Health Highlights: Oct. 14, 2007

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

More Family Dinners Seen as Help in Fighting Teen Obesity

The family that eats together may have healthy weight together.

So say University of Minnesota researchers who studied ways parents could help their obese teenage children lose weight.

According to the Associated Press, the scientists, who studied the eating habits of more than 2,500 adolescents over a five year period found that 44 percent of the girls and 20 percent of the boys had weight issues. Among these, 25 percent of the females and 10 percent of the males used extreme measures to control their weight, including vomiting and laxatives.

    • More Family Dinners Seen as Help in Fighting Teen Obesity
    • Fearful Expressions More Rapidly Identified, Study Says
    • Smoking Could Speed MS Disability
    • Staph Skin Infections Spreading in U.S. Schools
    • FDA Approves New AIDS Medication
    • Report Raises Concerns About Lead in Lipsticks

"We know that these behaviors tend to actually increase weight gain over time, the A.P. quotes lead author Dianne Neumark-Sztainer as saying. "It points to a need to address these behaviors with... overweight kids."

Part of the solution, the researchers concluded, was to have as many family meals together as possible, with no teasing about eating habits, and offering healthful menus. This should accompany family participation in outdoor activities and exercise, the wire service reported.

The study is to be published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


Fearful Expressions More Rapidly Identified, Study Says

The old axiom that some animals can "smell" fear in another creature has been found to have a slightly different face -- literally -- when it comes to humans recognizing when someone is afraid.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University say they have found evidence that the human brain recognizes fear in a person's face more quickly than it does other emotions.

In a study appearing in the November issue of the journal Emotion, scientists from Vanderbilt's department of psychology attempted to find out how quickly humans could recognize emotional changes in each other's faces, according to a university news release.

Using a technique called continuous flash suppression that keeps people from becoming aware of what they are seeing for up to 10 seconds, the researchers were able to project multiple images to study participants. What they found was that fearful faces were most immediately recognizable.

The reason for this, said David Zald, associate professor of psychology and a co-author of the study, may be because a brain area called the amygdala shortcuts the normal brain pathway for processing visual images.

"We think the amygdala has some crude ability to process stimuli and that it can cue some other visual areas to what they need to focus on," Zald said in the university news release."Fearful eyes are a particular shape, where you get more of the whites of the eye showing," he added.

"That may be the sort of simple feature that the amygdala can pick up on."


Smoking Could Speed MS Disability

Smokers with multiple sclerosis show more evidence of brain tissue shrinkage on MRI scans than people with the illness who do not smoke, U.S. researchers say.

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