Thursday, February 26, 2009

Health Headlines - February 26

China to Create Central Food Safety Commission

A central food safety commission will be established in China as part of the nation's efforts to reduce the number of scandals involving dangerous food products, the state news agency Xinhua said Wednesday.

The news agency said the commission will be set out under a new food safety law to be introduced at the annual parliamentary session next month and the commission's mandate will be to strengthen China's food monitoring system, Agence France Presse reported.

Scandals have plagued China's huge and poorly regulated food industry, resulting in public health emergencies and recalls at home and abroad. One of the worst occurred last year when about 300,000 infants were sickened and at least six died after consuming baby formula tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.

Experts say one major reason for the problems is that too many different agencies have jurisdiction over China's food industry, AFP reported.


Gene May Determine Life Attitude

A single, hormone-delivery gene may determine whether a person is naturally happy or gloomy, say British researchers who conducted a series of psychological and genetic tests on 97 volunteers.

The results showed that participants with the long variant of the 5-HTTLPR gene paid attention to pleasant pictures and screened out distressing images, while those with a short variant of the gene had opposite preferences, Agence France Presse reported.

"The results indicated that a genetically driven tendency to look on the bright side of life is core cognitive mechanism underlying resilience to general life stress," wrote the University of Essex researchers.

The study appears in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The 5-HTTLPR gene plays a key role in determining how the neurotransmitter serotonin functions within the brain. Serotonin transmits chemical messages between nerve cells and has been closely linked to mood, AFP reported.


Texas Peanut Plant Linked to Salmonella Outbreak

Peanut butter made from peanuts processed at the Peanut Corp. of America's plant in Plainview, Texas contains the same salmonella strain that caused a nationwide outbreak, federal officials said Tuesday.

The test results suggest that Peanut Corp.'s plant in Blakely, Ga., may not have been the only source of the outbreak, which sickened more than 600 and may have contributed to nine deaths, the Associated Press reported.

Colorado health officials traced salmonella cases in that state to peanut butter sold by the Vitamin Cottage grocery chain. The peanuts used in that peanut butter came from Peanut Corp.'s Texas plant. Two samples of Vitamin Cottage peanut butter from two different consumers tested positive for the salmonella strain that caused the nationwide outbreak.


Video Game Overuse Causes Skin Disorder

Skin specialists have identified a new skin disorder linked to overuse of video game consoles. The condition -- PlayStation palmar hidradenitis -- is described in a case study by doctors at Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland.

They treated a 12-year-old girl who had intensely painful sores on her hands. She couldn't recall any recent trauma to her hands and hadn't done any sports or physical exercise recently, BBC News reported.

However, her parents said she had recently started to play a video game on a PlayStation console for several hours a day, and continued playing even after she developed the sores on her hands.

The doctors cited a combination of factors: tight and continuous grasping of the console's hand grips, repeated pushing of the buttons, and sweating caused by game-related tension, BBC News reported.

The girl made a full recovery after 10 days of not using the game console. The study appears in the British Journal of Dermatology.


Huge Increase in U.K. Diabetes Rate

From 1997 to 2003, there was a 74 percent rise in the number of new cases of diabetes in the U.K., an alarming increase linked to growing obesity rates, say researchers who analyzed data from nearly five million medical records.

By 2005, more than 4 percent of the U.K. population had diabetes, nearly double the rate of a decade earlier, BBC News reported.

Of the more than 42,000 people newly diagnosed with diabetes between 1996 and 2005, more than 41,000 had later-onset type 2 diabetes, which is associated with unhealthy lifestyle habits.

The findings suggest that diabetes rates in the U.K. are rising faster than in the United States, which has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world, BBC News reported.

The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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