Health News – America Makes Immigrants Fat, Heart Health and Diabetes Soars

American flagIt has been another interesting week in health. There has been further evidence that an obesogenic environment is a major cause of weight gain. Another study showed that regular exercise is certainly not just for the young and middle-aged. Seniors who exercise on a regular basis reduce risk of sudden heart failure.

American Environment Causes Immigrant Weight Gain

A study led by Dr Flórez at the Rand Corporation has shown that the longer immigrants from Mexico remain in the USA, the more likely they are to become overweight and obese. Also, the next generation becomes more likely to be obese. The grand children of immigrants are 3 times more likely to suffer from weight problems. This acts as further proof that the main cause of obesity is environmental and certainly not genetic.

I have spoken about the obesogenic environment in the article on The Global Obesity Crisis. It was a key concept in the Open University course on Challenging Obesity so the concept is certainly not new, but the new research provides further evidence that to tackle obesity the current environment needs to change. Only government intervention can accomplish that – education alone will never be able solve this problem.

The research was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The main conclusion was that the food environment in America exposes people to too many high calorie foods and meals. Regular overeating becomes the norm.

This study followed previous research from 2011 by Lisa G. Rosas which concluded that:

“the prevalence of childhood obesity was much higher among children of Mexican descent in the US than in Mexico” and “maternal obesity was a determinant of childhood obesity in both settings” – (Rosas et al, 2011).

Food insecurity is still a problem in many households in Mexico which is considered to be one of the reasons why obesity is less of a problem. Generally overweight mothers negatively influence their children’s eating habits, creating overweight children. Also, an overweight mother is more likely to gain excessive weight following pregnancies, and this too leads to overweight children. This is true for both Mexicans in Mexico and immigrants in America.

Seniors Should Exercise Daily to Reduce Heart Failure

A study by Dr. Christopher deFilippi from the University of Maryland School of Medicine has found that seniors who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to suffer from heart failure (heart attack).

The study took blood samples from senior subjects (2,900 Americans aged 65 years or more) and tested for indicators of heart failure risk (biomarkers), namely troponin T (cTnT) and N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP). Higher levels of these biomarkers is related to increased risk of heart failure.

Dr. deFilippi was clear that this does not mean that intensive exercise and marathons are the answer. On the contrary – light exercise on a regular basis, such as increased walking, swimming and active hobbies and sports such as golf and bowls can all reduce risk of heart disease.

“We found that there is a very powerful association with physical activity among older adults, so that those who are the most active are one-third as likely to have this marker for heart injury rise over the years, compared with those who are the most sedentary,” Dr. Christopher deFilippi (2012).

Heart failure is still one of the most common causes of death in the elderly population, especially amongst those who have not been affected by cancer. While the assumption may be that only young people can ward of heart failure by becoming super-fit, this is simply not true. Regular exercise will help people of all ages to reduce risk. The study has been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

While it is important to try to reduce the risk of having a heart attack, it is also important to know what to do if your witness one.

Diabetes Still Rising in the USA

Finally, a study has reported that Type 2 Diabetes is still rising in the USA. Type 2 Diabetes is caused by a combination of poor diet and inactivity. Obesity is a major risk factor. Between 1995 and 2010, 18 US states saw an increase in diabetes of 100%, i.e. the number of people with diabetes doubled in 15 years.

Type 2 Diabetes is a preventable disease. Unlike Type 1 Diabetes which is still not clearly understood, Type 2 Diabetes is caused by poor lifestyle damaging the body to the point that it can no longer function properly. The damage is irreversible and also progressive. Regular exercise reduces risk, and studies have also found that weight training is especially effective.

The report has been published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


Mexico–United States Migration and the Prevalence of Obesity: A Transnational Perspective” by Karen R. Flórez, DrPH, MPH; Tamara Dubowitz, ScD; Naomi Saito, MS; Guilherme Borges, PhD; Joshua Breslau, PhD. Archives Internernal Medicine. 2012;():1-2. doi:10.1001/2013.jamainternmed.77.

Physical Activity, Change in Biomarkers of Myocardial Stress and Injury, and Subsequent Heart Failure Risk in Older Adults” by Christopher R. deFilippi, MD; James A. de Lemos, MD; Andrew T. Tkaczuk, BS; Robert H. Christenson, PhD; Mercedes R. Carnethon, PhD; David S. Siscovick, MD, MPH; John S. Gottdiener, MD; Stephen L. Seliger, MD, MS. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2012;():. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2012.08.1006

Factors Associated with Overweight and Obesity among Children of Mexican Descent: Results of a Binational Study” by Lisa G. Rosas, Sylvia Guendelman, Kim Harley, Lia C. H. Fernald, Lynnette Neufeld, Fabiola Mejia, and Brenda Eskenazi. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. 2011 February; 13(1): 169–180. Published online 2010 March 9. doi: 10.1007/s10903-010-9332-x

Diagnosed diabetes grows at a dramatic rate throughout the United States” CDC Press Release. November 15, 2012.

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