Saturday, March 21, 2009

Health Headlines - March 21

DDT Exposure Increases Women's Obesity Risk: Study

Females exposed to the insecticide DDT while in the womb are more likely to be obese, says a Michigan State University study.

The researchers checked levels of DDE (a breakdown of DDT) in the adult daughters of 250 women who eat fish from Lake Michigan and were recruited for a large study in the early 1970s, United Press International reported.

Compared to daughters with the lowest levels of DDE, those with intermediate levels had an average of 13 pounds more weight, and those with higher levels were more than 20 pounds heavier, said lead author Janet Osuch.

"What we have found for the first time is exposure to certain toxins by eating fish from polluted waters may contribute to the obesity epidemic in women," Osuch said in news release, UPI reported. "These findings not only apply to the offspring of women in our cohort but to any woman who has been exposed to high levels of DDE when she was growing in her mother's womb -- mothers with the highest DDE levels are women who have consumed a lot of fish or high-fat meats."

The findings were published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The U.S. banned DDT in 1973, but the chemical and its by-products persist in the environment, the study reported.

Children's Exercise Sessions Often Too Short to Prevent Obesity

Too few children and teens engage in exercise sessions that last long enough to reduce their risk of obesity, say Canadian researchers.

They analyzed data on 2,498 young people, ages 8 to 17, who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Motion sensors were used to measure the participants' levels of physical activity. The results showed that two-thirds of their physical activity involved short, sporadic sessions that lasted less than five minutes, United Press International reported.

"Even in 60-minute physical education classes or team practices, children are inactive for a large portion of the time, and this would not necessarily count as sustained exercise," study author Ian Janssen, of Queen's University, said in a news release. "When children engage in longer periods of sustained physical activity, there is a smaller likelihood that they will be overweight or obese."

The study is in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Food Industry Safety Checks Under Fire

A House Energy and Commerce Investigations subcommittee released new pictures and documents it says show the food industry's self-policing policies failed to catch unsanitary conditions at the peanut processing plant responsible for a nationwide salmonella outbreak. The incident sickened almost 700 people and is being blamed for at least nine deaths, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Dozens of companies that bought peanut paste and other ingredients from Peanut Corp., which is under criminal investigation in connection with the outbreak, failed to pick up the problems because they relied on safety audits by inspectors hired by Peanut Corp. "There is an obvious and inherent conflict of interest when an auditor works for the same supplier it is evaluating," said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the subcommittee, calling it a "cozy relationship," the AP reported.

Thursday's hearing was held as calls for major changes in the U.S. food safety system grew louder, from consumer groups, politicians, and even the head of Kellogg Co. He called for an overhaul of policing policies after the cereal maker lost $70 million in the salmonella outbreak when it had to recall millions of products, the AP reported. David Mackay, Kellogg's chief executive, said companies should be required to have written safety plans and submit to annual inspections.

Last week, President Barack Obama launched a special review of food safety programs, and lawmakers have introduced legislation to take safety oversight away from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and create a new agency with stronger powers and more funding, the AP reported.

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