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Oct. 3, 2013 Volume 35, No. 7

Childhood Obesity Symposium happening Oct. 10

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that obesity rates in 19 states, including Missouri, fell slightly for low-income children between the ages of 2 and 4. However, MU researchers know there is still a lot of work to do. 

Organized by Janet Famer, a professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions, the MU Childhood Obesity Symposium Oct. 10 in Memorial Union North is bringing together experts from nine MU units, including the School of Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Health Professions, the College of Education and the College of Arts and Science. 

The goal of the symposium is to share information about the research being done at MU that will advance the prevention of childhood obesity. 

The conference will also offer sessions on clinical and translational science, school and community-based initiatives, and turning programs into public policy. 

Statins Issue

The necessity of daily physical activity  for children and adults can’t be understated, according to John Thyfault in his article “Type 2 Diabetes Sits in a Chair,” recently published in the medical journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism

At the free all-day symposium, Thyfault, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, will talk about the importance of increasing physical activity and decreasing sedentary time.

 “There’s accumulating evidence showing that, even if you exercise, the more you sit, the more risk you have for disease,” Thyfault said. 

To combat the sedentary lifestyle, Thyfault recommends getting 150 minutes of exercise a week and as much as possible throughout the day. 

In a study, Thyfault investigated whether combining exercise with statins — a class of cholesterol-reducing pharmaceuticals often prescribed to individuals with obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome — would lower metabolic syndrome risk factors more than exercising or taking statins alone. 

But the results he stumbled on might change how physicians think about statins, the most widely prescribed drug worldwide: The fat-soluble statins blocked the positive effects of exercise in obese adults. 

To arrive at this finding, Thyfault took two groups of sedentary and obese individuals. Both groups followed the same exercise regimen, but about half also took a daily dose of statins. At the end of 12 weeks, Thyfault measured their cardiorespiratory fitness levels using the Bruce Protocol, a treadmill exercise test that gradually increases in speed and incline until the participant can go no farther. The exercise-only group increased their fitness by 10 percent compared to the exercise-and-statin group, which increased by only 1.5 percent. 

Although more research is needed, Thyfault attributes the reduction in exercise benefits to a skeletal muscle phenomenon. With exercise, the number of mitochondria, the powerhouse of the muscle cell that consumes oxygen, increases. Thyfault also found that the mitochondrial content did not increase in participants taking statins like it did in the participants who only exercised. 

A Second Look

The statins finding has large implications on how they are prescribed. Only five years ago, doctors advocated for putting statins in drinking water as a preventative tool for the public, including healthy individuals without high cholesterol. 

“Everybody was saying that there’s no downside to statins, that there’s only positive outcomes, that it should be given to every male over 40 and every female over 50,” Thyfault said. 

In an article published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Thyfault recommended that cardiologists weigh the benefits and risks of statins, given their deleterious effects on exercise, before prescribing them to patients who might have other options. 

“Statins aren’t going to go away. They’re too effective and too much a part of the medical system,” he said. “But if we can motivate people who are already at a low fitness level to exercise, the last thing we want to do is stop that fitness from improving.”

— Kelsey Allen

Register Now

To learn more about childhood obesity and how to encourage youth to embrace healthy lifestyles, register by Oct. 6 for the free MU Childhood Obesity Symposium at

Time: 9:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Date: Oct. 10

Place: Room 206, Memorial Union North