Research: For Your Information and Health

Here’s some new research from one of Dr. Fuhrman’s friends at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Some of them already hit the newswires earlier this month, but if you’re like me, you have an insatiable desire to learn more. So, take a look:
Girls Most Likely to Become Overweight Before Teen Years:
The most vulnerable time for girls to initially become overweight is between ages 9 to 12, and being overweight in childhood was associated with a much higher risk of high blood pressure and unhealthy levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. In a study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, researchers measured weight and health indicators in 2,379 girls starting at age 9 until age 23. They found that girls were 1.6 times more likely to become overweight from ages 9 to 12 than during the teenage years. At every age, African-American girls were 1.5 times more likely to be overweight than Caucasian girls. Overweight girls were 10 times more likely to have high systolic blood pressure, 3 times more likely to have high diastolic blood pressure, 6 times more likely to have abnormal HDL levels, 3 times more likely to have abnormal LDL levels, and 3 times more likely to have abnormal triglyceride levels. In addition, overweight girls were 11 to 30 times more likely to be obese as young adults.1


Raised Blood Glucose Levels Responsible for Over Three Million Deaths Each Year:
Higher-than-optimum blood sugar levels are not only a risk for diabetes – they also contribute to heart disease and stroke. A group of researchers collected data from 52 countries to determine the health effects of raised blood sugar levels. Their findings showed that in addition to the 959,000 deaths due to diabetes, high blood sugar levels resulted in 1,490,000 deaths from ischemic heart disease and 709,000 from stroke.

Therefore, 21% of heart disease and 13% of strokes can be attributed to high blood sugar. Overall, over 3 million deaths each year are directly attributed to raised blood sugar levels, comparable to deaths from smoking (4.8 million), high cholesterol (3.9 million), and obesity (2.4 million), and putting this condition in the top five causes of worldwide mortality. These findings suggest that we should not just be concerned about diabetes, but also about increased blood sugar levels that high enough to be classified as diabetes, and provide another reason for the importance of healthy lifestyle changes including healthy eating and physical activity.2

Rising Health Care Costs Create an Increasing Financial Burden for Families:
Health care costs have continually risen over the past several decades. In 1980, health care spending represented 9.1% of the gross domestic product. This increased to 16% by 2004. As a result, families are now spending a greater percent of their income on health care costs. A survey of about 19,000 people in 1996 and almost 29,000 in 2003 was conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The survey included both insured and uninsured people under age 65. From 1996 to 2003, the percent of people living in families who spent more than 10% of their family income on health care increased from 15.8% to 19.2% (48.8 million people). The amount spending more than 20% increased from 5.5% to 7.3% (18.7 million people). Poor people, older people, and those with chronic medical conditions were the most likely to be spending a greater percent of their income on health care costs. In addition, families with private non-group coverage (that is, private insurance not provided by an employer) showed the greatest burden of health care costs – approximately 3 times that of families with employer-provided insurance.3

Red meat intake increases the risk for hormone receptor–positive breast cancer in premenopausal women:
The incidence of hormone-receptor–positive breast cancer has been increasing in the United States, especially among middle-aged women. Some components in red meat (such as exogenous hormone residues, heme iron, and heterocyclic amines in cooked meat) may promote the development of breast cancer by influencing hormone receptors. In this study of 90,659 premenopausal women aged 26 to 46 years followed over 12 years, those eating more red meat were more likely to develop hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. During the 12 years of follow-up, 1021 cases of invasive breast cancer occurred. As meat consumption increased, the risk of developing hormone-receptor–positive breast cancer increased. Women eating more than 1.5 servings of red meat a day were twice as likely to develop this type of cancer than those eating 3 or fewer servings a week. Red meat consumption was not associated with hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer.4

Reducing Salt Consumption Lowers Blood Pressure in Children:
An analysis of 10 different studies looking at the effect of reducing salt consumption in children concluded that a modest reduction in salt intake results in an immediate fall in blood pressure in children. The researchers used a technique called a meta-analysis, which allows them to combine the results from many studies for a better estimate of the effect of reducing dietary salt. The 10 studies included at total of 966 children, with an average age of 13 years. The reduction in salt consumption was 42%, and the average length of the study was 4 weeks. The researchers found that reducing salt intake resulted in an immediate decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. These findings indicate that reducing the amount of salt in a child’s diet may prevent the development of hypertension in adulthood, substantially reducing strokes and coronary heart disease.5

Vegetable Consumption Slows Rate of Cognitive Decline:
In a 6-year study of older adults, those eating a greater amount of vegetables showed a smaller decline in cognitive functioning than those eating fewer vegetables. A total of 3718 adults age 65 and older provided information on foods eaten and participated in tests of cognitive functioning over a 6-year time period. Those who ate 2.5 or more servings of vegetables per day slowed their rate of cognitive decline by about one-third compared to those who ate less than 1 serving per day — a decrease that is equivalent to about 5 years of younger age. In this analysis, the researcher statistically controlled for differences in sex, race, education, cognitive activity, physical activity, and alcohol consumption, so the findings were not affected by differences in these characteristics. The vegetables showing the highest association with cognitive functioning were green leafy vegetables. The amount of fruit consumption was not associated with cognitive functioning.6
1. Thompson DR, Obarzanek E, Franko DL, Barton BA, Morrison J, Biro FM, Daniels SR, Striegel-Moore RH. Childhood overweight and cardiovascular disease risk factors: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study. Journal of Pediatrics 2007; 150: 18-25.

2. Danaei G, Lawes CMM, Hoorn SV Murray CJL, Ezzati M. Global and regional mortality from ischaemic heart disease and stroke attributable to higher-than-optimum blood glucose concentration: comparative risk assessment. Lancet 2006; 368: 1651-1659.

3. Banthin J & Bernard D. Changes in financial burdens for health care: national estimates for the population younger than 65 years, 1996 to 2003." JAMA 2006; 296:2712-2719.

4. Cho E, Chen WY, Hunter DJ, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Hankinson SE, Willett WC. Red meat intake and risk of breast cancer among premenopausal women. Archives of Internal Medicine 2006; 166: 2253-2259.

5. He FJ, MacGregor GA. Importance of salt in determining blood pressure in children: meta-analysis of controlled trials. Hypertension 2006; 48: 861-869.

6. Morris MC, Evans DA, Tangney CC, Bienias JL, Wilson RS. Associations of vegetable and fruit consumption with age-related cognitive change. Neurology 2006; 67: 1370-1376.


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