Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Low Vitamin D Could Hamper Babies' Breathing
Newborns with low levels of the "sunshine" nutrient, vitamin D,
seem to be at higher odds for respiratory infections as infants and
for wheezing in early childhood -- but not at higher risk for
asthma, a new study finds.
The body produces vitamin D in response to sunlight, and the
nutrient has long been linked to stronger bones. In the new study,
Dr. Carlos Camargo and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital
in Boston looked at data on more than 1,000 children in New
Zealand. Levels of a marker for vitamin D were measured in
umbilical cord blood samples taken at birth and mothers were asked
about their children's respiratory troubles up till 5 years of
More than 20 percent of the blood samples came in as "very low"
for vitamin D status, the research team said in a hospital news
Low vitamin D levels at birth were linked to a doubling of risk
for respiratory infections at the age of 3 months, compared to
newborns with higher levels of the nutrient in their blood. There
was no significant link between levels of the vitamin D marker and
asthma diagnosed by the age of 5 years, however.
"Our data suggest that the association between vitamin D and wheezing, which can be a symptom of many respiratory diseases and not just asthma, is largely due to respiratory infections," Camargo said in the new release.
And he didn't rule out a vitamin D/asthma link.
"Since respiratory infections are the most common cause of asthma exacerbations, vitamin D supplements may help to prevent those events, particularly during the fall and winter when vitamin D levels decline and exacerbations are more common," Camargo said. "That idea needs to be tested in a randomized clinical trial, which we hope to do next year."
The findings are published in the January issue of
FDA Warns of Salmonella-Linked Alfalfa Sprouts
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday advised
consumers to avoid alfalfa sprouts and "Spicy Sprouts" (alfalfa
sprouts plus radish/clover sprouts) distributed by Tiny Greens
Organic Farms of Urbana, Ill., because of links to outbreaks of
salmonella illness across the Midwest.
"The sprouts were distributed to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and may also have been distributed to other Midwestern states," the FDA said in a statement. "Approximately half of the illnesses occurred in Illinois, where nearly all of the ill individuals ate sandwiches containing sprouts at various Jimmy John's [restaurant] outlets."
The restaurant chain has ceased using sprouts on sandwiches
served in its Illinois outlets, the agency added. The Tiny Greens
sprouts come in 4- and 5-ounce packages and consumers are advised
to "discard them in a sealed container so people and animals,
including wild animals, cannot eat them."
Last weekend, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention reported that 89 people in 15 states and the District of
Columbia had fallen ill since Nov. 1 with salmonella linked to the
tainted alfalfa sprouts. Most of the illnesses occurred in
Illinois. There have been no fatalities.
Staph Food Poisoning Spurs Desserts Recall
Rolf's Patisserie, an Illinois-based gourmet bakery, is
recalling all desserts made after Nov. 1 due to links to numerous
Staphylococcus aureus food poisoning, the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration announced Monday. The desserts include cakes,
cobblers, decorated cookies, pastries, pies, tarts and
According to the agency, 100 cases of
S. aureus illness have been reported after four separate
events in November and December, including 70 illnesses linked to
one event in Wisconsin. Thirty people also got sick after three
events in Illinois, the FDA said.
Rolf's Patisserie desserts are available via the Internet and
through retail and wholesale sales, but may not always be labeled
as coming from the Lincolnwood, Ill.-based company. "Consumers
should not eat the desserts," the FDA said in a statement.
"Consumers and product sellers should dispose of them in a sealed
container so that people and animals [including wild animals]
cannot get access to and eat them."
According to the agency,
S. aureus illness typically begins within six hours of eating
tainted food, with symptoms typically including nausea, vomiting,
stomach cramps and diarrhea. In more severe cases, headache, muscle
cramps and swings in blood pressure and pulse rate can happen. In
most cases, the illness passes within one to three days.
Scientists Map Genomes for Chocolate, Strawberries
Teams of scientists say they've sequenced the genomes for two
popular and delicious treats: the woodland strawberry and the cocoa
plant, the source of chocolate.
Reported Dec. 26 in the journal
Nature Genetics, each of the studies received funding from academic sources, the U.S. government and industry, including Hershey Corp., for the cocoa study, CNN reported.
Kevin Folta, a strawberry study co-author and a researcher at
the University of Florida, told
CNN that the map of the strawberry plant genome might result
in a more disease-resistant, better-tasting berry, although those
products could be five to 10 years away.
As for the study of the Criollo cacao tree, study co-author Mark
Guiltinan, a professor of plant molecular biology at Pennsylvania
State University, said scientists uncovered 96 genes linked to
flavonoids. Flavonoids are antioxidant compounds thought to improve
"That would mean we'd be able to get more of these healthy, health-beneficial nutrients from chocolate with eating less chocolate; that's probably a good thing," Guiltinan told CNN.