Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hawaii Still No. 1 in Wellbeing, West Virginia Stuck in Last

Hawaii residents had the highest wellbeing in the nation in 2011 with a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index score of 70.2, maintaining that state's No. 1 status for a third consecutive year. North Dakota, Minnesota, Utah, and Alaska rounded out the top five states. West Virginia residents had the lowest wellbeing, with a score of 62.3, slightly improved from 61.7 in 2010.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

2 teens with tic-like mystery illness 'all better'

For the first time since more than a dozen teens and one adult came down with a mysterious illness in LeRoy, there's good news about the case.

On Wednesday, a doctor in Buffalo who is treating some of those affected gave the good news -- at least two of the girls are recovered, and three more are showing signs of improvement.

"There are two of the girls that are all better and there are three more that are just there," says Dr. Jennifer McVigh of Dent Neurologic Institute.

McVigh credits the treatment for conversion disorder, which includes behavior modification, psychological help and medication. But some parents are giving credit to a doctor, Dr. Rosario Trifiletti, a child neurologist from New Jersey.

Trifiletti diagnosed eight of the girls with a PANDAS-like illness, and prescribed antibiotics. Some say it's those girls who are getting better.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Can Gardening Help Troubled Minds Heal?

If you haven't noticed, gardens are popping up in some unconventional places – from prison yards to retirement and veteran homes to programs for troubled youth.

Most are handy sources of fresh and local food, but increasingly they're also an extension of therapy for people with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD; depression; and anxiety.

It's called horticultural therapy. And some doctors, psychologists and occupational therapists are now at work to test whether building, planting, and harvesting a garden can be a therapeutic process in its own right.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Citrus fruits may lower women's stroke risk

Researchers have identified a compound found in oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits that may lower a woman's stroke risk.

Previous studies suggest that eating fruits and vegetables helps protect against strokes, and many believe that antioxidant compounds known as flavonoids may explain why, because they have been shown to improve blood vessel function and they have anti-inflammatory effects.

Among other things, flavonoids give fruits and veggies their vibrant colors. They are also found in chocolate and red wine. By some estimates there are more than 5,000 of them.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Experts say deep, complex causes of obesity may be beyond reach of weight loss drugs

The battle of the bulge has been a big, fat failure for U.S. drugmakers. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying.

For nearly a century, scientists have struggled to make a diet pill that helps people lose weight without side effects that range from embarrassing digestive issues to dangerous heart problems.

But this week, federal health advisers endorsed the weight loss pill Qnexa even though the FDA previously rejected it over concerns that it can cause heart palpitations and birth defects if taken by pregnant women.

The vote of confidence raises hopes that the U.S. could approve its first anti-obesity drug in more than a decade. It also highlights how challenging it is to create a pill that fights fat in a variety of people without negative side effects.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Raw Milk Movement Takes Hits From Courts, Health Officials

It has been a bit of a sour week for drinkers of raw milk.

Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said a federal court had granted it a permanent injunction to keep a Pennsylvania raw milk maker from distributing across state lines to raw milk buying clubs. The decision was the latest in an escalating battle between the federal government and producers and consumers of raw milk.

About 30 states allow the sale of raw milk products in some form. Some consumers who live in places where it's outlawed are passionate in the belief that unpasteurized milk confers health benefits. So many resort to buying clubs and other strategies. Some even buy it labeled as pet food.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also threw a heavy dollop of concern into the mix with a study showing that most disease outbreaks linked to dairy products are caused by raw milk.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

FDA to review safety of inhalable caffeine product

Food and Drug Administration officials plan to investigate whether a form of caffeine sold in lipstick-shaped containers is safe for consumers.

The inventor touts AeroShot as caffeine without the coffee, soda, tea or a pill, but a U.S. lawmaker questions whether it's safe.

The product comes in a lipstick-shaped dispenser that puffs out a powdery mixture of caffeine and B vitamins into your mouth, where it dissolves and is swallowed.

Pre-filled devices can be purchased online or in convenience stores in New York and Boston for about $3.

"No calories. No liquid. No limits," its website says. "Hitting the books. Hitting the gym. Taking a roadtrip. Staying awake at your desk after devouring a bacon double cheeseburger at lunch. AeroShot is specifically designed with you in mind."

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But New York's Sen. Charles Schumer said he has some concerns.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fructose not linked to extra weight gain

A little extra simple sugar in your diet probably won't make you pack on the pounds -- as long as you cut down on other carbs to make up for it, a new analysis of past studies suggests.

Researchers found that people who consumed extra fructose baked into breads or sprinkled into drinks didn't gain any extra weight compared to those who had other types of carbohydrates instead -- when they ate the same number of total calories.

