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Health Highlights: April 30, 2002

Survey Finds Many Embrace 'Pseudosciences' Smokers Need Not Apply, Says NYC Co-op Complex Foods Ranked According to Driving Danger School Food Poisonings On Rise: Report Conjoined Twins to Be Separated America's Stomach Aches Cost Billions Save That Liposuction Fat

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

Survey Finds Many Embrace Some 'Pseudosciences'

Despite the dizzying advances of science, many Americans still embrace such concepts of "pseudoscience" as the ability to posses psychic powers, the notion that some UFOs are space vehicles from other civilizations, and astrology.

Those are just some of the conclusions of a new, biennial report from the National Science Foundation on the state of science understanding, research and investment, reports the Associated Press.

Among the findings: 60 percent of the 1,574 people surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that some people possess psychic powers or extrasensory perception; 57 percent disagreed that UFOs came to Earth with aliens, but about 30 percent believed that some reported objects in the sky were really space vehicles from other civilizations.

While 60 percent rejected the scientific validity of astrology, 43 percent said they nevertheless read astrology charts in newspapers at least occasionally.

And when it comes to the cloning of barnyard animals -- even if the technique helped make drugs to treat humans -- the respondents were just about evenly divided, with 48 percent moderately or strongly opposed, and 47 percent in favor of the practice.

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Smokers Need Not Apply, Says NYC Apartment Co-op

It's been banned in most public places, and now, in an apparent first, smoking has been banned in the private dwellings of a New York City apartment complex, the Associated Press says.

The co-op board of the 452-unit Lincoln Towers complex, near Lincoln Center in Manhattan, has reportedly banned all new apartment owners from smoking in their units and will require that all potential buyers disclose whether they smoke when applying for admission to the co-op.

Under the new rule, which went into effect this week, those found in violation could be evicted or forced to sell their unit.

A representative for the National Association of Housing Cooperatives said this was the first known co-op in the nation to ban smoking in apartments.

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Foods Ranked According to Driving Danger

Coffee may make you more alert, but if you're drinking it while driving, or worse, with a donut while driving, you may be taking your life in your hands, according to a new report on the "10 deadliest foods to eat while driving."

The decidedly non-scientific report, put together by Hagerty Classic Insurance, of Traverse City, Mich., ranked foods according to difficulty in juggling them while gripping the steering wheel, and how a driver would likely respond to a spill, reports the Associated Press.

Hence, hot coffee made the top of the list, not only because of the pain of having the hot liquid fall on your lap, but the manner in which you could jump about to try to get it off your clothing.

Next on the list was hot soup, followed by tacos, chili, juicy hamburgers, barbecued food, fried chicken, jelly and cream-filled donuts, soft drinks and chocolate.

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School Food Poisonings On Rise: Report

While food poisonings in the general public have been on the decline in recent years, they've increased at a rate of about 10 percent a year in places where they can be most dangerous -- the nation's schools.

That's according to a congressional study released today by the General Accounting Office. The study found that in 1999, the most recent year for which figures are available, there were 50 outbreaks of food poisoning at schools, causing 2,900 illnesses.

The outbreaks were caused by a variety of foods, ranging from strawberries to hamburgers. While there's no confirmed information, authorities believe the majority of cases were caused by school-provided meals, as opposed to those brought from home, according to the Associated Press.

The report criticizes the government's regulatory system for food -- which allocates meat regulation to the USDA, while the Food and Drug Administration oversees most other foods -- and calls for a single regulatory food agency as a possible solution.

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Conjoined Twins to Be Separated

Doctors in London are preparing to separate conjoined twins in an operation that will cause one to die, but give the other a small chance to survive, the Associated Press reports.

The twin girls, born by Caesarean section yesterday at London's Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital, arrived joined at the chest and share a heart and liver. Their separation is unavoidable, say doctors, because their heart is not strong enough to support both babies.

The baby Natasha will receive the heart because more of it is inside of her body, but her survival still is in question. The operation will mean her sister, Courtney, will die.

Doctors say that due to the complexity of how the bodies were joined, it would be exceptionally unusual if Natasha were to survive.

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America's Stomach Aches Cost Billions

From heartburn to food poisoning to more serious gastrointestinal diseases, Americans' bellyaches cost an estimated $85.5 billion a year, according to a HealthDay report.

New research that appears in the May issue of Gastroenterology calculated the price tag for the most significant gastrointestinal ailments and liver diseases that commonly afflict Americans, and found the toll on the nation from such conditions is heavy.

The most prevalent digestive diseases include: non-food-borne gastroenteritis, 135 million cases per year; food-borne illnesses, 76 million cases; gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), 19 million cases; and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), 15 million cases.

A high ranking in prevalence, however, doesn't necessarily translate to the highest cost -- the most expensive disease was GERD, a chronic acid reflux condition, which has an estimated $9.3 billion price tag per year. That's followed by gallbladder disease, at $5.8 billion; colorectal cancer, at $4.8 billion; and peptic ulcer disease, at $3.1 billion.

The research, commissioned by the American Gastroenterological Association, used data assembled by the Falls Church, Va.-based Lewin Group and reflects information from 1998.

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Save That Nip-and-Tuck

If you've had liposuction, don't throw your unwanted fat out. Doctors say you can tuck away that nip-and-tuck in case you need your own stem cells someday, HealthDay reports.

"It's like a blood bank," says Dr. Peter B. Fodor, co-author of a study to be presented tomorrow at the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery's annual meeting in Las Vegas.

"Before, we were collecting stem cells only for research purposes," adds Fodor, an associate professor of plastic surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles. "However, more recently we've been taking stem cells very specifically from patients with the idea that these stem cells will be isolated and then banked for those patients."

Typically, tissue and fat removed during a liposuction procedure is thrown out. Salvaged leftovers could be used for future medical procedures, including but not limited to plastic surgery. Scientists have been using discarded tissue from liposuction and knee-surgery procedures for years for purely research purposes.

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