Health Highlights: Feb. 11, 2009

The researchers said they're not sure why health scares push smokers to change their ways but have little effect on overweight and obese patients. They did note that many health plans don't cover weight-loss programs (other than bariatric surgery), while free or low-cost smoking cessation programs are offered by many local health departments and businesses, the Times reported.

"People really are open to changing their behaviors after a health event, and this could really be a window of opportunity," study author Patricia S. Keenan, assistant professor of health policy at the Yale University School of Medicine, told the newspaper. "I'm not sure the health care system is capitalizing on it, in terms of giving people the support they need to make these changes as they go forward."


Overweight/Obesity Rates Increase in U.S. Military

Stress and return from deployment may be among the reasons why the number of overweight and obese U.S. military personnel has doubled since the start of the Iraq War in 2003, says a Pentagon study.

The number of overweight and obese personnel increased from 34,333 (2.1 percent) in 2003 to 68,786 (4.4 percent) in 2008. The number was 25,652 (1.6 percent) in 1998, Agence France Presse reported.

The Pentagon said a 2005 poll of U.S. military personnel revealed that "stress and return from deployment were the most frequently cited reasons for recent weight gain."

The increase of weight problems among servicemen and women reflects that of the general U.S. population, where 20 percent of those ages 18 to 34 are obese, AFP reported. As in the civilian population, fast food and a sedentary lifestyle play a role in weight gain among members of the military.

"Overweight/obesity is a significant military medical concern because it is associated with decreased military operational effectiveness ... and both acute and chronic adverse health effects," the Pentagon study said.

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