- Living Near Major Roads Linked to Dementia Risk, Study Says
- This Kind of Food Is Both Filling and Insanely Good for You
- Here’s Why the Cancer Death Rate Has Plummeted
- How a New Year’s Detox Sent One Woman to the ER
- How to Prevent Peanut Allergies
- 11 Surprising Uses For Botox
- Botox: The Drug That’s Treating Everything
- The Growing Fight Against Food Fraud
- Under Armour Wants You to Buy Tom Brady’s Pajamas
Posted: 05 Jan 2017 09:15 AM PST
People who live near a major road are more likely to develop dementia than those who live further away, according to new research.
The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, found that people who live within 50 meters (164 feet) of a major roadway are 12% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than their counterparts who live elsewhere. Researchers say that traffic exposure could be responsible for up to one in 10 cases of dementia among people who live near major roads.
“Despite the growing impact of these diseases, little is known about their causes and prevention,” says study author Hong Chen of Public Health Ontario. “Busy roads could be a source of environmental stressors that could give rise to the onset of dementia.”
Read More: How Bad Air Came Back
Researchers behind the study tracked 6.6 million adults living in Canada between 2001 and 2012 using postal codes to determine their proximity to a major road. Two pollutants from vehicle exhaust—nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter—were connected to dementia but researchers say they do not account for the full effect.
Air pollution has increased in severity in many parts of the world in recent years thanks to rapid economic growth and changes in fuel sources. The study is the latest in a slew of research to show the devastating effect air pollution can have on human health. Other studies have shown how smog can damage the functioning of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and more recently harm developing fetuses. Several initiatives across the globe have been launched in recent years to address the issue.
Posted: 05 Jan 2017 09:08 AM PST
Not all carbs are created equal—and thank goodness for that. New research suggests that a certain kind of carbohydrate called resistant starch may improve health by keeping you full, checking blood sugar and supporting the gut.
Resistant starch, a special type of fiber found in potatoes, bananas, chickpeas, grains and other foods, is the focus of a new study in the journal Nutrition Bulletin. Researchers from the British Nutrition Foundation and University College Dublin, in Ireland, analyzed everything published research has shown about the health benefits of resistant starch, and found more than a few reasons to fill up.
Eating resistant starch may support gut health and increase feeling of fullness, according to the studies reviewed. There’s also some evidence that eating resistant starch can counteract the negative health effects of eating a lot of red meat on colorectal cancer risk, though the study authors say more research is needed to understand these potential health claims.
The reason resistant starch seems to be so uniquely healthy is likely because of the way it’s digested. The starch bypasses the small intestine, the site of digestion for most food, and is instead metabolized in the colon. It’s then fermented and becomes short-chain fatty acids that provide energy. Short-chain fatty acids, which can act as gut-healthy prebiotics, have been linked to a lower risk of inflammation-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
In one small study of 10 people reviewed in the new report, healthy adults ate crackers containing about 30 grams of a type of resistant starch for about three weeks, and a couple weeks later they ate crackers without the starch. The study authors found that even during the short study period, eating crackers with resistant starch increased healthy gut bacteria and lowered the levels of less healthy types.
“Resistant starch appears to aid blood glucose control and may confer other health benefits,” says study author Stacey Lockyer, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation. “This is an exciting area for future research. Overall, regular consumption of a variety of fiber-rich foods is important.”
The new findings don’t offer an excuse to overload on carbohydrates like white bread and pasta, though they also contain some resistant starch. “Wholegrain varieties of foods tend to contain higher amounts of resistant starch—and other fiber types—than ‘white’ versions of these foods,” says Lockyer. “We know that adequate intake of dietary fiber overall is important for achieving a healthy, balanced diet and reduces the risk of developing a range of chronic diseases including colon cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”
Posted: 05 Jan 2017 07:00 AM PST
Death rates from cancer, the second-biggest killer in the United States, have dropped 25% since 1991, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society. That statistic translates into a lot of lives saved; had the cancer death rate remained steady from its peak in 1991, about two million more people would have died from cancer in the years until 2014, the report finds.
The drop is fueled by decreasing death rates from the four largest types of cancer: lung, breast, prostate and colorectal. “It’s pretty exciting for us that the cancer death rate continues to decline,” says Rebecca Siegel, strategic director of surveillance information services at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the annual report, which was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. “We’re making a lot of progress.”