On the other hand, when study participants supplemented a standard diet with extra calories in the form of straight fructose, they did gain weight.

"Fructose probably isn't any different than other sources of carbohydrates," said lead author Dr. John Sievenpiper, a research fellow at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

60 Lives, 30 Kidneys, All Linked

Rick Ruzzamenti admits to being a tad impulsive. He traded his Catholicism for Buddhism in a revelatory flash. He married a Vietnamese woman he had only just met. And then a year ago, he decided in an instant to donate his left kidney to a stranger.
In February 2011, the desk clerk at Mr. Ruzzamenti’s yoga studio told him she had recently donated a kidney to an ailing friend she had bumped into at Target. Mr. Ruzzamenti, 44, had never even donated blood, but the story so captivated him that two days later he called Riverside Community Hospital to ask how he might do the same thing.

Halfway across the country, in Joliet, Ill., Donald C. Terry Jr. needed a kidney in the worst way. Since receiving a diagnosis of diabetes-related renal disease in his mid-40s, he had endured the burning and bloating and dismal tedium of dialysis for nearly a year. With nobody in his family willing or able to give him a kidney, his doctors warned that it might take five years to crawl up the waiting list for an organ from a deceased donor.

“It was like being sentenced to prison,” Mr. Terry recalled, “like I had done something wrong in my life and this was the outcome.”

As a dawn chill broke over Chicago on Dec. 20, Mr. Terry received a plump pink kidney in a transplant at Loyola University Medical Center. He did not get it from Mr. Ruzzamenti, at least not directly, but the two men will forever share a connection: they were the first and last patients in the longest chain of kidney transplants ever constructed, linking 30 people who were willing to give up an organ with 30 who might have died without one.

What made the domino chain of 60 operations possible was the willingness of a Good Samaritan, Mr. Ruzzamenti, to give the initial kidney, expecting nothing in return. Its momentum was then fueled by a mix of selflessness and self-interest among donors who gave a kidney to a stranger after learning they could not donate to a loved one because of incompatible blood types or antibodies. Their loved ones, in turn, were offered compatible kidneys as part of the exchange.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

What the Birds Know

They are sounding the alarm on the danger of mercury emissions to humans

Birds have long had a very special place in my heart — as in most human hearts. Birds are magic, myth, fairy tale and the subject of intense scientific scrutiny. One of the startling ways in which birds have interacted with humans, of course, was the “canary in the coal mine” — the caged bird that accompanied a miner as he headed deep underground; the canary served as a sentinel, an early warning system of dangerous gases, like carbon monoxide or methane, leaking into the shaft. The bird died so the human could live.

Once again, birds are alerting us to the danger of poisons in our atmosphere. Only this time, we have not been paying attention, at our own peril. A recent study by the Biodiversity Research Institute in Maine noted that the same methyl mercury that causes neurological disorders in humans and especially children, also causes suffering among songbirds and bats. The study found dangerously high levels of mercury in several Northeastern songbirds, such as wood thrushes and blackbirds. Researchers note that birds in contaminated sites are three times as likely to abandon nests. Chicks are quieter, vocalizing less, not begging for food. Heartbreakingly, Zebra finches were unable to hit the high notes in their songs during mating rituals — and this affected their ability to reproduce.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Food fight over school lunch in North Carolina

There's a food fight going on in North Carolina. A 4-year-old pre-school student was forced to hand over her home-made lunch and forced to eat cafeteria nuggets.

The little girl's grandmother had packed her a turkey and cheese sandwich, on multi-grain bread, a banana, potato chips and apple juice. However, school officials say the lunch didn't meet state guidelines for healthy lunches.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Body clock 'alters' immune system

The time of the day could be an important factor in the risk of getting an infection, according to researchers in the US.

They showed how a protein in the immune system was affected by changes in the chemistry of the body through the day.

The findings, published in the journal Immunity, showed the time of an infection changed its severity.

An expert said drugs were likely to take advantage of the body clock in the near future.

Plants, animals and even bacteria go through a daily 24-hour routine, known as a circadian rhythm. Jet lag is what happens when the body gets out of sync with its surroundings after crossing time zones.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Arsenic found in organic baby food, cereal bars

You may think you're being extra-healthy when you chose foods labeled "organic," but some of these products contain arsenic, a compound that may increase the risk of cancer, a new study says.
The study points to organic brown rice syrup, an ingredient often used as a healthy alternative to high fructose corn syrup, as a potential source of arsenic in food.

