EurekAlert!'s most-viewed news release from 2012 focused on a breakthrough in the treatment of obesity and related diseases using a combination of hormones, tested in mice, that resulted in weight loss and lowered blood sugar without negative side effects.
The theme of obesity was prominent in three other most-viewed news releases on EurekAlert! during 2012. Other topics were mental health, neuroscience, marine conservation, human behavioral science, and progress toward a male contraceptive pill.
EurekAlert! is the global science news service operated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Web traffic statistics gathered during 2012 identified the 10 most-viewed releases. The No. 1 most-visited release captured more than 232,000 hits.
Obesity a hot topic among 2012's most popular releases
The subject of obesity dominates the 10 most-visited news releases on EurekAlert! in 2012, with the first, second, fifth, and eighth ranked releases.
Obesity treatment is the focus of the first, second, and eighth releases. In the first, researchers from Indiana University and the Helmholtz Center Munich, Germany, tested a compound of two hormones – estrogen and GLP-1, a digestive peptide hormone. Previous studies tested the efficacy of these hormones individually as treatments for obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, but resulted in adverse effect in mice. However, when the two hormones were used together, weight loss and glucose management were effectively achieved – and without harmful or dangerous side effects, such as cancer, tumor formation, and stroke. The researchers are working toward developing a version of the hormone combination for human trials.
The fifth most-visited release describes a less invasive obesity treatment: online weight loss programs. A review of 14 weight loss studies, published in the Cochrane Library, reported that individuals participating in an online weight loss or management program lost more weight over a six-month period than people who did not receive any sort of weight intervention. The reviewers concluded that while the research showed in-person treatments typically yield the best weight-loss outcomes, online weight-loss programs appear to be a more widely used and effective method for fighting obesity.
The eighth release announces a grant awarded to Dr. Melinda Sothern, of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Public Health, to further her cutting-edge research on a variety of obesity determinants.
"With soaring obesity rates and the earlier emergence of related conditions like Type 2 diabetes, this type of research is critical. The identification of biomarkers at an early age may offer targets for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention," Dr. Sothern says in the press release. Her $675,000 grant was awarded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
These obesity treatments and ongoing studies will not be for naught, considering what the second most-visited press release from 2012 reported. A RAND Corporation study found that of the fast-growing number of overweight Americans, the largest proportion of that population qualifies as "severely obese," with a body mass index of 40 or higher. That's roughly equivalent to weighing 100 pounds more than the healthy average for a person's height.
Peering into the brain
Studies on mental health and neuroscience garnered significant attention from EurekAlert!'s readers in 2012. The third, fourth, and sixth most-visited releases describe findings from these fields.
The discovery of the evolutionary event that researchers believe led to the development of intelligence – as well as mental illness – is outlined in the third most-visited release of 2012. The findings suggest that a "genetic accident" occurred approximately 500 million years ago that generated multiple copies of brain genes in early human ancestors, and that those genes facilitate higher-level mental processes. The researchers also found that mutations in those same extra brain genes cause mental illness. The studies are published in Nature Neuroscience.
Spanish researchers compared the incidence of depression among people whose diets contained fast food and commercial baked goods and people who ate little to none of those types of food in the fourth most-visited release. They found a positive relationship between greater risk for depression and higher amounts of junk food intake, among other negative outcomes, like obesity.
The sixth most-visited release of 2012 announces the discovery of previously unknown nerve cells in the brain, or neurons, produced by the thyroid hormone. Researchers say the neurons control cardiovascular functions and may provide a treatment target for people with thyroid diseases.
Other noteworthy research in 2012's 10 most-visited releases
Rounding out 2012's 10 most-visited stories were news releases about marine life conservation, human behavior, and advancement toward a male oral contraceptive.
Conservation researchers conducted an extensive study on the capture and consumption of small marine mammals, such as dolphins, porpoises, and manatees, as described in the seventh most-visited release. Published in the journal Biological Conservation, the lead researchers report that 87 species of small marine mammals are currently consumed in 114 countries. The study raises issues of conservation, especially for the lesser known species, and the need for education and regulation to help protect dwindling populations.
Researchers debunked the myth that someone glancing to the right while speaking is lying in the ninth most-visited release. University of Edinburgh researchers conducted three studies to reach this conclusion, which appeared in PLOS ONE.
Lastly, the tenth most-visited release, posted by Texas A&M University, announces a major step toward a viable oral contraceptive pill for men. Biomedical researchers stumbled across a new function for the compound JQ1, originally developed to combat cancer. The compound also blocks sperm production and movement in mice. There were no observed side-effects during treatment, and normal sperm function returns when treatment is stopped. The researchers are refining JQ1 for human trials.
10 Most-visited releases from 2012
Below are the 10 most-visited press releases posted on EurekAlert! in 2012. The list begins with the press release that received the most views.
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