Sunday, March 28, 2010

News Briefs: March 28, 2010

Even Earlier Intervention Necessary to Curb Obesity
Eriene-Heidi Sidhom

Despite an increased push to raise awareness of obesity in schools and to educate about a healthy and nutritious lifestyle, recent studies show that interventions as early as kindergarten may still be too late. In fact important events in a baby’s early years, even while still in the mother’s womb, may predispose a child to obesity that is difficult to alter by the time the child enters kindergarten. For example, babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are at a higher risk of being obese as well as babies who sleep less than 12 hours. Forms of early intervention have included encouraging women to lose weight before pregnancy and breastfeeding their children. As Dr Leann L. Birch has stated, ““The idea that a big baby is a healthy baby, and a crying baby is probably a hungry baby who should be fed, are things we really need to rethink.”

Reference: Rabin, Roni Caryn. (2010, March 22). Baby Fat May Not Be So Cute After All. The New York Times. Retrieved March 28, 2010 from

Image: Available here.

Nutrition: Rise in Soda Price linked to Better Health
Namratha Rao

A recent study shows that an increase in the price of soda can lead to better health in young adults. High prices decrease soda consumption resulting in the decrease in calorie intake and weight. For example, the study showed that every 10% increase in the price of a two-liter bottle of soda let to 7% fewer calories consumed from soda as well as a drop in weight of over two pounds. However, not everyone is on board with these new taxes. Maureen L. Storey, senior vice president for science policy at the American Beverage Association, said “Taxes do not make people healthier. Making smart education decisions about diet and exercise do.”

Reference: Rabin, Roni Caryne (2010, March 15). Nutrition: Rise in Soda Price Linked to Better Health. The New York Times. Retrieved March 28, 2010 from

Rising Prevalence of Multidrug-Resistance Tuberculosis
Kanupriya Tewari

A report released by the World Health Organization this week states that “the percentage of tuberculosis cases around the world resistant to two standard drugs remains low - about 4 percent - but is three to six times as high in the vast area that once encompassed the Soviet Union”. The WHO report is based on information from 114 countries. Statistics demonstrate that in the Russian Arctic city of Murmansk, 28 percent of new TB cases in 2008 were "multidrug-resistant" (MDR) and that in the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, the rates of MDR-TB were 25 and 17 percent, respectively. "We knew that it was serious, but we are reporting increasing levels that we thought were not possible before," said Mario C. Raviglione, director of the WHO Stop TB Department. However, a point to be noted is that because testing for TB drug resistance is not uniformly carried out and is not even done in some countries it cannot be substantiated whether the problem is getting worse or better.

This increase in MDR-TB may be due to factors like the collapse of the Soviet Union which caused a definite decline in the quality of TB treatment. Also, many patients were treated with limited drugs, which may have lead to the development of resistant strains (MDR-TB), which has caused the rates in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to be much higher than other regions of the world. However, nearly half of all MDR-TB cases occur in China and India because those countries have so many overall TB cases.

What is of most immediate concern at the moment is that about 5 % of MDR-TB cases worldwide are "extensively drug resistant," which means they are resistant to two alternative drugs. Added to this, the WHO estimates that to adequately treat MDR-TB in the 27 most-affected countries by 2015 will require about $3 billion per year; a feat which is extremely challenging.

Reference: Brown, David. (2010, March 20). Drug-resistant tuberculosis poses global risk, World Health Organization says. The Washington Post. Retrieved March 28, 2010 from

Massachusetts leads the nation in flu vaccines
Yang (Karen) Chen

In a recently released state report, Massachusetts has been named the #1 state in the nation for vaccinating its residents against seasonal flu and H1N1. John Auerbach, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, says that the mobilization against swine flu in the state was a successful one. This is evident by the fact that 36% of residents were vaccinated for swine flu, compared to the 21% nationally, about 2 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine were administered in Massachusetts. In addition, 57% of Massachusetts residents received seasonal flu vaccinations, as compared to the 37% national rate. While H1N1 was declared a pandemic, it did not cause nearly the amount of deaths that was feared. In Massachusetts, 32 deaths were confirmed due to swine flu, and all except 5 of the cases involved underlying medical conditions. The state was prepared with years of pandemic planning, and local health departments, school systems, and hospitals sent out public health messages through brochures, online forums, Twitter feeds, and 30-second videos in movie theaters. Auerbach says that “the chances of coming down with H1N1 are diminishing in Massachusetts.” A third of population already had H1N1, and another third has been vaccinated. Public health specialists hope this will provide “herd immunity,” as there are not enough people sick with or susceptible to H1N1 for it to easily spread.

Reference: Cooney, Elizabeth. (2010, March 21). Mass. tops nation in flu shots, report says. The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 23, 2010 from blog/2010/03/mass_tops_natio.html.

Study on Subjective Memory Loss Reveals Link to Depression
Soumil Mhaskar

A recent clinical review was published at that University College London that investigated the link between subjective memory and cognitive impairments. The study revealed many important findings that may overturn many long held beliefs by the medical community. The first recommendation by the study is that doctors should take subjective memory problems seriously and not disregard the memory loss as a characteristic of the “worried well.” Also, subjective memory problems have been linked to depression, old age, females, and a low education. An interesting finding within the study was that depression is more of an indicator of dementia rather than subjective memory loss. It was commonly believed that subjective memory loss was an early symptom of dementia but now it seems that depression is a risk factor for dementia. Therefore, the overall conclusion of the study is that general practitioners need to expand on the diagnostic tests that are employed to diagnose dementia and not overly rely on subjective memory loss.

Reference: BMJ 2010;340:c1425

Eriene-Heidi Sidhom is the 2009-2010 News and Analysis Editor.
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