Health Highlights: March 17, 2014

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

Study Will Test 'Chocolate Pill' for Heart Health

A large U.S. study will examine whether pills packed with nutrients found in dark chocolate can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The study of 18,000 men and women will be the first sizeable one to assess the effects of cocoa flavanols on heart health. Previous smaller trials found that these nutrients appeared to improve things such as cholesterol, blood pressure, artery function and the body's use of insulin, the Associated Press reported.

The study is being funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Mars Inc., which makes candy products. The company has patented a method of extracting high concentrations of flavanols from cocoa and placing them in capsules.

Cocoa extract capsules are already sold by Mars and some other companies but contain less healthy nutrients than those that will be used in the study, the AP reported.

Some of the study participants will take two capsules a day of cocoa flavanols for four years, while others will take dummy pills.

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Big Retailers Asked to Stop Selling Tobacco Products in Stores With Pharmacies

Officials in dozens of states have asked five of the largest retailers in the United States to stop selling tobacco products in stores that have pharmacies.

The request was made in letters sent to Rite Aid, Walgreen, Kroger, Safeway and Walmart on Sunday by more than two dozen attorneys general. The five companies are among the largest pharmacy retailers in the nation, The New York Times reported.

"There is a contradiction in having these dangerous and devastating tobacco products on the shelves of a retail chain that services health care needs," the letters stated.

They also said that removing tobacco products from the stores, "would effectively bring us full circle, back from the time when a tobacco manufacturer could advertise that "'more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette' to a time when cigarettes simply cannot be purchased from a business that sells products prescribed by doctors."

Earlier this year, CVS Caremark said it would stop selling tobacco products in its drugstores, The Times reported.

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Insurers Must Offer Same-Sex Couples Same Spousal Benefits as Heterosexual Couples

Health plans that offer benefits for heterosexual couples must do the same for same-sex married couples, the Obama administration says.

The policy was posted online by the Department of Health and Human Services and takes effect next year. It applies to all plans offered in the new insurance markets and to many other individual and employer plans, the Associated Press reported.

The department said it wanted to clarify the rules and make coverage "more accessible and equitable for married same-sex couples."

Under the policy, insurers that offer spousal coverage to heterosexual couples must provide the same benefit to same-sex couples who were legally married in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage, the AP reported.

Posted: March 2014


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