Prepayment Nightmare

Lambrini Lukidis
Created: 2/24/2008 11:06:09 PM

Updated: 2/24/2008 11:39:34 PMWYOMING- Kim Belanger has buyer's remorse; nearly $2,000 worth. In an effort to be healthy, the college student signed herself up for LA Weight Loss. “I --> WYOMING- Kim Belanger has buyer's remorse; nearly $2,000 worth.In an effort to be healthy, the college student signed herself up for LA Weight Loss.“I just have a hard time with the motivation part so I thought going with them it would help me be accountable,” Belanger says.Belanger signed up in May, and paid $643 for their Premiere Service. It included the sign up fee, vitamins and on-line services. She also paid extra for about ten boxes of nutrition bars, which she says cost her about $1100.By summer time, Belanger stopped the program. She was contracted for one year, and says she could re-start her routine for as long as she was a member. When she decided to try again, her contract was taken over by Pure Weight Loss which has since closed. A letter informed clients that medical weight loss was taking over."They said we don't have any of their nutritional bars, we don't have anything to do with them," Belanger says.WZZM contacted Pure Weight Loss' landlord. He says they left in January on an extended lease and still owe rent. The Pure Weight Loss web site declares bankruptcy, but noted some states like Michigan could be operational where branches are independent."If they were part of a franchise, there's probably little legal emphasis and clout to go after the headquarters, because each entity will stand on its own two feet unfortunately," says Ken Vander Meeden of the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan.Vander Meeden warns consumers not to pay up front. "If there is sales pressure on the front end to join up and pre-pay significant amounts for long periods of time be cautious,” he says.While Belanger may have lost her money, she hangs on to her determination."It's just the basic eat healthier and exercise,” she says.

Obesity and Cancer Risk

Obesity Raises Cancer Risk
British study details differences between genders, ethnic groups
By Amanda Gardner
Posted 2/15/08

FRIDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- The more weight you carry on your body, the greater your odds of developing cancer, British researchers report.

This is true not only of fairly common cancers such as colon and breast, but also of lesser known varieties, including gallbladder. Moreover, the degree of risk differs between men and women and among different ethnic groups, report the authors of a comprehensive new paper appearing in this week's issue of The Lancet.

"This is a profoundly important issue. Obviously, the obesity epidemic is a huge problem itself, and the relationship to cancer is only one of the many adverse health effects of being overweight and obese," said Dr. Michael Thun, head of epidemiological research at the American Cancer Society. "The evidence has been accumulating now for over 10 years. . . This study tries to provide a quantitative measure of how much the relative risk goes up with each increment, basically jumping from one BMI [body-mass index] category to another."

Although extra fat has already been identified by research as a risk factor for several different types of cancer, Thun said, "the problem of obesity is so large and so difficult to solve that there's a very sound reason for ongoing studies of things that have become increasingly well-known, just because it helps the momentum in stimulating approaches that will actually help people maintain a healthy weight."

Last year, a report issued by the American Institute of Cancer Research and the U.K.-based World Cancer Research Fund concluded that body fat is associated with an increased risk for several different types of cancer including esophageal adenocarcinoma, as well as cancers of the pancreas, colon and rectum, breast (postmenopausal), endometrium and kidney.
Although that report was one of the most comprehensive to date, it did leave some questions unanswered. For instance, are there associations between less common cancers and body weight, and do the associations differ between the sexes and people of different ethnic backgrounds?

The issue is a pressing one, with about two-thirds of adult men and women in the United States overweight or obese. That number is only expected to increase as people continue to eat more and exercise less.

This study, from scientists at the University of Manchester, analyzed 141 articles involving 282,137 cancer cases and 20 different types of malignancies to determine the cancer risk associated with a 5 kilogram-per-meter-squared increase in BMI, roughly the increase that would bump a person from middle-normal weight into overweight.
In men, such an increase in BMI raised the risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma by 52 percent, thyroid cancer by 33 percent, and colon and kidney cancer by 24 percent each.
In women, the same increase in BMI increased the risk of endometrial and gallbladder cancer by 59 percent each, esophageal adenocarcinoma by 51 percent, and kidney cancer by 34 percent.
In men, there were weaker associations between increased BMI and rectal cancer and melanoma. In women, there were weaker associations between increased BMI and postmenopausal breast, pancreatic, thyroid and colon cancers.
In both genders, there were associations between increased BMI and leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
For colon cancer, the associations were stronger in men than in women (24 percent vs. 9 percent).

There were stronger associations in Asia-Pacific populations between greater BMI and both premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancers.

