Posts Tagged ‘obesity’

rainforestRainforests are Earth’s oldest living ecosystem. They cover only 6% of the Earth’s surface, yet they contain more than one half of the world’s plant and animal species. You may never get the opportunity to see a rainforest, but you are actually living very close to another type of ecosystem. It’s called a microbiome, and it resides primarily inside your gastrointestinal tract. It contains trillions of bacterial cells that help you digest food, as well as influencing your appetite, metabolism, immune system and mood. Your microbiome also affects your risk for disease, one of them being obesity. Your intestines literally house a “microbial ecosystem” that works hand-in-hand with your human cells. It is imperative that those two ecologies work in harmony and maintain a symbiotic relationship to support each other’s (and by extension your) health.

How can they do that?

The more diverse your microbiome, the easier it is to manage your weight. As humans, we share 99.9% of the same human DNA. But no two people share the same microbiome. We acquire different bacterial strains through our family, co-workers, pets, and perfect strangers. We also change it daily with our food choices. It is an ever-evolving process, and one that you actually have a lot of control over.

Research into the causes of obesity has shown that (1) composition of gut microbiome plays a significant role in weight gain. Obesity is also associated with (2) a decrease in the overall diversity of your gut bugs (even though the total number of “bugs” may remain the same). What essentially happens is that certain groups of (not-so-great) bacteria take the place of other (healthier) bacterial groups. The replacing bacteria are better at harvesting energy from food than the bacteria they replaced, thus resulting in increased calorie intake and an increase in weight.

Picture this: someone in your neighborhood builds a new home. To do that, the yard is ripped up while the home is being built. At some point, landscaping and new grass will be planted, but until that happens, you will probably see many weeds weedsgrowing in the dirt. That’s because the bad growth has lots of opportunity to survive with the good stuff gone. The same thing is true in your body. If you go on an antibiotic and kill off a lot of your good bacteria, it will give bad bacteria an opportunity to flourish. As well, if you make food choices that don’t support the colonies of good bacteria you need, others will take their place. That imbalance in your microbiome may ultimately make it easier to gain weight, and conversely, harder to lose it. Yikes!

What should I eat to maintain a healthy microbiome (and weight)?
The best food choices for a healthy microbiome are plant foods. Most whole plant foods contain decent amounts of fiber. Examples would be the seeds, strings, peels, skins, pulp, and bran present in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Those fibrous bits and pieces remain intact all the way to your colon, where they become food for the good bacteria that live there. Your gut bugs ferment them, break them down, and provide us with awesome byproducts such as butyric acid, acetic acid, and vitamins. Constantly eating fast food or foods high in fat and sugar may cause bad bacteria to bloom and good ones to disappear.

The Takeaway

If pressed, most of us would admit that we need to eat more fruits and vegetables. They provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. They are also low in calories, so including them in your meals or as snacks will enhance your efforts to lose weight. But plant foods are the primary fuel for our gut bugs, and improved bacterial colonies enhance our efforts to lose weight as well. Gut bugs and microbiome. Who knew??

Written by: Donna Green, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences, Erie County, Erie Basin EERA.

Reviewed by: Liz Smith, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.


Click to access Turnbaugh_Nature2006.pdf

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family mealPoor nutrition + inactive lifestyle = childhood obesity.  That is a very simple formula.  Every day there is a new story in the media about childhood obesity.  Obesity is running a close second to smoking as the nation’s number one preventable killer.  It is a major factor for heart disease, and increases the potential for high cholesterol, blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 8 preschoolers are obese in the United States. Obese children are 5 times more likely to become obese adults and suffer lifelong physical and mental health problems.

How did we get here?  Life today is so hectic for families. Some parents are working longer hours away from home and children. Days are so filled with stress that some parents simply do not have the time or energy to apply healthy eating rules into their homes. For example, breakfast is often skipped or consists of a pop tart on the run.  Family meals are rare and have been replaced with meals on the run at fast food restaurants.  We live in a “super sized” world where we are led to believe that bigger is better.

Adding to the issue of nutrition there is also the concern of inactivity. Kids today spend too much time sitting still.  Exercise is out and video games, laptops and TV shows are in. Recess time or free time during the school day is very limited.  And sadly many of our neighborhoods are too dangerous for kids to play outside without adult supervision.

So how do we fix this? Parents are the key to changing the behaviors in their home. By changing family behavior and creating a healthy weight environment you can help your family to engage in a healthy lifestyle.  Here are some tips to help start your family on a pathway to a healthier lifestyle:

  • Set goals and start small. New habits take a while to become routines.  A simple goal might be to offer vegetables or fruits at snack time.
  • Drink water at mealtimes and as a refreshing snack.  If you are eating at a restaurant, you will save money and make a healthy choice by drinking water.
  • Recognize triggers that will tempt you to fall back into old habits.  If your child loves video games limit their screen time and encourage them to play outside.
  • Surround your family with healthy foods.  Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains available.
  • Try to  eat at home more.  Explore easy meals and try new, healthy recipes.  Check out http://go.osu.edu/healthyrecipe      for some guidelines to help you personalize your eating plans. You will  find ways to combine fresh and convenience foods to make a healthy meal in  a hurry.
  • Take the time to read labels.  There are some fruit juices and juice drinks that have as many or more grams of sugar as      soda.
  • Plan ahead for busy days.  Cook once for two or more meals.  Dust off the crock pot and make a healthy recipe. Visit this website for recipes you can make with your favorite ingredients.       http://go.osu.edu/recipefinder
  • Join your  kids as you all move more. Take a walk or bike ride around the block or play a game of tag. Physical Activity is an important key to good health.
  • Celebrate  success with rewards.  Make sure the rewards are healthy – what about a visiting the nearest playground or park to play with your family?  Fly a kite with your kids for a fun springtime activity.
  • Be flexible.  If the plan is not working, make the necessary changes to reach your goals.

All of these things are something parents can control. Parents are the key to the health and lifestyle choices of their children. Being a good role model, remaining confident in your parenting choices, and feeling competent to address the resistance of family members might require being a strong parent, but with practice it can be done. Take charge of future, not only for yourself, but your children as well. They will thank you for it later.




Writer: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County, Miami Valley EERA.

Reviewer:   Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, treber.1@osu.edu


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dinner with chicken and vegetableThose who have parents or other relatives with Diabetes are doomed to have the disease too right? According to a recent study done by a research team at the National Institute of Health led by Dr. Jared Reis, not necessarily so.
The team looked at five lifestyle factors. Those were healthy diet, keeping an ideal body weight, being physically active, not smoking and minimizing alcohol use. The group started in the mid-1990’s and used a group of 200,000 older adults as their research group. They examined their lifestyle and these five factors. They examined whether or not the group developed diabetes over the next decade.
Results were remarkable. When a healthy lifestyle was adopted lowering the diabetic risk, men had a 72% lower risk of developing diabetes. These were men who adopted all five of these lifestyle factors. This was even stronger in women who adopted all five lifestyle factors at 84% of those at lower risk.
The greatest effect of those lifestyle changes was for those who maintained an ideal body weight, but all the factors seemed to improve the risk of developing diabetes. Therefore, even those adults who are overweight or obese can benefit from a healthy diet, increasing activity, not smoking or using less alcohol.

Source: NIH News in Health, October 2011.
Author: Liz Smith, OSU Extension Educator.

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