'Obesity Paradox' fails to hold up in latest study 

Some experts have suggested that there is an “obesity paradox,” the idea that obese people live longer than those of normal weight. But a new study found that obesity was associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and a two- to three-year shorter life span. 

The study, in JAMA Cardiology, pooled data from 10 studies of 190,672 people followed from 1964 to 2015. Compared with those of normal weight, overweight men (body mass index of 25 to 29.9) had a 21 percent higher lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease and women a 32 percent higher risk. Among the obese (BMI of 30 to 39.9), the risk was 67 percent higher for men and 85 percent higher for women, and even more for those with a BMI over 40. 

Longevity in men who were overweight but not obese was similar to that of men of normal weight. But they had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease at a younger age. 

“We were able to measure how much time is spent in healthy life years rather than just life span,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Sadiya S. Khan, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern. “Maintaining a healthy BMI is associated with a longer, healthier life, with less risk for cardiovascular disease.”

— Nicholas Bakalar, The New York Times

Pill may be able to mimic the effects of exercise

Not everyone can exercise. People with muscle-wasting diseases and movement disorders, the frail, the very obese and post-surgical patients are among those who face a significant challenge when it comes to working out.

But what if a drug could stimulate the body into producing some of the same effects of exercise without the need to run a single step? Several scientists are testing compounds that apparently can do this. 

"Our goal is to understand these circuits," says Ronald Evans, director of the gene expression laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. "We are taking this concept and trying to develop a drug that can help us game the system that is naturally activated during exercise." 

Several other scientists are studying compounds that work differently, but with the same aim: To give the benefits of exercise to people who aren't able to do it.

Evans acknowledges that once a drug is licensed, "people who aren't sick will want it. Everyone knows that whatever exercise they get probably isn't enough. But we are not developing a drug like this to make someone run faster."

— Marlene Cimons, The Washington Post

Experts say teen sexting is common, and mostly normal

A new data study shows that the number of teenagers sending and receiving sexts is on the rise, possibly related to the proliferation of smartphones. 

The analysis, in The Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that more than one in four teenagers reported that they'd received a sext, defined by the study as a sexually explicit image, video or message sent electronically. About 15 percent of people reported sending a sext. 

The study analyzed 39 previous studies with 110,000 participants, split between girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 18.

The study reported that teens were more likely to send and receive sexts with each year of increasing age, which "lends credence to the notion that youth sexting may be an emerging, and potentially normal, component of sexual behavior and development."

"If we look at things like sexual behavior with teens, if it's consensual and both teens wanted it and are OK with it, you are not going to see the negative psychological health. If it was nonconsensual or coerced, that is where you see the negative mental health problems, and we see the same thing with sexting," said study co-author Jeff Temple, a psychiatry professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

— Eli Rosenberg, The Washington Post