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Health Highlights: July 27, 2011

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

McDonald's Announces Nutrition Effort

Fruit or a low-fat dairy option will be included in all McDonald's Happy Meal beginning in September as the fast food giant takes steps to improve the nutrition of its products.

The new Happy Meals will also have about 20 percent fewer calories and less fat, and the company also plans to promote nutrition in its Happy Meal packaging and national children's advertising, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Overall, McDonald's says it will reduce added sugars, saturated fat and calories in its products by 2020 through the use of reformulations, innovations and portion size reductions. It also will reduce sodium levels by an average of 15 percent by 2015.

The company's plan to offer more nutritional foods was announced Tuesday.


Only Humans Experience Age-Related Brain Shrinkage: Study

Age-related brain shrinkage occurs only in humans, researchers say.

By age 80, the average human brain has lost 15 percent of its original weight, BBC News reported.

In this study, scientists compared MRI images from more than 80 healthy humans, ages 22 to 88, and a similar number of captive-bred chimpanzees and found that chimps' brains don't shrink with age. The findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The human brain is three times larger than a chimp brain and humans also live longer. The researchers said that longer lifespan is likely an adaptation to having bigger brains, BBC News reported.


Mexican Papayas Linked to Food Poisoning Outbreak

Possibly tainted papayas from Mexico may be the cause of a U.S. food-poisoning outbreak that's affected more than 90 people in 23 states.

A company in South Texas is recalling papayas imported from Mexico that may be contaminated with salmonella bacteria. The recall covers Blondie, Yaya, Mananita and Tastylicious brand papayas sold before July 23, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Of the 90 reported food-poisoning cases, 17 have occurred in Illinois. Patients had to be hospitalized in eight of the 17 cases, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

People who have become ill after eating papayas should seek medical care and contact their local health departments, officials advise, the Tribune reported.


Prices of Popular Drugs Set to Fall

The prices of a number of widely used drugs are expected to drop in coming years as brand name patents expire and generic versions become available, according to experts.

Over the next 14 months, patents on seven of the world's 20 best-selling drugs will expire, according to London-based EvaluatePharma Ltd. That includes the two leading sellers, the cholesterol medication Lipitor and the blood thinner Plavix, the Associated Press reported.

Generic versions of other top-selling drugs for asthma, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV, bipolar disorder and high triglycerides will also be introduced on the market.

Over the next decade or so, the patents of about 120 brand-name drugs will expire, according to prescription benefit manager Medco Health Solutions Inc., the AP reported.


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Posted: July 2011