Today’s Headlines: Exercise, Supplements and Mammograms

Even a little exercise is better than none. While current health guidelines recommend at least two to three hours of physical activity per week for optimal health, many fall below that mark. New research has shown that shouldn’t discourage you. “During years of follow-up, the team found that people who did less than the minimum recommended amount of physical activity still had a considerable decrease in risk of death compared to people who did no activity at all. Researchers looked at data on more than 660,000 men and women in the U.S. and Europe. Half the studies had tracked participants for more than 14 years. Based on self-reports of physical activity, people who did less than the recommended minimum of activity were still 20 percent less likely to die during the studies than people who were not active at all.” That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother to hit the minimum benchmarks. “Mortality risk was 31 percent lower for people who did one to two times the recommended minimum, and 37 percent lower for those who did two to three times the recommended minimum.” Still, the research shows that whatever you can fit in is better than nothing at all. (Reuters)

Acacia rigidula supplements may contain dangerous amphetamine. The FDA doesn’t verify the claims you see on herbal supplements, and recent research has shown these companies make outlandish claims about what their herbs do and may even add dangerous chemicals to get the right effect. “A new study found the stimulant beta-methylphenylethylamine, or BMPEA, in more than half of 21 brands of Acacia rigidula supplements. The products tested were marketed for weight loss, athletic performance and to improve brain function, the researchers said. BMPEA has been shown to raise blood pressure and heart rates in dogs and cats but has not been studied in humans. The World Anti-Doping Agency classifies it as a doping agent because it is closely related to amphetamine. BMPEA is the latest in a series of amphetamine-like stimulants that have appeared in supplements. Acacia rigidula, a shrub that is native to Texas, does not naturally contain BMPEA. The FDA began investigating the product after a study in the late 1990s suggested there could be trace amounts of amphetamine in the plant. The agency found no amphetamine and no BMPEA in the plant itself but high levels of synthetic BMPEA.” Rises in blood pressure and heart rate can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. Acacia rigidula is also known as blackbrush acacia, Chaparro Prieto and Vachellia rigidula. (Fox)

Mammograms may lead to many false positives, higher cost. While there’s no doubt that mammograms help to detect breast cancer, the test has come under fire lately around concerns that it may lead some women to get more workups than they really need. “A new report estimates that the U.S. spends $4 billion a year on unnecessary medical costs due to mammograms that generate false alarms and on treatment of breast tumors unlikely to cause problems. The study breaks the cost down as follows: $2.8 billion resulting from false-positive mammograms and another $1.2 billion attributed to breast cancer overdiagnosis. That’s the treatment of tumors that grow slowly or not at all, and are unlikely to develop into life-threatening disease during a woman’s lifetime. The cost estimates cover women ages 40-59. Apart from the financial cost of screening tests and treatment, false positives and overdiagnosis expose women to risks from additional medical procedures, not to mention psychological distress. It’s not uncommon for mammograms to turn up some apparent abnormality that has to be resolved with more imaging tests or a biopsy.” The researchers hope their findings will continue the conversation about how best to use the mammogram as a screening tool for breast cancer. (CBS)