Today in medicine: Are eating disorders ageless?

New research shows that women under 50 aren't the only ones who experience eating disorders.

Topic of Study: Isolating genes that contribute to autism
Study subjects: Zebrafish
Location of study: U.S.
Results: MIT Researchers are using zebrafish to isolate the genes that might contribute to autism, schizophrenia or other human brain disorders. The study is based on the presumption that the fish don’t show symptoms of such brain disorders, but are affected as humans are by the absence or duplication of around two dozen genes. The MIT study found that deleting nearly all these genes in zebrafish embryos produced brain abnormalities.
Significance: If autism is caused by genetic disorders, the research could lead to gene therapy. It’s not known whether autism has a genetic or environmental causes, if it has any cause at all or whether it varies from case to case.

Topic of Study: Are eating disorders ageless?
Study subjects: Women over 50
Location of study: U.S.
Results: A study published in the “International Journal of Eating Disorders” found that eating disorders are not just prevalent in teens and young women; women over 50 were found to have behaviors such as purging or binge eating, too. Many women weighed themselves daily and around a third spent at least half their time in the last five years dieting. Use of diet pills, diuretics, laxatives, excessive exercise and vomiting were reported.
Significance: The study turns the popular image of eating disorders as a young person’s problem on its head. Two factors could be that the behavior is a habit picked up when women are younger, or that it stems from the social pressure for women to keep looking younger longer.

Topic of Study: American diners opt for treats
Study subjects: Restaurant diners worldwide
Location of study: U.S.
Results: A report from Unilever Food Solutions finds that Americans prefer to be offered the choice of eating healthier when dining out. But, the idea of treating themselves often takes precedence with their final meal choice.  
Significance: The report concluded that American restaurants should improve menu choices to include more appealing language to help diners make a healthier choice.

Topic of Study: More kids with high blood pressure
Study subjects: Children over 2 years
Location of study: U.S.
Results: The American Heart Association reports that a ten-year study, ending in 2006, found that hospitalizations for children with high blood pressure increased significantly. Among evaluated subjects, African-American males over the age of 9, treated in a teaching hospital, were more likely to be hospitalized with hypertension.
Significance: Many of the hypertension issues were due to illnesses such as lupus or pneumonia. The report also stated that the increasing hospitalizations may in part be due to the rise in childhood obesity, and that healthy lifestyle habits should be addressed by primary care doctors.


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