Israeli health expert tackles obesity

Professor Elliot M. Berry: Israeli research confirms the link between overeating and the incidence of diabetes and hypertension and related disease.There are currently nine million children in the United States who are overweight or obese. According to U.S. Surgeon General …

Professor Elliot M. Berry: Israeli research confirms the link between overeating and the incidence of diabetes and hypertension and related disease.There are currently nine million children in the United States who are overweight or obese. According to U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, obesity kills 300,000 people each year in the United States and costs the country $117 billion in health care and lost revenues. He recently said the U.S. needs to teach children about the values of healthier foods and daily exercise.

Carmona has a natural ally in Israel – Professor Elliot M. Berry, Director of the Braun School of Public Health at the HU/Hadassah Medical School, who is also ringing the bell on the alarming increase of obesity in the Western world.

“Obesity could double in 30 years,” warned Berry, citing a graph from the International Obesity Task Force. According statistics he disclosed, 17% of the men, and 25% of the women in Israel are obese. Among 13 to 15 year olds, the U.S. leads the world in obesity, with Israel in the top four.

Berry said that Israeli research confirms the link between overeating and the incidence of diabetes and hypertension and related disease. Trying to shock snacking couch potatoes out of their lethargy, he told ISRAEL21c, “Overeating causes premature aging, you can see it in the blood vessels.”

Recent international studies have also linked obesity and fat tissues to many other diseases of aging from heart disease to colon cancer to Alzheimer’s.

Berry, an internationally-known, London-born physician, scientist and educator used the word ‘diabesity’, to describe where the western world is heading – a term combining obesity and type II diabetes, which means insulin resistance syndrome (IRS) that involves obesity, little physical activity, smoking, high cholesterol levels, inappropriate diet and a high risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

An Israeli study pointed to socio-economic status as a factor in the increase in obesity. Poorer sectors that tend to eat more bread and biscuits and less protein (fish, chicken, meat) than other sectors of society; are more prone to diabesity. ‘Years of education’ is another key factor. The incidence of diabetes among Israelis (between the ages of 25 and 64) shot up when they attended school only up the the eighth grade.

Berry railed against a tendency among the medical profession to treat the symptoms of obesity, without looking to the cause.

“Many health professionals prefer to prescribe medications that are able to ‘normalize’ biochemical abnormalities without doing anything about the underlying cause – obesity. Even more insidious are attempts – encouraged by the drug industry – to make obesity itself a drug-treatable disease. The costs of such medications are prohibitive if prescribed to everyone in need, which is about one fifth of the public,” he told The Jerusalem Post.

The Public Health School director pointed out that weight loss of only 5-10% is sufficient to improve many of the abnormalities associated with insulin resistance syndrome

Berry championed treatment that focuses on behavioral modification, promoting motivation for a radical change in lifestyle – emphasizing exercise and nutrition. According to Berry, the doctor-patient relationship has to change with the doctor becoming an advisor/coach and the patient taking responsibility for his/her health and adherence to treatment. He called for health professionals, nurses, dieticians, physicians, legislators, government, community and school organizations to work together to control the obesity epidemic.

As far as reversing the trends of obesity, Berry said there’s no substitute for the long-standing, traditional duo of diet and exercise.

But which method is more effective? Studies conducted at Hadassah showed that there was the same weight loss after a month when a person cut calories by 1000 a day, as when he or she exercised for three to four hours each day to lose 1000 calories (when you walk, you lose 5 calories a minute.)

But according to Berry, exercise gives a better payoff overall compared to diet: fat mass is diminished, muscles enhanced, and the level of lipids (fats) in the blood are improved.

Another study showed that insulin levels are the same for weight loss from diet and exercise, but men will be happy to know that testosterone (the male hormore) increases almost twice as much from exercise. The bottom line: if you can’t diet and exercise, then working out will provide more benefits on its own than dieting.