Health Buzz: California Trans Fats Ban and Other Health News

U.S.-grown peppers are safe, radio's Michael Savage and autism, and a 'culture of medicalization'


California Bans Trans Fats in Restaurants

California last week became the first state to ban trans fats in food sold in restaurants, the Los Angeles Times reports. Found in many oils and margarines, trans fats extend the shelf life of products but have been linked to clogged arteries, diabetes, and other serious health conditions.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, known for being health-conscious, signed the bill into law Friday. By Jan. 1, 2010, California's restaurants are required to use margarines, oils, and shortening that contain less than half a gram of trans fat per serving; deep-fried bakery products must adopt the standard by Jan. 1, 2011.

In 2006, U.S. News's Katherine Hobson reported on New York City's plan to ban trans fats in restaurants. In May, Hobson described six ways restaurants can market good health.

FDA: U.S.-Grown Peppers Are Safe to Eat

Jalapeño and serrano peppers grown in the United States and commercially canned, pickled, and cooked jalapeño peppers from any geographic location are not linked to the recent salmonella outbreak, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday. But people should not eat raw jalapeño peppers—or any food containing them—if they were grown, harvested, or packed in Mexico. This new, focused FDA advisory is based on a multiweek investigation conducted jointly by the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and public health authorities in several states.

Last week, the FDA announced that jalapeo peppers distributed since June 30 by Agricola Zaragoza Inc. of McAllen, Texas, have been recalled because of a link to the nationwide salmonella outbreak. U.S. News's Nancy Shute offered advice in June on how to foil salmonella by cooking your tomatoes.

Michael Savage, at Odds With Science

Since talk radio host Michael Savage made controversial remarks about autism, parent groups of autistic children have been calling for his head and some advertisers have dropped his program. Talk Radio Network, however, which syndicates Savage's show to more than 350 affiliates, is standing behind Savage.

Savage drew the furious attention by largely blaming dads for autistic kids' behavioral problems. U.S. News's Adam Voiland searched for studies linking dads or their parenting skills to autism, a developmental disorder that affects a child's ability to communicate effectively, but he didn't find much. Earlier this month, Nancy Shute reported on autism and a link to brain development.

Why One Doctor Says 'No' to Many Screening Tests

A "culture of medicalization" found in the United States threatens to turn every malady into something that must be treated by doctors and every person into a patient, says Nortin Hadler, a professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology at the University of North CarolinaChapel Hill and an attending rheumatologist at that university's hospitals. In his new book, Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America, Hadler says cholesterol screening, annual mammograms, and other routine tests aren't worth the time or money.

Katherine Hobson talked with Hadler about the issues he raises in the book and how he interprets medical research. Previously, Hobson explained that women shouldn't let the news that there's no evidence that monthly breast self-exams cut breast cancer deaths confuse them.

—January W. Payne