NYC Mayor Seeks To Bar Food Stamp Use For Soda Purchases

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with both city and state commissioners, is seeking to bar the use of food stamps for soda and sweetened drink purchases. 

"Sugar-sweetened drinks are not worth the cost to our health and government shouldn't be promoting or subsidizing them,"  Bloomberg told ABC News.

Bloomberg continued to say that such drinks contribute to the increasing frequency of obesity, particularly in children.  "There's no denying that childhood obesity is an epidemic and there's no denying that it's hurting our children in low-income communities the most," he said.

Bloomberg asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which controls the food stamp program, for permission to establish a two-year ban that would affect 1.7 million city residents in the food stamp program, according to Medpage Today.  Bloomberg said that health officials will be able to study the ban's health impact in that time frame.

While Bloomberg's proposed ban is welcomed by health care professionals and state officials, Ellen Vollinger, legal director for the Food Research and Action Center, disagrees.  "We are very concerned that any change made in the [food stamp] program not be one that would lead to a disruption in how consumers are treated and somehow undercut their participation in the program."

Vollinger said that perhaps another restriction is something that food stamp recipients just don't need.

Food stamps are currently restricted for the purchase of alcohol, cigarettes, imported foods, soap, toothpaste, paper products, cleaning supplies, or disposable diapers. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Suggestive Facebook Updates Intend to Raise Breast Cancer Awareness

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Want to know where women "like it"? Check out your Facebook newsfeed.

In status updates across the social networking site, women around the world are going risqué with suggestive messages saying, "I like it on the floor," "I like it on the kitchen counter" and even "in the back seat of my car."

Despite the naughty-sounding notes, they're not referring to places to pucker up, but rather places to leave their purses.

The origins of the viral campaign are unknown, but over the past few days potentially millions of women across Facebook have posted the messages in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Though the purse reference itself doesn't seem to bear any direct relationship to breast cancer and has left many men -- and maybe women --  scratching their heads, crowds of women continue to rally behind the viral message.

This latest Internet trend is similar to the bra color status update that swept Facebook in January. As part of that campaign, women on Facebook randomly posted the color on their bras on their status updates to raise awareness for breast cancer research.

According to the Internet culture site Urlesque, the chain message for the "I like it on" campaign reads: "Remember last year the post about what color bra you were wearing at the moment? The purpose was to increase awareness of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. It was a tremendous success and we had men wondering for days what was with the colors and it made it to the news. This year's game has to do with your handbag/purse, where we put our handbag…Just put your answer as your status with nothing more than that and cut n paste this message and forward to all your FB female friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news. Let's see how powerful we women really are!!!"

Some of the more common places women seem to "like it" include the kitchen table and the dresser. But other women have singled out "the roof of my car," "the exam table" and "the park."

Rachel Normandin, 42, of Woonsocket, R.I., changed her status update to "I like it on my TV tray" after she noticed a friend of hers joined the fun.

"I just thought, 'Oh I'll give a try,'" she said, adding that she didn't know October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month until she spotted the viral message. "I'm hoping this will attract more knowledge and fun and spread the word."

But some familiar with the disease say the viral campaign is too silly for the serious issue.

"I don't believe in 'let's try to make this cute' because breast cancer isn't cute," said Krupali Tejura, a radiation oncologist based in Southern California. "I see patients dying every day. This is not funny."

She said that when someone forwarded the message to her, she deleted it, wondering who would actually take part.

Instead of wasting energy on a sexually-infused, cryptic message, she said, she'd rather see people posting direct messages about the disease. For example, a status update asking people if their mothers and sisters have had mammograms might be more effective, she said.

"Why not just be up front about what you're trying to raise awareness for?" she asked. "Everyone has their own opinion. …It's just surprising to me that people are [following this]."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


High-Protein Diet Factored Into Athlete's Sudden Death

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ONTARIO, Canada) -- Like many serious athletes his age, 20-year-old Ben Pearson wanted to increase his protein intake, by taking supplements in the form of shakes and nutrition bars, to boost his muscle development. For most anyone else, such supplementation would have been safe, but in the case of the six-foot-two, 240-pound junior hockey defenseman from Cambridge, Ontario, the additional protein may have been a contributing factor in his death last weekend.

