Contributor: Robert S. Wieder
You’ll Never Guess #24
A study by nutritional scientists at the University of Michigan has factored those attributes that make food items irresistible and has issued a list of the 35 most “addictive” foods. The top ten items, to the surprise of few, are pizza, chocolate, snack chips, cookies, ice cream, French fries, cheeseburgers, non-diet sodas, cake and cheese. The only somewhat unexpected result is that bacon, at number 11 failed to make the top ten list. Also noticeably absent are buttered popcorn at 14, and breakfast cereal at 15. The five least addictive on the list, in descending order: brown rice, apples, beans, carrots and cucumber. And one counterintuitive finding: out of the most addictive 35, simple water came in at 24. The study was published in the US National Library of Medicine.
Faster Recovery, Stronger Bone
A new study conducted by Tel Aviv University scientists and reported in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research has found that one of the ingredients in marijuana significantly speeds up and enhances the healing process in broken bones. The key element, cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) provided measurable improvements in healing mid-femoral leg fractures within eight weeks, even when isolated from other cannabis chemicals. In addition, according to one study author, after treatment with CBD "the healed bone will be harder to break in the future." CBD is not psychoactive, thus is neither disorienting nor in itself illegal, and has been shown to be safe for medical use in previous studies, which determined that it also benefits from anti-inflammatory properties.
Only in Moderation, Mind You
Advice that alcohol is harmful for type 2 diabetics turns out to be wrong, according to a study that followed some 225 people with elevated blood sugar levels for two years. In the study, just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, all the subjects followed a Mediterranean diet, but drank either red wine, white wine or mineral water with meals. Ultimately, all the wine drinkers wound up with better blood sugar control than the water drinkers, and the red wine drinkers also experienced increased levels of good cholesterol. The blood sugar improvement, called “modest but worthwhile,” was greatest among those who metabolize alcohol slowly. The lead researcher’s conclusion: "A glass of red wine with dinner can improve the cardiovascular health of people with Type 2 diabetes."
40 Fewer Calories Per Slice
LabDoor.com, a watchdog website that analyzes and evaluates vitamins and herbal supplements for safety and efficacy, conducted an unusual experiment to test a current dieter's tip: that you can reduce the calories in a slice of pizza by dabbing it with a paper napkin before eating. Their finding: indeed you can. According to their results, blotting the grease from the surface of a single slice of Domino's pepperoni pizza reduces the amount of fat therein from 13 grams to 8.5, a hefty 35 percent decrease, which works out to a reduction in calories per slice from 117 to 76.5. Based on the total amount of pizza the average American consumes annually -- 23 pounds -- the dabbing procedure could eliminate some 6,611 calories per year, the equivalent of 1.9 pounds of ungained weight.
Grim News for the NBA
A Swedish mega-study that tracked five million people over a fifty year period has all but verified earlier research that found links between physical height and cancer. Conducted by Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, the study found that for every four inches above average height, the risk of any cancer rises by 18 percent for women and 11 percent for men. Women who are taller than the norm are 20 percent more liable to develop breast cancer, while taller individuals of both sexes have a 30 percent higher rate of skin cancer. The researchers note that the link is statistical, not causal, and may be the result of different growth factors at play during adolescence or simply due to the fact that taller peoples' greater size means they have more cells that may become cancerous.
Hide Their Phones & Laptops
Mamas, don't let your daughters grow up without exercising. That's the advice from researchers at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, who analyzed the health records of almost 75,000 women ages 40 to 70 and found that those who reported having engaged in exercise as teenagers significantly cut their risk of early death later in life compared to non-exercisers. Specifically, women who exercised regularly each week when they were 16 to 19 years old ran a 16 percent lower risk of dying from cancer as middle-aged adults or older, and a 20 percent lower risk if they still exercised. There were similarly reduced rates of death from all causes. The study did not distinguish between types of exercise, and found that survival benefits seemed to peak at 80 minutes per week.
And Taking Fewer Medzzzz
Want to lower your high blood pressure without boosting your intake of anti- hypertension meds? Simple: take a nice refreshing nap each afternoon. A Greek study that involved 386 adults who were being treated for hypertension found that those who took midday naps recorded daytime blood pressure readings that were five percent lower than those of non-nappers over 24 hours. The reduction held when controlled for age, sex, BMI, smoking status and exercise level, as well as salt, alcohol and coffee consumption. While the five percent figure seems modest, reducing systolic blood pressure by as little as one percent can cut the risk of cardiovascular illness by up to ten percent. The hypertension patients who napped were also getting by with fewer medications than the non-nappers.
