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Health Highlights: Sept. 12, 2012

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

McDonald's to Post Calorie Counts on Menus

Fast food giant McDonald's announced Wednesday that it would begin listing calorie counts for its burgers, French fries and other menu items.

Federal regulation was expected to mandate such menu information for major chain restaurants next year, the Associated Press reported, but McDonald's move comes ahead of that.

"We want to voluntarily do this," Jan Fields, president of McDonald's USA, told AP. "We believe it will help educate customers."

Some U.S. cities, such as New York City and Philadelphia, already require calorie counts on menus, so many customers won't notice any change. However, Fields said that, "I do think people feel better knowing this information."

One nutrition expert said the move won't dramatically slim Americans' widening waistlines, but every little bit helps.

"Obesity isn't the kind of thing where one day you wake up and you're fat. We gradually and slowly gain weight over time," Margo Wootan, director of nutrition at the public advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the AP.

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FDA Warns L'Oreal About Skin Cream Claims

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cautioned cosmetics giant L'Oreal SA that claims made on its website for Genifique skin cream are exaggerated, suggesting that the product is a drug with medical properties.

The warning letter was issued Friday to L'Oreal's Lancome unit, the Associated Press reported, but was not posted on the FDA's website until Tuesday.

Lancome makes the claim that Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate "boosts the activity of genes" and contains elements that "stimulate cell regeneration to reconstruct skin to a denser quality," the AP said.

According to the FDA, only drugs are allowed to make such claims and Lancome has not provided data sufficient to market Genifique as a drug. L'Oreal has 15 business days in which to respond to regulators with a plan to adjust the language in the ad, the AP said.

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Cancers Added to Federal 9/11 Health Program

About 50 types of cancers will be added to the U.S. government's list of illnesses linked to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and will be covered by the 9/11 health program, two New York state senators said Monday.

According to the Associated Press, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer announced the move in a statement. Unresolved questions about links between exposure to dust from the World Trade Center attacks and cancer had kept Congress from adding malignancies to the initial list of covered illnesses, the AP said.

However, last June the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced that it favored enlarging the $4.3 billion program to cover cancer.

An advisory panel said it was possible that first responders and others might have gotten cancer due to exposures to toxins in the dust.

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Alzheimer's Drug May Still Hold Promise, Researchers Say

Researchers say an experimental Alzheimer's drug shows some promise even though it failed to halt mental deterioration in a trial of patients with mild to moderate forms of the age-related brain disorder.

Extensive review of two major studies suggest the drug, bapineuzumab, might help if patients took it in an earlier stage of the disease before serious damage occurs, the Associated Press reported. Bapineuzumab is made by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, Inc.

Brain imaging and other tests found that some study participants who received the drug showed less nerve damage and more consistent levels of harmful brain plaque than those given an inactive placebo, researchers reported Tuesday at a neurology conference in Sweden.

This suggests that the drug was "doing something to the biology of the disease," Dr. Reisa Sperling, director of the Alzheimer's center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who led one of the studies, told the AP. "We've got a path forward" for testing in patients with milder forms of disease, she added.

About 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, a progressive brain disease for which there is no known cure.

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