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The Possible Health Benefits of Mistletoe?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Leave it to medical researchers to find something about mistletoe that has nothing to do with kissing. The traditional plant that people hang in their homes at Christmastime may one day keep your liver healthy.

In a report published on the website Science Daily, researchers say a compound produced by a particular variety of the plant -- Korean mistletoe -– may help fight obesity-related liver disease in mice.

That particular mistletoe contains a number of biologically active compounds, including steroids, flavonoids and viscothionin.

When the researchers treated obese mice with viscothionin, their body and liver weights dropped.

The researchers say more work is needed, but viscothionin may one day be useful in fighting fatty liver disease, which is linked to obesity and can progress to liver failure in some cases.

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Parents Should Buy Teens Newer, Safer Cars


dolgachov/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Parents buying their teenage children cars should open up their wallet and opt for a new car instead of a used one, researchers say.

A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and published in the journal Injury Prevention, looked at national data on drivers between the ages of 15 and 17 and drivers aged 35 to 50 who were killed in car accidents. The biggest difference, the study found, was the age of the cars.

An overwhelming majority -- 82 percent -- of the teenagers killed in crashes were driving vehicles that were more than six years old. Even more striking, 48 percent were driving vehicles 11 years old or older.

Those older cars, researchers say, were less likely to have safety features, such as electronic stability control and side air bags, which might have cut the rate of teens killed in crashes. In fact, researchers say, the rate of fatal crashes for teens is about three times that for adult drivers.

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Report Names Most, Least Prepared States for Infectious Disease


Spotmatik/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new report named the most and least prepared states in the country when it comes to infectious disease.

The report, put out by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, used ten indicators of preparedness to judge the states. At the top of the list of best prepared states? Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. On the other end of the spectrum, Arkansas finished at the bottom of the list.

Among the indicators used in the report are preparation for emerging threats, vaccinations, healthcare-associated infections, sexually-transmitted infections, food safety, core capabilities, integration of health care and public health and leadership and accountability. A state successful in a given indicator would receive one point.

The top five states, TFAH said, received just eight out of 10 possible points, while Arkansas received just two.

Among the biggest problems, the report indicated, were that just 14 percent of states vaccinate at least half of their population and only 16 states performed better than the national standardized infection ratio for central-line-associated bloodstream infections.

The full report can be found here.

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What to Know About European Union's Obesity Ruling


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Europe's highest court ruled on Thursday that obesity can, under certain circumstances, be considered a disability, taking a step forward against obesity discrimination, experts say.

The European Court of Justice heard the case of a child-care worker identified in the ruling as "Mr. Kaltoft," who claimed he had been fired from his job because of his weight. The court ruled that although obesity was itself not a disability, it can cause certain hindrances that can be considered a disability.

"In the past, employers have said with respect to obesity, 'Well, this is their fault,'" said Ted Kyle, chairman of the nonprofit Obesity Action Coalition, which is headquartered in Florida. Until now, employers did not feel obligated to accommodate obese employees in the workplace because they deemed that being obese was a personal choice, Kyle noted.

He said various genetic and environmental factors are at play when it comes to obesity, and that employers are realizing they can't discriminate people based on weight.

The European Court of Justice ruled that it was for the national court to determine whether Kaltoft's obesity qualifies as a disability -- analogous to the U.S. Supreme Court tossing a case back to a lower state court to hash out the details.

Though we have the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States, Rebecca Puhl, deputy director at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, said obesity only meets the definition of disability in some cases. In most cases, it does not meet the definition and the legal cases that hinge on obesity as a disability are generally not successful.

"The plaintiff must prove that his or her obesity is disabling or perceived to be disabling by others," Puhl said.

Kelly Brownell, a professor at Duke University's Stanford School of Public Policy, said although some people may not want to be labeled as having a disability, he thinks the move is positive and puts Europe ahead of the United States.

"My perspective on this is that it's a good idea because there's very clear research showing that overweight people are discriminated against in most settings where there have been studies," Brownell said, pointing toward studies in education, health care and employment.

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Medical Miracles that Happened in 2014


Second Sight(NEW YORK) -- Modern medicine has always been capable of amazing things, but 2014 was an especially remarkable year.

