Scientists have found out how fructose sweeteners in processed and packaged foods may be fueling America’s obesity epidemic, discovered with the help of brain imaging studies.
Research from investigators at Oregon Health & Science University fructose sends different signals to the brain than the sweetener glucose that is important for controlling body weight.
The authors say, “For consumers, our findings support current recommendations that people be conscious of sweeteners added to their drinks and meals and not overindulge on high-fructose, processed foods.”
Jonathan Purnell, M.D., an associate professor of medicine (endocrinology, diabetes and clinical nutrition) in the OHSU School of Medicine explains, “With newer technologies such as functional MRI, we can examine how brain activity in humans reacts when exposed to, say, carbohydrates or fats. What we’ve found in this case is that the brain’s response to fructose is very different to the response to glucose, which is less likely to promote weight gain.”
To find out why fructose may be fueling obesity, the researchers conducted functional MRI imaging studies on nine normal weight study participants during intravenous infusion of fructose, glucose or a saline solution,
They focused on two areas of the brain – the hypothalmus and the cortical brain area that control response to the way food tastes, smells and to pictures of food that can influence eating behaviors through food advertisements and brain response.
The findings on brain imaging showed fructose and glucose did not affect the hypothalmus that regulates food intake – but fructose did inhibit activity in the cortical brain area that was not seen with glucose.
Dr, Purnell says, “This study provides evidence in humans that fructose and glucose elicits opposite responses in the brain. It supports the animal research that shows similar findings and links fructose with obesity.”
The new findings suggest high fructose corn syrup and other fructose products may be fueling the obesity epidemic in ways not previously understood, shown by functional MRI.
In determining one’s health, weight is never as critical as your body’s percent of fat. Body fat analyzers help you calculate and track your body composition, weight, and body fat percentage. Body fat analyzers are a must-have for people who are, or need to be, conscious about their weight and health.
Body fat analyzers are in high demand these days as the awareness of health risks associated with being overweight are continuously on the rise.
Body fat analyzer scales use the BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) technique. By sending a low, harmless electrical current through the body, body composition is measured. The electrical current freely passes through the fluids contained in muscle tissue but encounters resistance when it passes through fat tissue. This resistance of the fat tissue to the electrical current is called “bioelectrical impedance” and is accurately measured by body fat analyzer scales. When set against a person’s height and weight, the body fat analyzers can then compute body fat percentage.
Body fat percentage is the proportion of fat in a person’s body. Therefore, if someone weighs 150 pounds and is 10% fat,
this means this person has 15 pounds of fatty tissue on their body. Excess body fat has previously been determined by measuring weight against height, but body fat is not always visible and can only be measured with special equipment such as body fat analyzers; it cannot be measured using ordinary medical scales. It is generally accepted that men should have less than 18% total body fat and women 23% or less. However, experts suggest that an excess is not particularly hazardous to one’s health until an individual accumulates 35% and 40% total body fat respectively. Such fat percentages definitely constitute obesity and can have traumatic health effects. Obesity has been linked to hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, dyslipidemia, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, endometrial cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, respiratory problems, and other debilitating health conditions, not to mention the need for bariatric equipment and other special living accommodations.
Its one thing to use body fat analyzers to tell you how much fat is in your body, but initially it’s key to understand a few fat essentials. Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary defines fats in this way:
Fats serve as a source of energy. Subcutaneous fats form an insulating layer which prevents loss of heat. Fat acts to
support and protect certain organs such as the eyes and kidneys; provides a concentrated reserve of food; provides essential fatty acids necessary for normal growth and development; and is a vehicle for natural fat-soluble vitamins. In conjunction with carbohydrates, fats serve as protein sparers. They are in important constituent of cell structure, forming an integral part of the cell membrane.
Even though fats are essential to proper health, excess fat is not. Excess fat is produced when an excess intake of calories in the form of food or drink takes place. When the body is given more calories than necessary for standard maintenance and physical activity, this excess energy is stored in the form of body fat. The only way to lose this excess fat is to burn more calories than calories consumed. This usually means a change in lifestyle (i.e. exercise and diet regimen). The use of a body fat analyzer will keep you on track as you pursue a healthier lifestyle.
Severely obese people who received the LAP-BAND Adjustable Gastric Banding System to lose weight had a 72 percent reduction in their risk of dying compared to obese people who were not offered any specific weight-loss treatment, according to findings published in the December issue of the Annals of Surgery (1). The LAP-BAND System was approved in June 2001 by the U.S. Food %26amp; Drug Administration for weight reduction in severely obese adults.
“This research is critical because it shows that people with severe obesity, who are known to be at a much higher risk than the general population for dying prematurely, may be able to significantly decrease their risk with laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding,” explains Dr. Paul O’Brien, FRACS a study author from the Monash University Centre for Obesity Research and Education (CORE) in Melbourne, Australia, head of the Centre for Bariatric Surgery in Melbourne and the National Medical Director for the American Institute of Gastric Banding in Dallas, Texas. “What is also particularly compelling is that this study shows it is possible to gain a significant survival benefit without the risks associated with more invasive bariatric surgical procedures, such as gastric bypass.”
The study involved two groups of people who were between 37 and 70 years of age with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 kg/m2 or greater: A LAP-BAND System group, which included 966 patients (average age 47, average BMI 45 kg/m2) and a previously established population-based cohort of 2119 people who were not offered any specific weight-loss treatment (average age 55, average BMI 38 kg/m2). There were four deaths (heart disease, cancer(2) and suicide) in the LAP-BAND System group after a median follow-up of four years, vs. 225 deaths after a median follow-up of 12 years in the non-treated group. After statistically controlling for the differences in follow up time, sex, age and BMI, the hazard for death was 72 percent lower for LAP-BAND System patients compared to the non-treated group (hazard ratio for death: 0.28, 95% confidence interval: 0.10-0.85). LAP-BAND System patients lost an average of approximately 63 pounds 2 years after installation.
The very low death rate seen in the LAP-BAND System group, while good news, limited the study, making it difficult to precisely determine the magnitude of the effect of the procedure on improved survival. Also, there may have been unknown differences between the two groups that may have affected results. The new findings are consistent with those from other studies showing a reduced risk of death ( 30% to 89%) associated with the weight loss following other forms of bariatric surgery (2,3,4,5,6).
In the United States, obesity is considered the second leading cause of preventable death (7). Further, research has shown that individuals with a BMI of 35 or more have a reduced life expectancy of nine to 13 years (8). A BMI of 35 or more translates to a weight of 200 pounds or more for a woman of average height (5′ 4″) when ideal weight at this height is considered to be 140 pounds, and to a weight of 250 pounds or more for man who is six feet tall when ideal weight for this height is considered to be 177 pounds.
About the LAP-BAND System
The LAP-BAND System was approved by the FDA in June 2001 for severely obese adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more or for adults with a BMI of at least 35 plus at least one severe obesity-related health condition, such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Used in more than 300,000 procedures worldwide, this simple reversible surgically implanted device has safely helped severely obese adults successfully achieve and maintain long- term weight loss.
The LAP-BAND System was developed to facilitate long-term weight loss and reduce the health risks associated with severe and morbid obesity. Unlike gastric bypass, it does not involve stomach cutting, stapling or intestinal re-routing (9,10). Using laparoscopic surgical techniques, the device is placed around the top portion of the patient’s stomach, creating a small pouch. By reducing stomach capacity, the LAP-BAND System can help achieve long-term weight loss by creating an earlier feeling of satiety. The LAP-BAND System is adjustable, which means that the inflatable band can be tightened or loosened to help the patient achieve a level of satiety while maintaining a healthy diet. It is also reversible and can be removed at any time.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an easy fix to our weight loss problems in the United States? Recently the CDC released a report on the dramatic increase in obesity in the U.S. over the last 20 years. The states with the greatest prevalence of obesity (great than 30% of their population) are Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Only one state, Colorado, has less than 20% of their population who are considered obese.
For the millions of Americans who want to lose weight, but had to exercise and diet, the recently published study in the online journal Nature Chemical Biology might offer that “easy fix” to weight loss and healthy lifestyle.
Researchers at Indiana University published a study using rodents which shows great promise with the use of a single drug that suppressed appetite and increased metabolism. If future research in humans shows the same results, then indeed it could be the “easy fix for weight problems.”
The drug was given in a once a week injection. Within a week after receiving a single injection, the rodents’ body weight decreased by 25% which translates into a 42% reduction of fat mass.
Over time, the obese mice were noted to have obtained normalized weight and glucose tolerance. Reduction of body weight was achieved by a loss of body fat resulting from decreased food intake and increased energy expenditure.
Dr Richare DiMarchi states, “I’m excited. It is rodent work that’s representative of human obesity. What we’re doing is using the proven ability of two hormones to stop appetite and use more calories.”
The drug is a combination of two natural hormones (PEGylated peptides) which researchers say might one day be taken as a weekly injection. The peptides are the active ingredients in two medications already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — the diabetes drug Byetta, and Glucagon, which is used to control blood sugar.
Currently, there is no easy fix for weight loss in humans. It will be years before the drug is ready for human trials. For now, it is important to continue to use diet and exercise for a healthy weight.
The possibility of psychiatric side effects may be to blame for the demise of two diet drugs designed for obesity treatment. French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis said it’s stopping all research on Accomplia – a diet drug sold in Europe. Just a few hours later, Pfizer Inc. announced it’s ending research on an experimental weight-loss drug in the same class.
“Given that obesity and related complications are arguably the world’s biggest public health problem, the demise of both drugs will be a big disappointment for patients and doctors, and possibly for investors. The decisions leave New York-based Pfizer, the world’s top drugmaker by sales, and Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis, ranked No. 4, suddenly without drugs in a category all but guaranteed as a blockbuster.
“This will significantly affect the perception of their (future) revenues,” but the companies could overcome that with replacement drugs down the road, said analyst Steve Brozak of WBB Securities.
Just four years ago, scientists were touting obesity treatment drug Acomplia as a Holy Grail of medical research, saying it showed promise in helping people lose weight, control blood sugar and other aspects of diabetes, lower cholesterol, quit smoking and stop abusing alcohol, marijuana and cocaine.
Some researchers predicted that once Acomplia got approval for weight loss or smoking cessation, research would ramp up in those other areas. But that early promise didn’t materialize, it didn’t win approval for smoking cessation and problems began piling up as psychiatric side effects – now a huge red flag for regulators – emerged in various studies of Acomplia as a diet drug.
Sanofi-Aventis said in a brief statement it was stopping ongoing human testing of Acomplia, known chemically as rimonabant, for all uses, “in light of recent demands by certain national health authorities.”
Two weeks ago, Sanofi-Aventis temporarily stopped sales of Accomplia in Europe after reports that the drug’s risks – depression, anxiety and stress disorders – outweighed its benefits.
Pfizer and Sanofi-Aventis are not the only pharma companies that has recently canceled the same class of obesity drugs. Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) stopped development of a similar drug candidate called Taranabant a few weeks ago. Those companies all had high hopes the drug could be used for smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol along with obesity. According to Bloomberg, only Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE: BMY) is still developing a similar medicine.