Jewish World Review Oct. 12, 2001 / 25 Tishrei, 5762

More bad news about obesity links to other diseases…Hey dad, can I borrow the car keys?

By Robert A. Wascher, M.D., F.A.C.S. -- A HARVARD UNIVERSITY study, recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, has added to the evidence linking obesity with other significant diseases. Those with a body mass index (BMI) exceeding 35 faced nearly 20 times the risk of developing diabetes compared with people having a BMI of less than 25 (BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of the height in meters. A "healthy" BMI is 24.9 or less, while people with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight, and those with a BMI greater than 30 are considered obese). People with a BMI in the overweight range (25 to 29.9) had twice the incidence of developing gallstones, high blood pressure and heart disease, as compared to those with a BMI less than 25. Perhaps just as important was the finding that even people with a BMI in the upper half of the "healthy" range (22.0-24.9) showed a trend towards greater risk of developing diabetes, gallstones, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and colon cancer as their BMI increased. The authors, therefore, recommend that people should try to maintain their BMI between 18.5 and 21.9 to maximally reduce their risk of developing these diseases.

32 states have implemented a graduated driver licensing program for teens. This trend reflects the known higher risk of accidents among novice teen drivers who, on the average, tend to be more impulsive and more easily distracted than older drivers. The University of North Carolina reported on the impact of that state's graduated licensing program in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. In North Carolina, beginning drivers between the ages 15 and 17 are issued "level 1" licenses, requiring them to drive only with a supervising adult for one year. A "level 2" license allows unsupervised driving between 5 AM and 9 PM and supervised driving at all other times. The final level of licensure, "level 3," permits unsupervised driving at all times. The authors analyzed accident statistics from before and after the December 1, 1997 implementation of the graduated licensing program in North Carolina. They found that, after implementation of the program, fatal accidents by 16 year old drivers declined by a whopping 57%, while crashes with minimal or no injuries fell by 23%. Nighttime crashed also fell by 43%, while daytime crashes declined by 20%. The study's authors concluded that graduated licensure programs for young novice drivers result in significant reductions in accidents, and in accident-related fatalities, involving youthful drivers. A similar study, published in the same journal by the University of Michigan, reached the same conclusions.

JWR contributor Dr. Robert A. Wascher is a senior research fellow in molecular & surgical oncology at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, CA. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Dr. Robert A. Wascher