By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist
How’s your fat? Don’t worry—I’m not talking about your thighs or belly. I’m referring to the fat on your fork. You’ve heard about all the great things omega-3 fats can do for you, including boosting your mood, keeping your brain sharp and reducing your risk for heart disease. One reason for its stellar health creds: It fights chronic inflammation. But it can’t do its job if it’s outnumbered by its chief rival—omega-6 fats.
These two polyunsaturated fats compete for entry into your cells, and for most Americans, omega-6 is winning handily. Our bodies evolved to thrive off an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio anywhere from 1:1 to 4:1. Instead, the ratio is 16:1 or higher. That imbalance may literally be killing us.
Where does all the omega-6 come from? Soybean oil is a major source; processed and fast foods are rife with it, and it’s the oil in “vegetable oil” sold in the supermarket. Meanwhile, we eat very few omega-3 rich foods, like fatty fish, chia seeds and flaxseed.
Here’s how to get back in balance:
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With the United States’ Hispanic population growing in number, it is becoming increasingly important to focus on the health and well-being of that community. Obesity is an epidemic concerning all Americans, but it is an especially concerning one for Hispanics and Mexican Americans who collectively have an obesity rate of about 40%, according to the CDC.
This high rate can be attributed to many factors. Several studies have shown the strong correlation between poverty and obesity. The CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report for 2011 found that the greatest racial/ethnic disparity in income and education existed for Hispanics. That there is a higher likelihood for obesity in a lower income situation can be found in both men and women.
However, adults are not the only members of the Hispanic and Mexican-American populations with significantly higher obesity rates. The rate in children is alarmingly high as well – about 23 percent of Hispanic children compared to the 16 percent rating of their Non-Hispanic white counterparts. Reducing obesity in children is particularly important as being overweight at a young age can lead to a litany of health issues.
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Just when you thought you knew what obese looked like, an army of skinny-fat people come marching along with little pot bellies hidden under their pear-shaped shirts. No, we’re not on the cusp of a diet-war, but diabetes and heart disease are waging a silent attack on people with normal weight obesity, also known as “skinny-fat.”
While the term normal weight obesity sounds as absurd as fat-free Twinkie, it’s a new and legitimate condition that, according to the Mayo Clinic, may afflict up to 30 million Americans.
In medical terms, normal weight obesity is typified by a normal Body Mass Index (BMI), usually 18.5-24.9, with a large percentage of body fat. In layman’s terms, people with normal weight obesity appear to be thin and healthy, but have large concentrations of central obesity—pooch bellies—and stores of fat around vital organs.
Led by Dr. Karine Sahakyan, The Mayo Clinic conducted a nearly 15-year study of 12,785 subjects, specifically geared toward determining the significance of central obesity. The doctors used a fun, new scientific measurement called “waist-to-hip ratio”—muffin top to where God intended your jeans to sit—as a means to statistically legitimize belly fat. They found that subjects with a normal BMI and a high waist-to-hip ratio—skinny-fat people—”had the highest cardiovascular death risk and the highest death risk…” out of all other demographics studied.
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A recent study found a correlation between how high a nation’s sugar consumption is and its type 2 diabetes rate. Now researchers are taking it a grim step further by estimating how many deaths can be directly attributed to sugary drinks.
Researchers at Harvard have linked sugary drinks to the deaths of 25,000 Americans every year and 180,000 deaths worldwide.
“We know that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to obesity, and that a large number of deaths are caused by obesity-related diseases. But until now, nobody had really put these pieces together,” said Gitanjali Singh, the lead author of the five-year study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.
In a not-so-shocking development, The American Beverage Association issued a critical response to the study’s findings.
“It does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer – the real causes of death among the studied subjects,” the industry group said in a written statement. “The researchers make a huge leap when they take beverage intake calculations from around the globe and allege that those beverages are the cause of deaths which the authors themselves acknowledge are due to chronic disease.”
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