FRIDAY, Nov. 16, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A study that tracked the weight and survival of more than 6,000 Americans for 24 years reinforces the notion that piling on excess pounds can lead to an earlier grave.
Being statistically obese, but not simply overweight, was tied to a 27 percent increase in the odds of dying within the study period, according to a research team from Boston University.
People in the “obese” category had a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 34, with 30 being the statistical threshold for obesity. For example, a 5-foot 4-inch person weighing 175 pounds has a BMI of 30.
The risk of dying young was also higher for “very” obese people — those with a BMI of 35 to 39. People in this weight category had nearly double the odds of dying during the 24-year study period compared to people with a normal weight, said biostatistician Ching-Ti Liu and colleagues.
The study was unique, Liu’s team believes, because it wasn’t based on a person’s BMI at one point in the life span, but instead tracked people’s “weight history” over time. That should “improve the accuracy of BMI data and thus lead to better estimates of the association between obesity and mortality,” the study authors reported.
The approach did turn up one finding that may be heartening to people fighting the “battle of the bulge”: Being overweight, but not past the BMI 30 threshold for obesity, did not seem to affect life span.
The study found that overweight people could expect roughly the same survival odds as those in the normal-weight category.
“There was no difference in mortality risk for those who remained overweight and those who remained normal weight,” noted Mark Pereira, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota. That could be because healthy lifestyle changes can stave off disease, even in overweight people, he suggested in a commentary accompanying the new study.
Prior studies “have clearly shown that decreases in disease incidence are possible through improved diet and physical activity among overweight and obese individuals, whether weight loss is achieved or not,” he added.
The Boston University study relied on detailed information collected every few years on the weight of nearly 6,200 adult participants in the ongoing Framingham Heart Study, with records stretching back over 24 years.
Overall, more than half (56 percent) of the study group had died by the end of 2014. Being obese or very obese seemed to have a significant impact on whether death arrived relatively early, Liu’s team found.
Because smoking could confound the results, his team also ran the numbers for only those 3,075 participants who had never smoked.
The trends appeared to be even stronger in the absence of smoking, the findings showed.
In this group, being obese was tied to 31 percent higher odds of death during the study period, while being very obese bumped up the risk to nearly 2.4 times that of normal-weight never-smokers.
Surprisingly, in the “never-smokers” group, being overweight (but not obese)
did seem to have an effect in lowering life span, relative to normal-weight people.
Overall, all of these effects seemed more profound in men than in women, the researchers said.
There was one more intriguing finding: The impact obesity has on survival seems to have eased over the past few decades.
According to the Liu’s team, that may be due to better “risk factor control” — healthy lifestyle changes — or improvements in drug therapy (statins, for example), surgeries such as angioplasties or bypass, and hospital care.
All of those advances may be keeping obese Americans alive longer than in decades past, the researchers said.
Still, Pereira wrote, “the bottom line from these analyses was that the lowest mortality risk was observed among individuals who remained in the normal weight or overweight categories over time,” and never became obese.
Doing so may be becoming tougher, he added, since “to be overweight or mildly obese today, relative to four or more decades ago, appears to be the new normal.”
That doesn’t mean obese Americans are helpless to improve their health, however. According to Pereira, the study supports “lifestyle and environment changes to prevent chronic diseases and mortality among overweight and obese individuals.”
The study was published online Nov. 16 in JAMA Network Open.
There’s more on maintaining a healthy weight at the American Heart Association.
THURSDAY, Nov. 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The rate of suicide among U.S. workers has jumped 34 percent since 2000, and certain occupations seem to be riskier than others, government health researchers report.
Those most at risk: men with construction and extraction jobs, and women in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Increasing suicide rates in the U.S. are a concerning trend that represent a tragedy for families and communities and impact the American workforce,” said Dr. Deb Houry, director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
“Knowing who is at greater risk for suicide can help save lives through focused prevention efforts,” Houry said in a CDC news release.
Researchers looked at the occupations of more than 22,000 Americans ages 16-64 who died by suicide in 17 states between 2012 and 2015.
In 2015, the three riskiest occupations for men were construction and extraction; arts, design, entertainment, sports and media; and installation, maintenance and repair.
Among women, the top three were the arts, design and media category; jobs in protective service; and health care support.
