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Health Highlights: April 16, 2010

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Obama Grants Same-Sex Couples More Medical Rights

The Obama administration will issue new rules to give gays and lesbians the right to visit hospitalized partners and make it easier for them to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners.

The new regulations, outlined in a memorandum released Thursday, will apply to any hospital that participates in Medicare or Medicaid, The New York Times reported.

"Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindness and caring of a loved one at their sides," President Barack Obama said in the memorandum.

It will take time for the new rules, described by gay rights advocates as a major advance, to be drafted and implemented, the Times reported.

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Europeans Urged to Stay Indoors if Volcanic Ash Descends

Europeans should stay indoors if ash from Iceland's erupting volcano starts to fall from the sky, advises the World Health Organization.

The ash is potentially dangerous because inhaled particles can get into the lungs and cause respiratory problems, said WHO spokesman David Epstein, the Associated Press reported.

People with asthma and other respiratory diseases are most at risk.

On Friday, the ash cloud remained high in the atmosphere but some ash has blanketed the ground in parts of rural southern Iceland. WHO is monitoring the situation closely, said Epstein, the AP reported.

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No Evidence of Autism-Related Bowel Disease: Paper

A bowel disease supposedly linked with autism may not actually exist, says a new study.

The disease, autistic enterocolitis, was noted in a discredited paper published about a dozen years ago. The paper, which suggested a link between the measles vaccine and autism, has since been retracted by The Lancet medical journal.

In this new article, reporter Brian Deer asked independent experts to take a closer look at autistic enterocolitis. They failed to find any evidence that it's a real disease, the Associated Press reported. Deer's article appears in the British Medical Journal.

Several studies have found an association between inflamed bowels and autism, but "any firm conclusion would be inadvisable," Sir Nicholas Wright, from the Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, wrote in an accompanying editorial in the journal, the AP reported.

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Healthy Women Fear Getting Fat

The thought of getting fat triggers fear among women with a healthy body image, but men don't have the same response, a new study found.

Brigham Young University researchers monitored brain activity in healthy women who were shown pictures of overweight women. Viewing the photos activated areas of the brain that process identity and self-reflection. This type of brain activation did not occur in men when they were shown photos of overweight men, United Press International reported.

"Many women learn that bodily appearance and thinness constitute what is important about them, and their brain responding reflects that," Professor Diane Spangler said in a news release. "I think it is an unfortunate and false idea to learn about oneself and does put one at greater risk for eating and mood disorders."

The study will be published in the May issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Posted: April 2010


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