choppedjr.0.0With the way so many kids raid the refrigerator and gulp down whatever contents may be found there, parents may be tempted to throw up their hands about youngsters’ eating habits. But keep up the good fight, moms, dads, and other grownups: Research increasingly points to childhood─even the time in the womb or shortly thereafter─as a critical periods in combating obesity, and the lifelong ills it can cause. And there may be a surprising skill that youngsters can learn that also  can boost their lifelong nutrition and health.

The New York Times, in two recent health features, has reported on the research on the importance of prenatal, early, and childhood efforts to combat obesity. The paper cites experts and studies that say, for example, that kids can be hampered for life by starting out overweight, adding excess fat cells that long will be tough to shed.

The paper says studies show that expectant moms who carry excess weight don’t benefit their kids. As an expert explains: “Excessive weight gain during pregnancy predicts not just the baby’s birth weight but also the likelihood of obesity in middle childhood.”  Pops also should mind their weight, even before their kids are born, as studies indicate that “Being heavy alters DNA in the father’s sperm that changes gene expression and can be passed down to the next generation.”

aquatics-synchronized-swimming-panam-1Two sports that could not be more extreme to each other─balletic  synchronized swimming and bombastic professional wrestling─share an ugly health peril: dangerous head injuries. Interest groups in both  are taking steps to better protect athletes, including through litigation in the civil justice system.

Although many fans long may have winked about whether shenanigans in the wrestling ring are faked, pro wrestling does require its stars to engage in athletic moves, many of which subjected them to concussions and long-term neurologic damage, dozens of participant-plaintiffs have asserted in a lawsuit filed against World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., the pro league best known as the WWE.

wweThe one-time wrestling pros, ages 34 to 84, assert that WWE knew of the health risks, especially of head injuries it subjected its performers to, and that it failed to provide adequate safety, protection, and care, leaving many stars with sustained cognitive and other harms.

spermeggjpgA reported rash of new lawsuits offers a poignant, sadly recurrent reminder: Aspiring parents who rely on commercial sperm banks for critical reproductive tissues must heed an ancient consumer prescription: caveat emptor. The New York Times says litigation, from Florida to California, Canada to the UK, all raises serious questions about the light or nonexistent regulation of assisted reproduction centers and the materials and services they tout. As the Times describes it, the latest suits highlight “claims of deception and negligence, and [add to] an array of challenges beyond the longstanding issue of undetected genetic problems,” in donor sperm.

The sperm banks, the paper notes, stand accused of “careless record-keeping, or mishandling or misappropriation of sperm banked for a client’s personal use. Others say the banks use hyped, misleading descriptions to market their donors.” The Times reports on cases in which banks have given out wrong tissues that may lead to offspring with serious genetic-related conditions, and from donors with bad or difficult histories, including cases in which mothers assert they have learned, post hoc, that they will bear children of a different race.

Regulators exercise minimal oversight over these operations, often mostly to ensure sanitary conditions in storage facilities and steps to try to curb transmission of disease.

nu logoA well-known research university and some excitable journalists have sown confusion about prostate cancer and the value of the PSA screening test.  The mess can be traced to a study by physicians from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, and published in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Disease. Their article reports an “increase” in one of the most aggressive forms of the disease, metastatic prostate cancer, and suggests it might be caused by less use of the PSA blood test.

Northwestern’s PR machine hyped the study, saying that “Metastatic prostate cancer cases skyrocket.” NU’s news release—which was picked up by all too many media outlets (the Times shames them in visual fashion atop its story)—also tied this to “lax screening.” That was an allusion to recommendations by a blue-chip national panel that has advised against routine prostate cancer screening using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The group said the screenings often resulted in false alarm “false positive” results, leading to invasive, harmful, unnecessary, and costly follow-on procedures.

As the online watchdog site HealthNewsReview.org points out, the Northwestern researcher author is a PSA testing proponent, a “true believer.” The site, as well as experts from the American Cancer Society and others, have debunked the study, saying it fails to demonstrate either that this form of prostate cancer has “skyrocketed” or that there is a proven link to reduced PSA screening.

barcode-b4d283303a1a8ec1667da9a9cf3325b8They may seem like a cryptic pile of digits on devices that most of us might never see but will have in us, sometimes in life-saving fashion. But “unique identification numbers,” emblazoned on everything from hip implants to pacemakers, may offer a ne safety check on a burgeoning aspect of health care. They also have gotten a major boost from the federal Medicare agency.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the agency, after years of resistance, has agreed with the federal Food and Drug Administration and patient safety advocates that the makers of medical devices should put the identifying numbers on their products, and that this information also should be recorded in patient records, particularly the new electronic versions. To be sure, this is one  step in a long regulatory process.

