Food Dyes May Cause Hyperactivity in Sensitive Children

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Youngsters with ADHD may have a "unique intolerance" to artificial food colorings, according to a government report released this week suggesting there may be some truth in the common wisdom that synthetic food dyes make children more hyper.

The man-made dyes haven't been proven to cause hyperactivity in most children, nor has research found the dyes to contain "any inherent neurotoxic properties," according to a U.S. Food and Drug

Administration staff memo filed after the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the agency to revoke approvals for eight certified colorings. CSPI, a Washington, D.C.,-based consumer gadfly, filed that request on June 3, 2008, and asked the FDA to issue a consumer warning in the interim.

The eight dyes, which give appealingly bright color to beverages, cakes and pies, cereals, candies and snack foods, are FD&C Blue 1 and 2; FD&C Green 3, Orange B, FD&C Red 3, FD&C Red 40, FD&C Yellow 5 and 6.

The FDA distributed the research summary in advance of a two-day hearing in which its Food Advisory Committee, meeting in Silver Spring, Md., will consider any links between food coloring and hyperactivity in children. The committee will advise the FDA if there is a need to take action to protect consumer safety.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Study Sheds Light on Elder Abuse Trends

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- A new study suggests victims of elder abuse are usually women, people with neurological disorders, or drug addicts, HealthDay reports.

Researchers looked at figures from two Chicago trauma units, and found that almost 30 percent of abused seniors had alcohol in their system. The study compared abuse victims with a control group of patients older than 60.

The study also urged medical staff at hospitals to be more vigilant about elder abuse cases, since most instances are only discovered after the victim has been hospitalized.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Deadly Antibiotic-Resistant Superbug Spreads in Southern California

ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- An antibiotic-resistant superbug once thought to be rare is spreading through health-care facilities in Southern California, health officials say.

Roughly 350 cases of Carbapenem-Resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, or CRKP, were been reported in Los Angeles County between June and December of 2010, according to a study from the L.A. County Department of Public Health to be presented April 3 in Dallas at the annual meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

"These patients tend to be elderly, they are commonly on ventilators and they often stay at the facility for an extended period of time," Dr. Dawn Terashita, medical epidemiologist and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

CRKP joins other superbugs such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, in a league of bacteria that outwits typical antibiotics.

"We develop new drugs to defeat the infections and germs change to get around those drugs and this is one of those cases," Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor, said Friday.  Besser is a former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's like an arms race and in many ways the germs are winning," he said.

CRKP is not new to California, or the rest of the country for that matter.  The Centers for Disease Control has been tracking it across 35 states since 2009.  It is young, however, compared to MRSA, according to Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director of the CDC's health care-associated, infection-prevention programs.

"But in terms of mortality and morbidity, it's very, very serious," Srinivasan said.  "These infections are more difficult to treat than MRSA."

CRKP is an enterobacterium like salmonella and E. coli.

It is unclear how many cases of the 350 reported by Terashita and colleagues were fatal.  It is also unclear whether the infections stemmed from improper care at long term-care facilities or the frailty of the patients they serve.  But Terashita said infected patients tended to have health problems that often resulting in antibiotic use, which might have made them more susceptible.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Chemical in Household Products Linked to Early Menopause

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, W. Va.) -- Chemicals found in everyday products such as non-stick pans, clothing, furniture, carpets and paints have been associated with the early onset of menopause, according to a new study from the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

The study published by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that women with high levels of perfluorocarbons (PFCs) in the body had lower concentrations of estrogen compared with women with low levels of PFCs.

PFCs are chemicals that are used in many household items, including furniture, cosmetics and food packaging.

"There is no doubt that there is an association between exposure to PFCs and onset of menopause, but the causality is unclear," Sarah Knox, lead author of the study, said in a news release from the university on Wednesday.

Even though the report may not be conclusive, it's still raising eyebrows. Some doctors say they're not surprised that chemicals are altering hormone levels, but they say they need more proof.

"Studies that we've done looking at these chemicals on the U.S. population show that almost everyone has these chemicals in their blood," Dana Boyd Barr, a research professor at the Rollins School of Health at Emory University in Georgia, told ABC News.

Chemical companies maintain their product is safe, but the study raises questions about whether early menopause is a new reason to worry about PFCs in general.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Breakthrough: Japanese Researchers Grow Sperm in Lab

BananaStock/Thinkstock(YOKOHAMA, Japan) -- Researchers in Japan have grown functioning mouse sperm in a laboratory dish, a breakthrough that has been decades in the making and holds out new hope for millions of infertile men.

The research, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, could help scientists understand several steps of spermatogenesis, or sperm formation, at the cellular level and ultimately lead to new treatments for male infertility.

Researcher Takehiko Ogawa of Yokohama City University not only grew healthy mouse sperm in the laboratory, but also used them to produce fertile offspring, according to the study.  The sperm were produced in a test tube from the cells taken from newborn mouse testicles, and then injected into eggs to produce to twelve healthy babies, four male and eight female, which were all fertile and able to have their own babies in adulthood.

"It's really exciting," said Mary Ann Handel, a reproductive genetics research scientist at Maine's Jackson Laboratory.  "I really do think that he's really achieved a goal that a lot of people have tried over the years."

"It is a significant breakthrough," said Martin Dym, a professor of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology at Georgetown University.  Dym was part of a team that tried, and failed, to accomplish in vitro growth of functional sperm ten years ago.  "We did make sperm, but could not succeed in getting the sperm to make pups.  [The Japanese team] has better sperm."

