Health Highlights: April 20, 2012

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

Gulf Seafood Safe to Eat: FDA

Despite continuing concerns about the safety of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. officials insist that Gulf seafood on the market is safe to eat.

Two years after the massive BP oil spill, some scientists say that lesions and other deformities on some Gulf fish indicate lingering environmental damage.

"It's important to emphasize that we're talking about a low percentage of fish," Dr. Robert W. Dickey, head of the Food and Drug Administration's Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory, told the Associated Press. "It doesn't represent a seafood safety hazard."

He noted that wholesalers and seafood processors must follow FDA rules on what constitutes a safe and usable catch. Fish with lesions or signs of parasites or disease can't be sold.


U.S. Team Heads to Everest to Study Effects of High Altitude

U.S. researchers plan to establish a laboratory at the base of Mount Everest in order to study the effects of high altitude on humans.

The Mayo Clinic team flew to the Mount Everest region on Friday and plans to monitor nine climbers attempting to conquer the world's highest mountain, the Associated Press reported.

Learning more about the effects of high altitude on the heart, lungs, muscle loss and sleep could help patients with heart conditions and other health problems, the researchers explained.

The team's laboratory at the Mayo focuses on lung congestion in heart failure patients and lung congestion often kills mountain climbers, team leader Dr. Bruce Johnson told the AP.


Starbucks Eliminating Bug-based Dye From Products

A crimson food dye made from crushed bugs will be phased out of four food and two beverage products, Starbucks says.

Instead of using the bug-based dye called cochineal extract, the company says it will use lycopene, a natural tomato-based extract using for coloring, CBS News reported.

Starbucks was the target of a social media campaign after it became known that the company used cochineal extract in some of its products.

Cochineal extract is safe and food and cosmetic product labels must state if the dye is present, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said. They dye, which has been used for thousands of years to color fabrics, is often found in yogurts, candies, ice creams, ketchup, fruit drinks, lipsticks, nail polish, eye shadow and other pink and red products, CBS News reported.


1 in 4 U.S. Adults Lacked Health Insurance Last Year: Survey

More than a quarter of U.S. adults ages 19-64 did not have health insurance for at least some time in 2011 and nearly 70 percent of those people had been without coverage for more than a year, a new survey says.

The Commonwealth Fund survey and other research shows that people without health insurance often forego needed medical care and do not get important preventive health services such as cancer screening, the Los Angeles Times reported.

For example, the new survey found that nearly three-quarters of women ages 40-64 with health insurance had a mammogram in the previous two years, compared with 28 percent of women in that age group who had been without insurance for a year or more.

Gaps in insurance coverage would be reduced as a result of President Barack Obama's new healthcare law, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a leading authority on health policy, the Times reported.


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