Smaller babies linked to mental health problems in adult life
PREGNANT women may wish for a smaller baby to ease the pain of labour, but babies born small could have serious mental health problems in later life. New research in the JournalofEpidemiologyandCommunity Health has found that male babies born less than 47 cm in length are more than twice as likely to attempt violent suicide as adults compared to normal-length babies, regardless of the height they reach as adults. The findings are based on 318,953 Swedish men who were followed from birth (between 1973 and 1980) to the date of attempted suicide, date of death, emigration or to the end of 1999, whichever came first. Those born prematurely, both short and underweight, were more than four times more likely to attempt violent suicide, including hanging, drowning and use of a knife or gun, as those born after 38 weeks of pregnancy. The brain chemical serotonin, which can decrease aggression and suicidal behaviour, may be lower in men who were born small, say the authors, and these men may need to be monitored more closely for psychiatric disorders. JEpidemiolCommunityHealth 2008;62:168-173 (Mittendorfer-Rutz E, et al) PEDOMETERS can help people to lose weight even without changing their diet, according to new research in the Annalsof FamilyMedicine. Researchers combined the results of nine separate studies looking at the effect of pedometer-based walking programs on weight loss. The studies involved 307 participants (73 per cent women and 27 per cent men), and ranged in duration from four weeks to one year. The average study duration was 16 weeks, and participants increased their daily step count from an average of 5076 steps to 9136 steps. On average, participants lost 1.3 kg over the course of the walking programs, and weight loss increased the longer they participated. While the amount of weight loss was small, the authors claim that even a 2 to 3 per cent reduction in weight can significantly improve the health of an overweight person. AnnFamMed 2008;6:69-77 (Richardson CR, et al) MINOR leg injuries such as ankle sprains and muscle tears can increase the risk of lifethreatening blood clots, claims a study in the current issue of the ArchivesofInternal Medicine. Researchers studied 2471 patients who developed a blood clot between 1999 and 2004. They were surveyed about any injuries, surgery, plaster casts or extended bed rest they had within one year of developing the blood clot, as well as their height, weight, family history and sports participation. These patients were compared with 3534 controls without a blood clot. Among those who developed a blood clot, 11.7 per cent had suffered a minor leg injury in the previous three months, while only 4.4 per cent of the controls had suffered a similar injury in the three months prior to the survey. The findings may help doctors to better identify and treat those at increased risk of blood clots. ArchInternMed 2008;168:21-26 (van Stralen KJ, et al) VITAMIN D supplements may help to prevent falls among older women, and should be given to those with a history of falling and low vitamin D levels, concludes an Australian study in the ArchivesofInternalMedicine this week. Richard Prince and colleagues from the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth recruited 302 women aged 70 to 90 years with low blood vitamin D levels and a history of falling in the previous year. They were randomly assigned to take either 1000 international units of vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or an inactive placebo, and all received 1000mg of calcium citrate per day. Information about falls was collected from participants every six weeks. During the yearlong study, 53 per cent of those in the vitamin D group and 63 per cent in the control group fell at least once. After adjusting for height, which affected the risk of falling, vitamin D therapy reduced the risk of having at least one fall by 19 per cent. ArchInternMed 2008;168:103-108 (Prince RL, et al) WOMENwho work shifts at irregular times of the day and night are more likely to retire early on a disability pension compared to permanent day workers, claims a study in the latest issue of Occupationaland EnvironmentalMedicine. The findings are based on 3980 female and 4025 male employees in Denmark, and could affect the way women choose to work. Between 1990 and 2003, 253 women and 173 men were forced to retire early for health reasons and had been granted a disability pension. Women were 34 per cent more likely to do so if they had been shift workers compared to day workers, whereas male shift workers were no more likely to have to retire early than other employees. Shift work has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer, peptic ulcer, sleep disturbance, complications of pregnancy and accidents, but further research is needed to explain why women are more vulnerable than men. OccupEnvironMed 2007;doi:10.1136/ oem.2007.036525 (Tuchsen F, et al) LOW testosterone levels increase the risk of fractures in men aged over 60, claim the authors of a study in the ArchivesofInternal Medicine, and measuring testosterone in the blood may help to identify men at highest risk. The Swiss-Australian-US study involved 609 men with an average age of 73. Bone mineral density and lifestyle factors were recorded at the beginning of the study in 1989. Over the next 17 years, blood levels of testosterone were measured and low-trauma fractures (falling from standing height or less) were recorded. Fractures occurred in 113 men, and were 48 per cent more likely to occur in men with low testosterone levels compared to those with normal levels. ArchInternMed 2008;168:47-54 (Meier C, et al) Want to know more? Items are referenced where possible. A reference such as ‘‘ 2007;35:18-25’’ means the source article was published on pages 18-25 in volume number 35 of the publication, in 2007. A doi number or website address is used for research published on a journal’s website.
Pedometer: Weight loss aid