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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

Friday
Jun282013

Experts Hope Regulations Mean FDA Gets Tough on Tobacco 

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the Food and Drug Administration this week announced the rejection of four proposed tobacco products, experts voiced hope that the federal government can diminish tobacco use through regulation.

The FDA's decision on Tuesday marked the first time tobacco products were subject to federal oversight.  The FDA also authorized two new tobacco products though they are versions of what's already on the market.

The FDA's authorizations come four years after the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA the ability to regulate any new tobacco products put on the market.

"[The] historic announcement marks an important step toward the FDA's goal of reducing preventable disease and death caused by tobacco," FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said in a statement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco smoke and secondhand smoke is responsible for the death of 443,000 Americans each year.  Experts said the FDA's regulations were just one small step towards diminishing the use of tobacco in the U.S.

Dr. Richard Hurt, founder and director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center in Minneapolis, said he was pleased the FDA had started to regulate products, although he remained concerned that it took the FDA four years to make a final decision about six products.

"This is just the toe in the water of the FDA's regulation," said Hurt.  "All of us in the tobacco field have been waiting for them to do something."

Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, admitted that the process "has taken time," but believed it would become more streamlined in the future.

"As all involved parties continue to gain more experience, FDA expects the process to move much more quickly," Zeller told reporters during a call on Tuesday.

Some 4,000 tobacco products await FDA authorization.  Approximately 3,500 of those products are already on the market because they beat a deadline that would have held them off the market pending FDA authorization.  They are allowed to remain on the market unless the FDA issues an order saying they do not meet specific standards.

The products that were authorized were two different kinds of Newport non-menthol cigarettes from the Lorillard Tobacco Co.  The FDA said they would be allowed on the market because they did not raise different public health questions than comparable products already on the market.  By law, the FDA cannot name the four products that were rejected or their manufacturers.

The FDA said there could be a number of reasons new tobacco products do not get authorization, such as if they raise questions of public health, or if there was a lack of data on their impact on public health or incomplete test data.

The FDA's authorization did not mean the products were any healthier than other tobacco products.  The FDA authorizes the products on the basis that they will not present more harm to the public health than a comparable product already on the market.

Though the two products passed FDA muster under the guidelines of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, that does not allow Lorillard to claim they have FDA approval, because they do not meet the criteria of being "safe and effective" for users.

Lorillard Tobacco CEO Murray Kessler said he was "pleased" with the FDA's ruling.

"[We] believe that the FDA has carried out is evaluation process in a deliberate manner reflecting sound science," Kessler said in a statement.  "We look forward to continuing productive engagement with the agency moving forward."

Electronic or e-cigarettes, which allow users to inhale suspended nicotine through "vapor," are not regulated by the FDA unless the manufacturer claims they have therapeutic benefits.

In 2011, the FDA announced that it would start regulating electronic cigarettes the way it regulates tobacco products but it's in the process of finalizing that proposal.

In addition to the FDA's regulation of new products, Hurt said he hoped the FDA will regulate other cigarette components such as nicotine or menthol to diminish tobacco use.

Hurt added that a cigarette-free country is not out of the realm of possibility.  He noted that the modern cigarette is only about 100 years old and that New Zealand aims to be smoke-free by 2025.

"When we talk about a world without cigarettes we talk about a return to a norm," said Hurt.  "[Cigarettes were] not a product of note 'til early part of the 20th century."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun282013

Aspirin Recalled over Acetaminophen Mix-Up

Food and Drug Administration(NEW YORK) -- A nationwide baby aspirin recall is underway after a CVS pharmacist discovered a 120-pill bottle of baby aspirin was filled with acetaminophen pills.

Advance Pharmaceutical Inc. voluntarily recalled 16,440 bottles of pills labeled to contain 81-mg aspirin pills because at least one bottle in the lot contained 500-mg acetaminophen pills, according to Advance Pharmaceutical spokesman Abu Amanatullah.  No known injuries have been reported.

“That could put some people into liver failure,” said Dr. Joe Odin, an associate professor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York who does research in drug-induced liver injury.

