Activists Protest Delayed Gluten-Free Label Standard 

Peter Dazeley/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Food and Drug Administration has dragged its feet in setting a standard for gluten-free foods, say activists who on Wednesday are assembling a one-ton, 15-foot-high gluten-free cake symbolizing how much their lives depend upon strictly avoiding a protein found in most bakery goods, pasta, beer and even some cold cuts and salad dressings.

Organizers of the Gluten-Free Food Labeling Summit in Washington, D.C., want the baked behemoth, assembled by volunteers from 180 half-sheet cakes made with special gluten-free flour in Whole Foods' Gluten-Free Bakehouse, to send a message to Congress and the FDA about the importance of "clear, accurate, reliable labeling" of packaged foods for Americans who must avoid gluten for medical reasons.

They want the FDA to adopt a gluten-free labeling standard that was due in August 2008, under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004. Also overdue: an assessment of the proposed gluten standard of 20 parts per million.

The core constituency for gluten-free eating long has been celiac patients whose immune systems recognize gluten as an invader and unleash attacks on the small intestine, producing diarrhea, abdominal pain, along with fatigue, headaches and joint inflammation. Over time, celiac disease can lead to malnourishment, osteoporosis, neurological conditions, and in rarer cases, infertility or cancer.

Despite the explosion of gluten-free offerings at supermarkets, big-box stores (half of gluten-free shoppers buy their products at Walmart, a February 2011 Packaged Facts report found ), and health food stores, celiac patients still find themselves endlessly double-checking ingredient lists. Many call companies to learn if they've paid meticulous attention to preventing potential cross-contamination in the field, during transportation, during milling, and properly washed down equipment that handles foods containing gluten before they do any gluten-free runs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Girl Scouts Patent Prosthetic Device for Toddler, Win $20,000 Prize

Courtesy Dale Fairchild(AMES, Iowa) -- Forget selling cookies to earn badges. Girl Scouts today build innovative biomedical devices to win patents.

In what the Girl Scouts of the USA said may be its first patent-worthy project, a group of Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa, developed a prosthetic hand device to help a three-year-old toddler without fingers write. The device not only won the group the $20,000 FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award from the X Prize Foundation last month, it scored the scouts a provisional patent.

"I thought it was awesome," said Zoe Groat, 12, a sixth-grade member of the team called the Flying Monkeys. "It was really exciting to know that someone was able to use something we made."

Along with five other girls aged 11- to 13-years-old, Groat entered the worldwide FIRST LEGO League science and engineering challenge that, this past year, focused on robotics applied to medical issues.

They'd already decided to work on hand and arm prosthetics when Melissa Murray, one of the scouts' mothers and co-coach of the team, met Dale Fairchild on a Yahoo Group for families affected by congenital limb differences. (Murray's daughter, one of the Flying Monkeys, uses an adaptive device for a hand difference.)

Fairchild's three-year-old daughter Danielle, born with symbrachydactyly, had a thumb and palm but no fingers on her right hand. Once the Flying Monkeys learned about Danielle, they decided to dedicate their project to helping her.

Between the fall of 2010 and this spring, the girls spent at least 180 hours on the project, Murray said. They met with prosthetics manufacturers and doctors to research the project. Once they had Danielle's measurements, they tried using all kinds of materials found in crafts shops and medical specialty stores to create the most helpful device.

Finally, they settled on an invention made from moldable plastic (like that used by occupational therapists), a pencil grip and Velcro (to help fasten the device to Danielle's hand). In total, the device cost less than $50 to make, Murray said.

"The kids all learned -- and they will tell you -- that it is a trial and error process and you learn a lot from your mistakes," Murray said.

The team recently received a provisional patent for their device and will use the prize money to file for a utility patent, Murray. It could take up to three years to secure the final patent but Murray said the scouts "would love to see it go as far as they can go."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Joe Montana Suffers Joint Pain After All-Star NFL Career

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- At the peak of his career, Joe Montana was one of football's biggest names, with four Super Bowl rings to his name. But now in his retirement, "Joe Cool" is the face of a nutritional supplement that he says helps his aching joints -- the price he has paid for 20 years of tackles.

"The joint pain started at some point a little bit into my career," said Montana. "When you have 300-pound fellows falling on you for that many years, you start to feel it."

Chronic joint pain plagues many of the NFL's finest, and many players say it just comes with the territory.

"For me, it was a stiffness that wouldn't go away," said Montana. "One knee was worse than the other, and then there was the swelling that goes along with it. The more you can keep your joints lubricated, the less you'll feel that."

Pain and stiffness are caused by injury to the articular cartilage, or the smooth white covering over the bones at the joints. Small injuries can become larger over time, and eventually the underlying bone is exposed. Even if the injuries have time to heal fully, different scar tissues can cause different kinds of stiffness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 million Americans have some form of chronic joint pain or arthritis. Along with the pain can come a variety of other symptoms, as well.

