News on Health & Science

Swine Flu Vaccine May Come Shortly

Federal officials said it would take until January, or late November at the earliest, to make enough vaccine to protect all Americans from a  possible epidemic of swine flu. And beyond the US and a few other countries that also make vaccines, some experts said it could take years to produce enough swine flu vaccine to satisfy global demand.

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Producing swine flu vaccine might interfere with production of the seasonal flu vaccine for next winter. “We would have to most likely make a compromise,” said Andrin Oswald, chief executive of the vaccine division at the drug maker Novartis.

But Robin Robinson, who runs the emergency preparation research program for Department of Health and Human Services, said most firms would have finished producing the bulk of seasonal vaccine by June. If production of swine flu vaccine were to start after that, the first 50 million to 80 million doses would be available by September, Robinson said.

You may click to see:-> H1N1 virus gone viral: Swine flu updates and resources online

Sources: The Times Of India

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News on Health & Science

FDA Slammed for Calling BPA Safe

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In a highly critical report, a panel of scientists from government and academia said when the FDA completed a draft risk assessment of bisphenol A (BPA) last month, they did not take into consideration numerous studies that have linked the chemical to prostate cancer, diabetes and other health problems.

The scientists took the FDA to task for basing its safety decision on three industry-funded studies.

The report was written by a subcommittee panel of the FDA’s outside science board, experts who advise the FDA on complex issues. The panel concluded that the FDA’s margin of safety is “inadequate.”

The panel said the FDA also didn’t use enough infant formula samples and didn’t adequately account for variations among the samples.

Studies the FDA did not consider when making their assessment suggest that BPA could pose harm to children at levels at least 10 times lower than the amount the agency called safe. Another government agency, the National Toxicology Program, concluded that there is “some concern” that BPA alters development of the brain, prostate and behavior in children and fetuses.

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New Guidelines for Healthy Living


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Moderate exercise adds up for sluggish adults. Take a quick walk around the block or suit up for the neighborhood softball game. More fit adults could pack in their week’s requirement in 75 minutes with vigorous exercise, such as jogging, hiking uphill, a bike race or speedy laps in the pool.

Children and teens need more – brisk activities for at least an hour a day, the guidelines conclude.

Consider it the exercise version of the food pyramid. The guidelines, from the Health and Human Services Department, aim to end years of confusion about how much physical activity is enough, while making clear that there are lots of ways to achieve it.

“The easy message is get active, whatever your way is. Get active your way,” HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt said. It’s OK to start slowly.

“For a total couch potato who does zero, zip, nada, getting up and walking 10 minutes a day is a great start,” said Rear Adm. Penelope Royall, deputy assistant secretary for disease prevention.

But people need to work toward eventually hitting that weekly minimum, she added. “Some is better than nothing, and more is better.”

The guidelines come as scientists are trying to spread the word to a nation of couch potatoes that how active you are may be the most important indicator of good health. Yet a quarter of U.S. adults aren’t active at all in their leisure time, government research concludes. More than half don’t get enough of the kind of physical activity that actually helps health – walking fast enough to raise your heart rate, not just meandering, for instance. More than 60 million adults are obese.

Worse, the nation is raising a generation of children who may be less healthy than their parents. About a third are overweight and 16 percent are obese. And while young children are naturally active given the chance, schools are decreasing the amount of recess and gym time. By high school, a recent study found, fewer than a third of teens are getting an hour of activity a day.

To put science behind the how-much-is-enough debate, HHS gathered an expert panel to review all the data. The panel found that regular physical activity can cut the risk of heart attacks and stroke by at least 20 percent, reduce chances of early death, and help people avoid high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer, fractures from age-weakening bones and depression.

The government used that scientific report to set the minimum activity levels.

“The evidence is clear,” Leavitt said on Tuesday in announcing the guidelines. “The more physically active you are, the more health benefits you gain.”

The kind of exercise matters a lot, said Dr. William Kraus, a Duke University cardiologist who co-authored the scientific report. Runners like Kraus can achieve the same health benefit in a fraction of the time of a walker.

“If you do it more intense, you can do less time,” explained Kraus, who praised the guidelines for offering that flexibility. “This brings it back down to earth for a lot of people.”

What’s the right kind of exercise? The guidelines advise:

* You don’t have get all the activity at once. A walk for an hour three days a week works as well as, say, a 30-minute exercise class on weekdays or saving most of the activity for a two-hour Saturday bike ride.

* For aerobic activities, go at least 10 minutes at a time to build heart rate enough to count.

