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Why do some people never seem to get fat?

The UK is a country obsessed by the threat of obesity. As the average person's weight has grown, so has coverage of the subject.

The chief medical officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, has said we are facing an "obesity timebomb". Culinary celebrities like Jamie Oliver have launched campaigns, in homes and school kitchens, to fight the fat war.

Yet the science of weight gain is less straightforward than the headlines sometimes suggest. Why, for example, do some people seem to eat what they like and not put on weight, while others limit their diet yet struggle to shed their bulk?

In 1967, a medical researcher, Ethan Sims, carried out an experiment at Vermont state prison in the US. He recruited inmates to eat as much as they could to gain 25% of their body weight, in return for early release from prison.

Some of the volunteers could not reach the target however hard they tried, even though they were eating 10,000 calories a day. Sims's conclusion was that for some, obesity is nearly impossible.

It was with this in mind that 10 slim volunteers - who were not dieters - convened in more hospitable circumstances, for a recent experiment devised by the BBC's Horizon documentary. The 10 spent four weeks gorging on as much pizza, chips, ice cream and chocolate as they could, while doing no exercise, and severely limiting the amount they walked.

'Friends hate me'

Medical student Katherine Hanan, 21, says she had never dieted or done very much exercise before the experiment.

Katherine Hanan
Pre-experiment, Katherine Hanan: 'I've always eaten whatever I want to'

"I've always eaten whatever I want to eat and I've always been quite slim. I'm really lucky and my friends hate me," she says.

During the study, Katherine and the other volunteers had to eat double their usual amount of daily calories, which varied from 3,500 for the women to 5,000 for the men.

The outcome of the trial could bolster the theories of Dr Rudy Leibel of Columbia University, New York, who believes we all have a biologically determined natural weight which our bodies make an effort to stick to, whether it is fat or thin.

"The body will constantly tend to try to bring you back to whatever your normal body weight is," he says.

But he does not think this is the full story. There are other issues that influence a person's weight.

"Fifty per cent is down to genes and the rest is probably down to environment. If you get the gene for Huntington's you have the disease 100% of the time. That's certainly not the case with obesity."

The four-week eat-a-thon was easier for some than for others.

Volunteer Thomas Patel-Campbell, a keen sportsman and runner, struggled with the cap on physical exertion that was one of the terms of the experiment.

Snacks and puddings

"Eating that much was pretty easy as I'd been eating more than usual in preparation for my run," he says. "I was one of the two who weren't sick at all. What was difficult was limiting myself to 5,000 steps a day.

Katerine Hanan
'I'd eat half a tub of ice cream... a couple of puddings... a pint-and-a-half of chocolate milk'

"The least I did was when I spent a day at home, only leaving the house to go to McDonald's and the shops. Even that was 8,000 steps."

Katherine described a typical day's menu for her while taking part in the study. She made up most of her calorie intake by eating sugary snacks and puddings.

"I'd wake up and have two pain au chocolats plus a large hot chocolate with cream. Mid-morning I'd have a packet of high-fat crisps or a chocolate mousse, sometimes it might even be a small meal. Lunch would be substantial - shepherds'' pie or something.

"In the afternoon I'd eat half a tub of ice cream. At night it would be almost the same evening meal as before except I'd have a couple of puddings. I'd also drink a pint-and-a-half of chocolate milk with… ice cream every day."

Unlike Thomas, Katherine found her body rejected this enforced gluttony - leading her to vomit each week.

And two other volunteers couldn't even get that far - finding they couldn't consume the full allocation of food each day, failing to hit their calorie targets.

Persistent hunger

After four weeks Katherine had gained 3.5kg - almost a 7% gain in body weight. Thomas, meanwhile, put on 5.5kg - a 9% gain in body weight.

Think of it like a thermostat and that each person has a set point
Dr Rudy Leibel

Of the two who struggled to reach their targets, one put on just 0.5kg - a mere 1% gain in body weight, while the other actually saw their body fat percentage go down slightly, despite putting on 5.7kg.

