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April 7th, 2010
07:06 PM ET

Obese moms increase newborns' heart risk

By Caitlin Hagan
CNN Medical Associate Producer

Obese or morbidly obese women are more likely to give birth to a baby who has a congenital heart defect than overweight or healthy women. That's the conclusion of a new study conducted by researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Using data collected from all the women who gave birth in New York state (excluding New York City) from January 1, 1993, to December 31, 2003, the researchers found that mothers who were obese before becoming pregnant had a 15 percent increased risk of delivering a baby with a heart defect. There was no similar risk for women who were overweight.

"There are already a number of reasons why being obese is a bad thing if you're trying to have children and this is one more important one," says the study's first author, Dr. James L. Mills, a senior investigator with the NICHD's Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research.

"The more obese a woman was before she became pregnant, the greater her risk of having a baby with any congenital heart defects."

The researchers looked at more than 7,000 cases of congenital heart defects as part of the study. Using body mass index measurements from right before they became pregnant, the researchers found that women who were moderately obese, with a BMI of 30 to 39.9, had an 11 percent increased risk of delivering a baby with any congenital heart defect. That risk jumped to 33 percent when the women were morbidly obese, with a BMI of more than 40.

They concluded that obesity could account for roughly 1500 cases of congenital heart defects in newborns every year. However the study does not state that obesity is the direct cause of some specific defects, like the dangerous hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Yet Dr. Mills suspects that losing weight may decrease a mother's chance of having a baby with such defects.

"We suspect that if you lose weight, you can decrease your risk," says  Mills.

Other doctors within the medical community agree with that hypothesis. "This should be a wake-up call for any woman of
childbearing age who plans to have kids in the next ten years – get healthy now," says Dr. Paul Matherne, division head of Pediatrics Cardiology at the University of Virginia, who was not affiliated with the study.

"In the end, this study points to the fact that the less healthy you are, the more downstream effects you will have from not being healthy."

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


April 7th, 2010
07:03 PM ET

FDA warns about 'lipodissolve' fat-busting claims

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical News Producer

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday  issued warning letters to six U.S. medical spas and a company in Brazil, accusing them of making false or misleading statements on their Web sites about a procedure called "lipodissolve."

The companies allegedly made claims that the drugs they use for their lipodissolve procedures are safe and effective. Yet the FDA says these products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for use in the procedure.

Lipodissolve is a becoming a popular form of cosmetic treatment that claims to eliminate fat. But it remains controversial. The "fat melting" process is made up of a series of injections intended to dissolve away small pockets of fat from the body, permanently. The procedure is also known in the industry as mesotherapy, lipozap, lipotherapy, or injection lipolysis. The most commonly injected drugs used in lipodissolve are phosphatidylcholine and deoxycholate, usually in various combinations with one another. But they are experimental because neither of these drugs has been approved by the FDA for dissolving fat, either alone or together.

The warned companies claim other ingredients, including drugs or components of other products such as vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts, are added to the mixture. And they advertise that their products as safe and they bust fat. The FDA warns it is not aware of any scientific evidence that finds these concoctions are effective or safe. "They make the procedures sound so good, so safe and that they work so well," says Kathleen Anderson, deputy director of the Division of New Drugs and Labeling Compliance, Office of Compliance, CDER. "And they just haven't been proven, there is no evidence they work," she continued. "People need to know that, "

The FDA has received five reports from people reporting serious side effects they've had from having liposdissolve, including scarring, painful knots under the skin and skin deformations.

The federal agency is requesting a written response from the U.S. companies within 15 business days of their intent to correct the violations, or they'll face legal action or fines.

The companies have been cited for a variety of regulatory violations, including making unsupported claims that the products have an outstanding safety record and are superior to other fat loss procedures, including liposuction. Additionally some of the letters indicate that the companies have made claims that lipodissolve products can be used to treat certain medical conditions, such as male breast enlargement, benign fatty growths known as lipomas, excess fat deposits and surgical deformities. The FDA says it has no scientific proof these products do what the companies claim.

"We are concerned that these companies are misleading consumers," said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "It is important for anyone who is considering this voluntary procedure to understand that the products used to perform lipodissolve procedures are not approved by the FDA for fat removal."

