Health Buzz: One Fifth of U.S. Kids Have High Cholesterol

The flap over circumcision heats up; don't rely on marketing hype when picking a diet program.

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One Fifth of Kids Have High Cholesterol

One of every five kids in the United States has abnormal cholesterol levels, according to a new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers examined data collected from 3,125 kids ages 12 to 19 between 1999 and 2006, HealthDay reports. Twenty percent of all participants and 43 percent of those who were obese had abnormal cholesterol levels—which puts them at greater risk for heart disease later in life, according to study author Ashleigh May. One expert tells HealthDay that treating at-risk youth early could reduce their lifetime risk of heart ailments.

[Read Screening for Childhood Obesity, Without an Easy Solution and How to Win the Weight Battle.]

Circumcision: The Flap Over the Foreskin Continues

The flap over a flap of skin—foreskin, to be precise—is heating up again. Two influential groups are re-examining the medical merits of circumcision in light of recent findings and are prepping to release new appraisals of the controversial procedure, a story in the Washington Post points out. Long a cultural and religious given, circumcision has increasingly become a medical issue, as growing evidence suggests that it may offer health gains—and to a greater degree than thought in the past.

Opponents of circumcision nevertheless call the procedure unnecessary and compare it to female genital mutilation; many contend that it's child abuse and argue that parents should wait until boys are old enough to decide for themselves, U.S. News's Lindsay Lyon writes.

The Post story noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has never before issued public-health recommendations on circumcision, is expected to release a draft this summer and will most likely weigh in on whether newborns, and even adult males, should get snipped. The final version would serve solely as guidance to parents, individuals, and doctors, according to an agency spokeswoman, and not be a public-health mandate. Read more.

[Read Should Circumcision Become Public-Health Policy? and Why Women Should Favor Circumcision: To Prevent HPV Infection.]

Weight Watchers v. Jenny Craig: Don't Rely on the Marketing

Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, two of the most popular commercial diet programs, are wrestling over advertising claims, U.S. News's Katherine Hobson reports. Weight Watchers has sued its rival, saying ads featuring a lab-coat-clad Valerie Bertinelli falsely implied that the two programs had been subject to head-to-head competition—and that Jenny Craig came out on top. The claim, filed in federal court, says the ads are actually based on separate studies that compared each diet plan with a control group and that the Weight Watchers study is a decade old.

But as SmartMoney writer Angie Marek reported earlier this month, any scientific studies supporting one commercial program over another should be taken with a massive grain of low-sodium salt substitute. In "The Skinny on Big, Fat Diet Programs," she writes, "The science on most of these plans is hardly conclusive, since most of the research has been paid for by the diet companies themselves."

Any diet, whether it costs nothing or $10,000 a year, will work if you stick to it, Hobson writes. In fact, when independent researchers compared four popular brand-name diets—Atkins, the Zone, Dean Ornish's super-low-fat plan, and a plan based on the Department of Agriculture food pyramid—in 2007, they found only small differences among them. Read more.

[Read Exercise and Weight Loss: What's the Connection? and A Long-Ago Bad P.E. Experience? You Can Get Over It.]

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