Obesity Factors Appear in Kindergarten

A child’s weight during kindergarten may serve as a strong predictor of whether he or she will develop childhood obesity later in life.

New research from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health suggests that the development of childhood obesity is strongly established by kindergarten – as overweight 5-year-olds are four times as likely as normal weight children to become obese by the 8th grade.

According to lead author Dr. Venkat Narayan, the researchers conducted their study because they were interested in getting a better understanding of how early childhood obesity begins.

“We’ve been seeing high levels of women with obesity by the times they reach [elementary] school and adolescence,” Narayan, Ruth and OC Hubert Chair of Global Health and professor of medicine and epidemiology at Emory University, told FoxNews.com.  “But what’s not clear is at what rate children develop obesity for the first time, particularly at younger ages.”

Narayan and co-author Solveig Cunningham, an assistant professor at Rollins School of Public Health utilized data collected by the U.S. Department of Education, analyzing the height and weight measurements of 7,738 children enrolled in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study of the U.S. Kindergarten Class of 1998 to 1999.  The study followed the children from kindergarten – when the kids were an average of 5 years old – to 8th grade – when they were around 14 years old.

Using growth charts developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the researchers established each child’s body-mass index (BMI) as it changed over time – categorizing the children as normal weight, overweight (85th percentile BMI) or obese (95th percentile BMI).

By the time the children had entered kindergarten, 12 percent were considered obese and an additional 14 percent were considered overweight.  Of the normal weight children, only 8 percent went on to develop obesity by age 14, while 32 percent of the overweight and obese kindergartens became obese by the 8th grade.

“The biggest risk of developing new obesity from ages 5 to 14 is really driven by kids entering kindergarten overweight,” Narayan said.  “Those children who were born large or are overweight at age 5, something is happening very early in life which sets the pathway to obesity.”

The findings also revealed that obesity incidence decreased with age during elementary school years and obesity rates differed between racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and more than tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.  And in 2010, more than 1/3 of children and adolescents were considered obese or overweight.  Given these statistics and their study’s revelations, Narayan argued that more focus should be placed on children’s overall health in their earliest years of life.

“It’s not about focusing just on weight – it’s about healthy nutrition and healthy physical activity,” Narayan said.  “It’s true for school children; it should be true for preschool children.  Obesity may have to do with things that happen before a child is born.  Clearly we want healthy weight gain in the first five years of life and beyond.”

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OnJanuary 30, 2014, posted in: Latest News by

Comedians Found to Have “Different” Personalities

Having an unusual personality structure could be the secret to making other people laugh, scientists said on Thursday after research showed that comedians have high levels of psychotic personality traits.

In a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers analyzed comedians from Australia, Britain and the United States and found they scored significantly higher on four types of psychotic characteristics compared to a control group of people who had non-creative jobs.

The traits included a tendency towards impulsive or anti-social behavior, and a tendency to avoid intimacy.

“The creative elements needed to produce humor are strikingly similar to those characterizing the cognitive style of people with psychosis – both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” said Gordon Claridge of the University of Oxford’s department of experimental psychology, who led the study.

Although the traits in question are known as “psychotic”, Claridge said, they can also represent healthy equivalents of features such as moodiness, social introversion and the tendency to lateral thinking.

“Although schizophrenic psychosis itself can be detrimental to humor, in its lesser form it can increase people’s ability to associate odd or unusual things or to think ‘outside the box’,” he said.

“Equally, manic thinking – which is common in people with bipolar disorder – may help people combine ideas to form new, original and humorous connections.”

The researchers recruited 523 comedians – 404 men and 119 women – and asked them to complete an online questionnaire designed to measure psychotic traits in healthy people.

The traits scored were “unusual experiences”, such as belief in telepathy and paranormal events, “cognitive disorganization” such as difficulty in focusing thoughts, “introvertive anhedonia” – reduced ability to feel social and physical pleasure, and “impulsive non-conformity”, or tendency towards impulsive, antisocial behavior.

