Officials concerned over flu potential
NEW YORK, May 1 (UPI) -- As governments worldwide hasten to meet swine flu head-on, officials eye the possibility of the virus evolving into an especially lethal strain, observers say.
The Wall Street Journal says if the spreading flu strain, known officially as A/H1N1, does develop like that the consequences could overwhelm even the most advanced health systems in the United States and other Western countries.
Also, no matter what the intensity might be, governments and public-health officials on high alert would be using lessons learned from past outbreaks to mitigate the impact of the new virus, the report said.
Stockpiles of anti-viral drugs such as Tamiflu could be a strong weapon against a pandemic. Britain and France, for example, have enough of the medicine on hand to treat 54 percent of their people, Austria has anti-virals for 40 percent of its population and Japan 28 percent.
The United States reportedly has enough anti-viral medication in reserve to treat 50 million people, or about 16 percent of its population.
Learning from such events as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the SARS and avian flu epidemics, U.S. officials have poured some $7 billion into strengthening the country's public-health infrastructure, the Journal said.
Officials say African nations, with scarce resources, poorly organized health systems and populations battling other diseases, would be especially vulnerable.
The World Health Organization's regional office has about 1 million anti-viral doses available.
FDA: Stop using Hydroxycut products
WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) -- U.S. officials are warning consumers to immediately stop using Hydroxycut products because they have been linked to a number of liver injuries.
"The Food and Drug Administration urges consumers to discontinue use of Hydroxycut products in order to avoid any undue risk," Dr. Linda Katz, interim chief medical officer of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a statement. "Adverse events are rare, but exist. Consumers should consult a physician or other healthcare professional if they are experiencing symptoms possibly associated with these products."
The dietary supplements, produced by Iovate Health Sciences Inc., of Oakville, Ontario, and distributed by Iovate Health Sciences USA Inc. of Blasdell, N.Y., are associated with a number of serious liver injuries. Iovate has agreed to recall Hydroxycut products from the market, the FDA said.
The FDA has received 23 reports of serious health problems ranging from jaundice, elevated liver enzymes -- an indicator of potential liver injury. One patient needed a liver transplant and one person died.
Liver injury, although rare, was reported by patients at the doses of Hydroxycut recommended on the bottle, the FDA said in a statement.
Hydroxycut products are dietary supplements marketed for weight-loss, as fat burners, as energy-enhancers, as low-carb diet aids and for water loss under the Iovate and MuscleTech brand names.
Folic acid may lessen allergies, asthma
BALTIMORE, May 1 (UPI) -- Folic acid, known to reduce the risk of spinal birth defects, may also suppress allergic reactions, U.S. researchers said.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore said they have found a link between folate levels and inflammation-mediated diseases, including heart disease.
The researcher reviewed the medical records of more than 8,000 people ages 2-85 to track the effect of folate levels on respiratory and allergic symptoms and on levels of IgE antibodies -- immune system markers that rise in response to an allergen.
The study, published online ahead of print in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, found people with higher blood levels of folate had fewer IgE antibodies, reported fewer allergies, less wheezing and lower likelihood of asthma.
"Our findings are a clear indication that folic acid may indeed help regulate immune response to allergens, and may reduce allergy and asthma symptoms," lead investigator Dr. Elizabeth Matsui said in a statement.
"But we still need to figure out the exact mechanism behind it, and to do so we need studies that follow people receiving treatment with folic acid, before we even consider supplementation with folic acid to treat or prevent allergies and asthma."
Better educated people choose better diets
SEATTLE, May 1 (UPI) -- People with higher education levels have higher quality diets but the better diets are most costly, U.S. researchers said.
Researchers from the University of Washington compared the eating habits and food costs of a sample of 164 adults in the Seattle area.
Pablo Monsivais and Adam Drewnowski, both of the University of Washington, Seattle, said energy density of the diet -- i.e., available energy per unit weight -- is one indicator of diet quality. Lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy products and fresh vegetables and fruit provide fewer calories per unit weight than do fast foods, sweets, candy and desserts.
Energy dense foods provide more calories per unit weight but tend to be nutrient-poor.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, said that for both men and women, higher dietary energy density was associated with higher intakes of total fat and saturated fat and with lower intakes of dietary fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C. Daily diet cost was slightly higher for men at $6.72/day than women at $6.21/day -- reflecting the fact that men ate more than women.
However, for each 2,000 calories of dietary energy, men spent $7.43 compared to $8.12 spent by women. Diets that were more costly in terms of dietary energy were also lower in energy density and contained higher levels of nutrients.