"We conducted a study a few years ago that identified a substantial minority of retired NFL players who suffered high levels of chronic disease, including osteoarthritis and joint pain," said Dr. Thomas Schwenk, professor of family medicine at University of Michigan. "The pain was associated with significant levels of depression and low levels of daily function, causing significant distress and misery."

"Once their careers are over, a lot of the residual damage causes high level of arthritis and pain, and leads to depression, loss of physical activity and physical self-esteem," said Schwenk. "They often gain weight, especially the lineman, leading to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease."

With so many people playing through injury, a bias has been created for players to get in the game, even when injured, in order to keep their careers going, said Schwenk.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Autism Epidemic' Challenged by UK Study

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Is autism a growing epidemic or not?

Recent reports have suggested that autism is on the rise, but a new study from the U.K. finds that the prevalence of this developmental disorder has remained stable.  It may be that doctors are diagnosing it more often in young people -- not that it's actually happening more.

Researchers performed clinical assessments of 618 adults and found that nearly one percent of Britons over age 16 suffered from autism -- meaning the adult rate is no higher than that seen among children in the U.K.

"If the rate of autism is actually increasing rapidly, you'd expect rates to be much lower in older adults, but we didn't find that," says Dr. Traolach Brugha, lead author on the study and psychiatrist at the University of Leicester, U.K.  "We found similar rates at 16 up to the 70s and 80s.  That suggests that the number of people developing the condition have not changed over the last 70 or 80 years."

Though this study -- published in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry -- deals with the U.K. population, these findings call into questions whether the much-discussed "autism epidemic" in the U.S. is a real phenomenon.

"It has never been fully clear whether the much increased rate of autism over the past few decades is due to increased recognition…or whether there has been a genuine increase.  This study suggests that there is no true increase," says Dr. Shlomo Shinnar, professor of neurology and pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

Because the U.K. and the U.S. have similar rates of autism in children (about one percent), these U.K. findings speak to the autism debate in the states as well, says Shinnar.

"The fact that similar rates of one percent are being seen in the adult population when screened is a strong indication that these results are highly relevant to the U.S. as well," he said.

Fears of an autism epidemic were sparked in 2009 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of autism in children had increased 57 percent since 2002.  The most recent data puts the prevalence of autism in children the U.S. at about one in 100 -- a similar rate to that found in the U.K. population.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Top Five Osama Bin Laden Health Rumors: Fact or Fiction?

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the years between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sunday's raid, rumors swirled about Osama bin Laden's health.  Some even believed he'd died in an area so remote that the best intelligence could not find him.

ABC News asked experts who have researched and written about bin Laden to weigh in on five of the most widely circulated rumors.  Here's what they said:

Kidney Disease -- Likely False

"Despite the fact that we have all been hearing about his kidney problems and the need for dialysis, according to the intelligence people I've talked to in Washington, there was no evidence of a dialysis machine in the compound where he was found," said Mary Anne Weaver, author of Pakistan: Deep Inside the World's Most Frightening State.

The exclusive video obtained by ABC News inside the compound also does not show any evidence of dialysis equipment.  There were what looked like medication bottles, but a closer look at the video reveals the bottles contain petroleum jelly, eye drops, olive oil, sunflower oil, an antiseptic and a nasal spray.

Marfan Syndrome -- Likely False

Along with the rumors about kidney disease, Weaver said the one about bin Laden having Marfan syndrome was also widely circulated.

Marfan syndrome affects the connective tissue that supports tendons, ligaments, heart valves and other parts of the body.  If it attacks the heart or the vessels of the heart, it could cause an enlarged heart or torn vessels.  Those with Marfan syndrome might be be tall and thin; have long, curved fingers; vision problems or no symptoms at all.

"The CIA suspected bin Laden had Marfan syndrome, but then the guy who briefed me on this said the information was negative a few months later," said Weaver.

Enlarged Heart and Low Blood Pressure -- Both Likely True

Weaver said officials told her bin Laden had an enlarged heart, and she reported that in her New York profiles of the most wanted terrorist.

"It was a fleeting mention by intelligence officials," she said.

Weaver also said she heard bin Laden had low blood pressure, but she never thought it was a serious condition.

Arm Injury -- Likely True

Experts say bin Laden was very likely injured in a 2001 battle in Tora Bora, the complex of caves in Afghanistan where U.S. forces believed members of al Qaeda were hiding.

"It does seem he may have been injured with shrapnel in Tora Bora," said Kenneth Katzman, a Congressional Research Service expert on Afghanistan.  "After his escape, he wasn't able to move it much."

In one of his earlier videos, bin Laden appears to be immobile on his left side, but Katzman said that his injury seems to have healed based on the viewing of subsequent videos.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Recall Issued on Grape Tomatoes Found in Packaged Salads

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(IMMOKALEE, Fla.) -- Folks who try to eat healthy by enjoying ready-to-eat salads sold by popular retail stores throughout the U.S. might be exposing themselves to salmonella poisoning.

