Health Highlights: Nov. 7, 2013

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

Trans Fats to be Banned by FDA

Food companies in the United States will be required to gradually phase out all heart-clogging trans fats because they are a threat to people's health, the Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday.

The ban could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths a year, according to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, the Associated Press reported.

While there's been a significant decline in the amount of trans fats consumed by Americans in the last decade, Hamburg said they "remain an area of significant public health concern."

Nutritionists have long warned about the dangers of trans fats and they have been banned by New York and other local governments.

No timeline for the phase-out of trans fats has been set by the FDA, which will collect comments for two months before making a decision. Some foods may have different timelines, depending on how easy it is to find a substitute for trans fats, the AP reported.

It's been nine years since the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest first petitioned the FDA to outlaw trans fats. The decision to do so is "one of the most important lifesaving actions the FDA could take," the group's director, Michael Jacobson, said.

He urged the agency to implement a short timeline to rid foods of trans fats.

"Six months or a year should be more than enough time, especially considering that companies have had a decade to figure out what to do," Jacobson told the AP.

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Football Hall-of-Famer Tony Dorsett Has Signs of Brain Disorder

Hall of Fame NFL running back Tony Dorsett says all the hits he took during his football career have left him with brain damage.

He recently had his brain scanned and evaluated at the University of California, Los Angeles because he'd been having symptoms such as memory loss and depression, NBC News reported.

Dorsett told ESPN that he's suffered a decline in his quality of life, For example, he said he gets lost taking his daughters to their activities.

"It's painful, man, for my daughters to say they're scared of me. It's painful," Dorsett said. "I've thought about crazy stuff, sort of like, 'Why do I need to continue going through this? I'm too smart of a person, I like to think, to take my life, but it's crossed my mind."

The tests revealed that Dorsett had signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The degenerative brain condition has been found in the brains of a number of former football players and some researchers have linked it with head trauma suffered on the football field, NBC News reported.

Two other former NFL players -- Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure and former defensive end Leonard Marshall -- also sought brain tests at UCLA after experiencing symptoms. Both were found to have signs of CTE.

There is no cure for CTE, but researchers are hopeful that the three newly discovered cases will help advance efforts to find a treatment. They explained that finding evidence of CTE in living people provides them with opportunities to determine which treatments might be most effective, NBC News reported.

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Spain Reports First MERS Case

The first case of the MERS respiratory virus in Spain has been reported by health officials.

The female patient is a Moroccan-born Spanish resident who was admitted Nov. 1 to a Madrid hospital. The woman had been in Saudi Arabia in October and was diagnosed there with pneumonia, the Associated Press reported.

The woman is progressing favorably and poses no public health threat, Spain's Health Ministry said Thursday.

The MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) virus is related to the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus, which killed about 800 people in 2003. MERS has killed about 50 people over the past year. Most of the victims have been in Saudi Arabia, where the outbreak is centered, the AP reported.

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Depression Is No. 2 Cause of Disability Worldwide: U.N.

After back pain, depression is the next biggest cause of disability across the world and must be treated as a global public health priority, say experts from the United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO).

The group looked at 2010 data and compared depression against over 200 other diseases and injuries as a cause of disability. The WHO found that only a small percentage of people who suffer from the illness have access to proper care, BBC News reported.

"Depression is a big problem and we definitely need to pay more attention to it than we are now," lead study author Dr. Alize Ferrari, of the University of Queensland's School of Population Health in Australia, told the BBC.

The report found wide variance in depression incidence worldwide. Rates were highest in Afghanistan and lowest in Japan.

The WHO has recently launched a "global mental health action plan" aimed at boosting awareness among policymakers, the BBC said.

Posted: November 2013


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