He said overdosing on acetaminophen, commonly sold under the brand name Tylenol, is the number one method of suicide in the United Kingdom.  In the United States, patients usually overdose on acetaminophen by accident because they don’t realize one of their prescriptions -- such as sleeping pills -- already contains it.

“It’s not an uncommon overdose,” said Dr. Corey Slovis, who heads the department of emergent medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee.  “We hate Tylenol overdose because they’re the silent overdoses.”

Slovis said patients who overdose on acetaminophen often don’t feel sick right away, unless they’ve taken a massive dose that induces vomiting within six hours.  Instead, many patients who overdose on acetaminophen don’t see a doctor for more than two days because they feel fine at first.  When they finally get to Slovis, they’re often jaundiced and experiencing the early signs of liver failure.

As such, this kind of overdose could result in liver failure, the need for a transplant or death, Slovis said.

If doctors catch the overdose early, they can save patients by pumping their stomachs full of charcoal to deactivate the acetaminophen, Odin said.  Intravenous medications can also reverse the damage.

But most patients who take baby aspirin do it because it keeps blood platelets from sticking together, said Dr. Sripal Bangalore, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center.  As such, baby aspirin is crucial for patients who have undergone stent surgery.

“Aspirin and Tylenol are not the same,” he said, emphasizing that Tylenol doesn’t have anti-clotting properties.  “Most times, the patient will have signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

If stent patients are unwittingly taking Tylenol instead of aspirin, they run the risk of stent thrombosis, meaning the stent becomes blocked, and they could die, he said.

“It’s pretty dangerous,” Bangalore said.  “Once a stent closes, there are studies to show that the risk of dying from it is pretty large.”

Other patients take baby aspirin because it’s thought to reduce the risk of heart attack.  But Bangalore said he’s less worried about that because the benefits are debatable.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun282013

Art Therapy Saves Schizophrenic Hit by Two Cars

Robert Latchman(NEW YORK) -- In 2011, Robert Latchman miraculously survived being hit by two cars -- one struck him while walking across a New York City street, and then, in rapid succession, another vehicle delivered a second blow.  Doctors were able to fix the physical injuries, a broken arm and leg, but the psychological recovery was more challenging.

Latchman, now 37, is an artist with learning disabilities and schizophrenia.  Since the age of 19, he has been in an art therapy program, the Brooklyn-based League Education & Treatment Center, a nonprofit day program for adult artists with neurological disabilities.

In 2005, he was one of the first artists at its gallery and studio, League Art Natural Design or LAND, also in Brooklyn.  But after his accident, Latchman took two years to heal, and his family and mentors at LAND feared he would never return to the art he loved.

Latchman had screws surgically implanted in his leg and physical therapy for his arm, which still gives him pain and is still not fully functional.

But with the help of his mentors at the center, who visited him every day during his rehabilitation, providing supplies and support, he has now returned to the gallery and is painting again.  His is a success story for not only those who champion the disabled, but for the power of the arts to inspire and heal.

LAND uses art as a vehicle to teach life skills, while incorporating other modes of therapy and learning.  Not only did the program cultivate Latchman's passion for art, but it showcased his work -- acrylics, watercolors, stencils and charcoal drawings -- and made them available to the public.

In 2010, he sold a six-piece collection of boat and bridge paintings for $4,500 to JCrew, which is still on display in their Manhattan offices.

"Robert started thinking art, and living art.  Everything was art, art, art," said his mother, Mary Latchman, 58, a former factory worker.  "When he got into that art studio, something happened.  It changed his whole life.  His behavior changed -- everything changed.  Now, every day he thinks about art."

New York City's League Center provides comprehensive education and treatment services to children and adults with developmental and psychiatric disabilities at no cost to the families.

Its art program was not fully formed when Robert Latchman enrolled, but it grew up around him.  Its mission is to help the neurologically disabled discover their "strengths and gifts" in the arts, according to CEO Hannah Achtenberg Kinn.

"The arts are therefore, a hallmark of all our programs," said Kinn.  "From age two, to age 70, art of any kind provides a unique source of dignity, self-expression and identity that we hope to enable each person in our programs to achieve."

