In Brief

July 31, 2008

Exercise

Hour workout daily halts weight gain, study says

That 30 minutes of daily exercise you think you're supposed to do to keep weight off? You need to step it up, people. As much as twice that amount may be needed to lose weight and keep it off.

A recent study found that overweight and obese women needed to exercise about an hour a day, five days a week to sustain weight loss. The findings bolster what some health experts - and those who have lost weight and kept it off - have been saying for years: Copious amounts of exercise and adherence to a strict diet are necessary to take off the pounds and keep them at bay.

The women who exercised more and stuck to their diets kept off a 10 percent weight loss over two years, compared with others who maintained only 5 percent. The report, which appeared in Monday's issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, studied 201 women during an intervention that spanned from 1999 to 2003. All the women were asked to consume 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day, and they were assigned to one of four groups: one that burned 1,000 calories a week, one that burned 2,000 calories a week, one that exercised moderately and one that exercised vigorously. Participants also attended group meetings where they learned how to change their diet and activity and received follow-up calls via telephone.

Six months later, all four groups had lost an average of 8 percent to 10 percent of their body weight. But it didn't last. After two years, the average weight of all participants was only 5 percent lower than their initial weight, and there was no difference among the groups.

About a quarter of the women who managed to sustain a 10 percent weight loss exercised more, adhered to better eating habits and engaged more often by phone with the intervention team. For them, exercise amounted to an average of 275 minutes per week.

Los Angeles Times

Obesity

Obesity in kids points to poor school performance

Overweight kids are at risk for a host of health complications, including elevated cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. They also may do more poorly in school. When grade point averages were compared among 566 middle school students in a suburb of Philadelphia, overweight students came in at about half a grade point lower than normal-weight kids.

The study, published in this month's issue of the journal Obesity, also found that overweight students had lower reading comprehension scores on a nationally standardized test, ranking in the 66th percentile; normal-weight kids ranked in the 75th percentile. Heavier kids were also five times more likely to have six or more detentions than their normal-weight peers, had more school absences and lower physical fitness test scores, and were less inclined to participate on athletic teams.

Stuart Shore, a doctoral candidate in kinesiology at Temple University in Philadelphia and lead author of the study, speculates that overweight kids who have low self-esteem might be less inclined to attend school and may not relate well with their teachers.

Los Angeles Times

Alzheimer's

Treadmill test results tie fitness, less brain atrophy

Patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease who performed better on a treadmill test had less atrophy in the areas of the brain that control memory, according to a study released Sunday. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed less shrinkage in the hippocampus region of patients' brains in the Alzheimer's patients with higher fitness scores. In Alzheimer's, the hippocampus is one of the first parts of the brain to suffer damage.

Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., studied the connection between cardiorespiratory fitness and regional brain volume in more than 100 people over 60. About half were healthy older adults and half were in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

In a statement, lead researcher Robyn A. Honea said the study suggests "that maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness may positively modify Alzheimer's-related brain atrophy." But it isn't clear whether exercise helped avoid brain damage or if brain-damaged people had less ability to exercise. The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging and National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Associated Press

Arthritis

Panel urges approval of rheumatoid arthritis drug

A government advisory panel Tuesday recommended approval of the drug Actemra, promoted as a new type of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, a painful and disabling swelling of the joints generally kept in check with medication.

The Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. drug is already being used in Japan, and the Food and Drug Administration must now decide whether to give its approval for patients in the United States. Actemra's effectiveness was not in dispute, but some of its side effects raised questions.

While the most common form of arthritis comes from wear and tear on the joints as people age, rheumatoid arthritis is an immune system disorder in which the body attacks the joints. Known as RA, it affects about 2.5 million Americans and usually strikes in early adulthood or middle age. Women are much more likely to suffer from the condition, which can lead to disability and an early death if untreated.

Actemra works by blocking the effect of a certain protein associated with inflammation. In clinical trials, patients with moderate to severe disease given Actemra showed an easing of symptoms and improvement on lab test results. But since Actemra acts to suppress the immune system, it can also have serious side effects. These can include severe infections, liver abnormalities and damage to digestive organs.

Associated Press

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