Of 88 children who died during the first six months of this year from unintentional causes, 17 were born to haredi families, according to new data from Beterem, the Israel Center for Child Safety and Health. Thus it was just in time that the voluntary organization based at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva established a new program to prevent accidental harm to children in nearby Bnei Brak, which is populated mostly by large haredi families. During all of 2008, 13 Israeli haredi children died in such accidents. Bnei Brak Mayor Rabbi Ya'acov Asher called on mayors of all haredi cities and towns to join the Beterem program, as they are responsible for the safety of its children and all its residents. Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Stern, rabbi of the western part of the haredi city, said the Torah requires Jews to think before tragedies occur about how to prevent them. Half of all Israeli children today are born to haredi or Arab families. Beterem now runs accident-prevention programs in 17 municipalities and local authorities, including Arab towns. Beterem director-general Orly Silbinger said at the opening ceremony that the most common location (49 percent) of unintentional deaths among haredi children is at home, followed by 10% on the roads, 10% in educational institutions, 7% in public areas and 24% elsewhere. At home, the deaths increasingly result from serious burns from heating plates, electric samovars or fires set by candles used on Shabbat or festivals. Others fall from high places, from the arms of babysitters or during leisure activities outside the home. Silbinger said 95% of such accidents can be prevented. Deputy Health Minister MK Ya'acov Litzman, a Gur hassid, said at the ceremony that his office is working to get the government to adopt a national, multi-ministry safety program for children. In the past decade, thanks to increased awareness in the general population, the accidental death rate in children from birth to 17 has declined by 28%, and 42% from birth to 14. FIGHTING THE FAT(TY LIVER) Fatty liver disease (FLD) is a potentially dangerous condition that can occur in overweight and diabetic patients, and in those with high levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. It is characterized by the development of surplus fat in the liver cells. Insulin resistance - the relationship between these factors and the disease - occurs when cells do not react normally to insulin, increasing the level of sugar and causing high levels of harmful blood fats. FLD is the most common liver disease in the Western world, and is becoming increasingly prevalent in other parts of the world. Now researchers at the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem have shown that - when administered orally for a month - the frozen natural extract of the succulent plant Hoodia Parviflora decreases the level of blood sugar and improves the symptoms of metabolic syndrome in patients with fatty liver disease. Nearly half of Israelis aged 40 to 50 suffer from metabolic syndrome, and research has revealed that sufferers are 3.5 times more likely to die from complications than the people who have only heart disease. Dr. Meir Mizrahi and Dr. Gadi Lalazar, who headed the team of researchers from the hospital's liver unit in collaboration with Dr. Refael Aharon of Desert Labs in Kibbutz Yotvata, recently published their findings at the annual conference of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) in Boston. For their study, the Hadassah researchers used frozen Hoodia Parviflora produced by Desert Labs that improved metabolic syndrome symptoms in mice with fatty liver disease; the research advances to clinical trials in the coming months. "The results we have seen open new possibilities in the treatment of fatty liver disease, based on a natural product," said Lalazar. This is the first time this plant's extract has been shown to efficiently decrease the level of fat in the liver, and the first time scientists have succeeded in improving symptoms of fatty liver disease using natural materials. The plant is also able to suppress appetite. Hadasit, Hadassah's technology transfer company, and Desert Labs have a formal greement to develop products from pure Hoodia Parviflora to treat a wide range of inflammatory diseases. OLD ON THE ROAD With the ageing of the population and the rising average age of drivers, road signs will have to bear larger letters and be illuminated, and intersections will have to be improved, according to Technion Prof. Shalom Hakkert, scientific director of the Ran Naor Foundation to Promote Road Safety Research. He was speaking at a road safety workshop sponsored by Or Yarok, the voluntary organization promoting road safety founded by Avi Naor - whose son Ran was killed in a road accident. He added that the future will bring more safety systems that limit vehicle speed and improve navigation in cars - and that this would help reduce accidents. In 2009, the number of road deaths has decreased "significantly," said Naor. "While we are happy about this, we must conduct research to understand what has caused this reduction," he said. Hakkert predicted that in the future, the use of public transportation and bicycles will increase, while that of private vehicles will decrease. ALS AND TOBACCO Smoking may now be considered an established risk factor for the progressive and fatal amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, according to a US study recently published in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Dr. Carmel Armon, an ALS researcher and neuroepidemiologist at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, conducted a meta-analysis of numerous studies that looked for a link between smoking and ALS. "Application of evidence-based methods separates better-designed studies from studies with limitations that may not be relied on," Armon told UPI. "The better-designed studies show consistently that smoking increases the risk of developing ALS, with some findings suggesting that smoking may be directly implicated in causing the disease."