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Health Headlines - February 13

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Clinton Schools Initiative to Fight Child Obesity

Inspired by his own brush with heart disease, former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Monday unveiled an $8 million, school-based diet and exercise initiative aimed at fighting childhood obesity, the Associated Press reported.

Clinton said a total of 285 schools in 13 states will take part in the pilot phase of the program starting next fall, with additional schools able to apply for inclusion later on.

Clinton announced the initiative, called the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, at a public school in Harlem.

The program -- part of a campaign by Clinton's foundation and the American Heart Association -- is aimed at lowering child obesity rates by improving the quality of food served in school cafeterias and vending machines, raising exercise levels, providing health lessons and promoting the wellness of school staffers.

"What we want to do is to create a national recognition program shining a spotlight on schools that have done a good job, with concrete, innovative steps to create healthier learning environments for children and healthier work environments for staff," Clinton said.

Clinton and program co-founder, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, were inspired to create the Alliance after living through their own weight-linked health crises, the AP said. Clinton went through heart bypass surgery in 2004, and Huckabee dropped 110 pounds after being diagnosed two years ago with type 2 diabetes.

Pediatricians Must Do More to Prevent Skin Cancer

Even though it's crucial that children and their parents be counseled about the dangers of skin cancer and how to prevent it, the topic comes up in less than one percent of visits to pediatricians, say researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

The findings from their review of medical literature prompted the researchers to urge pediatricians to do more to prevent skin cancer. The review appears in the journal Pediatric Dermatology.

"Pediatricians can play an important role in counseling patients and educating them about skin cancer. There is strong evidence for the relationship between UV exposure and non-melanoma skin cancer and growing evidence for the relationship between indoor tanning and melanoma," senior researcher Dr. Steven Feldman said in a prepared statement.

"Children should be encouraged to use sunscreen, wear appropriate clothing and avoid both the strong midday sun levels and indoor tanning," said Dr. Mandeep Kaur, instructor in Wake Forest's department of dermatology.

"Skin cancer is the most rapidly growing cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and childhood sun exposure increases the risk," Kaur noted.

"Our review clearly showed that the prevention of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer need to begin in childhood. Reduction in childhood sun exposure and tanning will hopefully stem the risk of skin cancer."

Shock Therapy Improves Quality of Life in Depressed Patients: Study

Shock treatment improved the quality of life in people with major depression and the improvement continued for six months, concludes a U.S. study in the February issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders.

The study included 283 severely depressed patients at seven New York City hospitals who received electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), in which a brief electric shock is used to produce a generalized seizure.

Before they received ECT, the patients in the study ranked their quality of life as "very low." At 24 weeks after ECT, 78 percent of the patients reported improved quality of life.

The findings confirm earlier results of 77 patients who received ECT and help counter arguments by some that the use of ECT should be severely restricted, said study lead author Dr. W. Vaughn McCall, professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

"Some agencies have recommended that ECT be restricted in use because of perceived gaps in knowledge regarding its effects of health-related quality of life," McCall said in a prepared statement. "Our results indicate that a restrictive public policy toward ECT is not warranted on the basis of the effect of ECT on quality of life."

He did note that most patients who have ECT experience temporary learning difficulties for up to two weeks after ECT and it's also common for patients to permanently lose their memory of events in the months before they had ECT.

McDonald's French Fries Contain Dairy and Wheat Ingredients

McDonald's revealed Monday that it uses wheat and dairy ingredients to flavor its french fries, even though the company had said until recently that its fries were free of gluten or milk or wheat allergens, the Associated Press reported.

Those ingredients can cause allergic or other health reactions in people who have sensitivities to those substances. The specific flavoring agent mentioned is contained in the oil used to cook the fries.

The fast-food giant this month added "Contains wheat and milk ingredients" to the french fries listing on its Web site in response to new U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules for packaged foods, the AP reported.

The new FDA rules require that companies report the presence of common allergens such as milk, eggs, wheat, fish or peanuts in their food products. Since McDonald's is a restaurant chain, it's not required to comply with the new rules, but is doing so voluntarily.

Some consumers on gluten-free diets have responded with anger and concern to McDonald's sudden acknowledgement that its fries contain wheat ingredients, the AP reported.

Just last week, the company disclosed that its french fries contain more trans fats than previously thought.

Spread of Bird Flu to Africa, Europe Boosts Pandemic Risk: U.N.

The spread of bird flu from Asia into Africa and Europe increases the likelihood the virus will mutate into a form that can be transmitted between humans and set off a pandemic, said Dr. David Nabarro, the man leading the United Nations' fight against the disease.

In recent days, it was announced that the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus had reached Italy, Greece and Bulgaria. The infected birds were all swans.

This comes on the heels of Nigeria reporting Friday that it had its first suspected cases of human avian flu. However, there is no evidence that the human cases were caused by any circumstance other than contact with infected birds, officials said.

"We have now got bird flu in southeast Asia, central Asia, eastern Europe, and west Africa. Compared with eight months ago, this is a major extension of the avian influenza epidemic," Nabarro told the Associated Press.

So far, there is no sign of any mutation in the virus.

"Unfortunately, we cannot tell when the mutation might happen, or where it might happen, or how unpleasant the mutant virus will turn out to be," Nabarro said. "Nevertheless, we must remain on high alert for the possibility of sustained human-to-human transmission and of a pandemic starting at any time."

The cases of avian flu in Italy were all found in 17 swans, the wire service reported, and all were in the south -- Puglia and Calabria in southern Italy, and in Sicily. The Italian government was investigating taking precautionary measures in the affected areas.

Food Fact:
"Pea" is for Protein.


Can eating peas save your eyesight? Peas are also an excellent source of lutein, which is believed to help fight macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people age 65 and older. It may surprise you to learn peas are not vegetables -- they're actually legumes. Either way, a 2/3-cup serving contains about 5 grams of protein, or about 10% of the daily protein needs of a 130-lb. person. Like other legumes, peas are rich in B vitamins, minerals and soluble fiber. While it's a treat to eat fresh peas in late spring and early summer, shucking them is tedious. Frozen peas are just as nutritious as fresh. Add them to pilafs, bean salads and soups.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Jump to it.


Feeling rundown? We bet an old gym-class standby can make you feel like a kid again. Skipping rope as part of your exercise routine burns a surprising number of calories and provides a great workout for your shoulders, arms and calves. It's fast-paced, varied and, best of all, you can do it anywhere!

FAQ of the day:
Are there different diets for diabetics?


There are different diets for controlling type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The basic dietary principles for any healthy diet apply to both types of diabetes, but the top priorities are different. In Type 1 diabetes, which requires insulin injections, it's most critical to match the amount of food you eat at each meal and snack with your injection schedule. For Type 2 diabetes, the top priority usually is limiting overall calories to lose weight; meal-to-meal variations are less critical.
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