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October 2010

US Obesity Growing at an Alarming Rate

US Obesity Growing at an Alarming Rate

As this issue of Life Extension Magazine® was being prepared to go to press, a new report was published stating that US obesity is growing “faster than anyone imagined.”*

One of the more staggering statistics revealed in the report is that the number of states where 30% of the population is obese tripled between 2007 and 2009, going from three states to nine. Dr. Thomas Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told reporters that “less than a decade ago, in 2000, not a single state had an obesity prevalence of 30% or higher.”

Even more disappointing is that health officials had recently set a goal to slash the obesity rate by 15% or more. Rather than achieving that goal, the opposite has happened, and 2.4 million adults have been added to the swelling ranks of the obese population.

Obesity, which is defined as having a body mass index over 30 (calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in squared meters), puts people at greater risk for severe health problems.

In addition, there is a tremendous economic cost, as medical expenditures associated with the condition are estimated to be around $147 billion annually.

Bill Dietz, director of the CDC’s division of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity, said in a news conference that “the availability and consumption of high calorie foods along with a more sedentary lifestyle has led to the epidemic.”

—Jon Finkel


* Accessed August 5, 2010.

Panel Advocates Action Plan to Avert Aging Tsunami

Panel Advocates Action Plan to Avert Aging Tsunami

A panel of luminaries in the field of gerontology convened to urge the translation of findings in the field of aging into therapeutic agents that can benefit the world’s growing population of older people. Their report was published in Science Translational Medicine.*

In order to prevent a global aging crisis caused by a greater proportion of older individuals and the resulting increases in medical costs and social challenges, the panel advocates the collaboration of a number of countries in an initiative to translate laboratory findings on aging into agents that will improve older men and women’s lives.

“In the case of late-life intervention in human age-related degeneration, what we can be certain of today is that a policy of aging as usual will lead to enormous humanitarian, social and financial costs,” the authors conclude. “To realize any chance of success, the drive to tackle biological aging head-on must begin now.”

Editor’s note: The Life Extension Foundation has been urging such an effort since the early 1980s.

—D. Dye


* Sci Transl Med. 2010 July14; 2(40):40cm21.

Reduced Vitamin D Levels Linked to Cognitive Decline

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found a greater risk of cognitive decline in older individuals with vitamin D insufficiency compared to those with sufficient levels.*

Researchers analyzed data from more than 850 men and women who participated in the InCHIANTI study from 1998 to 2006. The team found that subjects who were severely deficient in vitamin D upon enrollment were 60% more likely to experience significant cognitive decline as well as 31% likelier to develop reductions in mental flexibility compared to those with sufficient levels. “This is the first study to identify a clear link between low vitamin D levels and cognitive decline,” announced lead researcher Dr. David J. Llewellyn of the University of Exeter. “Previous research has been cross-sectional but we have now been able to demonstrate a connection between having low levels of vitamin D and going on to develop cognitive problems.”

Editor’s note: The authors observe that “supplements are inexpensive and safe and have already been shown to reduce the risk of falls, fractures and death.”

—D. Dye


* Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(13):1135-41.

Low Vitamin D Levels Can Predict Parkinson’s Disease

Low Vitamin D Levels Can Predict Parkinson’s Disease

A recent issue of the Archives of Neurology reported the finding of a correlation between reduced blood levels of vitamin D and an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.*

The study included 3,173 participants in the Mini-Finland Health Survey who were free of Parkinson’s disease between 1978 and 1980. Over the 29 year follow-up period, 50 subjects were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Those whose serum vitamin D levels were among the top 25% of the subjects had one-third the adjusted risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than that of subjects whose vitamin D levels were among the lowest fourth.

The investigation is the first longitudinal study to demonstrate an association between insufficient vitamin D levels and the subsequent development of Parkinson’s disease.

“In intervention trials focusing on effects of vitamin D supplements, the incidence of Parkinson disease merits follow up,” the authors conclude.

Editor’s note: Although the exact mechanisms by which vitamin D helps protect against Parkinson’s disease are not understood, the vitamin has shown neuroprotective effects via antioxidative mechanisms, immunomodulation, enhanced nerve conduction, and other means.

—D. Dye


* Arch Neurol. 2010;67(7):808-11.

Many Risks Associated with Acid-Suppressing Medications

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a common type of medication that suppresses acid in the stomach, have been linked to several risks in studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.* The studies, and accompanied editorials, are part of the journal’s new series, “Less is More,” which highlights areas where measures of health are worse when patients receive more health services.

In the studies, researchers found that PPIs were associated with increased risk of fractures in postmenopausal women and an increase in Clostridium difficile infection (a cause of severe diarrhea). They also found that high-dose PPIs do not appear to be associated with reduced rates of additional bleeding, surgical intervention or death in patients with bleeding ulcers when compared with regular PPI therapy.

“What is important is that 60-70% of persons taking proton pump inhibitors don’t need these medications,” Mitchell Katz, MD, Director of Health for the San Francisco Department of Public Health told Life Extension. “Were it an issue of cost alone, it would not be so serious a problem. But the articles published in the Archives of Internal Medicine demonstrate that in addition to an increased risk of pneumonia, a well known side effect of PPIs, these medications are also associated with other side effects including bone fractures and C. difficile diarrhea. While it is true that all medications have side effects, there is no level of side effects that is acceptable when you don’t actually need the medication.”

—Marc Ellman, MD


* Arch Intern Med. 2010 May 10;170[9]:747-48, 765-71, 751-58, 772-78, 784-90, 779-83, 749-50.