Health Highlights: Jan. 22, 2008

Under the law, any restaurant chain that operates at least 15 separate outlets must provide calorie information on menus. Some major chains do have that information available, but don't list it on the menu boards consumers read when they're ordering food.

Making people aware of the thousands of calories contained in certain foods may help reduce obesity, said city Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, who hopes restaurant chains will respond by offering healthier food choices, the AP reported.

It's believed that New York City is the first U.S. city to force restaurant chains to provide calorie information on their menus.

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FDA Approves New Hypertension Tablet

A new blood pressure tablet called Tekturna HCT was approved Monday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to drug maker Novartis AG, the Associated Press reported.

The new tablets contain the hypertension compound aliskiren (brand name Tekturna) and hydrochlorothiazide, which inhibits the kidneys' ability to retain water. Tekturna HCT is meant for patients whose blood pressure hasn't been brought under controlled by a single drug.

It will be available in the United States in February, the AP reported.

Dizziness, flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, cough, tiredness and skin rashes are among the side effects associated with Tekturna HCT.

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Lack of Food Not Linked to Obesity in Low-Income Children: Study

A new study challenges the common theory that lack of food explains why children in low-income families are more likely to be overweight than children from higher-income families, the Associated Press reported.

Previous research suggested that children in low-income families didn't get enough nutritious food and ate hot dogs and other poor-quality foods instead. It's also been suggested that some children eat well when there's enough money but skip meals when cash is short -- a cycle that may slow their metabolism and lead to weight gain.

But this Iowa State University study of 1,031 children living in low-income homes in Boston, Chicago and San Antonio disputes those theories. The study found that while half of the children in the study were overweight or obese, only about 8 percent weren't getting enough to eat, the AP reported.

While the Iowa State researchers concluded that there's no link between lack of food and overweight/obesity in low-income children, they couldn't say why so many children in low-income families have weight problems.

More research is needed to better understand the issue, the study authors said.

According to some studies, nearly one-third of American children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese, and nearly 40 percent of those overweight/obese children are from low-income families, the AP reported.

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Flu Vaccination Rates Lower Than Expected

Flu vaccination rates among children and high-risk adults in the United States are much lower than expected. That means that millions of people would be unprotected if there's a major flu outbreak, says a report released Monday by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

The latest online survey of 2,131 adults, ages 18 and older, was conducted in December. It found that among households with children ages 5 and younger, there was only a 36 percent vaccination rate. Another 18 percent of households said they still planned to vaccinate their children this season.

The poll also found that flu vaccination rates among high-risk adults -- those ages 50 and older and those with chronic diseases -- were well below national target levels.

So far this season, 26 states have reported moderate flu activity. There are about 40 million doses of flu vaccine still available and parents should get themselves and their children vaccinated, said Dr. Matthew M. Davies, director of the National Poll on Children's Health.

"National efforts to prevent an influenza epidemic in the U.S. hinge on broad flu vaccination of the public before flu season hits," David said in a prepared statement.

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