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Health Highlights: Aug. 14, 2008

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

A Happy Attitude May Extend Life

Being happy may add several years to your life, suggests a Dutch researcher who reviewed 30 studies conducted around the world.

Ruut Veenhoven of Erasmus University in Rotterdam concluded that the effects of happiness on longevity were "comparable to that of smoking or not," and that being happy could extend a person's life by 7.5 to 10 years, Agence France Presse reported.

Among the studies reviewed by Veenhoven, the strongest effect of happiness on longevity was seen in a group of American nuns, which may reflect the benefits of belonging to a close-knit, stress-free community with a sense of purpose.

The study was published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.


Birth Control Pills May Impair Women's Mate Selection: Study

Taking birth control pills may hinder a woman's ability to select a genetically compatible mate, say researchers at the University of Newcastle in England.

Normally, women's sense of smell instinctively leads them to men with a dissimilar genetic makeup -- a union that improves the likelihood of successful conception and healthy children.

However, this study of 100 women found that the use of birth control pills disrupted the capacity to sniff out a suitable partner, Agence France Presse reported.

"The results showed that the preferences of women who began using the contraceptive pill shifted toward men with genetically similar odors," said team leader Craig Roberts. This can lead to relationship problems in the long term, he suggested.

"It could ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the contraceptive pills, as odor perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners," said Roberts, AFP reported.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Science.


Portable Machine Speeds Bird Flu Diagnosis

A portable testing machine that can diagnose human cases of bird flu in about two hours is being developed by researchers at Nottingham Trent University in Great Britain. At the moment, it takes about one week for lab testing to confirm bird flu.

Using a swab of saliva taken from a patient's mouth, the unit can detect molecules specific to the potentially deadly H5N1 virus or other bird flu strains, BBC News reported.

Quicker identification of H5N1 means patients can start treatment sooner, which may improve their odds of survival. The machine may also boost efforts to contain outbreaks.

"There's a large train of thought that one of the best ways of dealing with avian influenza is by detection and containment," said researcher Dr. Alan McNally, BBC News reported. "The ability to detect and type the influenza virus immediately is essential in setting up controls as quickly as possible to minimize the spread of any potential pandemic virus."


Pedigree Pet Food Recalled in California

California health officials have recalled a type of Pedigree bagged pet food that may be contaminated with salmonella, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Certain 20-pound bags of Pedigree Complete Nutrition Small Crunchy Bites were pulled from the market after the manufacturer -- Mars Petcare US of Franklin, Tenn. -- said an ingredient that should not have been used after positive test results was accidentally shipped to a California distribution facility in Tracy. The bags have best buy dates of 07/2009.

The ingredient was used in about 100 bags of food that were sent to Albertson's stores in southern California and to Costco locations across the state, the wire service said.

There have been no reports of illness among pets that ate the recalled food.

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Posted: August 2008