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Health Updates 18 April 2012

  • Fast food is saltier in US than overseas: “Large differences exist in the levels of salt in foods sold at major fast-food restaurants in the United States and other developed countries, a new study says.  Researchers examined the salt content of more than 2,100 food items in seven product categories sold by Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Subway in the United States, Canada, Australia, France, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  The food-product categories including savory breakfast items, burgers, chicken products, pizza, salads, sandwiches and french fries.  The study found that sodium levels in similar foods varied widely among the countries, and that fast food in the United States and Canada contained much higher levels of sodium than in the United Kingdom and France….’These high levels  indicate failure of the current government approach that leaves salt reduction solely in the hands of industry,’ the researchers said.  ‘Salt-reduction programs need to guide industry and oversee it with targets and timelines for foods, monitoring and evaluation, and stronger regulatory measures if the structured voluntary efforts are not effective’.  High levels of dietary salt have been linked to high blood pressure and other harmful health effects.” (HealthDay)
  • Popular J&J drugs may not return until 2013: “Efforts to fix manufacturing problems at three Johnson and Johnson plants are taking longer than expected, meaning that some popular over-the-counter consumer brands may not return to store shelves until next year, company executives said Tuesday.  ‘It is difficult to accurately predict the speed of recovery, and as such we are in fact behind where we thought we might be at this point,’ Dominic J. Caruso, chief financial officer of Johnson & Johnson, said during a conference call to discuss the company’s first-quarter earnings.  Johnson & Johnson entered into a consent decree with the Food and  Drug Administration last year in which it promised to overhaul operations at three of its manufacturing plants after quality problems led several over-the-counter products, including Pepcid Complete and Children’s Tylenol, to be removed from shelves.  Other drugs, like eight-hour Tylenol and Simply Sleep, have not yet returned to the market.  The decree covers one plant, in Fort Washington, Pa., that the company closed in 2010 and two others in Lancaster, Pa., and Las Piedras, P.R., that remain open under federal supervision.  In the calls with analysts, Mr. Caruso said some brands could return to shelves this year, but others would most likely not be back until 2013….He did not give reasons for the delays and said the cost of the remediation efforts had increased.”  (NY Times)
  • Fish oil supplements won’t help in multiple sclerosis: study: Omega-3 fatty acid supplements don’t appear to have any benefit on multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study by Norwegian researchers.  Multiple sclerosis affects about 2.5 million people worldwide.  Some prior research has indicated that omega-3 fatty acid supplements might have anti-inflammatory effects that could benefit those with the disease, according to background information in the study.  Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold-water fish, such as salmon, and in fish oil supplements.  ‘Our study provides evidence that omega-3 supplementation has not beneficial effect on MS, neither given alone nor in combination with interferon treatment,’ said lead researchers Dr. Oivind Torkildsen, from Haukeland University Hospital, in Bergen.  Interferon is a standard drug  given to MS patients.  ‘Our data do not suggest that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation was harmful or that it interfered with interferon beta treatment,’ he added.  This study is important, not only for neurologists and MS patients, but also for general practitioners, who frequently advise patients about lifestyle interventions and complementary approaches to MS treatment…”.  Still, other doctors were not surprised at the findings for MS, and noted that omega-3 fatty acids have other established benefits, particularly for the heart.  They will continue, then, to recommend the supplement. (MedlinePlus)
  • Mental illness tied to higher rates of physical problems: Report: “Adults with mental illness are more likely to have certain types of chronic physical health problems than those without mental illness, according to a US government report released this week.  The report said adults aged 18 and older who had any type of mental illness in the past year had higher rates of high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, heart disease and stroke….People with major depression in the past year had higher rates of the following chronic health problems than those without major depression: high blood pressure (24 percent vs. 20 percent); asthma (17 percent vs. 11 percent); diabetes (9 percent vs. 7 percent); heart disease (7 percent vs. 5 percent); and stroke (3 percent vs. 1 percent).  People with mental illness had higher rates of emergency-department use and hospitalization, according to the report.  Rates of emergency department use were nearly 48 percent for people with a serious mental illness in the past year and 31 percent for those without a serious mental illness.  Hospitalization rates were more than 20 percent for those with a serious mental illness in the past year and less than 12 percent for those without a serious mental illness.  ‘Behavioral health is essential to health….Promoting health and wellness for individuals, families and communities means treating behavioral health needs with the same commitment and vigor as any other physical health condition…’.” (Womenshealth.gov)
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