Health Highlights: March 14, 2013

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

Single Lung Not a Problem for New Pope: Doctors

The fact that the new pope has just one lung shouldn't affect his ability to carry out his duties, experts say.

Pope Francis lost most of one lung to an infection when he was a teenager. Having only one lung does not compromise his health or reduce his life span, according to doctors.

"Having one lung should be enough as long as there is no other disease in that lung," Dr. Peter Openshaw, director of the Center for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London in the U.K., told the Associated Press.

The fact that the pope is so fit and healthy at 76 bodes well for his future, according to Dr. Jennifer Quint, a respiratory expert at London's School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

She said his main challenge will be to keep his remaining lung health. "I would recommend a yearly flu vaccination and an occasional pneumonia vaccine to avoid infection," she told the AP.


Cancer Drugs May be Effective Against Tapeworms: Study

Some cancer drugs may provide an effective treatment for tapeworm infection, a new study says.

Researchers worked out and analyzed the genetic codes of four species of tapeworm and then looked for similarities between the parasites and humans. The investigators discovered that some existing drugs could work on tapeworms, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

"We mined the (tapeworm) genome for targets," Dr. Matthew Berriman, from the Sanger Institute in the U.K., told BBC News. "At the top of the list are the tapeworm equivalent of the targets for cancer drugs."

Tapeworm infections can be fatal or cause complications such as epilepsy and blindness. Current drugs used to treat the infections are often ineffective.


Nutrition Experts Rally in Support of NYC Drinks Ban

New York City's proposed ban on supersized sugary drinks may have been derailed by a judge, but many nutrition experts say such measures are needed to curb Americans' consumption of such beverages.

The ban was a good idea, according to Dr. Walter Willett, a nutrition expert at the Harvard School of Public health. "It is the role of a health department to protect the public from these hazards," he told NBC News.

"There is really very clear evidence now that soft drinks are related to weight gain and obesity and, most certainly, diabetes," Willett said. "We are in the midst of an epidemic of diabetes and obesity. The evidence is very clear that soda consumption has a role in the epidemic."

"Kids are eating their weight in sugar every year. And sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks are the No. 1 source of sugar in kids' diets," nutritionist Deborah Kennedy, CEO of Build Healthy Kids and co-author of "Beat Sugar Addiction Now! For Kids," told NBC News.

When he was New York City's health commissioner, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden called for an extra tax on sugary drinks, saying that a 1 cent per-ounce tax would cut consumption by 10 percent.

Soft drinks are "liquid candy" and should be labeled with health warnings, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, NBC News reported.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said New York City will appeal State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling Jr.'s ruling against the ban on supersized sugary drinks.


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