Babies can learn to love vegetables

Feeding a babyDo not give up on introducing new vegetables, researchers say

Children can learn to eat new vegetables if they are introduced regularly before the age of two, suggests a University of Leeds study.

Even fussy eaters can be encouraged to eat more greens if they are offered them five to 10 times, it found.

The research team gave artichoke puree to 332 children aged between four and 38 months from the UK, France and Denmark.

One in five cleared their plates while 40% learned to like artichoke.

The study also dispelled the popular myth that vegetable tastes need to be masked in order for children to eat them.

During the study, each child was given between five and 10 servings of at least 100g of artichoke puree.

The puree was either served straight, or sweetened with added sugar, or vegetable oil was mixed into the puree to add energy.

The researchers found there was little difference in the amount eaten over time between those who were fed the basic puree and those who had the sweetened one, suggesting that making vegetables sweeter does not encourage children to eat more.

Overall, they did find that younger children ate more artichoke than older children in the study.

ArtichokesPureed artichoke was fed several times to each child in the study

Prof Marion Hetherington, study author from the Institute of Psychological Sciences at Leeds, said this was because children become picky and wary at a certain age.

“If they are under two they will eat new vegetables because they tend to be willing and open to new experiences.

“After 24 months, children become reluctant to try new things and start to reject foods – even those they previously liked.”

Most children in the study were found to be “learners” (40%), who ate more artichoke over time.

Twenty-one per cent consumed more than three-quarters of their serving each time and were labelled “plate-clearers”.

“Non-eaters” made up 16% of the children because they ate less than 10g even when it was offered for a fifth time, while the rest did not conform to any one group.

Prof Hetherington said her research, which is published in the journal PLOS ONE and funded by the EU, offered some valuable guidance to parents who want to encourage healthy diets in their children.

“If you want to encourage your children to eat vegetables, make sure you start early and often.

“Even if your child is fussy or does not like veggies, our study shows that five to 10 exposures will do the trick.”

Globe artichoke was chosen as the vegetable in the study because parents said it was one of the vegetables they were least likely to cook.

NHS guidelines are to start weaning children on to solid foods at six months.

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Pharmacyclics, J&J drug shown to improve leukemia survival

(Reuters) – A new drug for the most common form of leukemia in adults improves survival for patients whose disease has worsened despite standard treatment, according to late-stage study findings released on Saturday.

Ibrutinib, sold by Pharmacyclics Inc and Johnson & Johnson under the brand name Imbruvica, was approved by U.S. regulators for treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia in February.

The therapy “beat the pants off” of ofatumumab, or Arzerra, marketed by GlaxoSmithKline Plc, in the Phase 3 trial, said Dr. John Byrd, the study’s lead investigator and a professor of medicine at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus, Ohio.

JP Morgan analyst Cory Kasimov said the trial results, along with the fact that the drug is a pill that does not need to be combined with another therapy, could help propel sales.

Pharmacyclics said earlier this month that it expected Imbruvica revenue of $295 million this year, which disappointed some investors.

The trial involved 391 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia that had progressed after two or more prior therapies. Standard treatment for such patients is a combination of chemotherapy and an antibody drug, such as Arzerra.

The results were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting on Saturday in Chicago.

At a median follow-up of 9.4 months, the study found that ibrutinib lowered the risk of death by 57 percent compared with ofatumumab. Researchers said they expect the trial to result in median overall survival in the range of several years.

At median follow-up, 86 percent of patients on ibrutinib had responded to the drug and were continuing treatment with minimal side effects, compared with response rates between 35 percent and 40 percent for standard therapies, Dr. Byrd said.

Side effects associated with ibrutinib included diarrhea, minor bleeding and heart arrhythmias.

“These results provide a compelling new treatment option for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, including older adults with this disease, and will significantly change (physicians’) practice,” Dr. Olatoyosi Odenike, a leukemia expert at the University of Chicago said in an ASCO statement. Odenike was not involved in the study.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in February approved Imbruvica as a secondary treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. It was previously approved for mantle cell lymphoma patients who have tried other therapies.

