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Health Highlights: Jan. 28, 2013

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

Petition Leads to Removal of Ingredient From Gatorade

As a result of a consumer campaign, PepsiCo said it will no longer use brominated vegetable oil in citrus versions of its Gatorade sports drink.

Research has suggested that the ingredient may have possible health side effects, including neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones, The New York Times reported.

Gatorade spokeswoman Molly Carter said the company has been testing alternatives to brominated vegetable oil for about a year "due to customer feedback."

PepsiCo responded to a petition signed by more than 200,000 people who wanted brominated vegetable oil eliminated from Gatorade. The petition was started on by Sarah Kavanagh, 15, of Hattiesburg, Miss. She became concerned about the ingredient after reading about it online, The Times reported.


Former Israeli Leader Sharon Shows Brain Activity

Although presumed to be in a vegetative state, a brain scan suggests that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon may be able to hear and understand, according to a member of the team that conducted the tests.

Sharon, 84, suffered a massive stroke seven years ago. During the brain scan, scientists showed Sharon pictures of his family, played a recording of the voice of one of his sons, and performed physical sensation tests, The New York Times reported.

The brain scan revealed significant activity in response to these stimuli.

"We were surprised that there was activity in the proper parts of the brain," said team member Prof. Alon Friedman, a neuroscientist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, The Times reported. "It raises the chances that he hears and understands, but we cannot be sure. The test did not prove that."

However, additional tests to assess Sharon's level of consciousness were less conclusive.

"While there were some encouraging signs, these were subtle and not as strong," according to a statement released by the university, The Times reported.


More Americans Using Technology to Track Their Health: Study

Americans are increasingly using smartphones and other devices to track their health, according to experts.

About 21 percent of people in the United States use some form of technology to keep tabs on their health, according to a study by Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, The New York Times reported.

"The explosion of mobile devices means that more Americans have an opportunity to start tracking health data in an organized way," said Susannah Fox, an associate director of the project, which was to release the study on Monday.

As of last fall, more than 500 companies were making or developing health self-management tools. That's an increase of 35 percent from January 2012, according to Matthew Holt, co-chair of Health 2.0, a project that maintains a database of health technology companies, The Times reported.

Nearly 13,000 health and fitness apps are now available, Holt added.


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Posted: January 2013