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Health Highlights: July 2, 2008

Kroger Widens Ground Beef Recall Danes Grapple With Their Own Salmonella Outbreak Mediterranean Diet Reduces Cancer Risk: Study Group Wants FDA to Challenge Immunity Claims Muscle Vibration May Reduce Fall Risk in Elderly

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

Kroger Widens Ground Beef Recall

The Kroger grocery chain expanded its recall of ground beef sold in Michigan and Ohio after the U.S. Department of Agriculture identified the supplier of the products, which may be contaminated with E coli bacteria, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The supplier has been identified as Nebraska Beef Ltd., which itself recalled about 532,000 pounds of ground beef produced over the past two months.

The Nebraska Beef meat has been linked to 38 reports of E coli-related illness in Ohio and Michigan, the AP said.

Kroger said its recall now includes ground beef in Styrofoam trays wrapped in clear cellophane, or bought at the store's meat counter. Affected ground beef was sold at Fred Meyer or QFC stores with sell-by dates from May 21 to July 5, or at Kroger stores with sell-by dates between May 21 and July 3.

Other Kroger-owned stores and beef products are affected by the recall. Click here to view recall information on Kroger's Web site.

Infection with E. coli O157:H7 can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration, and in severe cases, kidney failure. Children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible.


Danes Grapple With Their Own Salmonella Outbreak

As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration works to figure out the source of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds in the country, Danish health officials are struggling with their own outbreak that may involve thousands of people, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The Danish health ministry said about 330 cases have been confirmed, and about 25 percent of those victims have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Ministry spokesman Kare Moelbak said the number of cases ultimately could exceed 4,000.

The Danish strain is salmonella typhimurium, which is different from the strain identified in the United States. There are about 2,500 kinds of salmonella.

Danish health officials are examining everything from refrigerators to credit card receipts in trying to identify a source of the outbreak, which could be the nation's worst in 15 years, the AP said.


Mediterranean Diet Reduces Cancer Risk

People who adopt just a few elements of the Mediterranean diet could reduce their cancer risk by as much as 12 percent, say Harvard University researchers, who had 26,000 Greeks record their food intake over eight years.

The Mediterranean diet includes use of olive oil, high consumption of vegetables, fish, fruits and cereals, and less consumption of red meat. Previous research has suggested this diet may reduce the risk of heart disease and other illnesses.

The new study found that simply consuming more olive oil and other unsaturated fats reduced cancer risk by nine percent. And just two aspects of the Mediterranean diet -- eating less red meat and eating more peas, beans and lentils -- reduced cancer risk by 12 percent, BBC News reported.

The findings appear in the British Journal of Cancer.


Group Wants FDA to Challenge Immunity Claims

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must take action against companies that sell products with misleading label claims of boosting immunity, says the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The group said when consumers read that a product will maintain a "healthy immune system" they believe it means the product will help fight off illness and disease, United Press International reported.

For example, vitamins A, C and E play an important role in the functioning of many systems in the human body, but there's little evidence to suggest these vitamins have any effect on the immune system, said Bruce Silverglade, the center's legal affairs director.

In a formal complaint, the center said the FDA should bar such claims about immune system benefits and establish rules that require food companies to base these claims on scientific evidence, UPI reported.


Muscle Vibration May Reduce Fall Risk in Elderly

Exercising for a few minutes on a vibrating platform twice a week may reduce elderly people's risk of falls, says an Australian study that included 43 healthy men and women in their 70s.

First, the researchers tested how well candidates were able to stand on one leg. The participants were then divided into two groups. One group did light resistance training -- standing still with knees bent, squatting up and down, and going up and down on their toes -- while on a vibrating platform. The other group did the same exercises without the vibrating platform, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The exercise sessions lasted less than 10 minutes and took place three times a week for eight weeks. At the end of that time, the researchers tested participants' leg strength again. Those who had exercised on the vibrating platform had a significantly improved ability to stand on one leg.

The study appears in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Researcher Sven Rees of the University of Technology in Sydney said previous research has suggested that vibration of muscles can cause reflex contractions, which helps strengthen muscles, the network reported.

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