"We want to help each person practice their art and in doing so, develop their own personal identity," she said.  "We want them to have what Freud said was essential in life: purpose and community.  That's what we're working to provide.  The League Education and Treatment Center is a community of artists."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun282013

Review of Studies Confirms Prenatal Iron Is Good for Mom and Baby

Comstock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- New research confirms what many doctors already emphasize to their patients about the importance of iron for a pregnancy.
 
Iron is a mineral commonly available in supplements over the counter. Deficiency of the mineral is the most common cause of anemia in expectant moms. It also can increase complications during pregnancy.
 
Too little iron in expectant mothers increases the chance of premature birth, reduces a baby's survival rate and can severely stunt a child's development.

A review online by Batool A. Haider of the Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues in the journal BMJ looked at 92 studies involving almost 2 million women. The review found that taking iron supplements during pregnancy was associated with a 50- to 60-percent reduction in the risk of iron deficiency and related anemia. Additionally, each 10-milligram increase in daily iron was associated with a significant increase in newborns' birth weight.

The authors concluded, "Daily prenatal use of iron substantially improved birth weight in a linear dose-response fashion, probably leading to a reduction in risk of low birth weight. An improvement in prenatal mean hemoglobin concentration linearly increased birth weight."
 
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun282013

Overweight Teen? Study Says Focus on Healthy Eating, Not Weight Loss

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- With a high prevalence of weight-related problems in adolescents, obesity in this age group has tripled in the U.S. in the last 30 years. Now new research suggests that the trick to getting teens to eat a healthy diet may be in how parents talk to them.
 
For a study published in the journal Pediatrics researchers at the University of Minnesota looked at more than 2,300 teenagers and over 3,500 parents for associations between parent conversations and adolescent disordered eating behaviors, such as dieting, unhealthy weight-control behaviors and binge eating.
 
Overweight kids whose parents talked to them in terms of losing weight were more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors. But parents whose conversations focused only on "healthful eating behaviors" had kids who were "less" likely to exhibit the unhealthy behaviors.

In other words, accentuate the positive to avoid negative behavior.
 
The study authors suggest doctors talk to parents about how to best address the subject and focus on healthy eating.  
 
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun272013

More Frozen Berries Recalled over Hepatitis Fears

FDA(WASHINGTON) -- A second frozen berry producer has recalled packages containing pomegranate seeds from Turkey over concerns the seeds could be contaminated with hepatitis A, a highly contagious liver infection.

Scenic Fruit Company in Oregon recalled 61,092 8-ounce bags of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels shipped between February and May of this year. No one has become sick from eating the kernels nor have researchers found any evidence of hepatitis A contamination, according to a statement on the Food and Drug Administration’s website.

“The company’s decision to voluntarily recall products is made from an abundance of caution in response to an ongoing outbreak investigation by the FDA and CDC,” according to the recall.

An ongoing hepatitis A outbreak linked to berries from Townsend Farms in Oregon has sickened 122 people in eight states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fifty-four of them have been hospitalized.

Experts told ABC News earlier this month that they suspected the pomegranate seeds from Turkey, which were added to the Townsend Farms berry mix, caused the outbreak.

The Scenic Fruit Company’s recalled pomegranate kernels also came from Turkey, according to the FDA recall.

Hepatitis A is fatal to one in 200 patients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is usually spread through person-to-person contact when an infected person does not properly wash his or her hands after using the bathroom. It can also be spread through contaminated food, usually in countries with poor sanitation.

This particular strain of hepatitis A is rarely seen in the United States, and is most common in North Africa and the Middle East, according to the CDC’s web page dedicated to the outbreak. According to the Townsend Farms berry mix label, ingredients came from Argentina, Chile, Turkey and the United States.

The CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments are still investigating the outbreak. Townsend Farms voluntarily recalled the berry blend on June 4, and Costco pulled the berries from shelves and began notifying customers who bought them May 31, according to CDC and FDA news releases.

Since there is no FDA-approved test for hepatitis A on food other than green onions, berries aren’t tested for the virus, Craig Wilson, vice president of food safety and quality assurance at Costco, which sold the Townsend Farms berries, told ABC News. Officials have used the green onion test on the berries in light of the outbreak, but results have been negative. Wilson said he did the same and got the same negative test results.