The authors credit the drop to reductions in smoking—shown last year to be responsible for about 30% of all cancer deaths—as well as advances in treatment and earlier detection.
The report also finds that cancer incidence is 20% higher in men than in women, and the cancer death rate is 40% higher in men. “There’s a different mix of cancers in men and women, and a lot of it has to do with differences in exposure to cancer risk factors,” Siegel says. Though the gender difference isn’t fully understood, men are more likely than women to smoke and drink excessively, both risk factors for several kinds of cancers. Hormone and even height differences may also make men more susceptible, though it’s not yet clear how.
Racial disparities also affect who dies from cancer, but those differences are shrinking, the report shows. In 1990, black men were almost 50% more likely to die from cancer than white men, but in 2014, that difference dropped to 21%. The gap is also narrowing in women. These drops are largely due to declines in smoking by black youth in the 1970s and early 1980s, Siegel says.
Minorities also have better access to healthcare and insurance, and the proportion of uninsured Blacks and Hispanics halved from 2010 to 2015. Those changes are too recent to make much of a dent in the present data, Siegel says, but they do suggest a way to drive cancer death disparities down even more. “The potential for an acceleration in closing that gap is there with this increased access to healthcare,” Siegel says. “Hopefully it will be sustained.”
While good news overall, the report doesn’t guarantee a continuous downward trend of death rates from cancer. Recent evidence shows that death rates from other leading causes of death—like heart disease, closely related to obesity—are on the rise. Obesity, a risk factor for cancer, probably has yet to show its full effect on the death rates of cancer, Siegel says. “We don’t know when we’re going to see the effects of the tripling of the obesity rate in the past several decades,” she says, adding that excess body weight, unhealthy diet and a lack of physical activity account for about 20% of cancer diagnoses in the U.S. Some statistics hint that obesity may already be taking a toll. Rates of colorectal cancer, which is linked to obesity, are declining overall, Siegel says, but they’re rising in people younger than 50.
Posted: 05 Jan 2017 06:26 AM PST
After the sugar- and booze-filled holidays, starting the new year off with a cleanse or a detox may seem like a great way to reset, kickstart healthy habits, and maybe lose a few pounds. But certain “cleansing” strategies can be downright dangerous—as one British woman learned when her New Year’s detox sent her to the hospital with potentially life-threatening complications.
The 47-year-old patient was admitted to Milton Keynes University Hospital in the U.K. after she collapsed and suffered a seizure. Doctors learned that she’d been drinking more water and tea than normal, and had also been taking at least nine herbal supplements in an attempt to treat minor symptoms such as stress and low mood.
The woman’s doctors wrote about her case, which occurred during a previous New Year’s season, in a recent issue of BMJ Case Reports. They published the paper as a warning to others who may be considering New Year’s cleanses—especially the kind that involve excessive amounts of fluids or alternative remedies.
In this case, the woman developed hyponatremia, a potentially fatal problem that can occur when sodium levels in the blood drop to unsafe levels. For healthy people, this normally happens only when they drink lots of excess fluids; but it’s suspected that valerian root—one of the herbs this woman was taking—may increase a person’s vulnerability to the condition. That might explain, the doctors wrote, why simply drinking more tea and water quickly became dangerous.
Health.com: 5 Weeks to Your Best Body Ever: What to Eat
Of course, there are all sorts of detoxes out there, and not all of them have been associated with such scary side effects. But there is plenty to be wary of in this realm, says Courtney Peterson, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama Birmingham—and plenty to keep in mind if you’re planning to try an extreme diet change of your own.
“When you think of detoxing, most people think of the liver, because it’s the main organ that metabolizes toxins,” Peterson told Health. “But when you fast or do a detox, there are many different organs involved, and those organ systems can react in many different ways.”
In addition to all-out fasting, Peterson says most detoxes can be divided into four categories: herbal cleanses, oil cleanses, juice cleanses, and food-based cleanses. She prefers to steer people toward the last two categories, which have been shown to be safer and more effective for jumpstarting healthy habits.
As the case report shows, cleanses involving herbal remedies can have unintended consequences. “Most herbs have an upper toxic limit, and they tend to be toxic in much smaller doses than food,” Peterson says. “Even herbs you use for cooking, like cinnamon, are only safe in small doses.” (Cinnamon has been touted for its ability to lower blood sugar, but large amounts can also damage the liver.)
