Actos May Prevent Type II Diabetes

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Much attention has come to the use of glitazones, a class of drugs for the treatment of diabetes, especially in light of the Avandia (rosiglitazone) black box warnings.  Avandia is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and has been taken off the market in Europe. However, Actos (piolitazone), has fewer side effects and is still used as a therapy for type 2 diabetes. 

In this study, conducted by University of Texas Health Science Center and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, over 600 participants who have elevated blood sugar, a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, were given either Actos or a placebo and then followed for 2.4 years.  Results of the study show participants in the Actos group were 72 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those taking placebo. 

This is a modest improvement over lifestyle change alone, which can lead to a 58-percent decrease in progression to diabetes.  Patients in the Actos group also had slightly lower blood pressure, less plaque buildup in arteries, and an improvement in cholesterol.  However, patients taking Actos had more weight gain and leg swelling than those on placebo. 

It is not clear weather this medication will benefit patients in the long term or actually decrease complications from diabetes down the line. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Finds Mentholated Cigarettes No More Harmful than Regular Cigarettes

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock (NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- The FDA banned all fruit-flavored cigarettes in September of 2009 and is now considering a ban on menthol-flavored ones, which were not included in the 2009 ban.  The impetus for the ban was the idea that flavored cigarettes are more enticing to children. 

But are they more dangerous? A new study suggests that smokers of mentholated cigarettes are no more likely to develop lung cancer than other smokers.

Over 85,000 adults were categorized according to their preference for menthol versus non-menthol cigarettes. They were then followed for up to four years, during which time their rates of quitting and lung cancer were assessed. 

Researchers reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that menthol smokers claimed to have fewer cigarettes per day compared to regular smokers. While smoking any kind of cigarette is unhealthy, the lung cancer risk for menthol smokers was 12 times greater than that for non-smokers.  However, non-menthol smokers had a lung cancer risk 21 times that of non-smokers. 

The authors concluded that smoking menthol cigarettes is no more likely, and perhaps even less likely, to cause lung cancer than smoking regular cigarettes.
Critics of the study say that the fact remains that the bigger issue is whether flavoring cigarettes increases the appeal to children.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Survey: Are Americans Feeling Healthy?

Jim Arbogast/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Too many of us are overweight or obese, we’re not exercising enough, we’re still smoking and Alzheimer’s disease is rising. So how are we feeling about our health as a nation? Pretty good, actually. 

A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics on Americans’ general health assesses 15 health measures, such as health insurance coverage, rates of flu and pneumococcal vaccinations, obesity, smoking, diabetes, asthma and others.  Americans are also asked to rate their own general health as excellent, very good, good, fair and poor. 

Although the percentage of people who rated their health as excellent or very good decreased slightly from 69 percent to 66 percent from 1997 to 2010, some 90 percent of Americans still rate their health as good or better.  This positive self-assessment is particularly interesting if one considers that some measures of health have been decreasing.

For example, the percentage of people who failed to obtain medical coverage due to cost in the past 12 months increased from 4.5 percent in 1997 to seven percent in 2010.  Cases of obesity and diabetes increased from 19.5 percent to 28.2 percent and 5.3 percent to 8.4 percent, respectively.
Other changes are more positive.  Rates of flu and pneumococcal vaccinations also increased significantly, along with HIV testing.

The report also showed that smoking has decreased.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Scientists Capture Evolution in the Lab

Comstock/Thinkstock(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- Scientists say they have caught "evolution in the act" in a series of experiments that open a new window into understanding how new species gradually morph into plants and animals that are distinctly different from their parents.

The experiments, conducted at the University of Florida in Gainesville, surprised the scientists by demonstrating that the development of a new species doesn't occur instantly, but instead is the product of succeeding generations that are able to alter their genetic blueprint as they gradually mature into a stable plant or animal.

The star of the show is a humble member of the daisy family, Tragopogon miscellus, better known as "goatsbeard," which began its long journey toward stability about 80 years -- and 40 generations -- ago.

"We can see for the first time what happens when a new species is formed," biologist Doug Soltis of the University of Florida said in a telephone interview. "We can see the process unfold, and it's still ongoing even as we speak. They (the plants) haven't figured all this out yet."

The research, published in the journal Current Biology, offers some startling insights. The new species first appeared in the Pacific Northwest sometime after 1920 when its parents produced a hybridized offspring with double the number of chromosomes. But unlike its parents, the genes were not rigidly programmed to perform certain functions. Instead, for many generations the genes acted sort of like free agents.

"Different genes are expressed at different times and in different places," Soltis said. So the new species had much greater diversity than would have been expected, creating a genetic blueprint as it went along, from one generation to the next, turning some genes on, and others off, and eliminating some entirely.

