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Consumer Reports Health News

YONKERS, N.Y., Jan. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Welcome to Consumer Reports Health News for health and medical journalists. Consumer Reports and cover issues pertaining to the efficacy and safety of prescription and non-prescription drugs (including natural medicines), mental health, diet and nutrition, food safety, and fitness. CR tests health and fitness products, rates the effectiveness and affordability of prescription drugs, and evaluates the claims made by drug companies and the health care industry -- all without commercial agendas or advertiser influence.

Copies of the reports highlighted below are available upon request.

Special Report: Shaking the Salt and Sugar From Your Diet

According to the January issue of Consumer Reports on Health, the Food and Drug Administration is now considering whether it should regulate the amount of sodium in processed foods. In the meantime, it's up to consumers to limit their sodium intake, which may prove challenging for some; today, the average American consumes nearly twice the recommended maximum of sodium. And we love our sweets -- the average person consumes nearly 460 nutritionally empty calories of added sugar every day. The report is available online at

Consumer Reports provides tips for cutting back on salt and sugar and suggests ways to incorporate stand-ins, such as spices, for flavor enhancement. CR also clarifies what's behind those hard to decipher nutrient claims, such as "sodium free," "very low sodium," "low sodium," and "reduced sodium" or "less sodium." Understanding those labels will be critical to consumers trying to lower their blood pressure; people with a systolic blood pressure over 120 millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg) or a diastolic pressure over 80 mm/Hg should aim for 1,500 mg of sodium a day.

Adult Vaccinations: The Shots You Need

Some adults might be surprised to learn that vaccines aren't just for kids. Consumer Reports lists ten vaccines online at for some of the most serious ailments, including the flu, which sends more than 200,000 people to the hospital each year and kills more than 35,000. Many people fail to get the flu shot, even though a vaccine against the disease has been available for more than 60 years. Some of the other diseases aren't likely to kill, but can be extremely painful and flare up with no warning. And when the usual childhood diseases occur in adults, the effects can be devastating. Other vaccines, including one against shingles and another that helps to protect against cervical cancer, came out fairly recently. All the vaccines listed in the CR list are generally very safe and effective, though many adults aren't aware that they need them, aren't being reminded by their doctors, or are skeptical about their safety and effectiveness.

Risky Pills: Supplements to Avoid

The January issue of Consumer Reports takes a look at dangerous supplements, noting that some dietary supplements present health risks and some have even been found to be spiked with prescription drugs. In 2007, the FDA issued more than nine "safety alerts" warning consumers to stop using 13 brands marketed as supplements because testing found that these supplements contained prescription medications. Supplements are taken for a variety of reasons such as weight loss, arthritis, depression, anxiety, stress, and asthma. People tend to turn to supplements because they want to avoid the risks and potential drug interactions of pharmaceutical drugs. CR's full report, with a listing of 11 supplements containing hazardous ingredients, is available online at In the meantime, to be safe, consumers should learn more about the evidence behind the supplements they are taking or are considering taking. Consumer Reports maintains an online database for subscribers with the most current information and effectiveness ratings for natural medicines, herbs, vitamins and nutritional supplements. CR also recommends that consumers look for the USP Verified Dietary Supplement mark on products for assurance that the product they're purchasing has the declared ingredients.

The Best Medicines For Less

Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, a public education project, has now evaluated the best drugs for 35 conditions including Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insomnia, menopause, migraine, and overactive bladder. The report is part of a broader effort by CR to make sure that consumers get the best medicines for their health-care dollar. The report is available at no cost to consumers by clicking on

When the Going Gets Tough: Constipation

Dr. Marvin Lipman, chief medical adviser for Consumers Union, notes in his "Office Visit" column in the January issue of Consumer Reports on Health that constipation affects as many as one of every four Americans at one time or another, occurring more than twice as often in women. Dr. Lipman comments that, although a lack of fiber in the diet and dehydration can cause constipation, treating the problem by increasing dietary fiber and drinking eight glasses of water a day often results in bloating, flatulence, abdominal distention, and increased urinary frequency. As long as a person is consuming adequate amounts of fiber (at least 25 grams per day) and drinking enough fluids to keep their urine a pale yellow, increases are not likely to help. For people who need relief, Dr. Lipman recommends selecting a single-ingredient product that matches an individual's specific complaint. Details about how to choose the right laxative are outlined in the report, available online at


The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports on Health(R) is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Consumers Union supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.

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