August 2003 Archives
More than 300 million people worldwide are at risk of developing diabetes and the disease's economic impact in some hard-hit countries could be higher than that of the AIDS pandemic, diabetes experts warned on Monday. In a report released at the International Diabetes Federation conference in Paris, experts estimate the annual healthcare costs of diabetes worldwide for people aged 20 to 79 are at least $153 billion. "In some countries with a higher incidence, diabetes has a higher economic impact than AIDS," Williams Rhys, professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Wales, told a news conference. According to the Diabetes Atlas report, total direct healthcare spending on the disease worldwide will be between $213 billion and $396 billion by 2025, if predictions are correct that the number of people with diabetes will rise to 333 million by 2025 from 194 million. Reuters
A study indicates American youngsters walk less than those in other countries. Researchers say this helps explain why a greater proportion of American kids are overweight. And other experts say kids would walk more if parents didn't have to shuttle them around so much. The researchers gave pedometers to 1,954 children, ages 6-12, in the United States, Sweden and Australia. The number of steps shown on the pedometer was compared with the child's body-mass index — an estimate of body fat based on height and weight. "In general, the Swedish children were significantly more active than the Australian and American children, and the American children were significantly heavier than the Australian and Swedish children," the study said. Associated Press
Worrying about the health of California children, the state Assembly voted to ban soda sales to elementary school students and restrict sales of the drinks at junior high schools. If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, the bill approved Thursday would make California the first state to adopt a soda ban, said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that supports the bill. CNN
Some of the nation's top researchers, alarmed about the rise in childhood obesity, are calling for Americans to demand a complete overhaul of the way unhealthy foods and drinks are marketed to kids.
• Food companies to stop bombarding children with ads on TV, radio, in magazines and movies for junk food, fast foods and soft drinks.
• Schools to quit selling these kinds of foods and drinks in the cafeteria, vending machines and school stores.
• Celebrities to stop hawking these foods. (Some examples: Beyoncé Knowles touting Pepsi; Shaquille O'Neal endorsing Burger King.)
• Companies like Disney and Nickelodeon to quit letting their characters represent sugary cereals, junk food and fast food. (Example: Kellogg's Disney Mud & Bugs cereal features The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa on the box.)
• Fast-food chains and food companies to stop pushing huge portions.
Two sweeping studies released today appear to explode the long-held myth that half of heart attacks result from bad genes or bad luck. The studies, focusing on different populations totaling about half a million people, indicate that about 90% of people with severe heart disease have one or more of four classic risk factors: smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. That means the vast majority of the 650,000 new heart attacks each year could be prevented or delayed for decades by quitting smoking, reducing cholesterol and controlling hypertension and diabetes. USA TODAY
A new study offers an additional reason for men to exercise: It could add years to their sex lives. Researchers hope men will learn from this, and exercise to protect their potency even if they haven’t exercised to protect their hearts. Men over 50 who kept physically active had a 30 percent lower risk of impotence than men who were inactive, the study found. MSNBC
For Maynard Kaufman, organic farming is more than a way to grow food. It's a lifestyle. "It's a different attitude toward the land and the process of raising food," he says. "Instead of shaping it into our image and controlling every aspect of it, including the genetic structure, the organic farmer would cherish variety and biodiversity." The 74-year-old retired Western Michigan University professor raises all his own food without pesticides or herbicides. He lives in a home powered entirely by wind and the sun. CNN
A dietary supplement used by many athletes to boost muscle power can also increase brain power, at least in vegetarians. New research shows that non-meat eaters taking the supplement, called creatine, perform better in various memory tests than those taking a placebo. However, it is not yet clear if the benefits would apply to meat-eaters, as they already gain creatine from their diet. It is also uncertain whether the effects persist for as long as people continue taking the supplement, or whether it diminishes after a few months. NewScientist.com
An Indian drug company has launched what it claims is Asia's first vegetarian insulin. The new insulin is derived from yeast, as opposed to pigs or cows, as most insulin in India is at present. The company which has manufactured the drug, Wockhardt, says that this type of insulin will also avoid other viral infections such as BSE and CJD associated with insulin derived from animals. Until now nearly 90% of the insulin available on the Indian market was derived from pigs or cows which are proscribed respectively in the Muslim and Hindu communities. BBC