The results show cereals bars, energy shots and even infant formula s made with organic brown rice syrup contain particularly high levels of arsenic, compared with products without this syrup. Some cereal bars have concentrations of arsenic that are 12 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) safe drinking water limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb), the researchers said.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sinus infection? Antibiotics won't help

Roughly 20% of the antibiotic prescriptions written in the United States for adults each year are for sinus infections. That's an impressive statistic, given that doctors and public health officials have long doubted that antibiotics can successfully treat the condition.

A new study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, appears to confirm those doubts: The antibiotic amoxicillin was no better than placebo at improving the congestion, cough, runny nose, pain, and other symptoms that accompany sinus infections (also known as acute sinusitis), researchers found.

"Compared to placebo, amoxicillin doesn't seem to provide any benefits," says lead author Jane Garbutt, an associate professor at the Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis. "In terms of patient satisfaction, side effects, symptom relief, days missed from work, et cetera, we did not see any difference."

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Exercise Makes Us Happy -- It's Science

Why do people exercise?

We know that regular fitness is good for the heart and that it can help the body to build muscles and maintain a healthy weight. But it also spurs the release of endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that promote happiness.

And now a new study in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology adds more evidence to the "happiness" benefit.

Researchers from the Penn State University found in their study that the more physically active people reported greater general feelings of excitement and enthusiasm, compared with the less physically active people.

"We found that people who are more physically active have more pleasant-activated feelings than people who are less active, and we also found that people have more pleasant-activated feelings on days when they are more physically active than usual," study researcher Amanda Hyde, a kinesiology graduate student at Penn State, said in a statement.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

No single diet will work for all diabetics

So what's the best diet for people with diabetes? There is no one diet, whether it's a Mediterranean, low-carb or low-fat diet, that is consistently better at helping people manage diabetes, says Stephanie Dunbar, director of nutrition and medical affairs for the American Diabetes Association. She is one of the authors of a new review of the research on diabetes diets published in February's Diabetes Care.

"People need to do what works for them. There are people who do well on a lower-fat diet and others who do well on a lower-carb diet." One thing that helps in keeping blood sugar under control is losing weight, even as little as 5% to 10% of body weight, Dunbar says.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Does Offering Smaller Portions At Restaurants Help People Eat Less?

A server offers you the option to downsize the fried rice side in your Chinese takeout order by half. She tells you that if you accept her offer, you'll save at least 200 calories.

Do you take it?

About one-third of diners (out of several hundred) who were given that choice at a Chinese takeout restaurant said yes, according to a study out today in the journal Health Affairs. The diners who chose the smaller noodle and rice dishes also ended up eating less overall — and avoided overeating — compared with those who ordered a full serving.

"People are willing to downsize, but you have to ask them do it," lead author Janet Schwartz, a psychologist and assistant professor of marketing at Tulane University, tells The Salt. "They're not going to do it on their own."

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Trans Fats Are Leaving The Food Supply And The Body, Study Finds

Remember trans fats? And the big campaigns to get them out of burgers, fries and all kinds of baked goods?

Well, those campaigns seem to have worked.

A study out this week has found that the amount of trans-fatty acids in some Americans decreased significantly — 58 percent among white adults between 2000 and 2009. Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association, say that is "substantial progress."

The history of trans fats is pretty fascinating, as Dan Charles' recent post demonstrated. The invention of hydrogenation turned cottonseed oil (and later, soybean oil) from a liquid into a solid that was perfect for baking and frying. Back in the in the 1980s, health activists actually promoted oils containing trans fats. Crisco, made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, was promoted as a good alternative to lard.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Mindful Eating as Food for Thought

TRY this: place a forkful of food in your mouth. It doesn’t matter what the food is, but make it something you love — let’s say it’s that first nibble from three hot, fragrant, perfectly cooked ravioli.

Now comes the hard part. Put the fork down. This could be a lot more challenging than you imagine, because that first bite was very good and another immediately beckons. You’re hungry.

Today’s experiment in eating, however, involves becoming aware of that reflexive urge to plow through your meal like Cookie Monster on a shortbread bender. Resist it. Leave the fork on the table. Chew slowly. Stop talking. Tune in to the texture of the pasta, the flavor of the cheese, the bright color of the sauce in the bowl, the aroma of the rising steam.

Continue this way throughout the course of a meal, and you’ll experience the third-eye-opening pleasures and frustrations of a practice known as mindful eating.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Spoon feeding 'makes babies fatter'

Babies weaned on pureed food tend to end up fatter than infants whose first tastes are finger food, researchers believe.

Spoon feeding babies mashed up fruits and vegetables appears to give them a sweeter tooth, a Nottingham University team found after studying 155 children.

Infants who are instead allowed to feed themselves solids tend to favour more satiating carbohydrates like toast.

This early self-regulation of what to eat keeps them slim, BMJ Open says.

