as weight soars, so does death risk
A large new study quantifies how death risk goes up as people gain weight. Pooling data from 19 long-term studies, investigators found that healthy white women who never smoked and were overweight (defined as BMI between 25 and 30) were 13 percent more likely to die during the study followup period (five to 28 years, depending on the study) than those of optimal weight. But as women hit the obese category (BMI of 30 to 34.9), researchers reported a 44 percent increase in risk of death. At a BMI of 35 to 39.9, risk increased 88 percent. And at BMIs between 40 and 49.9, participants faced a 250 percent higher risk of death. Results were similar for white men; studies are ongoing in minority groups. BMI is calculated using height and weight: At 5 feet 5 and 150 pounds, BMI is 25 (just barely overweight), but at 200 pounds, it's 33.3 (obese). The study found that BMI between 20 and 24.9 is safest. Calculate yours at www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi. The report, by investigators from the National Cancer Institute and others worldwide, appears in today's New England Journal of Medicine.
Moving to music cuts risk of falls in elderly
Elderly people in a new study cut their risk of falling by more than half after they took classes in eurhythmics, an exercise-and-music program designed for young children. The 12-month trial recruited 134 people, average age 75, who were unsteady on their feet. Half were randomly assigned to weekly hourlong eurhythmics classes for the first six months, and the other half took no classes until the following six months. The program, developed by the early 20th century Swiss composer Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, teaches movement in time to music. In the first group, there were just 24 falls over the first six months, compared with 54 among those who were not in the classes. Even after the classes ended, the participants maintained their improvements in balance, walked with a more regular gait and were better able to walk while doing other things. The study was published online in Archives of Internal Medicine.
Go orange for good health
Pumpkins aren't just for holidays. People with high blood levels of alpha-carotene — an antioxidant found in orange fruits and vegetables — live longer and are less likely to die of heart disease or cancer than people who have little or none of it in their bloodstream, a new study finds. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed alpha-carotene levels in blood samples from more than 15,000 adults who participated in a followup study of the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988 to 1994. By 2006, researchers determined, 3,810 of the participants had died. Those with the highest concentrations of the antioxidant were almost 40 percent less likely to have died than those with the lowest; those with midrange levels were 27 percent less likely to die than those with the lowest levels. The study was published online Nov. 22 in Archives of Internal Medicine.
FDA okays stem cell study on eye patients
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a request by Advanced Cell Technology to inject cells created from human embryonic stem cells into the eyes of 12 patients suffering from advanced cases of Stargardt's macular dystrophy, which progressively destroys vision, usually beginning in childhood. It is currently incurable. The study will involve injecting 50,000 to 200,000 cells known as retinal pigment epithelial cells in the hopes that they will replace those ravaged by the disease. "I think this marks the beginning of a new era for stem cell research," said Robert Lanza, the company's chief scientific officer.
Times staff, wire reports