse the health news in the same manner I do. However, saying that, we all know the risk factors for cardiac events, so why are people not taking heed?

The study, published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine online, looked at data from the BRFSS (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System) 2009–2010 of over 500,000 people, ages 45 to 79, to asses risk factors associated with cardiovascular deaths (heart attacks, heart failure, etc). The five primary risk factors were: smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure—and all are preventable. Complete elimination of each of these risk factors would reduce cardiovascular deaths—the leading cause of death in the U.S.—by 54% in men, and nearly 50% in women.

heart disease risk factorsSmoking and high blood pressure led to the highest proportion of preventable deaths, and nearly 80 percent of people reported exposure to at least one of the five risk factors. Despite these risks being preventable, if every state was brought to the level of the best state, only ten percent of the deaths would be prevented. Get it? What this means is that Americans, in general, practice risky cardiovascular behaviors. Yes, eighty percent of the country either smokes, is obese, has high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. And many have several, and some have all! Do you get it? That’s freakin’ abysmal. And we wonder why health is so poor in the U.S. Can’t blame healthcare (sickcare) for this one.

Like I said, we all know the risks, so why do we fail to avoid them? Ummmm…I can take a guess…let’s see: because American citizens have become so spoiled by ease and comfort that we believe we are entitled to live as we please, and then be “saved” by medicine. That’s precisely what universal health care was all about – our inalienable right to have our preventable conditions treated – and this study proves it. Preventable! I know it is hard to hear, and it certainly doesn’t endear me to the masses when I say it, but it’s the truth and we both know it.

So let’s go over it again:

I know we are all going to die, but nobody reading this wants it to be them, not prematurely anyway. So do the right stuff and I promise you will get more out of life, and more life to get things out of. I’ll continue to send out tough love via health information, facts, and no nonsense interpretations meant to wake…you…up. Hope you are listening.

obesity (Copy)To do my part in the War on Obesity I decided to rekindle some old posts from 2011 and Tweet my thoughts on extreme fatness. As far as I can see, obesity numbers haven’t budged in the last two years, and even more likely is that they continue to creep upward. For those who don’t know:

In the US:

  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.
  • Between 1988–1994 and 2007–2008 the prevalence of obesity increased in adults at all income and education levels.
  • In 2010, there were 12 states with an obesity prevalence of 30%. In 2000, no state had an obesity prevalence of 30% or more.
  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

And in England:

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    The proportion of adults with a normal BMI decreased between 1993 and 2011 from 41% to 34% among men and from 50% to 39% among women.
  • The proportion that were overweight including obese increased from 58% to 65% in men and from 49% to 58% in women between 1993 and 2011
  • There was a marked increase in the proportion of adults that were obese from 13% in 1993 to 24% in 2011 for men and from 16% to 26% for women.
  • In 2011/12, around one in ten pupils in Reception class (aged 4-5 years) were classified as obese (9.5%) which compares to around a fifth of pupils in Year 6 (aged 10-11 years) (19.2%)

And just as when I first wrote those posts in 2011, the reaction was heated. So many ‘experts’ having the answer. Obesity is this. Obesity is that…yet I still hear the same ol’ stuff: straw grasping, the hope of finding that one thing that will deflate the worldwide obesity epidemic. Yeah, okay…

KC_Fitness_Magazine_launches_new_weight__523650000_20130426113224_640_480 (Copy)Honestly, I find it humorous…the numbers that come forward when the obesity Tweets go up, proclaiming this or that great idea or program. So convinced are these folks that they are wowing the world with groundbreaking information—something new; something we haven’t heard before. Genetics, hormones, enzyme imbalance, biochemistry… Wow! Really?! My goodness, who would have thought…?! Call the Nobel people…

