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YOUR 3-YEAR-OLD is the soccer star of the playground. Should you start developing his or her skills in hopes of producing the next World Cup superstar?

"I am an advocate of athletic activity at an early age," Dr. Eric Small writes in the new book Kids & Sports (Newmarket Press, $14.95). "But competitive sports require more physical and emotional development than a 3-year-old can handle. It is usually not before the age of 8 that children can fully understand the concept of teamwork and sharing strategies.

"I generally do not recommend specializing in one sport year-round before the age of 12."

YOU'RE NOT IMAGINING IT. You're getting bombarded with drug ads. And you're paying for them, according to a new study.

An analysis by Families USA, a nonprofit advocacy group for health care consumers, found that U.S. drug companies spent almost one-and-a-half times as much on administration and marketing as they do on developing new drugs.

"The result is a skyrocketing cost spiral that is making drugs increasingly unaffordable for America's seniors," said Families USA executive director Ron Pollack.

MEGADOSES OF VITAMIN E don't prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in Americans older than 55, according to a study.

Many of the 6-million Americans with the disease found hope last year when the National Eye Institute said the vitamin can slow progression of the disorder by about 25 percent.

But new Australian research indicates that vitamin E alone does not prevent "either the incidence or progression of macular degeneration," said Hugh P. Taylor, a study co-author and a professor at the University of Melbourne. The study was published in the British Medical Journal.

The National Eye Institute says the Australian research didn't sample enough people.

THERE'S NEWS ABOUT DEPRESSION. A finding by Dr. Robert G. Robinson, chief of psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, could help explain the millions of diagnoses of depression in people who have suffered brain injury from strokes or other causes.

Robinson found that the left frontal cortex, which puts a positive emotional spin on experiences that make us feel good, is particularly vulnerable to damage. When that feel-good feeling is erased, Robinson said, depression fills the void.

_ Times wires were used in this report