Obesity will soon be illegal

An article published lately in the Public Library of Science on attitudes of medical students towards overweight and obesity analyzed the ind of prejudice that obese people are subjected to. Discrimination against overweight and obese people is not a new thing,  but when it is noticed in a health-care environment where it shouldn’t be (not that it should be elsewhere) and when a number of scholars take the time and effort to write about it, then it is just a matter of time before things get serious.

Yesterday I stumbled upon a blog article discussing this very same issue, and boy, was I surprised when it turned out that it was an airline company that fired the first bullet. Was it expected? Of course! We all have a skinny friend pointing out the issue every time he or she takes the plane.

The fact is obesity costs money, and not only in air travel; a study showed that the total direct costs attributable to overweight and obesity were $6.0 billion in 2006 in Canada, another one estimated that the total health-care costs attributable to obesity/overweight would double every decade to 860.7–956.9 billion US dollars by 2030. And with the lawsuits raining over the Fast-food companies, it is just a matter of time before someone takes the first step into making obesity illegal. When you think about it, this isn’t a new concept, Hollywood has been preparing us for this day by illustrating obesity being illegal; I can particularly recall an episode of Sliders (Sci-Fi TV show) and another movie of which I can’t remember the title.

With a little perspective, this turn of events was inevitable. However, I can’t help but wonder, what does this mean for those for whom obesity is not an inevitable outcome, but rather a personal choice.

Dealing with the unexpected

Would you like to know if you were at risk of developing cancer? A paper published last February tried to answer the question, and although most participants appreciated knowing their condition, some questions can still be raised.

All but one of the 32 mutation-positive participants appreciated learning their BRCA mutation status.

 

Screening is the first step of acceptance

The study reports the data of people who had chosen to view their BRCA reports and to participate to this study, which make them relatively more prepared to receive bad news than the general population. My guess is, if we were to ask people to have a free BRCA screening we would have much different results. In my experience in dealing with screenings, it is very difficult to convince people to get screened if they were unwilling in the first place, because the possibility of having a positive test could be life changing.

Age is key

In this study, the mean age was 47, at this age people are more inclined to get tested by themselves for breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, etc. 47 is not an advanced age, but most people are already prepared to deal with sickness, women are dealing with menopause and are stressing about the possibility of developing cancer, men are probably already dealing with hypertension. If anything, getting tested for a gene that could cause cancer could be a relief, they could make arrangements to dodge the bullet if there is still time. However, for younger people, it is more complicated, if anything, this could be crippling news, ideas like “I haven’t had the time to live my life” comes to mind.

Direct access to BRCA mutation tests, considered a model for high-risk actionable genetic tests of proven clinical utility, provided clear benefits to participants.

The authors concluded that the access to the BRCA mutation tests provided a life-saving benefit to the participants with the mutation, since their relatives also got to get tested, which is the general idea behind screenings: We do screenings to save lives, other than that I would say that the conclusion behind the study is that people in their 50s who would go get screened are more prepared to receive the bad news. =)

Vegetable oils and androgens

Over the past decade, the research unit I’m currently with has been busy exploring the multiple benefits of vegetable oils, especially Argane oil (or Argan oil), which is a vegetable oil extracted from the fruit of Argania spinosa (an endemic tree of South-western Morocco, the species is now endangered and under protection of UNESCO). The unit published quite a few papers about the oil’s properties in preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Lately, another study was published in Natural Product Communications about its effect on the androgens’ levels in men. In Morocco, Argane oil is consumed raw, but can also be used in preparing meals or pastries (in other countries it is more famous for its cosmetic properties). Anyway, the oil is also reputed to have aphrodisiac properties in men, and I can only speculate and assume that the reason behind the study was to verify if there were any truth behind this reputation.

Still life of argan fruit and oil

The study was carried out on healthy young men (<40 years old). Participants consumed 25 mL of vegetable oil per day (either Argane oil or Olive oil) during 3 weeks after a two weeks stabilization period during which they consumed 25 g of vegetable margarine.

The paper reports that testosterone (T) and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels significantly increased after a 3 weeks intervention. T concentration increased by 19.9% after using Argane oil and by 17.4% after using Olive oil, while LH concentrations increased by 18.5% after using Argane oil and by 42.6% after using Olive oil.

Most studies carried out on these vegetable oils attribute the benefit of their consumption to their unique composition of fatty acids and especially their high concentration in Vitamin E. Both oils have a fairly similar composition, however, Argane oil has a higher concentration of vitamin E (cf. table).

(VAO: virgin Argane oil, EVO: extra virgin Olive oil)

oil-composition

 

Reference:
Derouiche et al. (2013). Effect of Argan and Olive Oil Consumption on the Hormonal Profile of Androgens Among Healthy Adult Moroccan Men. Natural Product Communications Vol. 8 P.151-153.