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This Year’s Top Obesity Science

Posted Dec 12 2008 1:17pm

by Gabrielle Grode

In a recent issue of TIME magazine, the editors presented their annual alphabetical roundup of significant science in the article “The Year in Medicine: From A to Z.” Out of 32 entries (yes, there are 26 letters in the alphabet, but some letters were omitted and others had multiple entries), five related to food and obesity. The only subject mentioned more often was sexuality (big surprise!), with eight entries ranging from the difference between heterosexual and homosexual brains to the side effects of the HPV vaccine to the link between television viewing and teen pregnancy. Tobacco, once a leading public health concern, only received two entries. As a proxy for national interest, this article shows that obesity is certainly getting the attention it deserves. 

The obesity science covered includes:

  • a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine which found that nine month olds in day care gain 0.4 lbs more than those who are cared for at home during a nine-month period.
  • the JAMA study which showed that after three decades of increasing childhood obesity rates, the prevalence of overweight and obese children hit a plateau at 32%. In the same entry, a second study was described in which researchers found that Amish carriers of a fattening variant of the FTO gene (associated with obesity) were able to ward off obesity with additional physical activity.
  • an intervention in which obese girls who read a novel featuring an overweight teen who adopts a healthy lifestyle lost more weight than girls who read books without an overweight protagonist or those who read no book at all.
  • the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation to test cholesterol among children as young as two whose families have a history of elevated cholesterol.
  • China’s focus on funding research on genetically modified crops to better feed its population, even amidst concerns of its outdated food inspection system.

I’m sure you all can think of other research worthy of being on a “top ten” list. What obesity research do you think TIME magazine should have included? While you’re thinking about the major science that was published this year, think too about how we can make obesity as interesting as sexuality. Is it possible? The more attention and awareness we can bring to obesity and the complex set of factors that cause it, the better our chances are to make real change. 

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