The results highlight the different ways our bodies behave when faced with excess calories.

One expert, Professor Jane Wardle, believes there could be a genetic answer, through what's known as the FTO gene. Adults who have one variant of this gene weigh on average more than everybody else.

Prof Wardle believes the gene can influence appetite, leading some people to not know when they are full. Those without the gene, she thinks, find it easier to say no to food.

"It's kind of effortless because they don't even want to eat. They're not having to exert willpower and self-control whereas for other people, their brain responses to foods that they're exposed to aren't being switched off effectively as a consequence of them already having had enough."

Dr Leibel observes that for some people, such as those who couldn't reach their calorie targets, the appetite hardly fluctuates regardless of how much they want, or are told, to eat.

Muscle not fat

This can work both ways, says Dr Leibel. If someone loses a lot of weight, they often have persistent hunger, even if they are eating enough to sustain themselves.

"Think of it like a thermostat and that each person has a set point," says Dr Leibel. "When it is reduced below that point the body begins to do things that will force it to recover its lost body weight."

And while excess calories can lead many people to put on body fat, one volunteer in the study defied convention by putting on a lot of weight (4.5kg) while his appearance didn't seem to alter. Instead of fat, the weight had gone on as muscle as the volunteer's metabolic rate had risen 30%.

This is another reason, says Dr Carel le Roux, an obesity specialist who oversaw the experiment, why some people appear not to get fat despite eating at lot.

"Studies have shown that this tendency to lay down muscle rather than fat when we over-eat is genetically determined," she says.

For those who did show any signs of having overindulged after the experiment was over, they soon got back to normal, and not through a rigorous diet and exercise regime. Thomas found it happened easily.

"After the first week," he says, "my trousers fitted almost as well as before, and it didn't take long for my belts to be back to the right button hole."

Acupuncture 'works for headaches'

Traditional acupuncture is effective at preventing headaches, a scientific review finds - but so is a sham form.

The Cochrane Review reviewed 33 separate trials into acupuncture and its so-called "sham" counterpart.

The latter also involves the insertion of needles - but not into traditional "energy points".

The scientist leading the review said the results showed that putting needles into particular locations might not be that important.

We certainly don't call what we do 'sham' acupuncture, as we believe there is growing evidence for a mechanism behind what we do
Dr Mike Cummins
British Medical Accupuncture Society
Acupuncture is still regarded as a "complementary" therapy, but is increasingly being viewed as a potential mainstream treatment for certain conditions, such as chronic pain.

The endorsement by the Cochrane Collaboration is likely to lead to further calls for it to be made more widely available on the NHS.

The traditional explanation of its effects involves tapping into a network of "meridians" around the body to regulate the flow of an energy called "chi". Acupuncture points are located at various positions along these meridians.

However, many modern acupuncture specialists believe that the insertion of needles actually cause subtle changes in the nervous system and brain activity which can be beneficial - and place needles in other parts of the body rather than concentrating solely on traditional acupuncture points.

The Cochrane reviews involved a total of 6,736 patients, who were given acupuncture to prevent either mild to moderate "tension" headaches, or migraine attacks.

Following a course of at least eight weeks, acupuncture patients suffered fewer headaches than those given only painkillers.

'Not a sham'

Acupuncture was also superior to preventative drug treatments in migraine, the reviewers concluded.

However, acupuncture relying on non-traditional needle positions was just as good as the traditional variety in preventing tension headaches, and almost as good in the migraine patients.

Dr Klaus Linde, from the Centre for Complementary Medicine Research at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, said that much of the benefit for both might be due to a "placebo effect", in which the experience itself of being treated can produce results independently of the effects of the treatment.

He said: "Much of the clinical benefit of acupuncture might be due to non-specific needling effects and powerful placebo effects, meaning that the selection of specific needle points may be less important than many practicioners have traditionally argued."

