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Health Highlights: May 20, 2008

Caffeine Before Breakfast May Increase Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Chinese City to Reopen Kindergartens Terminally Ill Patients Going to Mexico to Get Euthanasia Drug Seat Belt Use Increasing in the U.S. Cancer, Heart, Traffic Deaths to Rise During Next 20 Years: WHO Aging Americans Feel Peace and Calm: Study

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

Caffeine Before Breakfast May Increase Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Drinking caffeinated coffee before eating low-sugar cereal at breakfast may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in some people, according to researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada.

They had male volunteers drink caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee one hour before they ate cereals with low or moderate levels of sugar, United Press International reported.

Among those who ate the low-sugar cereal, blood sugar levels jumped 250 percent higher after they had caffeinated coffee, compared to when they had decaffeinated coffee. The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"Caffeine interferes with our body's response to insulin. It makes us resistant to insulin which in turn makes our blood-sugar levels go higher," said researcher Terry Graham, UPI reported.

People at risk for type 2 diabetes should be cautious and consider drinking decaffeinated coffee, Graham suggested.


Chinese City to Reopen Kindergartens

The Chinese city hit hardest by a viral disease outbreak among children plans to reopen kindergartens on June 1 after health officials decided the outbreak was under control, according to state media cited by Agence France-Presse.

A total of 1,116 patients were still being treated in hospitals in the city of Fuyang as of Sunday, with two in critical condition and 17 in intensive care, the Xinhua news agency said.

Since it first appeared in early March, the outbreak caused by enterovirus 71 has sickened about 25,000 children in China. The virus causes fever, blisters, mouth ulcers and rashes and can lead to hand, foot and mouth disease, AFP reported.

The disease is common in China, and there were more than 80,000 cases reported last year. However, the outbreak's rapid spread just months before China hosts the summer Olympics prompted the government to issue a national alert. There is little chance of a devastating outbreak, according to the World Health Organization.


Terminally Ill Patients Going to Mexico to Get Euthanasia Drug

Hundreds of people from other countries have traveled to Mexico to buy an inexpensive, readily available euthanasia drug, according to the Mexican daily newspaper Reforma, Agence France-Presse reported.

Since 2001, at least 200 terminally ill people from Australia, Britain, New Zealand and the United States have come to Mexico to obtain nembutal, a drug usually used to put down animals, said the newspaper, which cited the Australian-based pro-euthanasia organization Exit International.

"On the basis of Exit research, the best places to visit are the 20-odd (U.S.-Mexico) border crossings, from Tijuana in California to Matamoros on the Gulf of Mexico," says information on the group's Web site, AFP reported.

"Throughout Mexico veterinary nembutal is available for between $20 and $40 U.S. per 100 ml bottle," the Web site advises. "One only needs to know the location of a veterinary supplier and the labeling in use at that location."

The organization says nembutal is also widely and cheaply available in a number of South American countries, AFP reported.


Seat Belt Use Increasing in the U.S.

Overall seat belt use in the United States is on the rise. But the news isn't all good, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures published Monday as safety and law enforcement officials launched the annual pre-Memorial Day campaign urging Americans to buckle up.

General seat belt use increased to 82 percent in 2007, compared to 81 percent in 2006, the Associated Press reported. Twelve states -- led by Hawaii and Washington -- had seat belt use rates of 90 percent or higher. Only three states -- Arkansas, Massachusetts and New Hampshire -- had rates below 70 percent.

But the study found that 68 percent of drivers and passengers, ages 16 to 20, who were killed in nighttime car crashes in 2006 weren't using seat belts. In that age group, 57 percent of drivers and passengers killed in daytime crashes weren't buckled up, the AP reported.

But the problem isn't limited to young people. More than 60 percent of drivers and passengers up to age 44 killed in nighttime crashes weren't wearing seat belts, along with 52 percent of people ages 55 to 64, and 41 percent of those 65 and older.


Cancer, Heart, Traffic Deaths to Rise During Next 20 Years: WHO

Over the next 20 years, global deaths from cancer, heart disease and traffic crashes will increase as people in developing nations get richer and live longer, a new World Health Organization report predicts.

By 2030, these three causes of death will account for more than 30 percent of all deaths worldwide, said the "World Health Statistics 2008" report. At same time, deaths from factors currently associated with the developing world -- such as nutritional deficiencies, malaria and tuberculosis -- will decline, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Globally, deaths from cancer will increase from 7.4 million in 2004 to 11.8 million in 2030, and deaths from cardiovascular diseases will rise from 17.1 million to 23.4 million in the same period," according to the WHO report.

"Deaths due to road accidents will increase from 1.3 million in 2004 to 2.4 million in 2030, primarily owing to increased motor vehicle ownership and use associated with economic growth in low- and middle-income countries," the report continued.

The WHO also said worldwide deaths from HIV/AIDS will increase from 2.2 million in 2008 to a maximum of 2.4 million in 2012 before decreasing to 1.2 million in 2030, AFP reported.


Aging Americans Feel Peace and Calm: Study

Many Americans experience a sense of peace and calm as they age, suggests a study by researchers at the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Their analysis of information from 1,450 people who took part in the General Social Survey revealed that those aged 60 and older reported more feelings of ease and contentment than younger people, United Press International reported.

The findings are published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

Study authors Catherine Ross and John Mirowsky noted that previous research on emotions associated with aging focused on negative emotions, such as depression. But this study shows that aging is associated with more positive than negative feelings, and more passive than active emotions, UPI reported.

"Emotions that are both active and negative, such as anxiety and anger, are especially unlikely among the elderly," Ross said in a prepared statement.

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