Much of what happened over the past 12 months wasn’t even possible just a few short years ago. Some occurrences, like the ones that follow, might even qualify as miracles:

Bionic Eyesight

In October, a North Carolina man became one of the first people in the world to receive a bionic prosthetic eye implant. After being blind for over 30 years, doctors were able to restore a limited amount of his sight.

The wireless device works by picking up light through a tiny camera and transmitting the light into the nerves of the retina which then send signals to the brain. The University of California researchers who developed the technology call it basic but “a huge leap forward.”

Robokick

The 2014 World Cup soccer tournament began with a kick by a paraplegic man in a mind-controlled exoskeleton.

“As we go after the world cup, we would like to examine a number of other movements," said Miguel Nicolelis, one of the 100 researchers who helped develop the robotic suit as part of the Walk Again Project.

3D Printed Body Parts

This was the year print-on-demand body parts became a viable reality. From the prosthetic hand printed for under $10 by high schoolers to the custom “bionic arm” 3D printed for a 6-year-old boy, scientists and citizens alike printed up a substitute for just about every joint in the body. Scientists also experimented with bio-printing organs as well.

Miracle Babies

This was a banner year for miracle babies. Conjoined twins survived and thrived in Dallas, a rare “Ghost Baby” born without 80 percent of her blood was saved, and there was a breakthrough stem cell treatment in the so-called “bubble baby disease,” a rare condition that leaves its young victims without a workable immune system.

Miracle Moms

When a 40-year-old woman’s heart stopped beating for 45 minutes during labor, doctors were about to call her time of death. Suddenly they spotted a blip on the heart monitor.

"I remember seeing a spiritual being who I believe was my dad," Ruby Graupera-Cassimiro said of the incident which happened in November. "I remember the light behind him and many other spiritual beings."

Incredibly, her heart started again on its own, doctors said. She successfully delivered a healthy baby girl, Taily, by cesarean.

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Why Drew Barrymore Waited to Lose the Baby Weight


Mark Davis/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Drew Barrymore and her husband Will Kopelman welcomed their second child, a daughter Frankie, this past April and only now is she starting to worry about shedding the extra baby weight.

“It took nine months to build. It should take nine months to get off,” she told People magazine of waiting to focus on dropping the weight. “I wanted fettuccini alfredo. I didn’t want a barbell.”

As for those mothers that immediately get in the gym right after giving birth, Barrymore doesn't want to hear it.

“I was like, ‘Don’t talk to me about how fast and fabulous you are or it came off.' That was not my experience. I’m having to work my ass off until I even think about getting it off,” she added.

Frankie joins big sis Olive, 2, and with the family growing, the actress, 39, says she is working less and less.

"The acting has to be less and less because it’s too time-consuming. I love it and I don’t want to abandon it, but it can’t be at the forefront right now,” she said.

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How Rapper Rick Ross Lost 85 Pounds


Craig Barritt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Rapper Rick Ross is a music industry heavyweight who has been known as much for his big hits as his imposing size. But he’s sporting a far slimmer physique these days.

In an interview with ABC News’ Sara Haines, the “Hustlin’” rapper who was born William Leonard Roberts II said he’d lost about 85 pounds in the past year through lifestyle changes and CrossFit workouts.

“I just feel like I was at the point in my life where, you know, so many other positive things were happening in my career, my life. And, you know, two years ago I suffered two seizures,” the 38-year-old said. “And, you know, I woke up from that. And I was like, ‘Wow.’”

He added: “I was just like, ‘I really need to, you know, re-evaluate what I'm doing.’"

The rapper had embraced his more rotund shape. He famously appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone showing off his large bare belly.

He told Haines he had to change.

“You know, I feel I'm fat boy forever. I'm going to always be a fat boy. But it most definitely was just something I had to do, you know, for the better, you know. And I always enjoy my size. I love taking my shirt off, running around, you know … it was really a health issue for me,” he said.

He made some drastic changes, cutting back on his drinking, sleeping more and watching what he ate.

“Sodas was the first thing I cut out. Most definitely. That was, majority of my sugar. The way I ate, you know, fast food,” he said.

Now, on a typical day, he’ll have three eggs with turkey bacon for breakfast, then he’ll do a workout.

"That's RossFit, you know. I put a twist on that CrossFit,” he said, laughing.