Dr Mike Cummings, medical director of the British Medical Acupuncture Society, welcomed the research.

He said that the differences between so-called "true" and "fake" acupuncture remained controversial within the profession.

"I think that, quite literally, many practioners have missed the point in the past.

"We certainly don't call what we do 'sham' acupuncture, as we believe there is growing evidence for a mechanism behind what we do.

"However, we still don't fully understand what is happening when needles are inserted, although these reviews suggest that for certain conditions, it is effective."

'Drink link' to Premature Birth

Doctors say women who drink heavily early in a pregnancy - possibly before they know they are pregnant - may be raising the risk of premature delivery.

A study of 4,719 Australian women found almost an 80% higher risk for women who drank heavily in the first third of pregnancy, then stopped.
However, experts warned it was possible the results were a "statistical quirk".
The BJOG journal study found no evidence of problems for women who drank low levels throughout pregnancy.
The subject of alcohol and pregnancy has been controversial, with some guidelines advocating no alcohol intake, while other specialists believe that drinking small amounts is unlikely to harm the developing child.

The latest study suggests that the period during which binge or heavy drinking can have the greatest effect is during the first trimester.

When you consider the number of pregnancies which are not planned, it is quite possible that by the time a woman realises she is pregnant, it is too late, and the damage has been done
Professor Philip Steer

With as many as 40% of pregnancies unplanned, this may include several weeks in which the woman is unaware she is carrying a child.

Unusually, the strongest link between alcohol use and early birth was for women who drank moderately or heavily - several units of alcohol or more a week - during the first trimester, but then stopped completely for the rest of the pregnancy.

The researchers suggested that it was possible that the sudden cessation of alcohol drinking might provoke inflammation which could harm the developing foetus in some way, although this idea was not tested during the study.

Caution urged

Dr Colleen O'Leary, from the University of Western Australia, who led the study, said: "The risk of pre-term birth is highest for women who drink heavily or at binge levels.

"Women should be advised that during pregnancy, drinking alcohol above low levels increases the risk to the baby and that the safest choice is not to drink alcohol during pregnancy."

The editor of the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Professor Phillip Steer, said the study represented a warning to women.

He said: "When you consider the number of pregnancies which are not planned, it is quite possible that by the time a woman realises she is pregnant, it is too late and the damage has been done."

However, Professor Andrew Shennan, representing baby charity Tommy's, said that the results needed to be interpreted cautiously.

"It is still possible that, given the relatively small number of women involved, this finding could be a statistical quirk.

"More research needs to be done to ascertain the true extent of the risk posed by drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

"This is a controversial area with many conflicting results and recommendations about what is deemed a 'safe' level of alcohol consumption."

However, he said that a precautionary approach was still sensible for women who might fall pregnant.

"Now that you can buy kits which can tell you whether you are pregnant before you have even missed a period, perhaps women who binge drink should take advantage of these."

NASA successfully tests engine technology for landing astronauts on the moon

Washington, Jan 15 (ANI): NASA has successfully completed its third round of testing for a technology development engine that may help astronauts to safely return to the surface of the Moon.

The goal of these tests is to reduce risk and advance technology for a reliable and robust rocket engine that could enable America's next moon landing.

The tests by Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne in West Palm Beach, Florida, helped gather data on this concept engine that might play a role in the next stage of human exploration of the moon.

The goal of a lunar lander descent engine is to slow the vehicle so astronauts can land safely.

Known as the Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine, or CECE, the engine is deep-throttling one, which means it has the flexibility to reduce thrust from 100 percent down to 10 percent, allowing a spacecraft to gently land on the lunar surface.

The 13,800-pound thrust engine uses extremely cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as propellants.

During the test, the engine was successfully throttled from a high of a 104 percent of the engine's potential down to eight percent, a record for an engine of this type.

A cryogenic engine is needed to provide high performance and put more payload on the surface of the moon.

The CECE demonstrator has evaluated two engine configurations during three rounds of hot-fire testing.

"The first test series in 2006 was a challenge but showed promise," said Tony Kim, Deep Throttling Engine project manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama.

"Testing in 2007 provided an in-depth examination of low-power-level throttling and engine performance characteristics. This third cycle we actively addressed and found solutions to the challenges we faced," he added.

The team carefully assessed test results that showed pressure oscillations in the engine at lower throttle levels called "chugging."

Chugging may not be a concern for the engine itself, but the resulting vibrations could have the potential to resonate with the structure of the rocket and cause problems for the lander or crew.

Injector and propellant feed system modifications successfully eliminated engine chugging by controlling liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen flow to the combustion chamber.

The latest engine configuration incorporates a new injector design and propellant feed system that carefully manages the pressure, temperature and flow of propellants.

"The technology developed from this effort will help engineers successfully design future cryogenic engines to meet the throttling requirements of the Constellation Program's Altair lunar lander," Kim said. (ANI)

America's Powerful CEOs 40 And Under

Jerry Yang is no longer among those intrepid youngsters who are CEOs of very big companies, though he was long the most famous and powerful of them. It wasn't a birthday that took him out of the mix, either. Yang, 39, was just shunted aside at Yahoo! for the more venerable Carol Bartz, 60, formerly of Autodesk. Who does that leave? Some 21 CEOs who are under 40 now run companies worth at least $500 million, our research shows.

Francisco D'Souza, 39, heads what is now the largest public company run by a 40-or-under CEO, though his $5.7 billion Cognizant Technology Solutions is dwarfed by the $16.9 billion Yahoo! . D'Souza has been an officer at Cognizant for 11 years now, chief executive since 2007, and chief operating officer since 2003, when he was a mere 33.

In Pictures: The 21 Youngest CEOs At The Nation's Biggest Companies

The 15 Top-Paid Young CEOs

In Pictures: Asia's Youngest Billionaires

In Pictures: Bonus-Free Bosses

In Pictures: Bailing Out Detroit?

Amphenol's R. Adam Norwitt and CNX's Nicolas J. DeIuliis run the second and third largest public companies on the list. Norwitt is one of 10 who run tech-oriented companies. That sector, always associated with youthful genius and entrepreneurship, has far and away the largest representation. Energy and health care each have just three companies on the list.

Joshua G. James, 34, of Omniture, is the youngest of all these CEOs. His business is worth $750 million. James was one of Omniture's founders, and in his last reported year of pay, he made more than $2 million. Not bad for a guy born after all the troops came home from Vietnam.

DynCorp. International's William L. Ballhaus and WellCare's Heath G. Schiesser will both hit 41 soon and retire from the realm of these daring youths. Will anyone replace them, or will there be increasingly fewer young CEOs at large corporations as we move farther away from the tech boom? That has been the trend so far.

The most experienced and seasoned old CEOs have to make hard-nosed decisions and endure intense scrutiny during tough times. Young CEOs may find themselves under an even brighter spotlight, thanks to their supposed inexperience. But at least they have plenty of time ahead of them to correct any errors--and possibly move on to even bigger things.

Indian software engineer shot dead in US

An Indian software engineer working with scam-hit Satyam Computer Services was shot dead by unidentified assailants in Arkansas in the US. Akshay Vishal, 26, was shot in his legs in Little Rock, Arkansas on Tuesday, his father Lakshman Murthy, a BSNL employee, said in Hyderabad.

Vishal sustained multiple injuries in the attack by suspected Afro-American men and was operated upon in a hospital in Little Rock but succumbed to injuries, he said.

"He was near his home when somebody perhaps demanded some money. He was fired at and bullets hit him in the leg. Due to this, his arteries bled profusely which led to kidney failure," Murthy said.

The engineer had gone to the US in 2005, Murthy, a resident of Begumpet (Hyderabad), said.

