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Friday
Oct012010

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


Friday
Oct012010

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

Friday
Oct012010

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

Friday
Oct012010

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

Friday
Oct012010

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

Friday
Oct012010

Viagra Doesn't Work for Half of Those Who Have It Prescribed

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BRITAIN) -- Doctors say Viagra isn't effective for half the men who take the drug.  Britain's Daily Mail reports many men who are prescribed the little blue pill have low levels of testosterone.  The drug alone does nothing to treat this.  In fact, Viagra works by enhancing the effects of nitric oxide.  This chemical doesn't function unless a person taking the pill already has high levels of testosterone.

"Viagra will only work if there are sufficient levels of testosterone. Often men with low testosterone levels won't feel like sex at all," says Dr. Geoffrey Hackett, a consultant urologist at Good Hope hospital in Birmingham, England and former chairman of the British Society for Sexual Medicine.  "They will get repeat prescriptions for Viagra in the hope that it will eventually work. Everybody thinks that Viagra is the panacea for all sexual problems; it's not," he adds.

Low levels of testosterone, which affect 40 percent of men over the age of 40, can be detected with a simple blood test.  Once the condition is confirmed, treatment can commence with testosterone pills, patches or gels.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct012010

Washington Department of Health Investigating Child Deaths Due to Overdosing

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- The Washington State Department of Health says it is looking into a second child death involving Seattle Children's Hospital.  The news comes just days after Children's announced a Sept. 15 overdose that killed an 8-month-old girl.

There are reports that a third child also became ill following an overdose, but the Washington State Department of Health says it is not involved in that investigation. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Thursday
Sep302010

Gay Adolescents, Young Adults at High Risk for Suicide, Experts Say

Photo Courtesy -- Tyler Clementi | Facebook.com(NEW YORK) -- Mental health experts say Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, who jumped to his death last week from New York's George Washington Bridge, may have been reacting to a constellation of factors related to sexuality, public bullying and humiliation that put adolescents and young adults at a particularly high risk for suicide.

Clementi is believed to have been caught on camera during an intimate encounter with a young man in his dorm room. His roommate, 18-year-old Dharun Ravi, allegedly streamed video of the two on the Internet.

According to the 2005 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, teens who identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, or who report having any same-sex sexual contact, are four times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year than their straight classmates.  The 2009 National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) shows that nine out of 10 lesbian, bisexual and transgender middle and high school students report having been harassed.

The extent to which the public revelations of Clementi's sexual encounter influenced his decision to take his own life remains to be fully understood. However, his death comes on the heels of several recently publicized suicides among younger gay teens who were bullied and humiliated at school:

Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old from Tehachapi, Calif., hanged himself from a tree in his backyard. Authorities say other teens had taunted the boy for being gay. He died Tuesday afternoon after nine days on life support.

Asher Brown, 13, an eighth-grader in Houston, fatally shot himself in the head last week after enduring what his mother and stepfather said was constant harassment from four other students at his school for being gay.

Billy (William) Lucas, 15, a student at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg, Ind., was found dead after he reportedly hanged himself in a barn at his grandmother's home last Thursday evening. Friends said the torment that Lucas endured included taunts that questioned his sexual orientation.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep302010

Novartis to Pay $422.5M to Resolve Criminal, Civil Charges

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Drug company Novartis has agreed to pay $422.5 million to resolve criminal and civil charges that it illegally marketed the epilepsy drug Trileptal, as well as other drugs. The company will plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and pay $185 million in criminal penalties.

A release from the Justice Department notes the DOJ and the Department of Health and Human Services “focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover approximately $3.445 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 have topped $4.595 billion.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep302010

Johnson & Johnson CEO: 'Sorry' About 'Phantom Recall'

Image Courtesy - Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc.(WASHINGTON) -- The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing Thursday on the extent of "phantom recalls" by Johnson and Johnson which resulted in the largest recall of children's medicine in history.

Documents show Johnson and Johnson hired contractors to go into stores and buy Children's Tylenol products that the company wanted to recall, an effort apparently conducted to avoid publicizing the recall. The company originally told Congress in May that it didn't know what the contractors were doing, but the House committee obtained documents showing Johnson and Johnson ordered the phantom recall.

Johnson and Johnson Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William Weldon said he knows the company has let the public down and admitted the company made a mistake in not notifying the FDA. 

"We did not maintain our high quality standards and as a result, children do not have access to our important medicines. I accept full accountability for the problems," Weldon said, adding that the company's children's liquid products will be back on shelves next week.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio