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Wednesday
Mar302011

Eating Disorders Not Just for White Teen Girls

Comstock/Thinkstock (MIAMI) -- At the peak of her eating disorder, Stephanie Covington Armstrong threw up 15 times a day. Any food in her stomach made her uncomfortable, and it was only when she vomited that "everything was right with the world," even if it was only five minutes until she would do it again. It was like crack, she said. Drugs and alcohol seemed messy but binging and purging offered that same high; the kind of high that would take away the self-hatred that constantly weighed her down.

For seven years, Armstrong's bulimia was her deepest secret. And as a black woman, Armstrong said, carrying the stigma of an eating disorder was even worse.

"There is that shame of not being a strong black woman," said Armstrong, a Los Angeles playwright and author of the book Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat. "People would ask me, 'What, do you want to be white or something?'"

More than 10 million Americans suffer from some kind of eating disorder, and many of them are not white, young or female, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, executive director of the Oliver-Pyatt Centers in Florida, said that, at any given time, at least half of her patients are not what society typically thinks of someone having an eating disorder: people older then 40, mothers, men and minorities.

"Minorities, men and older people have an even more difficult time," said Oliver-Pyatt, speaking on behalf of the National Eating Disorders Association. "It's almost culturally accepted for a young white woman to have an eating disorder."

Oliver-Pyatt said that many older female patients who come to her clinic actually did not fully recover from an eating disorder in their early years. She said many of this subgroup of women had a bad experience while receiving treatment for their condition in their 20s and teens. And now, many of these women fly under the doctor's radar for eating disorders.

"A couple years ago, treatment was very institutional-based," Oliver-Pyatt said. "They had a bad experience and were afraid to receive further treatment."

More than one million men and boys battle eating disorders every day, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. And, many doctors argue, the stigma for a man is worse than that of teenage girl.

While many people say that eating disorders are a way of responding to lack of control in one's life, Oliver-Pyatt said, such an explanation is oversimplifying the seriousness of the illness.

If you or someone you know might suffer from an eating disorder, contact the Information and Referral Helpline at the National Eating Disorder Association by calling (800) 931-2237.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Mar302011

Are School Allergy Policies Going Too Far?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(EDGEWATER, Fla.) -- Until recently, students in an Edgewater, Fla., elementary school were required to rinse their mouths out twice daily at school to avoid spreading peanut residue to a first-grade student with a severe peanut allergy.

Teachers had to monitor the mouth rinsing and frequent hand washing and ensure surfaces were continually swabbed with Clorox. The school banned all peanut products, eliminated snacks in the classroom and forbade outside food at holiday parties. A peanut-sniffing dog patrolled the school halls.

All this proved too much for parents, who said the requirements went too far. The battle culminated last Thursday when parents stormed the school, holding up picket signs that read "Our Kids Have Rights Too!"

Most situations don't boil over into angry confrontations as they did in Florida, but changing school policies to accommodate children with allergies is definitely becoming a bone of contention in many school districts. Parents complain that allergy-aware policies created extra expense, forcing them to buy pricier foods. Soy butter and sunflower butter, two peanut butter alternatives, can cost up to twice as much as the real thing.

In one school district, the hostility reached a boiling point when the family of a peanut-allergic child was spotted at the local Walmart bakery that used peanut oil. People began to openly question the necessity of a ban on a favorite low-cost food to oblige the one child.

No one doubts that food allergy-aware policies can be lifesavers for children who depend on them. Aimee Kandrac, whose son Elliot has several severe food allergies, said she does not like inconveniencing other families but without her vigiliance her son could wind up in the hospital, or worse. Her son's school has been generally responsive to his needs, and most of the other parents have been understanding. But not all.

Kendrac said she tries not to come off as an overprotective, hysterical mom but worried that her son might feel ostracized because of his allergies. He was sometimes excluded from birthday parties because, as a friend privately confided, other parents didn't feel like dealing with his food issues.

The prevalence of food allergies among children under the age of 18 is about four percent, and has risen about 18 percent in the past decade, according to the most recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. Children with food allergies are two to four times more likely to have other related conditions, such as asthma, and other allergies, compared with children who don't have food allergies. From 2004 to 2006, there were approximately 9,500 hospital discharges a year with a diagnosis related to food allergies among children younger than 18.

"Anyone who has a serious food allergy risks having an anaphylaxis reaction when exposed to the allergen. Therefore, it's reasonable for schools to take the proper precautions," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, a board certified allergist and president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Besides, under the Americans With Disabilities Act, schools are legally obligated to protect children who have allergies against discrimination. Fineman emphasized that policies must be reasonable and practical. Equally important, they need to have scientific validity.