The killing is the latest one in the series of murders of Indian students and professionals in the US. Arpana B Jinaga, an IT engineer in Seattle was found dead in her apartment on November 3 while an engineering student in Southern Illionis University T Soumya Reddy was found murdered in September. Her cousin Vikram Reddy, also a software engineer in Chicago, was also found dead nearby.

World Bank bans Satyam, Wipro, Megasoft

New Delhi, Jan 12: Even before the dust settled on the controversy involving Satyam's debarment, the World Bank on Monday revealed that action has been taken against a total of five entities in India, including Wipro Technologies, and an individual.

The action was initiated against these entities and individual as they were found to have "violated the fraud and corruption provisions of the Procurement Guidelines or the Consultant Guidelines," besides offering improper benefits to Bank staff.
Megasoft became the third Indian software vendor to have attracted the Bank's ire, while Nestor Pharmaceuticals and Gap International were non-IT entities. An individual Surendra Singh was barred from doing business with the Bank for violating guidelines.

While Wipro was barred for four years beginning June 2007 for "providing improper benefits to Bank staff", Megasoft barred for an identical period beginning December 2007 for "participating in a joint venture with Bank staff while also conducting business with the Bank."

The report further added that a multi-million-dollar software facility being built on Deak in University's campus in Geelong is also under a cloud as the future of Satyam remains uncertain.

On Wednesday, Satyam's founder-chairman B Ramalinga Raju admitted of inflating the accounts of the firm and was later arrested with B Rama Raju, his brother and co-founder, on charges of criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy, cheating, falsification of records and forgery.

Satyam chief financial officer Srinivas Vadlamani was also arrested on Saturday. The Satyam fraud case has forced the Indian government to appoint three members to the board of Satyam after it dismissed the incumbent board to restore investors confidence.

In a statement late last night, the World Bank said that it decided to "make public the names of all the companies that have been debarred from receiving direct contracts from the Bank group under its corporate procurement programme.

"This change was made in the interest of fairness and transparency... From now on the Bank group would publicly list names of companies debarred from its corporate procurement."

Commenting on the World Bank action, Wipro said in a statement this morning: "Our inability to get future business from World Bank will not adversely affect our business and results of operations."

Megasoft officials too said that the debarment will not have no revenue implication for the company. Earlier, Satyam, which was debarred for eight years beginning September 2008, had demanded an apology for making public its name and withdrawal of what it called "inappropriate" statement by the Bank. The Bank had refused to apologise.

The chairman of India's Satyam Computer Services will appear in court on Saturday, a police official said, a day after he was arrested on charges relating to India's biggest corporate scandal.
Ramalinga Raju and his brother B. Rama Raju, co-founder and managing director, were arrested late on Friday on charges of criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy, cheating, falsification of records and forgery.

At Saturday's hearing authorities will seek permission to hold Raju and his brother in custody for further interrogation, said V.S.K. Kaumudi, inspector general of police in the crime investigation department in the southern city of Hyderabad.

Satyam, which specialises in business software and back-office services for clients including General Electric and Nestle, is based Hyderabad.

Chairman and founder Raju resigned on Wednesday after revealing years of accounting fraud, including an admission that about $1 billion, or 94 percent of the cash and bank balances on Satyam's books at end-Spetember, did not exist.

The board of Satyam, which was scheduled to meet on Saturday, has been dissolved by the government and a minister has said a new board would be constituted with 10 members, which would meet within seven days.

There was no move at this time, however, to take over Satyam's management, said Corporate Affairs Minister Prem Chand Gupta on Friday.

Analysts said Satyam's very existence was threatened by the scandal, which stand-in Chief Executive Ram Mynampati said has pushed the company into a crisis of unimaginable proportions.

The company's market value has shriveled to $330 million, from more than $7 billion six months ago.

Satyam's interim CEO said on Thursday the chief financial officer had also offered to resign after Raju's admissions.