“Townsend Farms has an excellent record,” Wilson said in early June. “Their food safety program plant is very good. That was confirmed by the FDA inspection. They just went through a five-day FDA inspection.”

Since Costco suppliers are required to have the ability to trace all their product ingredients, they turned their attention to the pomegranate seeds from Turkey that were added to the berry blend, Wilson said. This is because the virus strain that affected consumers is rare in the Americas but common in the Middle East.

Scenic Fruit Company did not immediately return calls from ABC News seeking comment.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun272013

Vitamin Drip Treatments Gaining Popularity

Medioimages/Getty(NEW YORK) -- A fad that started in Hollywood and expanded to the wider population involves an unusual way to get nutrition. Exhausted Americans are going to private clinics on their lunch breaks to get an IV drip of what some claim is an energy-boosting cocktail.

“It’s really like a multivitamin in a bag,” said Dr. Jeffrey Morrison, director of the Morrison Center, an integrative medicine center in New York City.  “This is a way to give much more high concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants so the body has all the building blocks so it can heal itself and respond to the stresses of day-to-day life.”

Another doctor, Karima Hirani, of Culver City, Calif., said her liquid vitamin patients suffer from a range of conditions such as chronic fatigue, depression and anxiety.

Stars such as Madonna, Simon Cowell and Cindy Crawford reportedly are on the liquid vitamin bandwagon, and a photo Rihanna tweeted of herself with an IV needle in her arm last year fueled speculation that she, too, enjoys the so-called “party girl drip” treatment.

The treatment is not just for stars.  Christina Andrews recently had an infusion of vitamins B5 and B12.

“I’m on my feet 12 hours, so I need a lot of energy,” Andrews said.  “I recommend it to all my friends.”

Music executive Carmen Key gets her drip at a Los Angeles clinic once a week. “Instead of feeling, like, energized, you feel alive,” she said.

But not everyone’s a fan. Critics say the practice is extreme and unnecessary, and question whether it offers anything that can’t be had from vitamins and nutritious food. And the treatments don’t come cheap.  Each session can cost between $130 to $275.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun272013

C-Section Rates Still High but Steady

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After a 13-year climb, C-section rates appear to be leveling off in the U.S., according to a new national study.

Roughly one in three American singletons is born by C-section, according to the study -- up 60 percent from the most recent low in 1996.  But the rate of C-section deliveries has steadied since 2009, a trend experts say is ”good news” for American moms and babies.

“It’s good news because there’s some inherent risks in C-section deliveries compared to vaginal births,” said study author Michelle Osterman, a health statistician at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  “It’s a very invasive abdominal surgery, and with that comes risks to both mom baby as well as higher cost.”

But there are ups and downs buried in the apparent plateau.  While the rate of C-sections performed at 37 or 38 weeks has fallen 4 percent since 2009, the rate of full-term C-sections performed after 39 weeks has increased 3 percent, the study found.

Osterman said the swings could stem from new guidelines issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which state that vaginal delivery is “appropriate and should be recommended” in the absence of maternal or fetal complications, and that C-section delivery on maternal request “should not be performed before a gestational age of 39 weeks.”

In another example of canceled out ups and downs, C-section rates decreased by 7 percent among women younger than 25 but rose by at least 3 percent for women 25 and older.  The rates also varied by location, with some states, such as New York, Oklahoma and Oregon, seeing decreases in 38-week C-section rates since 2009, and others, such as Maryland, Michigan and California, seeing increases in 39-week C-section rates.

Several states saw both increases and decreases in C-section rates, depending on the timing of the delivery, according to the study.

The study looked only at singleton births because multiples are more likely to be delivered by C-section out of medical necessity, according to Osterman.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun272013

Yogurt Tastes Different Depending on the Spoon

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Lightweight plastic spoons make food taste yummier.  That’s the conclusion of a study published in the journal Flavour that set out to determine if the spoon you use to eat your yogurt makes a difference in how it tastes.

It turns out the answer is yes.

After sampling yogurt with several different spoons, the 35 participants in the Oxford University study voted the yogurt eaten from a lightweight plastic spoon as creamier and more expensive tasting compared to the same yogurt eaten from a heavier plastic spoon.

