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belly-fatObesity continues to be one of the greatest health challenges in the United States. More than a third of all adults are overweight or obese, and roughly the same goes for our children and teens. If we keep heading in the same direction the impact on our national health could be devastating, which is why experts continue to examine the cause and effect of carrying excess weight in the hope of finding a solution. Here are two new obesity studies making headlines:

Obesity Shortens Life Expectancy
Scientists in Canada recently determined that being obese can take years off your life—and the younger you are obese, the worse off you may be. Using data gathered from national health survey results, a team of researchers developed a computer model to project disease outcomes in overweight and obese adults (compared with those of normal weight) between the ages of 20 and 79.

They focused in particular on heart disease and diabetes and found that obesity is associated with a higher risk of both, which significantly reduces not just life expectancy but the years of “healthy life” an individual should have. Those who were overweight (with a BMI of 25) lost between 0 to 3 years, while obese people (BMI 30+) lost 1 to 6 years and the severely obese (BMI 35+) saw their life expectancy decreased by 1 to 8 years. Not only that, but the long-term effects were more severe in younger overweight and obese people.

Experts Urge Policies to Reduce Childhood Obesity
Focusing on childhood obesity in particular, results of a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine offer specific interventions for reducing obesity among children and adolescents. Of the 26 recommended policies examined, three were chosen based on projected effectiveness: after-school activity programs; an excise tax on sodas and sugary beverages (which, in turn, would channel money toward obesity prevention programs); and a ban on fast food ads aimed at children. Experts determined that all three policies, if put into action, would reduce childhood obesity prevalence in America by 2032.

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button-pantsOne holiday party too many and before you know it, things start to feel a little snug around your waistline. Sound familiar? This year, promise yourself you will beat the holiday bulge with three smart, simple habits that will help you stay satisfied, boost your metabolism and keep those unwanted pounds from sneaking up on you.

  1. Load Up on Protein to Curb Cravings
    Eating plenty of protein will help you stay satisfied throughout the day and reduce those sneaky holiday cravings. Aim for 12 portions of protein daily from sources such as poultry, meat and seafood as well as dairy, eggs, tofu, tempeh and nuts. And don’t forget breakfast! Researchers from the University of Missouri recently found that eating a high-protein breakfast helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and control cravings (especially for sweets) later in the day. Higher amounts of protein were directly linked to fewer post-meal spikes in blood sugar and associated with healthy weight management and a reduced risk of developing diabetes.
  2. Get Plenty of Sleep to Boost Metabolism
    No matter how hectic your holiday schedule, sleep is something you simply can’t go without—especially if you want to avoid packing on the pounds! The connection between sleep and weight loss has to do with two important hormones: leptin (which tells the body you are full and it is time to stop eating) and ghrelin (which signals hunger). When you are sleep deprived, leptin levels decrease and ghrelin levels increase, causing you to eat more. Getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night can help maintain a healthy metabolism and promote successful weight management.
  3. Eat More Probiotic Foods to Support Weight Loss
    In addition to their role in supporting digestive and immune health, several recent studies have found a link between probiotic gut bacteria and weight loss. Basically, each of us has a unique balance of bacteria in the gut that either protects us and keeps us healthy or leaves us susceptible to disease. That same balance can either contribute to weight gain or to weight loss. When your gut bacteria are out of balance, you gain weight. Conversely, when you balance your gut by eating the right foods (and avoiding the wrong foods) you lose weight. Probiotics can be obtained through the diet by eating yogurt, kefir and other fermented foods.

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