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Health Highlights: Dec. 10, 2013

Health Highlights: Dec. 10, 2013

12/10/13

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

Aspartame in Diet Sodas is Safe, Report Says

It's safe to consume the artificial sweetener aspartame at levels currently used in diet sodas, according to the European Food Safety Authority.

The agency's conclusion, announced Tuesday after a major review of evidence, ruled out any "potential risk of aspartame causing damage to genes and inducing cancer," the Associated Pressreported.

Aspartame, also known under the brand name NutraSweet, is the sweetener used in Diet Coke. Sales of the drink declined after other studies showed that aspartame might be a health threat.

Coca Cola Co. recently launched an advertising campaign to ease consumers' fears about Diet Coke, the APreported.

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States' Spending on Antismoking Programs Decreasing: Report

Only a small portion of money from tobacco taxes and settlements with tobacco companies is being used by states for antismoking programs, according to a report by an coalition of advocacy groups.

They said that in 2014, states would earn about $25 billion in this type of revenue but are expected to spend only $481 million on programs to prevent or reduce tobacco use. That's far below the $3.7 billion recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The New York Timesreported.

In 2002, states spent $750 million on anti-smoking efforts.

Next year, only Alaska and North Dakota are set to meet the CDC recommendations for tobacco prevention spending, according to the report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and four other anti-smoking groups.

"I would call it horrible health policy and horrible fiscal policy," Danny McGoldrick, vice president for research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told The Times"They are passing up an opportunity to save lives, save suffering and save health care dollars for the state."

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White House Announces $100M More for Mental Health as Newton Shooting Anniversary Nears

Increased funding for mental health will be promised by Vice President Joe Biden as the first anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. approaches.

When he meets relatives of shooting victims at the White House on Tuesday, Biden will announce that $100 million will become available to improve access and quality of mental health services, the Associated Pressreported.

That will include $50 million through the Affordable Care Act to help community health centers hire care providers and add services for people with mental illness and addiction. The other $50 million will help finance rural mental health facilities.

Efforts to strengthen gun control failed following the Dec. 14, 2012 Newton shooting. Since then, the Obama administration has made mental health a major part of its efforts to reduce gun violence, the APreported.

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Singer Susan Boyle has Asperger's Syndrome

Scottish singer Susan Boyle has revealed that she's been diagnosed with a mild form of autism called Asperger's syndrome, which affects social and communication skills.

Boyle, 52, had learning disabilities as a child and was told that this was the result of oxygen deprivation at birth. But a year ago, she went to see a specialist and learned that she had an above average IQ, Boyle said in an interview with the U.K. newspaper The Observer, the Los Angeles Timesreported.

"I was told I had brain damage. It was the wrong diagnosis when I was a kid," she told the Observer. "I always knew it was an unfair label. Now I have a clearer understanding of what's wrong and I feel relieved and a bit more relaxed about myself."

Boyle rose to fame in 2009 when her audition for "Britain's Got Talent" TV show went viral, the Timesreported.

The Asperger's diagnosis "will not make any difference to my life. It's just a condition that I have to live with and work through," Boyle said. "I think people will treat me better because they will have a much greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do."

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Princeton Students Begin Getting Meningitis Shots

Nearly 2,000 Princeton University students received shots against bacterial meningitis on Monday, which was the first day of a free vaccination program meant to stop an outbreak of type B meningitis at the school.

The initial round of voluntary vaccinations will continue through Thursday, and a booster will be given in February. The vaccine is being offered to nearly 6,000 students, the Associated Pressreported.

Since March, seven students and one prospective student who visited the campus became ill with potentially fatal type B meningococcal disease. No one has died.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that students get the shots, the APreported. The vaccine is called Bexsero, which is approved in Europe and Australia but not in the United States. However, the CDC has approved the vaccine for use at Princeton.

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Group Urges Filming Halt After Another Porn Actor Tests Positive for HIV

A porn film advocacy group has called for another moratorium on filming after an actor became the third to positive for HIV this year.

The Free Speech Coalition said filming should be stopped while all the actor's possible partners are tested. The group did not release the name or any other details about the actor, who came up positive at one of the coalition's testing centers, the Associated Pressreported.

The request for a moratorium isn't binding, but industry members generally comply.

In August, an adult film actress who used the name Cameron Bay tested positive for HIV. Her on-screen partners tested negative but boyfriend and fellow performer Rod Daily announced he had also tested positive for HIV, APreported.

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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