In Brief

In Brief

November 25, 2005


More problems for heavy kids

Children who are overweight face more than future health problems. They appear to have broken bones and joint problems more often during childhood than kids of normal weight, research suggests.

"Kids and adults who are overweight are already having problems with their mobility, fractures, and joint pain," said Dr. Susan Yanovski, director of the obesity and eating disorders program at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

A study led by her husband, obesity researcher Dr. Jack Yanovski, found that children and teens who were overweight were far more likely to have had a fracture than their ideal-weight peers. They also had more bone and hip-joint abnormalities, which can lead to permanent deformities.

The research involved 227 overweight children and adolescents and 128 who weren't overweight. The children had an average age of 12.

A review of their medical history revealed that 13 percent of overweight kids had had at least one broken bone at some point in their lives, compared with fewer than 4 percent non-obese kids.



City VA Center joins Gulf War test

In an effort to deal with lingering medical questions from the Gulf War, the Baltimore VA Medical Center has received approval for a two-year pilot program to test the effects of prolonged stress on the body's ability to respond to future stress, infection and injury.

Funding for the Baltimore project is expected to begin in January, part of a larger Gulf War initiative involving 12 projects at VA centers around the country. The total budget for the programs is estimated at $5.2 million over three years.

Veterans of the Gulf War have have reported a variety of ailments, including fatigue, weakness, sleep disturbances, persistent headaches, skin rashes, respiratory problems, and other problems that are different from or more serious than those reported in other conflicts.

Sun Staff


Did dinosaurs dine on grass?

Scientists have long believed that dinosaurs were either inveterate meat eaters or gobblers of big plants.

But now researchers in India report the first clear evidence that some dinosaurs also ate grass. Fossilized dung of what are believed to be titanosaurs - those big-bodied, tiny-headed creatures - contains rigid structures called phytoliths, which were identified as coming from many different types of grasses. The finding is reported in Science.

The fossils date from the late Cretaceous period, near the end of the dinosaurs' reign 65 million years ago.



Less-invasive back treatment

People who suffer from a spinal problem that can cause back and leg pain have an alternative to difficult surgery with a newly approved device that requires a much less invasive procedure to implant.

The Food and Drug Administration this week authorized use of the "X-stop" - a thumb of titanium on a mount that fits to a vertebra in the lower back - to reduce pain from lumbar spinal stenosis. The device was developed at St. Mary's Spine Center in San Francisco.

The most common cause of back surgery in people over 50, stenosis occurs when the tube for nerves in the spine becomes constricted as a person ages. Pain, numbness and weakness usually occur when the person stands up and go away when he or she sits down.

Previously, the condition could be treated with physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs and injections, or by a laminectomy, a difficult surgery that involves full anesthesia and the removal of parts of bone and tissue to open up the canal in the spine. The X-stop achieves a similar effect by pressing against parts of either side of a vertebra without removing it.



New treatment for meth addiction

A common antidepressant can reduce the craving for methamphetamine, providing the possibility of a drug treatment for the powerfully addictive stimulant, according to a study by UCLA researchers published today.

Dr. Thomas F. Newton, the psychiatrist who led the study, found that subjects who were given bupropion, known popularly as Wellbutrin, reported a lesser high after treatment as well as a less intense craving after watching a video of actors favorably portraying meth use.

Although the four-week study involved only 20 patients, its results were encouraging because there is currently no available drug treatment for methamphetamine addiction. Bupropion has long been used as an antidepressant and treatment to stop smoking.

Most addicts are now treated with counseling, and recovery rates are low - about 20 percent, experts say. Methamphetamine increases sexual arousal and reduces inhibitions, often leading to risky sexual behavior.



Drug proves better in tablet form

A 30-year-old medicine may improve breathing for people with a fatal disease caused by the scarring of lung tissue, researchers say. The drug, acetylcysteine, is commonly inhaled to relieve congested lungs. But a study of 155 patients with the tissue-scarring disease showed that a high-dose tablet containing the drug improved lung function better than a placebo when added to a standard therapy of steroids and other immune-suppressing drugs. The findings, from a clinical trial in Belgium, appear in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.


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