Headlines: October 24, 2011
by Kyle Thomson
The Institute of Medicine has proposed a simplified labeling system to display nutritional information on food packaging. Under the plan, nutritional labels would display the amount of calories along with zero to three stars to indicate how healthy the food is. Stars would vary based on the level of added sugar, sodium, and saturated or trans fats in the product. The proposal comes in response to Congress' request for a simplified nutritional labeling system that would allow for easier healthy decision-making by consumers and closely follows the model of the Energy Star labeling system that has been successfully implemented with appliances.A newly released study suggests girls exposed to BPA while in the womb have a higher likelihood of developing behavioral and emotional problems. BPA, or bisphenol-A, is a common compound found in plastic drink bottles and food can lining. Americans are almost universally exposed to BPA, but increasingly high levels of BPA in women were linked to increasingly high levels of behavioral issues in their children. Scientists hypothesized that BPA affects fetal brain development, which could explain the differences observed in the study. The researchers stressed that the results are preliminary and that BPA’s role in developmental issues is still uncertain and in need of further examination.
A universal flu vaccine is in development stages by two pharmaceutical companies and may be on the market as early as 2014. The shot has the potential to work for multiple years and eliminate the need for annual shots. Because the flu virus mutates so rapidly, the body cannot recognize one strand from the other, leading researchers to look for novel ways to help the immune system identify a different strain of the virus in the future. The universal vaccine would work by training the immune system to identify and destroy the flu virus, regardless of the strain, by using the parts of the virus that remain unchanged.