The same questionnaire was also completed by 364 actors – who are also used to performing in front of an audience – as a control group, and the comedians’ and actors’ results were compared to each other as well as a general group of 831 people who had non-creative jobs.

The researchers found that comedians scored significantly higher on all four types of psychotic personality traits compared to the general group. Most striking were their high scores for impulsive non-conformity and introverted personality traits, the researchers said.

The actors scored higher than the general group on three types – but did not display high levels of introverted personality traits.

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OnJanuary 16, 2014, posted in: Latest News by

Sensa One of Four Weight Loss Companies Targeted by the Feds


That “miracle” weight-loss product you’ve seen on TV may not live up to the hype.

The Federal Trade Commission has charged four companies with deceptive advertising related to their weight loss products. “Operation Failed Resolution,” as the FTC calls it, is an effort by the federal agency to crack down on companies’ misleading claims about products that allegedly help consumers slim down.

“Resolutions to lose weight are easy to make but hard to keep,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “And the chances of being successful just by sprinkling something on your food, rubbing cream on your thighs or using a supplement are slim to none. The science just isn’t there.”

Only three weight-loss drugs are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for long-term use by certain adults: Belviq, Qsymia and Orlistat (sold over-the-counter as Alli).

The FTC has reached a settlement with Sensa, Inc. and a partial settlement with LeanSpa, LLC., according to an FTC press release. The release also announced the charges filed against L’Occitane and HCG Diet Direct.

Users sprinkle Sensa on their food to allegedly reduce hunger. It contains maltodextrin, tricalcium phosphate and silica, as well as natural and artificial flavors.

Sensa’s advertising claimed the product is clinically proven to help people lose an average of 30 pounds in six months without dieting or exercise.

“Simply sprinkle Sensa on, eat all the foods you love and watch the pounds come off,” one commercial promised. “It’s that easy.”

A one-month supply of Sensa is $59.00 (plus shipping and handling). Profit from the sales of Sensa in the United States between 2008 and 2012 totaled nearly $364 million, according to court documents.

The FTC complaint named Sensa Products LLC, Sensa Inc., Sensa CEO Adam Goldberg and Sensa creator Dr. Alan Hirsch. All were charged with making unsubstantiated claims.

“SENSA® made a business decision to settle with the FTC so it could focus on the core of its business: its customers,” the company said in response on its website. “The settlement includes no admission of wrongful conduct by the company… The company has agreed to make changes to its advertising claims but otherwise will continue business as usual.”

The FTC shut down LeanSpa leader Boris Mizhen’s weight-loss companies in December 2011, claiming they were using fake news websites to promote acai berry and colon cleansing products. The FTC said consumers were being ripped off by paying up to $79.99 in shipping and handling charges for a “free trial.”

In a statement, LeanSpa said that it “regrets that it was forced by heavy-handed government tactics and financial circumstances, including an unwarranted freeze of the personal assets of LeanSpa principal Boris Mizhen and his wife (who wasn’t even involved in the business and has been accused of no wrongdoing), to enter into this settlement. LeanSpa never should have been named in this lawsuit and has been ruined by it.

“LeanSpa was an excellent company with first rank scientific advisors and an excellent, clinically tested weight loss product. It did not mislead consumers in its product claims or billing practices, and was itself a victim of deceptive and fraudulent conduct by its marketing partners. The settlement is a pragmatic compromise which admits no wrongdoing by LeanSpa and Mr. Mizhen and spares them expensive, protracted litigation. Could they have had their day in court, they are confident they and their actions would have been wholly vindicated.”

The company’s website, LeanSpa.com, appeared to be down Wednesday.

L’Occitane sells beauty products and fragrances that are “inspired by the Mediterranean lifestyle,” according to the company’s website.

L’Occitane launched an advertising campaign in 2012 that claimed its Almond Beautiful Shape and Almond Shaping Delight skin creams could help consumers slim down. Commercials said Almond Beautiful Shape could “trim 1.3 inches in just 4 weeks” while Almond Shaping Delight would “visibly refine and reshape the silhouette.”

