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Health Headlines - March 12

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:23pm

Floods, Disease and Drought Predicted in Latest Global Warming Report

Environmental scientists have seen the near future, and what they see is not good. The effects of global warming are going to be felt a lot sooner that some may have imagined, the Associated Press reports.

The wire service has obtained a copy of a report on how global warming will affect daily life within the next 30 years. The report has been written and reviewed by more than 1,000 scientists, the A.P. reports, but government officials haven't signed off on it yet. The report is scheduled to be presented at an April meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Belgium.

Among the climate changes that may adversely affect millions of people within the next few decades are:

  • Major water shortages by 2050 or earlier in Latin America , Africa and Asia
  • An increase in fatalities caused by tropical diseases and conditions, such as malaria and diarrhea
  • Increased flooding every year, with more than 100 million people losing their homes annually by 2080
  • The loss of the polar bear's natural environment. The bears will probably be seen only in zoos

Many of the scientists feel a sense of urgency, the A.P. reports. "Things are ... happening faster than we expected," the wire service quotesd Patricia Romero Lankao of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., as saying.

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Why Are Teenagers So Contrary? It May Indeed be 'Raging Hormones'

If you ever wondered why the teenage world seems to exist in an arena of topsy-turvy mood swings and turmoil, scientists at the State University of New York's (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center may have found the answer.

In an article published in the current edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers say they've discovered that the hormone THP -- which usually acts as a tranquilizer in stress situations -- does exactly the opposite for those going through puberty.

According to a Downstate Medical Center news release, SUNY scientists, led by Sheryl S. Smith, a professor of physiology and pharmacology, found that a brain receptor called GABA-A acts exactly the opposite in teenage brains compared to how it receives the THP hormone in adult brains. Instead of calming a person during a time of high anxiety, the GABA-A receptor appears to increase a teenager's stress, the researchers found.

What makes it act this way still needs to be studied, the researchers say, but the theory is indeed that adolescent "raging hormones" may play a role.

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FDA Expands Peanut Butter Recall

The recall of salmonella -causing peanut butter processed at a plant in Georgia hasn't yet ended.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expanded the recall to include all Peter Pan and Great Value brand peanut butter manufactured at the ConAgra plant in Sylvester back to October 2004. Both carry the product code 2111, the FDA says.

The FDA gave no reason for the expanded recall in its March 9 consumer alert other than to say it was made after information was obtained from its ongoing investigation into the salmonella infections, which have been confirmed in more than 400 persons in 42 states since it was first detected in mid-February.

The FDA alert says, "Consumers who have purchased any of the products since October 2004 should discard them. FDA's advice to consumers continues to be not to eat any Peter Pan peanut butter or any Great Value peanut butter beginning with the 2111 product code."

"The most likely scenario is that the peanut butter became contaminated sometime during the production, between the roasting process and putting the product in a jar," said Dr. David Acheson, the FDA's Director of the Food Safety and Security Staff in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said March 1.

Symptoms of food-borne illness caused by salmonella include fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. It is rarely fatal, but can cause more serious health problems among the very old and very young.

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1-in-10 Brits is a 'Secret Smoker', Survey Finds

Knowing that quitting smoking is the right thing to do is one thing. Actually quitting is another matter entirely.

A recent survey of 4,000 adults in England reveals that one-in-10 is a "secret smoker," so secret, in fact, that many don't even reveal it to their own doctor.

According to BBC News, the survey was commissioned by Boots, a large British pharmacy chain, and it found that 52 percent of the secret smokers hid their habit from their parents, even into adulthood. What's even more surprising is that fully a third kept their smoking habits from their doctor.

And another third said they lied to their family members, some of whom believed they had never smoked or had given it up.

For some reason, the BBC reports, Londoners are more likely to keep their habit secret, followed by those who live in Yorkshire. No reason was given for this.

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U.S Prescription Drug Sales Increased 8.3 Percent in 2006

The new Medicare drug benefit was one of the factors that helped push U.S. prescription drug sales up by 8.3 percent in 2006 to $249.9 billion, according to a report by IMS Health, which provides data to the drug and health-care industries.

Prescriptions dispensed through the Medicare drug benefit accounted for 17 percent of retail prescriptions last year, the report noted.

Increased use of generic drugs and new treatments for diseases such as diabetes and cancer were among the other factors behind the increase, the Associated Press reported.

In 2006, sales of generic drugs increased 22 percent to $27.4 billion.

The report said it's expected that the rate of growth of prescription drug sales will slow in 2007, but will likely maintain a compounded annual rate of between 6 percent and 9 percent through 2010, the AP reported.

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Kroger Ensures Access to Morning-After Pill

In response to a Georgia woman's complaint that she was denied access to the morning-after contraceptive pill by a pharmacist at a Kroger store, the grocery chain said Friday that it's reiterating its drug policy to all of its pharmacists.

The company policy states that if a pharmacist objects to handling a customer's prescription, the store must take steps to ensure the prescription is filled, the Associated Press reported.

"We believe that medication is a private patient matter," said Kroger Co. spokeswoman Meghan Glynn. "Our role as a pharmacy operator is to furnish medication in accordance with the doctor's prescription or as requested by a patient."

The company restated its policy after a Rome, Ga., woman said a Kroger pharmacist refused to give her the Plan B emergency contraceptive, also known as the morning-after pill, the AP reported.

If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, the drug can reduce the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent.

Other major pharmacy chains, including Walgreen Co., Rite-Aid Corp., and CVS Corp., have also promised to make certain that customers can get Plan B, even if a pharmacist doesn't want to provide the drug.

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Scents in Bedroom May Help Improve Memory

A familiar scent in the bedroom while you get a good night's sleep may help boost memory, says a German study published Friday in the journal Science.

But the study found that the scent-aid only worked for certain kinds of memory and only during one stage of sleep, which means it's not likely to help people seeking a quick memory lift, the Associated Press reported.

The study found that medical students who slept in rooms with a rose scent scored higher on a card memory test than those who weren't exposed to the rose scent -- 97 percent vs. 86 percent.

However, the memory improvement only occurred when the students were exposed to the rose scent during a deep stage of sleep called slow-wave sleep. There was no memory boost when the students were exposed to the scent during a lighter sleep phase called REM sleep, the AP reported.

However, the scent was not effective when the students tried a finger-tapping sequence memory test. This is likely because different parts of the brain are involved with different types of memory, the researchers said.

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