Obesity Among Children in

Ark. Tops National Average

Forty percent of public school children in Arkansas are overweight, and nearly one in four is obese, a sign that obesity among children nationwide is probably far worse than health officials had thought.

The findings are the broadest and most recent comprehensive look at children's weights, the result of a state law in Arkansas.

"I think we'll find as we go along that Arkansas is not that much more obese than other parts of the country," said Carden Johnston, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Arkansas numbers paint a more dire picture than previous national studies that indicated that about 30 percent of American children are overweight or obese.

In Arkansas, about 22 percent of the children were found to be obese while 18 percent were overweight.

The results, released yesterday in Williamsburg, at a Time-ABC News obesity summit, represent 276,000 of Arkansas's 450,000 public school students.

Diabetics Advised to Take

Statins to Lower Cholesterol

Almost everyone with diabetes should consider taking a statin drug to lower cholesterol, even if they already have low cholesterol levels, the American Diabetes Association advised yesterday.

Diabetes patients are at such high risk of heart disease that the statins almost certainly will do them some good, the group said in its latest treatment guidelines.

People with diabetes also should consider taking an aspirin daily, the guidelines say.

An estimated 18 million Americans have diabetes, 90 percent to 95 percent of them, type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is strongly associated with being overweight and sedentary. It greatly raises the risk for heart disease, stroke and heart attack and can lead to blindness and limb loss.

Nathaniel Clark, vice president for clinical affairs for the group, said it decided to add statins to the guidelines after seeing the results of a British study that showed people who took statins had a one-third lower risk of stroke.

Fossils From China Reveal

Early Signs of Complex Life

Tiny, button-shaped fossils dating back 600 million years may show that complex life evolved much earlier than had been thought, U.S. and Chinese scientists reported.

Dug up from Chinese phosphate mines, the fossils provide the oldest evidence yet of animals complex enough to have a symmetrical two-sided body plan -- such as flies, fish and humans -- instead of a round one.

They date to at least 50 million years before the Cambrian Period, when the fossil record shows an explosion of life, said David Bottjer of the University of Southern California, who helped lead the study.

Bacteria-like organisms date back more than 3 billion years, but complex animals did not show up until much later.

The little fossils are the first evidence of what are called bilaterians -- animals with a two-sided body plan. Before they evolved, the only animals were round-shaped or amorphous jellyfish, coral or sponges.

The researchers reported their find in the journal Science.

-- From News Services