Through a petition, an activist group urges the FDA to regulate sugar sweetened beverages; a new study finds that limiting salt in foods could save hundreds of thousands of lives; and the CDC issues two studies identifying the ‘ongoing, severe epidemic’ of STIs in the US. Read these and more public health news stories for Feb. 14, 2013.

Boston Globe – FDA urged to regulate sugar in drinks
The US Food and Drug Administration should regulate the amount of added sugars in soda and other sweetened beverages to reverse the obesity epidemic, a Washington-based nutrition activist group urged in a petition signed by Harvard School of Public Health researchers, the Boston Public Health Commission, and others.
“The FDA considers sugar to be a safe food at the recommended level of consumption, but Americans are consuming two to three times that much,” Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which filed the petition, said at a press briefing on Wednesday. He added that the average American consumes 78 pounds of added sugars each year, mostly from high fructose corn syrup prevalent in sugary sodas, sports drinks, and fruit punch.

Los Angeles Times – Cutting salt could save hundreds of thousands of lives, study says
Steadily reducing sodium in the foods we buy and eat could save a half-million Americans from dying premature deaths over a decade, says a new study. And a more abrupt reduction to 2,200 milligrams per day–a 40% drop from current levels–could boost the tally of lives saved over 10 years to 850,000, researchers have projected.
The new estimates, published Tuesday in the American Heart Assn.’s journal Hypertension, are the results of three separate teams crunching the numbers at the request of theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers from UC San Francisco, Harvard University‘s School of Public Health and Simon Fraser University in Canada came at their estimates independently, but found that their results converged.

ABC News – School health clinics expand to serve communities
When Maria Barrales’ children got sick, she would drive two hours south from her East Los Angeles home to the Mexican border and spend two more hours waiting to cross so she could go to an affordable doctor in Tijuana.
Now, Barrales, who does not have health insurance, can walk a couple of blocks to Garfield High School and see a modestly priced physician at a new health clinic converted from an auto shop on the school grounds.

NBC News – Ongoing, severe epidemic’ of STDs in US, report finds
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued two new studies of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) today detailing what the lead author of one calls “an ongoing, severe, STI epidemic.”
The studies reveal new infection data, some of it available for the first time, for the eight most common STIs — chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B, HIV, and trichomoniasis. The studies, which estimate infection rates and medical costs related to STIs, were published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.