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An ongoing series of informational entries

Are you obese or overweight?

February 28, 2017

Overweight and obese are labels for weight ranges. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), weights in these ranges are higher than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. Having a weight in one of these categories may increase your risk for certain diseases and health problems. The definitions of overweight and obese are different for adults than children.

Definitions for Adults - Weight ranges for adults are defined using Body Mass Index (BMI) — a number, usually between 15 and 40, calculated from a person's height and weight. The easiest way to determine your BMI is to use the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics online BMI calculator. A calculator will give you both your BMI and the weight category your BMI falls within.

Weight Ranges for Adults (BMI - Weight Category)

  • Below 18.5 - Underweight
  • 18.5 to 24.9 - Normal or healthy weight
  • 25.0 to 29.9 - Overweight
  • 30.0 and above - Obese

While most people associate BMI with body fat, it is not a measurement of body fat. This means that some people can have a BMI in the overweight range even though they do not have excess body fat, which is especially true for athletes.

Definitions for Children and Teens - For people ages 2 to 19, BMI is referred to as BMI-for-age and is determined using height, weight, age and gender. Body fat varies at different ages; boys and girls tend to have different amounts of body fat. BMI-for-age is given as a percentile that shows where a child's or teen's BMI falls in comparison to others of the same age and gender. Use CDC's BMI Calculator for Child and Teen. 

Weight Ranges for Children and Teens (BMI - Weight Category)

  • Less than 5th percentile - Underweight
  • 5th to 85th percentile - Normal or healthy weight
  • 85th to less than 95th percentile - Overweight
  • Equal to or greater than 95th percentile - Obese

As with adults, BMI-for-age may be used as a screening tool, not as a diagnostic test. A health care provider needs more information to determine if excess weight is a health problem. In addition to calculating BMI-for-age, a health care provider may ask about family health history, eating habits and the amount of physical activity your child gets. Additional assessments may include skin fold thickness measurements and lab tests for cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Overweight and Obese as Stereotypes

While the terms overweight and obese have precise definitions as noted above, these labels take on other meanings in our weight-obsessed society. Often, overweight and obese people are stereotyped, even enduring unfair treatment because of their weight. Larger children often are the target of weight-related bullying by other children and adults. Overweight and obese are terms that refer only to a general estimate of an individual's body weight. They do not in any way reflect on a person's competence, self-discipline, drive or ability to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Do sugar make kids hyperactive?

February 28, 2017

Round up a group of kids for a party, ply them with cake and soda and before you know it they’ll be bouncing off the walls, right? Not exactly. While many parents swear that sugar makes their kids hyperactive, a substantial body of research shows there’s no link between the two.

The Sweet Truth

The sugar-hyperactivity myth is based on a single study from the mid 1970's in which a doctor removed the sugar from one child's diet and that child's behavior improved. Since then, over a dozen larger studies have been conducted and not one of them has found that sugar causes hyperactivity. Interestingly enough, researchers have found that parents are more likely to say that their kids are overly active when they think they've consumed sugar. In one study, parents were asked to rate their child's hyperactivity after consuming a drink with sugar. Unknown to the parents, the drink was sugar-free, but the parents still rated their child as more hyperactive.

Guilty By Association?

You may think that your child is acting out during his or her birthday party because of the sweet snacks being consumed, but actually your child may be wired up because of the excitement of playing games and being with friends. Experts say you should take stock of your child's environment before blaming sweets for hyperactivity or bad behavior. Some studies even say that sugar may actually have a calming effect because it produces a chemical called serotonin which contributes to a feeling of well-being.

Get Sugar Savvy

Hyperactivity aside, there is another reason you should be concerned with the amount of sugar your child eats. When kids fill up on sugar-sweetened foods they have little appetite for healthier foods their growing bodies need, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. While you don't need to restrict the sweet stuff entirely (a little teaches balance and moderation), you can offer it strategically. For example, instead of cookies and milk, try a banana and a glass of low-fat chocolate milk. Or top a small bowl of ice cream or frozen yogurt with fresh berries. That way, everyone gets their just desserts – and a side of nutrition, too.

Diabetes Who is at risk?