Ross said he gets in three to four CrossFit workouts per week, and admits that some people have questioned the change, which can go against the stereotype of rappers always living the high life.

To those detractors, Ross has an answer.

“I say, ‘Baby, you already know ... I still got it. Ain't nothing went nowhere. You just better with it, you know what I mean? And you know, everything really been going well,” he said.

Ross is forging full-steam ahead musically, churning out album after album. His latest is Hood Billionaire, his second in seven months.

He said it’s a result of his passion for music.

When Haines asked him whether the weight loss affected his music or his life, he replied:

“Not at all, you know. My music just comes … from the heart,” adding that he drew inspiration from all aspects of life, including the interview with Haines.

He jokingly told Haines he might rap about her.

“I may actually put your name, you never know, in a verse," he said. "But, you know, every day I wake up, there's something new for me to feed on, or I see something new that's going on around me that I could make not just a punch line, but an actual topic for an incredible record."

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Childhood Diseases Can Also Sicken Adults


ABC/Rick Rowell(ARLINGTON, Va.) — Angelina Jolie missed the premiere of her movie Unbroken because she came down with chickenpox. Meanwhile, more than a dozen players from the National Hockey League were diagnosed with the mumps.

Aren’t these childhood illnesses? Yes they are, but that doesn’t mean adults can’t get them.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, explains there are several factors at work here, one being that vaccination rates have fallen across the country, meaning the chances of being exposed to chickenpox, mumps, measles and whooping cough have increased.

Right or wrong, the anti-vaccine movement that has gained strength over the years is putting more people at risk.

Another problem is that vaccines aren’t perfect and if someone has been immunized as a kid, the vaccine's effect can wear off over the course of time. In other words, just become you didn’t come down with an infectious disease as a child doesn’t mean you’ll never get sick if exposed to the disease as an adult.

It’s believed that the NHL players passed along the mumps to one another although it’s difficult to ascertain how Jolie developed chicken pox. However, doctors know that since she’s gotten sick, Jolie is more susceptible to other diseases down the road such as shingles, which causes painful rashes.

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Gift-Giving to Kids Can Have Its Pitfalls


iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Parents love giving presents to their children almost as much as kids love getting them.

However, when moms and dads use material possessions to manage their children’s behavior, it can create problems when their youngsters become adults themselves, according to researchers at the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Based on questions posed to 700 adults about their childhood relationships with their parents as well as how they were rewarded or punished, study investigator Marsha Richins said that people who constantly received material things as rewards for good behavior will often grow up thinking that success is defined by how much they own.

Richins and her colleagues also found that adults tended to be materialistic if their parents showed disappointment with them or failed to carve out time for them.

Furthermore, when children’s behaviors were managed through rewards or punishments, they also tended to value pricy possessions as adults.

Lan Chaplin, who also worked on the study, says there’s nothing really wrong with parents giving children gifts as long as the kids are taught to show gratitude, especially for the people in their lives. In that way, they’ll grow up to become more generous and less concerned about material things.

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Men with High Levels of Testosterone Are Spicy Food Lovers


iStock/Thinkstock(GRENOBLE, France) — A manly man likes spicy foods, true or false?

While it seems a bit preposterous, researchers at France’s University of Grenoble say that a man’s liking of hot and spicy grub may actually prove that he has higher levels of testosterone than guys who regularly pass on fiery foods.

The proof, as it were, was in the mashed potatoes or rather, what the researchers offered participants to put on their potatoes.

Some of the 114 men in the study, ages 18 to 44, opted for spicy pepper sauce while others chose table salt. Upon measuring their saliva, the researchers discovered that men with more testosterone were the generally the ones who favored the spicy sauce.

In one way, it appeared to make sense since the hormone is often associated with risk-taking and what could be more risky than food that burns your mouth?

However, the researchers weren’t ready to jump to the conclusion that spicy food also causes men’s testosterone levels to spike even though it seemed to happen when they conducted tests on rats.

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Warlike Metaphors Make the Cancer Fight Harder


iStock/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) — Perhaps we’ve been going about the war on cancer all wrong.

That’s the finding of University of Michigan researcher David Hauser, who says that metaphors used when describing people’s efforts to resist the disease, such as “fight” and “battle,” can detract from cancer-prevention behaviors.