Pearson had a rare genetic disorder that kept his body from properly breaking down the protein in those shakes and bars. No one knew that, since birth, his body couldn't make enough of a critical dietary enzyme to process the key nutritional building block.

His father, Stephen Pearson, told a Canadian newspaper, The Record, his son had been on a high-protein eating plan at the time, and as a result, the protein boosted ammonia levels in his blood that caused brain swelling and led to his death early Saturday.

Stephen Pearson didn't specify the name of Ben Pearson's diagnosis, and obituaries said he died "after a brief illness." But it appears that he suffered from a condition known as urea cycle disorder.

A healthy body breaks down protein into several components, including nitrogen. Substances in the body called enzymes then convert that nitrogen into urea, a waste product that leaves the body in the urine.  But in someone lacking the proper enzymes, nitrogen accumulates in the blood as ammonia, which poisons the brain. Brain damage, coma and death can follow.

Urea cycle disorders are incurable. They are thought to occur in about one in 14,000 people and they stem from deficiencies in any of eight enzymes. The most common of the disorders is called ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency (OTC), with a prevalence of around one in 30,000, said Dr. Mark Batshaw, principal investigator of the Urea Cycle Disorders Consortium, part of the NIH's Office of Rare Diseases Research Network.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Kidney on a Mission: Silly Costume Draws Attention To Serious Disease 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It takes a little bit of silliness for Bill Brazell to draw attention to a very serious disease that's affected him and several generations of his family.

"Every year, I go to a couple of walks dressed as a kidney," said Brazell.

Brazell, 42, dons his Kenny the Kidney costume, complete with Styrofoam cysts, to raise awareness about polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, a genetic disorder that causes cysts to form on the kidneys, leading the kidneys to become enlarged and eventually causing kidney failure, leading to dialysis or transplantation.

"It's the most common inherited disorder in the world after the BRCA genes for breast cancer," said Dr. Theodore Steinman, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "It's the most common single-gene defect in the world, and affects about 600,000 Americans and 12.5 million people worldwide," he added.

Despite the fact that it's so common and so insidious, Brazell says it's an under-recognized disease, which is why he steps out as his kidney alter ego.

"I've been at events and met kids who don't even know what a kidney is," said Brazell.

But he knows all about the kidneys and how PKD can affect them.

His father and uncle both had PKD, and they passed it on to five of their combined six children.

"I was diagnosed in my freshman year of college, but I didn't do anything about it for a long time," said Brazell. "My dad told me not to think about it until I got older."

But when Brazell was 34, his cousin, who also had PKD, died after having a brain aneurysm. He was 35.

"I didn't want to die this young," Brazell said, and he started to take action by raising money and awareness. He also now serves on the Board of Trustees of the PKD Foundation.  

Courtesy 2010 ABC News Radio


Study Shows Americans Trail Other Countries in Walking

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) -- When it comes to walking, the U.S. needs to step it up to stay on pace with other countries.  A study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise finds that Americans only take an average of 5,117 steps per day.  This figure is low in comparison to Australians, who average 9,695 steps a day, the Swiss, who average 9,650, and the Japanese, who tally around 7,168.

The data taken from 1,136 American adults shows that men, on average, take more steps daily than women.  The researchers at the University of Tennessee also found that single people in the U.S. take hundreds of steps more than those who are married or widowed. 

"The health benefits of walking are underappreciated. Even modest amounts of walking, if performed on a daily basis, can help to maintain a healthy body weight," lead author Dr. David R. Bassett, Jr., of the University of Tennessee Obesity Research Center in Knoxville, said in an American College of Sports Medicine news release.

The study's findings give insight as to why there are more obese people in the U.S. than in other developed countries, the researched noted.  In the U.S., 34 percent of the adult population is obese, compared with 16 percent in Australia, eight percent in Switzerland and three percent in Japan.

"The results of our study are reasonably consistent with data from surveys of travel behavior," Bassett said. "In Switzerland and Japan, a much higher percentage of trips are taken by walking, compared to the United States. This is reflected in their greater daily step counts, and the additional walking seems to have an enormous public health benefit for those countries."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Faith-Based Exercise Boosts Activity in Elderly Women

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Religious scripture could be the secret to fitness success for certain elderly communities, according to a pilot study on faith-based exercise.

Researchers at The University of California in Los Angeles found that for people who are religious, preaching exercise as a form of praise and prayer may the key to motivating the elderly to stay fit.