Although the main message is still to maintain a healthy weight, this research might indicate earlier screening for certain cancers, said Dr. Greg Cooper, interim chief of the gastroenterology division at Ireland Cancer Center of University Hospitals and Case Comprehensive Cancer Center in Cleveland. "If someone is obese, then lower the threshold for screening," he said. "One of the cancers they identified is esophageal adenocarcinoma, which is not as common as colon cancer, but it is increasing in incidence. It is thought to be related to reflux, so as a gastroenterologist, if I have a patient who has reflux and is obese, I might lower the threshold for doing an endoscopy. For other cancers like colon cancer, those guidelines are pretty well-established, and this probably wouldn't change practice."

Experts aren't sure why extra fat can lead to malignancies, but changes in the circulating levels of various hormones (insulin, insulin-like growth factors and sex steroids) might explain the link.

Here's more bad news as the world heads for a smoke-free future: An accompanying commentary from Swedish researchers notes that as people quit smoking (the biggest cause of cancer in developed countries), weight gain may become the main lifestyle factor contributing to new cancers.

Artificial Sweetners

Diet Soda, Metabolic Syndrome, and Weight Loss
February 12, 2008 03:24 PM ET Katherine Hobson Permanent Link

As I write this, I am nursing a glass of Diet Pepsi, one of the embarrassing number that I put away on a typical day (starting about five minutes after I wake up, to my boyfriend's abject horror). I've resolved to cut back on my consumption in the past, mostly because I'm cheap enough to resent paying for something with absolutely no nutritional value, but have always been defeated by the calorie factor. Besides, doesn't everyone deserve a vice? But because of my love-hate relationship with the stuff, two recent studies about artificial sweeteners caught my eye.
One, published in Circulation, came as quite a shock: Drinking diet soda, it suggested, puts me at higher risk of developing a group of risk factors like high blood pressure and unhealthy levels of "bad" cholesterol that are tied to heart disease and diabetes. Another paper, published in Behavioral Neuroscience, found that—in rats, at least—cutting the traditional link between sweet flavor and high calories seems to throw off the ability to judge the caloric content of food. That, no surprise, leads to overeating. So much for the calorie factor.
The first study, which looked at the food intake of more than 9,500 middle-aged adults, is investigating potential dietary factors behind the "metabolic syndrome," which isn't a disease in itself but a cluster of symptoms—a large waist circumference is another one. Among its many findings: Those who drank the most diet soda were 34 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome than those who drank the least.
Before you toss your cans (or, in my case, two-liter bottles), though, realize that this study shows only an association; it does not at all prove that drinking soda actually leads to metabolic syndrome. As New York University nutritionist Marion Nestle notes on her blog, the habit might be a marker for some other less-healthy behaviors that actually do cause the syndrome. So, as the authors of the study say, it's an interesting finding that needs more investigation.
The study in rats has been getting a lot of media attention, which has surprised a lot of the nutritionists I've talked to since the idea behind the research isn't new. That said, here's a rundown on the theory: Starting with their first taste of breast milk, mammals begin to associate sweet taste with calorie-dense foods. They get the message that eating something sweet means they don't need to eat as much to maintain their weight as they might of something nonsweet. But, the theory goes, what if that connection is disrupted say, by eating foods flavored with a highly sweet but noncaloric sweetener? Then they have no way of gauging through flavor alone whether something is likely to be high in calories or not. Without those cues, the animal may overeat.
In this case, the rats studied at Purdue University who were fed low-fat yogurt flavored with saccharine ate more rat chow and got fatter than those who ate the same yogurt flavored with glucose. The rats that ate the saccharine-sweetened yogurt were also less able to compensate for calories (i.e. eat less at the next meal to make up for a lot of food eaten at the last one) than those whose meals were "predictive"," or sweetened with glucose. What does it mean for humans? The authors conclude that while you can't take what you find in lab rats and assume it will apply to people, too, "it is conceivable that the widespread use of artificial sweeteners may have similar effects on us.
It's true that thanks to artificial flavorings and fats, and the sheer variety of our diets, "it's very difficult to link particular tastes and sensory experiences with what food is anymore,"says Barbara Rolls, professor and Guthrie chair in nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. "We often have no clear signal as to what the calorie content of any of our foods is." So she advises that, because we tend to eat a certain constant volume of food, we should consciously make choices that are lower in density. That means veggies and fruits as the basis of our diet, rather than foods that are more likely to be calorie-dense (like processed and fried foods).
Meanwhile, other research has shown that in humans, drinking diet soda as a replacement for regular soda actually does lead to weight loss, she says. Susan Swithers, one of the authors of the rat study, acknowledges that sweeteners may work when used as part of a conscious calorie-reduction plan even if they also unconsciously dull the sweetness-calories link. But no one is saying that artificial sweeteners are the key one way or the other: They aren't likely to be the magic bullet to get you from fat to thin any more than they're likely to be the sole reason you got fat in the first place.
I am not a rat, and I make a conscious effort to keep my diet pretty healthy. So I'm going to stick with my Diet Pepsi. But, for the sake of my wallet, I'll try to alternate glasses of soda with that original diet drink, water.