Some good, if preliminary, news for those trying to reduce childhood obesity: American kids, on average, are eating fewer calories now than they did roughly a decade ago.
That’s the major takeaway from a new report from the Centers for Disease Control out today that also looked at adult consumption of fast food (from which, by the way, adults are getting fewer of their calories). The surprising drop, while encouraging, is modest: boys’ caloric intake fell 7 percent overall, while girls’ energy intake dipped 4 percent. The decrease, researchers think, is likely in part because kids are eating fewer carbohydrates, but more protein.
While the data may foreshadow a future drop in obesity rates, that hasn’t happened just yet. “A harbinger of change is a good phrase,” R. Bethene Ervin, a CDC researcher and co-author of the report, told theNew York Times. “But to see if it’s really a real trend we would obviously need more years of data.”
As for adult fast food consumption, researchers found that 11.3 percent of adults’ average daily caloric intake was from fast food in 2010, down from 12.8 percent in 2006. That percentage goes down sharply with age, according to the study. And while income status didn’t seem to make a difference when it comes to fast food consumption, the authors note that, perhaps unsurprisingly, obese adults on average eat more fast food.
It may be the nation’s last, accepted form of prejudice. But the stigmatization of obesity has repercussions beyond the pain it inflicts on its targets: It threatens to impede efforts to fight the obesity epidemic.
A new study this week linking motherhood obesity to childhood autism tells a seemingly horrible tale: pregnant women who are obese are 67 percent more likely to have a child who suffers from the disorder than her non-obese counterpart. It’s the kind of statistic that people latch on to, and dozens of stories in the media highlighted the stat.
But what can we actually make of such a figure? 67 percent sounds like a big deal. You’re well on your way to doubling your risk, it seems. But without context, it’s hard to gauge how much maternal obesity matters relative to the host of autism risk facts.
While the 67 percent figure is “non-trivial,” according to Dr. William Eaton, a professor of mental health at Johns Hopkins University, maternal obesity isn’t exactly considered a leading risk factor. There are others that raise the risk for childhood autism by roughly the same amount, and still others that cause it to skyrocket.
For example, when a baby comes out of the womb feet-first, “a breech birth,” the child’s risk for autism increases about 63 percent. Babies with an Apgar score — an indicator, from one to ten, of a child’s relative health five minutes after birth — of less than seven are about 89 percent more likely to be autistic, Eaton said.
“There are some studies about autism which have much stronger risk factors,” Eaton added, “with hazard ratios like two or three or four,” that is to say, a 200 or 300 or even 400 percent increase in risk.
Some of these more serious risk factors are simply out of our control. A child born before 35 weeks carries two and a half times the risk for autism. Family mental history can also play a role. If someone in your family suffers from psychosis or a mood disorder, the risk for childhood autism increases two to three times.
So, maternal obesity may be a risk factor for autism, but it’s important to remember that it’s only one among many and not even the strongest link.
And, Eaton said, separating out obesity, itself, from other linked disorders is a challenge in itself. “Just to show you how complicated things are, obese women could have a higher rate of mood disorder,” he said. “And we wouldn’t know if it was the mood disorder doing the work or the obesity.”
Obesity during pregnancy may increase chances for having a child with autism, provocative new research suggests.
It’s among the first studies linking the two, and though it doesn’t prove obesity causes autism, the authors say their results raise public health concerns because of the high level of obesity in this country.
Study women who were obese during pregnancy were about 67 percent more likely than normal-weight women to have autistic children. They also faced double the risk of having children with other developmental delays.
On average, women face a 1 in 88 chance of having a child with autism; the results suggest that obesity during pregnancy would increase that to a 1 in 53 chance, the authors said.
The study was released online Monday in Pediatrics.
Since more than one-third of U.S. women of child-bearing age are obese, the results are potentially worrisome and add yet another incentive for maintaining a normal weight, said researcher Paula Krakowiak, a study co-author and scientist at the University of California, Davis.