Seven ounces of the products sold for $48 and $44, respectively.

“L’Occitane takes enormous care in developing our entire line of products and we want our customers to make well-informed decisions,” the company said in a statement. “When the FTC raised concerns in April 2012 regarding the way research findings for Almond Beautiful Shape and Almond Shaping Delight were communicated, we immediately took steps to review our advertising and marketing processes, and cooperated fully with the FTC. As a result of the FTC inquiry, L’Occitane has implemented a set of even more rigorous policies and procedures that will guide future clinical testing and ensure that our marketing and advertising comply with FTC regulations and guidelines.”

HCG Diet Direct sells a liquid form of the hormone chorionic gonadotropin, which is produced by the human placenta and has long been said to promote weight loss. HGC products are sold online and in stores as pellets, sprays or oral drops, and are supposed to be taken with a very-low calorie diet of less than 800 calories per day.

In November 2011, HCG Diet Direct and six other companies received warning letters from the FTC and the FDA.

“These HCG products marketed over-the-counter are unproven to help with weight loss and are potentially dangerous even if taken as directed,” said Ilisa Bernstein, acting director of the Office of Compliance in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, at the time. “A very low-calorie diet should only be used under proper medical supervision.”

The company falsely claimed the drops were approved by the FDA and charged approximately $35 for a seven-day supply, according to the FTC. It had sales totaling $3 million between 2009 and 2012.

Executives from HCG Diet Direct did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.

Three of the four companies charged owe money to reimburse customers, according to the FTC: Sensa will pay $26.5 million; L’Occitane, Inc. will pay $450,000; and LeanSpa will surrender “cash, real estate and personal property” totaling $7.3 million. HCG Diet Direct has submitted financial statements to the FTC saying it is unable to pay the $3.2 million judgment; the fee has been suspended.

The companies and defendants named in the legal charges are barred from making any other weight-loss claims about dietary supplements, food or drugs unless they have reliable scientific evidence, according to the FTC.

Americans spend billions of dollars every year on supplements. The industry reported an estimated $25 billion in sales in 2009.

“Market analysts suggest that the downturn in the economy has led to increased spending on these products, as consumers attempt to manage their own health care and avoid expensive doctor visits and prescription medications,” the FTC said on its website.

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OnJanuary 13, 2014, posted in: Latest News by

Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

If you don’t have high blood pressure now, odds are you will. About 31 percent of adult Americans have hypertension, but more than 66 percent of people over age 60 do, because blood pressure tends to increase with age. You might not know you have it, however—there aren’t any symptoms. “Your first clue may be a heart attack,” says Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center and the author of Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth about What Makes Us Well. “That’s why hypertension is called the silent killer.”

A few simple things can bring those important numbers in line. The usual advice still holds—cut down on salt, quit smoking, eat lots of fruits and veggies, and do cardio exercise—but some of the new recommendations are even easier to follow.

1. Eat low-fat, low-sugar yogurt

People who ate one or more 6-ounce servings of yogurt twice a week over 14 years were about 31 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than people who didn’t eat yogurt, found a recent study.

2. Lift weights

In a study, women who pumped iron cut systolic blood pressure (SBP; the first number) by 5 points and diastolic (DBP; the second) by 9 points—and the effects lasted longer after the workout than for women who did cardio. Get the best of both worlds by doing both kinds of exercise, alternating days.

3. Drink faux red wine

A recent study found that nonalcoholic red wine lowers blood pressure (SBP by 5.8 points and DBP by 2.3 points) after 4 weeks. But any antioxidant-rich food or beverage will do, says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center.

4. Enjoy a little sun

Keeping up your levels of vitamin D by exposing your face, arms, and legs to the sun about 15 minutes 3 days a week might lower your blood pressure if you’re deficient. “Vitamin D helps arteries relax and improves their functioning,” says Dr. Arshed Quyyumi, a professor of cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine. His study found that D-deficient people who’d reached normal levels 6 months later saw their blood pressures go down an average of 4.6 points. No sun for you? Ask your doc to recommend a supplement.