Studies are also under way to test the drug as an initial treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Imbruvica is an oral drug designed to target an enzyme known as Bruton’s tyrosine kinase and block the function of certain cancerous cells.

Drugs in a similar class are under development by companies including AbbVie and Gilead Sciences Inc.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a slowly progressing form of blood cancer, is diagnosed in about 16,000 Americans and will kill around 4,600 every year, according to the American Cancer Society.

(Reporting By Deena Beasley; Editing by Michele Gershberg, Jonathan Oatis and Nick Zieminski)

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Cancer waiting time targets slip

CalendarPatients suspected to have cancer should be seen within 62 days

A key government target for treating people diagnosed with suspected cancer has been breached for the first time since it was introduced in 2009.

NHS England guidelines say that 85% of patients should wait a maximum of 62 days to begin their first treatment following referral from their GP.

But figures show this slipped to 84.4% from January to March this year.

Charities Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support both said it was a worrying sign.

The target for treating people diagnosed with cancer within 62 days fell from 85.8% during the previous quarter to 84.4% in the first three months of 2014.

Mike Hobday, director of policy and research at Macmillan Cancer Support, said the number of trusts missing this target had doubled over the last year.

“This is a clear warning sign that the NHS is under huge strain.

“The UK already has some of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe.

“More patients are now facing delays, which means more patients are facing anxiety for longer and more lives are being put at risk.

“We’re very worried that the coordination of cancer care is getting worse and that cancer is being overlooked in the new NHS.”

MoleCancer charities said the targets were there to encourage fast diagnosis of cancer

He said cancer patients were set to increase from two million to three million by 2020.

Sarah Woolnough, executive director of policy and information at Cancer Research UK, said some patients were being failed.

“The breach of the ’62 day target’ is very concerning, particularly as four in 10 of those who aren’t treated within two months are having to wait three months or more.

“These targets exist to encourage swift diagnosis of cancer and access to treatment, which is vital to improve survival rates.

“Patients want confidence that suspected cancer is taken seriously and prioritised by the NHS. We hope urgent action will be taken to ensure this breach is a one off.”

Performance dip

Sean Duffy, national clinical director for cancer for NHS England, said work must be done to make sure standards are met.

“It is vital cancer patients are diagnosed and treated quickly so they have the best possible chance of recovery,” he said.

“Latest figures show nationally the NHS has met and exceeded seven out of eight cancer waiting time standards. But there is variation in meeting the challenging standards, and national performance against one of the targets has dipped.”

He said clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) were working with local providers in areas where the standard is not being met to ensure patients are treated quickly.

Other figures released by NHS England on cancer waiting times showed the number of people seen by a specialist within two weeks of an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer also dropped from 95.6% to 95%.

For people urgently referred for breast symptoms, where cancer is not suspected, 93.9% are being seen within two weeks, compared to 95.5% previously. The target is 93%.

In total, 60,425 patients with breast symptoms where cancer was not initially suspected were seen in the first three months of this year after being urgently referred.

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House OKs plan to protect state medical marijuana laws

A marijuana leaf is displayed at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Washington, November 27, 2012.  REUTERS/Anthony Bolante

A marijuana leaf is displayed at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Washington, November 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Anthony Bolante

(Reuters) – The U.S. federal government would not be allowed to spend money to block states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws under legislation passed by the House of Representatives as more states legalize using it to treat various ailments.

The Republican-led House of Representatives passed the measure late on Thursday as part of a larger bipartisan funding bill. The measure still needs approval in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and then to be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who offered the amendment, called its passage “a victory for states’ rights, for the doctor-patient relationship, for compassion, for fiscal responsibility.”

It seeks to “prohibit the use of funds to prevent certain states from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana,” according to the amendment, which passed by a 219-189 vote.

