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Health Highlights: Nov. 6, 2006

Most Dieting Americans Don't Bother to Consult Doctor American Children Packing on Dangerous Abdominal Fat Scientists Want to Combine Human DNA With Cow Eggs to Create Embryos Prosperity, Western Foods Linked to Obesity Crisis in China Pregnancy Complications Kill Half a Million Women a Year: Report

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Most Dieting Americans Don't Bother to Consult Doctor

About 70 percent of Americans who are trying to shed some pounds are using their own diet plans and feel they don't need a doctor's guidance, says a University of Connecticut nationwide survey of 3,500 adults.

Of the 1,679 respondents who said they were overweight, only about 30 percent said they'd consult with a doctor about losing weight. The survey also found that 40 percent of obese people and 72 percent of those who were overweight said their doctors had not advised them to lose weight.

Of the 1,444 respondents who said they'd made a serious attempt at weight loss for at least three days, 34 percent said they'd used dietary supplements and 15 percent had used prescription drugs, the Associated Press reported.

Supplements are pills or powders marketed to consumers as a way to boost metabolism, burn fat, and lose weight without the need for exercise or dieting. However, experts say there is no proof that these products are effective.

The survey found that supplement users were more likely to be women (45 percent vs. 20 percent of men), to be obese rather than overweight, and to have a household income of less than $40,000, the AP reported.

About half of the respondents incorrectly believe that supplements are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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American Children Packing on Dangerous Abdominal Fat

In recent years, there's been a steady, rapid rise in the amount of dangerous abdominal fat on U.S. children, says a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The study authors said their findings are cause for concern because abdominal fat is associated with insulin resistance and increased risk for type 2 diabetes, ABC News reported.

The researchers analyzed data on thousands of children ages 2 to 19 collected as part of the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The analysis showed that between 1988 and 2004, abdominal obesity increased by 65 percent to 70 percent in both boys and girls.

The study noted that in 1999, 10.5 percent of American children had too much abdominal fat, as measured by waist circumference. By 2004, 17.4 percent of boys and 17.8 percent of girls had too much fat around the middle.

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Scientists Want to Mix Human DNA, Cow Eggs to Create Embryos

Scientists in the United Kingdom have applied for permission to combine human DNA with cow eggs in order to create embryos for stem cell research.

These hybrid human-cow embryos would not be allowed to develop for more than a few days before they would be destroyed, say the researchers from Newcastle University and Kings College, London, BBC News reported.

The scientists said this method would help boost the number of embryos available for use in stem cell research. They plan to insert human DNA into cows' eggs that have had the genetic material removed. The resulting embryo would be 99.9 percent human. The only bovine component would be DNA outside the nucleus of the egg cell.

The stem cells would be extracted from the embryos when they were 6 days old. The embryos would then be destroyed, BBC News reported.

The scientists have applied to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority for a three-year license. Critics said this kind of research is unethical and potentially dangerous, BBC News reported.

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Prosperity, Western Foods Linked to Obesity Crisis in China

Rising prosperity and a flood of fatty Western foods are among the reasons why obesity and related health problems are becoming serious issues in China.

About 60 million people in China (that's roughly equal to France's population) are obese, 160 million have high blood pressure, and 20 million have diabetes, said the Xinhua news agency.

"An increasing number of Chinese are eating more fat and junk food but less grains and vegetables, leading to a high number of cases of high blood pressure and diabetes," Pan Beilei, deputy director of the State Food and Nutrition Consultant Committee, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Pan, who spoke Monday at a Beijing conference on food and health, said government and academic organizations in China need to provide more dietary guidelines for citizens.

In August, state media reported that Chinese boys living in cities were now 100 times more likely to be obese than 20 years ago, Agence France Presse reported.

Other factors that have been cited in the rise of obesity in China include a sharp increase in the use of motor vehicles and other machinery and a highly competitive school system that favors studying over exercise.

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Pregnancy Complications Kill Half a Million Women a Year: Report

Each year, more than 500,000 women worldwide die of pregnancy-related problems but nearly 75 percent of those deaths could be prevented through better health care, including access to contraception and safe abortions, says a report by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

Poor women in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are most likely to suffer pregnancy-related deaths, said the report, which was released Monday at a meeting of 8,000 maternal health experts from 130 countries, the Associated Press reported.

"The global record in preventing these deaths is a disaster," Dorothy Shaw, the federation's president elect, said at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur. "One woman somewhere in the world dies every minute from a cause related to pregnancy and childbirth, mostly in developing countries."

The report said excessive postpartum bleeding is the most common cause of pregnancy-related death, the AP reported. This type of bleeding occurs in up to 20 percent of all deliveries. Unhealthy, undernourished women who can't afford to go to well-equipped hospitals are most likely to die from this complication.

Unsafe abortions are another major cause of death (nearly 70,000 women a year) and injury, the report said. Hemorrhage, infections and poisoning from substances used to induce abortions are common causes of these deaths and injuries, the AP reported.

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