World Cancer Research Fund says shedding kilos is most important thing to do to prevent disease, after not smoking and drinking.
• ‘New obesity measure ‘is better than BMI at predicting early death risk’
• As gene-editing technique could cure inherited diseases, researchers find
A team of scientists has developed a new measurement – focusing on surface area- believed to be better than Body mass index, more often referred to as BMI, which determines whether a person is underweight, normal, overweight or obese.
Even as worrying new figures from a poll by the World Cancer Research Fund show that nearly half of adults do not know being overweight increases the risk of developing cancer.
Scientists found the surface-based body shape index, or SBSI, to be a ‘better predictor of all-cause mortality than BMI’. They also determined that increasing SBSIs are linked to a higher risk of early death.
According to the new study was published in the journal PLOS One and first reported by DailyMail UK, SBSI, accounts for body surface area, vertical trunk circumference (which is the measurement from the shoulder to the groin and back), height and waist circumference.
Meanwhile, the poll by the World Cancer Research Fund found that being overweight, which is defined as having a BMI of more than 25, increases the risk of developing 10 different cancers including bowel, breast, liver and pancreatic cancer.
It also raises the risk of kidney, womb, ovary, gallbladder and advanced prostate cancer.
Furthermore, the poll found 54 per cent of those questioned were not aware that a lack of physical activity could increase cancer risk.
Meanwhile, another research suggests that injections that alter the code of life could provide cures for devastating inherited diseases.
According to the research, published in the journal Science, given to a newborn baby, a single jab could prevent them from ever suffering conditions such as cystic fibrosis, haemophilia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an incurable condition that cripples 100 babies born a year in the United Kingdom (UK).
New treatments for cancer and blindness could also be in the pipeline.
The ‘very exciting’ research involves something called Crispr – a new, and highly precise way of altering genes.
Described as the breakthrough of the year by the prestigious journal Science, it allows scientists to cut out rogue DNA and replace it with healthy material, with great precision.
This offers great hope for curing disease – but also brings with it concerns of designer babies.
This is because if the right genes were replaced in the womb, it lead to the creation of ‘perfect’ children made to order by hair or eye colour.
The latest research, from the United States (US), sidesteps these ethical issues by showing the technique still works if used much later in life.
Meanwhile, BMI is controversial, yet the most widely used measure of obesity, across the world.
The measurement is calculated by dividing a person’s weight – in kilograms – by their height – in meters.
But, the debate among experts rages as to whether BMI is an accurate reflection of obesity.
One school of thought suggests that it is flawed, failing to take into account serious problems such body shape and the distribution of fat.
Scientists from West Virginia University, United States (US), analyzed data from more than 11,808 subjects – aged 18 to 85 – from the National Health and Human Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004 (NHANES).
The survey had an eight-year mortality follow-up.
From the analysis, the scientists determined that there should be a new body shape index constructed from anthropometric determinants of body shape and body size.
They developed the new standard for measurement because the BMI ‘has serious limitations’, according to the study.
The scientists said: “The BMI provides a simple coarse measure of the body shape.
“Two people in the same BMI category could have very different body shapes, and different body sizes.
“The distribution of body weight, rather than the absolute weight, is a key factor in predicting health risk.”
A person who has much of their body weight around the midsection is at a ‘much greater risk’ of disease and premature death than someone who has weight better distributed peripherally – especially in the lower body.
The scientists noted that the waist circumference is often combined with the BMI for an improved assessment of body shape – while other measurements add waist-to-height ratio.
They thus sought to create a measurement that already accounted for all of those important components.
They then put the measurement to the test. Using the data from NHANES, they found that SBSI was a better predictor of all-cause mortality than BMI.
The study said: “Applying SBSI initially gives reasonable performance when compared with existing body shape measures.”
The team also found that SBSI generally increases with age – although its increments vary by gender.
They also found that increasing SBSIs cause a higher mortality hazard.
The study said: “SBSI is generally linear with age, and increases with increasing mortality, when compared with other popular anthropometric indices of body shape.”
Meanwhile, in the first study of its kind, the team from Duke University in North Carolina used Crispr to remove faulty DNA behind Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
One of the most common fatal genetic conditions, it affects 100 babies born a year in the UK.
Usually a disease of boys, wasting of the muscles means youngsters experience trouble walking before the age of three and are wheelchair-bound by then.
Weakening of the heart and lung muscles means sufferers tend to die in their 20s or early 30s. There is no known cure.
When scientists at Duke University in North Carolina used Crispr on adult mice with the condition, their muscles, including those in their legs and hearts, got significantly stronger.
Crispr technology precisely changes target parts of genetic code.
Unlike other gene-silencing tools, the Crispr system targets the genome’s source material and permanently turns off genes at the DNA level.
The DNA cut – known as a double strand break – closely mimics the kinds of mutations that occur naturally, for instance after chronic sun exposure.