Gallstones in kids, teens linked to obesity

Published: Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 3:00 PM
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 3:00 PM

More and more children are being treated for gallstones, and the obesity epidemic may play a role.

In a new study, obese children and teens were at least twice as likely to have gallstones as those whose weight was normal or underweight -- and the risk was nearly three to eight times higher for the heaviest boys and girls.

Gallstones in Kids Linked to Obesity

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the United States over the last three decades, according to the CDC.

The rise has been accompanied by an increase in obesity-related health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol, that were once largely confined to adults; this study confirms that gallbladder disease is among them.

Researcher Corinna Koebnick, PhD, says even though gallstones are still relatively rare among children and teens, this may not be the case among kids who are extremely overweight.

Koebnick is a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation.

“With childhood obesity on the rise, pediatricians can expect to diagnose and treat an increasing number of children affected by gallstone disease,” she says.

Gallbladder Surgeries More Common

An estimated 20 million adults in the U.S. have gallstones. Women are more likely to have them than men.

Gallstones are deposits formed inside the gallbladder. Most gallstones are stones that contain hardened cholesterol. Gallstones vary in size and may cause no symptoms. In other cases, they can block the passage of bile and cause inflammation, infection, or organ damage that can be serious.

Among children, gallstones have been closely linked to blood diseases such as sickle cell anemia.

But reports of a sharp increase in gallbladder removal surgeries in children led to the speculation that obesity may play a role.

To test the theory, the Kaiser Permanente researchers examined the electronic health records of more than half a million 10- to 19-year-olds enrolled in the health plan. They found 766 patients with gallstones.

They found that the association between obesity and gallstones was stronger for girls than boys.

Extremely obese girls were nearly eight times more likely to be treated for gallbladder disease than girls who were normal weight or underweight.

Among the other findings:

  • The heaviest boys were three times as likely to have gallstones as normal-weight or underweight boys.
  • Hispanic children and teens had a higher gallstone risk than those of other races.
  • In teen girls, use of oral contraceptives was also linked to a higher gallstone risk, which is also the case with adult women.

Gallbladder Disease in Kids Was Once 'Unheard Of'

Nutritionist Nancy Copperman, RD, works with overweight and obese young people, and trains others to do the same, as director of public health initiatives at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y.

She says the new study and studies like it are important because they document the rise in obesity-related disease in young people.

“Gallbladder disease was virtually unheard of in children until a few years ago, with the exception of those related to blood disorders,” she tells WebMD.

She adds that the fact that this is no longer the case highlights the importance of addressing the childhood obesity epidemic.

“This is not a cosmetic issue,” she says. “Obesity carries health risks for children as well as adults, and the best treatment is prevention.”

The study is published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition.

SOURCES: Koebnick, C. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, 2012, study received ahead of print.Corinna Koebnick, PhD, research scientist, Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation.Nancy Copperman, RD, director of public health initiatives, Office of Community Health, North Shore-LIJ Health System, Great Neck, N.Y.News release, Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Why are more black women dying of breast cancer compared to white women?

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 12:58 PM

What You Need to Know: Breast Cancer

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women under 60 years old are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women in the same age group. In fact, data from 2015 showed black women had a 39 percent higher breast cancer death rate.

>> Read more trending news

New research from Emory University, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute points to differences in health insurance as the culprit.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, included data from the National Cancer Data Base on 563,497 black and white women between the ages of 18 and 64 who had been diagnosed with stage I to stage III breast cancer between 2004 and 2013.

The researchers examined five factors for the study:

  • Demographics (age, stage, state, year of diagnosis, etc.)
  • Comorbidities (other health conditions)
  • Insurance (lack of insurance, private insurance, Medicare/Medicaid, etc.)
  • Tumor characteristics (size, type, stage, etc.)
  • Treatment (chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, surgery, etc.)

The findings

They found that insurance explained one-third of the additional risk of death among the black women compared to white women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.

Additionally, almost three times as many black women (22.7 percent) were either uninsured or had Medicaid insurance compared to white women (8.4 percent).

“Lack of insurance is a barrier to receipt of timely and high-quality treatment and screening services,” study authors wrote.

Other major factors that explained the differences: tumor characteristics (23.2 percent), comorbidities (11.3 percent) and treatment (4.8 percent).

Nearly 80 percent of the women in the study had the most common type of breast cancer (hormone receptor-positive breast cancer) and according to the researchers, when matched for factors such as insurance, comorbidity and others, those factors accounted for a combined 76.3 percent of the total excess risk of death in black patients.

The authors noted that when it came to treatment differences, black and white women contrasted most for hormone therapy, which, according to ACS, is typically used after surgery to help reduce the chance of recurrence.

