Health Highlights: Aug. 9, 2007

FDA Warns of Red Yeast Rice Products Sold to Control Cholesterol Study Suggests Fewer U.S. Workers Using Cocaine Smokeless Tobacco Increases Exposure to Carcinogens Stress Linked to Periodontal Disease President Bush in Good Health Peter Pan Peanut Butter Back in U.S. Stores Export Ban Placed on Two Chinese Toy Makers

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

FDA Warns of Red Yeast Rice Products Sold to Control Cholesterol

Consumers should not buy or eat three red yeast rice products promoted and sold on Web sites as dietary supplements for treating high cholesterol. The products may contain an unauthorized drug that could cause muscle weakness, leading to kidney damage, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

The products are Red Yeast Rice and Red Yeast Rice/Policosonal Complex, sold by Swanson Healthcare Products Inc., and manufactured by Nature's Value Inc. and Kabco Inc., respectively; and Cholestrix, sold by Sunburst Biorganics. FDA testing revealed that the products contain lovastatin, the active ingredient in Mevacor, a prescription drug approved for treating high cholesterol, the FDA said in a prepared statement.

"This risk is even more serious because consumers may not know the side effects associated with lovastatin and the fact that it can adversely interact with other medications," said Dr. Steven Galson, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

The FDA said it has sent warning letters to Swanson and Sunburst Biorganics, asking them to stop selling the products. The letters state that the products, sold on the firms' Web sites, are unapproved drugs that are marketed in violation of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The FDA is advising consumers to consult their doctor if they experience problems that may be due to the products. The agency also asks consumers to report problems with the products to MedWatch, the FDA's voluntary reporting program:; 800-332-1088; Fax: 800-332-0178; and MedWatch, Food and Drug Administration, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, Md., 20852-9787.


Study Suggests Fewer U.S. Workers Using Cocaine

There was a 15.9 percent decline in positive test results for cocaine use among American workers during the first six months of 2007 compared to 2006, according a report released Thursday by Quest Diagnostics.

The highest declines occurred in New England and in an area that includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

The rate of positive cocaine tests is at it lowest level since Quest, which conducts workplace drug testing, started reporting on cocaine rates a decade ago, said Barry Sample, director of science and technology for the Employer Solutions division of Quest.

"While it is too soon to point to a trend, the significant decline in positivity rates in different workforce categories and across regions may suggest that our nation's workers are choosing not to use cocaine or that they lack access to the drug," Sample said in a prepared statement.

"These data are encouraging," said John Walters, director of U.S. National Drug Control Policy.


Smokeless Tobacco Increases Exposure to Carcinogens

Compared to smokers, users of smokeless tobacco (oral snuff) are exposed to higher amounts of cancer-causing nitrosamines, says a University of Minnesota Cancer Center study.

Users suck on oral snuff by placing it between their cheeks and gums. This study compared 182 oral snuff users with 420 cigarette smokers and found that oral snuff users were exposed to higher levels of 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK).

NNK is known to cause lung cancer in humans as well as cancers of the pancreas, liver and nasal mucosa in laboratory animals.

The study is published in the August issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

"Smokeless tobacco products have been proposed by some as safer alternatives to cigarettes, but they are not safe. The only likely safe alternative to smoking is the long term use of nicotine replacement therapy as a means to reduce dependence," study author Stephen S. Hecht, professor of cancer prevention, said in a prepared statement.


Stress Linked to Periodontal Disease

Anxiety and stress may increase your risk of periodontal disease, says a research review in the August issue of the Journal of Periodontology.

The authors reviewed studies conducted between 1990 and 2006 and found that 57 percent of them identified a strong correlation between stress, distress, anxiety, loneliness, depression and periodontal disease, CBC News reported.

"More research is needed to determine the definitive relationship between stress and periodontal diseases. However, patients who minimize stress may be at less risk for periodontal disease," review author Daiane Peruzzo said in a prepared statement.

The review authors suggested that the stress-related hormone cortisol may be linked to increased destruction of gums and jaw bone. The hormone may also suppress the immune system, allowing bacteria in the mouth to flourish, CBC News reported.

The authors also noted that stress can trigger unhealthy oral habits in people, such as smoking, eating unhealthy foods, forgetting to properly clean their teeth and gums, and failure to have regular dental checkups.


President Bush in Good Health

President George W. Bush is "fit for duty," doctors said Wednesday after Bush had his annual physical, the Associated Press reported.

Bush usually gets his annual physical in August at the National Naval Medical Center in suburban Maryland. But this year, he had it at the White House. The time and place of the physical were not announced beforehand.

Also Wednesday, the White House revealed that Bush was successfully treated for Lyme disease nearly a year ago. He was treated for what the White House called "early, localized Lyme disease" last August after developing the characteristic bulls-eye rash, the AP said.

Among the other results of Bush's checkup:

  • His cholesterol count is at a healthy level (170), his resting pulse is 52 beats per minute, and he's at low to very low risk of coronary artery disease.
  • His weight dropped to 192 pounds from 196 pounds last year and his body fat percentage declined to 16.6 from 16.8.
  • He has seasonal allergies that are controlled and he's recovering from a sinus infection.
  • He's had no recurrence of occasional spells of stomach acid reflux and there's been no worsening of his mild high frequency hearing loss.
  • He takes a daily multivitamin but doesn't routinely taken any prescription medications.
  • Overall, he's in the "superior" fitness category for a man of his age.


Peter Pan Peanut Butter Back in U.S. Stores

After being taken off the market in February due to salmonella contamination, Peter Pan peanut butter will return to U.S. store shelves this month with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, ConAgra Foods announced Wednesday.

The first shipment of the peanut butter will go out next week. As part of the reintroduction of the brand, people who contacted CongAgra during the recall (including those who became sick after eating the peanut butter) will receive coupons for a free jar of Peter Pan, the Associated Press reported. Other customers will be offered $1-off coupons.

More than 625 people in 47 states became ill after eating salmonella-tainted Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter made at a ConAgra plant in Sylvester, Ga., according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ConAgra, which faces several lawsuits related to the tainted peanut butter, said it's renovated the plant to provide greater separation between raw peanuts and the finished product, the AP reported. The company has also developed a new testing plan to ensure the safety of its peanut butter.


Export Ban Placed on Two Chinese Toy Makers

A temporary export ban has been placed on two Chinese toy makers whose products were recalled in the United States because they had lead-tainted paint, the Chinese government said Thursday.

It's not clear how long the export ban will be applied to Lee Der Industrial Co. Ltd. and Hansheng Wood Products, both located in the southern province of Guangdong, the Associated Press reported.

The companies "have been asked to evaluate and change their business practices," said a notice posted on the Web site of the Chinese government's General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

The administration also said that foreign firms that have their products made at Chinese factories need to take more responsibility for quality control, the AP reported.

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