Health Highlights: Aug. 31, 2010

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

Diabetes Top Reason For Vietnam Vets' Health Claims

Diabetes is the leading cause of Vietnam veterans' health compensation claims, according to U.S. government documents.

They show that about 270,000 of the one million Vietnam vets receiving disability checks are getting compensation for diabetes, according to the Associated Press, which obtained Department of Veterans Affairs records through the Freedom of Information Act.

The number of vets being compensated for diabetes is greater than for any other condition, including general wounds, hearing loss or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Worries about the effects of the defoliant Agent Orange are the reason why so many Vietnam veterans are being compensated for diabetes, even though decades of research have failed to find any firm link between Agent Orange and diabetes, the AP reported.

The VA also pays compensation for a number of other common age-related ailments with a possible link to Agent Orange. And the VA said this week that it plans to add Parkinson's disease, heart disease and certain types of leukemia to the list of health problems that might be associated with Agent Orange.

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Restaurant Portions Too Large: Study

Americans who eat at chain restaurants often get super-sized portions even if they order a single entree or regular-sized meal, finds a new study.

Researchers at the Center for Science in the Public Interest examined the size of menu items at a number of fast food restaurants and other popular food outlets and found that many hamburgers, steaks, bagels and pasta entrees are at least two times larger than the federal government's definition of a serving, USA Today reported.

"The super-sized portions are super-sizing our bodies," said Bonnie Liebman, the nutrition director at the Washington, D.C.-based consumer group. "With two-thirds of adults and one-third of kids obese or overweight, you'd think restaurants would shrink their portion sizes, but they haven't."

"Eating half of what the restaurant serves is often just about right. Half is the new whole," Liebman advised, USA Today reported.

The study appears in the September issue of Nutrition Action HealthLetter.

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Support For Health Care Law Declines: Poll

Support for the new U.S. health reform law fell from 50% in July to 43% now, according to the August Kaiser Family Foundation's Health Tracking Poll.

About 45% of respondents in the latest poll said they have an unfavorable view of the new law.

The new figures show a return to the even split in opinion last seen in May before a slight increase in support during June and July.

The latest poll found that 29% of respondents believe that they and their families will be better off under the new law, compared with 32% in July and 28% in June. Thirty percent said they expect to be worse off (29% July, 28% June), and 36% believe the new health law won't make much difference (33% July, 39% June).

Currently, 39% believe the new law will benefit the nation and 37% say it will have a negative effect, compared with 43% vs. 35% in July and 42% vs. 32% in June.

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Ground Beef Recalled Due to E. coli: USDA

Concerns about possible E. coli contamination have led to the recall of about 8,500 pounds of ground beef distributed by Pennsylvania-based Cargill Meat Solutions, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service said that three instances of illness in New York and Maine have been linked to the recalled ground beef, the Washington Post reported.

The beef was shipped in in cases of 14-pound packages to distribution centers in Connecticut and Maryland for further distribution in smaller packages for consumers sales under different retail brand names, said the service.

Officials said the recalled ground beef has a product code of W69032 and carries the establishment number EST. 9400 inside the USDA mark of inspection. The ground beef was produced on June 11 and comes in packages with a use-by/freeze-by date of July 1, the Post reported.

The ground beef should be eaten only if it has been cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the Food Safety and Inspection Service advised. The only way to confirm that temperature is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature.

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