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Health Highlights: Dec. 11, 2018

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Studies Highlight Risks of Red Meat-Rich Diet

Eating a lot of red meat boosts levels of a chemical linked to heart disease and also changes kidney function, two new studies find.

Compared to vegetarians or those who ate only white meat such as chicken, people who ate a diet high in red meat produced more trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a compound that's been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, NBC News reported Monday.

But production of TMAO fell within a month after participants stopped eating red meat, according to Dr. Stanley Hazen, from the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues.

The researchers also found that eating a lot of red meat can change kidney function, NBC News reported.

The studies were published in the European Heart Journal and the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"These studies really show what a large impact a diet that is rich in red meat can have on your metabolism," Hazen told NBC News.

"One of our most surprising findings was that a diet rich in red meat actually changed kidney function. We saw that the kidneys were being regulated by a chronic diet. This is something that, as far as I am aware, hasn't been shown before," Hazen said.

TMAO is made by gut bacteria as they digest food and red meat causes these bacteria to make a lot of TMAO. Hazen's team has shown that people who have more TMAO in their blood are at increased risk for heart disease, and also have a higher risk of dying earlier, NBC News reported.

Hazen is trying to develop a drug that would lower TMAO levels and the risk of heart disease.

"These findings reinforce current dietary recommendations that encourage all ages to follow a heart-healthy eating plan that limits red meat," Charlotte Pratt, from the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which helped fund the study, told NBC News

"This means eating a variety of foods, including more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, and plant-based protein sources such as beans and peas," Pratt said.


Record Number of Cases of U.S. Children With Paralyzing Illness: CDC

There have been a record number of cases of a rare paralyzing illness among children in the United States this year, according to health officials.

So far, there have been 158 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in 36 states, and Texas (21) and Colorado (15) have had the highest number of cases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

It also said that 311 more possible cases are being evaluated.

There were 149 confirmed cases in 2016 and 120 in 2014, with lower numbers in 2015 and 2017, the Associated Press reported.

No deaths have occurred this year, but AFM was linked with one death last year, and the disease may have caused other deaths in the past.

Children with AFM develop paralysis in the face, neck, back, arms or legs, typically about a week after a fever and respiratory illness, the AP reported.

Many patients have lasting paralysis, according to the CDC, and close to half the children diagnosed with AFM this year were placed in hospital intensive care units and put on machines to help them breathe.

A virus called EV-D68 is the leading suspect in AFM, but infections with the virus are not new in children, and many Americans carry antibodies against it. So it's a mystery why the virus is now causing AFM.

"This is a key question that has confounded us," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who is overseeing the CDC's investigation of the outbreak, the AP reported.

Experts also wonder why AFM cases in the United States are spiking in two-year cycles, something that isn't occurring in the more than 17 other countries that have had scattered cases of the disease.


U.S. Supreme Court Rejects States' Appeal Over Medicaid Funding for Planned Parenthood

An appeal from Kansas and Louisiana over Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood has been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The two states were appealing lower court rulings that prevented them from withholding Medicaid money used for health services for low-income women. The money is not used for abortions, the Associated Press reported.

Abortion opponents have say Planned Parenthood -- the nation's largest abortion provider -- should not receive any government money.

The fight about Medicaid funding stems from an anti-abortion group's 2015 release of heavily edited videos that claimed to show Planned Parenthood profiting from sales of fetal tissue for medical research, the AP reported.

The only payments it received were for legally permitted reimbursement of costs, Planned Parenthood says.

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