The most updated guidelines for coping with food allergies may be found on the ACAAI website.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

Mormon 'Gay Cure' Study Used Electric Shocks Against Homosexual Feelings

Pixland/Thinkstock(PROVO, Utah) -- John Cameron said he was a naive and devout Mormon who felt "out of sync" with the world when he volunteered to be part of a study of "electric aversion therapy" in 1976 at Utah's Brigham Young University.

Twice a week for six months, he jolted himself with painful shocks to the penis to rid himself of his attraction to men.

"I kept trying to fight it, praying and fasting and abstaining and being the best person I could," said Cameron, now a 59-year-old playwright and head of the acting program at the University of Iowa.

But his undercurrent of feelings put him in direct conflict with the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) and its principles.

"As teens we were taught that homosexuality was second only to murder in the eyes of God," he said. "I was very, very religious and the Mormon church was the center of my life," said Cameron, who had done missionary work in Guatemala and El Salvador.

The 1976 study at Brigham Young, "Effect of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy," was written by Max Ford McBride, then a graduate student in the psychology department.

"I thought he was my savior," said Cameron, who enrolled with 13 other willing subjects, all Mormons who thought they might be gay, for a three-to-six-month course of therapy.

A mercury-filled tube was placed around the base of the penis and the students were shown alternating slides of men and women in various stages of undress. When participants responded to images of men with an erection, the closed electric circuit was broken and they received three-second electrical shocks at 10-second intervals. Each session lasted an hour. Participants set their own pain levels. Cameron said his shame was so deep that he selected the highest level.

And those weren't the only attempted cures that were used in that era. Others allege they were given chemical compounds, which were administered through an IV and caused subjects to vomit when they were stimulated.

Psychologists confirm those harsh experiments were used in a variety of medical settings by scientists of all faiths.

Church officials say they no longer support aversion therapy, but a generation who grew up in the 1970s say they have been scarred for life because of well-intentioned attempts to change their sexual orientation.

Today, the church still steadfastly opposes homosexuality, as witnessed by the millions of dollars in support it gave to pass California's Proposition 8, which would amend the state's constitution to outlaw gay marriage.

Carri P. Jenkins, assistant to the president of BYU, confirmed that McBride did study the effects of aversion therapy in the 1970s. She said the experiment was an "outgrowth of the behaviorist movement," which believed that any behavior could be modified.

Jenkins said other universities at the time used similar techniques, and none of this type has taken place at BYU since then.

Today, therapies are all "mainline therapeutic approaches," according to Jenkins, and all faculty are expected to be licensed and programs accredited.

The university, which is owned by the Mormon Church, said its policy on homosexuality is in line with Mormon doctrine -- today's students are not disciplined unless they engage in sexual activity, and that includes heterosexual sex before marriage.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

Arizona Outlaws Abortions Based on Race or Sex of Fetus

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- Arizona has made it a crime to perform an abortion because of the sex or race of the fetus.

The bill, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer Tuesday, targets doctors or other abortion providers. It allows the father of the aborted baby -- or the maternal grandparents if the mother is a minor -- to take legal action against an abortion provider, who could face up to seven years in jail and the loss of their medical license if convicted.

Proponents of the new measure said it protected against capricious abortions performed because parents preferred a baby of a different race or gender.

The sponsor of the bill, Republican state legislator Steve Montenegro, an evangelical pastor, could not immediately be reached for comment. But Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Brewer, said via email: "Governor Brewer believes society has a responsibility to protect its most vulnerable -- the unborn -- and this legislation is consistent with her strong pro-life track record."

Critics of the measure said it was aiming to create another obstacle to abortion for women. "It's to stigmatize women choosing abortion and to create more fear and uncertainty for the medical professionals providing the care," said Bryan Howard, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Arizona.

David Michael Cantor, a Phoenix-based criminal lawyer, said the notion that Arizona residents were practicing sex- or race-based abortion was a "fantasy."

"We're not Pakistan, we're not China," Cantor said, referring to countries where there is a strong cultural preference for boys. He added that he did not believe mothers who knew they had conceived a mixed-race baby were having abortions for that reason, pointing out that the state has a large number of mixed-race children. "Arizona is just a melting pot," Cantor said.

There is some evidence of sex selection among U.S. immigrant parents, according to research by economists Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund of Cornell University. They found that U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean, and Asian Indian parents were statistically more likely to have a boy if their first child was a girl than were white parents. If the first two children were girls, the third child was 50 percent more likely to be a boy in those communities, according to the economists' analysis of 2000 U.S. Census data.

