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Health Updates 9 March 2012

  • Hot dogs, bacon products linked to lung disease flare-ups: “Eating too much lunch meat, bacon, hot dogs and such could worsen symptoms of airway diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, a new study suggests.  These diseases, which cause inflammation of the lungs that make it difficult for a person to breathe, are commonly included under the umbrella term ‘chronic obstructive pulmonary disease’ (COPD).  Lung infections, air pollution or tobacco smoke are common triggers for flare-ups of the diseases and can lead to hospitalization among patients.  In a new study, researchers in Spain reported that the nitrates used as preservatives in cured meat produce reactive nitrogen species that could damage lung tissue, and excessive consumption of these food items might raise the risk of hospitalization among COPD patients.” (HealthDay)
  • Many vegetarians unaware of animal-derived gels in pills: “Vegetarians and others who avoid eating meat for religious or cultural reasons may unknowingly be consuming gelatin derived from animal products when they take prescription medications, a new study found.  Animal-derived gelatin is a commonly used coating agent in medications, and it is also used as a thickener in some liquid and semisolid drugs.  The gelatin contained in ingredients known as excipients – inactive substances such as sweeteners, fillers and lubricants – which typically are not listed on a drug’s label.  The researchers, from Manchester Royal Infirmary in England, said more comprehensive labeling and vegetarian alternatives to drug ingredients are needed.” (MedlinePlus)
  • Low vitamin D hikes death risk in elderly: “Low vitamin D levels, common among women in nursing homes, may raise their risk of dying within a few years, Austrian researchers found.  Women with the worst deficiency…were 49% more likely to die over a period of about two years than those with the highest levels – a significant difference….Only 7% of the female nursing home population [surveyed] had adequate levels…when tested during the winter in Austria, which is similar in Montreal in latitude.   Limited access to sunlight, particularly in the winter, along with nutritional deficits and impaired synthesis of vitamin D in aging skin all contribute.  While the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency came as no surprise, ‘these data underscore the urgent need for effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of vitamin D deficiency, in particular in the setting of nursing homes’…”.  (Crystal Phend, MedPage Today)
  • Setback on AIDS drug is re-evaluated: “The failure of a daily pill to protect healthy African women against AIDS may not have been the pill’s fault but the women’s reluctance to take it, scientists at an important AIDS conference in Seattle were told this week.  Last April, a promising trial of ‘pre-exposure prophylaxis’ – giving small protective doses of antiretroviral drugs to uninfected people – was stopped early because women were getting infected anyway.  It was a discouraging setback.  But scientists at this week’s Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections who analyzed blood samples taken from the women reported that only a quarter of those who got infected had any of the drug, Truvada, in their blood.  That suggested they had not taken their pills….It is not known why so few African women took their Truvada, but there is still an enormous stigma about AIDS in Africa, and a bottle of AIDS drugs in the home implies that someone there is sick, said Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC, a prevention advocacy group.  Mr. Warren pointed out that Truvada had protected women in a different study that enrolled established couples in which only one partner was infected.” (NY Times)
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