New Research: Nearly 8 Million in U.S. Have Food Allergies

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A study funded by the National Institutes of Health estimates that 2.5 percent of the U.S. population, or 7.6 million Americans, have food allergies. 

According to the research results, food allergy rates were highest for children ages 1 to 5, at 4.2 percent, while the lowest rates were found in adults over the age of 60.  The odds of patients with asthma and food allergies experiencing a severe asthma attack were 6.9 times higher than those without clinically defined food allergies.

The researchers also found that food allergy rates were higher for non-Hispanic blacks and males.  The odds were 4.4 times higher for male black children to have food allergies compared to the general population.

Darryl Zeldin, M.D., acting clinical director at the NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and senior author on the paper, said, "This study is very comprehensive in its scope. It is the first study to use specific blood serum levels and look at food allergies across the whole life spectrum, from young children aged 1 to 5, to adults 60 and older."

Zeldin added, "This research has helped us identify some high-risk populations for food allergies."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


7 Ways to Work Yourself to Death

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Just as work can enrich our lives, in many ways it can shorten them -- a fact that cuts across socioeconomic levels, ages and nationalities.

A growing body of research says that one's work can be taxing on his or her health.  ABC News' Medical Unit has learned seven ways that work can negatively affect our health:

1.  Distracted Driving:  Taking the Office on the Road.  Cell phones, smart phones and personal digital assistants have improved the ability to conduct work at all hours and in almost any setting, as long as you can get a signal.

But federal figures hint at the toll exacted by bringing the office into the driver's seat. During 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 5,870 people died in crashes in which police cited distracted driving as a contributing factor.

2.  Sitting Still: When Work's Got You Chained to the Desk.  Doctors, nutritionists and other health professionals tell us time and again how sitting on a couch, snacks at the ready, contributes to heart disease and diabetes.

A study published online last month and in this month's print issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found some evidence that sedentary workers were at an increased risk of dying -- even if they were diligent about exercising in their off-hours.

Lead author Jannique van Uffelen, a research fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia, led the review of 43 studies, involving more than 2 million workers, which examined sedentary time at the office.  She and her colleagues found some limited evidence linking hours spent sitting at work with both diabetes and early death.

3.  Work Is Hell: When You Have a Bad Boss or Hostile Workplace.  Multiple studies in recent years have focused on the impact of a hostile workplace and a bad boss on a worker's physical and mental health. It turns out that these factors can be life-shortening.

4.  Wide Awake: When Work Disrupts Your Sleep.  Work stress can creep up subtly; the cumulative effect of insufficient sleep, whether caused by interrupted or poor sleep, insomnia or the body's inability to adjust to shift work can also speed your demise. Scientific evidence for how this happens is accumulating.

An analysis of several studies, published in May 2010, consistently linked getting less than six hours of sleep to an increased risk of dying early.

5.  Walking Papers: Getting Laid Off or Fired.  An intriguing study published in the May 2009 issue of the American Economic Review highlighted the life-threatening impact of losing a job.  The stress associated with losing a job is often described as one of the most trying life events, along with divorce and death of a loved one.

6.  Burning the Midnight Oil: Working Overtime or Working Late.  In May of this year, a study of British civil servants found that those working 10 to 11 hours a day (compared with the traditional seven-hour British workday), were as much as 60 percent more likely to suffer heart disease or die prematurely than those working regular hours.

7.  Risky Workplace: When Occupational Hazards Expose You to Danger.  Occupational health hazards, sometimes caused by exposures to dangers not visible to the naked eye, can shorten lives, research shows.

In late October 2009, British government officials announced that asbestos was the top workplace killer in Great Britain and that about a quarter of the 4,000 people dying from asbestos-related illnesses every year were tradesmen such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and painters who come in contact while working in homes and other buildings with the heat-resistant mineral used for years in insulation.


Excess Caffeine Could Lead to Urinary Incontinence in Women

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Excess caffeine intake can increase the probability of women developing urinary incontinence, according to the findings of a new study.

''Women who consume high levels of caffeine are 70 percent more likely to have urinary incontinence than women who don't," says Jon Gleason, MD, an instructor and fellow at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical School's Division of Women's Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery.

According to WebMD, Gleason is set to present his findings at the American Urogynecologic Society's annual meeting in Long Beach, California on Friday.  In the study, women who reported consuming 329 milligrams or more of caffeine daily had a 70 percent higher chance of unintentionally losing urine.

