Health Highlights: Oct. 29, 2007

China Arrests 774 People in Food and Drug Safety Crackdown Many Interstitial Cystitis Patients Frustrated, Depressed Online Drug Chat Draws 36,000 Questions From Students Mother's Smoking Increases Child's Risk of Obesity: Study Smoking Increases Psoriasis Risk Organic Foods Have More Antioxidants: Study

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

China Arrests 774 People in Food and Drug Safety Crackdown

Chinese authorities have arrested 774 people over the past two months, as part of the government's crackdown on the production of tainted drugs, food and agricultural products, The New York Times reported.

The Chinese government said the arrests -- made during nationwide inspections of thousands of wholesale food markets, food and drug manufacturing facilities, and restaurants -- marked a major advance in efforts to improve food and drug safety.

The arrests were announced on the weekend and posted on the Chinese government Web site Monday. But the government didn't provide many details about the types or seriousness of the food and drug safety infractions committed by the suspects, the Times said.

In response to charges that many Chinese companies are producing and exporting tainted goods, Chinese officials said earlier this year that they were going to overhaul food and drug safety rules and get tough with illegal manufacturers and exporters.

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Many Interstitial Cystitis Patients Frustrated, Depressed

Many women with interstitial cystitis (IC) suffer frustration and emotional distress, according to a survey released Monday by the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health (NPWH).

The painful and often debilitating chronic condition occurs when the bladder lining becomes irritated and inflamed, causing symptoms such as: pain in the pelvis, bladder, back or thighs; increased need to urinate frequently or urgently; and pain during/after sexual intercourse.

The survey of 589 self-identified IC patients found that 95 percent felt frustrated dealing with the condition and its symptoms, and 85 percent said they'd been annoyed or angry, 75 percent reported feeling depressed, and 67 percent felt alone, isolated and embarrassed.

More than half (58 percent) of the respondents said it took a year or more for them to get an IC diagnosis, and 56 percent said they saw three or more health-care professionals before they were diagnosed.

"The face of IC is often hidden because its symptoms often masquerade as other pelvic conditions, making it challenging to accurately diagnose in a timely manner," NPWH President and CEO Susan Wysocki said in a prepared statement.

The group has declared Oct. 31 as the first annual U.S. National Interstitial Cystitis Awareness Day, to help increase public knowledge about the condition.

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Online Drug Chat Draws 36,000 Questions From Students

More than 36,000 questions from students at middle and high schools across the United States were received when U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse experts held the online Drug Facts Chat Day on Oct. 12.

More than 40 scientists and science writers who specialize in addiction issues took turns throughout the day to answer questions as they were posted during a ten-hour period. At times, the questions came in as rapidly as 6,000 questions per hour.

Marijuana, alcohol and smoking were the focus of about 30 percent (10 percent each) of all the questions. Among other questions:

  • More than 600 students asked how they could get help for a friend, and nearly 400 asked about the effects of using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.
  • There were nearly 1,000 questions each on methamphetamine and cocaine, more than 300 on heroin, and more than 200 on mushrooms.
  • There were more than 100 questions on inhalants, including gasoline, hairspray and permanent markers.
  • At least 50 students asked about steroids and athletic performance.

"The unexpectedly high volume of questions in this chat underscores how much this age group wants fact, not rumor; how much they don't know; and how much their teachers want to help them get the latest scientific information," NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow said in a prepared statement.

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Mother's Smoking Increases Child's Risk of Obesity: Study

Children of women who smoked when they were three months pregnant, or even at an earlier stage of pregnancy, were 2.9 times more likely to be obese at age 9 or 10 than children of non-smoking mothers, says a Japanese study that included about 1,000 youngsters.

The study also found that children of mothers who regularly skipped breakfast during pregnancy were 2.4 times more likely to be obese, Agence France-Presse reported.

In cases where women smoke during pregnancy, children may be deprived of nutrition in the womb and need to stock up on nutrition after they're born, the researchers suggested.

While the study didn't offer conclusive evidence of such an association, the findings do "indicate smoking during pregnancy, even in the early stages, can affect the health of children over a long period of time," said team leader Zentaro Yamagata, professor at Yamanashi University's School of Medicine, AFP reported.

The study was presented last week at a meeting of public health experts in Japan.

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Smoking Increases Psoriasis Risk

Current smokers have a 78 percent increased risk of developing psoriasis, while past smokers have a 37 percent increased risk, say U.S. researchers who identified 887 cases of the skin condition among 79,000 nurses who took part in a 14-year study.

The researchers also found that risk of psoriasis only returns to normal 20 years after kicking the habit, and that people with psoriasis who smoke had more severe disease, BBC News reported.

It's believed that toxins in cigarette smoke may affect parts of the immune system associated with psoriasis, a condition in which the skin replaces itself too quickly.

The research team, led by Dr. Hyon Choi of Harvard Medical School and the University of British Columbia in Canada, also found a link between increased risk of psoriasis and exposure to cigarette smoke during pregnancy or childhood, BBC News reported.

The study appears in the American Journal of Medicine.

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Organic Foods Have More Antioxidants: Study

Organic food is healthier than non-organic fare, according to a large four-year European Union study that examined fruits, vegetables and cattle from adjacent organic and non-organic sites.

"We have shown there are more of certain nutritionally desirable compounds and less of the baddies in organic foods, or improved amounts of the fatty acids you want and less of those you don't want," said project leader Professor Carlo Leifert of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, The Scotsman reported.

He said organic fruits and vegetables had up to 40 percent more antioxidants (believed to help prevent disease) than the non-organic versions. Milk from organic cattle contained between 50 percent and 80 percent more antioxidants than normal milk.

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