That, of course, gave goatsbeard an enormous advantage in adapting to new environmental challenges or opportunities.

"This is evolution at work," Soltis said. "You can see the fine tuning begin to take place."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Four Hundred-Pound Marathoner Finds Strength in Size

John Foxx/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Growing up in Idaho, Kelly Gneiting dreamed of running a marathon.  But his weight, which reached 245 pounds in college, pushed him towards football and wrestling, instead.

"I've always considered myself kind of an anomaly of an athlete as a big person," said Gneiting, who now weighs 400 pounds.

An athlete indeed, Gneiting is a three-time national champion sumo wrestler.

"Even though I'm big, I pride myself on being strong and tough," Gneiting said.

On Sunday, after only four months of training, Gneiting finished the Los Angeles marathon -- his second marathon in three years.

"When you do something once, people can think it's a fluke," Gneiting said.  "But when you do it twice, hopefully you convince people that you're just that person."

Gneiting set out to inspire heavy people to break down the barriers that stand between them and their dreams.  But in the process he appears to have also broken the Guinness World Record for heaviest marathoner, finishing the 26-mile course in nine hours, 48 minutes and 52 seconds.

"I told myself, 'Even if I have to crawl, I'll do whatever it takes,'" Gneiting said.  "I wanted to prove I was tougher than the road."

After his first marathon in 2008, Gneiting pledged never to do it again.  But on Sunday he shaved two hours off his time, despite heavy rain.

"The bottoms of my feet looked like white hamburger," he said.  "There was a few times when a blister would burst and I'd feel it, and it just about caused me to collapse.  And then I'd think, 'Oh my gosh, I still have six miles.'"

Gneiting, who works as a statistician at Fort Defiance Indian Hospital in Arizona, said he wishes he was smaller but refuses to let his weight hold him back.

"I certainly don't like being this big, but to me it's unacceptable to have low self-esteem," he told ABC News.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Shows Cereal Lowers Blood Pressure

Medioimages/Photodisc(BOSTON) -- It turns out cereal could offer a surprising health benefit for men.

A bowl of cereal a day can help keep high blood pressure away. A study of more than 13 thousand men found those who regularly ate cereal for breakfast, especially whole grain cereal, had a 20 percent lower risk of developing chronic hypertension.

The lead researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, says whole grain cereal along with low sodium intake and exercise, can really cut your risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the nation. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


March Madness Equals Increase in Vasectomies

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock (CLEVELAND) -- March isn't just madness for sports fans, it can be madness for doctors as well. Urologists say March is well known as the month to get a vasectomy.  As a matter of fact, vasectomies spike approximately 50 percent during this time of year, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Why now? The procedure takes less than a half-hour and patients can even drive themselves home. They are stuck on the couch as they are encouraged to stay off their feet for a few days and what better time to be pinned to a couch than during the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March madness.

Doctors say March madness isn't the only reason men get vasectomies in March . Some men are taking advantage of spring break time off. Others are preparing for summer vacations, since a vasectomy takes a few months to take full effect.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


South Dakota Passes Tougher Regulations on Abortions 

Siri Stafford/Photodisc(PIERRE, S.D.) -- South Dakota became the first state in the country to require a woman seeking an abortion to visit a pregnancy help center first and submit to counseling to ensure her decision is "voluntary" and "informed."

Under the new law the woman must also wait at least 72 hours after completing the counseling before she can schedule an abortion, the longest waiting period in the nation. The law goes into effect on July 1.

"I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives," Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, said in a statement. "I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices."

A number of state proposals nationwide have targeted abortion this year, including laws passed in Ohio and Texas.

Planned Parenthood announced it will file a lawsuit seeking to repeal the law.

Sarah Stoesz, the president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood's office for Minnesota and North and South Dakota, said the three-day waiting period is a "callous" attempt to put another barrier in front of women seeking abortions. But the compulsory counseling at pregnancy crisis centers, she said, would be even worse.

"The centers are non-regulated, non-licensed, non-accredited, and they are not covered by HIPPA laws, or any other privacy law," said Stoesz. "Their sole focus is to dissuade women from having an abortion."

Planned Parenthood is the only provider of abortions in the state of South Dakota. In contrast to the pregnancy crisis centers, or help centers, Stoesz said the Planned Parenthood clinic is regulated, accredited, and subject to all laws concerning privacy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Settlement Stops Sale of Toxic Jewelry

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- Jewelry supplier Tween Brands has agreed to eliminate the toxic metal cadmium from its products after a first-of-its-kind settlement.

Tween Brands sells low-cost jewelry intended for children up through adults.