“Several studies reported that black women are less likely to complete chemotherapy and hormone therapy,” study author Ahmedin Jemal told the ACS. “This could be for many reasons, including problems with transportation or the inability to pay for medicine.”

Additionally, previous research has shown that black women get lower quality mammograms and are less likely to have a follow-up appointment after receiving abnormal mammograms.

(Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

And insurance is vital for both high-quality cancer care and for early detection.

“We know so much about cancer prevention and control,” Jemal, who is also vice president of the ACS surveillance and health services research program, said. “But we’re not applying it to the whole population equally. We have to make the standard of care available to everyone, including people with low income. And blacks are disproportionately represented in that group.”

Read the full study at ascopubs.org

Scientists engineer proteins that caused obese animals to lose weight and lower cholesterol

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 3:03 PM

Oftentimes healthy eating and exercise are the first to go as life gets more and more hectic Nutrition is 80-90% of successful weight loss in your 30s You should eat 3 regular meals and 2 snacks per day Log your food intake and exercise to motivate you to move more and reassess the food you're eating Find time to make healthy eating and exercise work for you If you're trying to get back in the habit of training, don't overthink it. It's more important to get started Don't go and join a gym until you real

As the U.S. obesity rate has galloped toward 40 percent, doctors, drug designers and dispirited dieters have all wondered the same thing: What if a pill could deliver the benefits of weight-loss surgery, but without the knife?

New research brings that hope a notch closer.

Scientists from the biotechnology company Amgen Inc. report they have identified and improved upon a naturally occurring protein that brought about significant changes in obese mice and monkeys, including weight loss and rapid improvements on measures of metabolic and heart health.

The results, published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, approximate some of the mysteriously powerful effects of bariatric surgery, in which a surgeon reshapes the stomach and intestinal tract to reduce their capacity. Even before surgery patients lose a lot of weight, most see marked improvements in obesity-related conditions like insulin resistance, high circulating blood sugar and worrisome cholesterol levels.

>> How he came to weigh over 700 pounds — and then lose more than half of it

In mice who got a bioengineered version of the GDF15 protein, the researchers observed even more remarkable changes. These obese mice turned their noses up at extra-rich condensed milk — a treat that normally prompts mice to gorge themselves. Given the choice, the treated mice tended to opt for standard mouse chow instead, or at least lowered their intake of the fattening condensed milk.

After 35 days, obese mice treated with the bioengineered GDF15 proteins lost roughly 20 percent of their body weight, while mice getting a placebo gained about 6 percent over their starting weight, according to the study. When mice were offered the rich condensed milk, triglyceride levels remained at baseline or rose by about 20 percent in those who got the engineered proteins, while levels more than doubled in the untreated mice. Insulin levels and total cholesterol readings were also significantly better in treated animals than in their untreated counterparts.

The results suggest that the GDF15 engineered by researchers had the power to turn off the kind of reward-driven eating (think doughnuts, milkshakes or bacon cheeseburgers) that drives many of us to become obese, or to regain lost weight.

>> The sour truth about artificial sweeteners

Some of the weight-loss medications approved in recent years by the Food and Drug Administration — including Belviq, Contrave, Qsymia and Saxenda — appear to nudge the food preferences of obese patients in more healthful directions. But bariatric surgery has a pronounced effect in shifting patients’ preferences away from high-fat foods. Scientists just don’t know why.

The natural version of the GDF15 protein breaks down quickly in the blood. To be an effective weight-loss aid, it would need more staying power.

The Amgen researchers accomplished this by fusing the protein with other agents that would not break down so quickly. The two engineered versions of GDF15 remain biologically active in the blood for longer.

In the brains of the lab animals that received the treatment, the study authors detected activation in a population of brain-stem cells that transmits complex signals between the brain and gut.

In obese people, those signals — which urge us to eat when we’re hungry and to stop once we’ve eaten — become faulty, causing us to overeat and gain weight. Bariatric surgery appears to correct those signals.

So the suggestion that GDF15 might do the same is an exciting indication that a piece of bariatric surgery’s magic might be bottled up in a pill.

>> Woman's explicitly detailed grocery list leaves little room for error for husband

“This is a new system” involved in the regulation of appetite, said Dr. Ken Fujioka, a weight-loss specialist at Scripps Clinic Del Mar. “It’s not one we’ve seen before, and that’s a big deal.”

At the same time, the system manipulated by GDF15 is only one of the chemical signaling systems that goes awry in obesity, said Fujioka, an expert on brain-gut signaling who was not involved in the new research. If a drug is to help a wide range of patients with obesity — and to aid in the twin challenges of losing weight and keeping it off — it will need to activate many different systems at once.

While bariatric surgery has been shown to be effective in spurring weight loss and a broad range of other health improvements, it is invasive, costly and irreversible. And although about 196,000 Americans had the surgery in 2015, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, that’s only a tiny fraction of the roughly 100 million adults who are now considered obese.

