Fitness versus fatness: which matters more?

Two U-M experts weigh in on what the evidence tells us

scale2There is a longstanding debate in the research community about the importance of fitness versus fatness in health. Are exercise and improving fitness more important than eating well and maintaining a healthy weight?

Some researchers argue fatness does not affect health as long as you are fit, which means your heart and lungs are strong. And national campaigns like Let’s Move are focused on exercise for health without a specific focus on weight loss.

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Fatty liver disease: What you need to know

Family history and obesity contributing factors in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Women Walking
Physical activity even without weight loss can reduce fat in the liver.

Some fat in the liver is normal, but for a large and growing group of people too much fat in the liver puts them at risk for a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

The rise in numbers of people with fatty liver disease is tied to the increase in obesity. It’s yet another reason to maintain a normal weight, but you don’t have to be obese to get it.

About 30 percent of adults and an increasing number of children now have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The abnormal accumulation of fat in their liver tissue can lead to inflammation, liver damage requiring liver transplant, cancer, and even death.

We are seeing that rates of fatty liver disease can differ by ancestry. Hispanics have higher rates of fatty liver disease than other groups.

The racial difference is unclear but part of the story may be genetic predisposition to developing the disease in combination with the right environmental triggers.

The general public may not be aware of their risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, but about a decade ago the medical community recognized it as a digestive health issue to watch.

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Volunteers are most important part of diabetes clinical research

Two out of three Americans are now overweight or obese—a controllable risk factor for diabetes and other diseases

Author Amy Rothberg is part of the Investigational Weight Management Clinic, diabetes1a clinical-research team that’s conducting a large Weight Management study to examine how best to help those who are obese reduce their weight and keep it off in an effort to minimize their risk of developing diabetes.

When it comes to diabetes clinical research, the majority of studies are related to exploring new drug treatments. The Weight Management study differs in that it’s also focused on the impact that lifestyle changes have on those who are obese, particularly in the effort to prevent them from developing diabetes.  In addition to lifestyle changes, we do look at options that, in some cases, include bariatric surgery and medications.  We understand that weight loss is not one-size-fits-all, and each person’s journey is unique.

Since 2010, we have enrolled more than 500 people in our study and have seen an almost 65% remission rate in Type 2 diabetes. Continue reading

A Consequence of Obesity: Increased Cancer Risk

The statistics are alarming and worth sharing: over the past 20 years the number of overweight and obese children and adults continues to climb.  Only 1/3 of people in the United States maintains a healthy body weight — that means 2/3 of the population is considered overweight or obese.

We should be concerned. Excess weight has multiple consequences including enhanced risk for developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke, among other conditions.

In fact, if you are a man and are obese, you have an increased risk of developing male breast cancer and cancers of the colon/rectum, prostate, pancreas, kidney, esophagus and others.

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 of every 3 cancers is related to excess body weight, poor nutrition or being inactive. If the rising trend in obesity continues, it’s predicted there will be 500,000 additional cases of cancer in the U.S. by 2030.

The National Cancer Institute says research reveals obesity and the development of cancer are linked together in a couple of different ways:

  • fat produces excess hormones (like estrogen and insulin) that encourages the growth of certain types of cancers
  • fat cells can affect cell growth regulation that may result in fostering  tumor growth
  • obesity can result in a chronic inflammation process which impacts the immune system function

Recently, HBO, in partnership with the Institute of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, the CDC and others released an online documentary titled “The Weight of the Nation”. Watching all or just a few of the videos will be time well spent. It’s a great way to learn more about obesity and get suggestions for ways to take action for yourself, your family or your community.

What action you’ve taken for targeting or staying at a healthy weight? Post your answer below.

Learn more about the risks of obesity and get tips on weight loss

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