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Sat, 17 Feb 2018
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Health & Wellness


Nutrition Labels Could Be Mandated on Package Fronts

© Google Images
According to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, the FDA is working on a plan that would require food manufacturers to print nutrition information on the front of their packaging rather than on the back. The alleged goal of the proposed new mandate is to help busy shoppers quickly decipher nutrition information without having to look at the back of a product.

"Busy shoppers will be able to go into grocery stores and have some easy-to-understand information on the front of packages, giving them quick data on what is a healthier choice," she explained.

While it may seem like a good proposal that would help to improve nutrition transparency, many manufacturers are concerned that the requirement could end up needlessly costing them millions of dollars. Since packaging changes are typically very expensive, many smaller producers might be put out of business by the mandate.

James McCarthy, president and CEO of the Snack Food Association (SFA), expressed opposition to the mandate and instead proposed that the change be made voluntary. Because his organization represents 400 snack food manufacturers and suppliers worldwide, many of which are small- or medium-sized operations, he understands the incredible burden that would be placed on them by the requirement.


95 Percent of "Preventive" Mastectomies Offer No Benefit, Study Finds

© Peter Dazeley/Getty Images
A woman feels for breast cancer
A new study shows that the increasingly popular practice of "preventive mastectomy" in non-cancerous breasts provides no benefit to the vast majority of women.

"It's important for women to understand that, except for one subset of breast cancer patients, they don't need to do this," said lead author Isabelle Bedrosian of University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. "Hopefully, it'll reassure patients wondering if they should."

Approximately 40,000 women die from breast cancer in the United States each year, and another 200,000 cases are diagnosed. Because cancer in one breast is known to increase the risk of cancer recurrence in the other breast, doctors are increasingly recommending that cancer survivors opt to have both breasts removed as a "preventive" measure. And women are opting for it in huge numbers, seeking the peace of mind that it is said to offer.

The number of preventive mastectomies in the United States increased two-and-a-half-fold between 1998 and 2003. Today, 11 percent of all women undergoing a mastectomy on a cancerous breast choose to have the non-cancerous breast removed as well.


FDA Urges Fewer Antibiotics in Meat

The federal recommendation comes amid rising concern that the drugs in animals pose a health threat to humans.

Reporting from Washington - Meat producers should use certain antibiotics only to assure animal health and stop using the drugs to increase production and promote growth, the Food and Drug Administration said Monday.

The recommendation to cut back on the use of antimicrobial drugs comes amid rising concern that extensive use in animals contributes to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria afflicting humans.

"The development of resistance to this important class of drugs, and the resulting loss of their effectiveness as antimicrobial therapies, poses a serious public health threat," the FDA said in a draft guidance statement [PDF].

Red Flag

Kellogg's Cereal Recall Highlights a New Concern: Chemicals Leaching from Food Packaging

© Uanmonino / Istock
Kellogg is recalling millions of boxes of children's cereal, but other packaging can leach potentially harmful chemicals too.

Kellogg is recalling as many as 28 million boxes of cereal because a chemical is leaching from the food packaging into the cereal. The Food and Drug Administration states the reason for the recall as "uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell coming from the liner in the package." Other sources call it a wax-like substance, and parents are being warned that it may cause diarrhea or vomiting, particularly in sensitive children (the recalled cereals - Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, Froot Loops and Honey Smacks - are sugary staples of the Kellogg line, marketed with cartoon characters primarily at children).

The incident highlights a little-appreciated concern: While packaging can help food last longer, it can also leach chemicals into foods. The public is becoming increasingly aware of this since Bisphenol A has been making news. That chemical, found in many hard plastics, has been shown to leach into liquids from water bottles, baby bottles, the lining of cans and other common food packaging, particularly in older plastics that have stored hot foods or beverages. Concern has grown over food packaging, since public awareness has increased about the potential health effects of BPA, which can disrupt the endocrine system and mimic estrogen, and which may influence health issues ranging from prostate cancer to mental development.

Comment: Concerned about chemicals leaching from food packaging and the possible health risks? Read the following articles:

Chemicals Leach From Packaging
Toxic Glue Used in Supermarket Food Packaging 'Poses Severe Risk to Health'


FDA Report Reveals Airline Food Could Pose Health Threat

© USA Today
Rodent droppings, roaches found in airline food.
Many meals served to passengers on major airlines are prepared in unsanitary and unsafe conditions that could lead to illness, government documents examined by USA Today show.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors have cited numerous catering facilities that prepare airline food for suspected health and sanitation violations following inspections of their kitchens this year and last, according to inspection reports obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The inspections were at U.S. facilities of two of the world's biggest airline caterers, LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet, and another large caterer, Flying Food Group.

