Health Highlights: Aug. 15, 2008

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

Drinking Red Bull May Cause Heart Damage: Study

Drinking too much of the popular Red Bull energy drink may lead to heart damage, says an Australian study that included 30 university students, ages 20 to 24.

The researchers found that drinking just one 250ml sugar-free can of the caffeinated drink boosted the "stickiness" of the blood and increased the risk of blood clots. After drinking Red Bull, the students had a cardiovascular profile similar to that of someone with heart disease, the Times (U.K.) reported.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Drinking Red Bull May Cause Heart Damage: Study
    • Teens Having Easier Time Getting Prescription Drugs
    • Gene Mutation Linked to Colorectal Cancer
    • Lack of Judgment Endangers Teen Drivers
    • Bush Signs Bill Banning Lead in Children's Products
    • Neck Artery Stent Devices Recalled

The results were alarming and suggest that older adults with symptoms of heart disease shouldn't drink too much Red Bull, said study author Scott Willoughby, of the Cardiovascular Research Center at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Adelaide University.

In a statement, Red Bull officials said the drink had been proved safe by numerous scientific studies, and that it had never been banned from anywhere it had been introduced, the Times reported.

Red Bull is sold in 143 countries but is banned in Norway, Denmark and some other countries due to health concerns.

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Teens Having Easier Time Getting Prescription Drugs

It's easier to illegally obtain prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin or Ritalin than it is to get beer, say a growing number of American teens.

Researchers at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University surveyed 1,002 12- to-17-year-olds and found that 19 percent said it was easier for them to obtain prescription drugs than to get their hands on beer, cigarettes or marijuana, compared with 13 percent a year ago, The Washington Post reported.

The study also found that 34 percent of teens who abuse prescription drugs get them at home or from their parents.

About 25 percent of the teen respondents said marijuana is the easiest substance to buy, and 43 percent of 17-year-olds said they could purchase marijuana in less than an hour, The Post reported.

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Gene Mutation Linked to Colorectal Cancer

A gene mutation strongly linked to colorectal cancer has been identified by Northwestern University researchers. People with the TGFBR1 ASE gene mutation have a 50 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer than the general population.

"This probably accounts for more colorectal cancers than all other gene mutations discovered thus far," said study lead author Boris Pasche, Agence France Presse reported.

The TGFBR1 ASE mutation results in decreased production of an important receptor for TGF-beta, the most potent inhibitor of cell growth. A reduced ability to inhibit cell growth means it's easier for colon cancer to develop. The study was published in the journal Science.

"The reasonable expectation is this finding will save some lives," said Pasche, AFP reported. "We will be able to identify a larger number of individuals that are at risk of colorectal cancer and, in the long term, maybe decrease the cases of colorectal cancer and of people dying from it by being able to screen them more frequently."

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Lack of Judgment Endangers Teen Drivers

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