Study: Kudzu Extract Decreases Binge Drinking

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The extract of the kudzu root was already known to be helpful in treating alcohol abuse, but now a study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests it can be used to decrease binge drinking.  

Twelve men were given either kudzu extract or a placebo for nine days, then they were given a set amount of alcohol to drink. Those who had taken the kudzu extract had increased heart rate, elevated blood alcohol levels, and reported greater levels of dizziness compared to those who had taken the placebo.  

The authors don't know why the kudzu caused blood alcohol levels to rise, but they think they've found out why people drink less after taking kudzu. They may feel the effects of the alcohol more quickly. In other words, getting drunk faster may actually reduce how much you end up drinking-- a conclusion even the authors admit is " counter-intuitive."

Still, they say kudzu extract could help manage binge drinking, which could  promote complete alcohol withdrawal along with other treatments.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Surrogacy Law: Conn. Gives Non-Genetic Parents Legal Rights

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- During a two-year legal battle, Anthony and Shawn Raftopol, Americans who live in Holland, worried that only one of the men was the legal parent of their young twin boys.

The gay couple married legally in Massachusetts in 2008. Their twins, Sebastiaan and Lukas, now 2, were born in Connecticut through in-vitro fertilization with a donor egg and a surrogate mother.

Anthony Raftopol was the biological father and, under family law, had full parental rights. But when the couple tried to obtain a birth certificate, also naming Shawn, they were told he had no legal claim to the children.

"I work in another country and am on the road a lot," contractor Anthony Raftopol, 41, said. "Shawn travels with the children and it looked like he was literally trafficking children across the border.

"He travels with whole file documents just to show them he is not stealing the children from me."

Among the concerns was that Shawn Raftopol could not make medical decisions in the event of an emergency and the children needed to be hospitalized. "It was a little scary for us," he said.

But the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled this week that Shawn Raftopol, 40, has parenting rights, even thought he is not the biological father, because the couple had a valid surrogacy agreement.

The court rejected the state's argument that the co-parent would have to go through a second-parent adoption proceeding in order to be listed on the birth certificates.

The decision will have far-reaching ramifications for other couples -- gay and straight -- who choose to have their children through surrogacy.

After the birth, Connecticut's Department of Public Health refused to allow the names of both fathers to appear on the birth certificate. The Supreme Court's ruling affirmed a lower court's order confirming their parentage and requiring the state to issue corrected birth certificates, addressing a new and emerging area of law.

Two partners who sign a surrogacy agreement in Connecticut can now have both their names on the birth certificate, even without a genetic link. Intended parents can get immediate recognition without any other action, even before the birth of the child.

The ruling is "really significant," Anthony Raftopol said by phone Wednesday. "The state is, for the first time, recognizing the nature of the relationships that are being created thought surrogacy arrangements in general and IVF [in-vitro fertilization] in particular.

"That affects not just who can be a parent but the validity and enforceability of surrogacy.

"Connecticut has set the stage for other states and legislatures -- the sky hasn't fallen," he said. "Times are changing and we need to bring the family code out of the 19th century."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Benjamin Button Children Never Grow or Age

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It seems like Gabby Williams has been a newborn forever, and she has. She still wears diapers and nurses every three hours.

But the little Montana girl with the long hair is 6 years old. As each of her younger siblings were born and grew into toddlers and then developed into older children, she stayed the same.

A normal six-year-old would weigh an average of 46 pounds and be about four-feet tall. Gabby is 10 pounds and only about 24 inches long.

"She had all her medical tests when she was first born and they couldn't find anything," said Gabby's mother, Mary-Margret Williams, 37, who lives with her family in a suburb of Billings, Mont.

Her condition -- so rare that there is no name for it -- will be showcased in My 40-Year-Old Child, a one-hour TLC documentary that airs Sunday night at 9 p.m.

The film follows Gabby and her family, as well as Nicky Freeman, a middle-aged Australian in the body of a 10-year-old, as they try to unravel the medical mystery.

They are Benjamin Button children -- only about a half dozen of them in the world, who age only one year for every four in the life of a normal human being. And so far, doctors can find nothing wrong with them.

Their chromosomes are normal, but they all have cognitive deficiencies. Gabby is blind and will never speak.

"She cries when she is hurting and sometimes smiles," said Williams. "But there's not a whole lot of communication."

"She is definitely very slow, but she knows when mama and grandma are holding her," she said. "She comforts to people around her. She knows her sisters, who have watched her quite a bit and listens to them play. We have a wild bunch around here."