In previous studies, the Oxford team found that people prefer food eaten with a heavier silver spoon and in general prefer heavier plates, cups and even wine bottles.  However, in this case, subjects were expecting the plastic spoons to feel light.

“A spoon that looks light but is heavy as in our most recent study is bad, not because of the weight but likely because of the confounded expectation,” Charles Spence, one of the lead researchers explained.

The study also found that yogurt tasted sweeter when eaten off a light-colored spoon but not so sweet when eaten off a black spoon.  When pink yogurt was served on a blue spoon, subjects said it tasted saltier and less sweet than when it was served on a white spoon, possibly because they found the color contrast less pleasing.

These findings reveal a lot more about the complexity of taste perception and food enjoyment than just spoon preference, the researchers say.  Diners think their taste buds fancy a particular food but in reality, everything from the color of a plate to overhead lighting to background music exerts an influence over the eating experience.

Spence said he believes this type of information can be used to help people lose weight.

For example, earlier studies done by the oxford team found that dessert served on a white plate tastes 10 percent sweeter than the exact same treat served on black plate.

Research done by the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University discovered that people eat 16 percent more cereal when they use a larger bowl compared to a smaller bowl.  Even worse, they believe they’re eating 7 percent less.

And another study by the Cornell lab found that people given short wide glasses poured 76 percent more soda than those who had randomly been given tall slender glasses.  They believed, however, that they had poured less.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun272013

Digesting the Facts About Celiac Disease

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley and rye, causes a lot of trouble for a lot of people.  Nearly two million Americans suffer from celiac disease, a condition where the inability to properly digest gluten leads to chronic gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, gas and diarrhea.

On Tuesday, Dr. Richard Besser, the chief health and medical correspondent for ABC News, hosted a Twitter chat on this common, yet commonly misdiagnosed disease to clear up any myths and misconceptions about celiac, gluten intolerance and gluten-free eating.  Dr. Besser was joined by top experts from around the country.

Click here for the full chat transcript.  Read on for the highlights:

What causes celiac disease?

Celiac disease occurs when an individual’s own immune system overreacts to gluten.  The inflammatory response damages the delicate lining of the small intestine, where most nutrients are absorbed.

Who gets celiac disease?

About 1 percent of the population has celiac disease, according to National Institutes of Health statistics.

Certain genes place individuals at increased risk for celiac disease, but not everyone who has those genes will get the disease.  And genes are only half the story: The disease only develops when someone who is genetically predisposed to celiac eats gluten.

Women are more likely to suffer from celiac.  So are people with type 1 diabetes, Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, autoimmune thyroid disease and Sjogren’s syndrome.  It’s more common in Caucasians than other ethnicities and anyone with a close relative who has the disease.  Both children and adults can be celiac.

An unknown percentage of people may not have full-blown celiac but struggle with gluten sensitivities or gluten intolerance.

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

There are three forms of celiac disease: classic, atypical and asymptomatic.

People who struggle with a classic form of the disease often experience diarrhea and weight loss.  People with the atypical form experience the digestive complaints along with symptoms like anemia, fatigue, headaches, joint pain, osteoporosis, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, or an itchy skin condition known as dermatitis herpetiformis.

Asymptomatic disease -- as the name implies -- is often detected accidentally during medical tests run for some other medical problem; however these patients frequently notice improvements in symptoms such as fatigue after adopting a gluten-free diet.

Who should get tested and how is it diagnosed?

Individuals with autoimmune conditions associated with celiac disease should get screened.  So should people with first degree relatives who have celiac.  Initial screening involves a simple blood test to check for specific antibodies produced in celiacs after they’ve consumed gluten.  The diagnosis is confirmed by an endoscopy and biopsy of the small intestine.

There’s no reliable test for gluten sensitivity or intolerance.  A doctor often makes this diagnosis when other medical conditions are ruled out.

How do you treat celiac disease?

Currently the only way to treat celiac disease is to eliminate gluten from the diet.  This means avoiding any products containing wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).  Oats don’t contain gluten but some oat products can be contaminated with wheat.  Rice, corn and soy are naturally gluten-free.  Many celiacs find it helpful to meet with a registered dietitian and nutritionist to help plan a diet that’s gluten-free and healthy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio