Friday, November 28, 2008

New center to tackle obesity epidemic

Chicago Tribune
By Deborah L. Shelton Tribune reporter
Health professionals fear life expectancy may fall for 1st time
a major initiative aimed at addressing a local and national health epidemic, Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine recently opened a center to research the causes of obesity and find new ways to treat it.The Northwestern Comprehensive Center on Obesity will focus on treatment, research, education and advocacy, officials said.More than one-third of U.S. adults and about 17 percent of children and adolescents have a body-mass index that qualifies them as obese, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A high body-mass index indicates a weight greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height.Some health professionals fear that so many adults and children are becoming obese that life expectancy could fall for the first time in the nation's history. Obesity has been tied to a wide range of health problems, including type II diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, breast and colon cancer and possibly Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
"This is the major epi- demic of our time," said Dr. Lewis Landsberg, founder and director of the center. "Obesity and its complications threaten to replace smoking-related diseases as the pre-eminent health problem that we face."Obesity has root causes that are evolutionary, biological, psychological, sociological, economic and political, Landsberg said."We recognize there are metabolic differences between those who are obese and those who are lean," he said. "It's not just gluttony and sloth, despite what people think. What maintains the weight of one person will cause somebody else to gain weight, independent of activity."One mission of the new center, which is in the new Center for Lifestyle Medicine in the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, is to combat stigma by educating medical students, physicians and the public.One program targets obesity and weight gain during pregnancy, a critical time for excessive weight gain and developing complications as a result, said Dr. Robert Kushner, director of clinical care for the new center and co-director of its obesity and pregnancy program.The idea that pregnant women can eat anything and as much as they want is faulty, he said."Currently, there has been very little focus on restricting weight gain in women who are pregnant or on counseling women who are overweight and about to become pregnant," Kushner said.Women who pack on too many pounds during pregnancy increase their risk of developing high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. They also are more likely to have a Cesarean delivery.In 2007, almost half of the women the whole article
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