Check in with us as we feature the latest trends, research and news in medicine, health and science. A team of Star Tribune staffers will aggregate updates from news wires, websites, magazines and medical journals.

Extreme obesity shortens life span by years

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: July 9, 2014 - 5:29 PM


People with a body mass index, or BMI, above 40 are robbed of an average 6.5 years of expected life span, a study has found. And the toll in years lost rises with the degree of obesity, reaching nearly 14 years for the most obese -- those with a BMI above 55, researchers said.

The study found that the reduction in life expectancy associated with being extremely obese was similar to that seen in adults who smoke. And as a person's obesity rises to higher levels, his or her expected life span falls below that of smokers.

The findings come from a project that aggregated the results of about 20 long-term studies on obesity in the United States, Australia and Sweden. They were published in PLoS Medicine, in what is believed to be the largest study to date of the health consequences of severe obesity.

Compared with their normal-weight peers, the extremely obese are more likely to succumb early to heart disease, cancer and diabetes. For men with "class III obesity," the rate of death attributable to heart disease and diabetes is especially elevated compared with normal-weight males. For women in the same obesity category, cancer deaths dramatically outstripped those among normal-weight women.

But premature deaths attributable to all causes, from injury to chronic lower respiratory infections, were consistently higher in those with severe obesity, the study found.

The extremely obese -- those who generally would need to lose 100 lbs. or more to attain a "normal healthy weight" -- are a fast-growing segment of the U.S. population, now representing about 6% of American adults.

The ranks of those with a BMI over 40 (for example, a 5-foot-6 person weighing 250 pounds or more) have grown fourfold since the 1980s. The population with a BMI over 50 (say, a 5-foot-10 person weighing more than 350 pounds) has grown by 10% in the same period.

American Indian tribe members in MN have higher cancer rate

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: July 8, 2014 - 12:54 PM


American Indians in Minnesota have significantly higher rates of cancer than the general population, a troubling trend that experts in part link to economic and spiritual ties to tobacco.

A recent tribal survey found that 59 percent of Minnesota's American Indians smoke. Nearly 3,000 people completed the questionnaire, making it the largest tobacco survey among American Indians in Minnesota, according to Minnesota Public Radio News.

"We can't talk about cancer in American Indian communities without addressing the high rates of tobacco and the rates of secondhand smoke exposure in our communities," said Kris Rhodes, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and executive director of the American Indian Cancer Foundation.  

The use of ceremonial tobacco may be another factor that has influenced Indians' smoking rates.
Tobacco is considered a sacred medicine and is regularly used in ceremonies. But, Rhodes said there has been some debate within the community about whether it is appropriate to translate that spiritual meaning to smoking commercial tobacco.

Cancer is Minnesota's leading cause of death. And for Indians, their risk of dying from lung cancer is more than two times higher than among non-Hispanic whites. Their rates of cervical and larynx cancer are four times higher, according to the Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System and the Minnesota Department of Health.

American Indians also have the state's highest rates of colorectal, kidney and oral cancers.
Breaking the smoking habit has also been difficult because cigarette sales are an important part of the tribal economy.

Can test predict binge drinkers?

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: July 7, 2014 - 12:30 PM

Scientists can predict teen binge drinkers before the pattern worsens into adulthood with 70 percent accuracy.

Researchers studied thousands of teenagers’ brain assessments and genes and found, with high accuracy, who will become binge drinkers in the future. Neuroscientists from the University of Vermont published a large study in the journal Nature.

"Our goal was to develop a model to better understand the relative roles of brain structure and function, personality, environmental influences and genetics in the development of adolescent abuse of alcohol," said lead author Dr. Robert Whelan, a former University of Vermont postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry. "This multidimensional risk profile of genes, brain function, and environmental influences can help in the prediction of binge drinking at age 16 years."

The best predictors of binge drinking were personality, sensation-seeking traits such as adrenaline junkies, lack of conscientiousness or self-awareness, teens who experienced several stressful events, and a family history of drug abuse. However, having just one drink at 14 years old was the biggest predictor of someone becoming a binge drinker.

Read more from Medical Daily.

E-cigarettes now limited indoors

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: July 1, 2014 - 10:33 AM

A new law in Minnesota bans e-cigarette use in some public places, including government buildings, public schools, and most health care facilities.

The Minnesota Legislature passed e-cigarette measures including indoor-use restrictions, starting July 1. The law also requires retailers to keep e-cigs behind the counter and to be licensed.

Next year, starting Jan. 1, the law will require child resistant packaging of e-cigarette liquids sold in Minnesota. The law also prohibits anyone under 18 to have an e-cigarette nicotine dispenser on public school grounds.

Under the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act e-cigarette use is now subject to the same prohibitions and restrictions as smoking in some locations, such as:

•    Licensed day care, including family home daycare during hours of operation.
•    Buildings and vehicles owned or operated by public school districts.
•    Health care facilities and clinics, except residents of residential health care facilities or psychiatric units can still use e-cigarettes in enclosed areas, such as smoking rooms, that meet regulations.
•    Buildings owned or operated by the state of Minnesota, as well as Minnesota cities, counties, and townships.
•    Facilities owned by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota.
•    Facilities licensed by Minnesota Department of Human Services, and those MDH-licensed facilities subject to federal licensing requirements.

Minnesota Department of Health

Numbing agents can harm teething babies, FDA says

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: June 27, 2014 - 11:35 AM

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning parents that prescription drugs such as viscous lidocaine are not safe for infants or young children who are teething, and that they have hurt some children who used those products.

Viscous lidocaine is a prescription medication, a local anesthetic in a gel-like syrup. Reports of overdoses in teething babies have been linked to jitteriness, confusion, vision problems, vomiting, falling asleep too easily, shaking and seizures.

FDA has previously recommended that parents and caregivers not use benzocaine products for children younger than 2 years, except under the advice and supervision of a health care professional. Benzocaine, which, like viscous lidocaine, is a local anesthetic, can be found in such OTC products as Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and Orabase.

The use of benzocaine gels and liquids for mouth and gum pain can lead to a rare but serious—and sometimes fatal—condition called methemoglobinemia, a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream is greatly reduced. And children under 2 years old appear to be at particular risk.

Read more from FDA.


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