Williams and her husband, John, have three other children -- Sophia, 7; Anthony, 4; and Aleena, 3. And she is expecting another girl in March who, so far, has shown no abnormalities.

"They watch me very carefully because of Gabrielle," said Williams.

Doctors didn't think Gabby would live long after she was born in 2004.

"She had a real scary birth," said Williams. "The doctor [told] me that she wasn't breathing. It took the whole crew to get her going again. I thought she was OK for awhile [and] then she wouldn't eat. ... They sent me home and said, 'I don't think this baby is going to make it for much longer.'

"We took her home and decided to love her as she is," said Williams. "Gabby is still with us today. She is tougher than most of us."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NYC Department of Health Reports Six New Meningitis Cases

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, and is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Viral meningitis tends to be less severe than bacterial.

Bacterial can cause brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities and even death, sometimes in a matter of hours.

According to the National Meningitis Association, about 1,500 Americans were diagnosed with meningitis each year between 1998 and 2007, and 11 percent died of the illness.

Among those who survived, about 20 percent suffer from long-term side effects, including brain damage, kidney disease, hearing loss or limb amputations.

"The numbers aren't that high, but when one of them is your kid, it doesn't matter what the numbers are," said Kelly Madison, president of the Meningitis Foundation of America.

Now, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is reporting six new cases of bacterial meningitis.

Two Manhattan women in their 20s and a Staten Island woman in her 50s died from the illness in the past month.

The six patients ranged in age, from four to 47, but health officials said that strains of the infection were different and not likely linked.

In response to the six cases, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene sent a memo to health care providers across the city to remind doctors and nurses to report meningitis cases as soon as possible.

"We sent out an alert to remind doctors to report a meningitis case immediately, and also to remind them that, especially at this time of year, meningitis can look like the flu and other things," said Dr. Donald Weiss, director of surveillance for bureau of communicable disease investigator for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

While the six cases were not likely related, Weiss said that it's important for physicians to keep meningitis on their radar, especially during cold and flu season.

Warning signs of meningitis include fever, headache, nausea, fatigue, eye sensitivity to light, stiff neck, confusion and a purple skin rash that usually covers large parts of the limbs.

"A lot of these meningitis cases can feel like the carton variety flu, so it can be quite difficult to pinpoint, that's why you should look for things like severe headache and stiff neck, " said Dr. Lee Harrison, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "And the rash [along with other symptoms] should be an immediate red flag." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Woman With Diabetes Gains Weight to be Eligible for Gastric Bypass

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Rebecca Blair, a veterinarian from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., got a dreaded diagnosis back in 2007: type 2 diabetes.

"I was on four different oral medications and injections, but my diabetes was very bad and nowhere near controlled," said Blair.

She ate healthy foods and did everything she could to lose weight, but wasn't successful at either dropping the pounds or bringing her blood sugar under control.

Blair said she watched a lot of health-related television programs and learned about overweight people who had a gastric bypass surgery that actually helped their diabetes in addition to helping them lose weight.

"That sparked my interest, and I did some more research," said Blair. After that, she was convinced she wanted to have a gastric bypass.

But the bariatric surgeon she saw, Dr. Theodore Khalili of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, dashed Blair's hopes.

"Her BMI [body mass index] was too low to do a gastric bypass, because we follow the guidelines set by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]," said Khalili. Those guidelines, he said, recommend against doing bariatric surgery on diabetics with a BMI less than 35. Blair's was only around 24.

Blair was undeterred.

"I did more research, then I tried to find a clinical trial, and then I decided to gain weight," she said.

Blair hoped to gain enough weight to qualify for a bypass -- and eventually she did. She gained about 85 pounds over a two-year period by eating a lot of fat.

"When she came back, she qualified for surgery," said Khalili, who by then had founded the Khalili Center for Bariatric Care in Beverly Hills. "She underwent the surgery, and is now down to one diabetes medication that she can probably discontinue soon."

But Khalili and other surgeons say that while gastric bypass seems to work wonders for diabetics by resolving their condition and helping them lose weight, they would never recommend that any patient deliberately gain weight in order to meet criteria for weight loss surgery.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Inpatient, Outpatient Satisfaction Continues to Improve, Report Says

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SOUTH BEND, Ind.) -- The 2010 Press Ganey Hospital Pulse Report: Patient Perspectives on American Health Care published data showing that patient satisfaction for inpatient and outpatient services has reached its highest levels in five years.

