Health Highlights: June 19, 2009

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

Hunger Afflicts One-Sixth of World's People: U.N.

The global economic crisis and high food prices are major reasons why 1.02 billion people (one-sixth of the world's population) don't have enough to eat, says a United Nations' agency report released Friday. Most of those going hungry -- defined as consuming less than 1,800 calories a day -- are in developing nations.

The Food and Agriculture Organization said there are 100 million more people going hungry this year than in 2008, and that more aid and agricultural investment are needed to help people in poor countries get enough to eat, the Associated Press reported.

    • Hunger Afflicts One-Sixth of World's People: U.N.
    • U.S. Gives $6 Billion in New Child Insurance Funding
    • Undiagnosed Condition Increases Women's Osteoporosis Risk
    • Bayer Threatened With Lawsuit Over Men's Vitamin Claims
    • Trainers Urge Halt to Two-a-Day Football Practices in August

The largest number of hungry people (642 million) are in Asia and the Pacific region, while the highest rate of hunger (32 percent) is in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The silent hunger crisis, affecting one-sixth of all of humanity, poses a serious risk for world peace and security," said agency Director-General Jacques Diouf, the AP reported.

To highlight the connection between hunger and peace, officials noted that rising prices for staples such as rice caused riots in the developing world last year, the AP reported.


U.S. Gives $6 Billion in New Child Insurance Funding

The U.S. government will give $6 billion in new funding to states and territories to maintain existing Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollment and expand their programs.

The new funds were made available by the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, which provides additional funding for CHIP programs.

Of the $6 billion in new funding, more than $1 billion has been released and the remainder is expected to be allocated by the end of September.

"Through CHIPRA, states and territories will receive additional funds to provide health insurance to 11 million children, including 4 million who were previously uninsured. Parents now have more help if their children fall ill," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a news release.

CHIP provides health insurance for children in working families whose incomes are too low for either employer-sponsored family plans or private plans, but too high for traditional Medicare.


Undiagnosed Condition Increases Women's Osteoporosis Risk

A delay in diagnosing a menopause-like condition called primary ovarian insufficiency in young women increases their risk of low bone density and osteoporosis later in life, says a U.S. National Institutes of Health study.

The condition occurs in girls and women younger than 40 when their ovaries stop working normally and no longer release eggs or produce estrogen. The main symptom -- irregular or stopped menstrual periods -- is often disregarded by women and their doctors, the study authors said.

"For years, primary ovarian insufficiency has been known to put women at risk of low bone density," Dr. Duane Alexander, director of NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in a news release. "The new study helps explain why some women with the condition are more likely to develop low bone density. It also provides strong evidence that by diagnosing the condition early, replacing deficient estrogen, and getting adequate calcium and vitamin D, these women can protect their bones from weakness and fractures."

The study was published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.


Bayer Threatened With Lawsuit Over Men's Vitamin Claims

A U.S. consumer advocacy group says that Bayer Healthcare must stop claiming that its One-A-Day vitamins for men reduce the risk of prostate cancer or face legal action.

There's no evidence to support claims in TV and radio ads that selenium, an ingredient in One-A-Day Men's Health Formula and 50+ Advantage, helps prevent cancer, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Associated Press reported.

"The largest prostate cancer prevention trial has found that selenium is no more effective than a placebo," the center's senior nutritionist, David Schardt, said Thursday. "Bayer is ripping people off when it suggests otherwise in these dishonest ads."

But the company said the claims on its vitamins have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"We stand behind all claims made in support of our products," Bayer spokeswoman Trisch McKernan told the AP.


Trainers Urge Halt to Two-a-Day Football Practices in August

High school football teams should stop holding two practices a day during the first week of August to prevent heat-related illnesses or death, says a new report from the National Association of Athletic Trainers.

Strenuous two-a-day drills are an annual tradition for thousands of high school football teams across the United States, the Associated Press reported.

But the trainers' report says the cutback the group is recommending would match what's being done at the college level. It made special mention of a 15-year-old football player in Kentucky who collapsed during practice last August and later died. His coach was charged with reckless homicide.

Since 1995, at least 39 football players of all ages have died from heat-related causes, and most of the incidents occurred in August, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research, the AP reported.