Urinary incontinence affects more than 13 million Americans.  Most of those affected are women, who are most likely to develop it during pregnancy, childbirth, or during menopause and its hormonal changes, due to weakened pelvic muscles.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Research Shows Viagra Could Help Treat Prostate Cancer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Viagra could potentially help men outside of the bedroom.  Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and VCU Massey Cancer Center have shown that when combined with Doxorubicin, an anti-cancer chemotherapy drug, the little blue pill can effectively treat prostate cancer.  They say the mixture of both drugs reduced the size of tumors in lab mice, while simultaneously alleviating heart damage.

A downside of Doxorubicin is that it has been linked to irreversible heart damage.  Viagra, generically known as sildenafil, could be the solution to protect against heart damage, without compromising the anti-cancer drug's effectiveness.

"We believe sildenafil could be an excellent candidate for incorporation into cancer treatment protocols with the potential of enhancing the anti-tumor efficacy, while protecting the heart against both short-term and long-term damage from doxorubicin," said principal investigator, Dr. Rakesh C. Kukreja, in a news release.  He added, "My team and I are hoping to move the research forward to a clinical trial and plans are under way to do so.  The clinical trial would evaluate the effectiveness of the drug combination in cancer patients."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Just Five Percent of Americans Engage in Vigorous Daily Exercise 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BATON ROUGE, La.) -- Daily exercise is vital to our health, yet a new survey indicates that a vast majority of Americans are doing everything but exercising during the average day.  Researchers examined data from 2003 through 2008 on 80,000 Americans who were asked in a telephone survey what activities they had done in the preceding 24 hours.

Some of the findings show:

- 95.9 percent of respondents reported sedentary activities such as eating and drinking.  Just over 80 percent reported the sedentary activity of watching television.
- 78.9 percent reported doing light activities such as washing, dressing and grooming.
- 71.4 percent reported the light activity of driving a motor vehicle.
- 25.7 percent reported moderate activities such as food and drink preparation, while 10.6 percent named lawn and garden care.
- Only five percent reported doing vigorous physical activities, such as running or using cardiovascular exercise equipment.

The findings are published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Junk Food Nearly Half of Kids' Calorie Intake

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(NEW YORK)-- Nutrition experts say a new study highlights just how unhealthy young people's diets are these days.

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that nearly 40 percent of calories consumed by children ages 2 to 18 were empty calories, the unhealthiest kind of calories.

Half of these calories came from just six foods:  soda; sugary fruit drinks; grain desserts, such as cake, cookies and donuts; dairy desserts such as ice cream; pizza; and whole milk, which is far fattier than skim.

"Consumption of empty calories far exceeded the corresponding discretionary calorie allowance for all sex–age groups," wrote the researchers, led by nutritionist Jill Reedy.

"This number is staggering and depressing," said Kelly Brownell, professor of psychology, epidemiology and public health at Yale University.

While the findings don't surprise many nutrition experts, they say the reasons kids consume so many empty calories are complex. Despite the push for healthier foods over the past few years, experts say there are still many obstacles to changing eating habits for the better -- including a lack of physical activity, parental and peer influences and marketing by the food industry.

In an effort to improve the nutritional quality of school lunches and the food in vending machines, the Senate passed a bill that would provide $4.5 billion hoping to eliminate at least one obstacle.  The bill has yet to pass the House of Representatives.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Brazilian Blowout Hair-Straightening Product Under Fire

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- Word is spreading about a salon product that promises longer-lasting results. Some U.S. women are lining up to get the Brazilian Blowout, a pricey method of hair-straightening that has been used by Jennifer Aniston, Lindsay Lohan, Reese Witherspoon and other celebrities. But recent testing shows the trademarked products may pose serious safety risks, which the manufacturer has flatly denied.

When staffers at an Oregon hair salon complained of eye irritation, nose bleeds and difficulty breathing after they used the products, state officials tested them. Chemists at the Oregon Occupation Heath and Safety Administration and the Oregon Health and Science University's Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology tested a sample from the complaining salon and other salons in the area. They found the samples contained significant levels of formaldehyde, even though the product was labeled as formaldehyde-free.