The Goodness, It Burns
A massive ten-year study of over 487,000 Chinese adults conducted by Harvard, Oxford and Peking University researchers indicates that eating one or two spicy meals per week reduces one's risk of death from any cause by ten percent compared to those who eat spicy foods less frequently. And the more spicy meals eaten, the greater the benefit; consuming spicy foods six or seven times a week lowers the death rate by another 14 percent. The death risk is lower still for spicy food eaters who drink little or no alcohol. Scientists attribute the benefit, which men and women experience equally, to capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers and in many spicy foods, which is known to reduce unhealthy inflammation and may also neutralize harmful bacteria in the gut.
New York University researchers report that men who take a certain class of drugs to deal with erectile dysfunction are significantly more likely to develop a malignant form of skin cancer than non-users. Based on medical data for 20,000 Swedish men from 2006 to 2012, they determined that those who had gotten even one prescription for erectile dysfunction drugs that contain phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, one of which is Viagra, were 21 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a malignant melanoma than those who never had. How the drug and the disease are linked is unknown, and because more frequent use of the drug does not raise the melanoma risk, the researchers caution against avoiding such erectile medications unless further studies establish actual causality.
For Burning Calories, Anyway
A Mayo Clinic study has determined that over any given timespan, using an elliptical machine burns about 16 percent more calories than walking. Moreover, the elliptical machine subjects the exerciser's joints to less impact stress. Specifically, a 160-pound individual would typically burn 365 calories per hour on the elliptical, compared to 314 calories while walking, and would also generate a force equal to 75 percent of the user's body weight on his or her knees and hips, compared to a force of 110 percent from walking. (A stair-stepping machine, by comparison, would burn 657 calories per hour.) In general, ellipticals help strengthen the user’s hip joints, lower back and midsection, while walking provides a better workout for the hamstrings, calves and ankles.
Over 55 Per Week, Look Out
A new mega-analysis of 17 different studies involving nearly 530,000 men and women tracked for an average 7.2 years has concluded that people who work 55 hours per week or more are 33 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than those who work a more standard 35 to 40 hours per week. The risk of coronary heart disease also rises, by 13 percent. The analysis, conducted by epidemiologists at University College London and published recently in The Lancet, found the increased stroke risk even when controlling for smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and amount of physical activity. Regardless of sex, age or economic status, the risk of stroke rose along with the number of excess hours worked. Almost 40 percent of full-time US workers report putting in at least 50 hours a week.
OK, Many Injections, but Still
Removing fat from most areas of the body involves either costly surgery or liposuction, but fatty double chins can now be eliminated merely through a series of noninvasive, in-office injections. The procedure uses a form of deoxycholic acid, a molecule that the body uses naturally to burst and destroy fat cells, which is introduced in clusters of 0.2 c.c. injections under the chin. Each treatment can be completed in as little as five minutes, and the pinpricks heal in two or three days with no need of bandaging. The desired chin reduction usually takes no more than six months of once-weekly injections. Side effects are limited to swelling, bruising and temporary numbness. Dermatologists now using the procedure claim excellent results.
It’s the bane in Spain, anyway
A new study by researchers at Spain’s Rovira i Virgili University has concluded that persons who are considered to be at high risk for developing heart disease, especially those who are also overweight, should avoid Atkins-style diets that emphasize heavy protein intake and low consumption of carbohydrates. An analysis of data that tracked the health of high-risk individuals for nearly five years found that those who ate lots of protein and few carbs were not only twice as likely to gain weight -- more than ten percent of their initial body weight, on average -- than those on a balanced diet, but were also 59 percent more likely to die during the study period. And high-protein-low-carb dieters who also limited their intake of fats were 66 percent more likely to die.
New Products They Like, Flop
The assumption that a consumer focus group can be relied on to accurately predict a proposed new food product’s acceptance may be complicated by a new study which found that roughly one in every eight consumers is actually a "harbinger of failure," whose fondness for a new product is more kiss of death than blessing. The study, conducted by researchers from MIT and Northwestern and published in the Journal of Marketing Research, covered nearly 130,000 retail customers from 2003 to 2009 and concluded that about 13 percent of consumers "systematically purchase new products that prove unsuccessful. Their early adoption of a new product is a strong signal that it will fail." And the more often these failure harbingers purchase an item, the more likely it will prove to be a sales dud.
