Magical Medical Tour: DIABESITY

Glenn Wollman

One quarter of what you eat keeps you alive. The other three-quarters keeps your doctor alive
 (Hieroglyph found in an ancient Egyptian tomb)

In the past, they knew it. Yet thousands of years later we still don’t get it. We are seeing an increase in diabetes and obesity all over the globe. The World Diabetes Foundation and The World Health Organization have recognized that since 1985 over 200 million people worldwide have developed diabetes.

I recently attended a conference for primary care physicians. These doctors are treating the general public for the common diseases of the modern world. There seemed to be a common theme. Yes, genetics and socio-economics play a part. But mostly we are treating the effects of bad patterns of behavior. I was somewhat saddened by the number of health care practitioners who were overweight.

If you are an overweight parent, then this blog is not for you. Well, technically it is but it really is for and about your children. Obesity appears to be integrally related to many of the conditions/diseases being treated today. Foods, diets and patterns of behavior related to food ingestion seem to impact every system and cell in our bodies.

It has moved into the national consciousness. The First Lady, Michelle Obama, has taken on the cause of childhood obesity and proper nutrition. In the July 13th issue of JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association), the point is being made for state intervention in life-threatening childhood obesity, and they are calling for laws to take children away from their parents because it could be considered a form of child abuse.

This is an opportunity to consider helping your family and the health of all people. We know it is easier to prevent weight gain than it is to healthfully remove excess weight. However, if your child is already overweight, there is still a lot you can do: healthy snacks, health awareness, encouraging appropriate patterns. You may need some assistance from others who are experienced and knowledgeable regarding the best, safest and healthiest methods.

Take a pro-active responsibility. Otherwise the odds increase that your children will be receiving treatments for potentially preventable conditions/diseases by the primary care physicians of the future.

Let us change the twenty-first century Hieroglyph.

Stay tuned for the next blog covering other aspects of my Magical Medical Tour:

* Diabesity
* Quid quid latine dictum sit altum viditur
* Mind. Your Own Business

  • Glenn’s latest CD, Sleep Suite, is now available online. For questions or to visit Dr. Glenn Wollman’s web site, connect with him through YogaHub.
  • [tags]diabetes, obesity, The World Diabetes Foundation, The World Health Organization, JAMA, life-threatening childhood obesity, obesity children[/tags]

    Author: Glenn Wollman

    Glenn Wollman, MD, has always been at the leading edge of medicine. He helped pioneer the specialty of Emergency Medicine and, at the same time, also developed and ran one of the first hospital-based Integrative Medicine programs in the Unitied…

    3 Responses to “Magical Medical Tour: DIABESITY”

    1. Gary Winston says:

      When it comes to obesity and associated diabetes we may experience influences that are beyond our control. A growing body of evidence has indicated that exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs; hormone-mimicking pollutants) in the environment can act on genes in developing fetuses and neonates to convert precursor cells into fat cells, which can remain for life. EDCs may also alter the metabolic rate causing the body to store calories instead of using them. Being overweight may involve more than just what one eats in concert with inactivity.
      Baillie-Hamilton (2002) noted that obesity rates had increased with increasing use of chemicals, e.g. pesticides and plasticizers over the previous 40 years. Obviously this doesn’t in any way establish a cause and effect relationship. The suggestion of a link between synthetic chemicals and obesity did however alert a few scientists. Heindel (2003) noted many of the pesticides and plasticizers mentioned in the Baillie-Hamilton paper focused on weight loss, a toxic effect. Chemicals that caused weight gain were ignored. Heindel noted that some chemicals caused weight gain at low doses to which fetuses and neonates are likely to be exposed. Low levels of bisphenol A, a plasticizer used in polycarbonate baby bottles, converted pre-connective tissue cells to adipocytes, precursors of fat cells. And that’s what the Japanese team found bisphenol A, and some other industrial compounds, pushed prefibroblasts to become fat cells. Bisphenol A also caused proliferation of existing fat cells.
      Blumberg (2006) fed pregnant mice tributyltin (TBT; a classical EDC), a fungicide used in marine paints and plastics, and other products, which enter the food chain in seafood and drinking water. The offspring were born more fat cells, and became 5 to 20 % fatter by the time they were adults. Genetic tests showed that TBT activates a “switch” that either allows cells to stay as connective tissue cells, or directs them to become fat cells. The effect was so reliable that Blumberg coined the term obesogens. Phthalates, found in vinyl plastics, such as plastic food wrap, bisphenol A, and perfluoroalkyl compounds used in nonstick cooking surfaces also act the same, biochemically.
      Within a year of Blumberg’s groundbreaking work, it became clear that altering cells’ fate isn’t the only way obesogens can act, and that exotic pollutants aren’t the only potential obesogens. In 2008 Newbold et al., began feeding newborn rats genistein, an estrogen-like compound found in soy, at doses like those in soy milk and formula. By the age of 3 or 4 months, the rats had higher stores of fat and a noticeable increase in body weight. Importantly, the mice fed genistein did not eat significantly more indicating that the genistein affected the body’s metabolic rate. Blumberg asserted that an important message of obesogens research is that prenatal exposure reprograms metabolism in a way that predisposes one to become fat.
      Again, I wish to emphasize that in all cases these studies don’t prove causation in humans but they do support the findings in experimental animals. We toxicologists like to say, “absence of proof does not constitute proof of absence.”
      Literature cited:
      Baillie-Hamilton PF (2002) J. Alternative and Complement. Med. 2002, 8:185-192.
      Heindel JJ (2003) Endocrine Disruptors and the Obesity Epidemic. Toxicol. Sci. 76: 247-249.
      Grün F & Blumberg B (2006). Environmental Obesogens: Organotins and Endocrine Disruption via Nuclear Receptor Signaling. Endocrinology 147: s50–s55.
      Newbold RR, Padilla-Banks E, Jefferson WN, Heindel JJ. (2008) Effects of endocrine disruptors on obesity. Int J Androl. 3:201–208.

    2. Thank you,Dr. Gary Winston, for your scientific and insightful response. It is good to hear from those working in the Science world to get information not always readily available.
      Your response points out the importance of awareness of the environment and the consequences for future generations.
      the science is also becoming more evident to show that genes may have on/off switches. Does this concept apply with the EDC’s?
      Thank you again and I look forward to your response.
      Glenn Wollman

    3. Gary Winston says:

      Hi Dr. Wollman,

      You note that,”the science is also becoming more evident to show that genes may have on/off switches.” And then you ask, “Does this concept apply with the EDC’s?”

      First let me say that the list of potential EDCs is very close to 1000 – many of these are naturally occurring in food. In fact there are so many chemicals that in the laboratory appear to be hormonally active. The US EPA has been challenged to come up with rapid screening techniques. Interestingly – these screening techniques are based on “on/off” switches. We start with simple questions, can a chemical compete with estradiol binding to the estrogen receptor? If it does it can indeed activate or antagonize the estrogen receptor’s action. Because most chemical receptors belong to a large class of receptors known as nuclear transacting factors. Transacting here means turning on genes. In some cases the chemical binds to this locus and prevents the gene from turning on. In summary, yes, on/off switching of genes is a rather common motif in molecular biology.

      Gary Winston, Ph.D.

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