Health Highlights: March 18, 2011

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

New Brain Cancer Treatment Supported by FDA Panel

A noninvasive device that uses an electrical field to destroy cancer cells has the support of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel of medical experts as a treatment for brain cancer.

The NovoTTF device is meant for use in patients with a common form of brain cancer called glioblastoma that does not respond to initial treatments, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The FDA advisory panel voted 7 to 3 in favor of a question that asked whether the device’s benefits outweigh its risks. Two panel members abstained from the vote. All panel members agreed the device was safe but were split on whether it is effective.

The panel’s vote is regarded as a recommendation that the FDA approve the device. Though not required to, the FDA usually heeds the advice of its expert panels. A final FDA decision about the device is expected in about three months, the Wall Street Journal reported.


New Yorkers Consume Too Much Salt: Study

New York City residents consume twice as much salt as they should, says a study by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The study found that the average New Yorker takes in 3,150 milligrams per day, about twice the recommended limit of 1,500 mg for most adults, The New York Times reported.

Nearly 80 percent of that salt intake comes from packaged or restaurant foods, and only 11 percent is from salt shakers or home-cooked meals, according to the health department.

The study said that only one in five adult New Yorkers’ salt consumption is within recommended limits: 1,500 mg a day for people over 50, blacks, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic kidney disease; and less than 2,300 for other adults, The Times reported.


Obama Requests Safety Review of U.S. Nuclear Plants

U.S. regulators have been asked to conduct a comprehensive safety review of the country’s nuclear plants, President Barack Obama said Thursday.

In announcing his request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Obama also said: “Nuclear energy is an important part of our own energy future,” the Associated Press reported.

The president also said the nuclear crisis in Japan poses no threat to the United States.

“We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska or the U.S. territories in the Pacific,” Obama said.

The U.S. has a responsibility to learn from the events in Japan, he noted.


Older Gardeners Eat More Veggies: Study

Older people who garden eat more vegetables than non-gardeners, says a new study.

Researchers at Texas A&M University and Texas State University analyzed the responses of 261 adults age 50 and older who completed an online survey, United Press International reported.

“Our results support previous studies that indicated gardeners were more likely to consume vegetables compared with non-gardeners. Interestingly, these results were not found in regard to fruit consumption,” researcher Tina Waliczek said in a news release.

The length of time a person had been a gardener didn’t seem to have an effect on their vegetable and fruit consumption, UPI reported.

The study appears in the journal HortTechnology.

The findings suggest “that gardening intervention programs late in life would be an effective method of boosting vegetable and fruit consumption in older adults,” Waliczek said.