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Weighty Issues for a Hefty Nation

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

More than 70% of American adults are either overweight or obese, and more than 30% of U.S. children are overweight or obese. Obesity raises the risk of several diseases (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and cancer), so it is not surprising that the estimated annual healthcare cost of obesity in the United States is nearly $200 billion. During session 081, “Are We Doing Enough About Obesity? An Interactive Discussion of Evidence-Based Weight Management Strategies,” on Tuesday, July 19, speakers discussed the causes of obesity and strategies to reverse its prevalence. Susan Raatz of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture began by stating that the mortality ratio in the United States rises with increasing body mass index. In particular, there is an increased risk of cardiometabolic mortality as body weight increases. So it is important to stem the causes of obesity. But this is not easy because the causes of obesity vary from behavior genetics (dietary preference, inclination to exercise), to metabolic factors (metabolic rate, thyroid function), to environmental factors (excessive energy intake, reduced physical activity).

Two of the biggest factors contributing to expanding waistlines are reduced physical activity and increased caloric intake. Reduced physical activity encompasses society’s tendency to drive instead of walk, take escalators instead of climbing stairs, and sit for most of the day instead of engaging in physical movement. Moreover, people’s inclination to build convenience into every aspect of their lives is putting them at risk for obesity and obesity-related disorders. “All of the things we do in our life that are time-saving and energy-saving cause our weight to increase,” Raatz said.

High-calorie intake also plays a significant role in energy imbalance. When people eat and drink more calories than they burn, over time they gain weight and become either overweight or obese. In extreme cases, people even become morbidly obese, which is defined as being more than 100 pounds over ideal weight or having a BMI of 40 or higher. Raatz said that carbohydrates frequently receive the bulk of the blame for high-energy diets. People often call high energy foods “high carb” regardless of whether the foods are really high in carbohydrates.

Another popular term used to categorize carbohydrates is the glycemic index: Foods with a high glycemic index are considered bad dietary choices. According to Ratz, the glycemic index was designed to help diabetics make better food choices; it is not an indication of a food’s nutritional value. Calories may count, but so do nutrients. Raatz therefore does not think carbohydrates contribute to weight management issues; in fact, research indicates that high-fiber diets benefit weight management. It’s more likely the fat and sugar in foods such as cookies, cake, and pastries that causes people to become overweight or obese, she said.

As bad as obesity is on adults, it can be even worse for children, but not in the same way. Melinda Sothern of Louisiana State University pointed out that in adults, the higher the fat content of the liver, the higher the level of inflammation. But in prepubescent children, excess fat in the liver is not linked to inflammation, Sothern said. And while extreme obesity limits physical mobility and causes discomfort in all demographics, it takes a greater toll on children—putting too much stress on the growth plate, causing poor bone growth and musculoskeletal health, and setting them up for a lifetime of sedentary activities. Playing outdoors, which is occurring less and less in today’s digital-obsessed society, is imperative for children as it promotes physical activity, increases bone strength, and improves mood, Sothern said. She suggests turning on the stereo instead of the television so that children can dance instead of sitting and watching television; walking together as a family after dinner; dropping media devices in a box by the door and playing outside before homework.

Sothern and Raatz both hope to see more advances in obesity research and treatment to reduce excess weight in adults and children.

Diverse Diet + Diverse GI Microbiome = Better Health

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Mark Heiman presentationThe old adage, “You are what you eat”, is taking on a whole new meaning as research into the microbiome is uncovering the role that food components play in the gut microbiota and their impact on human health and disease. And one thing that has become most apparent, according to Mark Heiman, Chief Scientific Officer at MicroBiome Therapeutics, is that a diverse diet produces a diverse gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome, which leads to better health outcomes. Heiman was the Featured Lecturer on Monday afternoon and spoke on “Therapy for Gastrointestinal Microbiome-Associated Diseases Requires Dietary Diversity.”

While our genetics have not changed over the past 50 years, our food supply has become less diverse, said Heiman. About 75% of plant diversity has been lost to uniform, high-yielding varieties. And 75% of the world’s food supply is derived from only 12 plants and five animal species. Rice, maize and wheat contribute 60% of our calories from plants, noted Heiman.

Diet is the principal regulator of the GI microbiome, an ecosystem in our GI tract, comprised of trillions of bacteria (microbiota) in a solution of unabsorbed macronutrients and micronutrients. Like all ecosystems, a diverse GI microbiome is healthier than a homogeneous one, declared Heiman. In addition, the loss of dietary diversity shifts the microbiome to unhealthy states as observed by loss of GI microbiome diversity associated with metabolic diseases such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and GI disorders such irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation—all of which have increased in prevalence over the past five decades.

Heiman presented research on a GI microbiome modulator used to treat the microbiome of persons with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes (T2D). The T2D microbiome is characterized by a decreased ability to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), increased GI and general inflammation, and an increased capacity to produce methane. Following 4 weeks of treatment with the modulator (which contained inulin, agave, beta glucan, oat, proprietary antioxidants, and blueberry), the test subjects exhibited postprandial glucose control, a healthy GI inflammatory response, better appetite control, and bowel movement regularity.