Really it’s what I think when the responses come pouring in. And that’s exactly what I thought when I was approached by a young doctor and researcher by the name of Jameson Voss, a third year Preventive Medicine Resident at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.  His current research focuses on obesity, specifically the correlation between obesity and altitude, which has an inverse relationship he’s found. His recent work has investigated the obesity numbers throughout the United States and has found that as elevation increases, obesity numbers actually decrease, and they do so significantly. Hmmm…

downloadAs I started scanning his work, two things about Dr. Voss became immediately apparent: one is that he is a real professional, doing real work in the realm of the physiological sciences, not simply some schmuck selling books, or a weight loss program, or a television show, like many people I encounter when the obesity subject arises; and two, his work actually demonstrates some interesting aspects of obesity (or morphology, in general) that may not be readily apparent on first glance; but I assure you that if you think about it, and think about some physiological principles, as well as some of the things that I’ve been discussing in those earlier posts, you will see that it all makes perfect sense. You will see that Dr. Voss’ findings fit perfectly with the criteria that I’ve been screaming about for years: That there is no need to attempt to change what we already know about human physiology and metabolism; that there is no need to create a whole new theory on metabolic physiology by throwing out fundamental concepts—like calories, food type, or average food volume consumed—and instead focus on the biochemical and/or hormonal markers as the keys to understanding (and ‘defeating’) this seemingly enigmatic disorder.

Doctor Voss’ study found two interesting things: one, as I’ve already mentioned, is the inverse correlation between obesity and altitude, and two, a second inverse correlation, this time to urbanization. So as population density increases, obesity goes down. Wow, so what’s happening here?

obesity-by-county (Copy)

Age Adjusted Obesity Prevalence by County. This image was obtained from, but this particular map represents obesity prevalence and not diabetes.

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A topographical map of the USA. Note the similarities with the figure above.

If you remember my post on the parasympathetic nervous system, and the role it plays in metabolism, I discussed that when we perceive ourselves to be in a stressful/challenging situation, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in to put us into the fight-or-flight mode. When that challenge then diminishes, and we feel safe, when we perceive ourselves to be supported and secure, when we essentially feel comfortable, then we go into a parasympathetic response—the rest-and-digest mode. Remember that I described how obese people have been found to be in an ANS (autonomic nervous system) or  parasympathetic imbalance—their rest-and-digest is overactive. In this state, metabolism slows down and fat storage increases, and this is one reason why obese people show slower gains in losing weight than do non-obese people.

fat-man-on-segway (Copy)Okay, so what does this have to do with Dr. Voss’ work? As I explained in those post on obesity and ANS imbalance, I believe there is an unrecognized, or better an unacknowledged, mental component to obesity. I believe that as people feel comfortable, as their daily challenges decrease, the more they operate in the rest-and-digest mode. People that live in cities just have to deal with a higher volume of daily stresses than do people living rurally or in the suburbs. Take it from a guy that has spent the last twenty plus years fighting Los Angeles traffic. I’ve had a knife put up to my neck simply for asking a young man to graciously remove his car from my office parking space…yes, these are the types of stresses which are so commonplace among urban jungle dwellers. You just never know when you’ll be the next person to be thrown onto the subway tracks…get it? It’s not that people living outside of cities don’t have stress, but as a way of life…well, I just never have trouble finding parking at the 7-11 outside the city’s parameters, if you know what I mean.

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And what about elevation? Well again it has to do with challenge, but this time the challenge is of a physiological nature. Because of the lower density of oxygen at higher altitudes, it is much harder to pick up this vital molecule during respiration, and as a result the body has to work harder for the same oxygen need as it does at sea level.

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download (1)This fact is precisely why boxers have trained at higher elevations for years (and the effects cyclists try to recreate doping with erythropoietin [EPO]). The challenges to cellular and cardiopulmonary respiration force the body to produce more red blood cells, because quantity here makes up for the decreased quality of oxygen uptake by the present red blood cells, and so a stress to the body occurs. This challenge, I believe, like any challenge to the body (and mind for that matter) forces the body into a higher metabolic rate—in other words, burning fuel becomes more efficient to power the increased demand on the human body. And because this physiological challenge is persistent, it gives people living in higher elevations an advantage with regard to burning fuel. Does this mean that people living at higher elevations won’t put on weight? No! We all have the potential to become overweight or obese, no matter what the elevation; but the increased physiological challenge across the population would explain why, relative to people living closer to sea level, that this population has significantly lower obesity rates.

09-pg-horizontal (Copy)Again, however, I wish to remind the reader to not get fixated on the physical aspect of stress. I truly believe that what we are seeing physiologically with populations living in higher elevations is a similar phenomenon to what we see with urbanization—it’s stress, both physical and mental, that puts people into sympathetic overdrive, and thus more efficient fuel (fat) burners. As I pointed out in some of the post from 2011, obesity is far more prevalent in Western developed nations. Again, when we feel relatively secure, safe, and supported—like we do in most western nations—we will have the tendency to lean toward a predominantly parasympathetic state. Wars, drought, famine or the constant threat of terrorism do not allow for parasympathetic imbalance, and thus obesity is purely an epidemic of wealth and convenience.

