Health Points: Thursday

  • The AFP examines other explanations for the global obesity epidemic. Would you believe some experts blame air conditioning for our bloated sizes? Richard Ingham reports:
    Air conditioning, which establishes a comfortable temperature zone. In temperatures above this zone, people eat less. The rise in number of air-conditioned homes in the United States virtually mirrors the increase in the US obesity rate.
  • Healthday reporter Ed Edelson explains a new study links antioxidants to preventing kidney damage:
    The Italian study, done at the University of Milan, included 354 patients who underwent the artery-opening procedure called angioplasty after having heart attacks. One-third of them were not given acetylcysteine; one-third got what the doctors called a standard dose, a 600-milligram intravenous injection before the procedure and 2,400 milligrams in the following two days; and the other third got twice that dose.

    Kidney function is tested by measuring blood levels of creatinine, a breakdown product of creatine, which is an important part of muscle. Creatinine levels go up as kidney function goes down.

    Among study participants, creatinine levels increased in 33 percent of patients who did not get acetylcysteine, in 15 percent of those getting the standard dose and in 8 percent of those who got the double dose, the researchers reported.

    And 13 of those patients not getting acetylcysteine died in the hospital, while the death rate was lower for those who got the medication -- five of those getting the standard dose and three of those getting the larger dose.

  • Some nutritionists are concerned about athletes' cavalier approach to sports drinks. New York Times reporter Kim Severson explains:

    For some athletes, an energy drink laced with stimulants from various sources can cause problems because it is almost impossible to know how much stimulant actually is in each drink, Mr. Ellis said. Drinking too much can produce a false sense of well-being.

    "They help blunt your perception of pain," he said. "That might be good in the short term, but the bad news is if you don't feel the fatigue in a hot, humid environment, your body won't make you slow down to minimize overheating. Exertional heatstroke is a real possibility."

    Athletes who rely on energy drinks can begin an addictive cycle.

  • Over the past week secondhand smoke has been getting a lot of press. Julie's Health Club shares her experiences growing up with a smoker:

    My father, bless his heart, smoked three packs a day while I was growing up, and I have vivid memories of long road trips with the car windows rolled up. It was such a part of his life that when we joined the YMCA Indian Princesses program, I suggested he take the name of "Big Smoke" and I, naturally, would be "Little Smoke."

    In college, I lived in a cramped dorm room with two roommates, including one smoker. So for the first 21 years of my life, I probably inhaled secondhand smoke on a daily basis.

    What can I do now to undo the damage?

  • Now, not like an Eat to Liver would be caught dead in a Jack in the Box, but the franchise has just added two healthy options to its menu. Fast Food News reports:

    Jack in the Box has added a fruit cup and bottled water to their menu this summer.

    The fruit cup is a 7-ounce serving of cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple and red grapes served in a sealed cup.

    "When the summer heat kicks in, consumers crave something that tastes light and refreshing," said Teka O'Rourke, director of menu marketing and promotions for Jack in the Box.

Research: Obesity Heightens Prostate Cancer Recurrence

A new study in the journal Cancer claims obese men have an increased risk of cancer recurrence after undergoing treatment with radiotherapy for localized prostate cancer. Reuters reports:

The study, reported in the current online issue of the journal Cancer, involved 873 men who underwent radiation treatment as their only treatment for localized prostate cancer between 1988 and 2001.

Obesity was determined by an elevated body mass index (BMI), a ratio of height to weight commonly used to determine if a person is overweight or underweight. The researchers found that 18 percent of the men were mildly obese and 5 percent were moderately to severely obese.

Obese patients were more likely to be a younger age at diagnosis, to have a more recent diagnosis, and to be African-American.

After an average follow-up period of 96 months, 295 men experienced biochemical failure and 127 had full disease recurrence with symptoms.

Health Points: Friday

  • According to HealthDay researchers say childhood obesity leaves overweight children more prone to migraine headaches: Migraines More Common in Overweight Kids
    "The numbers tell us that being overweight may contribute to kids having more headaches, most often migraines," Dr. Andrew D. Hershey, director of the Headache Center and a pediatric neurologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said in a prepared statement. "There are likely a number of causes, including poorer general health, body stress, lack of exercise and nutrition. It may not be that being overweight directly causes migraine, but that the reasons for being overweight cause these children to have worsening headaches."
  • CNN reports parents and caregivers too content to let kids sit around all day: At home and school, kids are sedentary

    "One of the guidelines is that children should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time. In other words, after 60 minutes they should be up and moving for 10 minutes blocks of time," he said. "As children move into elementary school, they shouldn't be sedentary for more than 90 minutes at a time."
  • The Associated Press introduces amaranth and other alternative fibers: Goodbye wheat, hello amaranth, say consumers
    Amaranth, grown for millennia by the Aztecs, has twice as much iron as wheat and is higher in protein and fiber. Quinoa, an ancient Andean crop, has less fiber but more protein and iron than wheat.
  • Organic Authority talks about the dangers of salt: Hold the salt
    Excess sodium greatly increases the chance of developing hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Research shows most Americans consume two to three times the amount of sodium that is healthy, with an estimated 75%-80% of daily intake coming from processed and restaurant foods.
  • Healthy Eating would love to see Buffalo New York become the restaurant capital of the world by serving healthy food: Restaurants Can Offer Healthy Choices
    My dream is to find restaurants offering healthy choices and changing preparation to include steaming, poaching, broiling and crock-pot cooking. Like the revolution that eliminated smoking from restaurants, this will not be easy. People will claim that it won't sell. They will claim loss of customers and people's right to eat bad food. People eat Chinese food, Greek food, French, English, Italian and American food, so why can't they eat "Healthy Food?" This was no accident, just the first of many attempts to satisfy the market for healthy foods. These changes are an answer to "leaning toward the dream." The U.S. has just dropped from 25th to 29th in ranking the longevity of Americans as compared to the other industrialized nations of the world.
  • Julie's Health Club takes a look at the ever-resilient issue of mercury contamination: Don't touch the tuna
    The government still won't protect consumers against mercury in certain kinds of seafood by requiring warning labels, but select retailers are doing their part. Whole Foods, Safeway and Wild Oats have all volunteered to post signs in stores that alert shoppers about possibly high mercury levels, reports Progressive Grocer.

LA Times: Soy Losing Its Luster

According to The Los Angeles Times soybeans are no longer being perceived as the wonder food they were once touted to be. It appears many researchers and scientists are losing faith in the bean. Hilary E. MacGregor reports:

Some are worried about reproductive problems. Last year, researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) found that mice given genistein right after birth developed irregular reproductive cycles and problems with ovulation and fertility. This year, they reported that genistein disrupted the development of ovaries.

"Whether these things cause problems in humans, we just don't know," says Wendy Jefferson, an NIEHS scientist and the paper's lead researcher. "But so many babies are on soy formulas. If these things are going to be a problem it is a problem that would only manifest later, when a woman was trying to get pregnant, or having reproductive-cycle problems."

The research led an independent panel of 14 scientists to meet in March and decide whether soy formula is hazardous to human development or reproduction.

The panel concluded that soy formula was safe but one pediatrician on the panel expressed concerns, saying exposure to soy formula occurs during a critical time in infancy and might possibly affect development of the brain and reproductive system.

In a previous post Dr. Fuhrman discusses some of the issues surrounding soy and how to incorporate it into a healthy diet. Here's an excerpt:

The evidence is not sufficient to warrant being fearful of consuming soybeans as part of a healthful diet. However, this brings to mind my basic theme of nutritional biodiversity´┐Żeat a variety of plant foods, and do not eat a soy-based diet.

