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Health Headlines - December 5

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Modified Atkins Diet Reduces Epileptic Seizures

A modified form of the Atkins diet reduced epileptic seizures in children, according to a small study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

The study found that two thirds of the children benefited from being put on this diet, which included fewer carbohydrates than the standard Atkins diet.

The children, ages 3 to 18, were having between four and 470 seizures a week and were unresponsive to drug therapy. They were put on the modified version of the Atkins diet for six months. Of the 16 children who completed the study, 13 had a greater than 50 percent reduction in the number of seizures, seven of them had greater than 90 percent improvement, and four were seizure-free.

The researchers concluded that this modified Atkins diet was nearly as effective at controlling seizures as the highly restrictive ketogenic diet, which has been used since 1921 to control seizures in children.

"Our findings suggest relatively good efficacy compared to the ketogenic diet," Dr. Eric Kossoff, a pediatric neurologist, said in a prepared statement. "With 20 patients, our study wasn't large enough to say patients and physicians should replace the proven, but highly restrictive ketogenic diet, but the results are encouraging and intriguing."

The study was presented Monday at a meeting of the American Epilepsy Society.

U.S. and State Officials Begin Pandemic Planning

The U.S. federal government began Monday to work with states to begin planning for a possible flu pandemic.

With an understanding that communities will be on the front lines of any effort to halt or contain a pandemic, senior state and local officials met to establish an integrated federal-state flu pandemic planning process. The meeting included officials from every state, territory, tribal government and from Puerto Rico.

"By their nature, pandemics happen across the globe, but their effects are excruciatingly local," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a prepared statement. "Pandemic planning needs to go beyond public health. Discussion at the state and local level needs to address how schools, businesses, public agencies and others participate in pandemic preparedness."

Leavitt asked the meeting participants to prepare for a series of in-state pandemic planning summits, to be held in every state over the next several months. The summits will help public health and emergency-response officials in each state inform and involve political, economic and community leaders in the pandemic planning process, he said.

Measles Outbreak Hits Romania

A measles outbreak in Romania has infected more than 4,000 children and killed 10 others, officials reported Monday.

The Black Sea port of Constanta has been especially hard hit. So far this year, more than 1,000 children in that city have contracted measles; more than half of them are younger than 1 year old.

In response to the outbreak, Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu ordered a hastening of the nation's measles-vaccination campaign. He also disbanded Romania's Center for Disease Control, saying the agency had failed to coordinate vaccinations and prevent the spread of measles, the Associated Press reported.

Nicolaescu said the outbreak occurred because the immunization program had missed some children. In addition, a shortage of vaccines disrupted measles, mumps and rubella vaccination schedules this year.

Opposition politicians said the outbreak was caused by the government's failure to react quickly after the first measles cases were detected in March, the AP reported.

Doctor Comes Clean on Head Lice Treatment

A California doctor has admitted that what he sold as a expensive experimental head lice treatment for children was really an over-the-counter skin cleanser available at drug stores across the United States.

Dr. Dale Pearlman charged parents $285 for the lice treatment he called Nuvo lotion. It was actually Cetaphil cleanser, which sells for about $10 a bottle, the Associated Press reported.

Parents weren't the only ones fooled by Pearlman. Last year, the journal Pediatrics published a study by Pearlman outlining his results with Nuvo lotion, which he described as a "dry-on suffocation-based pediculocide." He said it was the first in a new class of nontoxic lotions to treat head lice.

Pearlman confessed in a letter published Monday in the December issue of Pediatrics.

In an interview with the AP, Pearlman said he had withheld the truth until now "because I wanted to get rich" and because he had hoped a drug company would pay him to further develop a Cetaphil-based head lice treatment.

There were no takers, so Pearlman decided to write the letter.

Dr. Jerold Lucey, editor of Pediatrics, called Pearlman "a bit of a huckster" and said that, in hindsight, when Pearlman submitted his original study, "I probably would have said: 'We can't publish this if you can't tell us what it is.'"

