Outlook: Obesity Epidemic

MARCH 01, 2009

Obesity Contributes to Ovarian Cancer

Obese menopausal women who have never used hormone replacement therapy face a much higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than their counterparts of normal weight, according to the results of a National Cancer Institute study reported in Cancer (February 15, 2009). The findings revealed that increased estrogen production resulting from excess fat in postmenopausal women can fuel ovarian cell growth, thereby contributing to the development of ovarian cancer.

For the study, the researchers observed close to 95,000 women aged 50 to 71 during a 7-year period. Of the women, 303 developed ovarian cancer. The researchers found that obese women who had not taken hormones after menopause had close to an 80% higher risk of developing the disease. Conversely, the study did not find a causal relationship between body mass index and ovarian cancer risk in women who had used hormone therapy for menopause symptoms. Ovarian cancer is the top killer among gynecologic malignancies, with only 37% of those who develop it surviving for >5 years.

Green Tea Helps Burn Belly Bulge

Individuals exercising to lose weight may enjoy a boost in burning of abdominal fat by drinking green tea, according to study results published in the February 2009 issue of the Journal of Nutrition. To conduct the study, the researchers assigned 3 hours of exercise per week to 132 participants with obesity, giving a green tea beverage containing about 39 mg of caffeine and 625 mg of catechins, an antioxidant, to some, and giving members of the control group a beverage containing only the caffeine.

Consuming the beverage resulted in greater overall weight loss for the participants, and the researchers found significant evidence that those who drank green tea containing catechins particularly experienced reductions in total abdominal fat, subcutaneous abdominal fat, and triglycerides.

Heart Failure Risk Much Higher for Obese, Inactive Men

Overweight and obese men who do not exercise are faced with a greater threat of heart failure, according to study findings. The researchers observed >21,000 male physicians aged 40 to 84 for 20 years to reach their findings.

The results showed that, compared with lean and active participants, overweight men have a 49% higher heart failure risk. Overweight men who do not exercise heighten their risk by 78%. For obese men, those who exercise have a 168% increased risk, and those who are inactive have the highest risk, at 293% above lean and active men. For an average man (of about 5 ft 10 in), every 7 lb of excess body fat creates a heightened heart failure risk of 11%, according to the investigators.

Close to 67% of Americans have excess body weight, and approximately 30% take part in exercise, the researchers stated. The good news is that men who participate in vigorous physical activity can significantly reduce their risk. The study was published in the January 6, 2009, issue of Circulation.

Weight Problems in Youngsters Underdiagnosed

Although pediatric overweight and obesity are swelling, the problems often go undiagnosed. Recent study data show that, among overweight and obese patients, girls were more likely to be diagnosed than boys, and black and Hispanic patients were more likely to be diagnosed, compared with white patients.

The study, published in the January 2009 issue of Pediatrics, examined medical record data from >60,000 patients aged 2 to 18. Of the group, 19% were overweight, 23% were obese, and 8% (or 33% of the obese group) were severely obese. The researchers found that diagnoses were made for 10% of the overweight group, 54% of the obese group, and 76% of the severely obese patients. The study team stressed the importance of diagnosing overweight and obesity in kids, saying it is critical in dealing with this growing epidemic.

Maternal Obesity Linked to Infant Death Risk

Babies, especially newborns, born to obese mothers have a higher death risk than those born to mothers of normal weight, according to a new study. The researchers compared records for 4265 babies who died during infancy with those of 7293 who survived, using US National Maternal and Infant Health Survey data from 1988.

The researchers found that obese women had an increased infant death risk, either from complications during pregnancy, or from disorders surrounding shorter gestation periods and low birth weights. Overweight women who gained the most weight and those who gained the least weight during pregnancy also faced a heightened infant death risk, according to the study results published in the January 2009 issue of Epidemiology.