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Vol. LX, No. 7
April 4, 2008

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  A new NHLBI study shows that adults who lost weight in a 6-month program were able to keep at least some of the weight off for 2.5 years with the help of personal counseling.  
  A new NHLBI study shows that adults who lost weight in a 6-month program were able to keep at least some of the weight off for 2.5 years with the help of personal counseling.  

Strategies for Keeping Pounds Off

A new NHLBI study shows that adults who lost weight in a 6-month program were able to keep at least some of the weight off for 2.5 years thanks to brief monthly personal counseling, while an online intervention helped participants keep the weight off for 2 years. This Weight Loss Maintenance Trial is the largest and longest-duration trial to test different weight-loss maintenance strategies. Of 1,685 enrollees, 1,032 lost an average of 18.7 pounds during the first 6-month weight loss intervention involving weekly group counseling sessions. Participants were then assigned to one of three strategies for weight loss maintenance: personal counseling, a web-based intervention and self-direction. At the end of the study, those who received personal counseling best maintained their weight loss. Researchers said the findings, published in the Mar. 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, provide insight into best practices for ways to keep weight off and thereby lower risks for heart disease and other conditions.

A New Look at Drinking Frequency And Quantity

It’s not just the average amount of alcohol you drink over time that can influence your mortality risk, but how much and how often you drink it. Researchers from NIAAA and NCI came to this finding after studying nationwide survey data and comparing causes of death with alcohol consumption patterns. They found the greater amount of alcohol men consumed on drinking days, the greater their risk for death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, though alcohol frequency in men was actually associated with decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Among women, frequent drinking was associated with an increased risk of cancer and increased quantity was associated with mortality from all causes. The research, published in the March issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, points to the importance of looking at drinking patterns—as opposed to just averages—when studying alcohol- related health issues. It also reinforces the importance of drinking in moderation.

Genes, Environment and PTSD

According to a new study funded in part by NIMH, adults who experienced trauma in childhood are much more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a traumatic event; certain gene variations raise the risk if the childhood trauma involved physical or sexual abuse. Reported Mar. 19 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the findings support the hypothesis that combinations of genes and environmental factors affect the risk of stress-related disorders. Researchers surveyed 900 people ages 18 to 81 from poor, urban neighborhoods and examined the genetic make-up of 765 of the participants. They found that having a history of child abuse led to more than twice the number of PTSD symptoms in adults who later experienced other traumas, compared to traumatized adults who weren’t abused. But the abuse alone wasn’t enough to lead to the symptom increase: it also appeared to depend on whether certain variations in the stress-related gene were present. Likewise, the gene variations by themselves didn’t appear to affect the risk. Getting a better understanding of the interactions between genetic variations and environment could help more accurately predict who’s at risk for disorders like PTSD, researchers said.

Artificial Butter Chemical Harmful to Mice

A study conducted by NIEHS shows that exposure to the chemical diacetyl, a component of artificial butter flavoring, can be harmful to noses and airways of mice. The research, published online in Toxicological Sciences, was conducted because diacetyl has been implicated in causing obliterative bronchiolitis (OB), a debilitating and rare lung disease, in humans. However, though mice that inhaled diacetyl vapors for 3 months developed lymphocytic bronchiolitis, a potential precursor of OB, none of them were diagnosed with OB itself. The disease has been detected recently in workers who inhale significant concentrations of artificial butter flavoring in microwave popcorn packaging plants. The study’s authors said the findings suggest workplace exposure to the chemical contributes to the development of OB in humans, but that more research is needed.—

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