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Health Highlights: Jan. 5, 2007

FDA Considers Osteoporosis Claims for Supplements Study Offers Snapshot of Substance Abuse in U.S. U.S. Approves First Drug for Obese Dogs Less Folate Consumption May Lead to Birth Defects Infant Car Seats Fail Crash Tests Elder Bush Has Hip Replaced

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

FDA Considers Osteoporosis Claims for Supplements

The makers of dietary supplements containing calcium and vitamin D would be given greater leeway to promote the products as helping to prevent osteoporosis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed Friday.

Responding to a petition filed by a division of the Coca-Cola Company, the agency said it would consider allowing manufacturers to cite a reduced risk of the bone disease from consumption of products containing both calcium and vitamin D.

The agency said it would also consider dropping a decade-old requirement that supplement makers include specific label references to a person's sex, age and race, since the benefits of vitamin D and calcium apply to all consumers.

"All persons lose bone with age, and the loss can influence an individual's risk of developing osteoporosis," said Robert Brackett, director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Nutrition. "Maintenance of an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D in all stages of life can help lower one's risk."


Study Offers Snapshot of Substance Abuse in U.S.

San Francisco leads the nation in illicit drug use and Chicago has the highest rate of binge drinking, a federal review of the nation's 15 largest cities revealed Friday.

San Francisco (12.7 percent) and Detroit (9.5 percent) topped the national average of 8.1 percent in illicit drug use, according to the report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Chicago (25.7 percent) and Houston (25.6 percent) had higher rates of binge drinking than the national average of 22.7 percent, the survey found. Binge drinking was defined as consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once during the prior 30 days.

Detroit also led the survey in cigarette use for the 15 cities, whose populations comprise about one-third of the nation's total, SAMHSA said.


U.S. Approves First Drug for Obese Dogs

Recognizing that overeating isn't limited to beings with two legs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first prescription drug to manage obesity in dogs.

Pfizer's Stentrol (dirlotapide) reduces appetite and a dog's ability to absorb fat, the agency said. The FDA cited surveys showing that up to 30 percent of U.S. dogs are overweight and about 5 percent are obese (more than 20 percent above ideal weight).

Overweight pets, like people, are at higher risk of health problems ranging from cardiovascular conditions and joint problems to diabetes, the FDA said.

To discourage use of the medication by people, Stentrol's label will warn that the drug is not intended for human use, should be kept away from children, and may cause adverse reactions in people, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, headache, nausea and vomiting.


Less Folate in Women May Lead to Birth Defects

A trend toward declining blood folate levels in young women could lead to an upswing in serious birth defects of the brain and spine, a U.S. government study warns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, released Thursday, found an 8 percent to 16 percent drop in folate levels among women of childbearing age between 1999 and 2004, the Associated Press reported.

While the exact causes of the drop aren't certain, the increasing popularity of low-carbohydrate diets may be a factor, experts said. High-carb foods, including flour, cereal, and bread products, are often fortified with folate.

Folate is a natural B vitamin; when artificially produced in supplements, it's referred to as folic acid. It's not clear if the drop in women's folate levels has led to an increase in so-called "neural tube" defects such as spina bifida, the AP reported.

The decline in folate levels has been most pronounced in white women, the CDC study found, although black women continue to get the least amount of folate overall, the wire service said.


Infant Car Seats Fail Crash Tests

Most infant car seats don't make the grade in crash safety tests, a leading consumer publication warns.

In crashes at speeds as low as 35 mph, most of the 12 seats tested by Consumer Reports "failed disastrously," the magazine said. It said only two models passed all of its tests -- the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with expanded polystyrene foam, the Associated Press reported. Both sell for about $90.

While the magazine said any car seat is better than none at all, it urged parents to purchase either the Baby Trend or Graco models.

Consumer Reports said it tested the type of seat that faces the rear, using dummies weighing between 22 and 30 pounds, depending on manufacturer specifications. Four of the seats -- meant to snap in and out of their bases -- flew out of their bases at crash speeds of 38 mph, the magazine said.

Other reasons for test failure included twisting too far in place, hurling crash dummies out of the seats, and not fitting well in several types of cars, the AP reported.

The magazine urged a federal recall of what it said was the poorest performing seat -- the Evenflo Discovery. Evenflo issued a statement disputing the magazine's results, saying U.S. government, scientific, and manufacturer testing hadn't yielded similar conclusions.


Elder Bush Has Hip Replaced

Former President George H.W. Bush has had surgery to replace his right hip, according to a spokesman at the Mayo Clinic, where the surgery was performed.

Bush, the 82-year-old father of the current president, had the operation hours after attending the funeral of another former chief executive, Gerald R. Ford, the Associated Press reported.

Bush had his left hip replaced at the Mayo Clinic in 2000, and former First Lady Barbara Bush had hip surgery there in 1997, the AP said.

Bush is expected to be released by Saturday, a Mayo spokesman told the wire service.

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