Health Highlights: April 30, 2013
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Rise in Caffeinated Food Products Could Threaten Children's Health: FDA
Concerns about the increasing number of food products with added caffeine has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take a closer look at their impact on children's health.
The agency is already investigating the safety of caffeinated energy drinks and energy shots, which have been linked to reports of illness and death. In recent years, food makers have added caffeine to candy, nuts and other snack foods, the Associated Press reported.
This week, Wrigley introduced a caffeinated gum called Alert Energy Gum. Each piece of gum contains about 40 milligrams of caffeine, equivalent to the amount in half a cup of coffee.
Other examples of caffeinated food products include Jelly Belly "Extreme Sport Beans," which have 50 mg of caffeine in each 100-calorie pack, and trail mix, chips and other products from Arma Energy Snx.
The FDA says it is closely watching the marketing of caffeinated foods and wants to know more about their safety. The only time the FDA explicitly approved the added use of caffeine in a food or drink was in the 1950s for colas, Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner of foods, told the AP.
He said the current rush to add caffeine to a wide range of foods is "beyond anything FDA envisioned." He said the trend is "disturbing" and that the FDA is concerned about whether these products "have been adequately evaluated."
The makers of caffeinated foods say they market their products to adults, but critics note that many of the products are appealing to children. Too much caffeine can be dangerous for children because they are less able to process it than adults, major medical associations warn. Caffeine has been linked to harmful effects on children's developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The FDA will look at added caffeine in food products in its totality, Taylor told the AP. While one caffeinated product may not cause harm, the increasing number of caffeinated foods and beverages on the market could be a threat to children's health, he explained.
Simplified Health Benefits Form Released by Obama Administration
A simplified application for health insurance benefits under the new health care law will be introduced Tuesday by the Obama administration.
The earlier draft of the application was widely criticized for being too complex and there were concerns that uninsured people would give up in frustration, the Associated Press reported.
The new application will be easier to navigate and much less intimidating, according to Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, who was briefed on the changes.
Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner, who is also in charge of the health care law rollout, said the new application is "significantly shorter than industry standards," the AP reported.
Windpipe Implanted in Young Girl
Doctors built and implanted a windpipe in a 30-month-old girl who was born without one. She is the youngest person ever to receive a bioengineered organ.
The surgery, which took place April 9 at Children's Hospital of Illinois, is the first of its kind in the United States and the sixth such procedure to be performed worldwide, The New York Times reported.
Hannah Warren was born without a windpipe (trachea), an extremely rare condition that is fatal in 99 percent of cases. Since she was born, the Korean-Canadian girl was in a newborn intensive care unit in a Korean hospital and breathed through a tube inserted in her mouth.
Hannah is breathing largely on her own, although she's doing so through a hole in her neck, not through her mouth yet, pediatric surgeon Dr. Mark Holterman told The Times.
"She's doing well," he said. "She had some complications from the surgery, but the trachea itself is doing great."
First Woman With Transplanted Womb is Pregnant
A Turkish woman who was the first to successfully have a womb transplant from a donor is six weeks pregnancy, according to Akdeniz University Hospital.
A hospital statement released Monday said doctors have monitored a fetal heartbeat and that the pregnancy is going well, the Associated Press reported.
The 22-year-old mother, Derya Sert, was born without a womb and had one transplanted in August 2011. Using one of her own eggs, doctors placed an embryo into Sert's womb in March.
If she has a successful birth, it would give hope to women who were born without a womb or lose it to disease, according to the AP.