Obesity by Nations

So in my mind the answer is not to be found solely in one physical activity over another, as in diet over exercise, or by sitting in a  hypobaric chamber, nor will it be found solely in challenging oneself, because the obesity epidemic (not case-by-case obesity, but in its totality) is more complex than that. Other psychological factors play a role too, I believe—far too numerous to discuss in this piece—but I’ve touched upon some in the past. I just wish to be clear that I believe the missing piece to the obesity puzzle is in psychology, not simply in more reductive physiology.

060823_altitude_train_vlrg_8a.widec (Copy)Saying that, I am impressed with Dr. Voss’ work and his group’s observation of the inverse correlation between both elevation and urbanization and the prevalence of obesity. To me it is clear-cut evidence that the body responds to perceived stresses—both physical (as in respiratory challenges, or knives to the neck) and mental (perceived challenges, traffic, and so forth)—by entering a sympathetic response, and thus increased metabolism. The more time spent under perceived stress, the more the sympathetic response will be (which comes with its own associated negative physical consequences—like high blood pressure, myocardial infarction, among other symptoms and conditions).

Thank you Dr. Voss for your work. For me, at least, it provides some hard data illustrating real physiological and metabolic principles. It fits into a framework of what we already know about physiology, metabolism and obesity. But most important, it isn’t trying to recreate the wheel by claiming any new and fantastic theories about nature and the underlying mechanisms of metabolism within the obese physiology. That is exceptional work in my book.

Want to know the flip side to our current obesity obsession?  Increased hospitalization for eating disorders…in children!  That’s right, the more society bashes the overweight, the greater the fear instilled in kids.  Heavens forbid they might turn out to be…big, fat, obese.  Scourges of society they’ll be–the press’ll beat ’em, the public’ll beat ’em, you’ll beat ’em…and forget about what their school mates might do.  Sheesh.

A new American Academy of Pediatrics report shows that among children younger than 12 with eating disorders, hospitalizations surged 119% between 1999 and 2006.  This at the same time hospitalizations for eating disorders among all age groups increased 15%.

I’m not surprised as the focus on fatness–in the negative–must scare the appetite out of plenty of kids.  Being inundated with pictures of emaciated models, and seeing how skinny starlets are pedastalized in magazines and on television, while normal sized ones are denigrated for being “big” would lead any kid with a normal-sized ego to an ex-lax habit.

Quite honestly, I’m much more disturbed by anorexia and bulimia than I am about obesity.  Seems to me that although one might lead to a slew health problems, the other is a death wish, quick and to the point.  Nevertheless, one extreme must live with the other, and so I don’t doubt we’ll be seeing a steady rise in eating disorders (and subsequent hospitalizations) in the near future.

Yo kid, whatcha drinkin’?  Not water, that’s for sure.  A recent study to be published in the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows that children in the U.S. are drinking far too little water.  Since water makes up the bulk of the human body weight, getting sufficient amounts is vital.  And since we can’t store water for the long term, running on a water deficiency can wreak havoc on the health.

According to the study conducted by the Queens College of the City University of New York and the U.S. National Cancer Institute, American children drink far less than the minimum amount of water recommended by the U.S. Institute of Medicine.  The study looked at the water intake of 3,978 boys and girls, aged 2 to 19 years, who had been included in a national nutrition study from 2005 to 2006.  They found that only 15-60% of boys and 10-54% of girls, depending on age, drink enough water.  Instead, children are primarily drinking…yup, you guessed it, sugary drinks like sodas.

The study found that most kids drank sweetened beverages with meals and not plain water.  Yecchh!  And girls overall drank less water than boys.  The good news is that as children age, they start to drink a bit more water, but not enough to preserve good health.  Let’s go over some points on the importance of proper hydration:

  • Human beings cannot live without water for a few days
  • We lose approximately two liters of water per day through sweat, urine, tears, saliva and the breath, among other processes
  • Caffeinated drinks–sodas, iced tea, coffee drinks–are diuretics, which make us urinate more, thus increasing the need for water
  • Insufficient water levels lead to
  • fatigue
  • increased hunger
  • muscle weakness
  • headaches
  • dry mouth
  • heat stroke and other maladies

Furthermore, high consumption of sugary drinks leads to…yes, right again, obesity (along with other illnesses like diabetes).  And you heard childhood obesity is due to the common cold virus, now, didn’t you?

