Health Highlights: Nov. 3, 2008

Nov. 4 -- Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Short Bursts of Exercise Seen as Effective as Endurance Activities

Multiple short bursts of exercise may be as beneficial as endurance activities such as jogging or cycling, suggests a study by researchers at the University of Glamorgan in Wales.

"Six 30-second sprints three times a week can have the same health and weight-loss benefits as jogging or cycling for up to 45 minutes several times a week," said study co-author Professor Julien Baker, BBC News reported.

And people may be more likely to exercise using a program that features sprints because it's more practical in terms of time, Baker noted.

"For children who are overweight or obese, it may be better to put them on an intermittent program of high-intensity exercise for a short period," he said, BBC News reported.

"This type of activity may also be used as a defense for cardiovascular disease, and research carried out in the laboratory has shown significant reductions in post-exercise blood pressure," Baker added. "These findings indicate that intermittent exercise may provide similar benefits as prolonged moderate exercise in the treatment for hypertension."

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Too Much High-Fat Dairy and Eggs Increase Heart Risk

People who consume plenty of high-fat dairy products and eggs are more likely to suffer heart failure than those who eat a diet high in whole grains, according to a 13-year study by U.S. researchers.

They followed 14,153 white and black adults, ages 45 to 64, in four communities and looked at their intake of seven food categories: whole grains; fruits/vegetables; fish; nuts; red meat; egg; and high-fat dairy, United Press International reported.

During the study period, there were 1,140 hospitalizations for heart failure among the participants. After the researchers adjusted for variables such as lifestyle factors, demographics, existing high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, they concluded that the risk of heart failure was lower among those with greater whole grain intake than those who consumed more eggs and high-fat dairy products.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

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Researchers Study Lithium Treatment for Neuron Disease

A major study to assess the use of the mood stabilizer lithium as a treatment for motor neuron disease is being launched by British researchers. The 18-month study will include 220 patients who've had motor neuron disease (MND) for between six months and three years.

There is no effective treatment or cure for MND, a rapidly progressive condition that can strike adults of any age and is usually fatal within two to five years. Recent laboratory and animal tests have suggested that lithium -- long used as a treatment for some forms of depression, such as bipolar disorder -- may be effective against the MND, BBC News reported.

Many MND patients have heard about these findings and are asking if they should be taking lithium, said Professor Nigel Leigh, director of the MND Care and Research Centre at King's College London. However, only a small number of patients are taking lithium because it can cause potentially dangerous side effects, such as tremors, stiffness, confusion, kidney damage and harm to the thyroid.

Leigh urged doctors and MND patients to wait for the results of the study before making any decisions about taking lithium, BBC News reported.

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Blood Test Could Identify Obesity Risk

It may be possible to identify people at risk for obesity by using a blood test that measures how blood triglycerides react to a high-fat meal, says a U.S. study. Triglycerides are a form of fat transported in the blood and stored in the body's fat tissues.

Mark Friedman, of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, and colleagues examined rats' vulnerability to diet-induced obesity, United Press International reported.

First, the researchers measured increases in the animals' blood triglyceride levels after the rats ate a high-fat meal. The rats were then fed a fatty diet for four weeks.

Based on the findings from the initial test, the researchers were able to predict which rats would become obese during those four weeks. The smaller the triglyceride change in the initial test, the greater the weight gain, UPI reported.

The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity.