Friday, August 28, 2009

Australian Primary School bans bottled water

I must admit that I find the bottled water craze quite mad but if people get some satisfaction out of it, who are we to judge them? I am sure I do some things that some others might consider mad -- like blogging, for instance. I am sure the Greenies would be able to find something wrong with blogging if they tried -- uses too much electricity or some such -- JR

A Melbourne school has banned commercially bottled water in what is believed to be a Victorian first. Pupils at Eltham North Primary School are being told to drink tap water and use only environmentally friendly re-useable containers.

Principal David Foley said the ban was part of the school's green policy, which includes re-useable containers for lunches, the Herald Sun reports. "We have good water in Melbourne," he said. "It's a waste of money buying plastic bottled water and most of the bottles end up in our waterways or in landfill. "We don't want students to come to school using soft drink or bottled water."

It is estimated Australians spend about $500 million each year on bottled water. A bottled water ban was introduced in the NSW town of Bundanoon last month.

But Mr Foley said his school had been moving towards the policy since installing waste-cutting water fountains last year. "It's the way to go," he said. "We're also using it as an education process to see what can happen if water goes off and what can happen if you're using a poor bottle like a soft drink container." Mr Foley said bags wouldn't be checked for dodgy bottles, but staff would monitor the use of drink containers in class and in the playground.

Brendan Lynch, from water dispenser firm Aquabubbler, said his company had supplied eco-friendly products to hundreds of schools in Victoria. "Kids are a lot more discerning about where they drink from these days," he said. "A lot of water troughs at schools are unhygienic." Mr Lynch said it was crazy that people were buying so much bottled water during the economic crisis. "A lot of those bottles can't be recycled and end up as landfill, it's a no-win situation," he said.

Opposition education spokesman Martin Dixon said he had no problem with the bottle ban. "It's something that they have weighed up carefully," he said. "It's good to allow schools to do something innovative and environmentally friendly."


Health warning: exercise makes you fat

I must admit that I have to laugh at a lot of the stories I put up. There is so much flailing at the wind. There is NO long-term way of changing your weight other than surgery. Nothing else works -- JR

Fat is a massive problem. Really massive. Nearly 60 per cent of the country’s adult population is now overweight, while one in 10 children are so obese by the time they start school that their health is deemed to be at risk. All told, weight problems are estimated to cost the economy £16 billion a year – on top of the facts that ambulances have to be fitted with reinforced heavy-lifting equipment to get patients into the vehicles and that a growing number of soldiers are, according to Army commanders, too fat to fight.

Yet something strange is going on. While obesity levels have grown year on year, so have levels of physical activity. More people in Britain do the recommended amount of exercise – at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five times a week – than did 12 years ago. Use of personal trainers and gyms has soared: over the past five years, the amount spent on the latter has grown by 50 per cent, to more than £1.25 billion. Is it possible that all that exercise is doing nothing to make us slimmer?

Exercise is, of course, essential for good health, improving our heart and lung function while triggering the release of a host of hormones that bring on feelings of wellbeing. But some surprising studies in America are starting to reveal that even under gruelling training regimes, people fail to lose as much weight as they should.

In a study of 464 overweight women, Dr Timothy Church of Louisiana University examined what would happen if they conducted differing levels of exercise. One group was asked to do no additional exercise, while three other groups were asked to spend 72 minutes, 136 minutes or 194 minutes with a trainer each week for six months. All were asked not to change their diet.

The results were surprising. While all of the women lost weight, including the control group (which is thought to be a consequence of basing the study on overweight women who wanted to lose weight), those who exercised the most did not lose significantly more weight than those who were told not to change their diet.

“People are often undoing the work they have done during exercise by eating the wrong foods afterwards,” explains Dr Church. “When they exercise heavily, they compensate and increase their energy intake. So after spending time in the gym, they eat a chocolate muffin, which undoes all of the work they did.”

Another study due to be published next month in the journal of Public Health Nutrition by researchers at the University of Leeds draws similar conclusions. Professor John Blundell and his colleagues found that people asked to do supervised exercise to lose weight also increased the amount they ate and reduced their intake of fruit and vegetables.

“A single bout of exercise can be considered a relatively slow method of 'removing’ energy from the system,” say the researchers. “The time spent exercising has to be significantly long in order to expend a meaningful amount of energy. Even when exercise energy expenditure is high, a healthy diet is still required for weight loss to occur in many people.”

The problem, it seems, is that exercise is a relatively poor way of burning calories. So exasperated scientists are now starting to turn to the most unlikely of solutions – fat itself. Until recently, fat has been disregarded as a simple storage tissue – a place where excess energy is tucked away by the body for when food is scarce. With our modern diets, this excess energy is never needed, so it builds up, creating layers of fat.

