2007: The year in biology and medicine

From The New Scientist:

Big issue

It was a big year for obesity research. Being heavily overweight was linked to everything from cancer to gum disease. Researchers also suggested a number of new causes of obesity. Could a common cold virus be making us flabby? Was it mostly down to our genes? Or can we blame mum – for having gone through puberty too early? There were new targets for obesity treatments too. For instance, researchers studied how a hormone, PYY, affected the brain circuitry responsible for hunger. Another study looked at ways our bodies decide to burn off energy rather than just storing it as fat. Yet another found that the increasingly popular treatment of stomach stapling really does save lives. Best of all, although being obese puts you at greater risk of heart failure, once you’re suffering from it, the fatter you are, the greater your chances of surviving it. On the other hand, fat people were blamed for being a major contributor to global warning.

There was bad news for parents who rely on the TV to keep their kids entertained. It turns out that TV is bad for children of all ages. New evidence suggested that the Baby Einstein videos and their ilk not only don’t make your infant smarter, they may actually impede learning. The researchers found that for every hour an infant watches this stuff, he knows six to eight fewer words. And the damage done by too much TV in childhood may be hard to overcome. A large study of five- to 11-year-olds found that kids who watched more than two hours of television a day were much more likely to have attention problems in adolescence, regardless of whether they continued to be heavy TV watchers.

More here.