But Howard of Planned Parenthood said the motives for an abortion were a matter for the individual to consider. "We don't have evidence of these kinds of motives in the state," he said in reference to sex and race selection. "That being said, it's not my business -- or the legislature's."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Mar302011

Study: Eating Fresh Food Reduces Exposure to BPA

George Doyle/Stockbyte(NEWTON, Mass.) -- Exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals such as BPA, or bisphenol A, can be reduced significantly by eating fewer foods packaged in metal cans or plastic, according to a new report from the Breast Cancer Fund and the Silent Spring Institute.

"I knew, of course, that these chemicals were in food packaging, but I was surprised by the magnitude of the decrease that we saw," said Ruthann Rudel, lead author of the study and director of research at the Silent Spring Institute.

What Rudel and her colleagues found was that when fresh food -- not canned or packaged in plastic -- was given to 20 study participants over three days, the level of BPA and other chemicals in their systems dropped substantially.

On average there was 66 percent less BPA in their urine and a 53-to-56-percent decrease in the amount of DEHP, a plasticizer. When the participants returned to their normal eating habits, their levels of BPA and the DEHP compound spiked immediately.

While BPA is used to harden plastics and can also be found in paper receipts and the epoxy resin linings of food containers, DEHP is used to soften plastics and can be found in plastic food wrap.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 90 percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies. The Food and Drug Administration's website states that "at this interim stage, FDA shares the perspective of the National Toxicology Program that recent studies provide reason for some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children."

Other studies have linked BPA and phthalates such as DEHP to infertility, heart disease and cancer, but there is still a debate over what levels of these chemicals are dangerous.

The Silent Spring Institute has issued these tips to reduce exposure:

1. Fresh is best: BPA and phthalates can migrate from the linings of cans and plastic packaging into food and drinks. While it's not practical to avoid food packaging altogether, opt for fresh or frozen instead of canned food as much as possible.

2. Eat in: Studies have shown that people who eat more meals prepared outside the home have higher levels of BPA. To reduce exposure, consider cooking more meals at home with fresh ingredients. When you do eat out, choose restaurants that use fresh ingredients.

3. Store it safe: Food and drinks stored in plastic can collect chemicals from the containers, especially if the foods are fatty or acidic. Next time, try storing your leftovers in glass or stainless steel instead of plastic.

4. Don't microwave in plastic: Warmer temperatures increase the rate that chemicals leach into food and drinks. So use heat-resistant glass or ceramic containers when you microwave, or heat your food on the stove. The label "microwave safe" means safety for the container, not your health.

5. Brew the old-fashioned way: Automatic coffee makers may have BPA and phthalates in their plastic containers and tubing. When you brew your coffee, consider using a French press to get your buzz without the BPA.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

Can Too Little Sleep Leave You Laughing?

Erik Snyder/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- It's easy to spot someone who has missed an entire night of sleep. Grumpy. Irritable. Focusing on the negative. Now scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Harvard Medical School suggest adding a new word to that list -- euphoric.

Researchers have found evidence that the human brain, deprived of sleep, swings both ways, focusing on positive, as well as negative, experiences. And, they add, that's not necessarily a good thing.

According to their study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, sleep deprivation sensitizes the networks in the brain that have long been associated with rewards. And that, they suggest, could contribute to rash decisions and risky behavior.

"Our previous research showed that when you are sleep deprived your brain is excessively reactive to negative or unpleasant emotional experiences," psychologist Matthew Walker of UC Berkeley said. "But what we didn't know at the end of that study is what happens on the other side of the coin. What happens when you are sleep deprived and you see rewarding stimuli or experiences?”

Some who suffer from severe depression appear to get better if they are deprived of sleep, but the benefit is often short lived. Walker wondered if healthy adults would also look on the bright side of life if they missed an entire night of sleep. He noted that people who have partied or worked through the night are sometimes giddy and prone to giggling. Is it real, or are they just punch drunk?

To find out, he and his colleagues recruited 27 adults, age 18-30, and divided them into two groups. Some of the participants lived a normal couple of days, separated by a full night of sleep. The rest were confined to the sleep lab at Berkeley, where they ate a normal diet, but were kept awake for an entire night. They got no caffeine, no alcohol and not even a brief nap.

