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Health Headlines - July 5

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:23pm

Government Food Education Program Not Changing Children's Eating Habits, Survey Finds

The U.S. government's nutrition education program of more than $1 billion is failing, a survey by the Associated Press reveals.

The money spent on videos of dancing fruits and vegetables, Web site emphasis on snacking on carrots and celery, and repeated instruction on how eating well makes a person feel good are all coming to naught, the wire service says.

The A.P. reviewed 57 scientific studies that looked at the effectiveness of the federal program and found only four showed any measurable success in changing the way children ate.

Here are the major obstacles that come into play, the wire service reports:

Parents If parents don't practice proper nutrition, most times their children won't, either.

Poverty Less healthful food -- especially fast food -- is cheaper and more often eaten by poor children, the researchers found.

Advertising Not one of the almost 9,000 television ads for food products aimed at children between ages 8 and 12 in the study promoted fruits or vegetables.

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Study Shows Reduced Pregnancy Rate for Women Using Alternative Medical Therapies

Alternative medical treatments and herbal supplements may reduce a woman's chance of getting pregnant, according to a study presented July 4 at a meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in France.

According to the Associated Press, the study was conducted on 800 Danish women who were receiving in vitro fertilization. Alternative medical treatments and/or herbal supplements such as reflexology, homeopathy, kinesiology and acupuncture were used by 261 of the participants, the wire service reported.

The results showed that the women who used one or more of these therapies were 20 percent less likely to become pregnant. While more research is needed to determine a cause and effect relationship, one of the researchers, Dr. Jacky Boivin of Cardiff University, told the A.P. that the lowered fertility incidence didn't seem to be accidental.

"There still seems to be an association between the use of complementary therapies and the reduced chances for pregnancy," Boivin said. "Doctors tend to think that these kinds of therapies are benign, but maybe they're not as benign as we think they are."

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Asthma Drug Label Gets Anaphylaxis Warning

Labeling on the Genentech asthma medication Xolair (omalizumab) has been updated to include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's strongest possible "black box" warning, advising doctors and consumers of the risk of anaphylaxis, the agency said Tuesday.

Anaphylaxis is a sudden, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, with possible symptoms including trouble breathing, chest tightness, dizziness, fainting, itching, hives, and swelling of the mouth and throat.

Xolair, an injected medication, was approved in 2003 for people 12 years and older with moderate-to-severe persistent asthma that is inadequately controlled with inhaled corticosteroids.

In a statement, the FDA said it also ordered that a "new medication guide" warning of the anaphylaxis risks be distributed with each dose of Xolair.

Anaphylaxis has occurred in some Xolair users as early as the first dose, but it has occurred in others one year or more after the medication was begun, the agency said. Moreover, the reaction can occur more than 24 hours after administration of a dose.

The FDA, which ordered the warning earlier this year, recommended that Xolair only be administered in a healthcare setting under direct supervision by a medical professional who understands the drug's risks.

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Drug May Help Bad Memories Fade

A drug frequently used in heart patients can quash memories of a traumatic event, U.S. and Canadian researchers report.

The drug, a beta blocker called propranolol, was injected while study participants were asked to recall a traumatic memory from a decade earlier, BBC News reported. Nineteen participants involved in either a vehicle crash or sexual assault were injected with either the drug or a non-medicinal placebo for 10 days.

Those injected with propranolol, when asked to recall the event after completing the regimen, showed fewer signs of stress than those who didn't get the drug, the researchers said.

Experts not involved with the study cautioned that the research was preliminary, that post-traumatic stress was a complex condition, and that the long-term effects of the drug hadn't been evaluated, the BBC said.

Results of the study, by scientists at McGill University in Montreal and Harvard University in Boston, were published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

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Endometriosis Raises Cancer Risk: Study

Endometriosis, a painful condition in which womb tissue begins to grow abnormally elsewhere in the abdomen, may raise a woman's cancer risk, new research finds.

Women with endometriosis have a greater chance of contracting many types of cancer, including those of the ovaries, kidneys, hormonal glands, brain, skin and breasts, the Times of London reported of the Swedish study's conclusions.

Endometriosis causes lesions that often impair a woman's chances of becoming pregnant. And while female infertility has been shown in prior studies to raise a woman's risk of certain cancers, this study found that endometriosis itself may be linked to an increased cancer risk, study authors at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm said.

The scientists studied 63,000 women with endometriosis, finding they were 38 percent more likely to develop tumors of the hormonal glands, and were at higher risk of ovarian cancer (37 percent), kidney cancer (36 percent), thyroid cancer (33 percent), brain cancer (37 percent), skins cancer (23 percent), and breast cancer (8 percent) than women who didn't have endometriosis, the Times reported.

The research was released at a meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Lyon, France.

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Many With Food Allergies Ignore Warnings: Study

Some 12 million Americans are allergic to at least one type of food, and a growing number of them are ignoring advisory warnings that appear on food labels, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) said Monday.

The label warnings state that the product could unintentionally contain an allergen by virtue of being produced at a facility that makes other products that contain allergens, the FAAN said. So-called "advisory labeling" is unregulated and is voluntary, the network said.

In study results published in the July issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers said 75 percent of food allergy sufferers surveyed in 2006 heeded the advisory warnings, down from 85 percent in 2005. The study was conducted by the FAAN and the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

"We believe that allergic consumers are increasingly ignoring the advisory labeling because the warnings are now used so frequently that consumers assume they are not serious," said study co-author Dr. Scott Sicherer of the Jaffe Institute.

The researchers said the wording of these advisories made a significant difference. A warning stating "may contain [allergen]" was heeded by 88 percent of those surveyed, while only 65 percent heeded a warning stating "made in a facility that uses [allergen]," the FAAN said.

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