Zinc Helps Tame the Common Cold

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(OXFORD, England) - A recent systematic review of several studies has determined that zinc is indeed helpful for shortening and reducing the effects of the common cold, although some medical professionals remain skeptical.

The Cochrane Library announced Tuesday that a review of 15 studies that examined a combined 1,300 patients found that a zinc supplement is efficient if taken by healthy individuals within 24 hours after symptoms begin.

The review also found that taking a zinc supplement reduced the risk of developing a cold by 36 percent. Others, however, are not so sure.

ABC News' chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard E. Besser, responded to Thursday's findings.
"The current state of the science makes it impossible to say whether zinc works," Besser said. "I am most skeptical of zinc as a means of preventing colds in people who are otherwise well-nourished."

Dr. Besser said he does not recommend zinc for either the prevention or treatment of colds. Rather, he recommends washing your hands and using alcohol-based sanitizers frequently for prevention. Although he said most over-the-counter products are ineffective for treatment, Dr. Besser said acetaminophen and ibuprofen are effective pain and fever medications. Nasal decongestants, tissues, salt water nose drops and petroleum jelly can also help to ease affects of the common cold.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


ADHD: Finger Tapping Test Could Aid in Diagnosis, Researchers Say

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- The cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which affects roughly 5.4 million kids in the United States alone, remains unknown. But new research into "mirror movements" sheds light on the mysterious neurobehavioral disorder and might even aid in its diagnosis.

Researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore studied 50 children between the ages of 8 and 13 who had been diagnosed with ADHD, and 25 who hadn't, as they tapped the fingers of one hand while resting the other in their laps. The ADHD kids showed increased mirror movements, meaning the voluntary finger taps in one hand were involuntarily reflected in the other.

Boys with ADHD had more than twice as many mirror movements than children without ADHD when they tapped with their nondominant hands. The difference was not seen in girls.

The study was published Feb. 14 in Neurology.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Jonathan Mink, professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, wrote that the study provides "important evidence for impaired inhibitory function in ADHD."

Although ADHD has long been linked with motor symptoms, such as poor handwriting, the study suggests that measuring hand movements could become a useful test in diagnosing ADHD. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Calorie Counts on Fast Food Menus Don't Influence Kid's Choices

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Even when children know how many calories are in their favorite fast food items, the majority of them won't change their food orders, according to a study published Tuesday in the International Journal of Obesity.

The study, performed jointly by New York University's School of Medicine and Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, reviewed the choices made by 349 children and adolescents ages 1-17 from low-income communities in New York City and Newark, N.J., both before and after calorie labeling was introduced.

The youngsters who patronized four of the largest fast-food chains -- McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and KFC -- didn't order any differently when the number of calories was posted in plain view.  Although more than half of the adolescents admitted they noticed the calorie information, only nine percent considered it when placing their order.

For the most part, it didn't seem to stop them from purchasing an average of 650 calories per visit and an even higher number of calories when they weren't accompanied by an adult.

After years of alarm about a national "obesity epidemic," Congress recently introduced a law as part of the Affordable Care Act requiring restaurant chains throughout the nation with 20 or more outlets to display the caloric content of their menu items.  It goes further than many of the local and state laws; the calorie counts must be adjacent to the name of the menu item and printed in the same sized font.

But this latest study suggests that children, at least, don't pay much attention to those labels when making food choices.  Other investigations have come to similar conclusions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Hearing Loss May Have Same Cause as Dementia

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- Those suffering from hearing loss may start to lose their memory as well, according to a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore.

After conducting a study of 640 people over a nearly 20-year span, Dr. Franklin Lin and his colleagues discovered those experiencing greater degrees of hearing loss are more apt to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's disease than those with milder or no loss of hearing.

While more studies are needed to prove his theory, Lin says that hearing loss and dementia may wind up having the same cause.

He claims that, if true, the discovery would have profound implications for public health because if hearing loss is detected early enough, it could also mean people could be treated earlier for dementia.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA Aims to Invest in Foodborne Illness Prevention, Product Safety 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Monday announced plans to request a $4.3 billion budget as part of President Obama's FY 2012 budget.  The agency's request reflects a 33-percent increase over its FY 2010 budget and is intended to "protect and promote the public health."

"FDA protects and promotes the health of all Americans through every stage of life," Margaret Hamburg, M.D., commissioner of food and drugs, said in a statement. "The breadth of the mandate means that FDA responsibilities continue to grow. The new budget contains new resources so that FDA can fulfill its growing responsibilities to the American Public."

The FDA proposed four initiatives in addition to its budget requests:

1. Transforming Food Safety and Nutrition ($324 million) -- meant to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act.

2. Advancing Medical Countermeasures ($70 million) -- for the development of medical countermeasures to chemical, biological or nuclear national security threats.

3. Protecting Patients Initiative ($124 million) -- to develop "a pathway for approving biosimilars."  Biosimilars are biological drugs that are highly similar to, but without clinically meaningful differences with, an FDA-approved reference biological product.  The FDA suggests that biosimilars can offer significant savings to both federal and private sector health care systems.