But experts say it could be a big advance, allowing them to better detect flawed equipment, bad processes or practices, and other situations involving medical devices and harming patients’ health and safety. Some regulators and advocates for the device makers had fought this step for some time now. They contend that it adds to costs, and it hasn’t yet demonstrated a return for the investment.

oxycontinNew, disturbing information is emerging about Big Pharma’s role in the nation’s killer crisis with the abuse of prescription opioid drugs. It also shows that, even when companies act in ways beneficial to the public good, they do so with self-justifying spin.

Major kudos, to start, to the Los Angeles Times for its sustained reporting on the questionable activities of Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, one of the nation’s best-selling and most abused opioid pain-killers. Purdue, for marketing purposes, worked with firms nationwide to obtain detailed information about the distribution and sales of OxyContin, a Times investigation found.

Company executives, at one point, turned to this data as part of what it would tout as a top-level initiative to crack down on abuse and criminal activity involving a product that has generated $31 billion for the private, family-held firm.

United_States_Capitol_west_front_edit2Taxpayers fork over $174,000 in annual pay for  each of the 435 members of the U.S. House and the 100 Senators. The House Speaker gets $223,500, while the Senate President and the House and Senate majority and minority leaders get $193,400. And that doesn’t count the benefits and perks and office staffs. But now they’ve split town for a seven-week recess, without protecting the nation from a potential public health crisis involving Zika, the mosquito-borne disease that is presumed to cause major defects in the unborn of mothers exposed to the virus.

The Zika legislation foundered when partisans could not resolve whether the disease-fighting dollars might support reproductive health measures (birth control), particularly funding for Planned Parenthood. Democrats saw this as a necessary part of the battle. Republicans, who have opposed federal funding of this aspect of health care, disagreed.

Even as this bickering stalemated the zika bill:

emergency-services_overviewThey’re stocked with sufficient material to respond to days of crisis. Key personnel have been told to stay in town and be at the ready. They’ve developed response plans and drilled on readiness. It’s a sad reflection of the horrible headlines of recent days─from France, Dallas, and Orlando, and tragically too many more locales─that hospitals and public health officials in Cleveland and Philadelphia are preparing for the worst-case medical emergencies as Republicans and Democrats get ready to launch their political conventions this week and next in those two cities.

A top doc at the Cleveland Clinic told Stat, the online health information site,  “We know there’s probably going to be some public disturbance that will occur at the RNC. We have to be able to think in advance of how we’d be able to handle a number of protesters who might need assistance, or police who might need assistance.”

His counterpart at a leading emergency care facility in Philly, site of the Democratic national convention, observed: “Even at a major trauma center, getting five or six critically injured patients is an extraordinary undertaking. It’s labor- and resource- intensive to care for just one patient—so when you multiply that by five, or 20, or 200, you can very quickly overwhelm even an expert center.”

FireShot upshot2Sometimes it feels like there is so much information about diet and nutrition that it’s hard to know what to think about what we eat and how it affects our well-being.

The New York Times consulted with experts in nutrition to develop a story and informational graphic that capture how ordinary Americans and nutritionists differ in their views about the health value of foods.

Us:  we think granola bars, coconut oil, frozen yogurt, granola, Slim Fast shakes, American cheese, and orange juice tend to be healthful.

risperdalA Tennessee teen-ager suffered such emotional distress after growing enlarged breasts as an undisclosed side-effect of an anti-psychotic medication that the drug’s maker should pay him $70 million in damages, a Philadelphia jury has decided.

That verdict, only for compensatory damages, was the latest rebuke to Johnson & Johnson over its drug Risperdal. Jurors found that J&J “intentionally falsified, destroyed, or concealed records,” that warned that the medication could cause gynecomastia, the abnormal enlargement of the breasts in men.

J&J has lost a half dozen similar cases already, and it faces more than 1,500 damage lawsuits in Pennsylvania court. In one previous decision, a jury in 2015 awarded an autistic Alabaman $2.5 million after he developed 46DD sized breasts after taking Risperdal.

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