About 35 percent of Israeli adults think they are overweight, but only 21% are concerned enough to want to do something about it. This worrisome statistic came up in a survey carried out for the Nutrition 2008 conference due to be held later this week in Tel Aviv. Olga Raz, chief clinical dietitian at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, who will be the conference's scientific adviser, notes that "Israelis have apparently not internalized the fact that overweight and obesity, which are a world epidemic and a leading factor behind chronic diseases, are very dangerous." The poll was conducted by phone by MarketWatch among a random sample of 500 people. The conference will attract hundreds of clinical dietitians, doctors, nutritionists and students. Women are more likely than men to admit they are overweight, and the older one gets, the more concern. Among people 55 and over, fully half feel they are overweight, while only 14% of those 18 to 24 say the same. Raz said this trend is different than in the US, where younger women think they are heavy. In addition, 43% of those who said they are religious say they are overweight, compared to only 30% of secular Jews. Residents of the north either are fatter or more frank: Forty percent of residents in Haifa and the north admitted to being overweight, compared to only 29% in the Sharon region, 37% of Jerusalemites, 32% of Tel Avivians and 35% of those in Beersheba. Those polled who said they were upset about being overweight, however, worried less about their health and more about their looks. A quarter of the admittedly overweight said it didn't bother them at all. Men were more concerned than women about how weight affected their health. When the admittedly overweight were asked what they had done about it, a quarter said they had gone to a dietitian, 8% thought of taking diet pills, 7% went to support groups and 5% considered bariatric (weight-loss) surgery. LOSE 15 KILOS IN 30 MINUTES A woman in her 30s who went for an operation at Rehovot's Kaplan Medical Center recently returned home 15 kilos lighter after doctors removed a 40-centimeter-long benign growth. She went to the hospital after an alternative medicine practitioner told her she had "superfluous fluids" in her stomach. Several MDs decided not to send her for tests, until Kaplan's Prof. Zion Hagi, head of obstetrics and gynecology, referred her to a CT scan, which disclosed the growth. Surgeons removed 15 liters of liquid via a small incision in her abdomen. The surgery took only half an hour, leaving her ovaries in place. Hagi said that in the medical literature there is a description of only one case of such a large benign cyst being removed. The patient said she "watched the surgeons eyes and knew this was not something they see every day... It's unbelievable to go into the operating theater and leave it 15 kilos lighter. I will have to get used to my new weight." SPRAYS TRIGGER ASTHMA Using household cleaning sprays and air fresheners as seldom as once a week can raise the risk of developing asthma, according to Spanish researchers. Such products have been associated with increased asthma rates in cleaning professionals, but a similar effect in nonprofessional users has never been shown. "Frequent use of household cleaning sprays may be an important risk factor for adult asthma," wrote lead author Dr. Jan-Paul Zock, of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona. The epidemiological study, the first to investigate the effects of cleaning products on occasional users, appeared recently in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Using baseline data from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey and interviews conducted in the follow-up phase, researchers studied 3,500 subjects in 10 countries. Two-thirds who reported doing the bulk of cleaning were women, about six percent of whom had asthma at the time of follow-up. The risk of developing asthma increased with frequency of cleaning and number of sprays used, but on average was about 30 percent to 50% higher in people regularly exposed to cleaning sprays than in others. The researchers found that cleaning sprays, especially air fresheners, furniture cleaners and glass cleaners, had a particularly strong effect. The study was not intended to determine the biological mechanism behind the increase in asthma with exposure to cleaning sprays, but Dr. Zock and colleagues propose a number of hypotheses, including the possibility that asthma is partially irritant-induced, that sprays contain sensitizers specific to asthma, and/or that an inflammatory response is involved. "There is a need for researchers to conduct further studies to elucidate both the extent and mechanism of the respiratory toxicity associated with such products," noted Zock. "The relative risk of developing adult asthma in relation to exposure to cleaning products could account for as much as 15 percent, or one in seven of adult asthma cases," he wrote. PROSTATE CANCER ONLINE Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's announcement that he has prostate cancer has aroused awareness among middle-aged men, who have gone to their doctor to take a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Now an English-language Web site on prostate cancer has been launched to disseminate information on the disease. Lenny Hirsch has done so to organize support groups for patients and their families. Located at www.shalomprostate.co.il, it answers questions on the disease, its various stages and the benefits and risks of proposed treatments. Perhaps the prime minister would like to join.