Health Buzz: Retina Implant Partially Restores Sight

How parents can get kids to choose healthier drinks; new study questions fish oil benefits.

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Retina Implant Could Correct Blindness Caused by Retinitis Pigmentosa

A groundbreaking retinal implant could restore sight for thousands of people who lost their vision from an inherited disease. German researchers said Tuesday that a three-by-three millimeter chip, which replaces damaged cells in the retina, has allowed three blind patients to see shapes and objects again. The patients—in their 30s and 40s—lost their sight due to retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic condition that destroys the light-sensitive area at the back of the eye. A week after the device was implanted, one man could even read a clock face and differentiate between seven shades of grey, BBC News reports. The sub-retinal implant converts light that enters the eye into electrical impulses, which then stream into the optic nerve behind the eye. "It proves the concept that in a patient who has been blind for many years and is unable to see anything, the optic nerves can be re-awakened for them to be able to see again," Robert Maclaren, a professor of Ophthalmology at Britain's Oxford University, told Reuters. Maclaren was not involved in the trial. "It's of phenomenal significance...to being able to read a few letters and see shapes is an amazing step," he said. Typically, people with retinitis pigmentosa begin losing their sight as teenagers, though blindness can also set in during childhood. Each of the patients who received a retina implant had lost their ability to read at least five years prior to the surgery. About 200,000 people worldwide suffer from the condition, some of whom could benefit from the new device, researchers say.

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  • Soda at School: How Parents Can Get Kids to Choose Healthier Drinks

    Soft drinks and other sugary beverages are often blamed for the big rise in childhood obesity, yet it's surprisingly easy for kids to buy sugar-sweetened drinks at school. That's true even for second-graders; almost half of elementary school students can buy drinks like sodas, sports drinks, and high-fat milk, all of which the Institute of Medicine says contribute to the obesity epidemic.

    The fact that elementary schools are more and more likely to have vending machines or a store where kids can buy unhealthy drinks is part of the problem; 14 percent of public elementary school students and 38 percent of private elementary school students can buy sugar-sweetened beverages at school, according to a new study published online in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. And the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that schools offer only unflavored 1-percent or nonfat milk for calorie savings. Chocolate and other flavored milks are recommended only if they are nonfat, writes U.S. News correspondent Nancy Shute.

    Parents who don't want their kids tanking up on Dr. Pepper or chocolate-flavored whole milk during the school day should first find out their schools' policies on drinks, says Lindsey Turner, a clinical health psychologist and senior research specialist at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois-Chicago, who led the study. Some schools don't allow any sugared drinks to be sold, while others are much more permissive. "I have two kids in elementary school, so it's certainly a subject near and dear to my own heart," Turner says. [Read more: Soda at School: How Parents Can Get Kids to Choose Healthier Drinks.]

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    • Fish Oil to Prevent Alzheimer's—Much Ado About Nothing

      These days, we've gotten used to looking for fish oil not just on pharmacy shelves and in fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon, but also as omega-3 fatty acids in fish-oil-fortified margarine, eggs, cookies, energy bars, and orange juice. We'll even pay a premium, because we were led to believe that omega-3s could ward off Alzheimer's disease, depression, and maybe stupidity, writes U.S. News's Deborah Kotz. A new study, though, indicates we may have been sold a bill of goods. Taking a fairly high dose of fish oil is no better than a placebo at stopping the progression of mild Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "These are disappointing and negative results," said study author Joseph Quinn at a press conference Tuesday in Washington, D.C.