Health Highlights: Sept. 15, 2007

15 New Blood Typing Tests Approved by the FDAUK Begins Health Guidelines for Fashion Models U.S. to Allow Imports of Older Canadian Cattle Gene Activity May Cause Poor Health in Lonely People: Study High Gas Prices May Lower Obesity Rate Experts Challenge Study on Youth Suicide

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

15 New Blood Typing Tests Approved by the FDA

In order to allow more choices in determining blood types, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has licensed 15 new blood typing tests.

Announcing the decision in a news release, the FDA said the tests, known as blood grouping reagents and manufactured by Alba Bioscience, Inc. of Durham, N.C., were previously unavailable in the United States.

As with other blood typing tests, the ALBAclone Blood Grouping Reagents will determine the blood type of donors, the key in making sure that a blood transfusion is carried out successfully.

In addition to the common ABO and Rh tests, the blood grouping reagents will also be used to test for rare blood types. The reagents used in the blood typing are monoclonal antibodies, the FDA said, and it is the highly specific nature of them that "ensures product uniformity and availability."

"Licensure of these additional blood grouping reagents will help ensure a more stable supply of these tests, especially important in the event of a product shortage," said Dr. Jesse L. Goodman, director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in the news release.


UK Begins Health Guidelines for Fashion Models

Following up on its promise to do everything it could to ensure the health of fashion models after a series of eating disorder deaths of models in 2006, the British government has issued a set of recommendations for modeling during upcoming London Fashion Week.

BBC News reports that the government says fashion models should provide "good health" certificates from doctors who specialize in eating disorders, and the government is recommending that all female models under the age of 16 not participate in the week-long parade of fashions from international designers.

The death in 2006 of 21-year-old Ana Carolina Reston of Brazil who died of a an infection caused by anorexia caused the UK government to begin considering health guidelines, the BBC reports.

Other recommendations include establishment of a permanent model health panel and having models aged 16 to 18 being accompanied by chaperones "where appropriate."

In Spain the sponsors of Madrid Fashion Week banned U.S. size zero -- the equivalent of a UK size four -- and instead uses a ratio of height to weight to calculate the acceptable size for meach model, the BBC reports.


U.S. to Allow Imports of Older Canadian Cattle

The risk of mad cow disease from Canada is negligible and, as of Nov. 19, older Canadian cattle and meat products made from them will be allowed again into the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday.

In May 2003, U.S. borders were closed to all Canadian cattle and beef products after the first case of mad cow was reported in Canada, CBC News reported. In July 2005, the United States started to allow imports of Canadian cattle under the age of 30 months, which were believed to be at less risk for contracting the disease than older cattle.

Friday's announcement applies to cows born on or after March 1, 1999 and meat products made from those animals, CBC News reported.

"This rule is firmly based on science and ensures that we continue to protect the U.S. against BSE," (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the medical term for "mad cow") Bruce Knight, U.S. undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said in a prepared statement. "It also is consistent with our commitment to promote fair trade practices and further normalizes trade with countries that institute the appropriate safeguards to prevent the spread of BSE."


Gene Activity May Cause Poor Health in Lonely People: Study

A possible genetic cause of poor health in lonely people has been identified by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

They found that certain genes -- many of them with links to the immune system and inflammation -- are more active in people who feel socially isolated, BBC News reported. Previous studies have shown an association between lack of social support and health problems such as heart disease.

The authors of the new study assessed levels of social interaction of 14 people and examined gene activity in their white blood cells. Various genes tended to be overexpressed in people who were classified as lonely, BBC News reported.

"What this shows us is that the biological impact of social isolation reaches down into some of our most important basic internal processes -- the activity of our genes," said study leader Dr. Steven Cole. "These findings provide molecular targets for our efforts to block the adverse health effects of social isolation."


High Gas Prices May Lower Obesity Rate

Soaring gas prices may help reduce the high rate of obesity in the United States, suggests a health economics researcher at Washington University in St. Louis.

In his study, Ph.D. student Charles Courtemanche wrote that "a $1 (U.S.) increase in gas prices would, after three years, reduce U.S. obesity by approximately 15 percent, saving 16,000 lives and $17 billion a year."

He said higher gas prices would convince more people to walk, cycle or use public transit (which involves walking to and from a bus or rail stop) instead of driving, the Toronto Star reported. In addition, high gas prices may encourage people to eat healthier home-cooked meals more often, instead of driving to restaurants.

He also estimated that a decline in real gas prices contributed to 13 percent of the growth in the U.S. obesity rate between 1979 and 2004. Courtemanche reached his conclusions after analyzing average fuel prices and U.S. government-reported health trends, the Star reported.


Experts Challenge Study on Youth Suicide Rates

A number of experts are questioning a recent study that linked a 2004 increase in children's suicides to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning about the use of antidepressants in youngsters, The New York Times reported.

The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggested that as a result of the FDA warning, severely depressed teens may not have received needed treatment.

However, outside experts say data in the study do not support that theory, the Times reported. The experts noted that the data in the study shows that while there was a 14 percent increase in suicides among Americans ages 19 and younger in 2004, there was not a substantial decline in the number of antidepressant prescriptions for that age group.

There was a sharp decline in antidepressant prescription rates for minors in 2005, but data on suicide rates for that year are not yet available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"There doesn't seem to be any evidence of a statistically significant association between suicide rates and prescription rates provided in the paper" for the years after the FDA warnings, Thomas R. Ten Have, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Times.


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