Florida-based tomato grower Six L's has announced a recall of grape tomatoes sold under the brand name Cherry Berry that were initially distributed in ten states and Canada but have since found their way into salads all over the country.

The products are sold at Albertsons, Raley's, Safeway, Savemart, Sam's Club, and Walmart stores.  The products containing the grape tomatoes include seafood salads, Mediterranean salads, green salads, quinoa salads, orzo salads, salads with chicken, chef salads, Cobb salads, Greek salads, and mozzarella salads.

Salmonella, though rarely fatal, can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea.  Symptoms generally last up to seven days.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Michelle Obama Busts a Move for Health Initiative

LetsMove [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- It’s not every day that you see the first lady of the United States doing “The Running Man” and “The Dougie.”  But on Tuesday, Michelle Obama, well, busted a move.

While visiting the Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, D.C., Mrs. Obama watched students perform the dance routine choreographed by Beyonce for Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign.  The video, called a “Let's Move!" flash workout, is set to Beyonce’s "Move Your Body” and aims to get kids moving in an attempt to curb childhood obesity.

“Beyoncé is one of my favorite performers on the planet.  And when she agreed to remake her video and do this "Let's Move!" flash workout, I was so excited, because this is what we’ve been talking about -- that exercise and moving can be fun,” Mrs. Obama said.  “It’s about dancing, it’s about moving.”

The first lady said that she she hadn't had time to learn the moves so as “not to embarrass” herself, she’d just watch from the sidelines as the students danced in front of her on the football field.

But once the music started, Mrs. Obama couldn’t resist and she started mimicking the moves -- including The Dougie, The Running Man, the Cha-Cha, and the Rumba, among many other choreographed dance moves.

She called for a second playing of the song so she could join in, which she did.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


National Children's Mental Health Day Teaches Lessons in Resilience

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ROCKVILLE, Md.) -- Resilience was the theme when the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) held its Sixth Annual National Children's Mental Health Day Tuesday.  ABC News spoke with Kathryn Powers, director of the agency's Center for Mental Health Services, who says it's important for Americans to be aware of the high number of children who have been impacted by trauma. 

"More than a quarter of the children in the United States will have been exposed to trauma by time they are four years old," Powers says.

According to Powers, trauma can be defined as either "witnessing or experiencing physical or sexual abuse, violence in families and communities, natural disasters and wartime events or terrorism."

The high number of children exposed to trauma at such young ages is what inspired the agency to choose the resilience theme.  Powers said the goal of the day was to combat the myth that not talking about traumatic experiences with children can prevent the future development of problems.

Powers tells ABC News children don't have to suffer the long-term effects of trauma.

"We hope that people are committed every day of the year, not just on children's mental health awareness day, to make sure that we celebrate the fact that children can and do recover, and can and are resilient no matter what kinds of traumas they have experienced."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


National Stroke Awareness Month: How to Cut Your Risks

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- May is National Stroke Awareness Month and Consumer Reports has identified several strategies for preventing strokes -- such as lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, reining in diabetes, cutting salt, trimming your waist and light drinking. 

Consumer Reports Health editor Dr. Orly Avitzur says the most important thing you can do to prevent a stroke is to get your blood pressure checked regularly -- at least every two years and more often if you're over the age of 50.

A neurologist, Dr. Avitzur, says checking your LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels is important.

"Getting your LDL level checked, certainly in all men who are older than 35 and women who are older than 45, that are at risk for heart disease, should get a complete lipid profile at least every five years."

Avitzur adds that light drinking is actually good for you.  If you're a man, you should consume no more than two drinks a day.  If you're a woman, no more than one drink a day.  However, it is unclear how many ounces these drinks are. 

"It's unclear -- the point being that we don't want someone to drink heavily," Avitzur says. "And I do have a lot of patients who, you know, might consume a six pack of beer on the weekend and think, you know, they were told it's okay to drink.  But that's not really what we mean."

It's estimated that someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds.  If you think someone may be having a stroke, remember the term "FAST." 

FACE: Ask the person to smile and check if one side droops;

ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms and see if one drifts downward;

SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase and check for slurring;

TIME: If you see any of these signs, call 911 fast.

"Traditionally it's been a three-hour window from the onset of symptoms to the ability to use a clot-busting medication," Avitzur says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Eating Less Salt Doesn't Lessen Heart Risk, Says Study

Thinkstock/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Salt may not be as bad for your health as some suggest, according to a new European study. 

The University of Leuven in Belgium study shows that people who ate lots of salt weren't more likely to get high pressure and were actually less likely to die of heart disease than those with a low salt intake.

However, some are saying the study should be taken with a grain of salt. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention criticized the study, denouncing its findings.

CDC officials say the study did not measure a large enough pool, nor did it measure a diverse enough group of people.

Researchers for the study said they took data from 3,700 Europeans who had the salt consumption measured through urine samples at the beginning of the study.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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