* You should be able to talk while doing moderate activities but not catch enough breath to sing. With vigorous activities, you can say only a few words without stopping to catch a breath.

* Children’s daily hour should consist of mostly moderate or vigorous aerobic activity, such as skateboarding, bike riding, soccer, simple running.

* Three times a week, children and teens must include muscle-strengthening activities – sit-ups, tug-of-war – and bone-strengthening activities such as jumping rope or skipping.

* Adults should do muscle-strengthening activities – push-ups, weight training, carrying heavy loads or heavy gardening – at least two days a week.

* Older adults who are still physically able to follow the guidelines should do so, with an emphasis on activities that maintain or improve balance.

These are minimum goals, the guidelines note. People who do more will see greater benefits.

Sources: THe Times Of India

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How Much Exercise Do Children Need?

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YOU’RE a parent and you want to do your best to be sure your children are healthy. So you worry about physical activity. How much exercise is enough? Will being active protect them against diabetes, cancer or heart disease later in life? Will it prevent them from getting fat?

You search for information, for official guidelines on physical activity. And, you soon discover, there is plenty of advice — at least 27 sets of official guidelines, notes Harold W. Kohl, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Austin who formerly worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the problem in making recommendations is a lack of good data.

We can’t “clarify the dose of physical activity and exercise that’s good for kids” as precisely as we think we can, Dr. Kohl said.

It’s not that experts haven’t tried.

For example, a few years ago the C.D.C. convened a panel of experts to review published papers and make the best recommendations. The panel’s co-chairman, Robert M. Malina, a professor emeritus of kinesiology and health education at the University of Texas at Austin, noted that the group reviewed 850 published papers on the benefits of regular exercise for school-age children and adolescents.

In 2004, the panel concluded by recommending that children and adolescents get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Why 60 minutes and not 30 or 45? It was, Dr. Malina said, “a gut reaction” to the body of evidence.

Now, the Department of Health and Human Services is preparing a new set of guidelines, but most of the same questions remain, Dr. Kohl said. And even though he, Dr. Malina and most other exercise researchers enthusiastically endorse physical activity for everyone, they caution that some of its reputed benefits may be oversold.

In reviewing published papers, the C.D.C. and Human Services panels asked: How good are the data? They learned that, with a few exceptions, for every purported benefit, the evidence was often marginal or equivocal. And, Dr. Malina said, even in situations in which exercise has demonstrable effects, there are marked differences among individuals: some children will get more benefit than others and some will not get any at all.

The undisputed benefits of exercise, the panels said, are that it can lead to stronger muscles, greater endurance, and bones that are denser and have greater mineral content. In addition, when obese children exercise regularly, their body fat, blood lipids and blood pressure may fall. Exercise, though, has not been found to have those effects on healthy children of normal weight.

Even there, though, uncertainties remain, Dr. Kohl said. “Kids aren’t little adults, and they don’t do things for 30 minutes straight through,” he said. “You can put kids on treadmills and train them and that can somewhat help obese kids reduce their adiposity levels, but when you get out in the real world it’s not that easy.”

The panels asked whether exercise alleviates symptoms of anxiety or depression or whether it improves self-image. The studies were not large enough to draw conclusions, they said.

Another issue is academics. Do physically active and physically fit children do better in school? Do they have qualities, like an improved ability to pay attention, that might predict better academic performance?

The answer, Dr. Kohl said, is not known. “The only good data we have indicate that participation in a better physical education program does not negatively affect test scores,” he adds.

Parents sometimes are advised to get children involved in activities that they can do throughout a lifetime — walking, cycling or swimming. But, Dr. Malina said, there is no good evidence that the sport someone does as a child will affect activity as an adult.

“The evidence that tracks youngsters to adulthood is very relatively meager,” Dr. Malina said. And, he added, it is not clear how and why people change activities during their lives.

“I played all sorts of sports growing up,” he said. By the time he started college, he adds, “baseball was my sport.” Now, said Dr. Malina, who is 71, “in my old age, my activity is walking.”

Still, exercise researchers do have some advice for parents: Let the children decide what physical activity they want to do.

“The single best activity you can do is the one you will do,” said Charles B. Corbin, a professor emeritus in the department of exercise and wellness at Arizona State University and the author of more than 80 books on fitness.

And the mistake parents often make, Dr. Malina said, is to decide in advance which sports their children should pursue.

“All too often, youngsters do not have a choice in the decision-making process,” he explained. And, he said, no matter how much parents may want their children to be physically active, “if it is not fun, the child will not do it.”

Sources: The New York Times

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