Learning Curve


What Are the Health Risks of Overweight and Obesity?

Being overweight or obese isn't a cosmetic problem. These conditions greatly raise your risk for other health problems.


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Study associates Alzheimer's risk with banned pesticide DDT

Higher blood levels of a byproduct of the now-banned pesticide DDT is associated with increased risk for Alzheimer's disease, according to a small new study in the journal JAMA Neurology.


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Higher omega-3 levels may help preserve brain volume in older women

Bloomberg News (1/23, Ostrow) reports, "eight years later, MRI scans were taken to measure their brain volume when they were an average age of 78 years." The investigators “found that those whose omega-3 fatty acid levels were twice as high, 7.5 percent, had 0.7 percent larger brain volume.” Participants "with the higher levels also had a 2.7 percent larger volume in the hippocampus area of the brain, which plays an important part in memory and can begin to atrophy in Alzheimer's disease before symptoms even appear."


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Anxiety Linked to Higher Stroke Risk

Anxiety was found to increase stroke risk in a dose-dependent manner independent of depression and cardiovascular risk factors in a new study.

Researchers reported that people with the most anxiety symptoms had a 33% increase in stroke risk compared with those with the fewest symptoms after controlling for cardiovascular risk factors, using nationally-representative data from the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I).


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Obese people who take low-calorie drinks may also benefit by modifying diets, study says.

The Los Angeles Times (1/16, Macvean) reports "overweight and obese adults" who take diet drinks in their attempts to lose weight should “to take another look at the food they eat,” citing researchers who disclosed “Thursday that those people ate more food calories than overweight people who drank sugar-sweetened beverages.” In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, the researchers did not say “the dieters should give up on no- and low-calorie drinks; rather, they said the dieters should look at what else they’re consuming, especially sweet snacks, to find other ways to modify their diets.” Researchers used data about people 20 years and older from the 1999-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The paper highlights the significance of the study, noting that the consumption of diet beverages has jumped from 3 percent of adults in 1965 to 20 percent today, “and the beverage industry has said it is responding to the obesity epidemic in part by producing more low- and no-calorie choices for consumers.”


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Avocado with lunch may help with weight management

With more than 35% of the US population classed as obese, it seems there is a need for new weight loss strategies. Now, new research suggests that one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch may satisfy hunger in overweight individuals, reducing their need to snack after a meal.


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Calling Obesity A Disease May Make It Easier To Get Help

Under the Affordable Care Act, more insurance plans are expected to start covering the cost of obesity treatments, including counseling on diet and exercise as well as medications and surgery. These are treatments that most insurance companies don't cover now.

The move is a response to the increasing number of health advocates and medical groups that say obesity should be classified as a disease.


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Vitamin E may be beneficial for patients with Alzheimer's disease.

USA Today (1/1, Weintraub) reported, "Research a decade ago showed that vitamin E was helpful in late-stage Alzheimer's disease." The new research, "published Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association finds the benefits extend to people with mild to moderate forms of the disease."


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Chelation therapy reduces cardiovascular events for older patients with diabetes

Chelation treatments reduced cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, and death in patients with diabetes but not in those who did not have diabetes, according to analyses of data from the National Institutes of Health-funded Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT). However, researchers say more studies are needed before it's known whether this promising finding leads to a treatment option.


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TACT Substudy Suggests Possible Strong Benefit for Chelation in Diabetics

One year ago the results of the TACT trial were published in JAMA, sparking an enormous controversy over the propriety of publishing a trial suggesting that chelation therapy might be beneficial in people with cardiovascular disease. Chelation therapy has long been a staple of alternative medicine, but until the publication of TACT it had received no credit whatsoever in mainstream medicine. TACT was supported by the NIH as part of an initiaitve to test the scientific basis of alternative medical therapies.


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Research suggests weight-loss surgery may have long-term health benefits.

The Los Angeles Times (11/14, Healy, 3.07M) "Science Now" blog reports that a study presented at the Obesity Society's annual meeting suggests that "fifteen years after they have weight-loss surgery, almost a third of patients who had Type 2 diabetes at the time they were operated on remain free of the metabolic disorder.” A separate study presented at the meeting indicated that "six years following such surgery, patients had shaved their probability of suffering a heart attack over the next 10 years by 40%, their stroke risk by 42%, and their likelihood of dying over the next five years by 18%."


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Lack of sleep linked to higher levels of beta-amyloid in brain.

Bloomberg News (10/22, Ostrow, 1.91M) reports that research published in JAMA Neurology suggests that poor sleep "or not getting enough rest may result in a type of brain abnormality associated with Alzheimer’s disease."


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Study offers further evidence childhood obesity rates leveling out.

USA Today (9/16, Healy, 5.82M) reports a new study published online in Pediatrics found that between the years “2001 and 2009, U.S. adolescents increased physical activity, ate more fruits and vegetables, ate breakfast more, watched less TV and ate fewer sweets.” According to study co-author Ronald Iannotti, “It’s only recently, in the past decade, that some studies have begun to see some leveling off. ... Seeing this pattern is very encouraging.” Analyzing data from a sample of 35,000 kids aged 11 to 16, and collected in 2001, 2005 and 2009, “the average BMI increased over the nine years but declined between 2005 and 2009, from 62.33 to 62.07.”


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Depression may be more common in men than previously estimated.

USA Today (8/29, Szabo, 5.82M) reports that, according to a study published online Aug. 28 in JAMA Psychiatry, “depression may be far more common in men than previously estimated.” When symptoms such as “anger, aggression, substance abuse or risk taking, such as gambling or womanizing,” were factored in, in addition to traditional symptoms such as trouble sleeping and crying, investigators discovered that approximately “30% of both men and women had been depressed at some point in their lives.”


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Age-Related Forgetfulness Tied to Diminished Brain Protein

"Age-related forgetfulness may be due to a deficiency in a brain protein that helps form memories, a study found. Targeting the gene that produces that protein could lead to new therapies, the researchers said."


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Study: High-fat diets may spark overeating, obesity

The Boston Globe (8/16, Johnson, 1.53M) reports that a study involving mice published in Science suggests that “high-fat foods have the ability to alter and interfere with the reward circuitry in the brain – and that injecting a particular molecule can restore the normal reward response in the brain.” National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow, “who was not involved in the research, said it was a fascinating elucidation of the ways in which a peripheral organ is linked to the reward pathways in the brain.” Dr. Volkow “said that a multitude of signals that promote eating or fullness all appear to work by triggering the brain’s reward system – the same one that is activated by drugs.” According to Volkow, “What has been surprising is that there’s been such a reticence to recognize this.”


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Study: Research may have underestimated US deaths caused by obesity

USA Today (8/16, Hellmich, 5.82M) reports that the research team estimated that “between 1986 and 2006, 27% of deaths among black women; 22% of deaths among white women; 5% of deaths among black men; and 16% of deaths among white men could be attributed to being overweight or obese.”


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