Health Highlights: Aug.10, 2011

HealthDay SHARE
  • Mother Influences Child's Food Tastes Before Birth
  • Officials Investigating Minnesota Anthrax Case
  • Moms of Twins Have Heavier Single Babies
  • Sharp Rise in Medicare Payments for Hospice Care

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

Mother Influences Child's Food Tastes Before Birth

The food eaten by pregnant women influences their children's food preferences later in life, according to researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

The flavors of what the mother consumes fill the amniotic fluid that surrounds and nourishes the baby, who forms memories of these flavors even before birth.

"Things like vanilla, carrot, garlic, anise, mint -- these are just some of the flavors that have been shown to be transmitted to amniotic fluid or mother's milk," Monell researcher Julie Mennella told National Public Radio, ABC News reported.

This means that mothers can shape their children's lifetime food preferences. For example, eating broccoli during pregnancy could increase the chances that your baby will like broccoli.

The research may explain why children whose families eat a wide range of foods have more diverse diets, ABC News reported.

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Officials Investigating Minnesota Anthrax Case

A rare case of anthrax inhalation is being investigated by Minnesota health officials.

The FBI has determined that the case is not the result of a criminal or terrorist act and health officials say there is no significant threat to the general public, Agence France-Presse reported.

The case involves a person who was hospitalized after coming into contact with soil and animal remains while traveling through western states. Humans can contract anthrax if they handle infected animal carcasses, contaminated wool or hides, or ingest soil or meat from infected animals.

"All evidence points to this case of anthrax being caused by exposure to naturally occurring anthrax in the environment," said Ruth Lynfield, a Minnesota state epidemiologist, AFP reported.

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Moms of Twins Have Heavier Single Babies

Mothers who've had twins have heavier single babies, a new study says.

Researchers analyzed the birth weights of about 1,900 babies born to 700 mothers in The Gambia and found that single babies born to women who'd had twins were about 100 grams (0.21 lbs) heavier than babies born to single-baby mothers, BBC News reported.

A hormone called IGF may be responsible for this pattern, according to Ian Rickard, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sheffield in the U.K.

The study was published in the journal Biology Letters.

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Sharp Rise in Medicare Payments for Hospice Care

Medicare spending on hospice care rose 70 percent between 2005 and 2009 as for-profit companies gained a larger share of that health care sector in the United States, federal government data shows.

Medicare pays for 84 percent of all hospice patients. In 2009 Medicare costs for hospice care were $4.31 billion, according to Medicare records, USA Today reported.

The Department of Health and Human Services oversees Medicare. A recent report by the inspector general for the HHS found that for-profit hospices were paid 29 percent more per patient than non-profit hospices.

Currently, some of the largest for-profit hospice companies are facing multiple state and federal investigations or paying multimillion-dollar settlements for fraud claims, USA Today reported.

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