Minnesota this week became the latest of the more than 20 states to put in place laws permitting marijuana use to treat conditions such as cancer and epilepsy.

“Federal tax dollars will no longer be wasted arresting seriously ill medical marijuana patients and those who provide to them,” said Dan Riffle, federal policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that backs wider marijuana use.

Polls show a growing number of Americans accept wider use of the drug, while states also see it an a potential new source of tax and other revenue to fill coffers drained by the recent economic slowdown.

But some state governors and others see legalizing marijuana as taking its acceptance a step too far. Some critics also worry that marijuana’s wider use is outpacing the regulations needed to control it.

Thursday’s amendment is part of a larger bill to fund the Department of Justice next fiscal year, but must still be squared with the Senate’s version of the spending bill.

While the federal government still classifies marijuana as an illegal narcotic, the Obama administration has signaled willingness to allow looser enforcement, including encouraging banks to support state-licensed suppliers.

“This is a historic vote, and it’s yet another sign that our federal government is shifting toward a more sensible marijuana policy,” the Marijuana Policy Project’s Riffle said.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, editing by G Crosse)

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In treating some cancer patients, less is more: U.S. studies

(Reuters) – Doctors can scale back treatment for certain cancer patients, based on evidence that some drugs can be used less frequently, according to new information that is clearing the way for physicians to limit the risks of care.

Several studies backing up this “less-is-more” strategy, which can also lower the cost of care, were presented on Friday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago.

Patients with breast cancer that has spread to the bone, for instance, are often treated with monthly intravenous infusions of a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates, such as zoledronic acid, that protect against fractures and other bone problems. Zoledronic acid is sold by Novartis AG under the brand name Zometa.

Researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston found that women with breast cancer and bone metastasis can, after the first year of monthly bisphosphonate treatment, safely scale back to receiving the drug every three months. The change could lower the risk of kidney problems as well as a rare, but serious side effect in which parts of the jawbones weaken and die.

“We found that less frequent treatment may reduce the risk of serious side effects, with added benefits in reduced patient inconvenience and cost,” lead study author Dr. Gabriel Hortobagyi said in a statement.

A separate study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that certain patients with head and neck cancer linked to the human papillomavirus can safely receive lower-dose radiation therapy without compromising their chances of survival.

This approach would spare many patients from debilitating, often lifelong side effects of radiation treatment, such as trouble swallowing, loss of taste and thyroid problems – but more long-term follow up of patients is needed, said lead study author Dr. Anthony Cmelak, a professor of radiation oncology at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Another federally funded study showed that it is safe to stop the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins in cancer patients with a life expectancy of less than a year. It estimated that the move would save around $603 million in the United States. Commonly used statins include atorvastatin, sold by Pfizer under the brand name Lipitor.

The study found that discontinuing statins, which are used to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, did not shorten survival, but did reduce incidence of cancer symptoms, including pain, depression, nausea and tiredness.

“We now have evidence that discontinuing certain medications is safe, specifically, in the case of the widely prescribed statin drugs, and can improve quality of life for patients,” Dr Patricia Ganz, a Los Angeles hematologist and American Society of Clinical Oncology expert, said in a statement.

(Reporting By Deena Beasley; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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US measles cases reach 20-year high

A California child receives an immunisation shot.Parents are being encouraged to get their children vaccinated

Public health experts in the US are urging people to get vaccinated after a spike in measles cases in the country this year.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported 288 cases of measles in the first five months of 2014 – the largest number for 20 years.

The outbreak is thought to be linked to US citizens travelling to the Philippines.

The CDC says timely vaccination is the best way to prevent measles.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC’s National Centre for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, said many US healthcare providers had never seen or treated a patient with measles because of the country’s robust vaccination efforts and rapid response to outbreaks.

Measles was eliminated from the United States in 2000, meaning that for more than 12 months there was no longer any continuous measles transmission.

She said: “The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily US residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated.”

