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'Nutrition Keys' announced

A voluntary, front-of-pack nutrition labeling system called "Nutrition Keys" was recently announced by leaders in the food and beverage industry. Developed with Michelle Obama's call to end childhood obesity in mind, Nutrition Keys hopes to help consumers make informed food choices in the supermarket aisle.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute, which represent the vast majority of food and beverage products on the market, adopted a joint resolution in support of Nutrition Keys in January.

Consumers can expect to start seeing Nutrition Keys' white-and-black icons, which will place important information on calories, saturated fat, sodium and total sugar content on the front of the package, as well as display information about nutrients, such as potassium, fiber, vitamins A, C and D; calcium, iron and protein. However, you should still read the ingredients list on the package to understand what the product contains. Learn more about Nutrition Keys at www.gmaonline.org.

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Drug linked to liver problems

Pressure is being put on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the weight-loss drug orlistat, following new evidence linking it to liver and kidney problems.

Orlistat works by preventing the absorption of fat in the intestine. It's currently the only weight-loss drug approved by the FDA. Matthew Weir and colleagues at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., observed the rate of acute kidney injury in 953 orlistat users. In the year before orlistat use, 0.5 percent of the group experienced kidney problems, but this leapt to 2 percent in the year when they were taking the drug (Archives of Internal Medicine).

Previous research has shown a link between orlistat use and liver damage, prompting adoption of a revised drug label warning of this side effect. Consumer group Public Citizen says information obtained from FDA files on adverse reactions links orlistat to 47 cases of acute pancreatitis and 73 cases of kidney stones. The drug should be removed from sale, it says.

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Arthritis also affects heart

Rheumatoid arthritis begins in the joints but doesn't end there. The inflammation that causes swelling and pain in fingers, wrists, knees and other joints can also affect the heart. A large study from Sweden suggests that a new diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis should get you thinking about your heart, too.

In a group of 7,500 men and women with new rheumatoid arthritis whose health was followed for up to 12 years, more people than expected had a heart attack, developed chest pain with activity or stress (angina), or needed a procedure to open or bypass a blocked heart artery within five years of their diagnosis (Journal of Internal Medicine, December 2010).

This work emphasizes how important it is for everyone with rheumatoid arthritis, including those just learning they have it, to focus on improving heart health while coping with their joint problems. Although an arthritis-specific approach to warding off heart disease doesn't yet exist, the basic steps for protecting the heart and arteries are a great start:

1. Exercise

2. Follow a healthy diet

3. Manage your weight

4. Control your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Compiled from News wire sources

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