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Past News Items - March 2008

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In The News

Studies Identify Modifiable Factors Associated With Exceptionally Long Life

Body Image Is a Stronger Predictor of Health Than Obesity, According Study

Study Details Link Between Obesity, Carbs, and Esophageal Cancers

NCCAM Welcomes New Director, 6 New Advisory Council Members

Released: 03/01/08

Studies Identify Modifiable Factors Associated With Exceptionally Long Life

A healthy lifestyle during the early elderly years—including weight management, exercising regularly, and not smoking—may be associated with a greater probability of living to age 90 in men, as well as good health and physical function, according to a report in the February 11 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Studies of twins have found that about one fourth of the variation in human life span can be attributed to genetics, leaving about 75% that could be attributed to modifiable risk factors.

Laurel B. Yates, MD, MPH, of Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, and colleagues studied a group of 2 357 men who were participants in the Physician’s Health Study. At the beginning of the study, in 1981 to 1984, the men (average age 72) provided information about demographic and health variables, including height, weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels and how often they exercised. Twice during the first year and then once each following year through 2006, they completed a questionnaire asking about changes in habits, health status, or ability to do daily tasks.

A total of 970 men (41%) lived to age 90 or older. Several modifiable biological and behavioral factors were associated with survival to this age.

The researchers estimate that a 70-year-old man who did not smoke and had normal blood pressure and weight and no diabetes and exercised 2 to 4 times per week had a 54% probability of living to age 90. However, if he had adverse factors, his probability of living to age 90 was reduced to the following percentages:

  • Sedentary lifestyle, 44%
  • Hypertension, 36%
  • Obesity, 26%
  • Smoking, 22%
  • Any 3 factors, such as sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and diabetes, 14%
  • All 5 factors, 4%

Body Image Is a Stronger Predictor of Health Than Obesity, According Study

In a study to examine the impact of desired body weight on the number of unhealthy days subjects report over 1 month, researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found that the desire to weigh less was a more accurate predictor of physically and mentally unhealthy days than body mass index (BMI). In addition, the desire to lose weight was more predictive of unhealthy days among w hites than among African-Americans or Hispanics and among women than among men. The paper, "I Think Therefore I Am: Perceived Ideal Weight as a Determinant of Health," will be published in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

After controlling for actual BMI and age, the researchers found that men who wished to lose 1%, 10%, and 20% of their body weight, respectively, reported 0.1, 0.9, and 2.7 more unhealthy days per month than those who were happy with their weight. Among women, the corresponding increase in numbers of reported unhealthy days was 0.1, 1.6, and 4.3. People who were happy with their weight experienced fewer physically unhealthy days (3.0 vs 3.7) and mentally unhealthy days (2.6 vs 3.6) compared with people who were unhappy with their weight.

Approximately 66% of the more than 150 000 US adults studied wanted to lose weight, and about 26% were satisfied with their current weight. With respect to BMI, 41% of normal weight people, 20% of overweight people, and 5% of obese people were happy with their weight. Older people were also more likely to feel positively about their weight than were younger people. However, in all models, perceived difference was a stronger predictor than was BMI of mentally and physically unhealthy days.

Study Details Link Between Obesity, Carbs, and Esophageal Cancer

Cases of esophageal cancer in the United States have risen in recent decades from 300 000 cases in 1973 to 2.1 million in 2001 at age-adjusted rates. A new study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology shows that these rates in the United States closely mirrored trends of increased carbohydrate intake and obesity from 1973 to 2001.

The study illustrates what may be a public heath concern as the composition of US diets changes and total carbohydrate and refined carbohydrate intakes increase. Obesity is a risk factor for many types of cancer, and a diet that includes a high percentage of calories from refined carbohydrates is a common contributor to obesity. Carbohydrates were also unique in that no other studied nutrients were found to correlate with esophageal cancer rates.

The causes of esophageal cancer remain largely unknown. Despite recent advances in treatment, esophageal cancer has a poor prognosis. The 5-year rate of survival for esophageal cancer remains below 20% and is the eighth-leading cause of cancer related death in American men.

NCCAM Welcomes New Director, 6 New Advisory Council Members

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director, Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, has named Josephine P. Briggs, MD, to be the director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). An accomplished researcher and physician, Dr Briggs brings a focus on translational research to the study of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to help build a fuller understanding of the usefulness and safety of CAM practices that nearly two-thirds of the American public uses.

In addition, NCCAM welcomes 6 new members to the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NACCAM). The Council serves as the principal advisory body to NCCAM, the lead federal agency for CAM research and a component of the NIH.

The Council is composed of physicians, scientists, licensed CAM practitioners, and members of the public who contribute their time and expertise over a 4-year term. Members meet 3 times per year offering advice and recommendations on prioritization, conduct, and support of CAM research, including research training and communication of evidence-based health information.

The new NACCAM members include:

  • Timothy C. Birdsall, ND, FABNO, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Zion, Illinois;
  • Boyd W. Bowden, II, DO, Doctors Hospital and Orthopedic and Neurological Consultants, Inc, Columbus, Ohio;
  • Gert Bronfort, DC, PhD, Northwestern Health Sciences University, Bloomington, Minnesota;
  • Lupo T. Carlota, MD, Dip Ac, Medical Acupuncture Research Institute of America, Memphis, Tennessee;
  • Shin Lin, PhD, University of California, Irvine, California; and
  • Herman A. Taylor, Jr, MD, MPH, FACC, FAHA, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, Mississippi.

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