News for Healthier Living

Health Highlights: Feb. 11, 2019

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

'Ultraprocessed' Foods Tied to Higher Death Risk: Study

They may be convenient, but eating ultraprocessed foods could increase your risk of early death, a new study warns.

"Ultraprocessed foods are mostly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts, or ready-to-eat or -heat meals," and their consumption "has largely increased during the past several decades," wrote the authors of the study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, CNN reported.

The study included more than 44,000 adults, 45 and older, in France who were followed for two years.

The researchers found that each 10 percent increase in the amount of ultraprocessed foods consumed was associated with a 14 percent higher risk of early death, CNN reported.

Ultraprocessed foods accounted for more than 14 percent of the weight of total food consumed by the participants, and about 29 percent of their total calories.

Further research is need to confirm the study findings, said the authors, who suggested that additives, packaging (chemicals get into the food during storage) and the processing itself (including high-temperature processing) may be why ultraprocessed foods can harm health, CNN reported.

The "findings make sense, given what we know to date about the deleterious effects of food additives on brain function and health, but the effects observed are very small," Molly Bray, chairwoman of the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, told CNN.

She was not involved in the study.

There are many kinds of ultraprocessed foods and the study could not pinpoint exactly what might make them a threat to health, according to Nurgul Fitzgerald, associate professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University. She was not involved in the study.

"Some factors may be more harmful or less harmful than others. It's really too complex," Fitzgerald told CNN, and added that we can't "run with" these results.

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FDA Warns 17 Companies About Illegal Alzheimer's Disease Products

A number of warning/advisory letters have been issued to 17 companies for selling illegal products that claim to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer's disease and other serious conditions, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The agency said it posted 12 warning letters and five online advisory letters to U.S. and foreign companies illegally selling more than 58 products, many of which are marketed as dietary supplements.

The products -- which include tablets, capsules and oils and are often sold on websites and social media -- have not been reviewed by the FDA and may be ineffective, unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate diagnosis and treatment, according to the FDA.

The companies have 15 days to respond to the FDA and outline how they intend to correct the violations. Product seizures and/or injunctions are among the actions the FDA could take if the violations are not corrected.

"Science and evidence are the cornerstone of the FDA's review process and are imperative to demonstrating medical benefit, especially when a product is marketed to treat serious and complex diseases like Alzheimer's," FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in an agency news release.

"Alzheimer's is a challenging disease that, unfortunately, has no cure. Any products making unproven drug claims could mislead consumers to believe that such therapies exist and keep them from accessing therapies that are known to help support the symptoms of the disease, or worse as some fraudulent treatments can cause serious or even fatal injuries. Simply put, health fraud scams prey on vulnerable populations, waste money and often delay proper medical care -- and we will continue to take action to protect patients and caregivers from misleading, unproven products," Gottlieb said.

In the past five years, the FDA has issued more than 40 warning letters to companies illegally marketing over 80 products making Alzheimer's disease claims.

Action has also been taken against companies and dietary supplements making similar claims for the treatment of serious conditions such as cancer and opioid addiction.

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Measles Outbreak Triggers Sharp Rise in Demand for Vaccine in Washington State

Health clinics in Clark County, Washington are scrambling to meet the sharply increased demand for measles vaccination as people seek protection during an outbreak of the highly contagious virus.

State health department data show that orders for two types of measles vaccines in the county were nearly 500 percent higher in January than in the same month last year, spiking from 530 doses to 3,150, Kaiser Health News reported.

One facility, the Vancouver Clinic, said it gave 1,444 measles shots in January, compared with 263 last January, a nearly 450 percent increase.

There have been more than 50 confirmed cases of measles and 11 suspected cases in Clark County this year.

Only 76.5 percent of kindergartners in the county had all the required immunizations for the 2017-18 school year, and health officials have long been concerned about the risk of an outbreak in the region.

State-wide, orders for measles vaccine rose about 30 percent in January compared with the same month last year, from 12,140 doses to 15,780 doses, Kaiser reported.

The measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest also includes one confirmed case in King County, where Seattle is located, and four in Multnomah County, which includes Portland, Ore.

Washington and Oregon are among 17 states that permit non-medical exemptions from vaccination requirements for school entry, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A measure introduced by Washington state Rep. Paul Harris (R-Vancouver) would remove personal belief exemptions for the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, Kaiser reported.

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Congo Ebola Outbreak Has Claimed Nearly 100 Children's Lives, Cases on the Rise

The ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed the lives of nearly 100 children, and the number of cases on are the rise, according to the charity Save the Children.

It said that since the outbreak of the viral illness began in August 2018, 97 children have died, including 65 who were younger than five years of age, CNN reported.

The charity also said that the number of new cases surged in January, from about 20 a week to more than 40, with 120 new cases in the last three weeks of January.

The current outbreak in Congo is the second-deadliest and second-largest in history. So far, there have been 745 confirmed cases and 61 probable cases, the country's health ministry said Saturday. There have been 505 deaths, CNN reported.

The deadliest Ebola outbreak occurred in West Africa in 2014. More than 11,000 people died, according to the World Health Organization.

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Recall of Tahini Products Linked to Salmonella Outbreak

A salmonella outbreak in the United States linked to tahini from Israeli manufacturer Achdut Ltd. is being investigated by U.S. health agencies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says consumers should not eat the recalled Achva, Achdut, Soom, S&F, and Pepperwood brand tahini and Soom brand Chocolate Sweet Tahini Halva Spread (lot code 071318CH) with expiration dates ranging from April 7, 2020, to May 21, 2020, or Baron's brand tahini with an expiration date of May 5, 2021, and product lot codes ranging from 18-097 to 18-141.

Consumers should throw away the recalled products or return them to the place of purchase for a refund, the FDA advised.

Some of the products were first recalled on Nov. 27, 2018, the agency added.

Companies that have used the recalled tahini -- either repacked or used as an ingredient in a food without a kill step -- should consider recalling their products, the FDA noted.

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President Trump in Good Health: Doctor

U.S. President Donald Trump "is in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his Presidency, and beyond," his physician Dr. Sean Conley wrote after Trump underwent his annual medical exam last Friday.

The exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center took four hours and involved a panel of 11 specialists who were supervised by Conley, the Associated Press reported.

Conley provided no details about the examination, other than to say that Trump, 72, did not have any procedures requiring sedation or anesthesia. Reports and recommendations from the exam are still being finalized, and it's unclear how many more details will be made public in the next few days.

At last year's exam, Trump weighed 239 pounds, his height was 6-foot-3, and his body mass index (BMI -- an estimate of body fat based on height and weigh) was 29.9, which is overweight. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese, the AP reported.

After last year's checkup, Trump was advised to lose weight, get more exercise and change to a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet.

February 11, 2019
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