Roundup: Codeine Not Safe for Kids, Pediatricians Proclaim; Fitness Trackers Not Very Effective for Weight Loss, Study Finds

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement this week urging parents and health providers to stop giving codeine to children. The pediatricians’ group is also calling for a broader education campaign about codeine’s risks and restrictions in patients under age 18.

Codeine is an opioid drug used for decades in prescription pain medicines and over-the-counter formulas for treating cough, the AAP says. Codeine is converted by the liver into morphine, a potent opioid pain medication.

“Certain individuals, especially children and those with obstructive sleep apnea, are ‘ultra-rapid metabolizers’ and may experience severely slowed breathing rates or even die after taking standard doses of codeine,” the AAP writes in its statement.

In an article published in the new October issue of Pediatrics, which prompted the AAP’s statement, U.S. researchers found codeine to be linked to rare  — but life-threatening and fatal– breathing reactions in children. The study emphasized data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on adverse effects of both codeine and combined codeine and acetaminophen medications. Adverse effects reported to the FDA included 64 cases of severe respiratory depression and 24 codeine-related deaths ― 21 of which were in children under 12 ― over a 50-year period.

According to the AAP report, codeine is still commonly prescribed to children after surgical procedures such as tonsil and adenoid removal.  More than 800,000 patients under age 11 were prescribed codeine between 2007 and 2011, according to one study cited in the AAP report.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical sub-specialists and pediatric surgeons.

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Fitness Trackers Not Very Effective for Weight Loss, Study Says

Fitness-tracking wearable devices continue to grow in popularity, but can they truly help people lose weight? A new study sheds some doubt as to their effectiveness.

Findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggest that activity monitors did not motivate their users to stick to a weight-loss regimen — and are less inspired to exercise than those who simply log their activity on a website.

“This may be a result of the technology not being as effective for changing diet or physical activity behaviors,” the researchers concluded.

University of Pittsburgh scientists from the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center and their colleagues studied almost 500 young, overweight men and women who wanted to lose weight and get fit. They ranged in age from 18 to 35 since. The younger demographic was part of the strategy to recruit Millennials who may be more inclined to use technologies such as activity trackers. The volunteers were weighed and their overall health and fitness assessed.

Researchers divided the volunteers into two groups. One group was instructed to log their daily exercise sessions onto a study website. The other group was provided a monitor to be worn on the upper arm for tracking their physical activity. The wearable device would also provide feedback on whether they were meeting their goals for step counts, calorie expenditure and so on.

Participants who did not wear the fitness monitors — and relied solely on logging their routines on a website — were, on average, about 13 pounds lighter now than two years ago. However, those who had worn the fitness trackers weighed only about 8 pounds less than at the start of the study.

Data collected from the monitors showed that those wearing the trackers generally exercised less than those in the other group who were simply keeping track by manually logging information on a website.

“Among young adults with a BMI (body mass index) between 25 and less than 40, the addition of a wearable technology device … resulted in less weight loss over 24 months,” the study’s authors concluded. “Devices that monitor and provide feedback on physical activity may not offer an advantage over standard behavioral weight loss approaches.”

A BMI reading from 25.0 to 29.9 falls within the “overweight” range. If a BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the “obese” range.

“What these results say to me is that we still have a great deal to learn” about how wearable fitness trackers affect the user, John Jakicic, a University of Pittsburgh professor and the study’s lead author, told The New York Times.

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