4. Regulatory Science and Facilities ($49 million) -- aimed at employing technological and scientific advancements to improve the review and approval process for products.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Seven Things You Never Knew About Condoms

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- February is the shortest month, but don't be fooled -- it has still been declared National Condom Month. More than five billion condoms worldwide are sold every year, according to Michael S. Zedalis, senior vice president in charge of science and technology for condom maker Ansell Limited.

Known as Dr. Condom to his friends and colleagues, Zedalis offers seven factoids you probably don't know -- or didn't think to ask -- about the oft-maligned yet always useful condom.

1. When Rubber Hits the Road

Although their precise purpose then is unclear, condoms are depicted on male hieroglyphics figures dating back to ancient Egypt. Protective sheaths used in the early 1500s were made from ill-fitting animal bladders or intestines, although some of the more imaginative designs were made of metal. The first modern condoms were made from real rubber and produced by Goodyear. Yep, they make tires, too.

2. The Shape of Things

The majority of condoms are now made from soft, ultra-thin synthetic materials that are dipped onto glass-formers that come in an astonishing variety of shapes and sizes, certainly many more than you would think are anatomically possible. The forms are cleaned, dipped into latex -- often twice -- then the latex is cured and stripped from the glass form. Next, "naked condoms" are washed and lightly powdered to remove the stickiness. Finally, they're electronically tested for holes, rolled, lubricated and foiled.

3. Bursting the Bubble

Ansell, makers of LifeStyles condoms, often receive e-mails from eager recruits volunteering to report for official condom-testing duty. In reality, 100 percent of condoms are checked using electric charges that are sent through the condom to spot any holes or tears. A random sampling is filled with water to further find imperfections while another group of samples is pumped full of air to measure their breaking point. Zedalis said that condom makers do employ consenting couples for focus groups to try out new shapes, sizes, textures and flavors, some of whom don't make it out of the building before reporting their findings.

4. Worldwide Preferences

The average U.S. condom user is between the ages of 18 and 24 and about 70 percent of condom purchases are made by men. The average cost for a 12-pack is $10.99, although they are often less expensive at big box stores such as Target and Walmart. Condom preferences vary by country.

In the United States, Zedalis noted that preferences are relatively "meat and potatoes." Users don't flock to the fancier offerings, although there has been a lot of interest lately in models featuring organic materials and lubricants.

Europeans like their textures, shapes and box designs a bit racier while Brazilians seem to have a taste for menthol and peppermint. Not surprisingly, the Chinese are the heaviest users; surprisingly, the British come in second, according to Australia-based Ansell. The United States ranks sixth.

5. Big Ideas

"I receive up to eight new ideas a month from interested consumers," Zedalis said. "Almost all of them claim to have invented the greatest condom ever known."

Most submissions fall into one of two general categories: Either adding additional texture such as bumps, or changing to a unique shape that probably isn't practical to manufacture.

6. Female Flop

While the female condom was introduced to this country in 1993, Zedalis noted that it has not been a hit. "It's perceived as difficult to use and uncomfortable," he said.

7. Serious Stuff

Short of abstinence, Zedalis said, condoms are the most effective form of birth control. While not perfect, they also have the benefit of helping to prevent sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS, genital herpes and chlamydia.

Despite the quest for ever-increasing thinness and comfort, condoms are an effective barrier not only to sperm but viruses and bacteria as well.

Once condoms leave the factory, samples are again pulled and tested for holes and defects and then again by the Food and Drug Administration. Acceptable failure rates are about five per 1,000, although, Zedalis said, most manufacturers aim for rates up to 10 times better than that.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Medical Device Recalls Reveal Cracks in Regulatory Procedures, Researchers Say

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- The approval process for medical devices has been the topic of growing scrutiny. Monday, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests most medical devices recalled for life-threatening or very serious hazards were cleared by the Food and Drug Administration through an expedited review process called 510(k), or were considered so "low risk" they were exempt from review entirely.

"In my view, the regulatory system is failing," said Dr. Steven Nissen, a co-author of the study and chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

Nissen and colleagues examined the number of medical device recalls from 2005 to 2009 and determined which regulatory pathway they had taken -- 510(k) or the more rigorous premarket approval process. Of 113 recalls of devices determined by the FDA to cause serious health problems or death, 80 were cleared through 510(k), and eight were exempt from FDA regulation.

"Some 80 percent or so of devices being recalled were actually never fully clinically tested in people," Nissen said.

It's unclear from Nissen's study how many devices approved through the standard PMA pathway have been recalled.

If a device is shown to be substantially similar to one already on the market, the 510(k) pathway allows its makers to bypass the PMA pathway's rigorous preclinical testing and inspections.

For implantable devices, like an artificial hip or an artificial heart valve, a recall means an operation.

"If you want to take back a heart valve you have to sit down with a patient and say, look, we have two very different, bad choices here. We can wait until your device fails, or we can go in and do an operation and put a new device in," Nissen said. "Those are very difficult choices."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Did Reporter Suffer Stroke on Live TV?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images / File Photo(LOS ANGELES) -- As Serene Branson, a young and healthy-looking CBS Los Angeles reporter, delivered a live report from the Grammys' red carpet Sunday night, her speech suddenly became slurred and incomprehensible. She appeared increasingly worried and aware that something was wrong throughout the newscast.