Suicide risk increased the most for women working in food prep and serving (up 54 percent) and for men in arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations (up 47 percent), the study found.
For teachers and librarians, some good news emerged: Men and women in education, training and library occupations had the lowest suicide rates in 2015.
The workplace is an important area for suicide prevention efforts because that’s where many adults spend a great deal of their time, according to the CDC.
Employers can help prevent these tragedies in several ways, the study authors noted. They recommended employee assistance programs, workplace wellness programs and technology to provide online mental health screenings.
Reducing stigma toward the mentally ill and those seeking help is also important, as is awareness of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
It’s important to recognize the warning signs that someone might want to end their life. The National Institute of Mental Health says the following behaviors may indicate that you or a loved one needs help immediately:
- Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves,
- Talking about feeling empty, hopeless or having no reason to live,
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills or buying a gun,
- Talking about great guilt or shame, or about feeling trapped,
- Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain,
- Talking about being a burden to others,
- More frequent use of alcohol or drugs,
- Withdrawing from family and friends,
- Changing eating and/or sleeping habits,
- Giving away important possessions.
Researchers found that in 2015, the suicide rate for males in construction and extraction was about 53 per 100,000. Among women in arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media, the rate was nearly 16 per 100,000.
The new findings show that for men in farming, ranching and related occupations, suicide rates were almost 45 per 100,000 in 2012 and declined to about 32 per 100,000 in 2015.
For male agricultural workers, suicide rates fell from about 20 per 100,000 in 2012 to about 17 per 100,000 in 2015.
The study was published Nov. 15 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on suicide prevention.
THURSDAY, Nov. 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it will take steps to limit or ban access to flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.
The move against flavored e-cigarettes stops short of the full ban that had been expected from the agency. Instead, sales of these products — thought to be especially alluring to teens — will only be allowed in stores within special closed-off areas made inaccessible to minors, The New York Times reported.
More unexpected was the FDA’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, products which have long been thought to disproportionately harm the health of black Americans.
The menthol ban still has regulatory hurdles to overcome, so removal of those products from the market could take two years, the Times noted.
Still, the move would come as a huge blow to the tobacco industry, since menthols make up more than a third of the cigarette market.
All three moves are aimed at curbing uptake of vaped and smoked nicotine by the young. More than 3.6 million Americans under the age of 18 now vape, the agency noted.
The announcements come after the leading vape maker, Juul Labs, announced Tuesday that it would voluntarily withdraw most flavors of its hugely popular vaping product from the marketplace.
Juul, which controls 70 percent of the e-cigarette market, has come under increasing pressure to do something about the surging popularity of its vaping devices among youth.
In a statement released Tuesday, Juul CEO Kevin Burns said, “Our intent was never to have youth use Juul. But intent is not enough. The numbers are what matter, and the numbers tell us underage use of e-cigarettes is a problem.”
And in a statement released Thursday, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb noted that “almost all adult smokers started smoking when they were kids. Today, we significantly advance our efforts to combat youth access and appeal with proposals that firmly and directly address the core of the epidemic: flavors.”
Nevertheless, the decision to restrict but not ban flavored e-cigarettes came as a surprise, since leaked documents had suggested a full FDA ban was imminent. In the end, the complex legalities of imposing a ban may have meant drawn-out court battles, something the FDA may have wanted to avoid, legal experts told the Times.
Instead, Gottlieb said that within the next three months, e-cigarette manufacturers should remove the products from “where kids can access them and from online sites that do not have sufficiently robust age-verification procedures.”
Anti-smoking advocates expressed some disappointment at the FDA’s announcement, however.
“We commend the FDA for recognizing the grave threat posed by electronic cigarettes on our children, and for imposing restrictions on manufacturers,” Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, said in a statement.
“With e-cigarette use having jumped by 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students, the need for action is urgent,” she added. “But limiting the sale of e-cigarettes is not enough — the FDA should also remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market and prohibit companies from marketing their products in ways that appeal to kids.”
And Matt Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, wondered to the Times, “Does this mean a simple curtain with a sign like we used to see at the entrance to the pornography section of video stores?”
Lyle Beckwith, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, said his group “will be reviewing the regulation and advising our members accordingly” as to how to best implement the new rules.
He noted that, according to his teenaged son, most minors already get their flavor pods from older youth, not convenience stores.
The FDA first began its crackdown on flavored e-cigarettes earlier this year, as the number of teens using the products reached epidemic proportions, the Times reported. By far, the leading vaping product is made by Juul, whose e-cigarette devices resemble small computer flash drives. Use of Juul has skyrocketed among teens over the past year.
Flavored versions of e-cigarettes — including chicken and waffles, rocket Popsicle and “unicorn milk” — have boosted sales among the young even further, experts contend.
“The availability of flavors in e-cigarettes is one of the top reasons that middle and high school students cite as their motivation for using e-cigarettes,” said Patricia Folan, director of the Center for Tobacco Control at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. “Young people are more likely to try flavored e-cigarettes and consider them less harmful than tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes.”
The vaping industry has countered that flavored e-cigarettes actually provide a potential health benefit, helping to encourage tobacco smokers to quit.
“Flavors are important for switching,” Dr. Moira Gilchrist, a scientist with Philip Morris International, said during a visit to Washington in October for an FDA public meeting. Phillip Morris hopes to market its IQOS heat-not-burn device in the United States in tobacco and menthol flavors.
“The focus should be on what is the right thing to do for the 40 million men and women in the United States who would otherwise continue to smoke cigarettes,” she said.
As for the ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars — both highly favored by black Americans — challenges lie ahead. The U.S. tobacco industry has long fought hard against such a ban. But health advocates were heartened by the news.
“Studies show that menthol cigarettes increase initiation, especially among youth,” Brown noted. “Menthol also has a disproportionate impact on minorities including African-Americans, who favor menthol cigarettes and find them more difficult to successfully quit.”
Delmonte Jefferson, executive director of the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, told the Times, “While we’re saddened by the number of lives lost and new smokers addicted over the past decade, we’re pleased that the FDA is moving in this direction.”
The group also praised the agency for taking on flavored cigars.
“Little cigars like Black & Milds and Swisher Sweets are heavily marketed to African Americans and are often cheaper in our neighborhoods,” said LaTroya Hester, a spokesman for the network. “A lot of young, black kids don’t know that cigarillos are just as dangerous, so hopefully this will send that message. This is a huge step in protecting their health. It’s about time our young people are prioritized.”
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about e-cigarettes.
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) — More than one-third of Americans have prediabetes, but 90 percent of them don’t know they have it, medical experts say.
Prediabetes often leads to type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke.
But research shows that people who know they have prediabetes are more likely to make lifestyle changes that can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Nov. 14 is World Diabetes Day, and the American Medical Association (AMA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have launched a campaign to raise awareness about prediabetes and encourage people to find out if they have the condition.
“Prediabetes can often be reversed, and type 2 diabetes prevented, by losing weight, eating healthier and being more physically active,” said Ann Albright, director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.
“Men and women with prediabetes can cut their risk when they participate in a CDC-recognized National Diabetes Prevention Program, scientifically proven programs to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes,” Albright said in an AMA/CDC news release.
The “Do I Have Prediabetes” campaign features public service ads showing viewers who might have prediabetes and urges them to take an one-minute online prediabetes risk test.
Those who get a high score are directed to speak with their doctor to confirm a diagnosis of prediabetes, and then enroll in the CDC program.
The campaign website also offers healthy lifestyle tips and a link to a registry of more than 1,700 in-person and online CDC-recognized programs nationwide.
“Our goal with this campaign is to help more of the 84 million Americans living with prediabetes find out whether they have prediabetes and urge them to talk with their physician as soon as they find out they may be at risk,” said AMA President Dr. Barbara McAneny.
“We encourage anyone who learns through the test that they may be at risk for prediabetes to consult their doctor to confirm a prediabetes diagnosis and find out how lifestyle changes can help them prevent type 2 diabetes,” McAneny added.
About 30 million Americans have diabetes, and the number of adults diagnosed with the disease has more than tripled in the past 20 years.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on prediabetes.
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) — People with celiac disease must follow a very restrictive diet, but an experimental vaccine may offer many of them the freedom to eat more normally.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder. If someone with the disease eats gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley and rye — it can damage the small intestine.
The vaccine, dubbed Nexvax2, is designed to elicit an immune system response in about 90 percent of people with celiac disease — specifically those who carry a gene that allows their immune system to “see” the vaccine.