The potential practical applications in humans would include treating infertility, which affects an estimated 8 to 12 percent of the male population.

"So far it's been done in mice," said Dym.  "You have to show that it can work in humans."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Revolutionary New Prosthesis Helping Wounded Troops Walk Easier

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A revolutionary new prosthetic leg system developed to help troops wounded in battle walk with ease again was showcased Thursday at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The medical advancement, called the PowerFoot BiOM, is the first bionic lower-leg system to restore the lost function of the foot and ankle.  Dr. Paul Pasquins, the chief of orthopedics and rehabilitation at Walter Reed, says unlike previous systems, the new prosthesis doesn't rely on muscles above the knee to help a person walk.

"The difference is all of those devices are passive devices, meaning the individual has to propel themselves, use more proximal muscles -- muscles above the knee, for example, to make that prothesis work," Pasquins explains.  "What this prothesis does is substitute for the muscles that are lost for an amutation below the knee in terms of ankle and foot function."

"The actuators within the prosthesis actually help to propel the individual," he adds.  "So the motors can carry a human body up to 260 pounds."

Army First Sgt. Mike Leonard, who was injured in Afghanistan, says the PowerFoot BiOM makes walking easier.

"It gives your body a forward momentum, so you can walk a little bit easier, with less muscle energy," Leonard says.

So far, only five PowerFoot BiOMs exist.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Suggests More Added Sugar Equals Weight Gain

Polka Dot/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- A new study suggests that added sugar intake is directly related to weight gain, according to HealthDay.

The study, which was conducted by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, examined Minnesota residents for 27 years. Researchers found that over the years patients ate less fat, but more carbohydrates and added sugar. The study also showed that the body-mass index of the patients corresponded with national trends in sugar consumption.

Researchers also found some intriguing differences between men and women. Men ate 38 percent more of their daily calories from added sugar in 2007-2009 than in 1980-1982. By contrast, women ate just under 10 percent more.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association conference in Atlanta on Thursday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Suggests Itching Is Contagious

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.) -- The need to scratch an itch may just be in your mind, according to a new study publishing in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center had participants in the study watch videos of other people itching to determine whether being itchy was really a contagious feeling.  They found that participants who saw the videos scratched themselves more intensely and reported feeling itchier than those didn't watch it.

The concept that itching can be visually transmitted could lead to meditation methods to stop the scratching.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ecstasy-Related ER Visits Spike on Spring Break

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new player may be joining the list of spring break overdose dangers: the "club drug" ecstasy.

New government statistics show a 75 percent spike in ecstasy-related emergency room visits since 2004, prompting Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske to issue a public warning on the dangers of the popular party drug, especially with the spring break season approaching.

"The latest numbers show we need to work urgently and collaboratively to warn young people about the harms of drug use.  Now is the time when a lot of young adults and high school kids are going on spring break trips, and this is unfortunately when young people often experiment with substance abuse," said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesperson for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

And ecstasy-related substance abuse has been especially present in certain spring break hotspots in recent years.

"Miami Beach is like the playground of young adults in America.  We're seeing a lot more ER visits associated with ecstasy.  I'd say ecstasy is one of the top three drugs of choice for Miami Beach," said Dr. David Farcy, director of Mount Sinai Medical Center's Emergency Medicine Critical Division in Miami Beach.

Spring break is one of the peak times the hospital sees ecstasy-related ER visits, Farcy said, often by younger college students.  Other peaks happen during music festivals such as last December's Day Glo Party in Miami, when over a dozen patients came in suffering complications from ecstasy.

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a mood-elevating drug that produces a relaxed, euphoric state but can lead to dangerous, even deadly complications.

Though the U.S. saw a dip in overall youth drug use -- specifically including ecstasy -- at the beginning of the decade, results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show ecstasy climbing in prevalence since 2008.  According to Thursday data, an alarming 18 percent of ER visits associated with the drug were by adolescents under age 17.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How Will Radiation Burns Affect Japan Plant Workers?

YOMIURI SHIMBUN/AFP/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- Three Japanese ground workers laboring to contain the nuclear reactors in Fukushima were rushed to the hospital with radiation burns after irradiated water that escaped from the plant's number 3 reactor seeped through the workers' protective gear.

Following reports of the workers' injuries, nearly a dozen experts on radiation exposure responded to a few questions by the ABC News' Medical Unit on the growing elements of radiation danger to workers on the ground in Fukushima.

Physical burns may not be the only hazard for the workers who came in contact with contaminated water, experts said.

Some reports of radiation injuries may not necessarily be radiation burns, according to Dr. Roger Macklis, chair of the department of radiation oncology at the Cleveland Clinic.

"Healing a radiation skin burn is much more difficult if the patient's bone marrow is failing," said Blackstock.

While it's unclear the extent of the workers' burns, Brook said, deeper radiation burns are harder to treat and are more prone to infection.

Maintaining higher than normal levels of radiation in the body can lead to acute radiation syndrome (ARS). Symptoms of ARS include swelling, itching, and nausea. If left untreated, ARS could cause internal bleeding.

The quicker the onset of symptoms, the higher the radiation dose, Emery said.

Immediate treatment might help curb the potential longer-term effects. It's unclear what other radiation effects some workers may experience, but Brook said, time will tell.

"It may develop within 24 to 72 hours if they got more radiation than estimated," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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