Researchers used 45-minute weekly exercise sessions in tandem with 45-minute exercise education lessons incorporating positive reinforcement, scripture readings and group prayer, in hopes of increasing overall activity levels among 62 elderly black women in a Los Angeles community over an eight-week period.

Four months after the effort finished, researchers looked at the women's blood pressure and activity level, measured by steps taken per week. When compared with women who were given only the exercise sessions and lessons with no religious component, those receiving the faith-based interventions increased their activity level by 78 percent. Those without it increased activity by only 19 percent.

African-Americans suffer from a lot of health problems, and the elderly populations are particularly difficult to motivate to exercise, says Dr. O. Kenrik Duru, lead author on the study and a doctor at the UCLA Medical Center.

"We were trying to use the strength in the community to help them. Over 90 percent of older African-American adults report praying nearly every day. We thought that if we could leverage the church in exercise interventions, this might be more effective and sustainable," he says.

Though significant weight loss was not noted in the women, those in the intervention group walked an estimated four to five miles more per week than they had before, and had a drop in resting blood pressure.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


EPA Creates Pesticide Database To Aid Consumers In Bed Bug Control

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced its creation of a database that will assist consumers in choosing an "EPA-registered bed bug product that meets their needs and is safe if properly used according to label instructions."

Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, urged consumers to use the database to ensure a safer way of controlling bed bugs while also taking preventative measures such as "reducing clutter, covering mattresses, vacuuming and other methods."

Currently there are more than 300 different products for bed bug control registered by EPA.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


A Drink or Two During Pregnancy? Not So Fast

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- Light consumption of alcohol during pregnancy may not be harmful to a baby's physical, emotional and cognitive development, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.  However, many doctors are worried, saying the study could be misinterpreted as a green light to drink.

"You can walk on a railroad track and not be hit by a train, but that doesn't mean it's a safe thing to do," said Dr. Michael Katz, senior vice president for Research and Global Programs with March of Dimes, and professor emeritus of Pediatrics at Columbia University.  "I worry about this article because it could be over-interpreted, and over-interpreting data of this nature is probably dangerous."

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor, said, "I'd be very concerned if a woman saw this study and felt that it gave her a green light to drink during pregnancy."

The study, which includes data from more than 11,000 children born between September 2000 and January 2002, has found no significant differences in the behavioral and cognitive development of children whose mothers either abstained from alcohol or drank lightly while pregnant.

But the researchers so far have only looked at these kids until the age of five. The children in the study will continue to be monitored as they mature, and even the researchers doing the work say pregnant women should not take their findings so far as an excuse to drink while pregnant.

"We are not taking on an advocacy role with this research," said Dr. Yvonne Kelly, lead author of the research and graduate tutor in the department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London. "These findings are consistent with those from our prior work. We will continue to assess the relationship as children get older." 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


CPR Should Only Be a Hands-On Approach 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ARIZONA) -- A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that mouth-to-mouth breathing might not be necessary in resuscitating someone who has suffered a heart attack.

A team of Arizona physicians says performing CPR would likely be more effective by just delivering chest compressions in the case of a cardiac arrest patient.

This finding fits in with previous research of “hands only” cardiopulmonary resuscitation performed by bystanders with no first aid training.

Conventional CPR involves chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing intended to deliver oxygen to a patient’s lungs.

After the Arizona doctors observed cases of people receiving hands-only CPR and those receiving conventional CPR, the survival rate turned out to be greater when just chest compressions were used.

As expected, the survival rate was lowest when people performed no CPR on patients.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Loud Noise Can Be a Killer 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(VANCOUVER, British Columbia) -- A new study reveals that persistently loud noises, such as are heard in mining, lumbering and wood product manufacturing, can double or possibly triple a worker’s risk of heart disease over an 18-month span compared to those who enjoy quieter surroundings.

Adding to the risk of heart trouble is that the average age of those involved in the study were men around the age of 40 who tended to be heavier and smoked tobacco, factors that contribute to hypertension and heart problems.

What the researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver learned is that being exposed to loud noise over a period of time is akin to stress that's associated with strong, sudden emotions.

Their recommendation is for workplaces to consider more effective ways of noise control and for individuals to protect themselves from exposure to excessive noise.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio