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New Alarms Raised over Cellphone Effects on Pregnant Women, Kids

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NORTH HAVEN, Conn.) -- Just a month into the New Year and the first report on the possible hazards of cellphone use has been released.

Non-profit Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI) has fired the opening salvo of 2012 and it’s not good for the cellular technologies industry.

Lead author John Wargo writes, “The scientific evidence is sufficiently robust showing that cellular devices pose significant health risks to children and pregnant women. The weight of the evidence supports stronger precautionary regulation by the federal government.”

Wargo calls on cellphone makers to, “take immediate steps to reduce emission of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from phones and avoid marketing their products to children.”

Basing their findings on hundreds of previous studies, the EHHI researchers say that experiments performed on animals and humans detailing the effects of electromagnetic radiation said chronic cellphone use can lead to diminished learning, diminished reaction time, decreased motor function, reduced memory accuracy, hyperactivity and diminished cognition.

Since children and pregnant women are most susceptible to side-effects, EHHI recommends “The government must take greater responsibility for testing cellular technologies before they are marketed to assure their safety, their proper disposal and to educate the public about safe patterns of use.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Secret to a Happy Marriage: 2 Vacations per Year, 1 Argument Per Week

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Getting away on vacation twice a year isn’t just good for your mental health; it’s also good for your marriage.  A new survey of 2,000 happily married couples in the U.K. has uncovered what appear to be the secrets to a successful future together.

Getting away on vacation twice a year was cited as one of the key ingredients in a happy marriage.  Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they like to get away because it helps remind them of why they love each other so much. Fifty-five percent say they are more likely to make time for each other while on vacation than at any other time of the year.  Having a healthy argument once a week was also considered an important component of a healthy relationship.

Additional survey findings:

  •     47 percent of respondents say they were friends with a partner before they became an item, and then eventually married.
  •     21 percent say one key to a happy marriage is turning a blind eye to their partner’s annoying habits.
  •     33 percent say it's important to know when to say you’re sorry.
  •     35 percent of respondents say they're happy in their marriage because they share the household chores equally.
  •     Compromising on what TV shows you watch also plays a part in a happy marriage.

Here's a breakdown of what survey respondents say are important ingredients in a happy marriage:

  •     Vacations, twice a year.
  •     Short breaks, twice a year.
  •     Say “I love you,” nine times every two weeks.
  •     Kiss, six times a week.
  •     Cuddle, 11 times every two weeks.
  •     Have sex, two times a week.
  •     Deep and meaningful conversation, two times a week.
  •     Dinner out, three times a month.
  •     Drinks out, three times a month.
  •     Healthy argument, once a week.
  •     Boys/girls’ night out without partner, twice a month.
  •     Surprise romantic gesture, three times a month.
  •     Movie night at home, five times a month.

The survey was commissioned by Headwater Holidays, a travel firm.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


How to Eat Skinny? Dine With A Healthy Eater

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NIJMEGEN, Netherlands) -- Do you eat more when you are dining a deux?

Chances are you do, according to new research published in the journal PLoS One. People tend to take bites in sync with a dining partner, rather than eat at their own pace, according to the study.

Researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen of the Netherlands studied 70 pairs of young women eating together and recorded their chewing habits. What they found was that the women were likely to follow the lead of their dining companions.  Both women were likely to take a bite at the time as their companion.

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“In daily-life eating contexts, both eating companions could affect each other in terms of their eating behavior and that’s what we have tested in the current study,” said Roel Hermans, lead author of the study.” I think that it’s important that people become aware of these factors.”

As unhealthy eating habits run rampant, Hermans noted that it might be difficult to make healthy food choices and maintain a healthy diet when a diner is exposed to the poor eating habits of his or her companions.

“Mimicry of this kind likely has deep roots in anthropology, and perhaps even biology,” said Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “If the young of a species don’t mimic the dietary patterns of the adults, they risk ingesting poisons, or starving.  In the bluntest terms -- we learn what, when, and how to eat (by) watching others of our kind.”

But Katz pointed out flaws in the rationale behind the study’s results. “If two young women are having a meal together, they have a choice: talk, or chew,” said Katz. "It may be that they synchronize chewing because at other times they were talking.  I didn’t see this issue addressed in the paper.  So it may all come down to, ‘don’t talk with your mouth full.’”

Nevertheless, Katz recommended that people who are trying to lose weight tell family and friends and ask for their support.

“Better still, make the support reciprocal, and approach the challenge together,” said Katz. “Once the issue is out in the open, it’s hard for bad social influences to foment and much easier to start cultivating beneficial ones.”

And in a world where childhood obesity is also a growing problem, Connie Diekman, who heads university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, said parents have the most power to influence their children’s eating choices in the early school years.

“As a registered dietitian, I do discuss with my clients dining out, what they eat, who they eat with and if dining out is different than eating at home,” said Diekman. “If a client sees a noticeable difference, beyond foods in restaurants, then we do discuss if others impact what they eat. Who we eat with, whether it is family, friends or colleagues does impact eating, but it is [only] one component.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


British Ban Airbrushed Rachel Weisz Skincare Ad

Michael Tran/FilmMagic(LONDON) -- British regulators have banned a L’Oreal Revitalift skincare ad featuring an airbrushed close-up of Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz for exaggerating the product’s age-fighting effects on a woman’s complexion.

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled Wednesday that a two-page ad for L’Oreal Revitalift Repair 10, which ran in September 2011, cannot reappear “in its current form” because the black-and-white image of Weisz misrepresented what the product could do for a woman’s skin. The English beauty, variously reported to be 40 or 41, took home an Academy Award for her role in the 2005 film The Constant Gardener.

In a ruling against the world’s largest cosmetics company, the agency said it took into consideration “that consumers were likely to expect a degree of glamour in images for beauty products” and that advertisers would be “keen to present their products in their most positive light using techniques such as post-production enhancement and the re-touching of images.”

The agency called that approach “acceptable so long as the resulting effect was not one which misleadingly exaggerated the effect that the product was capable of achieving.”

“Although we considered that the image in the ad did not misrepresent the luminosity or wrinkling of Rachel Weisz’s face, we considered that the image had been altered in a way that substantially changed her complexion to make it appear smoother and more even,” the authority wrote.

The ruling came in response to a complaint filed by Jo Swinson, a Scottish member of Parliament and co-founder of the Campaign for Body Confidence. Swinson, a former marketing manager, chairs a Parliamentary inquiry into causes and consequences of body image anxiety. She has succeeded with other complaints about misleading ads for cosmetics brands owned by L’Oreal. Last July, the ASA banned ads for Lancome’s Teint Miracle foundation featuring actress Julia Roberts and for Maybelline’s The Eraser foundation featuring supermodel Christy Turlington.

L’Oreal stands by the effectiveness of its product. It issued the following statement, as reported by MSNBC: “We believe that the image in the advertisement is a true representation of Rachel Weisz. The product claims are based on extensive scientific research which proved that the product improves 10 different signs of skin aging. We therefore do not believe that the ad exaggerates the effect that can be achieved using this product.”

In another ruling Wednesday, the ASA rejected complaints that a L’Oreal moisturizer ad featuring film legend Jane Fonda had been “significantly modified.” Fonda, 74, who has appeared in an ad for L’Oreal Paris Age Re-Perfect Pro Calcium, in 2010 admitted undergoing “work” on her eyes, chin and neck, and reportedly had undergone an earlier facelift. She made a dazzling appearance as a presenter at this year’s Golden Globes awards, drawing wows from actor-director George Clooney, who said: “My God, she looked great, didn’t she?”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Knock Off’ the Hate Speech, Says LGBT Super Bowl Ads

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For the first time ever, gay-rights advocates will launch a sassy advertising campaign aimed at football fans in the most macho of American venues -- the Super Bowl.

Four award-winning public service announcements feature various celebrities telling teens to “knock it off” when they overhear them using the ubiquitous line, “That’s so gay.”

The videos will be strategically placed on a screen at the entrance of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., to be viewed by Super Bowl ticketholders on Feb. 5.

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In its newest ad, GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, has garnered cooperation from the NBA and Phoenix Suns stars Grant Hill and Jared Dudley. The NBA is the first professional sports league to address antigay language among teens.

The campaign -- Think Before You Speak -- was created by ArnoldNYC and Toronto-based Grazie Media donated the airtime. The PSAs were funded by GLSEN, whose mission it is to ensure safe schools for all students.

Launched in 2009, the PSAs coincide with national concern about homophobia and school bullying and have received accolades from the Ad Council.

“The casual use of ‘That’s so gay’ is very common and rampant and often leads to more overt forms of harassment,” said GLSEN spokesperson Andy Marra. “This audience may not even see it as a problem.”

The first three videos have been distributed to local markets and have generated more than 387 million impressions and $25 million in donated ad time, according to GLSEN.

