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U.S. FDA panel weighs menthol cigarette effects

Tobacco & MarijuanaMar 31 10

A U.S. advisory panel began weighing the effects of menthol flavoring in cigarettes on Tuesday as part of the government’s new powers over the tobacco industry.

Smoked by about 19 million Americans, minty menthol cigarettes are under attack from health advocates who say the taste can be more enticing and possibly addicting than regular cigarettes.

At the start of a two-day public meeting, a committee of outside experts that advises the Food and Drug Administration began hearing evidence of menthol’s impact on smokers’ use and health. The panel is due to issue a report by March 2011.

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Obama signs final healthcare changes, defends law

Public HealthMar 31 10

President Barack Obama made another push to sell his healthcare overhaul to a skeptical public on Tuesday, calling it a victory over special interests that will improve the lives of middle-class Americans and defending the “courage” of legislators who backed it.

“This day affirms our ability to overcome the challenges of our politics and meet the challenges of our time,” Obama told a college audience outside Washington, as he signed into law final changes to the sweeping plan approved by lawmakers last week, along with reforms in college student loan programs.

The signing capped a year-long struggle between Democrats and Republicans that has set the stage for a bitter campaign for control of Congress in November. Republicans have vowed to make the healthcare bill the centerpiece of the election fight as they seek to repeal it.

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Poll charts U.S. concerns about healthcare costs

Public HealthMar 31 10

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the healthcare overhaul signed into law by President Barack Obama costs too much and expands the government’s role too far, according to a poll published on Tuesday.

The USA Today/Gallup survey of 1,033 adults, conducted between March 26 and March 28, suggests an uphill challenge for President Barack Obama and other Democrats as they try to persuade voters that the healthcare reforms are an important benefit.

The findings show that 65 percent of Americans believe the reforms cost too much, while 64 percent say they bring too much government involvement into the private healthcare industry.

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Excessive dioxin in 8 pct of European food samples

Cancer • • Food & NutritionMar 31 10

Illegal levels of cancer-causing dioxins showed up in 8 percent of food and feed samples taken in Europe between 1999 and 2008, a report from Europe’s food safety agency said on Wednesday.

Animal and fish liver products had the highest dioxin levels in food while fish oil showed the strongest concentrations in animal feed, the Italy-based European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said.

“Long-term exposure to high levels of dioxins has been shown to cause a range of effects, including cancer,” EFSA said.

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Obesity, Alcohol Among Factors Linked to Women’s Gout Risk

Obesity • • Rheumatic DiseasesMar 31 10

Obesity, high blood pressure and alcohol consumption are among the major risk factors for gout in women, a new study finds.

Gout, a common and painful inflammatory arthritis, is caused by elevated uric acids levels in the blood.

U.S. researchers analyzed data from 2,476 women and 1,951 men who took part in the Framingham Heart Study. The participants were in their mid-40s and free of gout at the start of the study.

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Obesity to blame for breast cancer

Cancer • • Breast Cancer • • ObesityMar 31 10

Obesity has been associated with some serious diseases in the past but a new study has now found that obese women face a significantly higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Carol La Vecchia who ran the study is a qualified health expert at the University of Milan. She subscribes to the opinion that 30% of women suffering with breast cancer are also obese. These conclusions were given at a conference in Barcelona.

Although it is difficult to say exactly why obese women run more of a risk, one theory put forward is that obesity can affect the chemicals in the body, raising the odds of developing oestrogen-related tumours. Whilst the details are somewhat unclear, the main details are – obese women are more likely to develop breast cancer.

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Food Makers and Obesity

Food & Nutrition • • ObesityMar 30 10

“From Mrs. Obama’s Garden” (editorial, March 25) highlights one of our nation’s serious challenges: childhood obesity. The first lady deserves great credit for uniting the country around this complex problem, and the food and beverage industry is answering her call to improve childhood nutrition and health.

Already, we have changed more than 10,000 product recipes to reduce calories, sugar, sodium and fat and are working with the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department to improve nutrition labels. We support child nutrition laws that feed more children and science-based nutrition standards for food sold to students during the school day.

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Economic crisis could worsen HIV/AIDS epidemic: UN

AIDS/HIVMar 30 10

Economic crisis and climate change concerns could affect the fight against the AIDS virus and lead to a “universal nightmare”, the head of the United Nations’ agency for HIV/AIDS said on Sunday.

The global economic downturn has brought about greater inequality and could increase vulnerability and fuel the epidemic, said Michele Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS.

About 33.4 million people worldwide are infected with HIV and the AIDS virus. Since AIDS emerged in the 1980s, almost 60 million people have been infected and 25 million have died.

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Independent experts to review pandemic handling - WHO

Flu • • Public HealthMar 30 10

A group of independent experts will review how the H1N1 pandemic has been handled to ensure that the next global health emergency is dealt with better, a top World Health Organisation official said on Monday.

