NPR Health

When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, few would have predicted that one of the most contentious provisions would have to do with contraception.

But today federal officials are grappling with more than 40 lawsuits claiming that the requirement for most health plans to provide contraceptive coverage to women violates their religious freedom.

And religious groups aren't the only ones going to court.

Saturday marks the third anniversary of the powerful earthquake that destroyed much of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The quake killed roughly 200,000 people and left 1.5 million Haitians homeless.

Despite billions of dollars in international aid and pledges to help Haiti rebuild from the disaster, very little new, permanent housing has been built. And about 350,000 Haitians are still living in squalid, makeshift camps — where they face an array of health challenges.

The tantalizing aroma of freshly baked brioche is hard to resist, while a virtuous loaf of whole wheat often lacks that same allure. Blame it on the ferulic acid.

See, whole-wheat bread contains all parts of the wheat, including the bran, but white bread does not. That bran in the wheat bread contains the aforementioned ferulic acid, which overrides the compounds that give white bread its mouthwatering smell, according to new research.

Federal healthy officials said Friday there are some early signs this year's flu season may be easing in some parts of the country. But they stressed it's far too early to tell whether the flu season has peaked.

The number of states reporting widespread flu activity is up to 47, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But flu activity nationally fell slightly in the CDC's most recent data. Five states reported less flu than a week earlier, according to the CDC.

The Fallacies Of Fat

Jan 11, 2013

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. This isn't going to take you by surprise, but America is fat. One in three adults is obese. For kids, it's one in six. But don't forget the infants. Doctors say there's now an obesity epidemic among six-month-old babies. And if you think you're safe because you're thin, consider that up to 40 percent of thin people have metabolic syndrome, in other words, on the road to type 2 diabetes, even if they can't tell by looking in the mirror.

Getting A Handle On Why Fingers Wrinkle

Jan 11, 2013

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

Up next, Flora Lichtman is here with our Video Pick of the Week. Hi, Flora.

FLORA LICHTMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Ira.

FLATOW: Now, we've got some digital research on this one. The other - the classic definition of digits, which...

LICHTMAN: The analog digital, your fingers.

FLATOW: Your fingers. That's what it means in Latin or something, right?

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

Next up, yet another way that genetics is giving rise to new ways to treat cancer. A few months ago I was at a conference focusing on individualized medicine; that's treating people individually, using medicines that were designed for each person's genetic makeup. It's a new frontier that we'll be talking about more.

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY, I'm Ira Flatow. Pap tests are routinely used to screen women for signs of cervical cancer, but now researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore say the tests might be able to detect ovarian and uterine cancers as well.

Why would the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — the people who helped bring the world stealth fighters and GPS — fund research into man-made proteins that could make it easier for some Americans to eat pizza?

That's what we wondered when we read that the Pentagon's gee-whiz research arm provided support for work on a drug to treat celiac disease, a condition that interferes with the digestion of gluten in wheat and other foods.

So we asked.

The Buzz On Silent Retreats

Jan 11, 2013

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're almost two weeks into the new year. We're thinking about the resolutions that many people may have made, and you often hear people talking about getting their finances in order or eating better or getting in shape, but we also notice that many people are telling us that they are resolving to unplug more from the stress of our fast-paced lives. Some people are saying that they're going to spend more time in silence, so why don't we give it a try? Here it is. Let's go.

Merck Halts Sale Of Niacin Drug In 40 Countries

Jan 11, 2013

Drugmaker Merck just stuck a fork in a vitamin-based drug to prevent heart disease and stroke.

The company is withdrawing Tredaptive, a long-acting pill combining niacin (No. 3 in the long list of B vitamins) and laropiprant, a chemical that reduces the unpleasant skin flushing caused by high doses of niacin.

If you haven't caught the flu yet or don't know someone who has, you might want to buy a lottery ticket today. You're one lucky person.

As The Associated Press writes, "from the Rocky Mountains to New England, hospitals are swamped with people with flu symptoms." More than 40 states report "widespread" outbreaks. The flu's been blamed for the deaths of at least 20 children, the AP adds.

Evidence of loss remains even three years after a massive earthquake claimed the lives of as many as 200,000 people in Haiti. In the middle of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, there is a cathedral whose sun-washed walls reach into the sky where a roof used to be.

A lone flagpole marks the spot where the National Palace, a symbol of Haiti's government, once proudly stood.

And on a downtown street that once bustled with storefronts, there is now a row of vendors who sell their wares under tent poles and umbrellas.

An apparent feud between two black market pharmacies has shed light on a shady global industry.

"Rx-Promotion and SpamIt probably are responsible for upward of 50 or 60 percent of spam that you and I got in our inboxes over the last five years," said Brian Krebs, a cyber-security reporter who chronicled the alleged feud on his website. "It's just a ridiculous amount of problems that these two guys cause for everybody."

Flu season has started early this year, and it's hit hard. The flu has gotten so bad in Boston, for example, that the mayor declared a public health emergency this week. Audie Cornish speaks with Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about the scope of this year's outbreak and what people can do to avoid getting infected.

Florida and several other states are wrestling with a decision: whether to expand Medicaid.

When the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act last year, the court said states could opt out of that part of the law. But it's key. It would provide coverage to millions of low-income Americans who currently have no health insurance.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he's concerned about how much expanding Medicaid would cost. But others charge the governor is exaggerating.

Not so long ago bilingualism was thought to be bad for your brain. But it looks more and more like speaking more than one language could help save you from Alzheimer's disease.

Living with an overweight parent, child or spouse can be difficult. Loved ones who want to help a family member struggling with obesity may be hesitant to broach the subject for fear of causing shame or making matters worse.

The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it was requiring companies that make Ambien and similar sleeping pills to sharply cut the doses of the drugs.

We were warned that this year's flu season was likely to be a bad one, and now that forecast is starting to bear out.

If there's one thing we love more than talking about beef here at The Salt, it's visualizing the U.S.'s insatiable appetite for meat through infographics and charts.

So when we ran across Sarah Hallacher's Beef Stakes project over at Fast Company's Co.Design blog, our eyes lit up like the charcoal grill on Super Bowl Sunday.

As governors present their ideas about reducing gun violence and the White House meets with so-called "stakeholders," we look at how mental health policy fits in. Many advocates and policymakers stress that mental health must be a part of the conversation, but they are short on specifics. Audie Cornish talks with Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association. The APA took part in the meeting on Wednesday at the White House with Vice President Joe Biden.

Some kids can't get enough of online games where they can pretend to run a candy factory or decorate cakes. But children who play with these games may eat more, and eat more junk food, even if the game features fruit or other healthful choices, according to new research.

Caffeine In Supplements Varies Widely

Jan 9, 2013

Caffeine is pretty much everywhere. It's in coffee and tea, of course, but also pops up in mints, gum, jerky and even maple syrup.

During first period at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School in Encinitas, Calif., Kristen McCloskey leads about two dozen third-graders through some familiar yoga poses.

"All right, so let's do our opening sequence A," she says, instructing the kids. "Everyone take a big inhale, lift those arms up. Look up."

At the end of the half-hour class, 8-year-old Jacob Hagen says he feels energized and ready for the rest of the day. "Because you get to stretch out and it's good to be the first class because it wakes you up," he says.

Gonorrhea is one tough germ to beat.

Over the past 70 years, the bug has outwitted four classes of antibiotics, leaving just one set of drugs available to kill it.

Now there's more evidence that the arsenal against gonorrhea is shrinking again.

Canadian doctors have documented the first failure in North America of cefixime, the front-line antibiotic for gonorrhea.

Many a college student lives off of microwavable meals – but some do it not by choice but because they're worried school food might make them sick.

They may have celiac disease, a digestive ailment caused by gluten, or life-threatening allergies to foods like peanuts — both are on the rise. But even as more people become aware of the issues, schools and institutions may lag behind.

What We've Learned About Fat And Fitness

Jan 8, 2013

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Ari Shapiro, in Washington. Just one week into January, you may be noticing the effects of people's New Year's resolutions. For example, there may be no spots on the treadmill at your gym; no kale on the supermarket shelves. Losing weight is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions and this hour, we'll explore what we've learned in the last year about how some people keep fit, and why others have a hard time dropping pounds.

Young And Doubly Insured: A Modern Health Dilemma

Jan 8, 2013

There may be worse problems to have, but overlapping health coverage can be a problem for young people nonetheless.

Many young adults have more health insurance options now that they can stay on their parents' plans until they turn 26 under the administration's health law.

This year's flu season started about a month early, prompting federal health officials to warn it could be one of the worst in years. They're urging everyone to get their flu shots.

But like every flu season, there are lots of reports of people complaining that they got their shot but still got the flu. What's up with that?

Well, as Michael Jhung of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, there are lots of possible reasons.

Pages