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Am Fam Physician. 2004;70(2):239

Man’s best friend also may be man’s best workout buddy. Two studies reported in the online version of USA Today show that dog owners and their pets can benefit from teaming up to lose weight. In the first study, 11 overweight dog owners were instructed to follow a low-fat diet and to feed their hefty pets measured amounts of low-calorie dog food. The owners and dogs also walked an average of seven miles per week. After six months, six of the dog owners had lost weight (about 3 lb), while the 11 dogs each lost about 5 lb. The second study compared weight loss and amount of exercise in 36 over-weight dog owners and 56 overweight persons who did not own dogs. By the end of the study period, dog owners and non–dog owners had lost the same amount of weight (about 11 lb), but the dog owners had gotten more exercise. A veterinarian who worked on one of the studies noted that dogs who are habituated to regular walks can help motivate their owners to continue an exercise program.

What is responsible for America’s obesity epidemic? High-fructose corn syrup in beverages such as soft drinks may be partly to blame, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Analyzing food consumption patterns from 1967 to 2000, researchers found that consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in the United States increased more than 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990, an increase that corresponded with the rise in the prevalence of obesity. The researchers say that beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup are associated with weight gain and increased caloric intake.

“Thanks, I think. …” American seniors and disabled persons had begun to feel that relief was on the way in the form of a new Medicare drug discount card. However, they now face the daunting task of choosing among 50 different cards offered by 28 separate companies, according to an article published in the Baltimore Sun, and reported on While having a choice of cards may sound like a good deal, Medicare beneficiaries can hold only one card, and they will be allowed to switch cards only once, later this year. Before making a choice, seniors and disabled persons need to carefully review the discounts and features of the various cards.

A robot named Lokomat is helping patients with spinal cord injuries learn to walk again, according to a press release from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. The patient’s legs and hips are strapped into the machine’s robotic exoskeleton, which simulates a fluid walking motion, while a harness supports the patient’s body weight over a large treadmill. Using sensory information, the robot “teaches” the patient’s spinal cord and brain to signal the body to step. After using Lokomat for a month, a 50-year-old patient paralyzed from the neck down after a motorcycle accident has started to regain muscle tone and feeling in his legs, has more mobility, and has no swelling in his ankles or calves.

Although television shows usually portray surgeries being performed in tense silence, real surgical teams are more likely to be listening to music while they work. As reported in the online version of USA Today, surgeons’ preferences include blues, jazz, rock, top 40, and classical music. The article cited a study conducted at the State University of New York-Buffalo in which researchers found that surgeons displayed less stress and performed tasks better when listening to their own choice of music. The director of surgery at a Milwaukee hospital noted that surgeons often choose relaxing music—which may be a good thing. Somehow the image of a neurosurgeon working to “The Flight of the Bumblebee” just isn’t comforting …

If you could stop time and live forever in good health, what age would you choose? It appears that most people would like to stay near their current age, according to a nationwide online poll conducted by Harris Interactive and published in American Demographics. The poll of 2,300 adults found that Americans between 14 and 44 years old named an age that was within five years of their current age. For people over age 40, the gap between their current age and their ideal age increased.

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