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
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
You can’t fix healthcare until you fix health. You can’t fix health until you fix the diet. And you can’t fix the diet until you know what’s wrong. What went wrong? FoodGate.
Endocrinologist Robert Lustig, Dentist Cristen Kearns and Health Policy Expert Laura Schmidt team up to explore how the US food system has led to higher rates in obesity and related metabolic diseases in the last 50 years.
Preventable disease rates keep going up, even while behaviors have improved: smoking rates are down, cholesterol and blood pressure are down, and physical activity is up. We should be reaping a health benefit, but we’re not. The primary reason: we’re eating too many refined carbohydrates and too much sugar.
How did the food system come to encourage this? Pharmaceutical companies benefit from long-term drug treatment of metabolic diseases. Organizations such as the Sugar Association and the Beverage Association fund questionable scientific studies to convince the public that obesity and sugar are not related. These efforts include funding aggressive marketing campaigns to influence public policy. According to Schmidt, they spent 31 million dollars in a single election to convince voters in San Francisco and Oakland not to support a soda tax.
But there is hope. Research into the effects of too much sugar is getting attention, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Lustig and others. There are many parallels between this issue and smoking. According to Schmidt, we’re about where we were in 1970. The tide is slowly shifting, but we have a long way to go. Policy-makers are just now beginning to recognize the negative consequences of an unhealthy populace on healthcare costs and future social security benefits. Lustig advises, “You want social security? Stop drinking soda and tell all your friends to do so, too.”
Watch FoodGate: The Break-in, the Cover-up, and the Aftermath.
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