Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
American mothers are more likely to die during childbirth than they were twenty years ago, data released by the World Health Organization shows–but globally, maternal death rates have fallen by almost half in the same period of time. Reuters has more:
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The WHO tracks maternal mortality as one of the “Millennium Development Goals” that the United Nations set for 2015. Death rates have fallen by 45 percent globally since 1990, to an estimated 289,000 women in 2013.
Giving birth in the United States remains far safer than in most countries, with only 28 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013. But that is 136 percent higher than the 1990 mortality rate, when only 12 mothers died for every 100,000 births, the data showed.
No other country recorded such a large percentage increase, although a few other rich countries also failed to keep maternal mortality in check. In Canada, deaths rose from 6 to 11 per 100,000 births between 1990 and 2013. Many European countries and Japan have mortality rates in single figures.
China has cut its rate by two-thirds since 1990, with 32 women dying for every 100,000 live births in 2013.
WHO experts said the increase in the U.S. mortality rate may be a statistical blip. Or it might be due to increased risks from obesity, diabetes and older women giving birth.
Marleen Temmerman, the director of reproductive health and research at WHO, said more analysis was needed.
Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
Calling a girl “fat” may result in a greater chance she’ll become obese later in childhood or life, according to new research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. More from Reuters:
The early stigma of being labeled that way may worsen the problem rather than encouraging girls to become healthier, but more research is needed to be sure, the study authors say.
“This study is one step closer to being able to draw that conclusion, but of course we can’t definitively say that calling a girl “too fat” will make her obese,” said senior author A. Janet Tomiyama of the University of California, Los Angeles.
“This study recruited girls when they were age 10 and followed them over nine years, so we know it’s more than just a one-time connection, which makes me believe that it’s an important question to continue researching,” Tomiyama told Reuters Health in an email.
She and her coauthor examined data from an existing study that followed girls through their teen years. At age 10, the girls answered the question, “have any of these people told you that you were too fat: father, mother, brother, sister, best girlfriend, boy you like best, any other girl, any other boy, or teacher?”
Out of just over 2,000 girls, a total of 1,188 answered “yes” to any of the choices.
Those girls were more likely to have a body mass index (BMI) – a measure of weight relative to height – in the obese range ten years later than girls who answered “no,” according to the results in JAMA Pediatrics.
“We know from considerable evidence that youth who feel stigmatized or shamed about their weight are vulnerable to a range of negative psychological and physical health consequences,” said Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
“This study suggests that negative weight labels may contribute to these experiences and have a lasting and potentially damaging impact for girls,” said Puhl, who was not part of the study.
Image: Heavy girl, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
New research has linked a mother’s weight with the risk that her baby could either be stillborn or die shortly after birth. Reuters has more:
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The risk was greatest among the most obese women, the authors write in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
“The main message of the study is that maternal overweight and obesity increases the risk of fetal death, stillbirth and infant death,” said Dagfinn Aune, the study’s lead author, from Imperial College London.
“Since excess weight is a potentially modifiable risk factor, further studies should assess whether lifestyle and weight changes modifies the risk of fetal and infant death,” he told Reuters Health in an email.
Stillbirths, when a child dies in the womb toward the end of pregnancy, account for a large part of the estimated 3.6 million neonatal deaths that occur each year, the researchers point out.
Previous studies have linked women’s weight during pregnancy to the risk of their children dying in the womb or shortly after delivery due to complications. Some could not show their findings were not due to chance, however.
For the new study, the researchers pulled together data from 38 studies. Together, these included over 45,000 accounts of child deaths that occurred shortly before or after delivery, although a few studies counted deaths up to one year after birth.
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, a person of normal weight would have a body mass index (BMI) – which is a measure of weight in relation to height – between 18.5 and 24.9.
An adult who is 120 pounds and five feet, five inches tall, for example, would have a BMI of 20.
A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight, and a score of 30 or above is considered obese.
Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
Despite a spate of recent studies claiming a drop in the childhood obesity rate–especially one study that claimed a 43 percent drop in preschoolers with weight problems–new research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics has found a sharp rise in the number of U.S. kids who are severely obese. More from CNN:
The researchers looked at data from more than 26,000 children age 2 to 19 in the United States who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that rates of overweight and obese children have been trending upward since 1999, with significant increases seen recently in the number of severely obese children.
Severe childhood obesity rates have more than doubled since 1999, according to the study. In 1999-2000, less than 1% of children fell into the Class 3 obesity category – meaning they had a body mass index 140% higher than their peers. In 2011-2012, 2.1% of children were in the same category. An additional 5.9% met the criteria for Class 2 obesity.
“I think there’s certain kids who are at greatest risk for obesity,” said lead study author Asheley Skinner, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “When you put them in an environment like this one… they’re more likely to gain a whole lot of weight. That’s part of what’s going on.”
The risks associated with that extra weight are scary.
Obese children are more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes later in life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They’re also at risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and psychological problems due to poor self-esteem. Studies show that obese children and adolescents are likely to remain obese as adults.
A separate study published in the journal Pediatrics this week estimates an obese child will incur anywhere from $12,000 to $19,000 in additional medical costs throughout his or her lifetime compared to a normal weight child.
Image: Blocks spelling “Obese,” via Shutterstock
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Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Boys who start smoking before age 11–very young smokers–are far more likely to have sons who battle weight and obesity issues, according to a new British study. The finding puts emphasis on a growing body of research supporting the idea that childhood habits can affect the health of offspring years down the line. More from Reuters:
The scientists said the findings, part of ongoing work in a larger “Children of the 90s” study, could indicate that exposure to tobacco smoke before the start of puberty in men may lead to metabolic changes in the next generation.
“This discovery of transgenerational effects has big implications for research into the current rise in obesity and the evaluation of preventative measures,” said Marcus Pembrey, a professor of genetics at University College London, who led the study and presented its findings at a briefing on Wednesday.
Smoking rates in Britain and some other parts of Europe are on the decline, but worldwide, almost one billion men smoke – about 35 percent of men in developed countries and 50 percent in developing ones, according to the World Health Organization.
While previous studies in animals and in people have found some transgenerational health impacts, the evidence so far is limited. It points, however, to epigenetics – a process where lifestyle and environmental factors can turn certain genes on or off – having an effect on the health of descendants.
Pembrey said his team’s research was prompted in part by signals from earlier Swedish studies that linked how plentiful a paternal ancestor’s food supply was in mid childhood with future death rates in grandchildren.
For the new study, published in the European Journal of Human Genetics, the researchers had access to detailed lifestyle, genetic and other health data from 9,886 fathers.
Of these, 5,376, or 54 percent, were smokers at some time and of those, 166, or 3 percent, said they had started smoking regularly before the age of 11.
Looking at the next generation, the team found that at age 13, 15 and 17, the sons of men who started smoking before 11 had the highest Body Mass Index (BMI) scores compared with the sons of men who had started smoking later or who had never smoked.
“These boys had markedly higher levels of fat mass – ranging from an extra five kilograms (kg) to 10kg between ages 13 and 17,” the study said.
Although it was there, the effect was not seen to the same degree in daughters.
Image: Young man smoking, via Shutterstock
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