Health Highlights: Aug. 21, 2008

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

FDA Sanctions Irradiation of Lettuce, Spinach

Food producers will be allowed to irradiate fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce to kill E. coli and other dangerous germs to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said. The new regulation takes effect Friday.

Irradiation of meat and spices has been permitted for years but there were concerns that exposing leafy greens to radiation would affect the quality of the produce, the Associated Press reported.

    • FDA Sanctions Irradiation of Lettuce, Spinach
    • Anti-Addiction Drug Helps Rats Lose Weight
    • Trauma During Pregnancy Boosts Risk of Schizophrenia in Kids
    • Posture Training Eases Chronic Back Pain
    • One Dead, 16 Sick in Listeriosis Outbreak in Canada
    • Minorities More Likely to Suffer Corporal Punishment in Schools

But the FDA concluded that modern irradiation techniques can kill dangerous germs without compromising the safety or nutrient value of raw lettuce and spinach.

"What this does is give producers and processors one more tool in the toolbox to make these commodities safer and protect public health," said Dr. Laura Tarantino, director of the FDA's Office of Food Additive Safety, the AP reported.

The FDA also is assessing the possible use of irradiation on other types of produce.


Anti-Addiction Drug Helps Rats Lose Weight

A drug being tested as a treatment for cocaine and methamphetamine addiction helps rats lose weight, U.S. researchers say. The findings suggest the drug could help treat severely obese people.

Following short-term treatment with the drug vigabatrin, rats genetically modified to be obese lost up to 19 percent of their total weight, and normal-weight rats shed 12 percent to 20 percent of their weight, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Our results appear to demonstrate that vigabatrin induced satiety in these animals," said study leader Amy DeMarco, of the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The study was published online this week by the journal Synapse.

Previous research identified vigabatrin as a potential addiction treatment and found similar brain changes in addicts and obese people. That led the Brookhaven team to study whether vigabatrin would turn off the uncontrolled urge to eat among obese lab rats, AFP reported.


Trauma During Pregnancy Boosts Risk of Schizophrenia in Kids

There's an increased risk of schizophrenia among children born to women who experience traumatic stress during pregnancy, including stress caused by natural disasters, war, a terrorist attack, or the sudden loss of a loved one.

Dolores Malaspina, of New York University's School of Medicine, and colleagues analyzed birth data for 88,829 people born in Jerusalem from 1964 to 1976 and cross-referenced that data with Israel's national psychiatry registry, Agence France-Presse reported.

The study found that females born to women who were in their second month of pregnancy during the height of Six-Day War in June, 1967, were 4.3 times more likely to develop schizophrenia as they entered adulthood, and males were 1.2 times more likely to develop the mental disease.

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