Live bird flu virus has not been found in any of the first batch of retail milk samples tested, federal health officials said Friday. Amid an ongoing outbreak of bird flu in U.S. dairy cows, the early findings should reassure the public that the milk sold in stores remains safe, officials added. In the online update, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the initial test findings likely mean the pasteurization process is killing the virus. “These results reaffirm our assessment that the commercial milk supply is safe,” the agency wrote, but testing efforts are continuing. “The FDA is further assessing retail samples from its study of 297 samples of retail dairy products from 38 states,” the agency added. “All samples with a PCR-positive result are going through egg inoculation tests, a gold standard for determining if infectious virus is present.” “These important efforts are ongoing, and we are committed to sharing additional testing results as soon as possible,” the FDA added. FDA officials also tested infant and toddler formulas, which used powdered milk, and did not find any evidence of the virus, the agency noted. The story is different when it comes to viral fragments of bird flu: genetic bits of the virus have been discovered in roughly 20% of retail milk samples tested in a national survey, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration…  read on >  read on >

A long-awaited ban on menthol cigarettes has been delayed indefinitely, the Biden administration said Friday. “This rule has garnered historic attention, and the public comment period has yielded an immense amount of feedback, including from various elements of the civil rights and criminal justice movement,” U.S. Health and Human Service Secretary Xavier Becerra said in an agency statement. “It’s clear that there are still more conversations to have, and that will take significantly more time.” The White House had already missed a previous deadline it set to decide on the proposed ban by March. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf, a supporter of the ban, told House lawmakers at a budget hearing earlier this month that he hoped a decision would come by the end of the year because smoking costs lives, the New York Times reported. “It’s one of our top priorities, so I would sure hope so,” he said at the time. “From the point of view of the FDA and me as an individual, given what I’ve seen in my life, we’re talking about over the next 30 years, probably 600,000 deaths that could be averted,” Califf testified. Most would be Black Americans who are consumers the tobacco industry targets, he added. On Friday, NAAACP President Derrick Johnson took issue with the latest delay. “Today’s news from the Biden administration is a…  read on >  read on >

Bits of bird flu virus have been discovered in roughly 20% of retail milk samples tested in a national survey, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday. The finding suggests that bird flu has spread far more widely among dairy cows than officials first thought. Samples from parts of the country that have infected dairy herds were more likely to test positive, the agency noted, and regulators stressed there is no evidence yet that cow milk poses a danger to consumers or that live virus is present in milk on store shelves. Still, 33 herds across eight states have already been confirmed to have been infected with bird flu, also known as H5N1. “It suggests that there is a whole lot of this virus out there,” Richard Webby, a virologist and influenza expert at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, told the New York Times. While it is still possible to eradicate bird flu from the nation’s dairy farms, Webby noted it is hard to control the outbreak without knowing its full scope. To that end, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday announced mandatory testing of dairy cows moving across state lines. Until now, testing of cows had been voluntary and focused on cows with obvious symptoms of illness. As of Wednesday, 23 people had been tested for the virus, while 44 people were being monitored…  read on >  read on >

Better heart health can lead to a sharper mind for middle-aged Black women, a new study says. Black women with worse heart health experienced a 10% decrease in their ability to think on their feet over two decades, researchers found. On the other hand, Black women with good heart health showed little decline in their mental processing. “Take care of your heart, and it will benefit your brain,” said lead researcher Imke Janssen,  a professor of family and preventive medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “Better cardiovascular health in women in their 40s is important to prevent later-life Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and to maintain independent living.” For the study, researchers assessed heart health among middle-aged Black and white women and compared it to cognitive tests the women took every one to two years for 20 years. The study included 363 Black and 402 white women who started testing in 1997, when they were between the ages of 42 and 52. The heart health measures included weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, as well as lifestyle factors like eating right, exercise, sleeping well and not smoking. Black women in good heart health specifically had brain benefits when it came to processing speed, or how fast the mind can accurately recognize incoming visual and verbal information. However, heart health had no association with the brain…  read on >  read on >

School lunches will soon contain less added sugars and salt under new nutrition standards announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday. “We all share the goal of helping children reach their full potential,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release announcing the changes. “Like teachers, classrooms, books and computers, nutritious school meals are an essential part of the school environment, and when we raise the bar for school meals, it empowers our kids to achieve greater success inside and outside of the classroom.” The new standards will be implemented over the next few years, the USDA added. Schools serve breakfasts and lunches to nearly 30 million children every school day. These meals are the main source of nutrition for more than half of these children, according to the USDA. The changes announced Wednesday are the first significant reform of school meal standards since the passage of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The Biden administration has also created a national strategy to end hunger and reduce diet-related disease by 2030. History suggests the moves will work: A 2023 study found the changes that took place during the Obama administration to push more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products significantly decreased kids’ and teens’ body mass index. Current dietary guidelines recommend limiting added sugars to less than 10% of daily calorie intake,…  read on >  read on >

Emulsifiers — substances that are essential ingredients in processed foods — appear to increase people’s risk of type 2 diabetes, a new study finds. In fact, the more emulsifiers that people eat as part of their food, the higher their risk of type 2 diabetes, researchers reported April 23 in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal. These results, if confirmed by follow-up studies, should add to “the debate on re-evaluating the regulations around the use of additives in the food industry, in order to better protect consumers,” lead author Mathilde Touvier, research director with the French Institute of Health and Medical Research. Emulsifiers are additives that help bind two substances that typically separate when they’re combined, like oil and water, according to the European Food Information Council. These commonly used food additives are often added to processed and packaged foods to improve their appearance, taste and texture, and to lengthen their shelf life, researchers said. Cakes, cookies, desserts, yogurts, ice cream, chocolate, breads, margarine and ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat meals all typically contain emulsifiers, researchers noted. The safety of emulsifiers has been evaluated by food safety and health agencies, as with all food additives, the researchers said. However, recent studies suggest that emulsifiers might disrupt healthy bacteria in the gut, increasing the risk of inflammation, insulin resistance and diabetes, researchers said. To evaluate this potential risk,…  read on >  read on >

Bits of inactive bird flu virus have been discovered in samples of pasteurized milk from across the United States, health officials said Tuesday, although they stressed the viral fragments don’t threaten humans. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did note that testing suggests that bird flu has likely infected far more dairy cows than officials realized. Still, “to date, we have seen nothing that would change our assessment that the commercial milk supply is safe,” the agency stressed in a statement updating the investigation. Over the last month, a bird flu virus known as H5N1 has been detected in dairy herds in nine states. The virus is also known to have infected one farmworker, whose sole symptom was pink eye. The viral fragments pose little risk to consumers who drink milk, David O’Connor, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the New York Times. “The risk of getting infected from milk that has viral fragments in it should be nil,” he explained. “The genetic material can’t replicate on its own.” FDA officials didn’t elaborate on how many milk samples had tested positive or exactly where the samples came from, the Times reported. If the fragments surfaced in samples throughout the commercial milk supply, it would suggest far more cows have been infected than believed, experts said. “The problem in dairy cows might be much…  read on >  read on >

Parents too often wave the white flag when it comes to young picky eaters, a new survey finds. Three out of five parents say they’re willing to play personal chef and cobble up a separate meal for a child who balks at the family dinner, according to a national poll from the University of Michigan. This often leads to the kids munching something less healthy, said Dr. Susan Woolford, a pediatrician with the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Parents should instead greet such obstinance with a shrug, Woolford said. “Rather than allowing the child to choose an alternate menu, parents should provide a balanced meal with at least one option that their child is typically willing to eat,” Woolford said in a hospital news release. “Then if their child chooses not to eat, parents should not worry as this will not cause healthy children any harm and they will be more likely to eat the options presented at the next meal,” Woolford added. Parents’ biggest mealtime challenge is getting a healthy diet into a picky eater, according to results from the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. But the desire to make sure a preschool or elementary-aged child eats a balanced, nutritional diet often leads to strategies that backfire, poll results suggest. “The preschool and…  read on >  read on >

A head-to-head trial of obese, pre-diabetic people who ate the same amount of daily calories — with one group following a fasting schedule and the other eating freely — found no difference in weight loss or other health indicators. So, despite the fact that fasting diets are all the rage, if you simply cut your daily caloric intake, weight loss will occur no matter when you eat, the study authors concluded. “Consuming most calories earlier in the day during 10-hour time-restricted eating did not decrease weight more than consuming them later in the day,” wrote a team led by Dr. Nisa Maruthur, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. Her team presented its findings Friday at the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians (ACP) in Boston. The study was published simultaneously in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Intermittent fasting has become very popular among weight-conscious Americans in recent years. In an ACP news release, the researchers noted that “evidence shows that when adults with obesity limit their eating window to 4 to 10 hours, they naturally reduce caloric intake by approximately 200-550 calories per day and lose weight over 2-12 months.” But what if people simply cut their daily calories by the same amount, without shifting their eating schedules? The new trial involved 41 people with obesity and pre-diabetes,…  read on >  read on >

The right diet may be the best medicine for easing the painful symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), new research shows. In the study, two different eating plans beat standard medications in treating the debilitating symptoms of the gastrointestinal disease. One diet was low in “FODMAPs,” a group of sugars and carbohydrates found in dairy, wheat and certain fruits and vegetables, while the second was a low-carb regimen high in fiber but low in all other carbohydrates. Published April 19 in the journal Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the findings suggest that patients should first try dietary changes before moving to drugs for relief. IBS is one of the most common and stubborn conditions gastroenterologists treat. It affects roughly 6 percent of Americans, with women diagnosed more often than men. Its symptoms are hard to ignore and life-limiting: abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Treatments often include dietary changes or taking medications that can include laxatives and antidiarrheals; certain antidepressants; and other prescription medications such as linaclotide and lubiprostone — both of which increase fluid in your gut and the movements of your intestines. Research has found that a low-FODMAP diet — which involves avoiding foods like wheat products, legumes, some nuts, certain sweeteners, most dairy products and many fruits and vegetables — can reduce IBS symptoms in most people, Dr. William Chey, a gastroenterologist at Michigan Medicine, told the…  read on >  read on >