The Influence of Social Networks On Obesity Prevention

By Dana Ryan, Ph.D., M.A., senior manager, Sports Performance & Education, Herbalife Nutrition
June 08, 2017

 

Despite decades of concerted efforts from the government, non-governmental organizations and even private industry to prevent obesity, the results have not lived up to expectations. Rates of obesity and associated diseases continue to rise at an alarming rate, paralleled by spiraling healthcare costs. The reasons for this phenomenon are many and complex, but one key factor is the inability to translate broad public health recommendations into actionable behavior change.

 

Social support has been utilized successfully for a range of behavior changes including smoking, drinking, exercising and family planning. Social support can come from a wide range of personal networks including spouse, family members, friends, teachers, coworkers, group, and community.

#HerbalifeNutrition expert Dana Ryan, PhD, shares how a supportive social network can positively impact lives http://hrbl.me/2rMIiUk Click To Tweet

Herbalife Nutrition believes that having a supportive social network leads to better results for one’s personal goals. In fact, a recently published scientific pilot study by Tufts University looking at 100 individuals studied the impact of Herbalife Nutrition Clubs. These are clubs locally owned by Herbalife distributors, where their customers gather daily to share weight management and healthy lifestyle, education, advice, support and nutrition products. The study suggested that Nutrition Club membership is positively correlated with perceived and overall cardiometabolic health.

 

The Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) Study

 

Herbalife Nutrition continues to be a leader in promoting scientific research in the field of nutrition and health. Recently, we partnered with the Canadian Nutrition Society (CNS) to host a symposium during the CNS 2017 Annual Conference for nutrition and health professionals entitled, Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences for Obesity Treatment and Prevention. The symposium featured The Look AHEAD Study and Childobesity180.

 

John Foreyt, Ph.D., director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Baylor University, opened his presentation with the real issue for overweight and obese people in achieving their weight loss or management goals: adherence to prescribed diet and exercise program.

Dr. Foreyt provided behavioral strategies (the four S’s) for better adherence to diet and exercise programs:

 

  • Self-monitoring: Raising awareness of the behaviors to be modified through observing and recording dietary intake, physical activity, and body weight.
  • Stimulus control: Controlling the triggers leading to non-adherence such as shopping from a list.
  • Stress management: Managing the emotional aspects of behavior change through activities like meditation and changing thought patterns and expectations by setting realistic goals.
  • Social support: Enlisting social support and the power of the group in weight loss and maintenance.

 

Dr. Foreyt presented results of the Look AHEAD Study, a multi-center, randomized clinical trial, evaluating the health effects of behavioral and social intervention in more than 5,000 obesity adults with type 2 diabetes. Dr. Foreyt discussed that group based interventions consistently have been shown to be more effective than dieting alone. Groups provide individuals with a sense of universality, helping them understand that their problems are not unique, that they can learn form others who have had similar issues, can share suggestions, and support each other.

 

The Impact of Childobesity180

 

Christina Economos, Ph.D., Professor and New Balance Chair in Childhood Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and Medical School at Tufts University, presented on ChildObesity180, an initiative housed at Tufts University. This initiative merges the best in public health research and practice with the expertise and experience of business, government and nonprofit leaders. This approach implements integrated strategies and interventions that can be targeted at the community level.

 

Dr. Economos presented on four high impact evidence-based strategies that were specifically identified as adding value after reviewing hundreds of existing strategies on childhood obesity. These community-based initiatives can influence behavior changes in children to prevent obesity:

 

(1)    Active Schools Acceleration Project is increasing quality physical activity in America’s schools to promote the positive health, behavioral, and academic outcomes that follow.

(2)    Healthy Kids Out of School works with leading out-of-school-time organizations to promote three simple principles: Drink Right, Move More, and Snack Smart.

(3)    The Restaurant Initiative combines consumer insights and restaurant industry engagement with high-quality research to ultimately reduce the number of excess calories children consume when eating at restaurants.

(4)    The Breakfast Initiative, concluded in 2014, evaluated the impact of a healthy school breakfast on several key outcomes for children.

As of December 2016, ChildObesity180 has reached 9.3 million children in all 50 states.

 

Our Nutrition Philosophy

 

Herbalife Nutrition’s Global Nutrition Philosophy is based on three key pillars: (1) balanced nutrition; (2) healthy, active lifestyle; and (3) personalized program. We believe these pillars – along with the social support provided by our distributors – can effect real change in people’s lives.

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