Beyond Food and Exercise: the Other Factors in the Obesity Epidemic

Everything you come in contact with, every second of every day, makes an impact on your health. It’s known as the exposome. It’s a relatively new concept, first defined in 2005. The exposome includes the food you eat, the beauty products you use, the air you breathe, your friends and family, and everything in between. Studying it, could be the key to understanding the obesity epidemic.

That was the focus of the 12th Annual Sugar, Stress, Environment & Weight Symposium put on by The Consortium for Obesity Assessment, Study, and Treatment at UCSF. Popular opinion would have you believe that obesity is a simple equation of too much food and not enough exercise. But, researchers say the problem is far more complex. In this eye-opening lecture series, you will hear how polluted air has been linked to obesity in children living in California’s Central Valley. You will learn about obesogens – chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system. And, you will understand how stress can create a vicious cycle of weight gain.

The final talk focuses on how you can remove toxins from your personal exposome and the progress being made around the world. New labeling in the food and beauty industries allows you to make smarter decisions. LEED buildings are becoming more common in the United States. And, monitoring systems for exposome pollutants are getting better. There is plenty being done, and plenty you can do, to make an impact.

Browse more programs in UCSF Consortium for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment

Genetics and Alzheimer’s Disease

Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. What can be done to stem the tide of this devastating disease? Researchers are looking to our genes. “One of the goals of genetics is to try and come up with as strong a set of predictors as is possible. This has influenced the way in which more recent genetic research has been done,” says Douglas R. Galasko, MD. On this episode of “On Our Mind,” Dr. Galasko shares the different types of genetic influences on people’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. He explains how these genes are being studied and what being a carrier of Alzheimer’s associated genes means.

For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, visit our archive.
https://www.uctv.tv/brain/alzheimers/

Watch What Role Do Genetics Play in Alzheimer’s? – On Our Mind

Cancer from an Evolutionary Perspective

Humans have a relatively high risk of developing cancer in their lifetimes. But cancer is not unique to humans. Across the tree of life, we can trace cancer vulnerabilities back to the origins of multicellularity. Cancer is observed in almost all multicellular phyla, including lineages leading to plants, fungi, and animals.

However, species vary remarkably in their susceptibility to cancer. And some organisms are much better at killing problem cells. Amy Boddy discusses how this variation is characterized by life history trade-offs, especially longevity. Interestingly, different species have evolved different ways to fight cell mutations that cause cancer. This may lead to a better understanding of cancer susceptibility across human populations.

Amy Boddy is an Assistant Professor in the Integrated Anthropological Sciences Unit and a Research Associate in the Broom Center for Demography at UC Santa Barbara. Boddy completed her PhD in molecular biology and genetics at the Wayne State University – School of Medicine in 2013. Her work uses applications from evolution and ecology to understand human health and disease. She uses a combination of genomics, computational biology and evolutionary theory to understand life history trade-offs between survival and reproduction across different levels of biological organization. One component of her research program examines how environmental cues, such as high extrinsic mortality, may guide resource allocations to cancer defenses and reproduction. Current cancer research topics include comparative oncology, intragenomic conflict, cellular life history trade-offs, and early life adversity and cancer outcomes later in life. In addition to her cancer research, she studies maternal/fetal conflict theory and the consequences of fetal microchimeric cells in maternal health and disease.

Watch Cancer Across the Tree of Life: New Insights into an Ancient Disease

The Future of Single-Payer Health Care in California

Health care is one of the hottest issues in California politics. Last year, state lawmakers shelved a controversial single-payer bill. So, what’s next? California State Assembly Member David Chiu sat down with Dr. Andrew Bindman at UCSF to discuss the complex realities of health care reform.

Chiu represents the 17th Assembly District, which covers eastern San Francisco. He’s also one of eight members of the Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage, formed in the wake of the failed single-payer bill. Chiu and his colleagues on the committee have proposed 16 bills aimed at increasing health care access for Californians. But, he says there is still a long way to go to achieve universal coverage.

Just over 93 percent of Californians currently have health insurance. Chiu says getting that number to 100 percent, would cost billions of dollars. Switching all Californians to a single-payer system, would cost an estimated $400 billion a year – $200 billion of that needed from new taxes. And, Chiu says the cost is just one major challenge. There are also legal hurdles, including the need for federal tax waivers, which he calls a non-starter under the current administration. But, that doesn’t mean single-payer is dead in California. Chiu talks about the impact the upcoming election could have, and who he thinks should really be leading the conversation.

Watch The Landscape for Health Care Reform in California

Guns, Obesity, and Opioids

They may not seem related, but Dr. Sandro Galea, Dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, says we can approach guns, obesity and opioids in the same manner: population health. Dr. Galea breaks down the key concepts of population health – a relatively new field – during the inaugural Colloquium on Population Health and Health Equity at the UCSF School of Medicine.

Dr. Galea argues guns, obesity and opioids are the three epidemics of our time, and three of the main reasons life expectancy is declining in the United States. They also share three key characteristics: They are important, costly health concerns. They are complex. They are resistant to simple solutions. The key to overcoming these challenges Dr. Galea says, is using the population health approach.

He lists nine principles of population health, but focuses on four, including the concept that small changes in ubiquitous causes of health problems can have a greater impact than big changes to rare causes. Dr. Galea uses the example that while much has been done to curb the overprescription of opioids, the epidemic continues to grow. That’s because other options, like synthetic opioids, have become more widely available. Dr. Galea says that’s where population health comes in – finding ways to improve health on a large scale, and addressing epidemics from every angle.

Watch Guns, Obesity, and Opioids: A Population Health Science Approach to Contemporary Concerns