Health Highlights: Dec. 3, 2007

In the second study, American and British researchers found that people with a specific genetic variation near a gene called TNFSF4 had an increased risk of developing lupus.

The genetic variation appears to boost expression of TNFSF4 among blood lymphocytes in people with lupus, the scientists said. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that, under direction of the immune system, attack foreign objects in the body, AFP reported.

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Food Chemicals May Increase Risk of Ovarian and Endometrial Cancers

Women who consume foods with high levels of acrylamides every day may double their risk of ovarian or endometrial cancer, according to Dutch researchers who surveyed 120,000 people (including 62,000 women) about their eating habits and followed them for 11 years, BBC News reported.

Acrylamides are chemicals formed when food is fried, grilled or roasted.

During the 11 years, 327 of the female participants developed endometrial cancer and 300 developed ovarian cancer. After analyzing the data, the University of Maastricht researchers concluded that women who ate 40 micrograms of acrylamide a day were twice as likely to develop these two types of cancer as women who consumed much less acrylamide.

A single package of potato chips or a serving of french fries would contain about 40 micrograms of acrylamide, BBC News reported.

Although this was a large study, the researchers said their findings need to be confirmed by additional research.

It's difficult to determine whether the increased cancer risk among some women was due to acrylamides or other unhealthy foods in their diets, said Dr. Lesley Walker of Cancer Research UK.

"Women shouldn't be unduly worried by this news. It's not easy to separate out one component of the diet from all the others when studying the complex diets of ordinary people," Walker told BBC News.

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Guidelines Due on Childhood Obesity

Annual weight checks, counseling about weight, and a four-stage treatment plan are among the points included in new guidelines for preventing and treating childhood obesity in the United States, USA Today reported.

The guidelines, prepared by a panel of medical experts convened by the American Medical Association and government agencies, are to be published in the journal Pediatrics.

About 17 percent of American children are obese, which is triple the percentage in 1970, the guideline authors said. Children with excess weight are at increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Among the recommendations:

  • Weight counseling should be given for both overweight and normal-weight children at every checkup. Doctors should check cholesterol levels of overweight children.
  • Children need to get an hour of physical activity every day, and there should be limits on their computer and TV time, and on their consumption of sweetened beverages and fast food.
  • Doctors should gather children's family history of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
  • A four-stage treatment plan for overweight children could include medication or surgery for the most persistently obese youngsters.

The new, aggressive guidelines "are long overdue," Melinda Sothern, a pediatric obesity specialist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, told USA Today. "Lots of parents are frustrated because there are no specific guidelines for treating overweight children."

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