Health Highlights: May 11, 2010

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

Michelle Obama Endorses Weight Guidelines for Moms-to-Be

Women who stay at a healthy weight while pregnant and breast-feed after birth can help prevent childhood obesity, a U.S. government panel reports.

First Lady Michelle Obama, who is leading a campaign against childhood obesity, released the panel's findings Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. In all, the panel made 70 recommendations aimed at reducing the life-threatening health risks associated with being overweight or obese.

With one in three American children overweight or obese, children today may end up living shorter lives than their parents because of the high risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other illnesses associated with weight.

The advisory report says the problem could be solved in a generation if childhood obesity rates dropped to 5 percent by 2030.

A woman's weight before pregnancy and her weight gain during pregnancy help determine whether a child will become obese, studies have shown.

Other studies have found that children who are breast-fed are 22 percent less likely to become obese.

The advisory panel, created by President Barack Obama in February, reviewed more than 2,500 suggestions from the public before issuing its recommendations. Participants represented a dozen federal agencies, including the Education, Agriculture, Health, Interior and Transportation departments, the AP reported.

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Toxins in Children's Jewelry Targeted

Following the recall Monday of "Best Friends" charm bracelets, U.S. regulators say they are cracking down on companies producing children's jewelry that contains the toxic metal cadmium.

"More recalls are in the works," said U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson, the Associated Press reported.

Although he would not say how many products are under scrutiny, Wolfson said the recalls would follow voluntary testing by companies, some of which have reported disturbing cadmium levels to the agency, the news service ssid.

Also, inspectors at 10 U.S. ports have screened imported jewelry for cadmium in recent weeks and turned away at least one shipment of Chinese jewelry, the AP said.

The CPSC announcement followed the voluntary recall of about 19,000 "Best Friends" charm bracelet sets made in China and sold exclusively at Claire's in North America and Europe.

"Cadmium is toxic if ingested by children and can cause adverse health effects," the agency said in its recall announcement. In high levels, cadmium is a carcinogen and can damage kidneys and bones, the AP said.

Consumers should return the charm bracelets to Claire's for a replacement or refund, the agency said.

On Monday, Claire's said it had discontinued shipments from the manufacturer, identified as Dae Yeon Industries Corp., the AP reported.

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New Rules Developed for Chicken, Turkey Safety

New federal guidelines for chicken and turkey could protect tens of thousands of Americans from developing life-threatening food-borne illnesses, experts say.

"These standards will have probably the greatest public impact for consumers' health since anything USDA [the U.S. Department of Agriculture] has adopted in the last 15 years," says Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the new safety rules Monday and said they could result in 65,000 fewer people getting sick from campylobacter and salmonella poisoning, two of the most common causes of food-borne illness, USA Today reported.

The new rules would only allow 7.5 percent of chicken carcasses at a plant to test positive for salmonella, down from 20 percent currently allowed.

To guard against campylobacter, which had not been regulated before, the new rules prohibit companies from exceeding 10 percent for "highly contaminated" carcasses and 46 percent for "low level" contamination, USA Today said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.4 million Americans develop salmonella infections a year, and another 2.4 million get infected with campylobacter.

The poultry industry will work hard to fulfill customers' expectations "for safe and wholesome chicken," Richard Lobb, of the National Chicken Council, told USA Today.

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Researchers Study Ultrasound Contraceptive for Men

Scientists at the University of North Carolina are looking at ultrasound for use as a reversible, safe contraceptive for men.

The researchers, working with a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, believe that exposing the testes to ultrasound will temporarily stop sperm production, BBC News reported.

"We think this could provide men with up to six months of reliable, low-cost, non-hormonal contraception from a single round of treatment," said lead researcher James Tsuruta.

"Our long-term goal is to use ultrasound from therapeutic instruments that are commonly found in sports medicine or physical therapy clinics as an inexpensive, long-term, reversible male contraceptive suitable for use in developing to first world countries," he said.

Based on their early findings, the researchers said the ultrasound blast causes the testes to stop producing sperm and depletes "sperm reserves," BBC News said.

Posted: May 2010


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