Health Buzz: FDA Warning on Weight Loss Pills and Other Health News

Using up your 2008 flexible spending account; avoiding wrinkles in stressful times.


FDA Warns Consumers About Weight-Loss Products

The Food and Drug Administration warned yesterday that more than 25 weight-loss products contain undeclared, active pharmaceutical ingredients that may jeopardize the health of consumers. Ingredients contained in these products include sibutramine (a controlled substance), rimonabant (not approved in the United States), phenytoin (an antiseizure drug), and phenolphthalein (used in chemical experiments and is suspected to cause cancer). Some of the products are promoted as "dietary supplements" or claim to contain only "herbal" ingredients and are sold online and in some stores, according to the FDA. They are not FDA approved and are considered illegal. Consumers using any of the products, listed on the FDA's website, should stop taking them and talk to their doctors.

Shoddy and fraudulent pharmaceutical products are a growing threat, and many Americans are confused about the FDA and drug safety. Also, try these four ways to avoid dangerous drug errors and medication safety tips.

Use It or Lose It Time for Your Flexible Spending Account

It's time for the predictable year-end 12 Days of Christmas-style spending spree (three flu shots, two pairs of glasses, and a refill of Metamucil) in order to spend use-it-or-lose-it funds in flexible spending accounts. In case you need help using up your FSA funds, U.S. News's Michelle Andrews has combed the IRS's list of eligible FSA expenses to find options you may not have considered. Check with your employer before proceeding because companies can edit the list of expenses their employees can claim. For example, pregnancy test kits, annual check-ups, and full-body scans are newly eligible this year. Other options: acupuncture, fertility treatments, vasectomy, vasectomy reversals, lead-based paint removal, medical conferences for chronic conditions, smoking cessation and weight-loss programs, and wigs if you've lost your hair from cancer or another illness.

Looking ahead to 2009, it may be best to think about spending your FSA funds earlier in the year.

How to Avoid 'Recession Wrinkles' and Frown Lines

Chronic stress is the greatest aging accelerator of all, Deborah Kotz reports. And far too many of us are probably speeding up our aging clocks as we sweat it out over the status of the economy. Women, it seems, are particularly vulnerable, because they tend to be more worried than men over financial issues and (at the moment) finding money for holiday gifts. Women also frown more when we're anxious, and these muscle movements bend the skin like cardboard. What's worse, chronic stress damages the inner lining of the arteries, causing the vessels to constrict; this, in turn, makes the skin shrivel, creating wrinkles. But activities that reduce stress—coffee with friends, yoga, meditation, running—certainly can help protect your arteries and keep your skin supple. Also, wearing sunscreen with zinc oxide and avoiding smoking are key to guarding against wrinkle-producing inflammation caused by too much sun or by tobacco. And getting adequate sleep stimulates growth hormone, promoting the production of collagen and elastin to keep your skin taut.

Learn how to ensure that your relationship survives the bad economy. And try our tips for helping kids handle the holidays during tough times.

—January W. Payne

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