“People with celiac disease often are afraid of food. Nexvax2 will give them freedom to be able to live life and not be afraid of eating out. It will be socially liberating,” said Leslie Williams, CEO of ImmusanT, the company developing the vaccine.
Eating a gluten-free diet isn’t easy, according to Alice Bast, CEO of Beyond Celiac, a nonprofit research organization. Cross contamination with foods containing gluten is always a concern, she explained.
“Because people with celiac disease note that their toughest challenges are when dining out, socializing and traveling, an effective treatment could bring back some of the freedoms people in our community have lost,” Bast said.
“If [Nexvax2] is effective, it may one day be used to enable people with celiac disease to eat a normal diet that contains gluten without damaging their system or getting sick,” she said.
About 1 percent of Americans have celiac disease. Symptoms include stomach pain and bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, weight loss, fatigue, and delayed growth and puberty. Long-term problems can include malnutrition and nervous system problems.
The current treatment is avoiding gluten. But gluten is found in many foods and products such as lipstick. Even foods that don’t directly contain gluten may be contaminated by gluten during the production process. Something as simple as a gluten-free chicken cutlet being fried in a pan previously used to cook a breaded (containing gluten) chicken cutlet may cause damage to someone with celiac disease, Bast explained.
Williams said that inadvertent gluten exposures like that occur an average of three to four times a month.
Nexvax2 works by reprogramming the T cells in the immune system that attack the small intestine in people with celiac disease. The injectable vaccine makes these cells nonresponsive to gluten exposure, Williams said.
The maintenance injections can be given at home with a device that automatically injects the vaccine under the skin. Williams said people would likely need to give themselves a shot once a week to protect themselves from inadvertent gluten exposures.
ImmusanT has completed five phase 1 trials of Nexvax2, Williams said. Early trials caused patients to vomit, so the initial vaccine dose was lowered. Then it’s slowly increased until people are exposed to an amount of gluten that’s about equivalent to two loaves of bread.
Williams said the vaccine was safe and well-tolerated in the early trials. Because it affects a specific part of the immune system, she said there aren’t concerns about immune system suppression.
“The vaccine targets only the part of the immune system that leads to celiac disease complications throughout the body. Unlike immunotherapy treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, Nexvax2 does not suppress the whole immune system,” Bast said.
ImmusanT is planning a six-month phase 2 study on the vaccine. It will include 150 people with celiac disease from 40 sites in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, Williams noted. She said it’s too soon to predict right now when the vaccine might potentially be available. It’s also too soon to estimate the cost, she said.
Bast said that Nexvax2 isn’t the only possible treatment for celiac disease in development.
“There are more than a dozen therapies in the research pipeline. Nexvax2 is one of three therapeutic vaccines under investigation. Other approaches include preventing gluten from being absorbed by the body, breaking the gluten down using enzymes, and managing the body’s reaction to gluten after it is absorbed,” Bast said.
The Celiac Disease Foundation offers more on celiac disease.
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Strictly limiting carbohydrates and eating more fat may help the body burn more calories, a new clinical trial shows.
Researchers found that among 164 adults in a weight-loss study, those placed on a low-carb, high-fat diet burned more daily calories, versus those given high-carb meals. On average, their bodies used up 250 extra calories per day over 20 weeks.
The researchers estimated that over three years, that would translate into an additional 20-pound weight loss for an average-height man.
“This study refutes the conventional thinking that it’s only calorie-cutting that matters,” said senior researcher Dr. David Ludwig. He is co-director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Instead, he said, the source of those calories may make the difference in whether your metabolism “works with you or against you.”
According to Ludwig, the findings support a theory called the “carbohydrate-insulin model.” The premise is that diets heavy in processed carbs send insulin levels soaring, which drives the body to use fewer calories, and instead store more of them as fat.
“Our study suggests that you’ll do better if you focus on reducing refined carbohydrates, rather than focusing on reducing calories alone,” Ludwig said.
He and his colleagues reported the findings online Nov. 14 in the BMJ.
Many studies over the years have attempted to answer the question of whether low-fat or low-carb is better for weight loss. Often, they’ve concluded there is little difference.
But those studies, Ludwig said, have typically been behavioral studies where people may or may not stick with their diets.