British scientists said on Wednesday they had found a link between a common bowel disorder and a type of bacteria that can be passed to humans in milk. Reuters
What mothers eat during pregancy could have a fundamental and lifelong effect on the genes of their children, suggests an intriguing new study in mice. Researchers found they could change the coat colour of baby mice by feeding their mothers different levels of four common nutrients during pregnancy. These altered how the pups' cells read their genes. As a result the mice were also less prone to obesity and diabetes than genetically identical mice whose mothers received no supplement. The work establishes the tightest link yet between diet and a strange form of inheritance known as epigenetics. Unlike a mutation which changes the DNA sequence of genes, epigenetic factors can alter how a gene is used, while leaving the DNA sequence unchanged. NewScientist
The McDonald's Corporation wants to be everywhere that children are. So besides operating 13,602 restaurants in the United States, it has plastered its golden arches on Barbie dolls, video games, book jackets and even theme parks. McDonald's calls this promotion and brand extension. But, a growing number of nutritionists call it a blitzkrieg that perverts children's eating habits and sets them on a path to obesity. Marketing fast food, snacks and beverages to children is at least as old as Ronald McDonald himself. What's new, critics say, is the scope and intensity of the assault. Big food makers like McDonald's and Kraft Foods Inc. are finding every imaginable way to put their names in front of children. And they're spending more than ever $15 billion last year, compared with $12.5 billion in 1998, according to research conducted at Texas A&M University in College Station. "What really changed over the last decade is the proliferation of electronic media," says Susan Linn, a psychologist who studies children's marketing at Harvard's Judge Baker Children's Center. "It used to just be Saturday-morning television. Now it's Nickelodeon, movies, video games, the Internet and even marketing in schools." Product tie-ins are everywhere. There are SpongeBob SquarePants Popsicles, Oreo Cookie preschool counting books and Keebler's Scooby Doo Cookies. There is even a Play-Doh Lunchables play set. While the companies view these as harmless promotional pitches, lawyers are threatening a wave of obesity-related class-action lawsuits. Legislators are pressing to lock food companies out of school cafeterias. And, some of the fiercest critics are calling for an outright ban on all food advertising aimed at children. The New York Times
Some scientists hope blueberry burgers will be coming to a restaurant, supermarket or school cafeteria near you. Al Bushway, a food scientist at the University of Maine, says his lab has been stirring blueberry puree or blueberry powder into beef, chicken and turkey patties. The researchers are trying to boost the nutritional value of burgers and help farmers improve their berry sales. Salon
When a group of obese teenagers sued McDonald's, claiming that it made them fat, the widely publicized case drew howls of derision. But the burger giant and its competitors aren't laughing anymore. When Federal Judge Robert Sweet threw out the teenagers' case last February, reasoning that customers knew the dangers of eating Big Macs and supersize fries, he went on — in less noted parts of his ruling — to set the stage for future lawsuits. He noted that "Chicken McNuggets, rather than being merely chicken fried in a pan, are a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook," including ground chicken skin, hydrogenated oils and dimethylpolysiloxane, an antifoaming agent, and he questioned whether customers understood the risks of eating McDonald's chicken over regular chicken. TIME
From the late 1970s, when he planted elaborate gardens in front of Tristate Waffle House restaurants that he and his father owned, Marvin Duren has been passionate about growing plants organically. About three years ago, the former restaurateur opened a nursery and garden center called Marvin's Organic Gardens along U.S. 42 in Lebanon. In late July, his company received its organic certification for plants and operations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are about a dozen organic-certified nurseries in the Tristate. "My main goal is to help promote things that are safe for the environment," Duren says. "With organics, it's safer. We don't use anything that would hurt a bug, a reptile, a bird or a worm in the ground." The Cincinnati Enquirer
A study led by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC) has found that the lower the level of vitamin C in the blood the more likely a person will become infected by Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that can cause peptic ulcers and stomach cancer. ScienceDaily
An Internet guide listing the ingredients of more than 4,000 household products from shampoo to ant spray went online on Friday. The site, put together by the National Library of Medicine, also lists details about the potential health effects of more than 2,000 product ingredients. The site, http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov, can help users find out what chemicals are in specific brands of products and give links to the manufacturer. A search of a certain dishwasher detergent, for instance, gives the telephone number of the maker, warning label information and links to a separate database containing toxicity information on the fragrances and detergents it contains. Reuters