“Many of the clusters in the US began following travel to the Philippines where a large outbreak has been occurring since October 2013.”

Two doses

Of the 288 cases, 280 were thought to have been imported from at least 18 countries.

Ninety per cent of all measles cases in the US occurred in people who were not vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown.

More than one in seven cases has led to stays in hospital.

In the US, the CDC recommends two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for everyone starting at age 12 months.

For those travelling abroad, the CDC recommends that babies older than six months receive the MMR vaccine.

Measles is a serious viral illness that is highly contagious.

The initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after infection. These can include cold-like symptoms, red eyes and sensitivity to light, a high temperature or fever and greyish white spots in the mouth and throat.

After a few days, a red-brown spotty rash will appear. This usually starts behind the ears and then spreads around the head and neck before spreading to the rest of the body.

Measles is still common in many parts of the world, including countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa.

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Obama: when it comes to head injuries in sports, don't just 'suck it up'

U.S. President Barack Obama is introduced by Victoria Belluci of Huntington, Md.(L) at the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit while in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 29, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Thursday more effort is needed to prevent concussions in young athletes, including greater awareness of the severity of head injuries, which are too often dismissed as headaches instead of serious brain trauma.

Obama, speaking at a White House conference highlighting the risks of concussions to young athletes, called for more research, improved safety equipment and better protocols.

“We’ve got to have every parent and coach and teacher recognize the signs of concussions, and we need more athletes to understand how important it is to do what we can to prevent injuries – and to admit them when they do have them,” he said.

“We have to change that culture that says, ‘You suck it up'” and play through the pain, Obama said.

Brain injuries, long a concern for the military, are increasingly receiving attention in sports leagues, not only among professional athletes but also youth players. Concerns have spread beyond violent contact sports such as football and hockey to soccer and even cheerleading.

As many as 250,000 youths each year are treated in hospitals for sports-related concussions and other injuries, according to the latest figures from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has launched its own campaign on the issue.

The event at the White House, peppered with former athletes, representatives of major U.S. sports leagues and health experts, aimed to use Obama’s office to draw attention to avoiding and treating sports-related head injuries.

Concussions often first appear with headache-like symptoms and can cause memory problems, confusion, nausea and dizziness, and repeated concussions can cause longer-term problems. Researchers are increasingly looking at repeated minor injuries, not just major head blows.

Players of all ages are often still reluctant to admit to their symptoms or stop playing.

Obama was introduced by Victoria Bellucci, a Maryland teenager who suffered a concussion after “heading” a soccer ball.

“Thinking it was only a headache, I played in the game the very next day, a mistake many players make,” she said.

Many U.S. states have passed laws in recent years aimed at overhauling school guidelines for student athletes and preventing injured players from returning too soon. Some U.S. lawmakers are also tackling the issue, targeting companies that falsely market sports products as able to prevent concussions.

While rain in Washington halted plans for a safety demonstration on the White House lawn, experts speaking inside urged parents to encourage activity but remain cautious.

Obama, a sports enthusiast and father of two daughters, said the aim is not for people to stop playing sports but to be aware of the signs and symptoms of concussions and take precautions.

“Sports are vital to this country and it’s a responsibility for us to make sure young, talented kids … are able to participate as safely as possible,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Bill Trott and Steve Orlofsky)

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Tanning beds must carry skin cancer warning: U.S. FDA

A view shows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland August 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

A view shows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland August 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is strengthening its regulation of tanning beds, which have been shown to increase the risk of skin cancer.

The FDA, which is reclassifying sun lamp products from low risk to moderate risk, said on Thursday that in future sun lamp manufacturers must seek approval before they market a new product.

In addition, tanning beds must carry a visible warning against their use in people under the age of 18. Warnings about the risk of skin cancer must be included in any user instructions, brochures or marketing materials on the internet.

The requirement that beds carry a label warning against use in young people does not carry any legal weight and salon owners would not face fines if they allowed under 18-year-olds to use them.

