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Health Highlights: Nov. 18, 2004

Obesity Common Among U.S. Adults with Diabetes Condoleezza Rice to Have Minor Surgery Breast-fed Babies Less Likely to Have Crooked Teeth U.S. Finds Second Possible Case of Mad Cow Congress Chides FDA for Earlier Flu Vaccine Problems Global Rise Seen in Antidepressant Use Among Kids

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

Obesity Common Among U.S. Adults with Diabetes

More than half of American adults with diagnosed diabetes are obese, which compounds the health problems caused by diabetes, according to the Nov. 19 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The report, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that obesity in people with diabetes is associated with poorer control of cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose levels.

Controlling weight through healthy eating and exercise may reduce obesity rates among adults with diabetes and may also cut illnesses and deaths caused by diabetes, the report said.

Another report in the publication said that adult diabetics aged 50 and older are twice as likely to suffer vision loss and eye diseases, such as cataracts and glaucoma, than people the same age without diabetes.

Vision loss and eye disease may become a growing problem in the United States as the prevalence of diabetes increases along with an aging population.

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Condoleezza Rice to Have Minor Surgery

Condoleezza Rice, nominated this week to be the next U.S. Secretary of State, is scheduled to have minor surgery Friday at a Washington hospital.

The national security adviser will undergo embolization of uterine fibroids, a procedure that doesn't require general anesthesia. It's expected that Rice, 50, will go home Saturday and be back to work Monday, the Associated Press reported.

Uterine fibroids, which are not cancerous and usually not dangerous, are among the most common tumors in women. An estimated 75 percent of women have uterine fibroids and aren't aware of it.

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Breast-fed Babies Less Likely to Have Crooked Teeth

Breast-feeding appears to help prevent crooked teeth in babies, says a study in the current issue of the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The study found that babies who are bottle-fed and given pacifiers are twice as likely to have misaligned baby teeth as breast-fed children.

While baby teeth are replaced by permanent teeth, it's believed that the positioning of baby teeth is crucial for correct jaw alignment and positioning of permanent teeth.

Researchers studied the feeding histories and sucking patterns of 1,099 children between 3 and 5 years old. All the children were examined by a dentist.

The study authors suggest that there's a difference between the sucking mechanism for bottle- and breast-feeding, and that this difference affects development of the muscles of the mouth, face, and palate.

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U.S. Finds Second Possible Case of Mad Cow

The United States has identified a second possible case of mad cow disease, the Agriculture Department announced Thursday.

According to the Associated Press, the department wouldn't release details, except to say that it would be four to seven days before the possible case was confirmed. Officials also maintained that initial tests are designed to be extremely sensitive and can flag cases that later turn out to be negative.

The country's first-ever confirmed case of the nervous system disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), turned up last January in a Holstein cow in Washington State. Several countries, including Japan, still maintain bans against imports of U.S. beef as a result, the AP reported.

People who eat food contaminated with BSE can contract a rare yet nearly always fatal condition known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

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Congress Chides FDA for Earlier Flu Vaccine Problems

Some members of Congress are taking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to task for the agency's assertions that contamination problems at a major flu vaccine supplier took the FDA by surprise, The New York Times reported Thursday.

In October, the British government shut down a Chiron Corp. plant that was to produce nearly half of the 105 million vaccine doses ordered this year by the United States. The shutdown has led to significant vaccine shortages nationwide.

The agency should have seen the problems coming, asserted Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) at House hearings on Wednesday. He cited FDA inspection reports of the plant filed more than a year ago that found bacteria concentrations a thousand times the expected levels, the newspaper reported. Waxman alleged that the agency didn't follow up on the deficiencies until after the British government action in October.

Waxman further alleged during hearings before the House Government Reform Committee that the FDA rejected its inspectors' recommendation that a formal warning be issued to Chiron, asking the company instead to correct the problems voluntarily.

In response, acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Lester Crawford said the 2003 problems were unrelated to those that tainted this year's vaccine, the Times reported. "The proof of that is that the 2003 vaccine production was completed on schedule, and none of it was condemned," Crawford told the panel.

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Global Rise Seen in Antidepressant Use Among Kids

Children throughout the world are increasingly prescribed antidepressants and other drugs designed to calm or stimulate their brains, according to a new study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

University of London researchers analyzed data from nine countries, including the United States, finding that between 2000 and 2002, prescriptions of antidepressants, stimulants, tranquilizers, and antipsychotic drugs increased between 13 percent in Germany to 68 percent in the United Kingdom, the researchers said.

Almost half of the adolescents diagnosed with clinical depression had been prescribed a class of drugs known as tricyclics, despite evidence that these drugs have been found to be only moderately effective among children, the researchers said. Others were prescribed antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which have been linked recently to instances of suicidal behavior among children and adolescents.

In September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved so-called "black-box" warnings on SSRIs, noting that doctors should carefully monitor young people on these medications when they begin the drug or change doses.

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