Health Highlights: May 2, 2007

Group Seeks to Improve Hispanic American Eating Habits 80% of NYC Smokers Who Tried to Quit Relapsed: Report Company Recalls Drug Linked to Deaths in Oregon Lying Down May Help Breastfeeding C-Section Boosts Risk of Placenta-Related Problems Dusty Homes Good For Babies' Immune Systems

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

Group Seeks to Improve Hispanic American Eating Habits

Traditional Latin-American meal ingredients that offer good nutrition are at the core of a new food pyramid meant to encourage healthier eating among Hispanic Americans.

The health benefits of grains and tubers such as plantain, maize, quinoa, and tropical fruits such as papayas and mangos are highlighted in the Latin American Diet Pyramid, which will be included a pocket-sized bilingual guide that will be distributed across the U.S., the Associated Press reported.

The 16-page guide, called "Camino Magico" (Magic Road), is part of a campaign launched this week by the Boston-based nonprofit Latino Nutrition Coalition, which seeks to improve the eating habits of Hispanic Americans.

Along with information about foods and meal ingredients, the guide includes recipes for healthy adaptations of traditional dishes, such as Mexican chicken soup and bean tortilla melt, the AP reported.

"We're trying to get people talking about what we should be eating, and to focus on more traditional and healthier foods rather than big quantities of cheap food," said Latino Nutrition Coalition manager Liz Mintz. "We wanted to create awareness in the community and inspire people to eat healthy."

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80% of NYC Smokers Who Tried to Quit Relapsed: Report

Eighty percent of New York City smokers who tried to quit last year, or 500,000 people, relapsed within three months, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported Wednesday.

In an effort to improve the odds of quitting for good, the health department is giving away free nicotine patches and gum for a limited time to people who call 311. Since the giveaway was launched last week, the health department has handed out more than 5,500 patches and nearly 700 packets of gum.

"If you are smoking or if you want to try to quit again, nicotine replacement can double your chance of success. We are giving away nicotine patches and gum for a limited time, so New Yorkers who want help to quit should call 311 now," Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said in a prepared statement.

A survey of New York City smokers who tried to quit found that the leading causes of relapse were: stressful situations; social setting where there was alcohol; the aroma of cigarette smoke; driving: and, for women, the end of pregnancy.

Since smoking is often associated with everyday habits or rituals, people may need to make some changes to their routines in order to kick the habit for good, Friesen said.

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Company Recalls Drug Linked to Deaths in Oregon

In response to recent deaths, Texas-based ApotheCure Inc. has recalled all strengths, sizes and lots of compounded injectable Colchicine sold within the last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday.

Customers with the recalled drug should immediately stop using it and prepare the product to return to ApotheCure, the drug compounding company said.

Three people with back pain who received injections of Colchicine at the Center for Integrative Medicine in Portland, Ore. died after being given toxic levels of the drug. The deaths occurred between the end of March and the beginning of April, the Associated Press reported.

ApotheCure said an employee made a weighing error when making the drug, resulting in it being 10 times more potent than intended.

Colchicine stops cells from dividing, which reduces inflammation in conditions such as gout and back pain, Dr. Rob Hendrickson, associate medical director for the Oregon Poison Center, told the AP. Excess doses of the drug can cause organ failure and death.

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Lying Down May Help Breastfeeding

Lying down while breastfeeding newborn babies may improve women's chances of being successful at breastfeeding, according to a U.K. study presented at a Royal College of Nursing conference.

Breastfeeding can be difficult and many women give up after a few weeks of trying, BBC News reported.

This study looked at 40 mothers breastfeeding in different positions. The researchers found that newborns' natural feeding reflexes were more easily triggered when mothers were lying down and their babies were placed on their stomachs, on top of the mothers.

The babies in the study were less than a month old.

Researcher Dr. Suzanne Colson, a senior midwifery lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University, identified feeding 17 reflexes in babies who were breastfed this way. Infants breastfed by mothers in a sitting-up position showed only three feeding reflexes, BBC News reported.

"When mothers were lying flat or semi-reclined, babies could find the breast easier and in many cases attach themselves and feed whilst asleep," Colson said. "The research suggests that babies when they are on their tummy display these primitive reflexes, head bobbing in particular, that is seen in other mammals who are abdominal feeders."

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C-Section Boosts Risk of Placenta-Related Problems

Having a caesarean delivery in the first pregnancy may increase the risk of placenta-related problems in later pregnancies, finds a study in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Researchers analyzed data from more than five million pregnancies in the United States between 1995 and 2000. They concluded that women who have their first child by caesarean have a nearly 50 percent increased risk of a placenta attaching low down in the womb or rupturing in later pregnancies, BBC News reported.

Scarring in the womb caused by caesarean may affect the attachment of the placenta in future pregnancies, the researchers said.

"More than one percent of pregnancies with a prior caesarean section had one of these events, which had a 50 percent increase compared to women without previous caesarean section," said study leader Dr. Qiuying Yang of the University of Ottawa, Canada. "This has important implications on the management of these pregnancies. It also introduces new and important evidence in the debate on the risks of caesarean sections 'on demand.'"

Experts said women need to be informed of this increased risk if they're considering having an elective caesarean, BBC News reported.

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Dusty Homes Good For Babies' Immune Systems

A bit of a dust and dirt in the house may be a good thing for your children, suggests a University of Cincinnati study in the May issue of the journal Allergy.

The study of 574 infants considered to be at high risk for future allergies concluded that early exposure to indoor microbes may help children develop stronger immune systems and reduce their risk of developing allergies, The Ottawa Citizen reported.

Children exposed to high levels of "fungal glucans" and "bacterial endotoxins" were about three times less likely to wheeze than those in more sanitized settings.

"If you keep your house too clean, you don't provide the microbial components to stimulate the immune system," said study lead author Yulia Iossifova.

She noted that this kind of immune system boost only occurs early in life, The Citizen reported.

"Whether you'll be susceptible to allergies later in life depends on immune development during pregnancy and then in the first three to four years of life," Iossifova said. "If people haven't been exposed to microbial components as little children, being exposed to them as adults makes them develop allergies very easily."

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