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Health Highlights: Nov. 29, 2002

Powell Asks Diplomatic Corps to Relay AIDS Message Renewed Warnings for Mixed Party Drugs Turkey Is Not That Good for You: Report Most Americans Feeling Stuffed, Poll Shows Return Home Delayed for Surgically Separated Twins States Told to Speed Up Plans for Smallpox Vaccinations

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

Powell Asks Diplomatic Corps to Relay AIDS Message

In a U.S. State Department ceremony to mark World Aids Day Sunday, Secretary of State Colin Powell will ask the entire diplomatic corps to relay a message to their governments that their leadership is a vital part of the battle against HIV/AIDS.

Jack Chow, the U.S. ambassador on the AIDS issue, said when national political leaders address the problem publicly and commit to a course of action, they can make a difference, the Associated Press reports.

Chow cites the example of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who supervised the development of a center for AIDS research studies. Museveni "made a tangible, concrete difference at the grass roots level," said Chow.

Cheaper treatment costs for AIDS makes an entreaty to world governments to assume leadership roles in the struggle more feasible. When antiretrovirals first came on the market, a year's supply cost a patient between $10,000 and $12,000, said Chow. Some of them now cost as little as a few hundred dollars a year.

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Renewed Warnings for Mixed Party Drugs

Poly-drug use -- taking a different drugs at the same time -- has been around for some time, but now a new mix of Ecstasy and Viagra has health officials renewing their warnings about the dangers of drugs and the added risks when they are combined.

Sextasy, the street name for the latest mix, is being packaged and sold by dealers in Australia and New Zealand. While narcotic officers in the United States say they haven't yet discovered any Viagra during their Ecstasy investigations, Sgt. Eric Barden, supervisor of the Seattle Police Department's narcotics section, said they haven't been looking for it either, The Baltimore Sun reports.

But some doctors and other health officials say they know from their patients that the two drugs are being taken together, especially at private parties and among the gay community in Seattle's bathhouses. The reason behind the mix is while Ecstasy can lead to fewer inhibitions, it can also prevent or obstruct erections in men.

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Turkey Is Not That Good for You: Report

Now that you're facing all that leftover turkey, you might not want to hear this latest health item.

CBS reports that browned, crispy foods, like that Thanksgiving turkey, are loaded with proteins called AGEs, which interact with sugar in the body to cause hardening of the arteries. They are particularly dangerous to Type II diabetics who can't regulate blood sugar.

"AGEs are deposited everywhere over time in the kidneys, in the vessels of the eyes, and they have been implicated in all of these major complications from diabetes," Mt. Sinai School of Medicine endocrinologist Dr. Helen Vlassara told CBS.

In recent studies, scientists were surprised to discover that the quantity of AGEs, which the body produces, increases drastically depending on the way food is cooked.

"You have a roasted turkey, you have the slices, it will have approximately three times as many AGEs as . . . steamed turkey," said Mt. Sinai dietician Terry Goldberg.

In trials done at Mount Sinai in New York, diabetics were given roasted and baked foods, or those cooked at low temperatures or without being browned. After several weeks, patients on the low AGE diet showed improvement.

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6 in 10 Americans Feel Stuffed, Poll Shows

Almost six in 10 Americans say they would like to lose weight, according to a Gallup poll released on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Two-thirds of the women polled felt that way, and half of the men did. Twenty five percent said they are seriously trying to lose weight; 34 percent said they would like to stay at their current weight level, and 8 percent said they would like to put on weight.

About four in 10 say they consider themselves at least somewhat overweight, with 6 percent saying they were very overweight.

The poll of 1,001 adults was taken Nov. 11-14 and has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points, the Associated Press reports.

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Return Home Delayed for Surgically Separated Twins

Medical complications have delayed the return home of the Guatemalan twin girls who were once joined at the head.

Doctors at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital said the scalp of one of the sixteen-month-old girls, Maria de Jesus Quiej Alvarez, has not healed fully, the Associated Press reports.

The twins' medical team also discovered that Maria de Jesus's sister, Maria Teresa, is partially deaf in one ear, a possibly offshoot of the 23-hour separation surgery.

Despite the setbacks, the doctors said the girls were making good progress and would likely be back in Guatemala in time for Christmas.

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States Told to Speed Up Plans for Smallpox Vaccinations

The U.S. government has directed the states to speed up smallpox vaccination plans that would begin with the voluntary inoculation of 500,000 frontline healthcare workers.

The directive, issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, urges that hospital employees be immunized "within 30 days of an announcement that could come as early as next week," the Washington Post reports.

State health officials are concerned about the timetable because they'd hoped to stagger the immunization of hospital workers over a 60-day period. This way they'd gain a clearer sense of the potentially severe side effects.

After the immunization of health care workers, states' vaccination plans - to be presented to the CDC on Dec. 9 - must then expand to 10 million emergency responders, followed by the rest of the population as early as 2004. The CDC has set a Monday deadline for states to come up with a general strategy outlining how their populations could be vaccinated within 10 days in the event of a smallpox outbreak.

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