Listen, adults in the U.S. aren’t doing much better.  Sodas are still the number one consumed beverage in America.  And kids learn from their parents, so if you are a soda junkie, don’t expect less from junior.

Simple solution: stop buying soda! If you have younguns at home, don’t give them any of that crap, period.  My girls have never tasted a soda in their lives, and they won’t ever in our house.  Yes, I’m on a soapbox on this one, and I’m not getting off anytime soon.  That garbage is killing people, and I’ll keep screaming it till people listen.

Water is the elixir of life, and if you or your child are not getting enough, then you’re playing with fire.  Play with water instead, give your kids good ol’ H2O to drink and watch them flourish.  It’s in your hands parents–do the right thing.

OK, OK…now that genetics is out as a cultural crutch for obesity, here goes something to quickly take its place.  Get this: Childhood obesity might be linked to the common cold virus.  Yes, yes, the common cold.  Not lifestyle behaviors, but a virus.  How’s that for quick thinking?

A recent study to be published in the September 20 issue of Pediatrics showed that some children infected by adenovirus 36 (AD36), which causes the common cold and slight gastrointestinal upset, were an average of 50 pounds heavier than children who hadn’t been infected by this particular strain.  The study, small and rife with coincidences, is the latest in “take-the-blame-off-the-patient” obesity hypotheses.

The study looked at 124 children between the ages of 8-18, with more than 50% (67 total) considered obese based on body-mass measurements for their age and gender, and found that nearly one in four obese children had been infected with AD36, compared to only 7% of non-obese children.  In total, the numbers are 15 and 4 respectively–this makes a study?  Further, within the entire group of obese children, those who were AD36-positive weighed about 35 pounds more than obese children who hadn’t been infected with AD36.

I repeat, this makes a study?  Now granted, the authors do not claim to have proof, but I laugh at the absurdity of the notion from the start.  Why not study the link between biting one’s fingernails and developing hemorrhoids?  Seriously.

OK, I get the rationale, but come on!  Whether or not a child has been infected with adenovirus does not remove the necessity to watch the diet and to be active, plain and simple.

But we musn’t blame people. Why the hell not?  Why perpetuate the ultimate problem: the lack of knowledge, understanding, discipline and responsibility?  Here’s why.  Hypotheses lead to further studies, connections lead to rationales, and rationales lead to drug and vaccine development–think anti-depressants.  New drugs for epidemics means a shipload of money.  The public gets a new wonder drug, doctors get more business, and government gets to look like it supports the public health by endorsing poppycock.

So the rest of us get a good five years of having to hear how people are fat because they’d at one time caught a cold; a particular cold; a fat cold.  And we get to pay even more for their health care, because it’s not their fault and everyone should be entitled to be an ignorant, irresponsible and undisciplined glutton.  We support you…literally.

Now before I get accused of being insensitive to obese people, remember, I’m the first to say be whatever you want to be.  I have nothing against obesity, ignorance, irresponsibility or a lack of discipline, because I know that everyone has these same characteristics somewhere in their lives.  In fact, I have said in this very blog and in my health articles that I am more an advocate for people loving who they are as they are, even if obese, as long as if they want to change, they take the responsibility to do so on their own.  No BS, no excuses, just take the leap and accept the glory and the blame.

But I do not support removing personal responsibility from one’s physical health and well-being; and I definitely do not support the use of so-called science to find further reason to move the blame away from the individual.  To answer one of the study’s authors, who thinks we should “move away from assigning blame, and broaden the way we think about obesity,” I say, it help much less to give people another crutch to simply rationalize reality: It takes hard work and a drastic change in lifestyle to lose weight and keep it off.  You’ve got to cut the sodas, work out, and keep the overeating in check.

Trying to pass off the notion that obesity is somehow caused by exposure to the common cold is irresponsible, and in my mind, an obvious attempt at creating the next blockbuster drug.  It’s a free market, yes–but will it change the world’s obesity profile?  Fat chance.