5. Hang with pals

Loneliness boosts SBP an average of 3 points a year over 5 years, found a 2010 study. “Take your social relationships seriously,” says Louise Hawkley, the study author and a senior research scientist at the University of Chicago .

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OnDecember 13, 2013, posted in: Latest News by

Number of Children Injured in High Chairs Increases

Every year, about 9,400 young children in the U.S. are injured falling off high chairs, a new study finds. Doctors warn that despite the chairs’ perceived safety, children in high chairs can be harmed if a chair is not used properly.

The study also showed that the rate of such injuries increased by 22 percent over the study period, from 2003 through 2010.

Head injuries were the most common type of injury associated with high chairs, followed by bumps or bruises and cuts, according to the study. The researchers looked at children ages 3 and younger who were treated in U.S. emergency departments, and the results are published today (Dec. 9) in the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

“Maybe even more concerning, the rate of head injuries has increased by almost 90 percent between 2003 and 2010, and I think it begs the question, what’s going on?” said study researcher Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. [9 Weird Ways Kids Can Get Hurt]

Nearly all injuries associated with high chairs or booster seats involved falls. Most children fell as they were climbing or standing on the chair, suggesting that the chair’s safety restraint system was either not being used, or faulty, the researchers said.

“We know that over the recent years, millions of chairs have been recalled in the U.S. because of not meeting safety standards. But usually, a very low percentage of recalled products are actually returned,” Smith told LiveScience. Parents should check the website of the federal government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission for product recalls, he said.

Another reason for the increase seen in the study could be that more parents are taking their children to the hospital if a head injury occurs, Smith said.

“There has been an increased awareness about the importance of minor head injury and concussion in the news. It is primarily related to sports, but it has also become on the radar for clinicians and parents,” Smith said.

The researchers also compared injuries related to high chairs and booster seats with injuries associated with other types of chairs, including traditional chairs, and kids’ chairs. More than 40,000 injuries associated with chairs were reported each year during the study period, which translates to four children every hour.

Children injured while using traditional chairs were more likely to sustain broken bones, cuts and bruises, compared with children who got hurt using high chairs, which have restraining systems.

“I believe high chairs are safe, if they haven’t been recalled and if they are used properly,” Smith said. “Parents need to check the high chair they are using hasn’t been recalled. They also need be careful to use the restraining system, and use it every time.”


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OnDecember 10, 2013, posted in: Latest News by

Number of Dementia Cases Expected to Rise Dramatically

Many governments are woefully unprepared for an epidemic of dementia currently affecting 44 million people worldwide and set to more than treble to 135 million people by 2050, health experts and campaigners said on Thursday.

Fresh estimates from the advocacy group Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) showed a 17 percent increase in the number of people with the incurable mind-robbing condition compared with 2010, and warned that by 2050 more than 70 percent of dementia sufferers will be living in poorer countries.

“It’s a global epidemic and it is only getting worse,” said ADI’s executive director Marc Wortmann.

“If we look into the future the numbers of elderly people will rise dramatically. It’s vital that the World Health Organization makes dementia a priority, so the world is ready to face this condition.”

Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a fatal brain disease that has no cure and few effective treatments.

Like other forms of the disorder, it affects patients’ memory, thinking and behavior and is an increasingly overwhelming burden on societies and economies. While there are a few drugs that can ease some symptoms in some people, there is no cure.

Even now, the global cost of dementia care is more than $600 billion, or around 1.0 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), and that will only increase, the ADI says.

In a policy report published along with the new data, Martin Prince, a professor at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, said “most governments are woefully unprepared for the dementia epidemic”. His report said only 13 countries have national dementia plans.

“This is a global problem that is increasingly impacting on developing countries with limited resources and little time to develop comprehensive systems of social protection, health and social care,” Prince said in a statement.