Lack of Brain Activation Linked to Autism

Children with autism have reduced activity in an area of the brain that helps them understand other people's intentions and feelings, says a University of California, Los Angeles study in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The finding supports the concept that neurological defects are responsible for the social problems associated with autism, which affects a person's ability to communicate with other people and to respond appropriately to environmental cues, BBC News reported.

The study included 10 autistic children, aged 10 to 14, and 10 normally developing children. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to measure the children's brain activity while they looked at and imitated 80 pictures that depicted various emotions.

The MRI results showed that the autistic children had virtually no activity in a brain area called the mirror neuron system, which in involved in understanding other people's emotions and intentions, BBC News reported.

"Our findings suggest that a dysfunctional mirror neuron system may underlie the social deficits observed in autism," researcher Dr. Mirella Dapretto said.

Movie Chains to Install Systems for Visual and Hearing Impaired

Under pressure from state governments, movie theater chains in the United States are equipping more theaters with special systems for the deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired.

Currently, about 150 theaters across the nation have such systems, mostly in major cities. States are using the threat of discrimination lawsuits in order to get theater chains to install these systems in many more theaters, the Associated Press reported.

On Monday, a deal was announced in New York that involves eight national theater chains. They agreed to have systems in 140 theaters across the state to help hearing and visually impaired people enjoy movies. Currently, there are about a dozen theaters in New York state with such systems.

Health Tip: If Your Voice is Hoarse

If your voice gets hoarse when you overuse it or when you have a cold, the Center for Voice at Northwestern University suggests how you can treat a croaky voice or prevent its recurrence:

Drink plenty of water.
If you smoke, quit and avoid secondhand smoke.
Avoid yelling, screaming and talking loudly for long periods.
Don't whisper. It's just as hard on your voice as talking loudly.
Avoid agents that dehydrate the body, such as alcohol and caffeine.
Keep your home humidified.
To keep your throat moist, suck on lozenges, chew gum or gargle with salt water.
Avoid spicy foods.

Health Tip: Home Remedies for Finger Injuries

If you're planning to treat a mild finger injury at home, here are some suggestions, courtesy of the University of Maryland Medical Center:

Apply an ice pack to decrease swelling.
Use over-the-counter medications to relieve pain.
If you experience excessive pain or there is blood under the fingernail, see a doctor.
Do not splint a finger or try to drain a swollen finger before consulting a physician.
Always consult a doctor if the injury involves a finger joint.

Food Fact:
Zest for life.


Don't toss away that orange peel -- it may help protect you against cancer. Grated citrus zest -- the outmost layer of the peel, not the white pith -- includes compounds may provide health benefits, such as inhibiting development of some cancers and lowering cholesterol. Scrub the rind with warm water and a drop of soap before starting to grate. Press a piece of wax paper onto the grater to make clean-up easier; the zest accumulates on the paper instead of getting stuck in the holes of the grater. Best of all, you can use the zest for a flavor boost in low-fat baked goods, pilafs, salad dressings, marinades and fruit salads.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Ice it down.


Running can place a great deal of stress on the knees; here's a tip for do-it-yourself massage packs. Simply fill small paper cups up with water and place in the freezer. Gently massage the area with the frozen cups for 15 - 20 minutes your knees will thank you for it!

FAQ of the day:
What's the "best" exercise?


Steve Blair of the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research says: Instead of looking for the "best" exercise, think about the best reasons to exercise. Take weight control. If you burn more calories than you consume you'll lose weight. It doesn't matter if you do it by running, washing your car or digging in your garden. Likewise, your heart and muscles aren't picky about the activity you choose; they'll be happy whether you choose to jog or play tennis. What matters is the regular physiological stress placed on the various body systems, which results in improved fitness. Even the "best" exercise program is worthless if you won't do it. A "lesser" program that you follow regularly is much better for you than no exercise at all. The bottom line is to find any activity you enjoy that gets you up out of your chair and moving. The best exercise is the one that you like to do!
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