Most of the processed soy products can be tasty additions to a plant-based diet, but they are generally high in salt and are not nutrient-dense foods, so use them sparingly. In conclusion, the soybean is a superior food, containing the difficult-to-find omega-3 fats. Beans in general are superior foods that fight against cancer and heart disease, which is why you will benefit from using a variety of beans in your diet.

Rather than vilifying soybeans, the wiser approach seems to be not centering a diet on one particular food (in this case soybeans), but rather incorporate soybeans into a nutrient-dense plant-based diet. Instead of gobbling up everything that has soy in it.

Back to the LA Times article, Dr. Gregory Burke makes a strong case for continuing consumption of soy:

"If a drug company came up and said 'We are going to develop a product that reduces the risk of heart disease, reduces the rate of prostate cancer, that alleviates hot flashes and does good things for bone, and that doesn't have any side effects,' they would be laughed out of the room," says Dr. Gregory Burke, a professor in the department of Health Sciences at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

But just because soy is not a magic cure for hot flashes and breast cancer does not mean it isn't a good food.

NPR: Mercury Content in Tuna

NPR reports a new study by Consumer Reports claims pregnant women should completely avoid all varieties of canned tuna due to mercury contamination. It was previously thought that canned "light" tuna was safe for consumption, but research revealed it can be equally if not more dangerous. Listen to the podcast for the complete report.

This topic is no stranger to Followhealthlife, read the following posts for more information:

A Link Between Parenting Style and Childhood Obesity

According to HealthDay News a new study in the Journal of Pediatrics claims parenting-style affects children's likelihood to become overweight. Some researchers aren't surprised by the findings, Kathleen Doheny reports:

Authoritarian parenting was associated with the highest risk of overweight, the researchers found, with the risk five times higher. Children of permissive and neglectful mothers were twice as likely to be overweight as children of authoritative mothers, they also found.

"We were sort of suspecting this would be the case," Dr. Kyung Rhee, a clinical instructor and research fellow at Boston University School of Medicine and the study's lead author said, "because authoritative parenting has been associated with better outcomes in academic achievement, better self-control, less depressive symptoms, less risk-taking as teens."

Why are the less-ideal parenting styles associated with the risk of overweight? "We haven't studied exactly the mechanism," Rhee said. She speculated, however, that parents with an authoritative style allow the child to develop "some of their own self-regulatory abilities." As an example, she said an authoritarian parent might tell his child that he needs to finish a vegetable every night, put it on his plate and say, "Eat it." But an authoritative parent might offer a couple of different vegetables and allow the child to choose.

"The authoritarian parents determine everything for the child," Rhee said. "[The children] may learn not to listen to their bodies about how full they are. They learn to listen to external cues, somebody else telling them, 'You need to finish your plate before you get up from the table.' Authoritative parents allow the child to push the boundaries a little while maintaining the boundaries."

The more research I read, the more I wish every parent would listen to Dr. Fuhrman's podcast on getting children to eat well. The food thing just doesn't have to be a battle.

Report: Adults Who Take Statins Tend to Raise Kids Who Take Statins

Eating and exercise habits tend to pass from parents to children. So, it appears, do the resulting medical problems. According to Reuters some doctors are prescribing cholesterol controlling statins to children. Debra Sherman reports:

Cholesterol is making inroads in kindergartens on piles of pizza and burgers, and children as young as 10 are taking statin drugs along with their vitamins to stay healthy.

Poor diets and lack of exercise are the same factors behind rising childhood obesity, and can lead to health problems later in life, notably heart disease, doctors said.

"Genetics play a role, but this is more a lifestyle problem," said Dr. Steven Nissen, interim chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic.

Bad cholesterol builds up plaque on artery walls that narrows arteries and blocks blood flow to the heart. High cholesterol also is linked to other health problems, such as strokes.

Nissen said he occasionally prescribes hugely popular cholesterol-lowering statins -- by far the world's biggest selling class of drugs -- to children when changes in diet and exercise fail to do the job.

"I've treated children as young as 10 with them. I'd have to have a compelling reason to do that. Safety data is limited," he added.