The H1N1 influenza outbreak, which began in April last year, was marked by controversies over whether the WHO and public health authorities had exaggerated the risks of H1N1 and created unnecessary alarm by declaring it a ‘pandemic’.

The WHO has also been criticised for its pandemic alert system that focuses on geographical spread of the outbreak rather than its severity, and on alleged conflicts of interests between health officials and experts and vaccine makers.

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Childhood Cancer Patients Enrolled in Clinical Trials Need Clearer Communication About Their Role in Research

Children's Health • • CancerMar 29 10

A small study of children with cancer enrolled in therapeutic clinical research trials shows that they don’t fully understand what physicians and parents tell them about their participation, nor do they feel they are genuinely involved in the choice to take part.

The study, led by Yoram Unguru, M.D., an associate faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, will be published online March 29 in the journal Pediatrics.

While an estimated 70 percent of young cancer patients participate in clinical trials during their treatment, more than half of the 37 children who were interviewed for the study did not know or recall that their treatment was considered experimental or part of research, the investigators report.

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Diabetes Raises Risk of Death in Cancer Surgery Patients

Cancer • • DiabetesMar 29 10

People with diabetes who undergo cancer surgery are more likely to die in the month following their operations than those who have cancer but not diabetes, an analysis by Johns Hopkins researchers suggests.

The study, to be published in the April issue of the journal Diabetes Care, finds that newly diagnosed cancer patients — particularly those with colorectal or esophageal tumors — who also have Type 2 diabetes have a 50 percent greater risk of death following surgery. Roughly 20 million Americans — about 7 percent of the population — are believed to have diabetes and the numbers continue to grow.

“Diabetic patients, their oncologists and their surgeons should be aware of the increased risk when they have cancer surgery,” says Hsin-Chieh “Jessica” Yeh, Ph.D., assistant professor of general internal medicine and epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and one of the study’s leaders. “Care of diabetes before, during and after surgery is very important. It should be part of the preoperative discussion.

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Assisting Alzheimer’s Caregivers Online

Brain • • NeurologyMar 29 10

It is estimated that Alzheimer’s disease affects 5.3 million Americans and that number is expected to double by 2050. Caregivers shoulder a particularly heavy burden as the illness alters the dementia patient’s behavior, mood and judgment, impeding his or her ability to engage in normal, everyday activities.

In response to this mounting public health challenge, experts at Weill Cornell Medical College have spent four years creating ThisCaringHome.org, an interactive, multimedia Web site for caregivers of Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients. The Web site, which received the 2009 e-Healthcare Leadership Award, helps caregivers learn strategies to better care for people with dementia, especially how to adapt the home environment to meet the behavioral and physical needs of people with Alzheimer’s.

Created by Rosemary Bakker, M.S., A.S.I.D., research associate in gerontologic design in medicine in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at Weill Cornell Medical College, the site features videos, animations and photographs, as well as expert reviews of home furnishings and smart technologies. Ms. Bakker, a former caregiver to her mother, has put her first-hand knowledge to use in the creation of this Web site.

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Thirty percent breast cancer caused by obesity

Cancer • • Breast Cancer • • ObesityMar 29 10

Up to a third of breast cancer cases could be avoided if women ate less and exercised more, researchers claim.

Experts believe more than 14,000 women a year would probably not develop the disease if they had adopted healthier behaviour from an early age.

Modern lifestyles which feature regular drinking, lack of exercise and increased obesity are fuelling the rise of the disease, reported dailymail.co.uk.

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Food Revolution & The Obesity Crisis in America

Food & Nutrition • • Public HealthMar 29 10

I feel like it’s been eons since I wrote a blog post, but last night we caught Jamie Oliver on Campbell Brown on CNN, plugging his new show, Food Revolution and I was fully inspired to write.

Though we didn’t see the actual 2-hour premier (got home too late for that) we saw the segment with the mom from W. Va. who has her fridge/freezer unloaded by Jamie.

Staring at the disgusting-looking pile of junk food and frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets and lord knows what else … he basically tells the mom (who is overweight, if not obese) that eating this way is basically killing her and her children, cutting their lives short by 14 years or so.

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Childhood obesity a growing problem

Children's Health • • ObesityMar 29 10

Here’s something to ponder over your breakfast: Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Obesity among children 6 to 11 years old increased from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 19.6 percent in 2008 — that’s one in five children. The prevalence of obesity among kids 12 to 19 increased from 5 percent to 18.1 percent — again, almost one in five.

Children are eating too much, choosing the wrong things to eat and not exercising enough. They are living sedentary lives, preferring a BlackBerry or Wii to a playground or outdoor activity.

Obese children are more likely to have risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. They are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as poor self-esteem. And here’s the scary part: Obese children are more likely to become overweight or obese adults, and therefore more at risk for adult health problems.

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