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Health Highlights: Feb. 5, 2007

Gene Increases Risk of Cerebral Palsy Conn. Attorney General Investigating New Drink Fashion World's Eating-Disorder Rules Don't Go Far Enough: Experts HIV Hides in Testes to Avoid Drugs Consumer Confidence Hurt by E. coli Spinach Recall Scuba Divers May Benefit From Antioxidants

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

Gene Increases Risk of Cerebral Palsy

A form of a gene -- apoliprotein E (APOE) -- that increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease in adults can also increase the likelihood of cerebral palsy in brain-injured newborns, say researchers at Children's Memorial Research Center in Chicago.

They compared 209 children with cerebral palsy and a matched group of healthy children and found that the E4 allele (form) of APOE was associated with a three-fold increased risk of cerebral palsy. Another allele -- E2 -- was also associated with an increased risk of cerebral palsy.

Their study, the first to identify a gene that increases susceptibility to cerebral palsy, appears in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers said their findings may enable early identification of children at risk for poor neuro-development outcomes after they suffer brain injury as newborns. These children could then be targeted for early therapeutic intervention.

Adults who carry the E4 allele of the APOE gene are more likely to develop Alzheimer's and have worse outcomes after stroke and other kinds of brain injuries.


Conn. Attorney General Investigating New Drink

An investigation into claims that a new drink called Enviga can burn calories has been launched by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the Associated Press reported.

Enviga contains caffeine, calcium and a green tea extract (epigallocatechin - EGCG). According to Coke and Nestle, EGCG boosts metabolism and energy use, especially when it's combined with caffeine.

Information on the Enviga Web site claims the drink burns more calories than it contains and can help drinkers maintain an ideal weight.

Blumenthal said Monday that he's giving Coke and Nestle until next week to hand over copies of all scientific studies, clinical trials, tests and papers that prove the claims about the drink's calorie-burning properties, the AP reported.

"Promise of wondrous weight loss must be supported by science, not magic," Blumenthal said.


Fashion World's Eating-Disorder Rules Don't Go Far Enough: Experts

New guidelines discussed Monday at Fashion Week in New York City don't go far enough to shield runway models from anorexia and bulimia, eating disorders experts say.

Representatives from the fashion industry met early Monday to discuss new guidelines from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), aimed at curbing eating disorders among young models.

The new guidelines do not bar women of a certain weight/height ratio from working the runway -- as some officials in Europe have done -- but instead urge better education on the issue, medical attention for models "identified" as having a problem, and the provision of snacks backstage at shows.

In a statement, Lynn Grefe, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, said the CFDA guidelines do not go nearly far enough. "We commend the CFDA for its initiative," Grefe said. "However, it seems that the devil not only wears Prada, but also rose-colored glasses." Grefe called the guidelines "baby steps" that won't help most models at risk for eating disorders.

Dr. Eric van Furth, president of the Academy for Eating Disorders, said in a statement that he believes the CFDA should require models to submit to yearly physicals as "an effective solution to monitoring health in the fashion industry."

The furor was touched off in 2006 by the deaths from eating disorders of two young South American models, Luisel Ramos of Uruguay, and Ana Carolina Reston, of Brazil.

Meanwhile, a new study from Norway suggests that obsession over body image can harm young people, Agence France Presse reported. Increasing alcohol and drug abuse and worries about body image are suspected factors behind a 30 percent increase in suicide attempts by teenage girls in that country between 1992 and 2002, according to the study by a government-funded research institute.


HIV Hides in Testes to Avoid Drugs

HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS -- is able to hide in men's testes in order to avoid being destroyed by antiretroviral drugs, says a French study in the American Journal of Pathology.

The finding, which may explain why HIV can still be found in the semen of men even after drugs have cleared the virus from their blood, could help in the development of new drugs that target HIV in the testes, BBC News reported.

"Although highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) may achieve undetectable virus levels in the blood, virus replication in the testes may permit continued spread of the virus," wrote the researchers, from Rennes University.

"It has long been known that the testes act as a reservoir for HIV, but this is the first piece of research that really demonstrates exactly why this is the case," a spokesman for Avert, a British HIV and AIDS charity, told BBC News.


Consumer Confidence Hurt by E. coli Spinach Recall

Americans' confidence in the safety of leafy, green vegetables was hurt by last September's national recall of spinach due to E. coli contamination, according to a survey released Monday by Rutgers University.

Three people died and nearly 200 became ill after eating spinach contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

The survey of 1,200 people, done in November, found that nearly nine in 10 respondents said they had heard about the recall. But nearly one in three said they didn't know the recall was over at the time of the survey, the Associated Press reported.

About 20 percent of the respondents who were aware of the recall also stopped eating other bagged produce, while 7 percent threw out fresh produce other than spinach during the recall.

More than half of the respondents who said they ate spinach prior to the recall had not returned to eating spinach by the time of the survey, the AP reported.

U.S. grocery stores have reported declines in sales of spinach and salad mix. The situation has led the U.S. produce industry to request federal oversight to assure consumers that fresh produce is safe.


Scuba Divers May Benefit From Antioxidants

The antioxidant vitamins C and E may help reduce circulation problems in scuba divers by preventing harm to cells that line blood vessels, avoiding high blood pressure and other conditions, says a European study.

The study included seven divers who did two 30-minute dives, 24 hours apart. Two hours before the second dive, the divers were given doses of vitamins C and E, BBC News reported.

In a second trial eight months later, six of the same divers were given either the antioxidants or a placebo. The researchers concluded that the vitamins prevented endothelial dysfunction, in which cells that line blood vessels stop working properly, BBC New reported.

"Although generally safe, diving may be associated with serious, and sometimes fatal, consequences, which are usually related to decompression sickness," said lead researcher Ante Obad. The study findings raise "the possibility that pre-dive intakes of antioxidant vitamins may prevent some of the negative effects of diving."

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