Report from Obesity Week, 4 November


My first session at Obesity Week, which started in earnest today, was track 4 (Population Health) called Timing is everything: Temporal shifts in obesity etiology and disparities. Chairs were Steven Gortmaker and Claudia Nau. I learned a lot here, and, for once, there were quite a few positive news being presented. Below is a brief summary of each talk and some take home messages.

Liping Pan talked about ethnic differences in obesity prevalence in preschool children. Trends were stable or down in white, black, hispanic, and Asian/Pacific islanders, but there was a marked increase in American Indian/Alaskan native children between 1998-2011, but this group also experienced a slowing down in the upward trend 2001-2011. The slowing down of obesity in pre-schoolers is possibly an effect of obesity prevention programs. The rapid increase in obesity for Alaskan Indians may be an effect of low SES and a rapid nutrition transition. At the end, Barry Popkin commented that even more recent data shows a slight increase in obesity for pre-schoolers, however.

Sandra Albrecht talked about the BMI and diabetes association trends (NHANES data). She found increases in BMI and WC, but there were greater WC increases than BMI, ie a re-shaping of the body towards more abdominal obesity. There was more diabetes in the higher BMI categories in recent years (2007-2012) than earlier (1998-2004), as an indication of these changes towards more abdominal obesity.

Anna Peeters: Duration of obesity over time (NHANES data 1960-2010). There was a sharp increase in obesity duration (more than 10 years of obesity and 20 years of obesity) in men and women from 2000 and onwards, which is likely to lead to increase in obesity-related complications in the future. The main thing to consider here is the area under the curve (obesity*duration), which fuels the obesity-related complications, like heard disease and disability.

Elyse Powell: Added sugars trends in US children and adults from 1977-2010. Five separate food surveys were used in the analyses. There was a clear increase in added sugars for children between 1977-2003, but thankfully a decline between 2003-2010 particularly for beverages. There was also a decline for adults in consumption of added sugars during 2003-2010. There are, however, extremes of added sugar intakes, ie a very skew distribution of added sugar intake, with some people consuming quite extreme amounts. Despite these general recent reductions in added sugars, the current levels are way over what is recommended and they need to come down.

Shu Wen Ng: Did the great recession (2007-2009) widen the disparities in nutrients obtained from packaged foods? Data from food scanners (bar codes) were used. When unemployment rose as a result of the recession, the intake of sugars increased, as did saturated fat and sodium from pre-packaged foods.

Julia (?) Attard: Data from the China health and nutrition survey 1991-2009. There were large increases in urbanization and income during this time period, as well as BMI in Chinese adults. There was more animal protein intake and less PA in 2009 than earlier. Men had a fairly linear increase in BMI from all three time points whereas women increased only between 1991-2000, but were stable between 2000-2009. Using structural equation modelling, urbanization was found to be the main driver behind the more western lifestyles and BMI increases.