New Strategic Plan for NIH Obesity Research Seeks to Curb Epidemic

To combat the obesity epidemic, the National Institutes of Health is encouraging diverse scientific investigations through a new Strategic Plan for NIH Obesity Research.

More than one-third of adults in the United States and nearly 17 percent of the nation’s children are now obese, which increases a person’s chance of developing many health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and some cancers. Although American obesity rates leveled off in 2007, in 2008, obesity-related medical costs were an estimated $147 billion. Government, nonprofit and community groups, businesses, health care professionals, schools, families, and individuals are taking action to address this public health problem — and research can provide the foundation for these efforts.

Abnormal Heart Rate Turbulence May Predict Heart Disease

According to a study in the February 15 edition of the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology, abnormal heart rate turbulence is associated with an increased risk of heart disease death in otherwise older, low-risk individuals [1]. Additional studies need to be done in order to understand whether this potential biomarker will be a clinically valuable tool.


SIDS Linked to Low Levels of Serotonin

The brains of infants who die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) produce low levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that conveys messages between cells and plays a vital role in regulating breathing, heart rate, and sleep, reported researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health.

SIDS is the death of an infant before his or her first birthday that cannot be explained after a complete autopsy, an investigation of the scene and circumstances of the death, and a review of the medical history of the infant and of his or her family. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, SIDS is the third leading cause of infant death, claiming more than 2,300 lives in 2006.

Infant sleeping

Health Highlights – June 18th, 2009

Health Highlights is a biweekly summary of particularly interesting articles from credible sources of health and medical information that we follow & read. For a complete list of recommeded sources, see our links page.

Health Highlights

New Genes Associated with Blood Pressure and Hypertension

High blood pressure or hypertension affects more than one in three people worldwide and is a major cause of strokes, heart attacks and heart failure [1]. The degree with which blood pressure traits can be inherited suggests a genetic component. However, limited consistent evidence of genes associated with blood pressure have been produced. A new study in the journal Nature Genetics reports for the first time a number of genes showing significant associations with blood pressure and hypertension across the genome [2].


Although large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been used successfully to identify genes associated with common diseases and traits, studies on blood pressure or hypertension have failed to identify loci at a genome-wide significant threshold (p-value < 5 x 10-8). The significance of GWAS data relies on several variables, including the accuracy of phenotypic measures, density of markers and size of the study population. Thus, if blood pressure variation in the general population is due to multiple genetic factors with small effects, a very large sample size is needed to identify them.