The Oregon Health and Science University issued a public health alert Thursday about the product, in which it said two formulations of the product contained 4.85 percent to 10.6 percent formaldehyde. If a hair treatment solution contains more than 0.1 percent formaldehyde, the manufacturer is required to alert the stylist. Additional laboratory analysis also detected four additional chemicals in each sample that were not quantified in the lab, including methanol and ethanol.

Everyone is exposed to small amounts of formaldehyde in air and some foods and products. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says low levels of exposure can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat. High levels of exposure may cause some kinds of cancers, the CDC says.

The makers of Brazilian Blowout defended their product, saying they were conducting their own investigation. Because OSHA did not request samples directly from the company, Brazilian Blowout is questioning the results. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


One in Six Americans Now on Medicaid 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Medicaid became more popular than ever with Americans last year.  The Kaiser Family Foundation reported Thursday that an additional 3.7 million people enrolled in the federal medical assistance program for low income individuals and families in 2009 because they lacked health coverage.

Due to the economic downturn and loss of benefits, Medicaid enrollment has jumped by 6.2 million since 2007, meaning there were about one in six Americans on Medicaid by the end of last year.

Every U.S. state showed Medicaid growth last in 2009, which also takes a toll on their budgets since they share costs of subsidising the program with the federal government.  The sudden and massive growth of enrollment has forced 39 states to either cut or freeze payments to Medicaid providers, while 20 states have reduced rates to doctors.

Compounding the problem is that the new health care reform law will eventually expand eligibility for the program, which mainly helps children, pregnant women, the aged and disabled.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Female Sexual Dysfunction: Medical Fiction?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Many doctors have criticized the over-medicalization of female sexual dysfunction by the pharmaceutical industry, but journalist Ray Moynihan, author of Sex, Drugs, and Pharmaceuticals, goes so far as to argue that drug-makers helped to create the disorder.

"It has become clear that drug companies have not simply sponsored the science of this new condition; on occasions they have helped to construct it," he writes in an article published Thursday in the British Medical Journal.

Between industry-sponsored research that puts female sexual dysfunction (FSD) at epidemic proportions and industry-developed diagnostics that teach physicians how to make five-minute diagnoses, Moynihan argues drug marketing has merged with medical science, influencing and even guiding medical perception of female sexual dysfunction.

"They did it for social anxiety disorder and for erectile dysfunction," says Dr. Marcia Angell, who teaches social medicine at Harvard Medical School. "They create a lot of buzz, and all of a sudden there's an under-treated epidemic -- and they have a ready-made market for what they turn out."

But would this supposed "creation" of a disease by drug makers suggest that female sexual dysfunction, as a diagnosable medical disorder, doesn't really exist?  Some doctors would say so, arguing the novelty of much of the medical discussion of FSD lends credence to the fact that it's predominantly an invention of the industry.  Sexual therapists and their patients, on the other hand, beg to differ.

The "argument that female sexual dysfunction is an illness constructed by pathologizing doctors under the influence of drug companies will fail to convince clinicians who see women with sexual dysfunction, or their patients," writes Dr. Sandy Goldbeck-Wood, a U.K. associate specialist in psychosexual medicine in an accompanying response to Moynihan's article.

Though the pharmaceutical industry's over-involvement in much of the research on the subject should certainly be called into question, she adds, the reality of these disorders and the distress they cause, should not. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


White Noise Offers Help to Inattentive Children

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NORWAY) -- Inattentive children may get some help learning material in class if white noise is playing.  According to EurekAlert!, researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Behavioral and Brain Functions tested the noise's effect on 51 school children at a secondary school in Norway.  They found it improved the memory of children who had a difficult time paying attention.

Göran Söderlund from Stockholm University in Sweden, worked with the team of researchers and said, "There was significant improvement in performance for the children rated as inattentive by their teachers, and a significant decline in performance for those rated as attentive as noise levels were increased. This finding could have practical applications offering non-invasive and non-pharmacological help to improve school results in children with attentional problems."

The children in the study were asked to remember as many items as possible from a list that was read out loud, both in the presence and absence of white noise.  Researchers believe a phenomenon known as 'stochastic resonance' may explain the improvement in performance by the inattentive children.

According to Söderlund, "When a weak signal is presented below the hearing threshold it becomes detectable when random or white noise is added to the signal. Our study is the first to link noise and stochastic resonance to both higher cognitive functions and attention".

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio