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Health Headlines - July 21

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:22pm

Will They Still be 'Lovin' It' After They See How Many Calories a Big Mac Has?

Continuing its policy of being in the vanguard of health initiatives, New York City is now the first in the United States to require major fast food chains to post the number of calories contained in each of their menu items.

The mandate became law last Friday, the Associated Press reports, requiring the fast food eateries to prominently display calorie content at the counter, on the menu or on the trays customers use. For example, the wire service says, a Big Mac with medium fries and and a medium soda, contains 1130 calories, based on what McDonald's is posting on its menu.

A comparable Burger King meal -- a Whopper, medium fries and medium diet Coke -- has slightly fewer calories --1040 -- according to the Burger King Web site.

Calorie count isn't yet listed on all menu items, the A.P. reports. Cathy Nonas, director of the New York City health department's physical activity and nutrition program, told the wire service there had been some delay in offering a complete calorie list but that eventually, every food will have a calorie count attached. "Obviously, we have an epidemic of obesity across the nation, and New York City is no different," she told the A.P.

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Gene That Governs Ovulation Identified

A gene that governs ovulation -- the release of a mature egg from a female's ovary -- has been identified by researchers in Canada and France, Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper reported Friday.

The finding means that a drug affecting the gene could be developed to treat infertility caused by a female's inability to ovulate. Conversely, a genetically based contraceptive could stimulate the gene to prevent ovulation, the newspaper said.

Researchers at the University of Montreal and at the Université Louis Pasteur deleted the gene, called Lrh1, from mice. This stopped ovulation, affected hormone cycles, seemed to prevent eggs from maturing, and stopped them from leaving the ovaries, the Globe and Mail reported.

The next step, the scientists said, is to collect ovarian cells from fertility clinics to see if these cells contain a defective Lrh1 gene.

The research is published in the current issue of the journal Genes and Development.

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Youth All-Terrain Vehicles Recalled

About 144 all-terrain vehicles designed for children are being recalled because they lack a number of safety features, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

The ATVs, produced in China, were distributed across the United States by the SunL Group of Irving, Texas. They were sold from May 2005 to March 2007 for $400 to $500.

Intended for children aged 12 to 15, the recalled model SLA90 lacks a number of features, including front brakes, a manual fuel shut-off, and padding to cover sharp edges on the handlebars, the CPSC said.

Consumers should stop using the vehicles immediately, and contact SunL to learn how to obtain a full refund. The toll-free number is 866-355-0497.

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Global Warming Poses Major Health Threat: EPA

An increase in heat waves, more powerful hurricanes, disease, and depletion of drinking water are likely in the coming decades as a result of global climate change, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns in a new report.

"It is very likely" that more people will die from weather conditions such as heat waves, said the report, issued Thursday. The elderly, economically disadvantaged, and inner-city dwellers are most at risk, according to report data cited by the Washington Post.

Ironically, the EPA decided last week not to immediately assume authority over carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, the newspaper said.

"Today typifies the climate-change schizophrenia in the Bush Administration," said Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. "On one hand, government scientists are saying that global warming poses grave threats to our health and our welfare, and, on the other hand, there are White House political hacks following the oil industry's bidding to do nothing."

The newspaper quoted White House spokesman Tony Fratto as saying that EPA administrator Stephen Johnson made the decision about greenhouse gasses on his own.

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U.S. Set Birth Record Last Year

There were more births in the United States last year than at any time in the nation's history, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report cited by the Associated Press.

Some 4,315,000 babies were born in 2007, agency demographer Stephanie Ventura said.

While that amounts to roughly 15,000 more births than during the peak baby-boom year of 1957, Ventura discounted the notion of a new baby boom. She noted that there were far fewer women of childbearing age 50 years ago.

"What this really reflects is that the population has grown so much in the United States, so you naturally expect more births," she said. "It's hard to call this a baby boom at this point."

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HIV Vaccine Trial Canceled Over Possible Volunteer Risk

The sponsors of a planned human trial for an AIDS vaccine canceled the project Thursday, saying they doubted the vaccine's effectiveness and noted that the trial could actually put volunteers at risk of acquiring HIV, The New York Times reported.

The trial, called PAVE (Partnership for AIDS Vaccine Evaluation), was to be conducted by a consortium of U.S. agencies and private organizations. It was to have begun enlisting 8,500 volunteers last October to evaluate a vaccine developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The trial was shelved, however, after a similar vaccine developed by Merck & Co. failed to prevent the infection and lower blood levels of HIV among people who had already acquired the AIDS-causing virus, the newspaper said.

Data from the Merck vaccine trial also suggested that the shot might have increased some users' risk of acquiring an HIV infection.

Attempts to create an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine have been in the making for more than 25 years, and developing one still appears years away, scientists told the Times.

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