Research Roundup: What We Learned at ObesityWeek 2015 – Part 3

ObesityWeek is an event that brings the leading experts in the field of obesity together to share their innovations and breakthroughs in their work. This educational experience provides an opportunity to ignite numerous conversations and ideas about the disease of obesity, and many discoveries are shared throughout the week-long conference.

We learned quite a bit during our time at the event, and we’ve rounded up some of our most interesting finds from ObesityWeek 2015 to share with you. Here’s what we discovered:

Building healthy habits can be tough, but it’s important for your health to understand your body and how to take care of it. Research presented throughout ObesityWeek tackled this issue, exploring topics such as “food cues,” weight-loss apps and more:

Certain Words Can Act As a “Food Cue,” and Entice Us to Eat High-Calorie Foods

What is a “food cue”? It’s an internal or external environmental factor that can influence a person’s desire to eat. There are many different forms of food cues, such as feelings, pictures, tastes, scents, and even words that can cause a food cue to occur. In this new research study, researchers found that the brain’s responses to written “food words” differs between lean individuals and those with obesity, and the findings suggest that both stress and genetics could influence excess eating.

“Our study found that individuals with obesity had a stronger response to words associated with high-calorie foods – such as chocolate spread and chicken wings – in a widespread neural circuit spanning multiple areas of the brain,” said Dr. Susan Carnell, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

CLICK HERE to read the press release about the study.

Used Alone, Weight-loss Apps Might Not Help Young Adults with Excess Weight

Young adults won’t lose weight just by putting a fitness app on their smartphones, and a study published in the Obesity journal on November 4 has the research to prove it. The study targeted individuals aged 18 to 35 who were affected by excess weight and obesity. One group used an Android app to help in their weight-loss goals, and another group received simple paper handouts about exercise and nutrition. Finally, a third group received personal coaching from a weight-loss coach.

The results showed there was no indication that the Android app or a personal coach was any more effective than receiving and reading paper handouts about weight-loss.

“Thirty-five percent of this age-group is affected by excess weight or obesity, and that’s a huge public health problem,” said Laura P. Svetkey, M.D., the study’s lead author and professor of medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine. “We thought that because this is an age group that is most engaged in technology, it might be possible to intervene and prevent future problems like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes while they are still developing their lifestyle habits.”

CLICK HERE to read the press release about the study.

Looking Into What Individuals of a Healthy Weight Eat for Breakfast May Provide Guidance

While most research presented at ObesityWeek were studies focusing on individuals affected by excess weight or obesity, a study out of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab decided to take a different approach.

The “Slim by Design” research team created an online registry to survey individuals of a healthy weight about their breakfast eating habits. The results found that most of these individuals are in fact eating breakfast, and they’re consuming a variety of foods as well.

“One important take away from this study is that a very high rate of slim people actually eat breakfast instead of skipping, which is consistent with previous research on the importance of breakfast,” said Anna-Leena Vuorinen, the lead author of the study. “But what stands out is that they not only ate breakfast, but that they ate healthful foods like fruits and vegetables. Also, egg consumption was higher than we expected.”

CLICK HERE to read the press release about the study.

To view a full-res version of the infographic created in conjunction with this study, CLICK HERE.

Junk Food and Soda Are Not to Blame for the Obesity Epidemic

In another study conducted by the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, researchers discovered that soda, candy and fast food consumption had no correlation to body mass index (BMI) for most individuals studied. The researchers reexamined national data from 2007-08 that described people’s food habits based on their BMI, and found that individuals indulging in junk food who were categorized as being at a healthy weight and that individuals with obesity consumed nearly identical amounts on average.

The research team said while previous studies conducted showed a connection between junk foods and an individual’s weight, these studies highlighted what happens for individuals who are classified as highly underweight, and those who are affected by severe obesity. For the remaining 95 percent of the population however, eating junk food showed little difference between the habits of those at a healthy weight and those with excess weight.

“If you want to try and prevent obesity, or want to create policy that is going to help people, simply addressing the availability of junk foods and sodas isn’t going to do it,” says David Just, one of the lead researchers for this study. “This isn’t the difference between (individuals with obesity and individuals in the healthy BMI range.) It’s other things.”

CLICK HERE to read the press release about the study.

To view an infographic and video created in conjunction with this study, CLICK HERE.

Simply Standing for a Portion of the Day May Lead to Positive Health Benefits

Exercise is important, and it’s also important to make sure sedentary behaviors, such as watching TV or sitting at a computer, are kept to a minimum. New research from the American Cancer Society has found that even just standing for at least one-quarter of the day may be connected to lower odds of obesity.

The research found that among men, standing for a quarter of the time was linked to a 32 percent reduced likelihood of obesity, and in women that number was 35 percent. These findings show that standing may be more beneficial than we realized, but the study team cautions that their results should be interpreted in the context of the study’s limitations. It’s still unclear whether less standing leads to more obesity, or whether in fact individuals with obesity are standing less.

CLICK HERE to read the press release about the study.

Want to get on the right track for your weight and your health? CLICK HERE to check out the Your Weight Matters Challenge today, and take the first step in starting a conversation with your doctor about your weight and what steps you can take to start healthy habits today.

Missed the rest of our research roundup? Visit the links below to read more about what we learned during ObesityWeek 2015:

Part 1: Weight Bias, Stigma and Access to Care

Part 2: Bariatric Surgery

Part 4: Obesity and Science



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