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Courtenay Edelhart covers health care for The Californian. Reach her at, at or on Twitter@TBCHealth.

OBESITY LINK TO ADHD MEDS: Among the downsides of taking stimulants to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is that they suppress the appetite and stunt growth.

With so many of the young people who take ADHD medicines being thinner and shorter than their peers, gaining weight is not a problem that would occur to most parents as a potential side effect.

But beware.

There's a new study out from Johns Hopkins University that indicates young children who take stimulants to treat ADHD risk obesity as teenagers.

Children who take stimulants have slower body mass index growth than their undiagnosed or untreated peers, but it speeds up with a vengeance in late adolescence, typically after discontinuing the medication, according to researchers at Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Body mass index, or BMI, is a number calculated from a person's weight and height that provides a reliable indicator of body fat.

The study concluded that stimulant use, and not a diagnosis of ADHD, was associated with higher BMI and obesity.

The earlier the medication began, and the longer the medication was taken, the slower the BMI growth in earlier childhood but the more quickly it rebounded in late adolescence, researchers said.

"Our findings should motivate greater attention to the possibility that longer-term stimulant use plays a role in the development of obesity in children," said Dr. Brian Schwartz, professor of environmental health sciences, epidemiology and medicine at Hopkins. "Given the dramatic rise in ADHD diagnosis and stimulant treatment for it in recent decades, this is an interesting avenue of research regarding the childhood obesity epidemic, because the rises in each of these roughly parallel one another."

The study will likely boost controversy over whether children are placed on such medications too readily.

There is a growing body of evidence that these powerful stimulants cause a host of problems down the line, including obesity and mental illness, said Frank Granett, a pharmacist and founder of the nonprofit advocacy group Coalition Against Overmedicating Our Youth.

"It's not that we're against drug therapy, it's just that we're for the prudent use of it and looking at other alternatives, first," he said. "Often there are other things you can do -- psychotherapy, nutrition and other interventions besides drugs."

Use of ADHD medications is exploding. From 2007 to 2010, 4.2 percent of children younger than age 18 had been prescribed stimulants in the past 30 days, more than five times the amount prescribed to the same-aged children between 1988 and 1994, according to Hopkins.

ADHD affects 9 percent of American children, and medication for the disorder is the second most prescribed pediatric medicine in the United States, which leads the world in prescribing the drugs.

The Hopkins study analyzed 163,820 children ages 3 to 18 in 37 counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania.

"Atttention Deficit Disorder, Stimulant Use, and Childhood Body Mass Index Trajectory" was published this month in Pediatrics.

DROP THAT LOG, MISTER! So much for chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

The Valley Air District is soliciting input on a proposal to increase the number of "no-burn" days for fireplaces and other residential wood-burning devices in the wintertime.

The district will accept public comments on the possible wintertime wood burning rule revision at a public workshop 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 27.

The meeting will be video-teleconferenced from all three regional district offices and also webcast.

You can participate in the proceedings in Bakersfield at 34936 Flyover Court, in Fresno at 1990 E. Gettysburg Ave. and in Modesto at 4800 Enterprise Way.

Spanish language translators will be available.

The meeting will be webcast at

Rule 4901 (Wood Burning Fireplaces and Wood Burning Heaters) already restricts wintertime wood burning to reduce emissions in the region's notoriously smoggy air. The rule revision would expand the number of days burning is prohibited.

The district also plans to enhance its Burn Cleaner incentive program, which provides funding to valley residents to replace old wood-burning devices with new, cleaner hearth options, such as natural gas inserts or EPA-certified devices.

Residential wood burning is the largest single contributor to harmful fine-particulate emissions, which are associated with lung disease, heart attacks and strokes, according to the district. Since the wood burning rule was adopted in 2003, wintertime emissions have decreased significantly.

Information about the meeting is available at Paper copies of the information can be obtained by calling (559) 230-6100.

SPEAKING OF AIR...Seven million people worldwide died from exposure to air pollution in 2012, according World Health Organization estimates published Tuesday. WHO said one in eight total deaths around the world that year could be attributed to bad air.

MOVE IT! Anthem Blue Cross is promoting its California Moves Miles campaign to encourage Californians to swim/run/walk/bike 200,000 miles over the next six weeks.

A related website,, offers health tips, recipes and information about Anthem Blue Cross' wellness programs. It also has a calculator to help translate activities into "miles." For example, 20 minutes of light activity such as gardening or bowling is equal to one mile, whereas 30 minutes of a vigorous activity such as basketball is equal to three miles.

Participants who log activities on the site are entered to win weekly prizes such as Fitbit and Jamba Juice gift cards.

This is the second edition of the program, which runs from March 17 to April 27. During the inaugural effort in 2012, more than 800 Californians collectively moved 115,525 miles over eight weeks.

CHRONIC DISEASE AND BRAINS: Middle-aged people with diabetes or high blood pressure may face a higher risk for thinking difficulties as seniors, according to new research.

The finding published in Neurology is based on an analysis of more than 1,400 seniors between the ages of 70 and 89.

Seniors who had developed diabetes between the ages of 40 and 64 were found to have nearly 3 percent less brain volume and twice the risk for thinking and memory problems as non-diabetic seniors. Older people who had developed high blood pressure during middle age faced double the risk of those problems than their non-hypertensive counterparts.

That explains a lot. Now where the heck did I put my car keys?

SAN JOAQUIN WINS AWARD: The Stroke Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital has received the American Heart/Stroke Association's Gold-Plus/Target: Stroke Honor Roll Award. This marks the fourth time The Stroke Center at SJCH has received the national award that recognizes the quick response and treatment times given to stroke patients, helping to speed recovery as well as reduce mortality and disability.