So his team conducted a “feeding study” to carefully control what people ate.
First, 234 overweight and obese adults were recruited for a “run-in” phase, with the goal of losing about 12 percent of their weight over 10 weeks. Their diets were low-calorie and had moderate amounts of carbs.
Of that group, 164 lost enough weight and moved on to the next phase. They were randomly assigned to either a low-carb, moderate-carb or high-carb diet for 20 weeks.
People on the low-carb diet got 20 percent of their calories from carbs like vegetables, fruits and beans; a full 60 percent of their calories came from fat, including sources like meat, whole milk, cheese and nuts. The remaining 20 percent of calories came from protein.
The situation was flipped for people on the high-carb plan: 60 percent of calories from carbs and 20 percent from fat. The moderate plan divided the two nutrients equally, at 40/40.
After 20 weeks, the low-carb group appeared to be burning more calories — an average of 250 more per day, versus the high-carb group, and 111 more than the moderate-carb group.
The researchers did not look at the effects on any further weight loss. Instead, each person’s calorie intake was calibrated to maintain what they’d already lost. The point, Ludwig explained, was to zero in on the effects of the different diets on calorie burning.
According to Dr. Anastassia Amaro, an assistant professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Pennsylvania, “The study design is very clever.”
Amaro, who was not involved in the research, said she already suggests that patients cut back on carbs when they are trying to lose weight.
These findings, she said, will boost her confidence in that advice.
However, Amaro said, the low-carb diet used in this study is not ready for a “direct translation” into the real world. For one, she explained, it’s not clear whether it’s the lack of carbs that was key.
“This is also a high-fat diet,” Amaro pointed out. “Is it the lack of carbs, the fat content, or both?”
What about the nutritional value of such a diet? Ludwig said it’s healthy — allowing fruit, legumes and an “unlimited” amount of vegetables, for instance.
“What it doesn’t have is grains and added sugar,” he said.
Ludwig agreed, however, that more research is needed to show whether the approach is the best way to maintain weight loss. He and his colleagues recently started a new trial that will pit a very low-carb diet against one that is high-carb but low in sugar, and another that is high-carb/high-sugar.
And what about people who currently have a healthy weight? Would a low-carb, high-fat diet cause their bodies to burn more calories?
That’s a “good question,” Amaro said — but this study can’t answer it.
The Harvard School of Public Health has more on carbohydrates.
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) — For the billions of young people who seek community and connection on social media, new research warns their search may be in vain.
Instead, spending too much time on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram may actually increase the risk of depression and loneliness.
So concludes a small analysis that tracked the impact such sites had on the mental health of 143 users between the ages of 18 and 22.
Over the course of a week, some participants were told to use the sites as often as they normally would, which typically came to about an hour a day. Others were asked to limit their usage to just 10 minutes a day per site, amounting to a total of about 25 minutes per day.
The result? “Ours is the first study to establish that reducing social media use actually causes reductions in depression,” said study author Melissa Hunt. She is the associate director of clinical training in the department of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
“The main finding of the paper is that limiting your use of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram to 30 minutes total or less per day results in reductions in depression and loneliness, especially for people who were moderately depressed to start with,” Hunt said.
“Our study cannot speak directly to why this happens,” she stressed. “But prior research strongly suggests that negative social comparison — my life is worse than other people’s lives — and feeling left out of activities and experiences shared by others probably explains a lot of it.”
The study team noted that 78 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 use Snapchat, while more than seven in 10 young adults use Instagram.
Meanwhile, nearly as many American adults have a Facebook account (68 percent), and three-quarters of those say they use it every day.
All of the participants were UPenn undergraduates (108 women and 35 men) enrolled in psychology courses. All had an iPhone already loaded with all three site apps.
Participants first completed a pre-experiment survey to assess their feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, fear of missing out (FOMO), sense of social support, sense of self-esteem, and perceptions regarding self-acceptance and autonomy.
After tracking each participant’s normal use of all three sites for a week, the team observed that, for the most part, those struggling with greater mental “distress” did not typically spend more time on social media.
However, those who struggled with FOMO were the exception; they did tend to spend more time using social media.
The study participants were then randomly assigned to either unlimited or restricted access for a second week, after which mental health was re-assessed.