"As a company, we are committed to working to ensure the well-being of our customers, and continue to work to ensure all of our products meet or exceed safety standards," Tween Brands said in a statement.

On Friday, the Center for Environmental Health, a California-based organization that seeks to protect people from industrial use of toxic chemicals, filed a case against the company with California's attorney general. Beginning in January 2012, Tween Brands will face fines if the company sells jewelry that contains more than 0.03 percent cadmium.

Amid growing worry over cadmium in kids' jewelry, a study published on March 3 further found that kids can be exposed to more than 100 times the recommended limit of this noxious metal when they accidentally swallow or put in their mouths common, inexpensive jewelry items.

Following strict regulation on lead content in children's items, many manufacturers, especially in China, have turned to cadmium as a low-cost, shiny, and easy-to-work-with metal for use in cheap jewelry, which is often marketed to kids.

Although lead is a potentially harmful metal at high exposure, cadmium is a much more noxious metal even at lower doses, and has been linked to kidney, bone and liver disease. It is also a known carcinogen.

Ironically, in an attempt to eradicate one toxin from our children's lives, we've traded up in toxicity, said Dr. Charles McKay, a medical toxicologist at Hartford Hospital-University of Connecticut Health Center. What's more, we've traded a regulated substance, lead, for one that is not yet regulated in children's toys or in jewelry, he added.

The absence of regulations has opened the doors for some jewelry items to expose young kids to extremely high levels of this toxin when they suck on the jewelry or accidently ingest it. Of the 92 pieces of cadmium-containing jewelry tested in a study, published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, two would expose children to 100 times the recommended limit on cadmium had they been swallowed.

And when the jewelry becomes scratched or damaged, as is often the case among anything a child wears or plays with regularly, the risk for exposure is even higher. For example, six damaged sandal charms tested in the study yielded 30 times as much cadmium as undamaged charms.

Cadmium poses an especial risk, said lead author Jeff Weidenhamer, a professor of chemistry at Ashland University, because it's impossible for parents to tell which items they buy contain the metal. Many don't, he said, and among those that do, often the levels are ostensibly safe but can still be quite toxic.

Cadmium is also of major concern because it accumulates in the body over the course of a lifetime, Weidenhamer said. "And the digestive systems of kids are more efficient at absorbing cadmium, so exposure to kids who swallow these items is of increased concern."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Heart Attack Risk: Does Having Sex Really Tax the Ol' Ticker?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- It has become a Hollywood cliché -- the older man who clutches his chest and keels over midway through having sex -- but is it as real as people think? New research from Tufts Medical Center suggests that sex does increase the risk of a heart attack, but the risk is still small and only rises during and soon after doing the deed.

Researchers analyzed past studies in which heart attack victims, mostly men in their 50s and 60s, were questioned about their activities just preceding and during their coronaries to see if sex served as a trigger for their cardiac events.

While they found that sexual activity caused a 2.7 percent increased risk of heart attack, this overall risk was quite small and should not dissuade those with heart disease from indulging in a little bedroom action. They say that's important, especially since several other studies show that regular sexual activity (usually defined as two or more times a week) actually decreases one's risk of heart attack over time.

Lead author Dr. Issa Dahabreh says people shouldn't take the new report to mean the sex is harmful for those with heart disease "because the absolute risk is really small."

What's more, patients could battle this increased risk by being physically active on a regular basis. Regular exercise made sex and other types of physical exertion less likely to be a trigger for heart attack, the study found.

"We saw a 45 percent reduction in the relative risk of heart attack with every additional weekly exercise session," says co-author Jessica Paulus, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"The main take-home [is that] regular exercise training, which we should be promoting anyway as a means to improve cardio respiratory fitness…will markedly reduce the risk associated with both acute exercise/exertion as well as sexual activity," says Dr. Chip Lavie, medical director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention at John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute.

What's more, the emotional and physical benefits of sexual satisfaction have also been linked in several studies to overall health and specifically cardiac health.

In a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, men between the ages of 50 and 70 were followed for 16 years and quizzed about sexual activity. Researchers found that sex twice a week reduced the risk of heart disease in these men by up to 45 percent, compared to their peers who had sex once a month or less.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, heart surgeon and host of the Dr. Oz Show, is also famous for recommending frequent sex (three times a week) as a way for men decrease their risk of heart attack and stroke by 50 percent.

So the exertion of a romp in the bedroom may briefly increase the risk of heart attack, but the cardiovascular and emotional benefits of regular sexual satisfaction far outweigh the downside, especially in those who are regularly active in other ways as well.

"The bottom line is that people should not fear sexual activity, but should fear sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity," says Lavie.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio