Review Category : Health

Lawsuit Claims Beneful Dog Food Kills Pets

Kuzmik_A/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new lawsuit claims that Beneful dog food may be killing its customers’ four-legged friends.

Complaints about Beneful date back several years, James Young, a lawyer in Tampa, Florida, told ABC News. He added that lawyers across the country teamed up when they realized there was a “common denominator” in the dog illnesses and deaths.

“It’s all Beneful dog food. That’s the common denominator,” Young said. “Statistically speaking, the fact that this many dogs were affected by the same brand of dog food is pretty compelling.”

However, Keith Schopp, a spokesman for Nestle Purina, the company that makes Beneful, told ABC News that there is no problem with Beneful dog food and that there is a “stringent” quality control program in place. Two similar class-action lawsuits were filed against Beneful in recent years, but both were dismissed, he said.

“Dogs enjoy the product every day,” he said, adding that the ingredient mentioned in the suit as a possible toxin, propylene glycol, is “generally recognized as safe” by the federal government except in cat food.

Young said he and his colleagues are still investigating which ingredients in Beneful they suspect injured the animals.

The lawsuit Young and several other lawyers filed this month in California against Nestle Purina claims that more than 3,000 complaints against Beneful have been filed in the last four years. The complaints were made online by vets and pet owners to law firms, the Food and Drug Administration and attorneys general around the country, Young said. He said he did not know how many of those animals died, and he was not familiar with the previous two lawsuits filed against Beneful.

The new lawsuit cites the story of Frank Lucido, who owned three dogs and is a plaintiff in the suit along with “all other similarly situated.” Lucido started feeding his dogs Beneful for the first time in January, according to the lawsuit obtained by ABC News.

Although the three pets were separated and in different environments while his home was being renovated, they all fell ill shortly after starting the new diet, the suit alleges.

  • First, Nella, a 4-year-old German shepherd, started to lose her fur and took on a strange smell. Then, she became ill, and veterinarians learned that she was bleeding internally and her liver was malfunctioning, according to the complaint. She survived but still has health problems.
  • Five days later, Lucido’s wife found their 8-year-old English bulldog, Dozer, dead in the yard, according to the complaint. Vets determined she, too, had internal bleeding and lesions on her liver.
  • The third dog, an 11-year-old Labrador named Remo, has been “unwell” since the other two became sick, and is undergoing testing, according to the suit.

According to court documents, Nestle Purina has until April 2 to respond to the complaint.

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Gerbils, Not Rats, May Have Caused Bubonic Plague, Study Finds

donghero/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Historians have long blamed rats for spreading the plague in Europe nicknamed the “Black Death” in the 14th century, but new research points the finger at a different furry culprit: gerbils.

Known for decimating the European population in the Middle Ages, the Black Death was caused by the bacterium yersinia pestis, which somehow made its way from Asia to Europe in 1347, according to the study published Tuesday in the journal PNAS.

Study co-author Nils Stenseth, a biologist at the University of Oslo, said that 12 to 15 years before the plague hit Europe, Asia experienced a warm spring and wet summer, which is good for the gerbils and fleas that carried the plague.

Then, a drought decimated the gerbil population, forcing the plague toward domestic animal and human hosts, he said. It then made its way to Europe, though the vessel is unclear, Stenseth said.

Stenseth and his team determined the climate hundreds of years ago by examining tree growth rings, according to the study. The authors wrote that a better approach would be to study the DNA gleaned from the remains of plague victims.

Epidemiologist Dr. Bill Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said he found the study “intriguing” because he’d never before heard of an animal other than the rat being blamed for the Black Death. But he said the authors are doing a lot of inferring to come to their conclusions.

“My bottom line is that this is a fascinating new thesis,” said Schaffner, who was not involved in the study. “And I think that it likely will result in a lot of controversy among people who are disease historians.”

But your pet gerbil won’t give you the plague, Stenseth said. The animals that spread the plague in Asia were actually a separate, wild species known as a great gerbil, Stenseth said.

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When the Fear of Icy Driving Conditions Is Too Debilitating to Leave Home

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Driving in the winter can be treacherous. Snow, ice and whiteouts can cause pileups, skid-outs and stranded drivers.

Despite this year’s brutal wintery conditions, most of us still brave icy roads, but for Amy Andrews, just the thought of driving in winter causes overwhelming, white-knuckled, debilitating fear.

Andrews’s phobia over driving in snowy or icy conditions is so crippling, just a weather report about a chance of snow, or snow falling unexpectedly, will throw her into a full-blown panic attack.

“This is something that I can’t do,” she said. “If I absolutely have to drive in this bad weather then the whole time I am shaking and I don’t breathe properly and I get lightheaded.”

It’s estimated that about 9 percent of American adults suffer from specific phobias, irrational fears of things like flying, heights, elevators and spiders, according to the National Institute of Health.

“When somebody is exposed to the object they’re frightened of they feel intense anxiety,” said renowned psychotherapist Robi Ludwig. “Their heart can race, they can sweat, they can feel that they’re having a panic attack or a heart attack but it’s basically how somebody feels when they’re in the fight-or-flight reaction. They really feel like their bodies are in danger.”

More than 2,000 people are killed every year in winter weather-related accidents, and facing that possibility behind the wheel is just too much for Andrews.

She lives in New England, which has been battered by record-breaking snowfall this winter. Her phobia has made normal life nearly impossible. She is almost too scared to drive if there is one snowflake in the air, even forcing her to miss work at her job as a school administrator.

“I have had panic attacks where it just starts snowing, where I will end up in the bathroom hyperventilating, ready to pass out,” she said.

Andrews will check the weather obsessively, and cancel plans if there is a threat of snow.

“My sister moved to New Hampshire and I told her that I refused to go up there any time from November to March,” Andrews said.

But Andrews was determined to conquer her fear. She agreed to let ABC’s Nightline send her to a complimentary class at one of the toughest, and most terrifying, winter driving schools in the country: The Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat, Colorado.

There, students have to drive on a track made entirely of snow and ice – Andrews’s worst fear – as instructors teach the fundamentals of winter driving, from what to do if your car skids out to having weight balance in the vehicle.

But before she began, Andrews had a rough start. Her car got stuck on an icy road just trying to get from her hotel to the driving school, and she needed to have her car towed up the road. Right away, the first stages of panic set in.

“She was pretty wound up,” said head instructor Kurt Spitzner. “[But] I think we were going to have a positive effect on her.”

When Andrews finally got to class, and started working with an instructor, something did change.

“I think the results were remarkable,” Spitzner said. “Just seeing how she stopped hyperventilating a quarter of the way through the class made me feel really good. This is a start.”

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Chicago Children’s Hospital Patients, Staff Star in Music Video

Northwestern University Dance Marathon(CHICAGO) — Young patients, nurses and doctors at a Chicago hospital danced and sang thanks to college students raising money to help make their hospital a cheerier place to be.

The patients and staff at Children’s Hospital University of Illinois are the stars of a YouTube video in which they lip-sync to the American Authors’ song “Best Day of My Life.”

The video, with 1,000 views and counting, was made by students at Northwestern University for the school’s upcoming Dance Marathon fundraiser.

“We thought it’d be an awesome idea to film inside the hospital to brighten the kids’ day and to highlight the kids’ stories and what we can do to help with Dance Marathon,” Ross Gordon, a Northwestern senior and the event’s public relations co-chair, told ABC News.

Proceeds from the Dance Marathon event, during which more than 1,000 students will dance for 30 hours straight, will go to the Starlight Children’s Foundation to help them build “beautifully designed treatment rooms and teen lounges” in hospitals, according to Gordon.

The video shoot involved six Northwestern students who coordinated the production and then sat back and watched as the young patients and their doctors and nurses had a blast filming it.

“The smiles on their faces were fantastic,” said Gordon, 22. “Some were a little shy to start, but when you have so many smiling nurses dancing it brightened the mood and they definitely got into it.”

“One of my favorite parts is when a doctor in the back started twirling a stethoscope,” he said. “The doctors and nurses especially got really into it.”

The two-minute video is being used now to help encourage donations and will also be shown when Northwestern students hit the dance floor from 7 p.m. on Friday, March 6, through 1 a.m. on Sunday, March 8.

“The whole idea is to unite our campus around advocacy and giving back to a good cause,” Gordon said.

Northwestern University Dance Marathon, in its 41st year, has raised more than $1 million each of the last four years, according to Gordon.

“This year, we’re using the theme ‘Make Life Bright’ and #makelifebright with the goal of making hospitals a more welcoming and soothing experience for the children we’re supporting,” he said.

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Chicago Children’s Hospital Patients, Staff Star in Music Video

Northwestern University Dance Marathon(CHICAGO) — Young patients, nurses and doctors at a Chicago hospital danced and sang thanks to college students raising money to help make their hospital a cheerier place to be.

The patients and staff at Children’s Hospital University of Illinois are the stars of a YouTube video in which they lip-sync to the American Authors’ song “Best Day of My Life.”

The video, with 1,000 views and counting, was made by students at Northwestern University for the school’s upcoming Dance Marathon fundraiser.

“We thought it’d be an awesome idea to film inside the hospital to brighten the kids’ day and to highlight the kids’ stories and what we can do to help with Dance Marathon,” Ross Gordon, a Northwestern senior and the event’s public relations co-chair, told ABC News.

Proceeds from the Dance Marathon event, during which more than 1,000 students will dance for 30 hours straight, will go to the Starlight Children’s Foundation to help them build “beautifully designed treatment rooms and teen lounges” in hospitals, according to Gordon.

The video shoot involved six Northwestern students who coordinated the production and then sat back and watched as the young patients and their doctors and nurses had a blast filming it.

“The smiles on their faces were fantastic,” said Gordon, 22. “Some were a little shy to start, but when you have so many smiling nurses dancing it brightened the mood and they definitely got into it.”

“One of my favorite parts is when a doctor in the back started twirling a stethoscope,” he said. “The doctors and nurses especially got really into it.”

The two-minute video is being used now to help encourage donations and will also be shown when Northwestern students hit the dance floor from 7 p.m. on Friday, March 6, through 1 a.m. on Sunday, March 8.

“The whole idea is to unite our campus around advocacy and giving back to a good cause,” Gordon said.

Northwestern University Dance Marathon, in its 41st year, has raised more than $1 million each of the last four years, according to Gordon.

“This year, we’re using the theme ‘Make Life Bright’ and #makelifebright with the goal of making hospitals a more welcoming and soothing experience for the children we’re supporting,” he said.

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Two Anti-Aging Scientists Make Million-Dollar Bet on Who Will Die Last

SylvieBouchard/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Two prominent anti-aging scientists are betting the farm over who will buy the farm first.

Dmitry Kaminskiy, a senior partner at Deep Knowledge Ventures in Hong Kong, and Alex Zhavoronkov, Ph.D., CEO of the anti-aging drug company Insilico Medicine Inc. in Russia, signed a wager last month at a large anti-aging science conference, stating that the one who died first owed the other a million dollars in stock or cash.

“If one of the parties passes away before the other, $1 million in Insilico Medicine stock will be passed to the surviving party,” the agreement stated, adding that if the company is no longer in existence the other has to pony up the dollar amount in cash.

This life-or-death gamble will kick in on Feb. 24, 2079, Zhavoronkov’s 100th birthday — he turned 36 on Tuesday and is just over a year younger than Kaminskiy. Zhavoronkov said the competition came about as a way to combat psychological aging and ensure each man’s continued desire to live.

Zhavoronkov told ABC News that there are a few ground rules for the bet.

“We are not allowed to contribute to each other’s demise and I cannot recommend any treatments to Dmitry,” he said. “Each one of us will have his own strategy for testing the various interventions.”

Kaminskiy could not be reached for comment.

Zhavoronkov is supremely confident he will win the bet. He’as been taking low-dose aspirin since 1998 plus an anti-aging cocktail of statins and other supplements for over four and a half years. He’s had an HPV shot to prevent cancer and takes other drugs to avoid getting the flu. He has a diagnostics lab on speed dial to quickly triage any signs of health trouble.

But he admitted that Kaminskiy may have an edge, due to an enviable family history for longevity, stable sleeping patterns, and a regular exercise routine.

“Access to a few hundred million dollars, state-of-the-art information systems and a venture fund investing in longevity companies also helps,” Zhavoronkov said. “But I still believe in the power of simple, affordable and reasonably safe interventions.”

Science is on the cusp of some huge breakthroughs in anti-aging science, said Zhavoronkov. For example, he said he believed that Insilico, within the next 12 to 24 months, will be the first to deliver a set of working solutions to significantly and conclusively slow aging.