The warning letters were issued to the following U.S. companies: Monarch Medspa, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; Spa 35, Boise, Idaho; Medical Cosmetic Enhancements, Chevy Chase, Maryland.; Innovative Directions in Health, Edina, Minnesota; PURE Med Spa, Boca Raton, Florida; and All About You Med Spa, Madison, Indiana. The Brazilian company receiving a warning letter markets lipodissolve products on two Web sites: zipmed.net and mesoone.com.

It is important to note these are not the only companies or clinics using lipodissolve. Many dermatologists and physicians across the country tout lipodissolve as a great way to get rid of fat and treat their patients with these injections right in their offices. As for now, the FDA is going after companies that make false claims about lipodissolve on their Web sites, but the agency did say lipodissolve is still available in other places and anyone getting the treatment is taking a chance.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


April 7th, 2010
04:00 PM ET

Smoking could raise MS risk in some

By Georgiann Caruso
CNN Medical Associate Producer

Smoking could raise the risk of developing multiple sclerosis  in people with three specific other risk factors, researchers report in the April 7 online edition of the journal Neurology.

Three geographically different studies looked at 442 people with MS and 865 without the disease. Researchers studied the correlation between MS and whether people had or hadn’t smoked; the Epstein-Barr virus;  and the immune-system gene HLA-DR15. It was the first research to examine how the risk factors interact together.

Much remains unknown about the chronic neurological disease: The cause, how to cure it and how to prevent it.  MS  strikes people of every race and age, an estimated 400,000 Americans and over 2 million people worldwide.

A  2003 study also in Neurology,  also linked smoking to MS. In addition, researchers have long known that a genetic component plays a role in causing the disease.   A team of researchers led by Claire Simon, with Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, set out to study how smoking may interact with these other risk factors.

"We just really need to be thoughtful about how we think these factors relate to each other or interact in a biological sense for a person to go from having a normal-functioning immune system to one resulting in MS," said Simon.

The findings of how these factors interact may leave behind clues as to why some people develop MS and others don't. This preliminary study showed that people with a higher measurement of antibody to EBV and a history of smoking were more likely to have MS, said  Dr. Patricia O'Looney, vice president of Biomedical Research for the National MS Society.

"We really don't know what that really means until we do further investigation," O'Looney said. She says understanding MS is important so that the disease might someday be prevented.

"For people with MS, it may not just be one trigger, it may be different triggers in different people," O'Looney said. Those triggers may impact their individual course of disease, and why some people are more severely afflicted than others.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


April 7th, 2010
12:59 PM ET

Ultra-sensitive? It's in your brain

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

If you are particularly sensitive to the world around you - whether it's music, caffeine, other people's emotions, you may have a personality trait called "sensory processing sensitivity."

People who are highly sensitive in this way tend to look and observe and process things deeply, as opposed to boldly going ahead, says Elaine Aron, professor of psychology at Stony Brook University, who helped pioneer research on the subject in the 1990s. Having vivid dreams and being aware of subtleties in your environment are also characteristic of this temperament, she said. Take this quiz to see if this fits you.

Now, Aron's group has shown evidence in the brain that these people are more detail-oriented. The study is published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at the brains of 18 participants. They found that people with sensory processing sensitivity tended to have more brain activity in the high-order visual processing regions, and in the right cerebellum, when detecting minor details of photographs presented to them.

"They are better at noticing subtle details in their environments than people without the trait," said Jadzia Jagiellowicz, lead author and doctoral candidate in the department of psychology at Stony Brook University.

Sensory processing sensitivity has been associated with introversion, but only loosely - about 30 percent of highly sensitive people are extroverts, Aron said.

Highly sensitive people probably make good counselors and recruiters, said Jagiellowicz, because of their attention to detail. They are able to more deeply process details as well as emotions, which are good skills in these professions. Accounting, which requires taking in a lot of information at once, may also be a relevant field, she said.

But the study showed that highly sensitive people do not quickly take in these details; in fact, they spend more time looking at them, so a job that requires a quick assessment of minutiae may not be the best fit, she said.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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