New findings, however, are suggesting that fat plays a far more active role in the body. “Fat cells have been found to produce more than 100 different chemical signals and hormones,” says Prof Paul Treyhurn of Liverpool University. And scientists at Harvard have found it may be possible to manipulate body fat so it starts to do us good.

Fat found around the belly, known as intra-abdominal fat, has been found to be harmful, increasing the risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes. But subcutaneous, or peripheral fat, found beneath the skin of the hips and thighs works to protect us. “If we can reprogramme the fat so that it produces less bad effects, it could get rid of some of the metabolic consequences of obesity,” says Prof Ronald Kahn, head of obesity research at Harvard Medical School’s Joslin Diabetes Centre.

In research on rats, Prof Kahn has found it is possible to transplant peripheral fat into the abdominal area, and so reduce the risk of developing obesity-related diseases. He believes that it may be possible to “reprogramme” belly fat so that it behaves more like subcutaneous fat: people would still be fat, but they would at least be healthier.

Another discovery, however, has this year set the world of obesity research alight – that humans have deposits of brown adipose tissue, or brown fat. Unlike white fat, brown fat burns energy rather than stores it. And it burns a lot of energy.

Previously, adult humans were not thought to have any brown fat – it had only ever been found in animals such as rodents or in human babies, quickly disappearing as they grew older. But a new scanning technique this year revealed tiny hot spots around the necks of patients, with brown fat cells mixed in with the white fat.

“As little as two ounces of brown fat can burn up 400 to 500 calories a day,” says Prof Kahn, who is among the scientists leading research into brown fat. “It’s very hard to burn off that much with exercise. A little bit more active brown fat can be very beneficial for helping to keep weight down.”

Like muscle tissue, brown fat contains abundant numbers of tiny cellular power plants known as mitochondria. In muscle, these convert sugar into the energy that powers our bodies. But in brown fat, the mitochondria are slightly defective and highly inefficient, meaning that much of the energy is lost as heat.

Scientists now believe that activating brown fat stores in obese patients – and even increasing their levels of brown fat – could help them to keep their weight down. In particular, Prof Kahn has discovered that a growth factor called BMP-7 can be used to turn stem cells into brown fat. When this was transplanted into mice, the tissue formed discrete islands of brown fat. The team now plans to use the approach on fat from humans.

“If we treat fat that has been removed by liposuction to convert it into brown fat, we could then put it back into patients,” says Prof Kahn. “If you combined this with improved diet and exercise, the effect could be dramatic.”

Other groups are also looking at alternative methods to maximise the amount of brown fat in obese patients by manipulating cells. Researchers in Australia have found more brown fat mixed in with our muscles – and in experiments with sheep, they have found a hormone that increases muscle temperatures by two and half degrees during and immediately after meals, as brown fat stores are activated.

Prof Iain Clarke, from the department of physiology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, believes that while brown fat may be responsible for some of this heat production, the muscle cells themselves may also provide a way of burning off extra calories. His group has found they are able to manipulate the energy-burning process in sheep by giving them a natural hormone. If successful in humans, it could provide a new kind of weight-loss drug.

However, there may be an even simpler approach. In the past, brown fat was probably important for keeping humans warm in cold weather. In fact, studies have shown that in cold rooms, patients have higher brown fat activity. Could turning down the thermostat a few degrees help us reduce our swelling waistlines?

Scientists are not yet sure. But what is clear is that the solution to obesity can no longer simply be better diets and increased exercise. Instead, the best way to fight fat could be with fat itself.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"There is NO long-term way of changing your weight other than surgery."

So it is surgery that caused the sudden upswing in worldwide obesity in the last few decades. Aye, but what sort of surgery would that be?

In the case of AIDs denial one must ask: "What about those who catch AIDs from HIV tainted blood transfusions or needles?"

In this case of free will denial one must likewise ask: "What about former fat people who have become thin by permanently changing their exercise and dietary habits?"

Do such people not exist? Perhaps they do not. I can't think of any family or friends who really pulled it off. Can you? Is this heroic person a myth, a naturally skinny person who over 3-5 years became chubby enough for self-preservation instinct to kick in and alter their psychology back to that of a thin person?

The change from youth to adulthood certainly alters weight in very many people. Fat kids grow up to be models and thin people develop seemingly permanent flab. Both gain and lose weight but only back to baseline weight.

Does a HUGE amount of daily exercise compared to average even count as "permanent" weight loss if a fat person uses it to become thin? Will they stay thin when it counts most, in old age, or when they have any near fatal illness and end up bed bound for weeks or months?