Satyam staffers' CVs flood job portals

PUNE: As the fate of around 2,000 Satyam employees in the city hangs in the balance, many of them have started looking for new jobs. This,
despite the brave face put up by many, and claims to a "wait and watch" approach.

According to Partha Sarathi Roy, zonal manager of the job portal, "The last three days have seen some 2,000 resumes from Satyam employees across the country from senior, middle and junior level employees."

Roy says that overall, the number of resumes from the IT sector have gone up, but job prospects have gone down by 30 per cent. "These are the days of streamlining costs," he said.

However, he added that the Satyam episode, despite being "shocking" will not cause panic in the IT sector on the whole. "That is the situation as of today," he said.

Satyam Computers operates from three locations in the city - Hinjewadi, Wakadewadi and Dhole Patil. Since its chairman Ramalinga Raju admitted to inflating figures on the balance sheets, the company's shares, which were quoting Rs 179.1 per cent on Tuesday, plummeted by 78 per cent to close at Rs 39.9 on Wednesday.

Ramalinga Raju's Profile

Born: September 16, 1954
Achievement: Founder and Chairman of Satyam Computer Services Ltd; Chosen as Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Services in 1999

Ramalinga Raju is one of the pioneers of the Information Technology industry in India. He is the founder and Chairman of Satyam Computer Services Ltd.

Ramalinga Raju was born on September 16, 1954 in a family of farmers. He did his B. Com from Ramalinga RajuAndhra Loyola College at Vijayawada and subsequently did his MBA from Ohio University, USA. Ramalinga Raju had a stint at Harvard too. He attended the Owner / President course at Harvard.

After returning to India in 1977, Ramalinga Raju moved away from the traditional agriculture business and set up a spinning and weaving mill named Sri Satyam. . Thereafter he shifted to the real estate business and started a construction company called Satyam Constructions. In 1987, Ramalinga Raju founded Satyam Computer Services along with one of his brothers-in-law, DVS Raju. The company went public in 1992. With the launch of Satyam Infoway (Sify) Satyam became one of the first to enter Indian internet service market. Today, Satyam has a global presence and serves 44 Fortune 500 and over 390 multinational corporations.

Ramalinga Raju has won several awards and honors. These include Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Services in 1999, Dataquest IT Man of the Year in 2000, and CNBC's Asian Business Leader - Corporate Citizen of the Year award in 2002.
B. Ramalinga Raju
Ramalinga Raju, also known as Raju, is Satyam’s founder and chairman. Raju is a world-renowned visionary, global business leader, and thinker. He uses a simple, yet extensive management model to create value, which promotes entrepreneurship, a focus on the customer, and the constant pursuit of excellence. Raju is passionate about developing leaders within his organizations and has conceptualized / institutionalized the Full Life Cycle Leadership (FLCL) model—a unique entrepreneurship framework that develops leaders at all levels of Satyam.

Raju has an MBA from Ohio University, and is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School. He has won numerous awards not only for building a best-in-class business but also taking innovative steps to positively impact the society. Some of the awards won by Raju include: the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (2007), CNBC’s Asian Business Leader—Corporate Citizen of the Year (2002), Dataquest IT Man of the Year (2000), and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Services (1999).

Raju’s keen understanding of IT and institution building has enabled him to contribute to policy formulation in India and abroad. He was the ex-chairman of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), a 1,100-member industry body of Indian IT services companies. He is:

* A member of the National Executive Councils of the two national business associations of India: CII and FICCI
* A member of the International Advisory Panel of Malaysia’s Multimedia Super-Corridor
* A member of the conference board

Raju also serves on the boards of several educational, research, and not-for-profit institutions. Moreover, he tirelessly creates greater social equity and provides opportunities to underprivileged through institutions he has established: the Satyam Foundation, the Byrraju Foundation, and EMRI.

A voracious reader, Raju is deeply influenced by science. He has adopted several scientific principles in running business operations.