The results suggested that restricting social media use had a “significant” and beneficial impact by reducing depressive symptoms, especially among those who had been moderately or highly depressed. Time restrictions also reduced feelings of loneliness.
But the restrictions had no impact on feelings of social support, self-esteem or one’s overall sense of well-being. Whether the findings would also apply to older users remains an open question, the study authors noted.
While not advocating for a total divorce from all social media, the team acknowledged that identifying the perfect sweet spot for ideal usage habits remains elusive.
The findings will be published in the December issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.
Dr. Brian Primack is director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health at the University of Pittsburgh.
He described the findings as “important,” noting that “because of its experimental design, this study goes an important step further [than prior research] in showing that actively reducing social media use can be helpful.”
Primack added that linking a clear mental health benefit to a half-hour of usage per day is a helpful marker.
“However, it is important to note that all social media use is not the same,” said Primack. “Thirty minutes of use may be spent connecting with loved ones, or it may focus instead on having aggressive interactions about hot-button issues. So, future research might expand findings like this by exploring different contexts of social media use.”
There’s more on social media use and depression risk at RAND Corp.
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Obesity in the teen years may increase the risk of developing deadly pancreatic cancer in adulthood, researchers report.
The odds for this rare cancer can quadruple due to obesity, the Israeli research team found. Moreover, the risk rises as weight increases, even affecting men in the high normal weight range.
“It’s been known for some time that obesity can increase an individual’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer, and [this is] an important new finding suggesting that obesity and overweight in adolescence can also impact risk,” said Allison Rosenzweig, a senior manager at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
But being overweight or obese doesn’t doom you to getting the disease, said Rosenzweig, who had no role in the study.
“Because pancreatic cancer is a relatively rare disease, thought to impact around 55,000 Americans this year, even those at an increased risk have a low likelihood of developing the disease,” she said.
Also, because this study looked at retrospective data, it can’t prove that excess weight is a cause of pancreatic cancer, only that an association exists.
Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, with a five-year survival rate below 10 percent, according to the cancer network.
For the new study, researchers led by Dr. Zohar Levi, of Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv University, collected data on more than 1 million Jewish men and 700,000 Jewish women in Israel. Participants had physical examinations at ages 16 to 19 from 1967 to 2002.
Using the Israeli National Cancer Registry, the researchers identified cases of pancreatic cancer through 2012. Their follow-up revealed 551 new cases of pancreatic cancer.
Compared with normal weight, obesity was associated with a nearly four times higher risk for cancer among men. Among women, the risk was slightly more than four times higher, the researchers found.
Overall, the researchers attributed almost 11 percent of the pancreatic cases to teenage overweight and obesity.
The report was published online Nov. 12 in the journal Cancer.
Dr. Chanan Meydan, of the Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Israel, wrote an editorial accompanying the study. He said weight gain in adolescence may increase inflammation, which damages cells and might raise cancer risk.
“It would be interesting to find whether the inflammatory process in obesity has links to the inflammatory process in malignancy. Are they connected somehow?” said Meydan.
The mechanism behind inflammation is “for the most part, a delicately balanced phenomenon with grave consequences when it’s out of balance,” he said.
Learning more about how this “switchboard of control” works may help scientists better understand the association between obesity and cancer, Meydan added.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about pancreatic cancer.
TUESDAY, Nov. 13, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Heavyset folks who exercise regularly shouldn’t get discouraged if they can’t seem to shed more weight, no matter how hard they try.
A new study suggests that their regular workouts are still contributing to better overall heart health, making them “fat but fit” and helping them live longer.
People who are obese-but-fit have lower resting pulse rates, less body fat, higher lean muscle mass and better heart function than those who are obese and don’t regularly exercise, according to the findings.
“The cultural and clinical practice should start shifting from not just focusing on weight loss for health benefits, but really promoting and maintaining a certain exercise level — building up your cardiorespiratory fitness so you can run longer, go up more flights of stairs,” said lead researcher Dr. Grace Liu. She is an assistant professor with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“That itself, even if you don’t lose weight, is going to lead to beneficial changes that end up leading to you having a longer life span,” Liu said.
The study findings were presented Saturday at the American Heart Association annual meeting, in Chicago. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Previous research has shown that higher fitness is associated with lower risk of heart-related death, even in the obese, Liu said. It’s also been shown that people who are obese-but-fit can have a comparable life span to fit people of normal weight.
