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Health Highlights: Sept. 28, 2010

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

Depression Cases Jump 25 Percent Along Gulf Coast: Survey

Since the BP oil spill last April, cases of depression have soared 25 percent along the Gulf Coast, according to a Gallup survey released Tuesday.

The nearly 2,600-person study included a "well-being index" that found many coastal residents are sad, worried and stressed out more often than inland residents, suggesting an emotional hangover from the disaster, the Associated Press reported.

The poll was conducted in 25 counties from Texas to Florida over eight months before and after the spill. After the spill, 25.6 percent more depression diagnoses were reported than before, but the study stopped short of tying the increase directly to the oil crisis. Lingering effects from Hurricane Katrina and the recession may also be contributing factors, experts say.

Besides depression, mental health agencies say coastal residents are reporting anxiety, anger, sleeplessness, substance abuse and domestic violence, the AP said.


FTC Puts Squeeze on Pomegranate Juice Maker

Claims that a pricey pomegranate juice helps reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and impotence are coming under fire from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The regulatory agency on Monday charged juice maker Pom Wonderful and the company's owners, philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick, with making false and unsubstantiated claims about their pomegranate elixir, according to The New York Times.

The FTC charges that the company ignored evidence discounting its health claims. The agency wants the company to discontinue any medical claims until those statements are backed up by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Resnicks, who are suing the commission, claim the FTC is violating Pom Wonderful's First Amendment rights and overstepping its authority, the Times reported.

"We stand behind the vast body of scientific research documenting the healthy properties of Wonderful variety pomegranate," the company said in a statement released Monday.


Segway Executive Dies While Riding Upright Scooter

A British executive who owned the company that makes the upright scooter known as the Segway died this weekend after he apparently rode an all-terrain version of the vehicle off a cliff and into a river in west Yorkshire.

The death of Jimi Heselden, 62, came on the heels of a study published last week in the Annals of Emergency Medicine that questioned the safety of these popular scooters.

In that study, reported online last Friday by Consumer Affairs magazine, researchers from George Washington University looked at 44 patients who came to the emergency department with injuries sustained while riding the Segway.

Only 7 percent of the patients had worn helmets, and head traumas were common. The incidence of Segway injuries has been increasing steadily, the researchers added.

"All of the injuries were sustained by riders simply falling off, mostly from striking an inanimate object, study author Dr. Mary Pat McKay told the magazine. "The Segway may seem cool, but there's nothing cool about a head injury. One-quarter of the patients who came to our emergency department with Segway injuries were admitted to the hospital. Forty percent of the admitted patients were admitted to the ICU because they had traumatic brain injuries."

The researchers urged the Consumer Product Safety Commission to gather injury data on the Segway to gauge the scope of the problem.

"In the meantime, all Segway riders should wear helmets and pay close attention to what is in front of and around them when riding," McKay told Consumer Affairs.

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Posted: September 2010