Leaders from the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries are due to meet in London next week for a special summit on dementia – a condition that includes Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), fronto-temporal dementia and many other causes of cognitive decline.

In Britain, dementia is the most feared health condition among people aged over 55 and costs the economy $37.6 billion a year – more than cancer, stroke or heart disease combined.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who will host the summit, has committed to spending 66 million pounds on dementia research by 2015. Campaigners welcome the investment, but also say it is a fraction – one eighth – of what is spent on cancer research in Britain.

Experts on neurological conditions, research campaigners and charities say they are determined the summit should not be just a talking shop, but should see leaders committing to dramatically increased funds for research and drug development in dementia, and to giving it greater political attention.

“Lack of funding means dementia research is falling behind other conditions,” said Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society. “The G8 is our once-in-a-generation chance to conquer this condition and we must see meaningful action after the talking is over.”

As well as more money for fundamental scientific research and for drug development, experts say they want the G8 summit to focus on ways to attract, develop and retain the best scientists, doctors and carers into the field of dementia.

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OnDecember 5, 2013, posted in: Latest News by

Men and Women are Truely Wired Differently

Men aren’t from Mars and women aren’t from Venus, but their brains really are wired differently, a new study suggests.

The research, which involved imaging the brains of nearly 1,000 adolescents, found that male brains had more connections within hemispheres, whereas female brains were more connected between hemispheres. The results, which apply to the population as a whole and not individuals, suggest that male brains may be optimized for motor skills, and female brains may be optimized for combining analytical and intuitive thinking.

“On average, men connect front to back [parts of the brain] more strongly than women,” whereas “women have stronger connections left to right,” said study leader Ragini Verma, an associate professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania medical school. But Verma cautioned against making sweeping generalizations about men and women based on the results. [10 Surprising Facts About a Man’s Brain]

Previous studies have found behavioral differences between men and women. For example, women may have better verbal memory and social cognition, whereas men may have better motor and spatial skills, on average. Brain imaging studies have shown that women have a higher percentage of gray matter, the computational tissue of the brain, while men have a higher percentage of white matter, the connective cables of the brain. But few studies have shown that men’s and women’s brains are connected differently.

In the study, researchers scanned the brains of 949 young people ages 8 to 22 (428 males and 521 females), using a form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) known as diffusion tensor imaging, which maps the diffusion of water molecules within brain tissue. The researchers analyzed the participants as a single group, and as three separate groups split up by age.

As a whole, the young men had stronger connections within cerebral hemispheres while the young women had stronger connections between hemispheres, the study, detailed today (Dec. 2) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found. However, the cerebellum, a part of the brain below the cerebrum that plays a role in coordinating muscle movement, showed the opposite pattern, with males having stronger connections between hemispheres.

Roughly speaking, the back of the brain handles perception and the front of the brain handles action; the left hemisphere of the brain is the seat of logical thinking, while the right side of the brain begets intuitive thinking. The findings lend support to the view that males may excel at motor skills, while women may be better at integrating analysis and intuitive thinking.

“It is fascinating that we can see some of functional differences in men and women structurally,” Verma told LiveScience. However, the results do not apply to individual men and women, she said. “Every individual could have part of both men and women in them,” she said, referring to the connectivity patterns her team observed.

When the researchers compared the young people by age group, they saw the most pronounced brain differences among adolescents (13.4 to 17 years old), suggesting the sexes begin to diverge in the teen years. Males and females showed the greatest differences in inter-hemisphere brain connectivity during this time, with females having more connections between hemispheres primarily in the frontal lobe. These differences got smaller with age, with older females showing more widely distributed connections throughout the brain rather than just in the frontal lobe.

Currently, scientists can’t quantify how much an individual has male- or female-like patterns of brain connectivity. Another lingering question is whether the structural differences result in differences in brain function, or whether differences in function result in structural changes.

The findings could also help scientists understand why certain diseases, such as autism, are more prevalent in males, Verma said.

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OnDecember 3, 2013, posted in: Latest News by