“It’s a new audience for us to reach,” said Marra. “The tone and feel is a good fit. The ads are not confrontational -- but very disarming and spark a conversation. That is the intention.”

Think Before You Speak features humorous TV PSAs with celebrities interrupting teenagers who use the term “that’s so gay.”

In one video, celebrity Hilary Duff switches the tables on two girls picking out dresses in a store, scolding them for equating gay with “bad.” In another, Wanda Sykes chastises adolescent teens eating at a pizza restaurant.

Last year, GLSEN unveiled its sports project, “Changing the Game,” which specifically addressed name-calling and bullying in physical education and sports settings.

“LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) athletes are in school and we want them to feel safe and come out and be open and honest about who they are. It's a challenge because of the climate in many PE settings,” said Marra.

According to GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate survey, three-quarters of LGBT students hear slurs such as “faggot” or “dyke” frequently or often at school and nine in 10 report hearing anti-LGBT language frequently or often. Homophobic remarks such as “that’s so gay” are the most commonly heard type of biased remarks at school.

Research shows that these slurs are often unintentional and simply a part of the teens’ vernacular. Most do not recognize the consequences, according to GLSEN.

Ad Council research found that the campaign has shown a shift in attitudes and behaviors among teens and their language.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


McDonald’s Announces End to ‘Pink Slime’ in Burgers

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- McDonald’s has announced that it will be discontinuing the use of the controversial meat product known as boneless lean beef trimmings in its burgers.

The product was recently brought to the attention of the public by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who derisively referred to it as “pink slime” on an episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

These trimmings, which consist of what’s left of the meat after all the choice cuts of beef are taken, are banned for human consumption in the UK, where they are instead used for dog and chicken food. They are legal for consumption in the United States, where they are treated with ammonium hydroxide in order to kill off bacteria such as E. coli and make it safe for human consumption.

Beef Products Incorporated, the company that had previously supplied McDonald’s with boneless lean beef trimmings, denied that Oliver’s show had anything to do with decision, saying it was made long before the show aired and was based on BPI’s inability to supply McDonald’s on a global basis. BPI also pointed to its recent placement on food safety advocate Bill Marler’s nice list and numerous food safety awards as evidence of its commitment to food safety.

McDonald’s also issued a statement confirming that this decision was long in the works.

Burger King and Taco Bell have also discontinued the use of boneless lean beef trimmings in their food.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Maine Girl Gets Rare Six-Organ Transplant

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- A 9-year-old girl from Maine is heading home, three months after receiving a six-organ transplant at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Alannah Shevenell of Hollis, Maine, got a new esophagus, liver, stomach, spleen, pancreas and small intestine after losing her own to a myofibroblastic tumor.

“We needed to remove all the organs because the tumor had grown to basically encircle the blood supply,” said Dr. Heung Bae Kim, director of the hospital’s Pediatric Transplant Center.

Chemotherapy didn’t work, and smaller surgeries were no match for the sprawling tumor. Shevenell couldn’t eat because the tumor was squeezing her esophagus. The multi-organ transplant was her last hope, but she had to wait a year for a suitable donor.

“Especially for children, finding a donor who has organs in good shape and the right size is a real challenge,” said Kim. But on October 27, Shevenell’s family got the call: They found a donor, and her transplant would be the next day.

Kim led a team of surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists through the grueling 14-and-a-half-hour procedure, which he called “the most extensive” transplant procedure he’s ever done.

The team transplanted the new organs as a package and waited for them to take over.

“We were so happy,” Kim said of the result. “It was technically very successful. The organs looked good.”

Because Shevenell’s tumor made it impossible for her to eat, she got used to being fed through a feeding tube into her stomach.

“It had been so long that she lost her appetite,” said Kim. “But on the weekend she started eating again. And yesterday she had some cake.”

Although Shevenell is heading home, she’ll need frequent checkups throughout her life.

“There is a risk that she’ll need another transplant down the road. And if there were any tumor cells left behind, there is a risk it could come back,” said Kim.

Shevenell will also need to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sweet Tax? Is Sugar as Dangerous as Alcohol and Tobacco?

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Is sugar as dangerous as cigarettes and booze?

One group of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, says so. And they are urging a tax on sugary treats and some action by the government to get Americans to cut back on sugar.

In an editorial published Wednesday in the journal Nature, the UCSF doctors, Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis, said the ballooning rates -- and costs --  of obesity, diabetes, and other diseases, mean it’s time for regulators to lump sugar into the same category as booze and cigarettes and put similar restrictions on its sale and availability.

They write that the healthcare community needs to find a better way to get the message out about sugar’s corrosive effects, “So far, evidence shows that individually focused approaches, such as school-based interventions that teach children about diet and exercise, demonstrate little efficacy.”

The authors say the government should consider taxing any processed foods that have added sugar, including soda, juice, chocolate milk and sugared cereal.

Other efforts, they say, should aim to make sugary foods and drinks hard to get, like imposing age limits for buying soda and controlling when and where sugary foods are sold. They also envision something like a sugar-free zone around schools.

The bans shouldn’t be on consumers only, the authors argue. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should consider removing sugar from its Generally Regarded as Safe list, a designation that allows companies to add as much of an ingredient or nutrient as they want to processed foods.

The authors point to the success of similar “supply-side” restrictions on alcohol and tobacco in preventing some of the health harms from those substances.

Wider control of sugar is already being considered by a number of policymakers across the country. U.S. health and government officials have been debating a penny-per-ounce tax on soda. Other attempts to limit the inclusion of soda and sugary foods from federal food stamp programs or control the availability of soda and chocolate milk in schools have caused uproar across the country.

But support for those measures -- even from the health community -- have been mixed. In 2011, the American Medical Association declined to give support to a national sugar-sweetened beverage tax, saying it needed more information on the topic before weighing in.

Some nutrition experts note that sugar is not the only culprit in the skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes and other diseases that consume billions of dollars health care costs each year. Others note that the sources of these chronic diseases are more complex than just the foods we eat.

Experts agree that the current approaches to addressing chronic diseases aren’t working very well. But they say the solutions will need to go beyond regulating one aspect of the food supply.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Service Dog's Skills Saves Owner’s Life

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(GLENDALE, Ariz.) -- A lick of the face and a nudge of the hand from Danny, a miniature schnauzer, helped Bethe Bennett regain consciousness after she fell in her Glendale, Ariz., home.

Bennett fell on her tile floor Friday and broke her femur. She lay on the ground in excruciating pain, aware that no visitors were coming until Tuesday.

“I was scared. I really thought I was going to die,” Bennett told ABC News. “I knew I was going into shock because I’m a nurse.”

But Danny, a trained service dog who used to care for Bennett’s now-deceased mother, lent a helping paw that helped save his devoted owner’s life.

“I started asking Danny to get me the phone,” Bennett said. “He ran back and forth a couple of times barking and finally jumped up and knocked the phone over and pushed it with his nose toward me.”

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But then Bennett realized the paramedics may not have been able to get into her locked house.

“Paper!” she asked Danny. He brought over five sheets, one of which had the phone numbers of Bennett’s neighbors.

Bennett called her neighbors, who unlocked her home with a hidden spare key just as paramedics arrived.

She is now recovering at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, with Danny by her side.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'People Pleasers' Feel Pressured to Snack

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CLEVELAND) -- People who eat to please others are likely to regret it later -- a dietary dilemma that could affect many Americans this Super Bowl Sunday.

"People pleasers" feel pressured to eat to comfort others around them who are indulging themselves, but a new study suggests the social snacking may not be worth it.

"If you sense that another person wants you to eat, you'll be more likely to eat more," said Julie Exline, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University and lead author of the study published Wednesday in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. "If we look back later and feel like we've given into social pressure, we often regret those choices."

People tend to eat more in groups, Exline said.  But some people eat even more to avoid "rocking the boat."

"It's not a big deal if grandma cooks you a big dinner once a year.  But if you live with grandma, it could be a problem," Exline said.

Previous studies suggest people seem less sociable when they forego food, Exline said.

"Sometimes it makes sense to go along with the groove -- you don't want to hurt grandma's feelings," she said. "The trick is to be thoughtful about choices rather than going on autopilot."

Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, said the social pressure to eat is contributing to the obesity epidemic.

"There's no question the way we eat is influenced by others," he said. "It's compounded around holidays and big events, but it plays out in lesser ways every day as we interact with our families and people in our workplaces. It's not just Super Bowl Sunday."

Katz said people should feel empowered to skip snacks and put their own health first.

"It would be perfectly OK to turn peer pressure the other way around and say, 'Don't try to tempt me.  I'll keep an eye on you if you keep an eye on me,'" said Katz. "Peer pressure could become a very powerful force for good."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio