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Sweetener, Obesity Link Found

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FRUCTOSE MORE LIKELY TO BECOME FAT: Researchers say they've found more evidence of a link between a rapid rise in obesity and a corn product used to sweeten soft drinks and food since the 1970s.

The researchers examined consumption records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 1967-2000 and combined it with previous research and their own analyses.

The data showed that the use of high-fructose corn sweeteners grew more than 1,000 percent in the late 1970s and 1980s; more than 132 calories a day consumed by those age 2 and older now come from corn sweeteners. The jump mirrors the rapid increase in obesity, said the researchers, who acknowledge that the study didn't prove a definitive link.

The debate over high-fructose sweeteners centers on how the body processes sugar. Unlike glucose, a major component in table sugar, fructose doesn't trigger responses in hormones that regulate energy use and appetite. That means fructose is more likely to be converted into fat, the researchers said.

sick? stay at home

ILL WORKERS COST BOSSES MORE: American workers should stay home when they're sick because it could be cheaper for their employers, according to a study.

Workers who come in sick cost their employers an average of $255 each per year, according to Cornell University labor researchers.

Sick employees have difficulty concentrating, work more slowly and have to repeat tasks, bogging down productivity, according to the study. (They also get their co-workers sick, but those costs were not counted in the study.)

Economists refer to slack productivity from ailing workers as "presenteeism." The study said it could cost employers even more than absenteeism resulting from illness.

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meditation helps teens

SESSIONS CAN LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE: Medical College of Georgia researchers have found that meditation can help teenagers lower their blood pressure.

Two 15-minute meditation sessions each day - once at home, the other at school - lowered the teens' blood pressure for the four months of the study as well as for up to four months after the meditation sessions ended.

One in four adults have hypertension, which is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and health officials say teens who have higher-than-normal blood pressure are more likely to develop the chronic disease when they're older.

Besides reducing their blood pressure, students who meditated also had lower rates of absenteeism, school rule violations and suspensions than those in the control group, the study found.

(C) 2004 Richmond Times-Dispatch. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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