Health Highlights: March 16, 2010

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

Michelle Obama Speaks to Food Makers

Michelle Obama is taking her fight against childhood obesity directly to food producers. The Grocery Manufacturers Association invited the U.S. First Lady to speak Tuesday at its science forum, the Associated Press reported.

Previously, Obama has said she'd like to see easier-to-understand labels on foods "so parents won't have to spend hours squinting at words that they can't pronounce to figure out whether the foods that they're buying are healthy or not."

The First Lady has also said she would like companies that supply foods to schools to improve nutritional quality, the AP reported.

The food industry is open to cooperating with the federal government on finding ways to make healthier foods, according to Scott Faber, a lobbyist for the grocery association.

"Consumers are demanding more and more healthy choices," he said. "Our industry will do our part by changing the way we make and market our foods, but government has a big role to play as well," he told the AP.


Drug Combo Reduces Heart Patients' Risk of Bleeding Ulcers

Heart patients who take a stomach acid-suppressing proton-pump inhibitor with the anti-blood clot drug clopidogrel are half as likely to be hospitalized for bleeding ulcers as those who take clopidogrel alone, say U.S. researchers.

Combining the drugs did not increase the risk of serious heart problems, according to the study, which was supported by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

For this study, Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers analyzed data from nearly 21,000 patients in the Tennessee Medicaid program between 1999 and 2005. The patients were prescribed clopidogrel alone or clopidogrel in combination with a proton-pump inhibitor.

The findings appear in the March 16 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine>.


Study Links Early Baldness, Reduced Prostate Cancer Risk

Men who go bald by age 30 may be less likely to develop prostate cancer, according to researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

They studied 2,000 men, ages 40 to 47, and found an association between high levels of the male hormone testosterone in those who lose their hair at a young age and lower risk of prostate tumors, BBC News reported.

The study appears in the journal Cancer Epidemiology.

"Clearly, the age at which a man begins to lose his hair is unfortunately not a risk factor for prostate cancer over which he has any control," said Dr Helen Rippon, head of research management at the Prostate Cancer Charity in Britain, BBC News reported. "However, if these results are correct, they could be useful in providing us with a greater understanding of how testosterone behaves in the body and how it can affect different tissues."


Boston Scientific Recalls Heart Defibrillators

Heart defibrillator implants that weren't made in compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations are being recalled by medical device maker Boston Scientific.

The company said Monday that it had identified device production changes that weren't submitted to the FDA, the Associated Press reported.

There's "no indication that the manufacturing process changes pose any risk to patient safety," according to Boston Scientific.

Implanted defibrillators monitor the heart for dangerous irregular heartbeats and use electrical shocks to restore normal heart rhythm. About one-quarter of implanted defibrillators used worldwide are made by Boston Scientific, the AP reported.


Mitral Valve Clip Effective: Study

A tiny clip is safer and nearly as effective as open heart surgery for repairing leaky heart mitral valves, according to a new study.

U.S. researchers found that the MitraClip, which is implanted through an artery, was not significantly less effective than surgery after one year. Patients who received the clip were six times less likely to suffer complications in the month after their procedure than those who had surgery. The clip was associated with lower risk of stroke, blood transfusion and death, the Associated Press reported.

"We have opened the door for a new therapeutic option for patients," said study leader Dr. Ted Feldman of NorthShore University Health System in Evanston, Ill. He presented the findings Sunday at an American College of Cardiology conference.

The study was sponsored by Evalve Inc., which developed the MitraClip. Feldman consults for Abbott Laboratories, which owns Evalve, the AP reported.

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