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Health Highlights: April 7, 2015

Many Dietary Supplements Contain Amphetamine-like Compound: Study FDA Scientists Challenge Smokeless Tobacco Safety Claim Detroit-Area Woman Now Oldest Person in the World Plague Found in Arizona Prairie Dogs PET Scans Detect Signs of CTE: Study Climate Change a Threat to Americans' Health: Obama

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

Many Dietary Supplements Contain Amphetamine-like Compound: Study

Many popular dietary supplements contain a compound that acts like amphetamine, although the compound is not listed on product labels and its health risks are not clear, a new study finds.

Known as BMPEA, the compound is often found in weight-loss products and sports supplements that claim to include Acacia rigidula, a shrub found in Texas. But BMPEA can only be produced synthetically, the researchers noted in the study, which was published April 8 in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis.

The scientists also claim in their study that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration first discovered the presence of BMPEA in dietary supplements during testing in 2013, but failed to take any action or issue any warnings about the compound.

"The FDA should immediately warn consumers about BMPEA and take aggressive enforcement action to eliminate BMPEA in dietary supplements," the study said.

Study lead author Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that the compound coud be harmful and the FDA's failure to act is "completely inexcusable."

Amphetamine, the drug that BMPEA mimics, is a potent stimulant that can raise heart rate and blood pressure while decreasing appetite. It is prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

FDA spokeswoman Juli Putnam said the agency published research on the occurrence of BMPEA in Acacia rigidula supplements in 2013, the Times reported.

"While our review of the available information on products containing BMPEA does not identify a specific safety concern at this time, the FDA will consider taking regulatory action, as appropriate, to protect consumers," she told the newspaper.


FDA Scientists Challenge Smokeless Tobacco Safety Claim

U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientists have "concerns" about data submitted by a Swedish company in its application to be the first to market a smokeless tobacco product called snus as "less harmful" than cigarettes.

Snus are pouches or loose tobacco placed between the cheek and gum to absorb nicotine, and are popular in Scandinavian countries, the Associated Press reported.

Swedish Match has applied to modify the cancer warning language on the packaging of its snus to read: "No tobacco product is safe but this product presents substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes."

The company submitted data to back up the claim that snus poses a lower risk of mouth cancer, gum disease and tooth loss than other tobacco products, the AP reported.

However, FDA scientists question whether the wording in the proposed new warning "adequately reflects the health risks of using snus."

The FDA has scheduled a two-day meeting to review the company's data, the AP reported.


Detroit-Area Woman Now Oldest Person in the World

A 115-year-old Detroit-area woman now holds the title as the world's oldest living person, after 116-year-old Gertrude Weaver of Arkansas died Monday.

Jeralean Talley of Inkster, who was born May 23,1899, still makes plans for a fishing trip each year, the Associated Press reported.

She was declared the world's oldest person by the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group -- which tracks the world's longest-living people -- after the death of Weaver, who was born in 1898.

Weaver became the oldest person in the world last week after the death of a 117-year-old Japanese woman, the AP reported.


Plague Found in Arizona Prairie Dogs

Infestations of plague-carrying fleas have been found among prairie dogs in Arizona, officials say.

An investigation was launched after officials were told about a prairie dog burrow in Picture Canyon, near Flagstaff, with an unusually large number of dead or dying prairie dogs. Tests on several surrounding burrows revealed the presence of plague bacteria in fleas, United Press International reported.

In an effort to prevent an outbreak, nearby burrows are being cleared and disinfected.

Signs have been posted at trailheads in Picture Canyon to warn visitors of the presence of plague, which can be carried by rodents such as prairie dogs, rabbits, ground squirrels, rats and mice, UPI reported.

Plague has been firmly established in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico for some time and most of the small number of plague cases that occur in the United States each year are in one of those three states.


PET Scans Detect Signs of CTE: Study

There has been progress in efforts to develop a test to detect a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated head trauma in people while they're alive, according to a new study.

Currently, the only way to identify people with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is after they're dead.

This study of 14 retired professional football players with symptoms of CTE found that PET scans could reveal tau protein deposits in their brains, a sign of CTE. The distribution of tau in their brains was consistent with those found in autopsies of former football players with CTE, The New York Times reported.

The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"There seems to be an emerging new pattern we haven't seen in any known forms of dementia, and it is definitely not normal," said study co-author Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of neurosurgery at NorthShore Neurological Institute in Evanston, Ill., The Times reported.


Climate Change a Threat to Americans' Health: Obama

Climate change is a threat to Americans' health, not just their environment, President Barack Obama will emphasize Tuesday.

Increases in asthma attacks, allergic reactions and injuries from extreme weather are among the ways that climate change will affect people's health, Obama will warn, the Associated Press reported.

He'll make that point while announcing a number of measures that private companies such as Google and Microsoft are launching to help the nation's health systems prepare for the health effects of climate change.

Google has pledged to donate 10 million hours of advanced computing time on new tools, such as risk maps and early warnings for events like wildfires and oil flares using the Google Earth Engine platform, the AP reported.

Also, the camera cars used by Google for its "Street View" functions will begin measuring methane emissions and natural gas leaks in some cities this year.

Microsoft will develop a prototype for drones that can collect mosquitoes and digitally analyze their genes and pathogens in order to provide early warnings about climate change-related outbreaks of infectious diseases, the AP reported.

Obama was also to announce measures the federal government will take to increase preparedness, such as increasing access to data to predict and reduce the health threats from climate change.

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