Health Highlights: March 8, 2011

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

Use of Pregnancy Hormone in Diet Program Causes Concern

U.S. health officials and some experts are concerned about the popularity of a weight-loss regimen that combines daily injections of the pregnancy hormone hCG and a near starvation diet.

Patients, mainly women, pay upward of $1,000 a month for a consultation, a supply of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) and the syringes needed to inject the hormone, but there is little evidence that the regimen is effective, The New York Times reported.

Many patients are told that the hCG will induce their bodies to eliminate fat from areas such as the upper arms, bellies and thighs. They're also told the hormone will prevent them from feeling hungry or tired despite their low calorie intake.

The promotion of hCG as a diet tool is "manipulating people to give them the sense that they're receiving something that's powerful and potent and effective, and in fact, they're receiving something that's nothing better than a placebo," Dr. Pieter Cohen, a weight-loss supplement researcher and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, told The Times.

Homeopathic forms of hCG, such as lozenges and sprays, that are sold over the Internet and some health food stores are fraudulent and illegal if they claim to promote weight-loss, says the Food and Drug Administration.

The injectable, prescription form of hCG is approved as a treatment for infertility and other uses, and it is legal for doctors to prescribe it "off-label" for weight loss, The Times reported.

However, hCG packaging must carry a warning that it has not been shown to increase weight loss, does not cause a more "attractive" distribution of fat, and does not "decrease hunger and discomfort" from low-calorie diets.

In addition, the hormone carries risks of blood clots, depression, headaches and breast tenderness or enlargement, FDA spokesman Christopher Kelly told The Times.

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Distracted Driving Common Among Young Adults: Poll

A new poll finds that 63 percent of Americans under 30 use a handheld phone while driving and 30 percent admit they've sent text messages while behind the wheel.

The survey, by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports, also found that only one-third of young drivers believe such behavior is very dangerous, the Associated Press reported.

Among Americans over age 30, 41 percent said they use handheld phones while behind the wheel and 9 percent said they'd sent test messages while driving.

Nearly 5,500 people were killed in distracted driving-related crashes in 2009, according to the Department of Transportation, the AP reported.

The Transportation Department and Consumers Union have launched a new partnership to tackle the issue. It includes a guide for parents and educators, a public service announcement for TV stations, and a video for retail stores.

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Skippy Peanut Butter Recalled

Concerns about possible salmonella contamination have led to a recall of some jars of creamy and chunky Skippy Reduced Fat peanut butter.

The recall includes jars distributed to retailers in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to information on the website of Skippy manufacturer Unilever, CBS News reported.

The 16.3-ounce jars are marked with UPC codes 048001006812 and 048001006782 and have Best-If-Used-By Dates of MAY1612LR1, MAY1712LR1, MAY1812LR1, MAY1912LR1, MAY2012LR1 and MAY2112LR1.

Consumers with recalled jars of Skippy peanut butter should stop consuming it and contact Unilever at 900-453-3432 for a replacement coupon, CBS News reported.

Posted: March 2011


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