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Health Highlights: Aug. 7, 2013

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

Scientists Plan H7N9 Lab Tests to Learn More About Virus

Scientists plan to make more dangerous versions of the H7N9 bird flu virus in the lab, to learn more about how likely it is that the virus will mutate and cause a human pandemic, and how to protect people against it.

The project is outlined Wednesday in the journals Science and Nature.

The researchers will conduct gain-of-function experiments on H7N9. These types of experiments introduce changes into a virus to learn more about it. For example, such tests can show whether certain mutations would increase the ability of the virus to spread or would affect how the virus responds to vaccines, according to a Science news release.

A related letter also published in both journals provides the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' official statement about the oversight it will require for this research.

The bird flu virus first emerged in China in February. By the end of June, 133 cases had been reported, resulting in 43 deaths.

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Dustin Hoffman 'Cured' After Cancer Surgery

Dustin Hoffman has been "surgically cured" of cancer after the disease was detected at an early stage, according to his publicist.

The 75-year-old Oscar-winning actor is "feeling great and in good health," said spokeswoman Jodi Gottlieb, BBC News reported Tuesday.

She did not provide any further details.

People magazine reported that Hoffman would undergo treatments to prevent the cancer from returning, according to BBC News.

Hoffman, who won best actor Oscars for "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "Rain Man," will appear in the comedy movie "Chef" next year.

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Bigger Meals Earlier in the Day Promote Weight Loss: Study

Eating your heaviest meal at breakfast and your lightest at dinner can help you lose weight, a new study says.

The Israeli study included 93 overweight and obese women in their mid-40s who ate 50 percent of their allotted 1,400 daily calories at breakfast, 36 percent at lunch and 14 percent at dinner, or 14 percent of their calories at breakfast, 36 percent at lunch and 50 percent at dinner, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The women who got most of their calories at breakfast lost an average 19.1 pounds over 12 weeks, compared to 7.9 pounds for the women who got most of their calories at dinner, according to the study in the journal Obesity.

The researchers at Tel Aviv University noted that the study was too short to assess the potential long-term health benefits of consuming the largest amount of daily calories at breakfast, WSJ reported.

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Sleep Influences Food Choices: Study

Poor sleep leads to poor food choices, a new study says.

Researchers looked at 23 healthy young adults and found that they were more likely to favor unhealthy snack and junk foods, such as pizza and doughnuts, when they were sleep deprived. Brains scans revealed that sleep deprivation was linked with impaired activity in the brain's frontal lobe, which governs complex decision making, and increased activity in brain areas associated with rewards.

"What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified," study senior author Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a university news release.

He added, "High-calorie foods also became significantly more desirable when participants were sleep-deprived. This combination of altered brain activity and decision-making may help explain why people who sleep less also tend to be overweight or obese."

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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