In one experiment, Hauser had more than 300 participants read one of two passage about colorectal cancer. One constantly referred to this cancer as an “enemy” while the other contained no such metaphors.

Essentially, people who read the passage with more belligerent language seemed less likely to choose preventative measures to reduce their risk of contracting colorectal cancer such as limiting red meat, quitting smoking and other healthful advice.

While trying to boost people’s resolve in dealing with cancer, these warlike metaphors, which are pervasive in science journalism, inadvertently have “unfortunate side-effects,” according to Hauser.

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Most Youngsters Don't Eat Three Meals Daily


iStock/Thinkstock(JONESUU, Finland) — Breakfast lunch dinner. Breakfast lunch dinner. Breakfast lunch dinner.

By now, you know the drill that three meals a day are important for optimum health, especially when it comes to children. But since we don’t live in a perfect world, many youngsters aren’t getting three squares daily.

That’s the finding of University of Eastern Finland PhD candidate Aino-Maija Eloranta who studied the eating habits of more than 500 children between the ages of six and eight.

Only 45 percent of the boys and a third of the girls ate breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and the meal that they tended to skip the most was dinner, considered the one with the most calories and nutrients.

The study also involved measuring the youngsters’ body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure and other important data. As it turns out, those children who ate three meals had smaller waists and were far less prone to being overweight than others who didn’t eat major meals.

However, regardless of how many meals they consumed, snacks were regularly consumed by all children, providing more than 40 percent of their daily calories in some cases.

Eloranta doesn't completely disparage snacks although she worries that they are often high in sugar and low in important stuff like fiber.

In general, she says that parents should try to feed their kids three meals daily, which can help them to avoid obesity and heart problems later in life.

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Study: Many Patients Don't Know How to Use Inhalers, Epi-Pens Properly


Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study found that many patients with inhalers or epi-pens do not use them correctly.

According to the study, published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, researchers at the University of Texas looked at a small sampling of patients and found that 84 percent of those with severe food and medication allergies are unable to use their epinephrine injector properly. They also determined that 93 percent of study participants were unable to use their asthma inhaler properly.

Researchers say that younger patients were more likely to use their device properly when compared to older patients, and men were more likely than women to use the devices correctly.

A larger study would be necessary to verify the percentages, but the researchers call the failure of many patients to properly use these devices problematic. They did note, however, that not all of the errors made in the study would have put a patient's life at risk.

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Clot Removal Linked to Improved Odds of Limiting Disability in Stroke Victims


Jochen Sands/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study shows that removing the blood clot that causes a stroke may improve odds of limiting disability caused by that stroke.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, notes that while intravenous alteplase -- used to break down blood clots -- within 4.5 hours of the onset of stroke symptoms is the only therapy with proof of efficacy, intraarterial therapy -- including the retrieval of the clot -- may be more effective at preventing disability.

Researchers at 16 facilities in the Netherlands looked at 500 participants whose average age was 65 years old with acute ischemic stroke. Approximately 90 percent were treated with clot-dissolving drugs, and half of the participants were also treated using a clot-removing device. Each patient was treated within six hours of the start of their symptoms.

Three months after treatment, nearly 33 percent of those given both the clot-busting drug and the clot-removing devices were functionally independent. Only about 19 percent of those treated only with the clot-busting drug met that same standard.

Researchers also said that there was no significant difference in the mortality rate of patients studied whether they received the clot-dissolving medication and had the clot removed, or only received the medication.

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Pilots Risk Significant UV Exposure


Digital Vision./Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Pilots should remember to pack their sunscreen, researchers said, after a study noted that flying at 30,000 feet exposes pilots to significant ultraviolet radiation.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Dermatology, found that pilots flying at 30,000 feet for 56 minutes receive the same amount of UV-A radiation as is received during a 20-minute session in a tanning bed. The windshields on planes block UV-B radiation, but not UV-A. The research was prompted by recent findings that pilots and cabin crew more commonly suffered from skin cancer.

Researchers measured the amount of UV radiation in airplane cockpits during flights and compared it to the amount released in tanning beds. Specifically, radiation was measured in the pilot seat. Researchers say that pilots and cabin crew should use sunscreen and undergo periodic skin checks.

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