The experimenters monitored the participants throughout the period, ensuring that none of them fell asleep even for a few minutes. During the experiment each of the participants, both the sleepers and the none sleepers, were shown a series of 100 images and instructed to push a button indicating if each image was neutral or pleasant. And they did this while inside a brain scanner.The images were roughly half and half, with around 50 percent positive and the rest neutral. And that's exactly what the sleepers found. But the non-sleepers found far more of the images pleasurable than the sleepers, suggesting they wanted to look for positive experiences. And the brain scans revealed something that the experimenters found very interesting. Participants who had missed a night of sleep were dramatically affected by the images.

"The regions of the brain showed extensive reactivity to the emotionally positive pictures, and it was appearing in the classical reward centers of the brain largely regulated by the chemical dopamine, which is obviously associated with pleasure," Walker said. "It's as though the sleep-deprived brain swings equally in both emotional directions, the negative, and now the positive."

There was significantly less response in the brains of the sleepers.

"When functioning correctly, the brain finds the sweet spot on the mood spectrum," Walker said. "But the sleep-deprived brain will swing to both extremes, neither of which is optimal for making wise decisions."

Too little of it can make us cranky, difficult, and, it now seems, giddy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

FDA Committee Begins Weighing in on Food Dye's Link to ADHD

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(SILVER SPRING) -- The Food and Drug Administration will begin a two-day meeting Wednesday to determine whether food coloring and other additives can make children hyperactive.

The administration's Food Advisory Committee will meet in Silver Spring, Maryland to consider any links between the man-made dyes and ADHD, and advise the FDA if there is a need to take action to protect consumer safety.

Back in 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the agency to revoke approvals for eight certified colorings, asking the FDA to issue a consumer warning in the interim.  The dyes in question were 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.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

Viral YouTube Video: Baby Babble or Secret Language?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A viral video of two diaper-clad babies babbling in the kitchen has people wondering what the tots are talking about.

Eighteen-month-old fraternal twin boys Sam and Ren appear to be having a grown-up conversation complete with questions, answers, facial expressions and gestures -- even the odd laugh. But they aren't speaking English.

"These kids are right on the cusp of language," said Stephen Camarata, professor of hearing and speech Sciences at Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Nashville.

Instead of producing words, the boys are making different sounds in the tone and rhythm of speech.

"They're using the intonation patterns of sentences -- imitating sentences in a crude way," Camarata said. "It's one way that children learn how to talk."

"Even before they have words, they know how conversation works," said Dr. Roberta Golinkoff, education professor and director of the infant language project at the University of Delaware in Newark.

"They're producing syllables emphatically and using them for communication purposes," she said. "They're having a ball."

Eventually, Sam and Ren will start replacing bits of babble with English. But for now, the boys are content with their improvised idioms.

"They're laughing and grinning and imitating," Camarata said. "With twins you've got two kids at exactly the same developmental level going back and forth and having a blast."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

Do Breastfeeding Dolls Cross The Line?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new doll that mimics the act of breastfeeding has some parents up in arms and the manufacturer defending itself against accusations of perversion.

Called Breast Milk Baby, the doll sold by Berjuan Toys for $89 allows children to imitate the act of breast-feeding by using a special halter top that comes with the toy.

The top is made from a colorful material with two flowers positioned where nipples would be. When the doll's mouth is brought close to a sensor embedded in the flower, the baby makes motions and sounds consistent with suckling.

Critics say the doll is over-sexualizing young girls or forcing them to grow up too quickly, but the company and supporters have said the toys are meant to teach young girls about the nurturing skills they'll need later in life.

In Spain, a breast-feeding doll called the Bebe Gloton, also made by Spain's Berjuan Toys, has been sold since 2009.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

Is Your County Healthy? Report Gives US Counties Annual Checkup

Burke/Triolo Productions/Thinkstock(MADISON, Wis.) -- You may have an idea on how healthy your town or city is, but what about your county?

An annual set of reports is now available ranking the health of almost every U.S. county, and the results show many different factors play a role in shaping people's health.

"Although health care is really important, much of what influences health happens outside the doctor's office, including education, income, access to healthy foods, places to exercise and smoke-free air," said Bridget Booske, senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute in Madison.

Booske is also deputy director of County Health Rankings, a project done in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  One purpose of the reports is to help counties understand what influences people's health as well as to determine how long they will live.

ABC News looked at the five most populous states and which counties ranked highest (healthiest) and lowest (unhealthiest):

California:
-- Highest: Marin
-- Lowest: Trinity

Texas:
-- Highest: Williamson
-- Lowest: Marion

New York:
-- Highest: Putnam
-- Lowest: Bronx

Florida:
-- Highest: Collier
-- Lowest: Union

Illinois:
-- Highest: Kendall
-- Lowest: Alexander

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio