Sunday, January 17, 2010

US rate of obesity high but not rising

No "epidemic" after all, it would seem. That many Americans are too fat by someone else's arbitrary definition means nothing other than showing a currently acceptable form of bigotry

Raise a glass of diet soda: The nation's obesity rate appears to have stalled. But the latest numbers still show that more than two-thirds of adults and almost a third of kids are overweight, with no sign of improvement. According to government data from the years 2007-08 published Wednesday, the obesity rate has held steady for about five years, reflecting earlier signs it had stalled after steadily climbing.

Dr. William Dietz, an obesity expert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cautiously called the results promising. "We're at the corner; we haven't turned the corner," he said.

Not only are the vast majority of adults overweight, 34 percent are obese (roughly 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight); and 17 percent of children are obese. Even the youngest Americans are affected - 10 percent of babies and toddlers are precariously heavy.

The CDC data were contained in two reports published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Even though this finding is certainly good news, the statistics are still staggering," said Dr. J. Michael Gaziano, a contributing editor at the journal.

The new data are based on health surveys involving height and weight measurements of 5,700 adults and 4,000 children, surveys the CDC does every two years. The results in adults, showing 68 percent are too heavy, have been virtually the same in the last three surveys.

In most age groups, black adults had the highest rates of obesity, followed by Mexican-Americans and whites. Among children and young people ages 2 to 19, 32 percent were too heavy - a rate that was mostly unchanged. But disturbingly, most obese kids were extremely obese. And the percentage of extremely obese boys ages 6 to 19 has steadily increased, to 15 percent from about 9 percent in 1999-2000.

CDC researcher and study author Cynthia Ogden said it was disappointing to see no decline and troubling that the heaviest boys seem to be getting even heavier. The study didn't examine the causes, but Ogden cited the usual reasons - soft drinks, video games and inactivity - as possible explanations. "We shouldn't be complacent. We still have a problem," Ogden said.

Gaziano, a cardiologist at Boston's Veterans Affairs Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, said getting the nation to turn the corner and reduce obesity requires changing many unhealthful behaviors, and getting restaurants, schools, food manufacturers and communities to support the fight. That's starting to happen, from efforts to pull soda from school vending machines to campaigns by groups like the NFL to encourage physical activity, Gaziano said.


Breast cancer chemotherapy can be cut to six weeks -- in mice

A new drug course could beat breast cancer in six weeks and eliminate the need for months of chemotherapy. Scientists have found that a combination of drugs regularly given to breast cancer patients destroyed tumours in a shorter period of time. Researchers at the University of Sheffield found a combination of treatments given over a period of six weeks was as effective as six months of treatment.

Around 45,000 women in Britain each year are diagnosed with breast cancer. Less exposure to chemotherapy would reduce the risk of side-effects, such as hair loss, nausea and, in some cases, permanent infertility.

The research team had already proven the effectiveness of using doxorubicin, a chemotherapy drug commonly given to stop tumour growth, and zoledronic acid, a well-tolerated treatment given to protect bone in advanced breast cancer. Senior lecturer Dr Ingunn Holen and her team treated a group of mice with the combination every week for six months and another group for six weeks.

The International Journal of Cancer said that in both groups tumours shrank from their original size and became barely detectable. Dr Holen said: 'These findings are very promising. Clinical studies in patients are now needed.'


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