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Why Some Cancer Centers Offer Yoga to Their Patients

Courtesy of MD Anderson Cancer Center(NEW YORK) — A new hospital program dispenses downward dogs and tree poses to help kids with aggressive forms of cancer deal with their illnesses.

The MD Anderson Cancer Center’s integrative medicine department hopes to show that yoga can help cancer patients of all ages cope with the stress and symptoms of their disease.

Each week, Amie Koronczok, one of three mind-body intervention specialists at the center, takes pediatric cancer patients between 3 and 12 years of age through a 45-minute yoga class that often incorporates art, music and storytelling.

“We focus on relaxation, mindful meditation and breathing,” she said, adding that the class was developed at the request of parents looking for some help with the emotional side of their children’s illnesses.

Though the kids class is relatively new, the center has been holding yoga classes for adults for more than 13 years.

No studies suggest that yoga will cure or prevent cancer. It might not be of use for every patient, either. But a growing body of evidence indicates regular yoga practice might help manage the emotional turmoil that often accompanies a physical diagnosis.

A recent review of 10 studies, for example, indicated that yoga might help to reduce anxiety, depression, fatigue and stress for some patients. Trials included in the review associated meditative yoga with improvements in sleep quality and a boost in patient mood and well-being.

The authors of the review, published in the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, stressed that there needs to be more research to prove definitively the usefulness of yoga in cancer care and recovery. However, Koronczok said she’s already seen its positive effects on her littlest patients, including a little boy who came into class reluctantly and didn’t appear to pay much attention throughout.

“I saw him a few weeks later when he didn’t feel good and it hurt to move, and he asked me if the sparkling meditation globe we used during class could help him stay calm,” she recalled. “That impressed me because I thought he was resistant to the things we were doing, but it turned out he listened and got something out of it.”

“There is no downside to teaching cancer patients yoga,” said Cindy Finch, a clinical psychologist with the Mayo Clinic and with Reimagine, an online resource for cancer survivors.

Finch, who is also a cancer survivor, said she believed that health care need not treat patients exclusively with medications, surgery and other therapies that address only the physical side of illness. Treating the whole person, including the mind and spirit, helps the whole person recover, she said.

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Popular YouTube Videos Seem to Glorify Drunken Behavior

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) — You can find virtually anyone doing anything on YouTube, including people who are intoxicated, whether it’s with their knowledge or not.

This is disturbing to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health (CRMTH), who say that these videos often don’t show the ramifications of drunkenness, which can lead to violence, vehicular accidents and health problems.

In fact while examining the 70 most popular YouTube videos that display excessive alcohol consumption, the researchers say that humor is used in about 80 percent of them with very few referencing alcohol dependence.

Perhaps even more disconcerting is that the videos have been watched more than 333 million times, and the ratio of likes to dislikes is better than 23-to-one.

Lead author Brian A. Primack says that while people tend to cast a wary eye on ads or music videos that tend to show drinking in a benign way, “those same viewers may be less cynical when viewing user-generated YouTube videos portraying humorous and socially rewarding escapades of a group of intoxicated peers.”

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Wearing a Patch Effective in Treating Peanut Allergies

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — In what may be the most innovative way yet of treating people with peanut allergies, a new patch has been developed to help increase tolerance to this food.

Until recently, slowly exposing those with peanut allergies to small amount of peanuts over time has had some success in helping to alleviate serious side effects such as breathing problems that can lead to death.

However, participants in these experiments have complained about itchy mouths and swollen stomachs.

The Viaskin patch developed by DBV technologies was used by participants for one year, at which point they could safely consumer one gram of peanut protein. While only the equivalent of four peanuts, it’s 10 times more than what they tolerated at the beginning of the experiment.

Dr. Hugh Sampson, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai in New York City, says that toleration levels should improve the longer the patch is worn, adding that it was most effective with children.

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Doctor Groups, American Bar Association Recommend Gun Control Measures

gibgalich/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The American Bar Association and eight major medical and public health professional societies – including physicians, surgeons, and psychiatrists – are putting forth recommendations to curb the growing number of deaths and injuries caused by firearms.

The recommendations, released Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, include criminal background checks for all firearm purchases, eliminating “gag laws” that prevent doctors from speaking to patients about gun ownership, and supporting improved access to mental health care.

This new collaboration looks to gain more support from other professional societies and to eventually provide recommendations for gun safety legislation.

The collaborators are looking to release their recommendations and seek additional support.

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