Sunday, June 01, 2008

Obesity epidemic found to be a myth in Australia too

New recommendation: Target antifat messages at the fatties only! Whoda thunk it? Though what the government has to do with it at all needs to be questioned

AUSTRALIA'S childhood obesity epidemic has been "exaggerated" and government-led national prevention efforts may be misdirected, with childhood obesity only increasing in lower-income families. Controversial new research into childhood obesity rates has called into question whether the millions of dollars allocated by the Federal Government for obesity prevention programs should be targeted to the highest-risk groups, rather than focused at the general population.

The findings, based on measurements taken from thousands of Australian children in two nationally representative samples in 2000 and 2006, found that the growth in childhood obesity overall has slowed to a crawl, and the only statistically significant increases are now among boys and girls from low-income homes, The Australian reports.

Last night, Health Minister Nicola Roxon said obesity was "a significant challenge in health and a cause of several major chronic diseases - and will remain a priority for the Rudd Government". The overall obesity rate rose only slightly, from 6 per cent in 2000 to 6.8 per cent in 2006 - an increase researchers said was not statistically significant.

Among low-income boys, obesity almost doubled from 5.4 per cent in 2000 to 9.3 per cent in 2006. The increase for wealthier children was much less, rising from 4.9 per cent to 6.8 per cent among middle-income boys and from 3.7 per cent to 4.9 per cent for the wealthiest. Among low-income girls, the obesity rate increased from 3.9 per cent in 2000 to 6.8 per cent in 2006, whereas the rate stayed flat at 5.5 per cent for middle-income girls, and increased from 2.4 per cent to 3.9 per cent among high-income girls.

Australia's health ministers in 2003 labelled obesity "an epidemic". In this month's Budget, the Government said it would spend $62 million under its National Preventative Health Strategy to fight obesity, including nearly $13 million to fund a kitchen garden program in 190 schools nationally. But Jenny O'Dea, associate professor of child health research at the University of Sydney, will tell a Nutrition Australia conference next month that obesity in children "has not increased overall" between 2000 and 2006. In comments that have already drawn fire from some other obesity experts, Professor O'Dea told The Weekend Australian there was "no doubt that it (childhood obesity) has been exaggerated". "Some kids are more at risk than others, and that's where the prevention efforts need to go," she said.


Research offers infection clue to sudden infant death syndrome

Many cot deaths may be caused by common infections, the largest study of post-mortem examination data has suggested. Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London have found that in about half the cases of sudden infant death syndrome (Sids) where no cause of death could be found, samples taken from the babies contained bacteria that might have caused their deaths. The bacteria detected most often were E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. This suggests that some of the deaths may be the result of infections that were not considered as causes at the time the babies died.

Neil Sebire, a paediatric pathologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, and colleagues said in The Lancet: "We must now investigate the pathophysiological mechanism involved in these cases."

Every year about 250 infants die from Sids. The best way to reduce the risk is to ensure that babies sleep on their backs and that their parents do not smoke, the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths recommends.


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