Supplements can also interact with each other or with medications you’re currently taking—and because they’re not regulated as strictly as drugs, there’s no way to know if ingredients or quantities are mislabeled. If you’re set on adding new herbal supplements to your health regimen, Peterson says, talk to your doctor and research their safety information first.
Another popular type of cleanse involves drinking large quantities of olive oil, often with lemon or apple juice. “This is quite dangerous,” says Peterson. “The idea is to dislodge stones in the gallbladder or liver, but it’s been shown that drinking this much oil can actually deposit new stones, made of olive oil derivatives, in these organs.” There’s been at least one report of a woman being sent to the emergency room for this complication.
Peterson doesn’t recommend full-fledged fasting—at least not for more than a day or two—and is strongly against diets like the Master Cleanse, which involves drinking water with lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. Not only do these diets last too long and cut calories too severely, she says; that much cayenne can also irritate the intestines and prevent electrolytes from being properly absorbed.
She’s more supportive of cleanses that replace some or all of the day’s meals with plant-based juices. Still, these come with caveats: Reducing calories too drastically or for too many days could slow your metabolism and send your body into energy-conservation mode, so you won’t burn calories as easily. You should also cut back on or avoid exercise if you’ve slashed your calorie intake, and you may experience headaches and fatigue.
If your daily sodium intake drops dramatically—which it might if you’re only consuming unsalted fruits and vegetables—you could put yourself at risk for hyponatremia. “People think they’re in the middle of a cleanse so they need to drink more water,” Peterson says. “But if you’re already not taking in sodium, drinking more water could send your body into shock.”
The healthiest approach to detoxing, she says, is one that involves whole foods. “There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘This week I’m going to eat a diet of mostly fruits and vegetables’—maybe blend some smoothies and eat steamed veggies for dinner,” she says.
This strategy may even have some advantages over juicing, she adds, because the food’s fiber will help the body excrete more toxins through the colon. Plus, unlike a restrictive liquid cleanse, pledging to eat more fruits and vegetables is hopefully something you won’t tire of anytime soon; it may even become a habit you can practice for the rest of the year.
Posted: 05 Jan 2017 04:00 AM PST
About six million young children in the U.S. suffer from food allergies—most commonly to peanuts. Pediatricians and allergy experts once agreed that the best solution was to avoid peanuts altogether, and for years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advised pregnant women with peanut allergies to stop eating peanuts while pregnant and to not feed peanuts to their children when they started on solid foods.
That changed in recent years, when two major studies proved that advice wrong. In one, the rate of peanut allergies was about 10 times lower for children who ate peanuts from an early age, compared to kids whose parents avoided giving their infants peanuts. Then, a rigorous trial in which young children were assigned to either eat peanuts early or avoid them showed again that kids who were introduced to peanuts when young had up to an 80% lower risk of developing peanut allergies than those who were not.
Based on those results, the AAP changed its advice for pregnant women about avoiding peanuts, recommending instead that women not avoid any particular groups of foods in the hopes of protecting their children from allergies. Now, the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has issued new guidelines to help doctors and parents adopt this new thinking. The advice, for introducing peanuts to infants in order to prevent peanut allergies, appears in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and immunology as well as on the NIAID website.
The recommendations provide guidance about how to safely introduce young children to peanuts from an early age. If babies are already allergic to eggs, or have severe eczema that doesn’t respond to treatment, they are considered at high risk of developing a peanut allergy, since their immune systems are already primed to be sensitive to certain allergens. For these babies, the guidelines recommend introducing peanuts at about four to six months, just as a baby is transitioning to solid foods. To make sure they don’t have a severe reaction to the peanuts, the panel advises that the peanuts be given in the doctor’s office.
For the other two groups—babies with mild to moderate eczema, and those without any known allergic reactions—the guidelines say that parents can introduce peanuts gradually at home, beginning at six months. (The guidelines also include recipes for the best type of peanut foods to use; whole peanuts aren’t appropriate for infants, since they can be a choking hazard.)
The hope is that by introducing peanuts early enough to children who might be allergic to them, doctors may be able to prevent them from ever developing a full-fledged allergy. While it’s not entirely clear how that happens, some kind of tolerance is likely involved. Just as babies can be trained to recognize that hot stoves are dangerous, so too can their immune systems be educated to see peanut proteins as harmless rather than as threats.
