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Health Highlights: Jan. 28, 2009

Diet Pills Contain Potentially Harmful Chemical: FDA Short, Intense Exercise Improves Metabolism: Study Brain Damage Found in Sixth NFL Player Who Died Young High Folate Levels Seen in Children With Bowel Disease

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

Diet Pills Contain Potentially Harmful Chemical: FDA

The weight-loss pill "Venom Hyperdrive 3.0" contains a significant amount of a chemical called sibutramine, which increases blood pressure and heart rate and puts people at risk for addiction, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned.

The agency said consumers should stop taking the product and contact their doctor if they're suffering any adverse health effects, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Venom Hyperdrive 3.0 is marketed by California-based Applied Lifescience Research Industries Inc. The company, which launched a recall of the product late last year after the FDA raised concerns, is replacing Venom Hyperdrive 3.0 with a newer version.

Charles Weller, general counsel for Applied Lifescience Research, told the Journal that the company hasn't pinpointed how sibutramine got into the original product, but said contaminated raw materials from China may be to blame.


Short, Intense Exercise Improves Metabolism: Study

The body's ability to process sugars can get a big boost from regular high-intensity, three-minute workouts, which could reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to researchers in Scotland.

They had 16 sedentary male volunteers use exercise bikes to perform quick sprints at their highest possible intensity, United Press International reported.

"What we have found is that doing a few intense muscle exercises, each lasting only about 30 seconds, dramatically improves your metabolism in just two weeks," researcher James Timmons, Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, said in a news release.

He added that doing any kind of high intensity workout a few days a week should achieve the same protective metabolic improvements, UPI reported.

While regular physical activity can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease, many people simply don't have the time to follow current exercise guidelines, Timmons noted. These findings suggest a way around that time problem.

The study appears in the journal BMC Endocrine Disorders.


Brain Damage Found in Sixth NFL Player Who Died Young

The debate about head injuries in pro football players has intensified with the revelation Tuesday that a sixth deceased former National Football League player age 50 or younger had brain damage commonly associated with boxers.

A condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was found in the brain of Tom McHale, an NFL lineman from 1987 to 1995. He was 45 when he died in May 2008. Tests on McHale's brain were conducted by doctors at Boston University's School of Medicine, The New York Times reported.

CTE, a progressive condition that results from repetitive head traumas, can cause dementia in people in their 40s or 50s. CTE has been identified in all six NFL veterans who died between the ages of 36 and 50 and were tested for the condition, the newspaper said.

"This is a medically significant finding," Dr. Daniel P. Perl, director of neuropathology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, told the Times. "I think with a sixth case identified, out of six, for a condition that is incredibly rare in the general population, there is more than enough evidence that football is clearly strongly related to the presence of this pathology."

However, a neurologist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York said there's still no firm link between football and CTE.

"I think that there are many questions that still are out there as to whether there is a kind of traumatic encephalopathy associated with football. I think we don't know. I think that there is not enough scientific evidence to say that there is," Dr. Ira Casson, a co-chairman of the NFL committee that has studied concussions since 1994, told the Times.


High Folate Levels Seen in Children With Bowel Disease

Surprisingly high folate levels have been found in the blood of children newly diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a finding that questions the theory that IBD patients are prone to folate deficiency, U.S. researchers say.

IBD, which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, bleeding and nutritional deficiencies. Previous studies found that adult IBD patients often have lower folate levels than those without the condition, United Press International reported.

"However, pediatric inflammatory bowel disease appears to be somewhat different from the adult form, and before this study very little was known about folate levels in newly diagnosed children with the disease," study senior author Nina Holland said in a news release.

"This is exciting work that opens the door to additional research into the role of folic acid and its genetic basis in the development of inflammatory bowel disease, especially in young patients," added study co-author Dr. Melvin Heyman, UPI reported.

The study appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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