Some dermatologists and public health advocates had argued for an actual restriction, which would have carried penalties for violators.

“We applaud the FDA for taking this important first step,” said Dr. Brett Coldiron, president of the American Academy of Dermatology Association in a statement. “However, we recognize that there is still more work to be done to protect the public from these dangerous devices.”

A study by the American Academy of Dermatology found that people exposed to ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning faced a 59 percent higher risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.

Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said repeated UV exposure from sun lamp products poses a risk of skin cancer for all users, “but the highest risk for skin cancer is in young persons under the age of 18 and people with a family history of skin cancer.”

(Reporting by Vrinda Manocha in Bangalore; Editing by Kirti Pandey)

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New bird flu 'not global threat'

By James Gallagher
Health and science reporter, BBC News

Influenza virus

The latest type of bird flu detected in China, H10N8, does not pose an imminent global threat, say researchers.

There have been three reported cases and two deaths since December 2013.

UK Medical Research Council scientists analysed the molecular structure of the virus to show it did not share the characteristics of previous pandemics.

Instead they argued resources should be focused on other flu viruses that are emerging or are already present in South East Asia.

There are a number of bird flus that are making the jump from animals to humans.

The phenomenon is most notable in China, where there is a large population that culturally lives closely with birds, such as live poultry markets.

H7N9 emerged in March last year and there were more than a hundred cases in the first month. There is also the longstanding threat of H5N1 influenza, which kills nearly two in three people infected.

‘Need to be aware’

The study on the latest bird flu to emerge, published by the journal Nature, analysed how well the surface of the virus could bind to human tissue – a key measure of how likely it is to spread.

It showed the H10N8 virus still had a clear preference for infecting birds rather than humans, a trait that it is likely would need to be reversed before it became a serious threat.

Dr John McCauley, the director of the World Health Organization Influenza Centre at the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research, told the BBC: “This has been a pretty rare event in one place in China. It highlights the need to be aware, but I don’t think there’s an imminent threat.

“There are higher priorities than H10N8. Other avian influenzas emerging in China or those around for the past 10 years pose a more significant threat than H10N8.”

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Hunt for MERS source should look beyond camels: veterinary officials

A man wearing a mask looks on as he stands in front of camels at a camel market in the village of al-Thamama near Riyadh May 11, 2014. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

A man wearing a mask looks on as he stands in front of camels at a camel market in the village of al-Thamama near Riyadh May 11, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser

(Reuters) – Scientists lack proof that camels are the source of a deadly new virus that has killed 186 people in Saudi Arabia and should widen their hunt to other animals, veterinary experts meeting in Paris said.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since infected more than 650 people worldwide, including in the United States and France. It can cause flu-like symptoms, pneumonia and organ failure in some.

So far, most evidence points to camels as the infection source but there is no certainty yet, making further and wider research indispensable, they said.

“We know nothing on a potential transmission mode between camels and humans, neither on food products from camels which could be involved,” Bernard Vallat, Director General of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), told a news conference.

Juan Lubroth, Chief Veterinary Officer of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, called for further studies on camels and on other animals including bats, rats and even pets such as cats and dogs.

Bats have been found with a virus close to MERS.

“I think we should keep our mind open and that an investigation where we have very little information has to be wider,” Lubroth said.

Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), insisted at the start of the OIE’s general session on Sunday there was still no proof of a link between camels and humans.

“The evidence is by no means conclusive and we need to know this as we issue advice to the public,” she said.


With initial evidence pointing to camels, authorities in infected countries and the WHO called for extra precaution when dealing with the animals such as wearing masks and gloves.

The link with camels is the subject of extensive study among scientists outside Saudi Arabia, but it has been relatively absent from much of the official domestic debate.

Saudi Arabia’s acting health minister Adel Fakieh told Reuters on Wednesday that the kingdom was working with international scientific organizations to improve its response.

The WHO held an emergency meeting earlier this month on MERS. It said there was no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by Alister Doyle)

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