If such tolerance starts to reduce the number of new cases of peanut allergy, that could save millions of dollars in health care costs for treating children for allergic reactions, as well as the anxiety and stress of potentially life-threatening allergies. “We anticipate that if this works as well as we think it will, it will drop not only the incidence and prevalence of peanut allergy, but also the host of problems that come with having a food allergy,” says Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of the University of Colorado, and chair of the food allergy committee of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “Food allergies are associated with a poor quality of life, high cost to the patient and society, fear, anxiety and self-imposed restrictions. By preventing the allergy we also prevent this whole host of adverse things that accompany having a food allergy.”
The guidelines may take some getting used to, since they represent a significant change in the way doctors have previously handled peanut allergies. For one, the new advice does not use family history of peanut allergies as a criterion for whether an infant might be at high risk. Instead, it relies on the infant’s own reactions to egg and the presence of eczema. The guidelines also require specialists to spend more time, at least at the beginning of an infant’s care, to introduce peanut to the diet. But that time spent up front could save more later on, if that child does not develop an allergy and won’t need the years of medical care associated with it.
“I’m fired up about these guidelines; it’s something we can do to change the face of food allergy,” says Greenhawt. “If we can prevent tens of thousands of kids from developing peanut allergy, we have to pounce on that opportunity.”
Posted: 05 Jan 2017 04:00 AM PST
Though it’s best known for smoothing wrinkles, Botox, which is derived from one of the most deadly toxins known to man, has repeatedly stunned the medical community for its seemingly endless applications. Though the drug is approved for nine medical conditions and several cosmetic ones, Allergan, the company that owns Botox, holds close to 800 more patents for potential uses of the drug. Since it was approved nearly 30 years ago, Botox has indeed become a staple of cosmetic enhancement, but today, more than half of its revenue comes from its therapeutic uses for conditions as varied as chronic migraines and back pain to excessive sweating and twitching eyelids.
Botox is generally considered safe if used in tiny amounts and administered by a licensed professional, but the drug is not without risks. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required Botox carry a black box warning—the strongest type of warning label on any drug—cautioning the drug had been linked to serious side effects. For Botox, those can include the effects of the drug spreading from the injection site, which can cause muscle weakness, vision problems, trouble breathing and difficulty swallowing. There have also been a number of high-profile lawsuits brought against Allergan in which plaintiffs claimed that off-label uses of Botox for ailments like a child’s cerebral-palsy symptoms or an adult’s hand tremors caused lasting side effects.
Once a drug is approved in the U.S. for one medical condition, doctors are legally allowed to prescribe it for any medical issue they think it could benefit, regardless of whether it’s been proven to work for that condition. The practice is common in medicine, but some experts caution that more research is needed to understand how Botox works and whether it’s safe for all health problems before off-label use balloons.
The off-label use of this particular toxin has helped turn Botox into a blockbuster, as TIME reports in an in-depth cover story. Here are some of the most intriguing uses for Botox:
Chronic migraines (FDA approved)
Excessive underarm sweating (FDA approved)
Overactive bladder (FDA approved)
Crossed-eyes (FDA approved)
Depression (not FDA approved)
Premature ejaculation (not FDA approved)
Abnormal heartbeat (not FDA approved)
Severely cold hands (not FDA approved)
Cleft lip scars in babies (not FDA approved)
Painful sex (not FDA approved)
Severe neck spasms (FDA approved)
Read more about the weird and wild science behind Botox, here.
Forget wrinkles. Botox is now being used to treat migraines, depression, twitching eyes, overactive bladders, sweaty palms and more. Some call it a marvel of medicine; others caution the risks are still unknown. Inside the exploding business and strange science of Botox
Posted: 04 Jan 2017 04:17 PM PST
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a notorious sleep fanatic. He has said he aims to get to bed by 9 p.m, even 8:30 p.m during the season. All that shut-eye seems to help. In 2016, despite missing the first four games of the regular season because of the Deflategate scandal, Brady, 39, went on another offensive rampage: he threw 28 touchdown passes in 12 games, with just two interceptions. The Pats finished 11-1 in Brady’s starts, and 14-2 for the season; once again New England enters the NFL playoffs, which kick off this Saturday, as the top seed in the AFC. At an age when most quarterbacks are in decline or hacking away on the golf course, Brady is as sharp as ever.