The three caterers operate 91 kitchens that provide more than 100 million meals annually to U.S. and foreign airlines at U.S. airports. They provide meals for nearly all big airlines, including Delta, American, United, US Airways and Continental.


Public Health Experts Fear "Cancer and Brain Damage" from Oil-Contaminated Seafood

gulf shrimp advertisement
© Andrew Schneider
Fresh gulf shrimp are for sale in a high-end Seattle grocery store. Although it's been tested thoroughly, questions about its safety remain.
The shopper stood staring at the large, ice-covered shrimp in the chiller-case of the high-end Seattle grocery.

"Fresh. Wild Gulf Shrimp. Never Frozen. $16.99 lb." read the sign.

"They're my favorites, but are they safe?" the woman asked the fishmonger.

"We couldn't and wouldn't sell them if they weren't," he answered, and quickly added that someone is testing the hell out of everything coming from the gulf.

He was telling the truth.

But several questions remain to be answered for consumers:


Airport Body Scanners "Could Give You Cancer"

© The Telegraph
A security officer examines a computer screen showing a scan from a RapiScan full-body scanner, being trialled by Manchester Airport
Airport body scanners emit radiation up to 20 times more powerful than previously thought, a scientist has warned.

Dr David Brenner, head of the centre for radiological research at Columbia University in New York, said Government scientists had not taken into account the concentration of the radiation on the skin. He said it raised concerns about a potentially greater risk of cancer than previously realised.

Dr Brenner, who is from Liverpool, said children and passengers with genetic mutations - around one in 20 of the population - were most at risk because they are less able to repair X-ray damage to their cells.

He added that the danger posed to individual passengers was "very low" but said more research was required to more accurately determine the risks.


Brain's Energy Restored During Sleep, Suggests Animal Study

© Dworak et al.
Levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of cells, in rats increased in four key brain regions normally active during wakefulness. Shown here is the energy surge measured in the frontal cortex, a brain region associated with higher-level thinking.
Cellular energy levels surge in some brain regions in early hours of sleep

In the initial stages of sleep, energy levels increase dramatically in brain regions found to be active during waking hours, according to new research in the June 30 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. These results suggest that a surge of cellular energy may replenish brain processes needed to function normally while awake.

A good night's rest has clear restorative benefits, but evidence of the actual biological processes that occur during sleep has been elusive. Radhika Basheer, PhD, and Robert McCarley, MD, of Boston V.A. Healthcare System and Harvard Medical School, proposed that brain energy levels are key to nightly restoration.

"Our finding bears on one of the perennial conundrums in biology: the function of sleep," Basheer said. "Somewhat surprisingly, there have been no modern-era studies of brain energy using the most sensitive measurements."


Inside the DSM: The Drug Barons' Campaign to Make Us All Crazy

Some years ago, a friend told me that he had been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and that his psychiatrist had given him a prescription for Forest Laboratories' popular SSRI antidepressant Celexa (chemical name, citalopram hydrobromide; $1.5 billion in sales in 2003). Knowing him to be a vociferous critic of the pharmaceutical companies, I asked whether he agreed that the origins of his unhappiness were biological in nature. He replied that he unequivocally did not. "But," he confided, "now I might be able to get my grades back up."

This guy was, at the time, a full-time undergraduate student who managed rent, groceries and tuition only by working two part-time jobs. He awoke before dawn each morning in order to transcribe interviews for a local graduate student, then embarked upon an hour-long commute to campus, attended classes until late afternoon, and then finally headed over to a nearby café to wash dishes until nine o'clock in the evening. By the time he arrived home each night, he was too exhausted to work on the sundry assignments, essays and lab reports that populated his course syllabi. As the school year dragged on, he had become increasingly disheartened about his slipping grades and mounting fatigue and decided, finally, that something had to be done. So he'd seen the psychiatrist and was now on Celexa.


Combo shot boosts kids' fever-related seizure risk

kid shots
© Getty Images
Children who get a combination of measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox vaccines in one shot are at a slightly increased risk of getting a fever-related seizure, compared with children getting two separate shots - one containing measles, mumps and rubella and the another containing the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

"The risk of a febrile seizure after any measles-containing vaccine is low - about one febrile seizure in 1,000 doses" says lead study author, Dr. Nicola Klein, co-director of Kaiser Permanente's Vaccine Study Center. "But if a child gets the combination vaccine, the risk doubles," says Klein.

Researchers looked at vaccine-safety data from more than 459,000 toddlers between the ages of 12 and 23 months and found there was one additional case of febrile seizure for every 2,300 doses of MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella) vaccine given. The seizures occurred seven to 10 days after the injection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a febrile seizure is a fever-related seizure, which can occur when a child has a fever at or above 102°F or when a high fever is going down.