Health Highlights: March 15, 2008

Many of the patients were obese, a recognized risk factor for heart disease. But the researchers noted other factors in these patients, including HIV infection and tuberculosis, late diagnosis, and a tendency to seek medical care only after consultation with a traditional healer failed to help, Agence France-Presse reported.

The study appears in The Lancet medical journal. An accompanying commentary noted that the study's findings are "relevant to many areas of the world that face similar threats and the emergence of epidemics of heart disease."

The commentary said that in "some developing countries, such as India, the epidemiological transition has been more rapid and the speed of transition will vary from country to country depending on the exposure time and competing causes."

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Lubbock Has Worst Teeth in U.S.: Study

The best teeth in the United States are found in Madison, Wis., Nashville, Tenn., and Raleigh, N.C., while the worst are in Lubbock, Texas. Three other cities in the Lone Star state -- El Paso, San Antonio, and Dallas -- are also in the bottom 15 cities, says an article in next month's Men's Health magazine.

The authors looked at U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on the number of annual dentists visits, canceled appointments, regular flossers, and households using fluoride in 100 large cities, the Associated Press reported.

Some experts theorized that high level of fluoride in Lubbock's well water may be a factor. Too much fluoride in water can cause tooth enamel to become rough, leaving white or brown stains.

Others suggested that dental care is too expensive, which means low-income people can't afford regular checkups or education, the AP reported.

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Microwave Popcorn Chemical Damages Airways: Study

Inhalation of a chemical used in microwave popcorn artificial butter flavoring damaged the airways of mice, which developed a condition that can lead to a life-threatening lung disease, says a study by researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Mice exposed to diacetyl vapors for three months developed lymphocytic bronchiolitis, a precursor to obliterative bronchiolitis (popcorn lung). None of the mice developed the more serious disease, said ConsumerReports.org.

"This is one of the first studies to evaluate the respiratory toxicity of diacetyl at levels relevant to human health. Mice were exposed to diacetyl at concentrations and durations comparable to what may be inhaled at some microwave popcorn packaging plants," study co-author Daniel L. Morgan, chief of the Respiratory Toxicology Group at the NIEHS, said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues concluded that workplace exposure to diacetyl contributes to the development of obliterative bronchiolitis, but noted that more research was needed. The study was published online in the journal Toxicological Sciences.

Obliterative bronchiolitis has been noted in microwave popcorn packaging plant workers who have inhaled significant concentrations of artificial butter flavoring. Late last year, a number of leading popcorn makers said they planned to eliminate diacetyl from their products, ConsumerReports.org said.

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Officials Investigating Possible CJD Deaths in Quebec

Health officials are investigating whether two people who died in Quebec in the last few months had a form of neurodegenerative Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), CBC News reported.

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