Research: The Biggest Danger of the Gridiron is Heart Disease

In his book Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman claims the training concept of "bulking up," common among NFL lineman, jeopardizes players' long-term health. Steven Reinberg of HealthDay News reports on new research supporting Dr. Fuhrman's position:

"In the general population, there is about a 20 percent incidence of metabolic syndrome," Croft said. "In our cohort of retired NFL players, almost 51 percent of linemen had metabolic syndrome compared to non-linemen."

Among non-linemen, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome was less than that seen among the general population, Croft noted.

Croft thinks these problems are the result of linemen not changing their lifestyle after retirement. These players continue to maintain their weight while not maintaining their previous level of physical activity, she said.

One expert thinks that increasing your weight to play a sport can lead to health problems later on.

"These studies underscore the fact that striving for success on the playing field sometimes ironically leads to worse overall health," said Dr. Byron K. Lee, an assistant professor of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. "A similar phenomenon has been also seen in sumo wrestlers."

These studies should not be interpreted as meaning that being a NFL lineman causes cardiovascular disease, Lee said. "The fact is that many former NFL linemen are overweight. This is not surprising after many years of being told to eat more and more because larger size, even due to fat, can be advantageous for linemen," he said.

"We already know that obesity is linked to most, if not all, of the outcomes found in this study. The bottom line, whether you are an NFL lineman or not, is to stay lean," Lee said.

Research: Body Produces Own Antiobiotics

Our bodies are pretty amazing, with many disease-fighting protections already built in. Consider this article from Healthday News. Diana Kohnle reports new research shows our bodies produce an antibiotic to fight urinary tract infection:

Although it was once thought that urine passing through the urinary tract prevented bacteria from accumulating in its membranes, researchers at the Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm have proven differently. Instead, they found that the body produces an antibacterial peptide, called LL-37, that helps prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs).

"Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a growing problem," research leader and professor Annelie Brauner said in a prepared statement. "As the development of resistance to the body's own antibiotic is very rare, it can be used as an alternative or a complement to conventional antibiotic medication."

During the study, urine from healthy children and those with UTIs was tested for levels of LL-37. Results showed very low levels of LL-37 in the urine of healthy children, but high levels in the urine of children with UTIs.

"We were able to show that LL-37 is produced in the epithelial cells of the urinary tracts and the kidneys, and that its build-up and secretion occur within a few minutes after a bacterial attack," said Brauner.

For more on antibiotics, see the previous post.

Invasion of the Gut Bugs

Researchers are working on a theory and manipulating the microbes in your intestinal tract, through diet or medication, may be the key to weight loss. Boston Globe correspondent Bijal P. Trivedi reports:

The human digestive system is home to between 10 trillion and 100 trillion bacteria -- at least 10 times the number of human cells in the body. ''This makes us more microbe than man," said Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, director of the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In exchange for shelter and a plentiful food supply, these bacteria boost their host's digestion by extracting nutrients from otherwise indigestible food particles.

Gordon believes, though his science isn't there yet, that people with certain communities of gut microbes may get more calories from their food -- and therefore pack on more fat -- than people with a different set of bugs. Manipulating these bacteria by diet or medications may eventually become one approach to fighting obesity, he and others said.

Research: Overweight and Acid Reflux

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine contends that even slight weight gain can cause gastrointestinal problems. The research most directly points to the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Amanda Gardner of Healthday News reports:

"This sheds some light that any excess weight over ideal body weight may have a detrimental effect," said study author Dr. Brian Jacobson, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

"Even if you were of normal weight and experienced a gain, you are more prone to reflux," added Dr. Anthony A. Starpoli, a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

GERD occurs when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus fails to close properly. As a result, the contents in the stomach, including stomach acid, can spill up into the esophagus, leading to erosion of the esophagus and, in some cases, esophageal cancer.

Researchers have already established that overweight and obese people are at an increased risk for GERD, but there have been questions about the link between body-mass index (BMI) and GERD.