February 28, 2017

It's estimated that 84 million Americans (greater than 1 in 3) have prediabetes — a condition that raises the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Also referred to as impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance, prediabetes occurs when your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are higher than the normal range but not high enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

If left untreated, prediabetes may develop into Type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, changes in lifestyle — such as managing food choices and increasing physical activity — can help return blood glucose levels to normal.

What Are the Risk Factors?

A direct cause for prediabetes has not been determined, but excess body fat, especially in the abdomen, and inactivity are two key factors. There are few symptoms associated with the onset of prediabetes.

You are at higher risk if:

You are 45 years old or older and have an overweight body mass index; or

You are younger than 45 years old and have an overweight BMI with a history of inactivity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or have a family member with diabetes.

What Does a Diagnosis Mean?

With prediabetes, your body may be producing less insulin, your insulin sensitivity may be decreasing, or a combination of both. Insulin regulates the level of blood glucose helping your body turn carbohydrates into energy. Having high blood glucose puts you at risk for developing some long-term effects associated with diabetes such as blindness, damage to nerves and kidneys, and circulatory system problems.

Managing Prediabetes

The CDC-recognized National Diabetes Prevention Program has helped many people make healthy lifestyle changes to reverse prediabetes and prevent Type 2 diabetes. Consider finding a program near you. Everyone with prediabetes can slow the disease progression by following these strategies:

Exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. Start by walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Eat a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein foods and calcium-rich foods.

Work with a registered dietitian nutritionist to help you make lasting healthy habits.

A Healthy Meal Plan

Following a balanced diet and eating meals at consistent times can help with blood glucose control. Glucose comes primarily from the foods that we eat, specifically carbohydrates — and it’s not just sweets. While all carbohydrate-containing foods affect your blood glucose levels, they also play an important role in your overall health by providing energy for your daily activities. You do not need to cut carbohydrates out of your diet!

When putting together a meal plan, include a variety of the following foods:

Grains – whole-grain pasta, breads and cereals, and brown rice

Vegetables – spinach, romaine, tomatoes and other colorful vegetables

Protein – lean meat, chicken, fish, lentils, beans, tofu and tempeh

Dairy – low-fat or fat-free yogurt, low-fat or fat-free milk, and fortified soy milk

Fats – avocado, walnuts, olive oil

Protein vs Carbohydrates

February 28, 2017

Which is better fuel for spinning class — protein or carbohydrates? Should you consume a sports drink on a long run? Is it safe to eat before a workout? Listen to locker room talk at the gym and you'll hear lots of conflicting tips about what you should eat and drink before and after you work out. These answers to five common questions about fueling your workout sort fact from fiction.

Will Protein Make My Muscles Grow?

Protein is an important part of a balanced diet, but eating more protein will not magically make you stronger. The only way to grow muscles is to put them to work, and eat enough calories to build mass. Most people can get enough protein from food alone and do not need a supplement.

Carbohydrates are the major fuel for muscles and an athlete's diet should consist of mostly carbohydrate. The body converts carbohydrate to glycogen, which is stored in your muscles to power your workout.

Do Sports Drinks, Gels and Energy Bites Live Up to the Hype?

There's nothing special about the many sports drinks, gels and energy bites on the market. But it is important to replace lost fluids as well as provide carbohydrates to maintain blood glucose levels while working out for longer than one hour.

For some athletes, eating solid food in the middle of a workout can cause digestive upset. In these cases, easily consumed sports gels, chews or drinks may help. Food and fluid intake around workouts should be determined on an individual basis with consideration for an athlete's gastrointestinal tract tolerance, as well as duration and intensity of the workout.

Is It Best to Work Out on an Empty Stomach?

Your body needs fuel to function, especially if you're asking it to run, jump, swim or lift weights. Don't skip breakfast before a morning workout. Eating before exercise, as opposed to exercising in the fasted state, has been shown to improve exercise performance.

Eating in the morning helps replenish liver glycogen and steadies blood sugar levels. If it's hard to stomach solid food first thing in the morning, try a fruit smoothie, or a liquid meal supplement, and don't forget to hydrate before you exercise.

Regular Exercise Means I Can Eat What I Want and Not Gain Weight, Right?

Wrong. Working out isn't license to abandon portion sizes and healthy eating guidelines. It's easy to overestimate the amount of calories you burn while working out.

You should adjust your calorie intake if you're engaging in serious training, such as for a triathlon, where you might be working out more than once a day. Recovery nutrition is necessary if you are an athlete participating in strenuous activity, especially if you are participating in multiple events in the same day. For the casual exerciser working out for an hour or less, a healthy balanced diet will work just fine.

Is Chocolate Milk Really an Athlete's Best Friend?

Because of its favorable carbohydrate and protein content, chocolate milk is indeed an effective recovery aid, but it's not your only choice. Replacing fluid lost during a workout should be first priority. Plain water and water-rich foods such as fruit are good choices. Be sure to eat a balanced meal within a couple hours of working out to help muscles recover. For strenuous workouts, carbohydrate should be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing the workout. This can be done with a sports drink or a carbohydrate-rich snack such as a fruit smoothie.

Fad diets

February 28, 2017

With all the focus on weight in our society, it isn't surprising that millions of people fall prey to fad diets and bogus weight-loss products. Conflicting claims, testimonials and hype by so-called "experts" can confuse even the most informed consumers. The bottom line is simple: If a diet or product sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

There are no foods or pills that magically burn fat. No super foods will alter your genetic code. No products will miraculously melt fat while you watch TV or sleep. Some ingredients in supplements and herbal products can be dangerous and even deadly for some people.

Steer clear of any diet plans, pills and products that make the following claims:

Rapid Weight Loss

Slow, steady weight loss is more likely to last than dramatic weight changes. Healthy plans aim for a loss of no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you lose weight quickly, you'll lose muscle, bone and water. You also will be more likely to regain the pounds quickly.

Quantities and Limitations

Ditch diets that allow unlimited quantities of any food, such as grapefruit and cabbage soup. It's boring to eat the same thing over and over and hard to stick with monotonous plans. Avoid any diet that eliminates or severely restricts entire food groups, such as carbohydrates. Even if you take a multivitamin, you'll still miss some critical nutrients.

Specific Food Combinations

There is no evidence that combining certain foods or eating foods at specific times of day will help with weight loss. Eating the "wrong" combinations of food doesn't cause them to turn to fat immediately or to produce toxins in your intestines, as some plans claim.

Rigid Menus

Life is already complicated enough. Limiting food choices or following rigid meal plans can be an overwhelming, distasteful task. With any new diet, always ask yourself: "Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?" If the answer is no, the plan is not for you.

No Need to Exercise

Regular physical activity is essential for good health and healthy weight management. The key to success is to find physical activities that you enjoy and then aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days of the week.

If you want to maintain a healthy weight, build muscle and lose fat, the best path is a lifelong combination of eating smarter and moving more.

Blogs and News

Diabetes is a growing problem.

November 17, 2016

According to a study by Economist, "EVERY six seconds a person somewhere in the world dies as a consequence of diabetes, according to estimates by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). In 2015, 5m lives were lost to the disease, more than were claimed by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Moreover, the toll is rising faster than forecasters have expected. Nearly half of these deaths are among people younger than 60." 

"The rise of diabetes has been misjudged repeatedly. In 1995 the World Health Organisation estimated that 135m 20- to 79-year-olds had diabetes, and that this figure would more than double in three decades. But reality outpaced this stark projection by a huge margin: just twelve years later the number of people with diabetes had already nearly doubled. Since then, the rise of diabetes has been so steep that prevalence closed in on projections even faster. In 2015, the estimated global prevalence had reached 8.8%, nearly double that in 1995. By 2040, the IDF reckons that a tenth of humanity will have the condition. Already, diabetes gobbles up 12% of health spending globally; in some countries, the share is as much as a fifth."

"Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are increasing rapidly. The factors contributing to type 2 are well known; poor diets, urbanisation and low physical activity increase susceptibility. It is no surprise that type 2 accounts for 90% of cases in high-income countries. But type 1 diabetes, which is fatal unless treated with daily insulin medication, is also rising at about 3% a year."