Health Buzz: Shingles Vaccine Is Effective, but Underused

A school nutrition experiment: junk food carrots; 5 kid-friendly foods with iron.


Vaccine Cuts Seniors' Shingles Risk by 55 Percent

A little-known shingles vaccine can prevent tens of thousands of cases of the painful, blistering condition each year, but only reaches roughly 11 percent of those who could benefit, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers reviewed the medical records of more than 300,000 seniors and found that the rate of shingles was 55 percent lower among those who received the herpes zoster vaccine, compared to those who did not. Shingles, a rash triggered by the same virus that causes chickenpox, typically strikes at age 50 or older. About 30 percent of Americans develop the condition in their lifetime. It can cause scarring, chronic eye problems, and pain that persists even years after the rash has healed. But the vaccine, approved in 2006, costs about $200, which makes it the most expensive of all the vaccines recommended for the elderly—and not all insurance plans cover it,The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • It's Official: Get Your Shingles Vaccination
  • Many Vaccines for Adults
  • A School Nutrition Experiment: Junk Food Carrots

    Fayetteville-Manlius High School in Syracuse, N.Y.—or F-M, as everybody calls it—and Mason High School in Cincinnati are the designated launch sites for the first phase of a proposed $25 million "Eat 'Em Like Junk Food" campaign intended to give baby carrots a big bite out of vending-machine sales. Facebook and Twitter pages have been created, a video game has rolled out, and a commercial featuring a busty redhead lusting after "baby carrots, baby" is airing in both cities. But the real grab-the-customer hook is the junk-food packaging—crinkly, eye-catching, Doritos-type bags, U.S. News reports.

    "We want people to consider baby carrots a regular snack," Bolthouse Farms CEO Jeffrey Dunn, the force behind the campaign, told the Syracuse Post-Standard at the unveiling of F-M's carrot vending machine. Headquartered in Bakersfield, Calif., Bolthouse owns fully half of the baby carrot market. "[We] thought we'd use some of the emotional imagery the junk food industry uses and take a page out of their book."

    And why not? A study published in September in the journal Pediatrics found that presented with samples of graham crackers, gummy fruit snacks, and baby carrots, 50 percent of 4- to 6-year-olds said that any of the foods from a package adorned with a cartoon tasted better than the same food out of a plain package. But would the same trick work on a tougher crowd of marketing-savvy high-schoolers at my old stomping ground? [Read more: A School Nutrition Experiment: Junk Food Carrots.]

    • Junk Food: The New Weight Loss Diet?
    • Are Sports Drinks Healthier Than Soda? Teens Think So
    • 5 Kid-Friendly Foods With Iron

      Iron deficiency can be a real problem for children. Lack of iron can stunt brain development, permanently lower a child's IQ, and also cause anemia, which saps children's strength, writes U.S. News correspondent Nancy Shute.

      But efforts to improve children's iron intake by fortifying formula and cereals hasn't wiped out iron deficiency; up to 15 percent of babies and toddlers are still iron deficient. Babies between 6 and 12 months old need 11 milligrams of iron a day, and toddlers ages 1 to 3 need 7 mg of iron. To get there, the American Academy of Pediatrics has released new guidelines that recommend iron supplements for all breast-fed babies starting at four months. Breast milk, wonderful as it is, doesn't contain much iron.

      The pediatricians also gave a big vote of confidence to food as the best source of iron for children. Starting at six months old, babies should be chowing down on red meat, they said; bring on the sliders! In truth, there are lots of iron-rich food choices, even if baby burgers aren't on the menu. Many children's cereals are fortified with iron, and many other foods contain iron naturally. [Read more: 5 Kid-Friendly Foods With Iron.]

      • 5 Nutrition Facts About Milk and Healthy Kids