Health Highlights: April 13, 2012
Alcohol Can Help Problem Solving, Doesn't Make You Smarter: Researcher Drug Giant Hit With $1.2 Billion in Fines Vehicle Seat Design Makes Child Seat Use Difficult: Study E. Coli Found in Nearly Half of Raw Chicken Products: Study
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Alcohol Can Help Problem Solving, Doesn't Make You Smarter: Researcher
Media reports that alcohol makes you smarter are misinterpreting a study that found that a small amount of alcohol may encourage creative problem solving, the study authors say.
"There are times where having a bit of alcohol might help you with what you are trying to accomplish," researcher Andrew Jarosz, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told ABC News.
He and his colleagues found that a certain amount of alcohol could push your mind just enough out of focus to be able to consider unorthodox solutions to a difficult problem. The amount cited in the study would be enough to make you blow a 0.075 on a breathalyzer.
The study, published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, received extensive media coverage, with headlines such as "Drinking Alcohol Makes You Smarter," ABC News reported.
Jarosz called that a "complete misinterpretation."
"We're not going to argue 'smarter' or 'intelligence' or anything like that," he told ABC News. "In some cases, it's beneficial. Is it beneficial in all cases? No, we're not saying that."
Drug Giant Hit With $1.2 Billion in Fines
Fines of more than $1.2 billion were slapped on Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals after a jury found that the companies minimized or concealed dangers associated with the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.
Experts said the penalty imposed by an Arkansas judge is one of the largest on record for a state fraud case involving a drug company, The New York Times reported.
The judge issued a penalty of $1.19 billion for nearly 240,000 violations of Arkansas' Medicaid fraud law and also fined the companies $11 million for violations of the state's deceptive practices act.
Earlier this year, Texas settled a similar case with Janssen for $158 million. Last year, Janssen was hit with a $327 million penalty in South Carolina and nearly $258 million in damages in Louisiana, the Times reported.
Vehicle Seat Design Makes Child Seat Use Difficult: Study
The design of passenger seats in many cars makes it difficult to properly install child safety seats, finds a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
It found that just 21 of 98 top-selling 2010 and 2011 model year vehicles have seat designs that are easy to use with child restraints, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The low percentage is notable in light of the fact that the auto industry uses a system called Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (Latch) that's meant to make it easier to install child safety seats.
The insurance institute said the problem is that auto makers don't pay enough attention to how the Latch system works when designing passenger seats.
"Installing a child restraint isn't always as simple as a couple of clicks and you're done," study co-author Anne McCartt, the insurance institute's senior vice president for research, told the Times. "Sometimes parents blame themselves when they struggle with Latch, but oftentimes the problem lies with the vehicle, not the user."
E. Coli Found in Nearly Half of Raw Chicken Products: Study
The bacteria E. coli was found in nearly half of packaged raw chicken products bought at grocery stores across the United States, a new study says.
Researchers found E. coli -- an indicator of fecal contamination -- in 48 percent of 120 raw chicken products bought in 10 major cities, The New York Times reported.
The study was conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit group that advocates a vegetarian diet, among other things.
Food safety experts downplayed the findings, noting that the type of E. coli found in the chicken was not the kind that threatened public health.
"What's surprising to me is that they didn't find more," Dr. Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, told the Times. "Poop gets into your food, and not just into meat -- produce is grown in soil fertilized with manure, and there's E. coli in that, too."