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Health Highlights: June 19, 2013

Health Highlights: June 19, 2013

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

Restrict Use of Food Stamps to Buy Sugary Beverages: Mayors

The mayors of major U.S. cities want the federal government to examine ways to limit people's use of food stamps to buy soda and other sugary drinks.

In a letter sent to congressional leaders on Tuesday, the mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and 15 other cities said this would be a way to fight obesity and related diseases, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

"More than one third of American adults are now obese, costing approximately $147 billion per year in associated medical expenses," the letter stated. "As a result of obesity, this generation of American children is the first to face the possibility of a shorter life expectancy than their parents. It is time to test and evaluate approaches limiting SNAP's (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program's) subsidization of products, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, that are contributing to obesity."

"We need to find ways to strengthen the program and promote good nutrition while limiting the use of these resources for items with no nutritional value, like sugary drinks, that are actually harming the health of participants," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose office released the letter, said in a statement, CBS/AP reported. "Why should we continue supporting unhealthy purchases in the false name of nutrition assistance?"

The food stamp program is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which declined to comment on the letter, which was addressed to Republican House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.


Doctors' Group Supports Ban on Energy Drink Ads for Kids

The marketing of energy drinks to young people should be banned, the American Medical Association said in a policy endorsed Tuesday at its annual policy meeting.

The new policy calls for limiting how the caffeinated drinks are sold to consumers younger than 18. In highlighting the dangers, the AMA made note of research linking the products to heart problems and reports about emergency room visits made by youngsters after consuming the beverages, Bloomberg News reported.

The group, which represents 225,000 U.S. doctors, called for a temporary ban on youth marketing of energy drinks "until such time as the scientific evidence regarding the possible adverse medical affects that stimulant drinks may have on children and adolescents is determined."

"Energy drinks contain massive and excessive amounts of caffeine that may lead to a host of health problems in young people, including heart problems," Alexander Ding, a physician and AMA board member, said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg. "Banning companies from marketing these products to adolescents is a common sense action that we can take to protect the health of American kids."


Natura Pet Products Recalled Over Salmonella Concerns

Natura Pet Products is recalling a wide range of dry pet foods and treats due to possible salmonella contamination.

The recall covers all of the following products with expiration dates prior to June 10, 2014: Innova Dry dog and cat food and biscuits/bars/treats; EVO dry dog, cat and ferret food and biscuits/bars/treats; California Natural dry dog and cat foods and biscuits/bars/treats; Healthwise dry dog and cat foods; Karma dry dog foods; Mother Nature biscuits/bars/treats.

Salmonella can cause illness in pets that eat contaminated products and in people who handle the products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said. There haven't been any reports of pet or human illnesses related to the recalled products.

The Natura pet food and treats were sold in bags at veterinary clinics, select pet stores, and online in the United States and Canada. People with the recalled products should throw them out.

For more information or to ask for a product replacement or refund, call Natura toll-free at 800-224-6123.


Blood Test May Provide Early Alert of HPV-Related Throat Cancer

A new study suggests that a blood test may be able to predict throat cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) more than 10 years before the disease appears.

Researchers looked at the results of blood tests from 135 throat cancer patients and found that about one-third of them had HPV antibodies in their blood a decade before they were diagnosed with cancer, CNN reported. Antibodies are produced by the immune system when it's fighting infections.

About a third of throat cancers worldwide are said to be HPV-related, according to the study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

"Until now, there were no accurate markers for early detection of this cancer," said study author Paul Brennan with the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, CNN reported.

Further studies need to be done and it would likely be years before the test is available for patients.


U.S. Adult Smoking Rate Falls

The number of American adults who smoke fell to 18 percent in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The adult smoking rate had been declining for decades but then seemed to level off at about 20 to 21 percent before falling to 19 percent in 2011, the Associated Press reported.

The latest findings are from a survey of about 35,000 adults. The smoking rate was 9 percent among people ages 65 and older but about 20 percent for younger adults. Men had a higher smoking rate than women.

The survey did not include teens, but a previous CDC study found that about 16 percent of high school students were smokers in 2011, the AP reported.

Factors that may have contributed to this latest decline in adult smoking include more public smoking bans, higher state and federal tobacco taxes, and increased spending on prevention and cessation programs, according to Patrick Reynolds, executive director of the Foundation for a SmokeFree America.

"This is a real decline in smoking in America. I'm ecstatic about it. It's proof that we are winning the battle against tobacco," he told the AP.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the U.S.

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