Health Buzz: ADHD Is a Genetic Disorder, Scientists Say

False claims on mouthwash? How to decipher product labels; junk food: the new weight loss diet?

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Children With ADHD More Likely to Have Gene Abnormalities

ADHD may be a genetic disorder, new research suggests. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely than others to have missing or duplicated chunks of DNA, which could predispose them to the condition, according to a study published today in the Lancet. British researchers analyzed the gene maps of more than 1,400 children, 366 with ADHD, and more than 1,000 without, Reuters reports. About 14 percent of children with the disorder had deleted or duplicated DNA segments, compared to 7 percent of those without the disorder. ADHD, which includes symptoms like distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, affects between 3 to 5 percent of children. "This is really exciting because it gives us the first direct genetic link to ADHD. Now we can say with confidence that ADHD is a genetic disease and that the brains of children with this condition develop differently to those of other children," study author Anita Thapar said in a briefing with reporters. Uncovering ADHD's biological basis could help develop more effective treatments, she said.

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  • False Claims on Mouthwash? How to Decipher Product Labels

    When choosing among the hundreds of products on supermarket shelves, many of us use labels as a guide, selecting an "all-natural" cereal over one that's not, or the mouthwash that promises to remove plaque and promote healthy gums—perhaps even saving us a trip to the dentist—over one that merely freshens breath. Unfortunately, many of these labels exaggerate health benefits or are downright deceptive, writes U.S. News's Deborah Kotz. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to three mouthwash makers telling them they can't claim that their products prevent gum disease when that hasn't been proven in studies. Earlier in the week, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against the maker of Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice, accusing the company of "making false and unsubstantiated claims that [its] products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction," according to a statement issued by the agency.

    "We're starting to see a government crackdown on products with misleading labels," says Bruce Silverglade, director of legal affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy group for nutrition, health, and food safety. "But we'd still like to see Congress strengthen the laws on food labeling." Oddly enough, some of the labels on supermarket products have strict legal definitions, such as "organic," while others, such as "all-natural," don't. You'd need to read the label, for example, to know whether an "all-natural" tomato sauce really has no artificial ingredients. [Read more: False Claims on Mouthwash? How to Decipher Product Labels.]

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    • Junk Food: The New Weight Loss Diet?

      Losing a double-digit chunk of weight in one month was a piece of cake for Mark Haub. On August 25, the Kansas State University professor of nutrition began a 10-year-old's dream diet of Twinkies, Ho Hos, and brownies for each meal, writes U.S. News's Hanna Dubansky. Thirty days later and 15 pounds lighter, Haub not only feels great, but his bad cholesterol is down, his good cholesterol is up, and his blood pressure is fine. But while he is pleased about his new, trimmer self, that's not the reason he switched to junk food. He wanted his students to see for themselves that any diet can produce weight loss­—and if accomplished with a menu all but guaranteed to wreak havoc, then weight shouldn't be the sole standard for good health.

      Haub's diet grew from a course he teaches on energy balance. Weight loss, he told his students, is simply about consuming fewer calories than you burn—energy in, energy out. To illustrate the point, Haub announced that he would eat exactly the kind of junk that's supposed to be off limits to someone who wants to lose weight. "If weight loss is the ultimate goal," he asked his students, "does it matter how I achieve it?"