First Lady Wants Schools to Help Kids Get Fit

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First Lady Michelle Obama would like schools do more to help  students get the recommended hour of daily exercise.

Her initiative, www.letsmoveschools.org, has a web site   where school officials and others can sign up to get started.since studies show exercise helps youngsters focus and do well in school. Mrs. Obama is trying to get the country exercising.

It connects to her 3-year-old campaign against childhood obesity, known as "Let's Move."

"With each passing year, schools feel like it's just getting harder to find the time, the money and the will to help our kids be active. But just because it's hard doesn't mean we should stop trying," the first lady says in her prepared remarks. "It means we should try harder. It means that all of us - not just educators, but businesses and nonprofits and ordinary citizens - we all need to dig deeper and start getting even more creative."

At the launch, gymnasts Dominique Dawes and Gabby Douglas, sprinter Allyson Felix, tennis player Serena Williams and decathlete Ashton Eaton, along with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and triathlete Sarah Reinertsen, whose left leg was amputated above the knee when she was a child, where in attendance.

Research shows that daily exercise has a positive influence on academic performance, but kids today spend too much time sitting, mostly in school but also outside the classroom while watching TV, playing video games or surfing the Internet. Federal guidelines recommend that children ages 6-17 get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily, which can be racked up through multiple spurts of activity throughout the day.

Mrs. Obama called on school staff, families and communities to help get 50,000 schools involved in the program over the next five years.

The President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation will oversee the program. Funding and other resources will come from Nike Inc., the GENYOUth Foundation, ChildObesity180, Kaiser Permanente and the General Mills Foundation.

Nike has committed $50 million to the effort over the next five years; the remaining groups together have pledged more than $20 million.

"All kids deserve a chance to realize their full potential and we believe creating active schools will help kids do better in school and most importantly in life," said Nike President and CEO Mark Parker.

Researchers at UCLA say it's not just what you eat that makes those pants tighter — it's also genetics. In a new study, scientists discovered that body-fat responses to a typical fast-food diet are determined in large part by genetic factors, and they have identified several genes they say may control those responses.

The study is the first of its kind to detail metabolic responses to a high-fat, high-sugar diet in a large and diverse mouse population under defined environmental conditions, modeling closely what is likely to occur in human populations. The researchers found that the amount of food consumed contributed only modestly to the degree of obesity.

Obestiy and Genetics - Susceptible genes

The findings are published in the online edition of the journal Cell Metabolism.

"Our research demonstrates that body-fat responses to high-fat, high-sugar diets have a very strong genetic component, and we have identified several genetic factors potentially regulating these responses," said first author Dr. Brian Parks, a postdoctoral researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "We found that obesity has similar genetic signatures in mice and humans, indicating the mice are a highly relevant model system to study obesity. Overall, our work has broad implications concerning the genetic nature of obesity and weight gain."

The dramatic increase in obesity over the past few decades has been tightly associated with an increase in obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. And while high-calorie diets containing high levels of fat and sugar, along with sedentary lifestyles, have been considered the most significant environmental factors contributing to this epidemic, the new UCLA research demonstrates that body-fat responses to food are strongly inherited and linked to our DNA.

During the two-year study, researchers measured obesity traits, adipose (fat) tissue, global gene expression and intestinal flora (normal intestinal bacteria) in response to a high-fat, high-sugar diet in more than 100 inbred strains of mice. They identified 11 genome-wide "regions" associated with obesity and fat gain due to high-fat, high-sugar intake. Several identified regions overlap with genes identified in human studies.

For the study, the mice were placed on a normal diet for the first eight weeks of life and were subsequently switched to a high-fat, high-sugar diet for eight weeks.

"We measured the change in fat dynamically, at five different points following a high-fat, high-sugar feeding, providing strong evidence for a genetically controlled body-fat set-point," Parks said. "Our use of inbred mice strains also enabled detailed analysis of the relationship between obesity traits, gene expression, intestinal flora and diet."

The results are consistent with the inheritance of body mass index (BMI) and obesity in humans and emphasize the importance of genetics in controlling obesity, the study authors said.

The researchers note that overconsumption of high-calorie, high-sugar food is an important factor contributing to the obesity epidemic but stress that food consumption is only one of many environmental factors that affect obesity.

The researchers conclude that, based on their data, there appears to be a strong link between DNA and the amount of fat gained when a high-calorie, high-sugar diet is consumed.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (grant HL028481) and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist award. Additional funders are listed in the manuscript.

Visit your local library for more resources on this topic.

 

Image:

1. Article illustration:
First Lady Michelle Obama congratulates kids on the Obstacle Course at Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011.  (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy).

2.Obesity and Genetics graphic. from UCLA study.

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