Short and sweet.  I’ve never bought the bull that obesity is genetic.  Too easy, removes personal responsibility or accountability, and dishonors all overweight people by telling them its beyond their control.  I make the point in my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, that even if genetics has a role in obesity, one is still bound by the laws of physiology–more calories in than out…weight gain; more calories out than in…weight loss; equal calories in and out…maintenance.  Gene or no gene, that’s the truth.

A new British study confirms my point: Exercise cuts a person’s genetic predisposition to obesity by 40%Well, no freakin’ shit-take mushrooms.

Researchers looked at over 20,000 people in Norwich, England and focused on genetic variants known to increase the risk of obesity.  Most people had inherited 10 to 13 of these variants from their parents.  Those obesity inheritors that exercised had 36% less weight gain per genetic variant than sedentary inheritors, and each additional obesity-susceptibility variant increased the odds of obesity by 1.1-fold.   This risk, however, was 40% lower for active people compared to inactive people.

In a nutshell: Fat genes or not, exercise obliterates obesity.  No more excuses.

Finally a genetic excuse for obesity that actually makes sense.  Researchers show that an omega fatty acid imbalance can lead to obesity.  But even more interesting is that this imbalance, and the associated obesity, can be passed on from generation to generation.

A recent French study looked at the role of omega intake and fat deposition in mice.  Four generations of mice were fed a 35% fat diet with an omega imbalance now common in much of the developed world–that is, a high ratio of omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3s.  The results were progressively fatter mice at birth, generation after generation.

In my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, I discuss the importance of bringing the omega balance to 1:2 omega-6:omega-3.  Currently the typical imbalance in western cultures is 15:1 in much of Europe and up to 40:1 in the United States.  Omega-3s are important to many functions including cholesterol balance, blood pressure, reducing heart disease and stroke, preventing blood clots, preventing diabetes and much, much more.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found plentifully in fish and flax oils, although fish liver oils are a more potent source.  Omega-6s, on the other hand, are high in vegetable oils, breads, grains and poultry–things we eat copiously in the typical American diet.

But what about passing fatness on to successive generations?  Experts believe that the link between omega imbalance and obesity is epigenetic; in other words, the imbalance in mothers influences an offspring’s genes during development.  Whoa!  That’s right–the omega-6:omega-3 ratio in the breast milk of American women has gone from an average of 6:1 to 18:1.  Holy milkshakes!  Exactly.

I recommend a few things to bring the omega ratio back into healthy balance.  First and foremost is reducing your intake of high omega-6 containing foods.  So breads, high carbs, vegetable oil–cut ’em.  Then I suggest you supplement with a good omega-3 fatty acid.  I carry a great brand in my Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood chiropractic office.  Check this article for all the information you need on omega-3 fatty acids.

Stop the cycle of obesity in your family–get your omega fatty acids balanced.  And don’t think it’s too late for your children, either.  Feed them well (healthily, not in hordes), get them moving, and give them omega-3 fatty acids–that should break the inheritance pattern.  Remember, health starts in the home.  Now how’s that for epigenetics!

Baby boomers are being nagged by injuries–more than the generation before them. In fact, baby boomers have more disabilities than people over age 65. What the heck is going on here?According to data from the National Health Interview Survey, conducted annually from 1997 to 2007 and including up to 15,000 individuals each year, more than 40 percent of people aged 50 to 64 reported having problems with at least one of nine physical functions, and many reported difficulty with more than one. Although health problems as a whole did not increase for this age group, physical disabilities, like trouble climbing ten stairs, did. The number of baby boomers using special equipment to get around, such as a cane or wheelchair, also increased. Hmmm…. Here’s the breakdown of the number of adults per 10,000, ages 50 to 64, who reported difficulty with various actions in the 2005-2007period and from 1997-1999 (in parentheses).

