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Health Highlights: April 27, 2010

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

Food Companies Will Reduce Salt In Products

As part of the national effort to lower U.S. sodium consumption by 20 percent, 16 food companies announced Monday that they plan to reduce the amount of salt in dozens of products such as bacon and flavored rice.

The companies said they'll commit to the voluntary National Salt Reduction Initiative, a public-private partnership initiated by New York City, the Associated Press reported.

Among the planned reductions:

  • Mars Foods will reduce the amount of sodium in Uncle Ben's flavored rice products by 25 percent over five years.
  • Heinz will cut sodium in ketchup by 15 percent staring May 1.
  • The Subway sandwich chain is working with food suppliers to reduce sodium in all of its menu items.

Too much sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke and other health problems.

"If we reduced our sodium intake to recommended levels, we would prevent 44,000 to 92,000 deaths per year in the United States and save $10 billion to $24 billion in health care costs per year," said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, the AP reported.


Vein Stem Cells Trigger Blood Vessel Growth

Stem cells extracted from human veins left over from heart bypass surgery can stimulate new blood vessel growth in mice, British researchers say.

"This is the first time that anyone has been able to extract stem cells from sections of vein left over from heart bypass operations," said research leader Professor Paolo Madeddu, of the University of Bristol, BBC News reported. "These cells might make it possible for a person having a bypass to also receive a heart treatment using their body's own stem cells."

In heart bypass surgery, surgeons take a section of vein from somewhere in the body (usually a leg) and use it to replace a blocked or narrowed section of heart artery.

After harvesting the stem cells from a leftover piece of vein, the researchers injected them into the leg muscle of a mouse in which the blood supply had been cut off in order to simulate conditions in a damaged heart. The cells seemed to promote the development of new blood vessels and improve blood flow in the muscle.

The study appears in the journal Circulation.

The research "brings the possibility of 'cell therapy' for damaged hearts one step closer, and importantly, if the chemical messages produced by the cells can be identified, it is possible that drugs could be developed to achieve the same end," said Professor Peter Weissberg, the medical director of the British Heart Foundation, BBC News reported.

The foundation funded the research.


Covidien Recalls Tracheostomy Tubes

Tracheostomy tubes made by Massachusetts-based Covidien are being recalled after the company received about 1,200 complaints about leaks and was informed that three patients had died while using the tubes.

Trachestomy tubes are placed in patients' throats to help them breathe while on ventilators. A leak could cause a sudden decrease in the amount of oxygen in the blood or a sudden rise in the amount of carbon dioxide, both of which can lead to serious injury or death, the Associated Press reported.

The recall covers certain cuffed Shiley-branded tracheostomy tubes and Shiley-branded custom tracheostomy tubes that may have a leak in the pilot balloon.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is "investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of three patients that may be associated with leaks in the tracheostomy tubes made by Covidien," said agency spokesman Tom Gasparoli, the AP reported.


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Posted: April 2010