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Older women are advised against taking supplements to prevent fractures

Physicians should advise postmenopausal women against taking low doses of vitamin D and calcium supplements to prevent fractures, says the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Such supplements often are recommended for older women to help strengthen bones, but evidence shows that the risks outweigh the benefits, says a task force draft recommendation, which is open for public comment through July 10. Specifically, the group advises against postmenopausal women taking daily supplements of 400 international units or less of vitamin D3 and 1,000 milligrams of calcium to prevent fractures. “The evidence is clear that [the dosage] is really not effective and is associated with a small but measurable harm,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, task force member and associate professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco. About 1.5 million osteoporosis-related fractures occur in the U.S. each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate ...

House Democrat presses HHS for details on 2013 budget cuts

A senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wants more details from the Obama administration on how upcoming budget cuts will impact federal medical research priorities and other health care programs. The failure of a congressional “super-committee” created under the Budget Control Act in 2011 to reach agreement on a plan to cut federal budget deficits triggers $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over 10 years, divided between defense and non-defense spending, starting in 2013. The first round of these cuts brings with them “reductions in billions of dollars to critical medical research and development, access to new medical treatments, and other health and well-being programs in the jurisdiction of the Dept. of Health and Human Services,” Rep. Edward Markey (D, Mass.) said in a statement accompanying a June 7 letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Unless the act is repealed or amended, federal agencies dedicated to research, health, and commu ...

Educating med students about nutrition and physical activity could curb obesity

To help stem the tide of the nation’s escalating obesity epidemic, a nonprofit think tank is calling for improved training in nutrition and physical activity for health professionals. Expanding physician knowledge in those areas not only would help patients maintain a healthy weight and reduce chronic disease but also lower health care costs, said a report issued June 5 by the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center. “Obesity is the most urgent public health problem in America today,” the report said. “[It’s] not just a health crisis, but a major contributor to our fiscal crisis.” The U.S. spends about $2.6 trillion a year on health care. By 2020, that figure is expected to grow to $4.6 trillion and consume about 20% of the gross domestic product, the study said. Driving the increase, in part, are medical costs associated with obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes, said the four-member committee of former government officials that wrote t ...