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How Not to Help Young Girls Lose Weight

Telling a young girl that she’s fat may backfire on your good intentions and put her at risk of obesity in her teens. A new study from UCLA checked the weights of more than 2,300 10-year-old girls in California, Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati. The researchers noted that at the start of the study 58 percent of the girls reported that they had been told they were too fat by a parent, sibling, teacher, classmate or friend. When the researchers went back to check the girls at age 19, they found that the ones who had been told they were too fat years earlier were 1.66 times more likely to be obese than other girls in the study. This held true even after the researchers factored in the girls’ actual weight, their income, race, and when they reached puberty. “We nearly fell off our chairs when we discovered this," said study senior author A. Janet Tomiyama in a UCLA press release. When people feel bad, they tend to eat more, not decide to diet or take a jog, she said. Making people feel bad about their weight could increase their levels of cortisol [the stress hormone], which generally leads to weight gain.

Sources:
A.J. Tomiyama and J.M. Hunger, “Weight Labeling and Obesity: A Longitudinal Study of Girls Aged 10 to 19 years,” JAMA Pediatrics, doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.

Salty Foods Can Age Overweight Teens’ Cells

The salt contained in the junk foods and fast foods so many overweight and obese teens consume may be aging their cells, a process that can lead to heart disease. A study presented at this year’s American Heart Association’s Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions found that the protective ends of chromosomes (telomeres), which normally shorten with age, were significantly shorter in overweight and obese teens whose sodium intake was high compared to teens who consumed less sodium. In normal weight teens, sodium consumption didn’t affect telomere length. Obesity is associated with increased levels of inflammation, which also speeds telomere shortening, and carrying extra pounds appears to boost sensitivity to salt. The findings suggest that high sodium intake and obesity may act synergistically to accelerate cellular aging, according to study leader Haidong Zhu, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Medical College of Georgia. The solution: cutting back on salty foods may help and may be an easier first step toward health for overweight teens than losing weight, Zhu said. High sodium intake among the teens in the study averaged 4,142 milligrams per day; low-intake averaged 2,388 mg per day. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day.

Sources:
Haidong Zhu, et al "High sodium intake is associated with short leukocyte telomere length in overweight and obese adolescents," AHA EPI/NPAM 2014; Abstract #MP64. American Heart Association Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions 2014