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Health Highlights: Jan. 31, 2011

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

Americans Told to Consume Much Less Salt

About half of Americans need to sharply reduce the amount of salt they consume each day, according to new dietary guidelines issued by the federal government.

A maximum daily intake of 1,500 milligrams of sodium is recommended for people who are 51 and older, all black Americans, and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, the Associated Press reported.

The maximum recommended amount for all others is 2,300 milligrams per day, which is about one-third less than what is consumed by the average American.

The dietary guidelines from the Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments are issued every five years and are the basis of the popular food pyramid.

The new guidelines also recommend reducing calorie intake from solid fats and added sugars, limiting consumption of trans fats, eating more whole grains and fewer refined grains, and consuming less than 300 mg per day of cholesterol, the AP reported.


Artifical Pancreas Benefits Pregnant Women With Diabetes: Study

Using an artificial pancreas to maintain normal sugar levels in pregnant women with diabetes could benefit both mother and child, according to a new study.

U.K. researchers fitted artificial pancreases to 10 pregnant women with type 1 diabetes. A sensor sent continuous readings of blood sugar levels to a computer, which instructed a pump to inject required amounts of insulin when needed, BBC News reported.

The system maintained normal sugar levels in the pregnant women, according to the study published in the journal Diabetes Care.

"For women with type 1 diabetes, self-management is particularly challenging during pregnancy due to physiological and hormonal changes," said Dr. Helen Murphy of Cambridge University, BBC News reported.

"These high blood glucose levels increase the risk of congenital malformation, stillbirth, neonatal death, preterm delivery, macrosomia [oversized babies] and neonatal admission. So to discover an artificial pancreas can help maintain near-normal glucose levels in these women is very promising," Murphy said.


Many Cancer Trial Participants Overly Optimistic: Study

Unrealistic optimism is common among patients in early phase clinical cancer trials, according to a new study.

U.S. researchers looked the responses of 72 adults enrolled in cancer studies in the New York area who were interviewed about their expectations regarding risks and benefits, United Press International reported.

"We found a significant optimistic bias in their responses," wrote Lynn A. Jansen, of Oregon Health and Sciences University, and colleagues.

"Respondents tended to overestimate the benefits of the trial they were enrolled in and underestimate its risks. In addition, we found no significant relationship between respondents' understanding of the trial's purpose and how susceptible they were to unrealistic optimism. Our findings suggest that improving the consent process for oncology studies requires more than addressing deficits in understanding," the researchers said, UPI reported.

The study appears in the journal IRB: Ethics & Human Research.

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Posted: January 2011