The researchers found spoon-fed babies were more often obese, although, overall, most of the youngsters in both groups were a healthy weight.

This weight difference remained even after the investigators accounted for other factors that might have influenced the findings, such the baby's birth weight, how long they were breastfed for and whether their parents were rich or poor.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Taking the 'mystery' out of conversion disorder

When 12 students at a high school in New York suddenly developed strange symptoms like stuttering, uncontrollable twitching movements and verbal outbursts, the community was concerned. Was there something in the environment? Was it a virus of some sort spreading dangerously? Three students and one adult have since also exhibited the same symptoms. Doctors at DENT Neurologic Institute have now diagnosed some of the girls with "conversion disorder," leaving people even more confused.

What is conversion disorder?

A person with conversion disorder has neurological symptoms that aren't related to any known neurological condition, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The symptoms could appear as uncontrolled motions or verbal outbursts, like the students in New York, or as anything from weakness or paralysis to a loss of vision or hearing.

In diagnosing conversion disorder, doctors must first rule out other neurological diseases and determine that the symptoms are not being intentionally faked. Often the symptoms are inconsistent with typical signs of a neurological disease – either physical signs or those that might show up on a diagnostic test.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

People Pleasers May Overeat at Parties

People pleasers may want to steer clear of this weekend’s Super Bowl parties in order to avoid a dietary fumble.

A new study shows people who have a strong desire to please others tend to overeat in social situations, even if they’re not hungry.

They’re also more likely to indulge in foods they’d normally avoid, like fatty snacks and sweet desserts.

"People pleasers feel more intense pressure to eat when they believe that their eating will help another person feel more comfortable," says researcher Julie Exline, PhD, a Case Western Reserve psychologist, in a news release.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

School nutrition: A kid's right to choose

Last fall, Los Angeles took a hard line on school nutrition. In an attempt to mold better eating habits in kids, the Los Angeles Unified School District eliminated flavored milk, chicken nuggets and other longtime childhood favorites. But instead of making kids healthier, the changes sent students fleeing from school cafeterias. There have been reports of a thriving trade in black-market junk food, of pizzas delivered to side doors and of family-sized bags of chips being brought from home. Garbage cans are filling up with the more nutritious food, even if kids aren't.

The lesson? We cannot simply bully kids into eating healthful foods and take their lunch money.

As the federal government prepares to launch a similar, though less sweeping, effort to cleanse lunchrooms of troublesome foods, it's important to analyze what works — and what doesn't — in trying to get kids to eat more nutritious food.

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Number of sick from raw milk from southern Pa. farm rises to 35 in 4 states

Pennsylvania health officials say the number of people stricken with illness after consuming raw milk from the same dairy has risen to 35 in four states.

The confirmed cases of campylobacter bacterial infection include 28 people in Pennsylvania, four in Maryland, two in West Virginia, and one in New Jersey.

Health officials said Thursday consumers should discard raw milk bought from the Family Cow farm in Chambersburg on or after Jan. 1. The farm has voluntarily suspended raw milk production.

An Agriculture Department spokeswoman said final test results of milk samples from the farm may be available Friday.

The federal Food and Drug Administration warns that raw, or unpasteurized, milk can contain harmful bacteria. Dairy farmers say demand is growing because of concerns about hormones in traditional dairy products.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

UCSF scientists declare war on sugar in food

Like alcohol and tobacco, sugar is a toxic, addictive substance that should be highly regulated with taxes, laws on where and to whom it can be advertised, and even age-restricted sales, says a team of UCSF scientists.

In a paper published in Nature on Wednesday, they argue that increased global consumption of sugar is primarily responsible for a whole range of chronic diseases that are reaching epidemic levels around the world.

Sugar is so heavily entrenched in the food culture in the United States and other countries that getting people to kick the habit will require much more than simple education and awareness campaigns, the UCSF scientists said.

It's going to require public policy that gently guides people toward healthier choices and uses brute force to remove sugar from so many of the processed foods we eat every day, said Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF.

"The only method for dealing with this is a public health intervention," Lustig said in an interview. "Everyone talks about personal responsibility, and that won't work here, as it won't for any addictive substance. These are things that have to be done at a governmental level, and government has to get off its ass."

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Support by Mom Raises Kids' Brain Volume

Maternal support and nurturing in early childhood can boost development of a brain region crucial for memory, stress, and emotion regulation, a prospective study found.

Hippocampal volume increased by 13.4 mm3 for each observed unit increase in maternal support on the "wait test," which assesses the strategies used by the caregiver to help a preschool-age child manage a slightly stressful situation, according to Joan L. Luby, MD, and colleagues from Washington University in St. Louis.

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