Category Archives: Health

Some microwaves may not cook food enough

People who use some lower-wattage microwaves may not be cooking food long enough, a U.S. official warns.

Kathy Bernard, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, said it is important to know the wattage of your microwave oven.

“To find it, look on the inside of the oven door or in the owner’s manual, or you can test how long it takes to boil a glass of water. If it takes 2 minutes or less it’s a very high-wattage oven, around 1,100 watts. Four minutes or longer it’s a lower wattage — around 625 watts,” Bernard said in a statement. “If your microwave’s wattage is lower than the wattage recommended on the package cooking instructions it will take longer than the instructions specified to cook the food. The higher the wattage the faster it will cook food.”

If cooking instructions don’t recommend cooking the product in a microwave, then don’t, Bernard said.

To cook food safely in a microwave, cover with a lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap, leaving a corner open to release steam.

“The temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit, unless otherwise stated on the label,” Bernard said. “That’s the internal temperature that will kill any harmful bacteria if present. Use a thermometer.”

If leftovers are being stored in a mini-fridge, make sure it is 40 degrees F or lower. Having a thermometer is key to checking food is cooked hot enough and stored cold enough, Bernard said.

Copyright 2012 by United Press International

Breast cancer survival/social ties linked

Women with larger social networks are more likely than women who are socially isolated to survive breast cancer, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Candyce H. Kroenke, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, said the study involved 2,264 women who were diagnosed with early-stage, invasive breast cancer from 1997 to 2000.

After providing information on their personal relationships, the women were characterized as socially isolated with few ties, moderately integrated, or socially integrated with many ties.

Previous research has shown women with larger social networks — including spouses or partners, female relatives, friends, religious and social ties, and ties to the community through volunteering — have better breast cancer survival outcomes.

The study, published in the Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, found socially isolated women were 34 percent more likely than socially integrated women to die from breast cancer or other causes.

Larger social networks were “unrelated to recurrence or breast cancer mortality, [but] they were associated with lower mortality from all causes,” the authors wrote in the study.

“Women with small networks and high levels of support were not at greater risk than those with large networks, but those with small networks and low levels of support were,” Kroenke said.

Women with small networks and low levels of support were 61 percent more likely to die from breast cancer and other causes than those with small networks and high levels of support, Kroenke said.

Copyright 2012 by United Press International

LA joins ‘Meatless Mondays’ campaign

The Los Angeles City Council has declared Meatless Mondays, joining other cities in urging residents to go vegetarian once a week.

The resolution adopted this week makes Los Angles the largest city so far to join the Meatless Monday campaign, NBC News reported. The effort was launched in 2003 at the school of public health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, one of the sponsors, said eating meat has been associated with health problems including a higher risk of many cancers. She cited the environmental problems associated with meat, which takes far more resources per pound to produce than the same amount of plant protein.

Copyright 2012 by United Press International

Squash may have anti-diabetic properties

Squash is mostly starchy carbohydrates but studies show it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties, a U.S. food expert says.

“Squash includes both winter and summer varieties, some examples include, zucchini from the summer and butternut, buttercup, acorn, pumpkin and kabocha from winter,” Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst, trend watcher and creator of, said in a statement.

“Many of the carbs in winter starch come from polysaccharides found in the cell walls. These polysaccharides include pectins — specially structured polysaccharides that in winter squash often include special chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan. An increasing number of animal studies now show that these starch-related components in winter squash have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.”

Although the squash is botanically classified as a fruit, many consider it a vegetable for culinary purposes. The carotenoids, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin, give many squash its signature orange color and are good for eye health.

Squash contains vitamin C, potassium, fiber, manganese and folate, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and copper.

Most varieties of squash start out green and turn orange when ripe but some are actually ripe when green. When choosing for cooking or baking, look for fruits that are heavy for their size with a hard shell, Lempert advised.

Copyright 2012 by United Press International

Energy drinks may rob sleep of military

Forty-five percent of deployed U.S. service members drank at least one energy drink daily, with 14 percent drinking three or more a day, health officials say.

A report published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report determined the extent of energy drink use and the association with sleep problems and sleepiness during combat operations. Walter Reed Army Institute of Research analyzed data collected by Joint Mental Health Advisory Team 7 to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2010.

The report said there were differences by age or rank but service members who drank three or more energy drinks a day were significantly more likely to report sleeping 4 hours or less a night on average than those consuming two drinks or fewer.

“Those who drank three or more drinks a day also were more likely to report sleep disruption related to stress and illness and were more likely to fall asleep during briefings or on guard duty,” the report said. “Service members should be educated regarding the potential adverse effects of excessive energy drink consumption on sleep and mission performance and should be encouraged to moderate their energy drink consumption in combat environments.”

Beverages marketed as energy drinks — caffeine is the main active ingredient — have become a popular form of caffeine consumption targeted at young males, with some brands containing the caffeine equivalent of 1 to 3 cups of coffee or cans of soda, the report said.

Copyright 2012 by United Press International

Medicare hospital payments to increase

U.S. government officials said they finalized out-patient Medicare hospital payment increases, which go into effect Jan. 1.

The Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System and Ambulatory Surgical Center updates Medicare payment policies and rates for hospital out-patient and Ambulatory Surgical Center services beginning Jan. 1.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the payment increase affects hospital out-patient departments in more than 4,000 U.S. hospitals including: general acute care hospitals, in-patient rehabilitation facilities, in-patient psychiatric facilities, long-term acute care hospitals, children’s hospitals and cancer hospitals, as well as 5,000 Medicare-participating Ambulatory Surgical Centers.

The Medicare hospital out-patient departments payments will increase 1.8 percent. The increase is based on the projected hospital market basket — an inflation rate for goods and services used by hospitals — of 2.6 percent, minus 0.8 percent in statutory reductions, including a 0.7 percent adjustment for economy-wide productivity and a 0.1 percentage point adjustment required by statute, officials said.

Ambulatory Surgical Center payment rates will increase 0.6 percent — the projected rate of inflation of 1.4 percent minus a 0.8 percent productivity adjustment required by law, officials said.

Copyright 2012 by United Press International

Starchy diet, colon cancer returning link

Colon cancer survivors who eat a lot of sugary and high-carbohydrate food have a higher risk of the cancer coming back, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and colleagues found in a previous study those with a typical “Western” diet — high intake of meat, fat, refined grains and sugary desserts — were three times more likely to have a cancer recurrence than those whose diets were least Western.

The study was conducted to explore which component of the Western diet was most responsible for the increased risk of colon cancer recurrence.

The study involved 1,011 stage III colon cancer patients who had undergone surgery and participated in a National Cancer Institute-sponsored Cancer and Leukemia Group B clinical trial of follow-up chemotherapy for their disease.

Participants reported their dietary intake during and six months after the trial.

Researchers tracked the patients’ total carbohydrates, as well as their glycemic index — a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular food — and glycemic load, which takes into account the amount of a carbohydrate actually consumed, and looked for a statistical connection between these measures and the recurrence of colon cancer.

The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found the study participants with the highest dietary levels of glycemic load and carbohydrate intake had an 80 percent increased risk of colon cancer recurrence or death compared with those who had the lowest levels. Among patients who were overweight or obese the increase was even greater, the study said.

Copyright 2012 by United Press International

Group sues over soda label claim

The manufacturer of 7UP faces a lawsuit over its touting of an antioxidant in its regular and diet Cherry Antioxidant sodas, a U.S. non-profit group says.

Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, said the lawsuit filed in federal court in California alleges the antioxidant claim is misleading, since it gives the impression that the antioxidants come from the pictured healthful fruits. The lawsuit also alleged the claims were illegal, since U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations prohibit fortifying nutritionally worthless snack foods and beverages with nutrients.

“Non-diet varieties of 7UP, like other sugary drinks, promote obesity, diabetes, tooth decay and other serious health problems and no amount of antioxidants could begin to reduce those risks,” Jacobson said in a statement. “Adding an antioxidant to a soda is like adding menthol to a cigarette — neither does anything to make an unhealthy product healthy.”

Despite the pictures of cherries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries and pomegranates on various 7UP labels, the drinks contain no fruit or juice of any kind, Jacobson said.

7UP Cherry Antioxidant contains water, high-fructose corn syrup, citric acid, potassium benzoate and the dye Red 40. The Mixed Berry and Pomegranate varieties also contain Blue 1 dye. One 12-ounce serving contains nine teaspoons of sugar and 140 calories, Jacobson said.

Copyright 2012 by United Press International

Great American Smokeout Nov. 15

The Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, is an annual event that encourages U.S. smokers to make a plan to quit, sponsors say.

The 37th annual Great American Smokeout is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 15.

Quitting smoking has immediate benefits to health at any age, including reduced risk for heart disease and certain cancers, American Cancer Society officials said.

A report on effective clinical treatments for tobacco dependence in 2008 found getting help through counseling or medications can double or triple the chances for quitting.

In 2010, a survey found nearly 2-out-of-3 adult smokers said they wanted to quit smoking, and approximately half had made a quit attempt for more than one day in the preceding year.

Additional information and support for quitting is available online at or by telephone at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, or 1-800-784-8669.

In addition, real stories of persons who have quit successfully can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tips from Former Smokers website at

Copyright 2012 by United Press International

Study: 443,000 die each year of smoking

An estimated 443,000 U.S. adults died in 2010 from smoking-related illnesses — the single largest preventable cause of death — federal health officials say.

A report published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said smoking was estimated to cost the United States $96 billion in direct medical expenses and $97 billion in lost productivity annually.

The CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health used data from the National Health Interview Survey to estimate current national cigarette smoking prevalence.

The findings indicated 19 percent of U.S. adults — 43.8 million — smoked cigarettes in 2011, down from 19.3 percent in 2010. Among daily smokers, the proportion who smoked more than 30 cigarettes per day declined significantly from 12.6 percent in 2005 to 9.1 percent in 2011, but the proportion of those who smoked one to nine cigarettes per day increased significantly, from 16.4 percent to 22 percent, the report said.

Of the 43.8 million cigarette smokers on 2011, 77.8 percent smoked every day, and 22.2 percent smoked some days.

Overall, among current smokers and those who had quit during the preceding year, 51.8 percent made a quit attempt for more than one day during the preceding year, the report said.

Copyright 2012 by United Press International