Jumaat, 8 November 2013

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

US moves to ban trans fat from foods


Action hailed by consumer groups as a major step towards eliminating a type of fat blamed for heart disease.

US regulators on Thursday took steps to ban trans fat from processed foods like microwave popcorn and frozen pizzas, saying the artery-clogging oils are not safe for humans to eat.

"Partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not 'generally recognised as safe' for use in food," the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement.

The FDA said its finding was based on "available scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels".

The agency opened a 60-day comment period before the move can become final and is accepting input on how long it would take food manufacturers to "formulate the products that currently contain artificial trans fat".

If the decision is made final, PHOs would be considered food additives and could not be used in food unless regulators authorised it.

The FDA said its decision would not affect trans fat that occurs naturally in some meat and dairy products, but rather to PHOs that are added to processed foods.

"Food manufacturers have voluntarily decreased trans fat levels in many foods in recent years, but a substantial number of products still contain partially hydrogenated oils, which are the major source of trans fat in processed food," said Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

Food manufacturers cut back their use of trans fat after a public health campaign to warn of the dangers built steam in the past decade.

Still, trans fats are commonly found in coffee creamers, desserts, microwave popcorn products, frozen pizzas and margarine.

The FDA move was hailed by consumer groups as a major step towards eliminating a type of fat that is blamed for heart disease.

"Artificial trans fat is a uniquely powerful promoter of heart disease, and today's announcement will hasten its eventual disappearance from the food supply," said US Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) executive director Michael Jacobson.

"Not only is artificial trans fat not safe, it's not remotely necessary. Many companies, large and small, have switched to healthier oils over the past decade."

The CSPI has been urging stricter labels on trans fat since 1993, and in 2004 began campaigning for it to be considered unsafe for food.

The FDA said that "since trans fat content information began appearing in the Nutrition Facts label of foods in 2006, trans fat intake among American consumers has declined from 4.6g per day in 2003 to about 1g per day in 2012".

Despite that decline, Americans' "current intake remains a significant public health concern", said FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

"The FDA's action today is an important step towards protecting more Americans from the potential dangers of trans fat. Further reduction in the amount of trans fat in the American diet could prevent an additional 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year – a critical step in the protection of Americans' health," she said in a statement. – AFP Relaxnews

France okays home tests for HIV


Self-testing HIV kits will go on sale in France next year

Under a strategy aimed at reducing the spread of the virus causing AIDS, self-testing HIV kits will go on sale in France next year, the country's health minister Marisol Touraine said on Thursday.

In-home tests will be available "for people who do not want to go to testing centres or hospitals" to learn about their HIV status, she told a parliamentary committee.

Self-testing kits use a drop of blood from a finger or a swab sample from the mouth to detect antibodies to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), usually delivering a result within 30 minutes.

France recorded 6,100 new infections of HIV in 2011.

Up to 40,000 people in France may have the AIDS virus but not be aware of it, according to official estimates. — AFP Relaxnews

Earliest signs of autism observed


Eye-evasion in early years may indicate if a child is autistic.

SCIENTISTS said on Wednesday they may have found the earliest signs yet of autism in infants – babies as young as two months starting to evade other people's eyes.

Eye-evasion has long been regarded as a hallmark of autism, but its potential value as an early diagnostic tool had not been explored before, a team of researchers wrote in the journal Nature.

They studied 110 infants from birth until two years, using eye-tracking technology to measure the way they looked at people's faces. Thirteen of the children were later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

"In infants later diagnosed with autism, we see a steady decline in how much they look at mum's eyes throughout the first two years of life, and even within the first six months," study co-author Warren Jones of the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States, said.

In some children the signs could be observed already from the age of two months.

Making eye contact is considered an important part of human social interaction and development.

The research team not only uncovered that eye-evasion was present in autistic children already at an early age, but crucially also that eye contact declined over time rather than being absent from the start.

"Both these factors have the potential to dramatically shift the possibilities for future strategies of early interventions," said co-author Ami Klin, director of the Marcus Autism Centre in Atlanta.

While there is no cure for autism, studies have shown that an early start with behavioural therapy improves learning, communication and social skills in young children with autism.

The team had used technology to measure eye-movement patterns when they showed the children videos of actors posting as caregivers – playing games and interacting with them.

They found that infants later diagnosed with ASD showed less and less attention to the actor's eyes over time, a pattern that is not seen in typically-developing infants.

Those whose levels of eye contact diminished most rapidly were also most disabled later in life, the researchers found.

They had used two groups of children: 51 at low risk of developing autism and 59 at high risk – those with an older sibling already diagnosed.

ASD describes a broad range of impairments in which a person is unable or unwilling to communicate or interact with others, often cripplingly so.

Some patients have delays in cognitive development, whereas others can have dazzling gifts in specific fields such as maths or music. The causes remain unclear.

According to World Health Organisation figures, one child in 160 has an autism spectrum disorder – considered among the most highly heritable of psychiatric conditions.

The team warned that parents would not be able to observe the decline in eye contact themselves.

"The signs we observed are only visible with the aid of sophisticated technology, and they required many measurements over many months. If parents do have concerns, they should consult their doctors," said Jones. – AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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