Previous research has linked obesity during pregnancy with stillbirths, preterm births and some birth defects.
Dr. Daniel Coury, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said the results “raise quite a concern.”
He noted that U.S. autism rates have increased along with obesity rates and said the research suggests that may be more than a coincidence.
More research is needed to confirm the results. But if mothers’ obesity is truly related to autism, it would be only one of many contributing factors, said Coury, who was not involved in the study.
Genetics has been linked to autism, and scientists are examining whether mothers’ illnesses and use of certain medicines during pregnancy might also play a role.
The study involved about 1,000 California children, ages 2 to 5. Nearly 700 had autism or other developmental delays, and 315 did not have those problems.
Mothers were asked about their health. Medical records were available for more than half the women and confirmed their conditions. It’s not clear how mothers’ obesity might affect fetal development, but the authors offer some theories.
Obesity, generally about 35 pounds overweight, is linked with inflammation and sometimes elevated levels of blood sugar. Excess blood sugar and inflammation-related substances in a mother’s blood may reach the fetus and damage the developing brain, Krakowiak said.
The study lacks information on blood tests during pregnancy. There’s also no information on women’s diets and other habits during pregnancy that might have influenced fetal development.
There were no racial, ethnic, education or health insurance differences among mothers of autistic kids and those with unaffected children that might have influenced the results, the researchers said.
The National Institutes of Health helped pay for the study.
We’ve all heard about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, and now scientists offer more evidence to back that up.A new study found that people who get less sleep may be inclined to eat more, move less and gain weight.
Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., studied a group of 17 healthy volunteers between the ages 18 and 40 for a week in their homes, monitoring how much each one typically slept and ate. Then, they brought the volunteers into the clinic’s research lab for eight days: Half of the volunteers were allowed to sleep according to their usual pattern, and the other half got only two-thirds of their usual shut-eye.
All the volunteers were allowed to eat as much food as they wanted from the hospital cafeteria or from outside the research center. The researchers also measured how much energy each volunteer expended each day.
The sleep-deprived participants wolfed down an average of 549 calories beyond their usual intake but burned no more calories than their well-rested peers.
“A lot of people have this idea that if they’re up late, working hard, they’re burning more energy. But we found no change in how much they moved when sleep deprived,” said Dr. Andrew Calvin, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. “They’re consuming an additional 549 calories per day, but not burning any of them off.”
Those excess of unburned calories is a surefire way to gain weight, which numerous studies have connected to a variety of chronic health problems.
The volunteers who got less sleep also had higher levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, and lower levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, in their blood. The findings seem counterintuitive to what researchers would expect in people who are hungrier, but Calvin said the hormones were most likely an outcome, rather than a cause of people eating more.
Scientists have previously studied the physical downsides of getting too little sleep.
In 2011, Australian researchers found that adolescents and teenagers were more likely to be slimmer if they went to bed earlier, while those who stayed up late were more likely to engage in sedentary activities.
Previous studies have also found that workers covering late and overnight shifts were more likely to be obese and have type 2 diabetes, which may be associated with unhealthy eating habits, according to an editorial published in December.
The connection between sleep and weight may be important for the more than one-quarter of Americans who get six hours of sleep or less every night. Calvin said the future research on how sleep affects eating habits may give scientists useful insights into two of America’s biggest health problems: sleep deprivation and obesity.
“This study, while small, suggests that these two may indeed be linked, and if the findings are confirmed, they may suggest that sleep is a powerful factor in how much we eat and our chances of gaining weight,” he said.
The link between ADHD and poor eating habits isn’t surprising when you consider that it is a disorder of executive function, a set of cognitive skills which act as our brain manager. Executive function impacts almost every aspect of living, encompassing our ability to self-regulate, organize, plan, prioritize, and anticipate the future. Eating is only one of many facets of ordinary life influenced by ADHD, yet typically flies under the radar. Show original