For the new study, Liu and her colleagues compared two different groups of obese people who participated in the Dallas Heart Study, a long-term research effort aimed at improving diagnosis, prevention and treatment of heart disease.
The investigators used data gathered for the study to identify nearly 1,100 participants with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, which is the technical definition of obesity.
The researchers then sorted the obese people based on stress tests that revealed their VO2 max, a measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise.
There were 716 people who qualified as obese and fit based on stress tests, and 356 qualified as obese and unfit.
Obese-but-fit people had 44 percent lower pulse rates, 37 percent better heart function and 43 percent lower body fat than those who were obese and unfit, the findings showed. The obese-but-fit participants also had BMIs that were 37 percent lower than those who didn’t work out.
These results should be encouraging to people who started exercising to lose weight but have been unable to keep losing it, Liu said.
“The majority of the people reach a plateau where they no longer lose weight even though they’re still active and exercising, and trying to build up their fitness,” Liu said. “At that point, even if you stay the same weight, you’re still gaining the benefits of having higher fitness.”
Much of the benefit these people gain is from increasing their lean muscle mass, said Dr. Salim Virani, an associate professor of cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Muscle weighs more than fat, and it provides a significant boost to your metabolism, said Virani, chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Council.
“Muscles are very good at taking care of excess sugars in your blood,” decreasing your risk of diabetes and its heart-related complications, Virani explained.
“Even if you are obese, there is a lot of hope by becoming physically fit,” Virani said. “Just being physically active adds a lot of mileage in terms of cardiovascular health. It’s not all about losing weight. There’s a lot more to becoming physically active.”
For more on overweight and obesity, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
TUESDAY, Nov. 13, 2018 (HealthDay News) — People with both diabetes and multiple clogged heart arteries live longer if they undergo bypass surgery rather than have their blood vessels reopened with stents, according to follow-up results from a landmark clinical trial.
Patients treated with coronary-artery bypass surgery survive about three years longer than those who have their blood vessels propped open with stents, researchers reported Sunday at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, in Chicago.
That’s important news for about one-quarter of patients now receiving stents, because they are diabetic with many blocked arteries and would benefit more from bypass surgery, said study senior researcher Dr. Valentin Fuster. He is director of Mount Sinai Heart in New York City.
“It’s a huge high-risk population in which we now can say much more categorically, we are affecting their risk of mortality,” Fuster said. “This is not a trivial issue.”
The findings are the final long-term follow-up to the landmark FREEDOM trial. (FREEDOM stands for Future Revascularization Evaluation in Patients with Diabetes Mellitus: Optimal Management of Multivessel Disease.)
Results of the follow-up were also published online Sunday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
In 2012, the first FREEDOM results showed that diabetics with many blocked arteries had fewer heart attacks and strokes and were less likely to die if they underwent bypass surgery instead of getting a stent.
But the results for death risk alone were “borderline” by the time of the average 3.8-year follow-up, Fuster said. So researchers decided to continue tracking patients and see if a more clear benefit would emerge.
The initial trial involved 1,900 patients who randomly underwent either stenting or bypass surgery between 2005 and 2010.
During an additional five years of follow-up, about 24 percent of people who received stents died, compared with 18 percent of those who had bypass surgery.
Overall, people treated with bypass surgery had 36 percent better odds of survival.
“The results are quite significant in terms of mortality,” Fuster said. “They’re not borderline anymore.”
Both men and women and all races saw a survival benefit from bypass surgery, but the greatest benefit was in patients younger than 65, the findings showed.
Current guidelines already call for bypass surgery in these patients, said Dr. Michael Valentine, president of the American College of Cardiology.
“I think what this does is it solidifies our current recommendations and guidelines,” said Valentine, a senior cardiologist at the Stroobants Cardiovascular Center of Centra Health in Lynchburg, Va.
Stents can clog over time, and don’t address widespread hardening of the arteries in these patients, Valentine and Fuster said.
“The vessels stay open longer with an arterial bypass,” Valentine said.
Fuster agreed. “When you use bypass, you bypass everything. It is a safe mechanism. It is a pipe that overcomes everything,” he said.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about coronary bypass surgery.