FDA to Let Labels Link

Olive Oil, Heart Health

Foods containing olive oil can carry labels saying they may reduce the risk of heart disease, the government says, citing limited evidence from a dozen scientific studies about the benefits of monounsaturated fats.

As long as people do not start consuming more calories, the Food and Drug Administration said, replacing foods high in saturated fat with the monounsaturated fat in olive oil reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.

That means a change as simple as sauteing food in two tablespoons of olive oil instead of butter may be healthier for your heart.

The North American Olive Oil Association sought the qualified health claim in August 2003.

Research has underscored the heart benefits from Mediterranean diets high in unsaturated fats from vegetable oil, nuts, and such fish as salmon and tuna.

Olive oil and certain foods containing olive oil can now indicate that "limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about two tablespoons [23 grams] of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil," the FDA concluded.

Vaccine Shows Promise

For Cervical Cancer

Efforts to develop the world's first vaccine to prevent cervical cancer took a key step forward yesterday with test results suggesting that it can provide long-lasting protection.

Four years after receiving the vaccine, 94 percent of women were protected from infection with the virus that causes most cervical cancers and none had developed worrisome precancerous conditions, a study showed.

"The immune responses seem to be really long-lasting," said Eliav Barr, who leads development of the vaccine for Merck Research Laboratories. The company plans to seek FDA approval next year for an expanded version of the vaccine that also could be used to prevent genital warts in women and men.

University of Washington researchers, who were funded by Merck, presented results at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

If the vaccine makes it to market, it would be the second developed to prevent cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine has dramatically reduced the number of infections that progress to liver cancer.

The study followed 755 women after vaccination to see how many developed a strain of human papilloma virus infection that accounts for half of all cervical cancers. After four years, the infection was found in seven women; none developed precancers. In a comparison group of 750 women who received placebo shots, infections were found in 111 and precancers in 12.

-- From News Services