On Wednesday, Amgen called the new research “early,” but said its focus on obesity fits with its interest in drugs to treat cardiovascular disease.

New findings like these help put effective treatment in reach for a growing number of the obese, Fujioka said. Obesity is a diabolically complex disease with many contributing factors, “but someday I personally think we really will be there,” he added.

Boy sleeps for 11 straight days, baffling doctors

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 2:55 AM

Boy Falls Asleep for 11 Straight Days, Doctors Don’t Know Why

When a 7-year-old boy fell asleep following a late-night wedding party, his mother expected him to be tired, but she could never fathom what would unfold.

>> Watch the news report here

WDRB 41 Louisville News

The boy, Wyatt Shaw, was admitted to Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, during the first week of October after his mother tried and tried and tried to wake up him following the exciting Sunday night wedding festivities.

“Monday I tried to wake him up, and he fell back to sleep,” the boy’s mother, Amy Shaw, told WDRB. “[I’d say], ‘Wyatt, Wyatt, Wyatt!’ And he fell back to sleep again.”

Wyatt slept for 11 consecutive daysAccording to WTVR, medication usually used to treat seizures finally woke the boy up, but doctors are mystified by what happened. Every test performed on Wyatt came back clear.

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“[The doctors] said, ‘We’ll probably never know, but we’re just going to treat him now with rehab to get him better,’” Amy Shaw said.

>> On Rare.us: Anthony Rizzo breaks down in tears at Chicago hospital

Wyatt is having some trouble talking and walking, but he’s improving and is well aware of his story, WDRB reported. The only thing he doesn’t understand is the same thing the doctors don’t — what happened to him.

>> Read more trending news 

His mom hopes he’s back to showing off the energy he’s always exhibited, especially that night cutting up the dance floor at the wedding.

A benefit concert is being held for Wyatt and his family from 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 26 at Northside Hall in Radcliff, Kentucky.

5 reasons to breastfeed your child 

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 12:57 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 12:57 PM

Breastfeeding has health benefits for mothers and children. A new study suggests breastfeeding can reduce a mother's risk of heart attack and stroke. The study analyzed 289,573 women in China. 6 months of breastfeeding = 4% less likely to have hea

Many new moms have heard that "breast is best" when it comes to feeding their babies, but they may not have all the facts on just what makes it best.

When you're making the personal decision about how to feed your child, it helps to know exactly why experts so strongly recommend breastfeeding.

RELATED: Why pregnant women should be careful around cats

Here are five major benefits of breastfeeding:

Providing an immune system boost

Breast milk contains antibodies, immune factors, enzymes and white blood cells – all of which can help protect your baby against diseases and infections, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your baby will be less likely to have ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea, pneumonia and other common yet potentially serious ailments as a result.

Even better, this immune system boost can, in some cases, last after you've weaned your baby.

Breastfeeding provides your baby with many important health benefits.(Sergei Bobylev/For the AJC)

Building a strong emotional bond

Psychology Today touts the bond that develops between nursing moms and their babies. This is not only because of the close, extended contact but also due to the release of hormones in moms as well as their babies.

This close bonding is believed by many to help reduce social and behavioral problems later in life, the Cleveland Clinic says.

Improving brain development

Previous studies have linked breastfeeding to better cognitive outcomes in older adolescents and adults. A Brown University study now suggests that changes in brain development occur even earlier than that  "almost right off the bat." 

Researchers used baby-friendly MRIs to look at the brain's white matter, which helps parts of the brain communicate with one another. Babies in the study who were exclusively being breastfed had 20 to 30 percent more white matter growth than babies who weren't.

Fulfilling your child's unique – and changing – nutritional needs

Breast milk changes composition to adapt to your child's nutritional needs, according to Psychology Today. It contains all the nutrition your baby needs for his or her first six months and continues to provide benefits beyond that.

And even if your baby is premature, the breast milk you produce in the first few weeks is also designed to meet your baby's unique needs. For example, it's higher in protein and minerals; it also contains different types of fat that can be more easily absorbed and digested by your premature baby.

Lowering your child's risk of SIDS

Breastfeeding is thought to lower your child's risk of SIDS – sudden infant death syndrome. 

Medical experts usually recommend that to keep your baby safe, you should keep him or her in the same room if you'd like to, but not in the same bed. They suggest that breastfeeding moms keep their babies in a crib beside their own bed to make breastfeeding easier and keep babies safe from bedding or from being accidently rolled over on.

Need help or advice about breastfeeding?

If you'd like to breastfeed your baby but have concerns or want more information, hospitals usually employ lactation consultants who can help you and your baby with breastfeeding. To find one on your own, search at ilca.org/why-ibclc/falc.