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Health Highlights: Sept. 6, 2008

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

Salmonella Cases Prompt Alfalfa Sprout Recall in Northwest

On the heels of the huge nationwide salmonella outbreak that caused more than 1,400 illnesses from Mexican peppers, a regional Oregon alfalfa sprout distributor has recalled its product in Oregon and Washington state after the sprouts were linked to 13 cases of salmonellosis .

According to the Seattle Times, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and health officials in Oregon announced a recall of Sprouter's Northwest brand alfalfa sprouts after 13 people in the two states showed signs of salmonellosis after consuming the sprouts. No deaths have been reported.

Sprouters Northwest, headquartered in Kent, Ore., voluntarily recalled its alfalfa sprout products, the newspaper reports. They are distributed in grocery stores, supermarkets and used in restaurants. The first incidents of salmonella poisoning -- which can cause diarrhea, fever and vomiting -- were reported in early August, the newspaper reports.

This is the second suspected salmonella outbreak involving Sprouter's Northwest, the Times reports. The company recalled alfalfa sprouts in Washington and Oregon in 2004 after 12 people became ill, according to the USDA Web site.

Any Sprouter's Northwest products should be thrown away or returned, the newspaper reports.

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Good Protein Breakfast May Aid Weight Loss

Eating good-quality protein at breakfast may help people lose weight, suggests a Purdue University study.

The researchers found that overweight or obese men in the study who ate eggs and lean Canadian bacon in the morning had a greater sense of sustained fullness throughout the day, compared to when they ate more protein at lunch or dinner, United Press International reported.

"There is a growing body of research which supports eating high-quality protein foods when dieting to maintain a sense of fullness," study author Wayne Campbell said in a news release. "This study is particularly unique in that it looked at the timing of protein intake and reveals that when you consume more protein may be a critical piece of the equation."

The men in the study ate a calorie-reduce diet with two variations of protein intake -- 11 to 14 percent or 18 to 25 percent of daily calories. Both were within U.S. nutrition recommendations for normal protein intake, UPI reported.

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Nicotine May Enhance Other Experiences: Study

The way nicotine enhances other experiences may have something to do with its addictive quality, according to a Kansas State University study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Most research on nicotine focuses on the drug itself, rather than other aspects such as social factors, noted lead author Matthew Palmatier, United Press International reported.

"People have very regimented things they do when they smoke," Palmatier said in a news release. "People smoke in very specific places, often with a specific group of people. Maybe it's a reason why nicotine is so addictive -- if you get used to having that extra satisfaction from things you normally enjoy, not having nicotine could reduce the enjoyment in a given activity."

He said it's necessary to look at the big picture in order to better understand why people smoke, even though most of them are fully aware of the health risks

"(Smokers) want to quit but can't. It's not because nicotine is a potent drug; it doesn't induce significant amounts of pleasure or euphoria. Yet, it's just as difficult, if not more difficult, to quit than other drugs," said Palmatier, UPI reported.

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Fablyn Increases Risk of Blood Clots: FDA Document

While the new osteoporosis drug Fablyn has been shown to be effective in postmenopausal women with a higher risk of bone fractures, the drug also increased the risk of blood clots and invasive gynecological visits, says a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory board briefing document released Thursday.

The document was made public in advance of the advisory board's scheduled Monday meeting to decide whether to recommend approval of the drug, Forbes reported.

In 2005 and 2006, the FDA issued "non-approvable" letters for Fablyn, which acknowledged the drug's effectiveness, but questioned whether it increased the risk of blood clots and stroke.

A five-year study of more than 9,000 women conducted by Pfizer and development partner Ligand Pharmaceuticals found that the drug didn't increase the risk of stroke but did increase the risk of blood clots, Forbes reported.

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U.S. Army Suicides Could Hit Highest Levels Since 2003

The U.S. Army appears headed for a record number of suicides this year and may top the civilian suicide rate for the first time since the Vietnam war, Agence France-Presse reported.

Last year, 115 soldiers took their own lives, the most ever on record in a single year for the army. So far this year, 93 soldiers have committed suicide, army officials said Thursday.

"With four months left, we're probably going to surpass 115," said Colonel Eddie Stephens, the army's deputy director of human resources policy, AFP reported.

If the current pace of soldier suicides continues, the army will exceed the U.S. civilian suicide rate of 19.5 per 100,000 people in 2005, the latest data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The army's suicide rate has steadily risen from 12.4 per 100,000 in 2003, despite efforts to increase soldiers' awareness of the issue and to ease the stigma of seeking help for mental health troubles, AFP reported.

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Intellectual Tasks May Boost Calorie Intake

Hard thinking may make you eat more and put on weight, suggests a Canadian study.

Universite Laval researchers invited 14 students to eat as much as they wanted after doing three different low energy tasks: sitting and relaxing; reading and summarizing a text; and finishing memory and attention tests on a computer, CTV News reported.

Compared to relaxing, the students burned only three more calories while doing the two mental tasks. However, they ate 203 more calories after summarizing the text and 253 more calories after the computer tests.

Blood tests showed the students had more pronounced changes in glucose and insulin levels while doing the mental tasks than when resting, CTV News reported. The brain uses glucose as fuel and may try to maintain its glucose balance by taking in more food, the researchers suggested.

"Caloric overcompensation following intellectual work, combined with the fact that we are less physically active when doing intellectual tasks, could contribute to the obesity epidemic currently observed in industrialized countries," said lead author Jean-Philippe Chaput said. "This is a factor that should not be ignored, considering that more and more people hold jobs of an intellectual nature."

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Posted: September 2008


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