Health Highlights: August 3, 2008

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

One Reason U.S. Obesity Keeps Rising: We're Eating More Food

Here's a big reason why the American individual has packed on more pounds in recent years -- the rationale that it has taken more food to make people heavier is true.

The New York Times reports that the amount of food an American ate in 2006 was almost 2 pounds more than was ingested in 1970.

Citing U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, the newspaper says that in 1970 the average amount of food each American ate weekly was 16.4 pounds. By 2006, that amount had increased to 18.2 pounds a week.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • One Reason U.S. Obesity Keeps Rising: We're Eating More Food
    • Waterborne Parasite Causing Illness and One Possible Death in North Texas
    • Reintroduced MS Drug Cited in Two New Deadly Infections
    • Possible Anthrax Suspect Commits Suicide
    • FDA Rejects Anesthesia Recovery Drug
    • U.S. Senate Passes Bill Banning Lead from Children's Products

What constituted the increase? According to the Times, it was unfortunately those substances that can make people fatter: oils, shortening, cheeses and about an additional quarter pound of meat each week.

And while not making a direct cause-and-effect relationship, the Times cites obesity rate increases among United States residents from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: In 1980, 15 percent of adults between ages 20 and 74 were classified as obese. By 2007, that figure was 25.6, according to the CDC.

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Waterborne Parasite Causing Illness and One Possible Death in North Texas

Outbreaks of a nasty parasite infection in public swimming places in Dallas and Fort Worth have local health officials increasing the chlorine content in many pools in order to control the outbreak.

According to the Dallas Morning News, 123 cases of cryptosporidiosis (also known as Crypto), an infection caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium have been reported in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area since June. The death of a six-year-old girl is being investigated to see if she was a Crypto victim, the newspaper reports.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cryptosporidiosis is the most common waterborne illness in the United States. It is spread through contact with fecal matter, and the parasite can live in the human intestine for long periods of time. Symptoms include cramping, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Dallas-area health officials have recommended that people with compromised immune systems not swim in public pools, the Morning news reports. And, says the newspaper, many municipalities are "hyperchlorinating" their public swimming facilities in an attempt to deter Cryto's spread.

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Reintroduced MS Drug Cited in Two New Deadly Infections

Two new instances of a dangerous brain infection have been reported among users of Tysabri, a multiple sclerosis drug that was reintroduced two years ago after being pulled from the market because of the same adverse effect.

While the two new cases occurred in Europe, they raised international concern about Tysabri and its connection with the viral brain condition called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). The new cases were confirmed this week, according to the Bloomberg news service, which cited a statement from one of the drug's makers, Massachusetts-based Biogen Idec Inc.

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