Does sleep have something to do with it? Under Armour, one of Brady’s sponsors, is betting on it. On Thursday, the apparel giant is unveiling “UA Athlete Recovery Sleepwear Powered by TB12″ at the Consumer Electronics Show, which is essentially a commercial version of Brady’s tricked-out pajamas that cost between $80-100. The inside of this fitted garment––which comes in long or short sleeves and pants or shorts––is equipped with a soft bio-ceramic print, which can produce something called far infrared energy when combined with the body’s natural heat. The company touts far infared energy as a sleep aid and is promising its Brady gear will reduce inflammation, regulate cell metabolism, and improve circulation, helping the body recover faster and fostering better sleep. (The packaging includes Brady’s six keys to better sleep, such as “keep your room clean. Contaminants like animal dander and dust restrict your breathing.”)
Under Armour is certain the product works. “We’ve tested it,” says Kevin Haley, UA’s president of innovation. “We’ve had actual third party testing. And it’s clear. Believe me, we have some of the biggest skeptics in the world running around here. This isn’t some outlandish thought, this is something people have been working on for a long, long time. We’ve had our best PhD scientists here breaking down all the science. It definitely works. When you say “how confident are we?’ I’m confident saying we’re very confident.”
The technology behind UA’s sleep gear has been shown to work in other contexts. Some saunas, for example, emit far infrared energy and one 2009 study showed that rheumatoid arthritis patients reported decreases in pain and stiffness during infrared sauna treatment. Michael Hamblin, principal investigator at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, says that it’s reasonable to expect a garment emitting far infrared energy to help sleep. While no literature directly links far infrared exposure to sleep performance, anecdotal evidence, says Hamblin, supports Under Armour’s contention. The science has shown that far infrared energy does indeed improve long-term pain, help blood flow, and improve muscle recovery. “People who use far infrared can expect various benefits,” says Hamblin. “And better sleep is almost certainly one of them.”
If Under Armour’s sleepwear takes off, Brady can claim another victory to complement his four Super Bowls. Haley says Brady’s not just licensing his name to Under Armour’s new product. “He was intimately involved,” says Haley. “Let’s make sure it’s comfortable enough, so we can sleep well in it. It’s not too heavy, it’s not too light. Let’s make sure we get the right load of bioceramics on it, etcetera, etcetera. He’s not going to back anything that he doesn’t fully believe in and use.”
Brady signed on with Under Armour in 2010; the company’s executives asked him to report back to them if he came across any sports science innovations. Two years ago, Brady invited Haley and a handful of other company execs to his training center in Foxboro. He showed them how he applied a bioceramic sleeve to an injured calf muscle, and stayed on the field. “Our general reaction was look, you’re healing all the time, after every workout, after every game,” says Haley. “We can give you that same benefit over your entire body, if we were just to take it out of an all-gel sleeve and put it into an entire body garment. That’s where we got to sleep. Because that’s where so much of the recovery takes place.”
The Brady sleep suit is part of UA’s attempt to create a complete set of tools for better sleep, including a health and fitness wrist band and a data tracking app called UA Record. Now, UA Record will give you a 14-day sleep score, to let you know if you’re really resting. Further, to confirm that you’ve gotten the proper sleep for your next workout, you purchase one of three new models of the Speedform smart shoe, all embedded with a chip and retailing between $140 and $160. Do a “jump test” — essentially, leap up and down in place six times — and the chip will measure your hang time, the speed at which your feet leave the ground, and other physical feats to ascertain neuromuscular proficiency. That info is synched to the MapMyRun app, which Under Armour purchased in 2013. Based on this data, the app will essentially tell you to train hard, or take it easier on your body.
In essence, Under Armour bets improved sleep is worth around $400 per consumer. Pro teams have been investing much more into sleep science: for example, some 40 players on the Seattle Seahawks wear monitors, and at least a half dozen NFL teams have reportedly made sleep more of a priority for player health. In the NBA, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry has visited a Bay Area flotation bath in an attempt to improve his rest, and teammate Andre Iguodala reported a 29% increase in points per minute in games following a night of more than eight hours sleep. Baseball’s Chicago Cubs are among the pro sports teams to work with Fatigue Science, a company that makes the wearable Readiband sleep monitoring device.
Perhaps it was inevitable that the nation’s sports fans would follow-suit. Under Armour, for one, is counting on it.
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