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[check mark] High Costs of Obesity


[check mark] Lose Your Waist, Save Your Mind?


[check mark] A Better Way to Clean Fruits and Veggies


Does a Larger Abdomen in Midlife Increase Risk of Dementia?

People in their 40s with larger stomachs seem to have a higher risk of dementia when they reach their 70s, says a recent study. Many studies discuss central obesity (determined by waist circumference) and body mass index in the elderly and its link to dementia risk, and there are also a number of studies that indicate that a large abdomen in midlife increases the risk of diabetes, stroke, and coronary heart disease. But this study suggests that there is a longitudinal association between midlife belly fat and the risk of dementia.


The study found that those who were overweight and had a large belly were 2.3 times more likely to develop dementia than were people with a normal weight and belly size. People who were both obese and had a large belly were 3.6 times more likely to develop dementia than were those of normal weight and belly size. Those who were overweight or obese but did not have a large abdomen had an 80% increased risk of dementia. Having a large abdomen increased the risk of dementia regardless of whether individuals were of normal weight overall, overweight, or obese and regardless of existing health conditions, including diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Nonwhites, smokers, people with high blood pressure, people with high cholesterol or diabetes, and those with less than a high school level of education were more likely to have abdominal obesity.


As with all observational studies, it is possible that the association between abdominal obesity and dementia is not driven by the abdominal obesity but rather by a complex set of health-related behaviors, for which abdominal obesity is but one part. In any event, achieving a healthy weight and maintaining it are good health advices at every age.


Source: Neurology


Obesity Costs US Companies $45 Billion a Year

The rate of obesity in the United States has doubled in the last 30 years, and those extra pounds weigh on companies' bottom lines, according to a new report, Weights and Measures: What Employers Should Know About Obesity, from The Conference Board, a not-for-profit organization that creates and disseminates knowledge about management and the marketplace to help businesses. Today, 34% of American adults fit the definition of "obese." Obesity is associated with a 36% increase in spending on healthcare services (more than smoking or drinking problem). There is evidence that as weight goes up, wages go down, and that obese employees cost US private employers an estimated $45 billion annually in medical expenditures and work loss, and this affects the profits that the companies can pass on to shareholders. In response, more than 40% of US companies have implemented obesity-reduction programs already; 24% more said that they plan to do so in 2008. Estimates of the return on investment for wellness programs range from 0 to $5 per $1 invested. Return on investment aside, these programs may give companies an edge in recruiting and retaining desirable employees. Meanwhile, some say that it may be more effective to just award employees cash and prizes for weight loss rather than devote resources to long-term wellness programs.


Employers need to weigh the risks of being too intrusive in managing obese employees against the risks of not managing them. However, employers need to avoid potential discrimination risks in addressing employees' weight, whether for the employee's own good or that of the company.


The jury is still out on the costs and benefits of paying for employees' weight-loss surgeries. Although many obese employees who are medically eligible for bariatric surgery (about 9% of the workforce) have sharply higher obesity-related medical costs and absenteeism, some say companies are unlikely to recoup surgery costs before these employees have left for other jobs.


Source: The Conference Board


Sleep and Quality of Life Suffer With Nighttime Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Half of all patients with nighttime symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) have sleep problems, and they also score lower on quality-of-life measures, including mental and physical function, according to a recent study. All patients with GERD reported more sleep disturbance than did controls who did not have reflux problems, but those with nighttime symptoms were significantly more likely to have impaired sleep than were those who experience GERD only during the day. The authors also found that nighttime GERD was associated with atypical manifestations that disrupted sleep. Patients with nighttime reflux tend to have more severe GERD.


The findings came from a survey of 2,603 adults living in the United States. The sample included 701 participants who reported a history of GERD, 668 of whom had symptomatic disease; 303 patients had nighttime GERD, and 365 had GERD symptoms only during the day. The severity of GERD symptoms had an inverse relationship with health-related quality of life, including mental and physical functioning. Differences in quality-of-life scores between patients with moderate and severe symptoms were twice as great as the differences between patients with mild and moderate symptoms.


There are some steps that can be taken to help. Patients may need to avoid foods and drinks that can provoke or exacerbate GERD symptoms. Physicians need to review dosing schedules for proton pump inhibitor therapy and revise them if necessary.


Source: MedPage Today/American College of Gastroenterology Meeting


Mom Was Right-and Wrong-About Washing Fruits and Vegetables

Washing fresh fruits and vegetables before eating may reduce the risk of food poisoning and episodes of vomiting and diarrhea. But new research suggests that washing alone-even with chlorine disinfectants-may not be enough. Disease-causing microbes are masters at playing hide-and-go seek with chemical sanitizers because they often make their way inside the leaves of lettuce, spinach, and other vegetables and fruits, where surface treatments cannot reach.


But there is good news. Scientists at the US Department of Agriculture suggest that irradiation, a food treatment currently being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration, can effectively kill internalized pathogens that are beyond the reach of conventional chemical sanitizers. Irradiation exposes food to a source of electron beams, creating positive and negative charges. It disrupts the genetic material of living cells, inactivating parasites and destroying pathogens and insects in food, including Escherichia coli and Salmonella. There is no danger of exposure to harmful forms of radiation from the process. Using this technique on fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables could provide a reliable way to reduce the numbers of food-borne illnesses reported each year in the United States.


Source: American Chemical Society Annual Meeting


Price Changes in Healthy Versus Less Healthy Foods

An increase in the price of fruits and vegetables relative to less healthy foods could reduce consumers' incentives to purchase fruits and vegetables and result in less healthy diets. Whether such a change in relative prices and incentives has occurred in the United States is difficult to prove because of substantial quality improvements in many fresh fruits and vegetables. For commonly consumed fresh fruits and vegetables for which quality has remained fairly constant, one recent analysis of price trends reveals a price decline similar to that of dessert and snack foods. This price trend evidence suggests that the price of a healthy diet has not changed relative to an unhealthy one, although a healthy diet might not include every fresh fruit or vegetable currently available. However, the jury is still out, and more and better studies are needed, particularly for foods for which there have been quality changes.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics' average food price data-not index numbers-reveal that, relative to dessert and snack foods, prices have remained stable for a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that have not had substantial quality improvements and were commonly consumed in the 1980s. Inflation-adjusted price trends for these largely unchanged fruits and vegetables show patterns similar to those of the less healthful foods: Prices for healthy and unhealthy foods declined at about the same rate relative to all other goods.


Rising price trends were observed for broccoli and field-grown tomatoes. Unlike in 1980, today's consumer expenditures for broccoli are for partially or fully prepared products-washed and bagged florets and other cut products. Similarly, a technological improvement in the late 1980s changed the types of tomatoes grown and their sensory qualities. The price trend evidence suggests that the price of a healthy diet has not changed relative to an unhealthy diet, although the healthy diet does not seem to have an advantage either. Many innovative fresh fruit and vegetable products have been introduced in recent years. These newer products account for a growing share of produce sold by retailers. The growing availability of such products suggests that many consumers value these innovations. A remaining question is whether low-income households also share in the benefits provided by foods that are more convenient and more readily available.


Source: USDA Economic Research Service