"Serene Branson was examined by paramedics on scene immediately after her broadcast. Her vital signs were normal,” said CBS spokesman Mike Nelson. “She was not hospitalized. As a precautionary measure, a colleague gave her a ride home and she says that she is feeling fine this morning."

But after watching the clip, several doctors said that Sunday night's events caught on tape should not be taken lightly.

“She appears [in the video] to have an aphasia, [or] problem with expressive language, and right-sided facial weakness,” said Dr. Larry Goldstein, director of Duke Stroke Center in Durham, N.C. “Although this can be caused by other conditions, it is very concerning for stroke."

Aphasia usually comes on suddenly after a stroke or head injury, but it can also progress gradually because of a growing brain tumor or degenerative disease.

The American Stroke Association says that if a person shows any sign of a stroke, including difficulty speaking, she should get to the hospital immediately.

"From what I saw of the broadcast, it would make sense that the person seeks immediate neurological evaluation," said Dr. Patrick Lyden, chairman of the department of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. "The symptoms of altered speech -- aphasia -- can be a symptom of an underlying problem, such as stroke or tumor."

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, is an interruption of the blood supply to a part of the brain. The term comes from the old adage that a sufferer had received a "stroke of God's hand" and was therefore damaged.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Will Your Love Last? Your Brain Might Hold the Answer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When you sit down to an intimate dinner with your loved one, you may perhaps take a moment to ponder whether your love will last. The answer, according to a recent study published in the online journal Social Cognitive and Effective Neuroscience, lies more in the neural patterns of your brain than in the poetry of your words.

Researchers at Stony Brook University used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of 10 women and seven men who claimed they were still "madly" in love with their spouse, even after 21 years of marriage. Each viewed a picture of his or her beloved, and control pictures, including a close friend and lesser-known acquaintances. Brain activity was measured as participants looked at the facial images.

The researchers then compared these brain scans with those of people from an earlier experiment who said they'd fallen in love within the past year. They found the scans looked a lot alike.

There were differences -- long-term romantic love lit up many more brain regions than early-stage love -- but both groups showed significant activity in the dopamine-rich ventral tegmental area. The VTA -- which is a crucial part of the brain's motivation and reward circuit -- also illuminates in response to food, money, alcohol and cocaine.

The dopamine-laden VTA had already shown activity in six previous studies of those in early-stage love -- in relationships ranging from three weeks to 17 months -- but the Stony Brook study was the first to ever associate the VTA with long-term love. Researchers take this as evidence that romantic love can endure.

"A lot of times all we hear is our relationships are painful, and we suffer," said researcher Bianca Acevedo. "But it's exciting to see there's a pattern in our brain that is associated with intense love," and that it appears in the long-in-love and the newly-in-love. "Love can last," said Acevedo." It doesn't wane. It doesn't disappear."

The researchers also believe their study offers clues as to what may be essential brain activity for couples to stay in love.

"It's a nice finding, because it shows in a way our brain is still a simple thing," said Dr. Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at UCLA medical school who was not involved in the study. "Humans are so good at using sophisticated language to dissect emotions. But if we look at the way big systems in the brain respond, they seem to be much simpler than our behavior. The responses of the brain can be quite predictable."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kiss of Death? Hidden Heart Condition Takes Teen's Life

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- Jemma Benjamin, 18, of Cardiff, Wales, shared a first kiss with her new boyfriend before entering his apartment. Then, minutes later, Benjamin collapsed on a sofa and died.

Her sudden death shocked her boyfriend and her family, who said that Benjamin never showed any signs of health problems. Even an autopsy could not point to a cause of death, according to Britain's Daily Mail. The Daily Mail said medical examiners ruled the likely cause of death may have been a hidden heart rhythm disease that brought on Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome, or SADS.

"This kiss might have been an adrenaline generating experience," said Dr. Michael Ackerman, director of the long QT syndrome clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "High excitement, deep sadness, extreme emotions or strenuous physical activity can be a trigger that can unmask these conditions."

In fact, many people may unknowingly have SADS, an umbrella term for a group of genetic conditions that abnormally affect a heart's rhythm. Some may live their whole lives without triggering an abnormal episode, while others may experience fainting spells or seizures beginning at a young age.

According to the Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes Foundation, nearly 1 in 2,000 people in the U.S. suffer from any one of a range of genetic heart rhythm conditions. The most common form of SADS is long QT syndrome, a condition in which there are longer intervals between heart beats. Many younger children never have electrocardiograms, or ECG screening, which is designed to detect abnormal heart rhythms. And for those who have more subtle cases, an ECG may not be accurate enough to detect an abnormality, said Ackerman.

While it may seem as if SADS can only be detected after death, Ackerman said, many may experience early warning signs that can help identify an abnormality. One of the most common, he said, is sudden fainting not brought on by any trigger.

According to the Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes Foundation, while most people are placed on daily medication to manage their condition, patients with more severe cases are implanted with a cardiac device, or ICD, that automatically shocks the heart back to normal.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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