Kiwis taxing fizzy drinks

That title makes very little sense out of context, amiright? Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand are recommending a tax on sugary beverages. (Full nerdy article here.) Their study found that consumers of sugary beverages (aka, “fizzy drinks”) are more likely to make other unhealthy food choices, including not reading food labels. The implication, they say, is that allowing people to make their own—more informed—choices through better labeling of sugary drinks can never work because those people are less likely to read the improved labels. In the immortal words of Homer J. Simpson, Doh! Researchers point to the UK as an example where taking the decision away from consumers and, instead, implementing a sugary beverage tax has resulted in drink manufacturers reducing the sugar content in products, removing any need for the consumer to be informed or make a healthy decision. Ahhh, the old personal rights and responsibilities vs. seemingly-obvious thing to do dilemma.

Sweatin’ to the Chili Peppers

What do you get when you cross the Red Hot Chili Peppers with Richard Simmons? Well, you get the potential for an anti-obesity drug. Researchers at the University of Wyoming School of Pharmacy have studied a new oral drug (Metabocin) based on capsaicin—the compound that gives chili peppers their spicy burn— that caused long-term weight loss and improved metabolic health in mice eating a high-fat diet. Yep, the studies are in the preclinical phase, but so far they’ve found success targeting receptors called TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid subfamily 1) that are found in high numbers in fat cells. Can’t one simply ingest a bottle of Tabasco and lose weight? Nope, the capsaicin was modified for proper absorption and sustained release. Ok, second chance, you know you want to click on the Richard Simmons link.

I’m just big-boned

Results from a study published in the journal Obesity indicate that overweight and obese people in the UK are getting worse at estimating their actual weight. Men, lower income, and lower education folks are particularly bad at it. The authors posit that it may have something to do with the cultural push to normalize larger body types and lower the stigma associated with culturally less attractive body types. But the decreased stigma, they suggest, is having an unintended consequence. Those who underestimate their weight are 85% less likely to try to lose weight than those who correctly estimate their weight. This begs a difficult question: Can people simultaneously not feel bad about being overweight and also be motivated to attain a healthier body? Here are 24 other Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey. You’re welcome.

InsightCity uses the F word

Obese, that F word. It’s not news that the United States and others have an obesity problem. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics found “a positive linear trend for all definitions of overweight and obesity among children 2-19 years old.” In fact, 40% of 16-19-year-olds and 15% of 2-5-year-olds in the U.S. are obese, the study finds. This runs counter, they say, to other reports that claim obesity rates are stabilizing or declining. The researchers posit that wide-spread availability of nutritional crap (InsightCity’s words, not the researchers’) is outpacing any effects of heightened awareness from national campaigns such as those run by the NFL (Play 60), Michelle Obama (Let’s Move), and others. Medicine can’t be our only hope…can it?

Precision medicine + diabetes

Time to break down diabetes into more subtypes than the amount of Wilford Brimley parodies there are on YouTube. Ok that might be an exaggeration because there are a TON, but Swedish & Finnish researchers are making an argument that we should probably have more than just the current two subtypes. They propose keeping Type 1 as its own thing, but expanding Type 2 into four clusters that are more descriptive of their causes. The basic breakdown is: Cluster 1, severe autoimmune (the former Type 1;) Cluster 2, severe insulin-deficiency; Cluster 3, severe insulin-resistant; Cluster 4, mild obesity-related; and Cluster 5, mild age-related. According to researcher Leif Groop, this is “a real step towards precision medicine. In the ideal scenario, this is applied at diagnosis and we target treatment better.” Increasingly patient-centric approaches will always get a thumbs-up from us.

The dia-tarian diet

Two options: honey lemon chicken or marinated tofu. I know, I know that’s not a tough choice and face it, even vegans would choose the chicken if they could. But for the 150 million+ diabetics worldwide, tofu and cooked millet may become your new favorite meal. OK, so the favorite part may be an exaggeration, but hey, if a vegetarian diet can increase weight loss and improve your metabolism then it’s worth a shot, or a taste. Yep, according a new study this veggie diet beat out the conventional diabetic diet on both counts, just not the taste category. Of course with diabetes prevalence expected to double by 2025 and with one-third of the world now considered overweight, we may want to consider rewiring our taste buds.