Deidre Mylod, PhD, vice president of hospital services at Press Ganey, attributes the improvement to the public reporting of data, which comes from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Care Providers and Systems.  This survey provides consumer data about hospital standings.

"We believe inpatients are more satisfied with their care because the implementation of public reporting has made focusing on patient care a higher priority for hospitals," Mylod said.  "The increased transparency and pay-for-performance has pushed hospitals to put an even greater emphasis on satisfaction, and the data show that it's working."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Drug to Limit Menstrual Bleeding Could Save Lives

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) – Researchers say a drug used to treat heavy menstrual periods could help save lives, reports Science Daily.

Researchers at Cochrane University believe that the drug, Tranexamic acid (TXA), could help patients that have bleeding after serious injuries from accidents or combat.

TXA, which works by reducing clot breakdowns, has been used previously during surgeries to reduce the need to perform blood transfusions, but is now thought to be of use in emergency situations.

"TXA reduces the risk of a patient bleeding to death following an injury and appears to have few side effects," said lead researcher Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “It could save lives in both civilian and military settings."

Patient trials have determined that death by excessive bleeding could be reduced by about 10 percent with the use of the drug, which could mean 70,000 saved lives every year. 
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sharing Bed with Pets Can Bring Disease, Parasites

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DAVIS, Calif.) – If you think bed bugs are scary, health officials warn that what your pet may be bringing into your bed could be much worse.

A new study, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, notes that your pets could be bringing a variety of parasites into your bed.

"Sharing our resting hours with our pets may be a source of psychological comfort, but...sharing is also associated with risks," wrote authors Bruno B. Chomel of the University of California, Davis, and Ben Sun of the California Department of Health.

According to the report, around 56 percent of dog owners and 62 percent of cat owners regularly allow their animals to sleep in their bed. But as the reports points out, humans can contract such diseases as the bubonic plague and MRSA, the multi-drug resistant strain of strep. Pets can also carry hookworms and roundworms in their fur, which can be transferred to their owners through close contact.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Osteoporosis Screening Guidelines Suggested

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S Preventive Services Task Force has updated screening recommendations for osteoporosis, a disease that reduces the mineral density in bones.  Osteoporosis is most common in women after menopause. 

After a review of medical studies in the last eight years, the new standards say that, as before, all women 65 and older should be routinely screened for osteoporosis. Women under 65 should also be screened if their risk of bone fracture is as high or greater than 65-year-old white women who have higher rates of the disease than other ethnic groups. 

The task force made no recommendation for the frequency of screenings, citing a lack of evidence.  And for the same reason,  no guidelines  were set for osteoporosis screening  in men. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Science Explores Potential Benefits of Playing Table Tennis

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon puts on a good front.

"I have a paddle and I have a paddle case, which makes me look very professional," she confessed to a crowd at New York's American Museum of Natural History. "But, in fact, I suck."

Sarandon admits that despite co-owning the table tennis franchise, SPiN, her game is not for show. But according to one New York professor, Sarandon could be doing more than just having a little fun with friends.

"In ping pong, we have enhanced motor functions, enhanced strategy functions and enhanced long-term memory functions," explained Dr. Wendy Suzuki, professor of neuroscience and psychology at New York University.

According to Suzuki, table tennis works parts of the brain that are responsible for movement, fine motor skills and strategy -- areas that could be growing stronger with each match. While scientists have yet to study the brain activity of ping pong players, Suzuki believes the game enhances brain function unlike any other sport.

On Wednesday night, researchers at The American Museum of Natural History invited Sarandon, Suzuki and a panel of table tennis enthusiasts to become part of their latest exhibition, Brain: The Inside Story.

For one night under the iconic blue whale, high above the museum floor, visitors listened to the science behind one of America's favorite basement pastimes. While the ping pong discussion was limited to one night, the brain exhibition continues through the summer.

"Table tennis is the number one brain sport, so we figured this was a great way to get people interested in the brain because a lot of people play table tennis," explained Rob DeSalle, curator for the museum.

Holding a human brain to get players' attentions, Suzuki pointed out specific areas that are stimulated by playing table tennis.

According to Suzuki, there are three major areas affected by this high-speed game. The fine motor control and exquisite hand-eye coordination involved with dodging and diving for the ball engages and enhances the primary motor cortex and cerebellum, areas responsible for arm and hand movement.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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