Health Buzz: The District Says 'Yes' to Medical Marijuana

D.C. gets serious about fighting childhood obesity; stomach cancer rises in young, white adults.

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The District Says "Yes" to Medical Marijuana

The nation's capital is close to legalizing medical marijuana, following the D.C. Council's approval of new legislation on Tuesday. The measure—unlike similar laws passed in 14 other states—must still go through Congress and the White House before it could take effect. It would allow D.C. residents with certain chronic health conditions, like HIV or cancer, to receive 2 ounces of marijuana each month from eight local dispensaries, The New York Times reports. The District first approved a ballot initiative on medical marijuana in 1998, but Congress stifled the effort to set up a medical marijuana program by blocking its funding, according to The Times.

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  • D.C. Gets Serious About Fighting Childhood Obesity

    Children in Washington, D.C. will soon be getting 60 extra minutes of exercise at school every day, thanks to a new law aimed at combating the discouraging rate of childhood obesity in the capital, which has the fattest teenagers in the nation. The measure would require schools to promote 60 minutes of physical activity daily, U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute reports.

    The law also requires healthier school meals, including vegetarian options. This follows on Michelle Obama's anti-childhood-obesity campaign launched earlier this spring, and the new U.S. National Physical Activity Plan unveiled Monday, which calls for more school physical education programs—these have been cut nationwide in recent years in favor of more desk time.

    Research is also fueling the effort to get kids moving. One study, newly published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, finds that preschoolers who watch more TV are less healthy by fourth grade, and do less well in school. Kids who started watching TV early in life got less exercise, ate fewer fruits and vegetables, played video games more, and were heavier by the time they reached fourth grade. Researchers found an incremental effect; every additional hour of TV watching increased the negative effects on school performance and health in fourth grade. Children who watched more TV did less well at math, but TV time didn't affect reading scores. The study suggests that if we let children develop a TV habit early on, it can have a big bad impact on health throughout childhood, Shute writes. [Read more: D.C. Gets Serious About Fighting Childhood Obesity.]

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    • Stomach Cancer Rises in Young, White Americans

      Among young, white Americans, rates of lower stomach cancer have increased by almost 2.7 percent each year over the last 30 years, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But for other races and age groups, those rates have declined, researchers found after reviewing 39,003 cancer cases from 1977 to 2006, HealthDay reports. The rise in stomach cancer among white adults ages 25 to 39 may be due to diet—high salt intake from preserved foods, for example—smoking, or infection by the bacteria H. pylori, the researchers speculate.

      Last year, U.S. News contributor Katherine Hobson wrote about how bacteria in your gut, including H. pylori, may influence a host of physiological processes. Microbes living in the gut may play a role in cancer—for good and for bad, Hobson wrote. Though H. pylori is linked to ulcers and stomach cancer, it may have a protective role, too, by fighting gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. [Read more: Beneficial Bacteria? 7 Amazing Jobs Your Gut Bacteria Do.]

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