Health Highlights: March 6, 2009

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

Companies Halt U.S. Sales of Baby Bottles With BPA

Baby bottles made with the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) will no longer be sold in the United States by the six largest manufacturers of the products.

The companies made the announcement after Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and other colleagues asked them to voluntarily halt their use of the chemical, which has been linked to numerous health effects, the Washington Post reported.

"The evidence seems too clear and emphatic and unequivocal to say we should simply permit this stuff to go into children on a massive scale," Blumenthal said Thursday. "And there's no reason for it, because there are substitutes available."

BPA, which is found in a wide range of products, mimics the hormone estrogen and may disrupt the body's endocrine system. The chemical poses a particular threat to fetuses, infants and children because it can interfere with cell function when their bodies are still developing, public health experts say.

Last year, the National Toxicology Program, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, warned there was "some concern" BPA may affect the brain and behavioral development of fetuses, infants and young children, the Post reported.

Blumenthal is working to gain support from other attorneys general to demand that manufacturers stop using BPA to make infant formula cans and all other food and beverage containers.

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Viruses May Cause Diabetes: Study

Common viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea may trigger many cases of diabetes, according to British researchers, who said their findings raise the possibility of a vaccine.

They found evidence of enteroviruses in the insulin-producing pancreatic cells of 60 percent of children with type 1 diabetes and of 40 percent of adults with type 2 diabetes, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal Diabetologia.

It's known that genetics play a major role in diabetes risk, but the idea of a viral cause of diabetes has been considered for decades, BBC News reported.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. In children with a genetic predisposition to this form of diabetes, enterovirus infection may trigger the immune reaction that results in the disease, the researchers suggested.

Type 2 diabetes is often linked to obesity in adults. Enterovirus infection may harm the ability of beta cells in the pancreas to produce insulin. The researchers said this, in combination with the greater demand for insulin in obese people, may trigger diabetes, BBC News reported.

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Religion May Ease Anxiety, Research Finds

Religious belief may help control stress-related anxiety, a University of Toronto study suggests.

Volunteers did a stressful task while researchers monitored activity in an area of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which is involved in emotion, CTV.ca reported. Participants with strong religious belief had less ACC activity than non-believers, suggesting they experienced less anxiety while doing the task and when they made mistakes.

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.

Religious belief may offer peace of mind that helps people control their anxiety, suggested study leader Michael Inzlicht, an assistant professor of psychology, CTV.ca reported.

"Religion provides meaning to many people. It helps people to understand what to do, where to go next, what decision to make. It may be that having this sense of meaning reduces their anxiety," he said.

Posted: March 2009


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