  • Stooping, bending, kneeling: 3,129 (2,875)
  • Standing two hours: 2,491 (2,321)
  • Pushing or pulling large object: 2,010 (2,024)
  • Walking a quarter-mile: 2,146 (1,954)
  • Climbing 10 steps: 1,749 (1,537)
  • Sitting two hours: 1,491 (1,445)
  • Lifting and carrying 10 pounds: 1,410 (1,387)
  • Reaching over head: 1,186 (1,149)
  • Grasping small objects: 1,128 (1,109

Experts are unclear about the cause of this trend. What’s enjoyable to read, however, are the comments posted to the yahoo news page of this report (link no longer available). Some people blame obesity, although the study makes very clear that obesity is not an important cause of the disabilities. Some think it might be processed foods, some exposure to DDT and other chemicals, while others yet to excessive television viewing by boomers. I love to see people thinking and trying to find a cause, but I have to say none of these guesses make complete sense. Here is my shot at it: Baby boomers are the first generation to really believe they can have it all–career, family, and endless health. They were the generation that pushed themselves physically, if not from day one, then by jumping on the fitness bandwagon when jogging, Tae Bo and Richard Simmons came onto the scene. Many boomers followed the trend rather than taking time to learn the proper form. This leads to injuries. Boomers also saw the greatest advances in medical technology. Hurt yourself Lambada-ing? No problem–medical science will fix it. Additionally, boomers as a whole tended to trust their medical doctors unquestionably. If Dr. Welby says to take Vioxx, then by golly I’ll do it. Um hm. So my take is that boomers pushed themselves harder physically than any generation before them (graceful agers); to that I applaud. But they relied on medical advice for their musculoskeletal issues, and as I pointed out last post, big mistake. Medical doctors are coming out of school poorly prepared to deal with musculoskeletal problems–this by their own analysis. As such, there have been oodles of surgeries–routine ones, routine ones, that’s what we’ve been told–and here we are witnessing the end result: increased disabilities. Sure one could argue that perhaps medical science saved many a crippling by this daring, if not reckless, generation. But I don’t think so. I am certain that you can have excellent function to live the life you love well into old age–I see it in my chiropractic practice every single day. So take heed Gen Xers and Millennials, take care of your bodies today–exercise, eat well, get regular chiropractic care, rest up, and minimize your intake of toxins. Learn proper form of the exercise or sport you wish to do–and learn to rehabilitate and recuperate yourself from injuries. Your physical body isn’t indestructible; it needs to be cared for like a fine-tuned machine–better than a fined-tuned machine. Educate yourself on injury prevention and proper care when you get hurt. And don’t take any one practitioner’s word as gospel. Get a few opinions and do what feels right. Lastly, don’t just choose a risky surgery because it’s sold to you as routine, even if seems like an easy way out. Conservative care can restore and preserve proper function for years to come if done right and to completion. Thank you baby boomers for paving the way through yet another uncharted territory. Younger generations listen up…and learn.

I recently had the question* posed to me, “If there is an easy answer to weight loss, why is our country filled with so many unhealthy, overweight people?” I think this is a fabulous question since the answer certainly uncovers some of the hidden factors behind obesity.

First, obesity is a consequence of an addiction to food. I’m not talking about merely being overweight, here–I mean obesity and, most certainly, severe obesity. Being overweight can be the result of a number of things: eating the wrong foods (eating many meals out, for instance), neglecting exercise, twelve-pack of beer every weekend, and so forth; bad habits, if you will.

Obesity, however, has an addiction component. Obese people are drawn to food either for sensory pleasures (taste) or emotionally. Emotional eaters eat when they are stressed out, pissed off, hurt, elated, embarrassed, and any other number of emotional stressors that lead one to escape. So food, therefore, is a way for some people to avoid these uncomfortable feelings, whether they are conscious of it or not.

An eating addiction is like any other addiction: a combined enjoyment and escape. Drinkers have it, smokers have it, gamblers have it, and sex addicts have it–it’s a momentary checking out, a retreat from unpleasant feelings, whatever they may be. Often, it’s a totally unconscious act; the addiction becomes habit.

So, as I said in my New Year’s Resolutions article on weight loss, the first step is a true heartfelt desire for change. Some people aren’t inspired to lose weight; they attempt it because of societal pressures. Only true inspiration leads to actions that will endure the pain and pleasures of undertaking a weight-loss endeavor. Anything else will fail when it gets too tough. That’s one reason some people can’t lose weight.

Next, a realistic game plan must be constructed. This is where our topic of The Biggest Loser comes in. A healthy strategy must be implemented and carried out, like any venture, be it business, financial investing, family planning, or weight loss. Without a reasonable or healthy plan, not only is failure likely, but complications can arise.

At the very least, the person losing weight runs the risk of putting it all back on again. This is the part of the strategy that requires The Six Keys To Optimal Health. Without them, the whole endeavor ends up momentary, and it’s exactly why Biggest Loser contestants have such a high rate of weight regain.

