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

U.S. Embryonic Stem Cell Funding Can Continue for Now: Court

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the U.S. government can continue funding embryonic stem cell research while it appeals a district court judge's ban on such funding.

The Justice Department told the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., that the ban imposed by District Judge Royce Lamberth could cause irreparable harm to researchers and scientific progress, according to a Bloomberg news report.

The appeals court said it would put a hold on Lamberth's ruling while it reviews that decision.

The lifting of the ban means that the federal government can continue providing tens of millions of dollars to scientists using embryonic stem cells in research they hope will lead to cures for a wide range of diseases and conditions, Bloomberg reported.


Vitamin B May Slow Alzheimer's Onset: Study

Taking daily vitamin B supplements may delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease among people in the early stages of memory loss, suggests an English study.

The Oxford University researchers found that neurological decline in some patients was reduced by as much as 50 percent after they took vitamin B tablets, reported Britain's The Guardian.

"It is our hope that this simple and safe treatment will delay the development of Alzheimer's in many people who suffer from mild memory problems," said study co-leader David Smith, a professor emeritus in Oxford University's pharmacology department.

"These are very important results, with B vitamins now showing a prospect of protecting some people from Alzheimer's in old age. The strong findings must inspire an expanded trial to follow people expected to develop Alzheimer's, and we must hope for further success," said Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, The Guardian reported.


U.S. Faces Huge Increase in Health Spending: Study

Health care spending in the United States will almost double and consume nearly 20 percent of the economy by 2019, according to a new federal government estimate.

The large increase in the number of Americans with health insurance as a result of the new health care law will drive the rise in spending, but total health care costs won't be substantially more than if the law had not been enacted, the Los Angeles Times reported.

With the new health care law, health spending is expected to increase from $2.6 trillion this year to $4.6 trillion by 2019. Before the new law was introduced, the projection was $4.5 trillion in 2019.

The estimate was prepared by independent economists at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"It appears that the Affordable Care Act will have a moderate effect on health spending growth," said study lead author Andrea M. Sisko, the Times reported.


Women Judge Men on Their Dancing: Study

Men with big, flamboyant moves on the dance floor are especially attractive to women, suggests a new study.

After filming men ages 18 to 35 as they danced, British and German researchers converted their movements into computer-generated avatars so that the emphasis was on movement, not appearance, the Associated Press reported.

The dancing avatars were rated by women, who said the most appealing dancers were those who had a wide range of dance moves and good head, neck and torso movement.

The study appears in the journal Biology Letters.

Women may subconsciously assess the fluidity of a man's dancing in order to judge how fit he is, said study co-author Nick Neave, an evolutionary psychologist at Northumbria University in Newcastle, England, the AP reported.


U.S. Traffic Deaths at 60-Year Low

Safer vehicles, increased use of seatbelts and tougher law enforcement are among the reasons why the number of traffic deaths in the United States last year was the lowest since 1950, federal officials reported.

The death toll on the nation's roads in 2009 was 33,808, a 9.7 percent decrease from 37,423 in 2008, according to the Transportation Department's annual report released Wednesday, the Associated Press said.

The report also said that the rate of deaths per miles traveled also dropped to a record low of 1.13 deaths per 100 million miles traveled in 2009, compared with 1.26 in 2008.

The decline in road deaths in 2009 occurred even though the number of miles traveled by motorists increased 0.2 percent from 2008, the AP reported.

The findings show that "America's roads are the safest they've ever been. But they must be safe. And we will not rest until they are," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.


Most U.S. Public Hospitals Are in Rural Areas

Even though two-thirds of the United States' public hospitals are in rural areas, these hospitals accounted for just 20 percent of the 5.6 million patients discharged from public hospitals in 2008, says a federal government study.

Urban hospitals accounted for 43 percent of discharged patients, said the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Rural hospitals average only 59 beds while urban hospitals average 285 beds, the researchers noted.

Among the other findings about public hospitals:

  • The average occupancy rate was 47 percent for rural hospitals and 61 percent for urban hospitals.
  • The percentage of patients who were 65 or older was 42 percent in rural hospitals and 23 percent in urban hospitals.
  • Patients in rural hospitals were twice as likely to be from the poorest communities in their areas than those in urban hospitals -- 52 percent vs. 26 percent.
  • Rural hospitals were less likely than urban hospitals to have high technology services such as intensive care units, MRI, cardiac surgery and advanced types of radiation therapy.