Combinations of specific food ingredients are a safe and effective approach to modulating the GI microbiome, stated Heiman.

In another experiment, Heiman sought to compare an obesogenic diet (obD) with a more diversified obesogenic diet including an activated soy pod fiber (obD+soy fiber) on mice. Following 4 weeks of treatment, the obD-fed mice showed about a 6-g weight gain while the mice fed obD+soy fiber gained only about 4 g. Remarkably, the obD-fed mice ate less food per day (2.8 g) than the obD+soy fiber-fed mice (3.1 g) at four weeks. Fecal mass was greater with the obD+soy fiber-fed mice, and included unabsorbed triglycerides, which may have implications for fatty liver diseases.

Supplementing the diet with the activated soy pod fiber protects the colon from inflammation, increases SCFA production (prebiotic effect), increases fecal loss of fat and glucose, and shifts abundances of some GI microbiota species, concluded Heiman.

VIDEO: Prebiotics & Probiotics at IFT15

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Gut health is one of the most fascinating areas of nutrition and health research. Scientists are working hard to better understand the myriad ways in which the vast microbial community that inhabits the gut affects our health. Already the gut microbiome has been linked to immunity, obesity, anxiety, and even athletic performance. Mary Ellen Kuhn, Executive Editor of Food Technology magazine, talks with Ganeden and AIDP about their prebiotics and probiotics—two important contributors to maintaining a healthy gut.

The Power of Probiotics

Friday, July 10th, 2015

Adding Value to Food and Nutrition Through Probiotics: Present Status and Future Perspective

Session 037
Sunday, July 12; 1:30­–3 p.m.
Room S504abc

Probiotics have continued to serve as a topic of interest in discussions about health and wellness. Thanks to their impact on the human gut, probiotics are thought to improve overall health by fostering the growth of gut microbiota. In this session, J. B. Prajapati will provide an overview of scientific evidence related to the impact of probiotics on health and disease before Suja Senan discusses how gut bacteria and probiotics may impact obesity and weight gain. James L. Steele will talk about the challenges that lie in connecting clinical studies to the substantiation of health claims and how genomics may help by identifying biomarkers. Finally, Arthur Ouwehand will explore types of biopolymers that can help preserve the function of probiotics once inside the human body and discuss the human gastrointestinal tract model he has recently helped create; this model correlates with clinical trial data and shows promise as a useful tool in proving the efficacy of probiotics.

Presented by: J. B. Prajapati, Suja Senan, James L. Steele, and Arthur Ouwehand

Dietary Diversity and Gut Health

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Mark L. HeimanFeatured Lecture: Mark L. Heiman

Monday, July 13 | 4:00 – 4:45 pm
McCormick Place South, S100 Ballroom

Mark Heiman, PhD, vice president and chief science officer for MicroBiome Therapeutics, will present “Therapy for Gastrointestinal Microbiome-Associated Diseases Requires Dietary Diversity” on Monday afternoon. Like all ecosystems, a diverse GI microbiome is a health one. However, loss of dietary diversity shifts the microbiome to unhealthy states as observed by loss of GI microbiome diversity associated with metabolic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other GI disorders, all of which have increased in prevalence over the past five years. Heiman will present two strategies to improve dietary diversity by supplementing the habitual uniform diets with GI microbiome modulators (GIMMs). The GIMMs are derived from exploring a shifted GI microbiome in a particular disease state and exploring novel foods that are rarely consumed.


Mark Heiman is the chief scientific officer and vice president of Research at MicroBiome Therapeutics. Heiman’s responsibilities include discovery of gastrointestinal microbiome modulators to maintain health and to manage chronic diseases. Prior to joining MicroBiome Therapeutics he was a research fellow in Obesity Discovery Research at Lilly Research Laboratories.

Heiman received his PhD in 1978 from Louisiana State University School of Medicine with concentration in Physiology. He intensified his training in neuroendocrinology during his next four years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Indiana University School of Medicine and then returned to New Orleans to work with Andrew Schally (Nobel Laureate for his pioneering effort to define neuroendocrinology) at Tulane University School of Medicine where he discovered the drug Lanreotide used to treat pituitary adenomas, before joining Lilly.

Heiman is best known for his seminal work performed at Lilly, which defined key roles that leptin and ghrelin perform in controlling energy balance. Heiman’s lab developed the first validated radioimmunoassay (RIA) to measure leptin and he demonstrated the well know positive correlation of leptin levels with adipocity. In addition, his lab was the first to demonstrate that leptin regulates energy balance by inhibiting neuropeptide-Y synthesis and secretion. More recently, Heiman’s lab was the first to demonstrate that ghrelin stimulates a positive energy balance. The hormone was renamed the Hunger Hormone and Heiman was featured on the CBS 60 Minutes for this discovery. Heiman was awarded Fellow status in The Obesity Society in 2014.

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