Finally, and most importantly, the mental component to the addiction must be balanced. Essentially this means finding the pleasures and pains associated with the eating addiction for each individual. There is no cookbook here, if you’ll forgive the pun; it’s individualized and specific. That takes work. People who lose weight without clearing the mental component that leads them to gravitate toward food in the first place, find themselves back off the wagon when emotional crisis hits. Think Oprah’s battles and struggles with weightshe’s an admitted emotional eater. Yeah, fail to address the emotional component and long-term weight loss will be unattainable.

To further complicate matters is the necessity of food for energy conversion and nutritional needs. So it’s easy to see that obesity is a multi-factorial issue that needs attention to a number of components. I hope that answers the question of, “If losing weight had an easy answer…” I think it’s not so much that the answer evades us, it’s just that we approach it from such simplicity, AND many people are missing the forest for the trees by looking for very complicate answers (genetics, hormonal disorders, etc.). Let’s observe Okham’s Razor and see that the simplest solution is probably the most correct. But obesity does have a number of sides that need attention, and that’s why so many people are struggling with it.

*Thank you Jeanne M. for the great question.

Hey you! Yeah…you. Don’t be a sitting duck. Get off your a$$ and move around. Sitting for too long can get you killed, literally. Several studies suggest that prolonged sitting can cause obesity, heart disease and even death. And let’s not forget hemorrhoids.

According to an editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, physical activity is not enough–sitting too long causes the genes that regulate glucose and fat in the body start to shut down. Whether the sitting is done in a classroom, a car, or in front of the T.V. or computer is inconsequential. What matters is time.

In a Canadian study published last year, 17,000 people were followed for twelve years: Those that sat the most had a higher death risk, independent of whether they exercised or not. Holy hematochezia! That means…aw man, I’m in trouble.

I’m not the only American needing to worry: A 2003-2004 U.S. survey found that Americans spend more than half their time sitting, from working at their desks to sitting in cars. Although preliminary, these studies point out the dangers of taking too much of a load off.

Well, I must say I’m truly listening to this one. Although I am a highly active person, I also sit a lot. And the results of these preliminary studies make sense to me. The human body is made to move–movement is a part of our very survival. Not in just the obvious way as a means of catching food or escaping predators, but as a way to detect changes in the environment. Our moving parts have receptors–sensory devices that sense the world around us. When these are not used (through movement) regularly, the function of the body is disrupted. Chiropractors know this; we do our part to keep these moving parts moving through adjusting subluxations (stuck joints). But actual movement also need to be carried out. Sitting on your rump is not movement.

So if you want to win the lottery, you’ve gotta buy a ticket. And if you want to get the most out of your movable body, well you figure it out. But may I suggest you not be a sitting duck?

Does more activity in school cause kids to be more active out of school? Nope, not according to research conducted in Great Britain. In fact, children may have a “set-point” for activity; and once reached, it may shut down a child’s further activity for the day.

206 children, ages 7-11, were followed for one week for four consecutive school terms and their activity levels measured and recorded by accelerometers–the devices currently used in video game controllers. They were set on three different physical education schedules–9.2, 2.4, or 1.7 hours per week. The accelerometers recorded the kids’ duration and intensity of activity.

The researchers found that those kids most active in school were least active outside of school or at home. Those least active at school were most active when outside of school. They believe that people in general have a “personal set point” that determines their activity level, and they will tend to reach it one way or the other.

This information comes at a useful time, while public health official and educators attempt to deal with the rising obesity problem amongst children, and shoots down the assumption that more opportunities for activity will lead to just that. As co-researcher Alissa Fremeaux, from Peninsula Medical School puts it, “These findings have implications for anti-obesity policies because they challenge creating more opportunity for children to be active–by providing more playgrounds, sports facilities, and more physical education time in schools–will mean more physical activity.

I think the interesting thing about these findings is that we have had this sense intuitively about activity levels being sort of personalized to each individual. But in trying to deal with obesity in general, and in children specifically, we have been searching for answers, and it may not be in activity levels at all. In fact, an earlier study this week has showed that most obesity is due to overeating, not lack of physical fitness. So bravo to the researchers looking hard at this stuff. It looks like we are getting a clearer picture.

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