Study Suggests Birth Control Pills Don’t Cause Weight Gain

Image Courtesy - Getty Images(PORTLAND, Ore.) – New researched performed on monkeys shows that the notion of birth control pills causing weight gain is not necessarily true. A study conducted at the Oregon National Primate Research Center sought to counter the popular notion that oral contraceptives are a direct cause of added pounds.

"Issues surrounding weight are hard to study in humans, and the research thus far has been insufficient to demonstrate whether or not oral contraceptives cause weight gain or loss. But this is an extremely important question as concern about weight gain is one of the main reasons why women may avoid or discontinue birth control, which in turn places them at greater risk for an unplanned pregnancy,” said Alison Edelman, M.D., the lead author of the study.

The study took one group of overweight monkeys and another group of normal monkeys and over eight months, the two groups were given oral contraceptives. The researchers tracked the primates weight, food intake, activity levels, body fat and lean muscle mass. At the end of the study, the normal group did not have a fluctuation in weight, but the obese group ended up losing weight and body fat.

"This study suggests that worries about weight gain with pill use appear to be based more on fiction than on fact," said Judy Cameron, Ph.D., senior author of the paper and a researcher at the primate center. “We realize that research in nonhuman primates cannot entirely dismiss the connection between contraceptives and weight gain in humans, but it strongly suggests that women should not be as worried as they previously were."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Production of Lethal Injection Drug Halted

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK)-- Hospira Inc, the sole maker of a key execution drug in the U.S. announced Friday that it will permanently halt production of the drug.

The company planned to produce the drug, thiopental, at a plant in Italy. However, an issue passed in December ordered the government to prevent the Italian made drug from being used in lethal injections. With that, the company decided to terminate all production of the drug.

Hospira's decision could have sweeping affects on the capital punishment system especially for states that have run out of thiopental and will consequently have to delay carrying out of the death penalty. Although there are other drugs that states may use as a supplement, that decision may require approval from courts and state officials.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Monkeys: They're Drunks Like Us 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The physiological and genetic similarities between humans and monkeys make the hairier primates a great stand-in for humans when it comes to understanding the causes and effects of alcohol consumption, scientists say. For years, researchers have studied how monkeys react when introduced to alcohol, how much they drink and more.

Here are just a few examples of how these jungle dwellers imbibe like human bar flies:

1. They Get Hooked Young: Scientists have found that monkeys who are introduced to alcohol in their adolescence are more likely to drink more alcohol when they get older than those who stay dry.

2. Slaking a Stressed-Out Thirst: Monkeys will drink more heavily when in a stressful situation.

3. Slurring Their Speech: Monkeys' lips droop and their speech patterns are impaired by alcohol use.

4. Social Drinker or Teetotaler? Monkeys can fall into different patterns of drinking, including abstinence, social drinking, heavy drinking, and abusive drinking.

5. Intoxicating Inheritance: As with humans, monkeys can be genetically predisposed to alcoholism.

6. The Hangover: Monkeys don't bounce back after a bender; They get hangovers and those who drink constantly can develop liver disease.

7. Grand Theft Alcohol: Monkeys aren't above stealing when they want to get their drink on -- wild monkeys have been known to swipe cocktails from patrons at tropical resorts. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


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. 
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