Science and Medicine

Obese Children Show Signs of Heart Disease Seen in Middle-Aged Adults



“We were surprised to find that these obese children already have stiff blood vessels,” said Dr. Harris from B.C. Children’s Hospital.

The blood vessels of obese children have stiffness normally seen in much older adults with cardiovascular disease, Dr. Kevin Harris told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010, co-hosted by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The clock is ticking and the shape of the 13-year-old heart is changing—for the worse.

“Aortic stiffness is an early indicator of cardiovascular disease in obese children.”

He says it is as if the aging process has been accelerated in their aorta.

The aorta is the largest artery in the human body. It carries and distributes oxygen-rich blood to all the other arteries and normally acts as a buffer to the pumping action of the heart. Increased stiffness of the aorta is typically associated with aging and is a strong predictor of future cardiac events and mortality in adults.

“The normal aorta has elastic qualities that buffer the flow of blood. When that elasticity is lost, aortic stiffness results—a sign of developing cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Harris told the meeting. “Aortic stiffness is associated with cardiovascular events and early death.”

The mean age of the children in Dr. Harris’s study was 13 years old.

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Coffee Linked to Lowered Risk of Diabetes



It's been linked to lowered risk of diabetes, and contains soluble fiber, the type that can help lower cholesterol.

Coffee lovers may be raising their cups—and perhaps eyebrows—at the recent news (in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry) that the drink contains soluble fiber, the type that can help lower cholesterol. With about 1 g per cup, coffee’s fiber impact is modest. But the report is the latest in a growing stream of positive news about coffee.

Some of the most promising findings come from studies of diabetes. When Harvard researchers combined data from nine studies involving more than 193,000 people, they found that regular coffee drinkers had a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who abstained. The more they drank, the lower their risk.

And, despite coffee’s reputation for being bad for the heart, recent epidemiologic studies haven’t found a connection; some even suggest coffee can be protective. A study in February’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that healthy people 65 and over who drank four or more cups of caffeinated beverages daily (primarily coffee) had a 53 percent lower risk of heart disease than noncoffee drinkers.

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Watching Violent TV or Video Games Promote Aggressive Behavior



Watching violent films, TV programmes or video games desensitises teenagers, blunts their emotional responses to aggression and potentially promotes aggressive attitudes and behaviour, according to new research. (Credit: iStockphoto/Daniel Vineyard)

Watching violent films, TV programs or video games desensitize teenagers, blunts their emotional responses to aggression and potentially promotes aggressive attitudes and behavior, according to new research recently published online in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Although previous research has suggested that people can become more aggressive and desensitized to real-life violence after repeatedly viewing violent media programs, little is known about how the extent of watching such programs and the severity of the aggression displayed affects the brains of adolescents.

“It is especially important to understand this because adolescence is a time when the brain is changing and developing, particularly in the parts of the brain that control emotions, emotional behavior and responses to external events,” said Dr. Jordan Grafman, who led the research.

Dr. Grafman, senior investigator at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, USA), and colleagues recruited 22 boys between the ages of 14 and 17 to the study. The boys each watched short, four-second clips of violent scenes from 60 videos, arranged randomly in three lots of 20 clips. The degree of violence and aggression in each scene was low, mild or moderate, and there were no extreme scenes. They were asked to rate the aggression of each scene by pressing one of two response buttons at the end of each clip to say whether they thought it was more or less aggressive than the previous video. The boys were positioned in a magnetic resonance imaging scanner that collected data on their brain function while they watched the videos. They also had electrodes attached to the fingers of their non-dominant hand to test for skin conductance responses (SCR). This is a method of measuring the electrical conductance of the skin, which varies with moisture (sweat) levels and is a sensitive way of measuring people’s emotions and responses to internal or external stimuli.

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