More Problems Are Now "Autism"
The marked increase in U.S. autism diagnoses that began to show up around 1996, and which some have blamed on childhood vaccination, may in fact be based not on an increase in autism per se, but on an increase in other, similar intellectual disabilities that are now classified as autism by those making the diagnosis. A Penn State study of eleven years of special-ed enrollment statistics that were compiled on over 6,000,000 children per year found that the rise in autism diagnoses over that time was almost entirely balanced off by a decrease in diagnoses of other autism-like conditions. The report concluded that simple reclassification could have produced two-thirds of the rise in autism cases overall, and a striking 97 percent of those involving older children.
Like Booze Without the Buzz
A Tufts University study published in the Journal of Hepatology has concluded that persons who drink sugary beverages on a daily basis run an increased risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The study, which included 2,634 mostly caucasian middle-aged adults, found that those who consumed more than one sugar-sweetened drink per day raised their NAFLD risk, as determined by CAT scans to measure liver fats, compared to persons who consume none. The increased risk was consistent even when controlling for age, sex, BMI, diet and lifestyle factors. The study, noted one researcher, “adds to a growing body of research suggesting that sugar-sweetened beverages may be linked to NAFLD and other chronic diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease."
US Men? Don’t Even Ask
A new CDC report puts America's current excess weight reality in some graphic perspectives. The average U.S. woman today weighs as much (166.2 pounds) as the average U.S. man did (166.3 pounds) in the early 1960s. As for the average U.S. man, he now weighs as much (195.5 pounds) as one and a half 1960s women. The average American now weighs 33 pounds more than the average Frenchman, 40 pounds more than the average Japanese, and 70 pounds more than the average Bangladeshi. The average American male now weighs 30 more pounds -- the equivalent of a typical pre-schooler -- than he did 50 years ago. But that increase, a 17.6 percent gain, is topped by that of U.S. women over that period, at 18.5 percent. A silver lining: some added weight is due to our one inch gain in average height.
More Bingeing & Drunk Driving
Teenagers who don’t get sufficient sleep aren't just more likely to have poorer health and grades, but are also significantly more inclined to abuse alcohol both currently and in future years. An Idaho State University study of 6,500 adolescents over five years found that teens aged 14 through 16 who had difficulty falling or staying asleep were 47 percent more likely to be binge drinkers than untroubled sleepers, 14 precent more likely to drive when drunk, and 11 percent more likely to experience alcohol-related personal problems within a year. In contrast, each additional hour of sleep correlated with a 10 percent reduction in individual binge drinking. Particularly disturbing, some 45 percent of U.S. teens now fail to get the recommended eight to ten hours of nightly sleep.
Low Levels Mean Extra Fat
A study of links between nutrition and weight gain by University of Queensland researchers has found that children with the lowest levels of the B-vitamins thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12), as measured by blood testing, were also the most overweight, as measured by body mass index, the amount of abdominal fat, and total bodily fat. Though unable to specify a causal process, the scientists have concluded that B-complex deficiency is a contributing factor in increased body fat storage and obesity. B-vitamins are not stored in the body and must be regularly replenished through a balanced diet or supplements; vegans and vegetarians may need supplemental B12, primarily supplied by meat, fish and dairy. The study involved 1,131 Mexican-American children.
We've Gone from Bad to Burst
After 15 years of government and private health agencies' educational dietary and fitness programs designed to stem America's obesity epidemic, the situation is worse than ever. According to a study of over 15,000 U.S. adults by the Washington University School of Medicine just published in the AMA Journal, there are now more Americans aged 25 or older who are obese (67.6 million) than those who are merely overweight (65.2 million), and the overall rates of obesity and overweight have risen since 1999 from 63 percent to 71 percent among men, and from 55 percent to 67 percent among women, with women in particular now being more likely to be obese, at 36.8 percent, than overweight, at 29.7 percent. The highest obesity rate by subgroup was that of African American women, at 57 percent.
Men Who Can’t Are Health Risks
Nearly one in three London males are too fat to see their own reproductive organs, according to a survey widely reported recently in the British press. While perhaps appearing to be frivolous, the survey was part of a serious program called the “Big Check” Campaign, urging British men to take the "Can you see your manhood?" test. The program’s basis is that a man’s waist measurement -- and more specifically, a man’s bulging belly -- is a key indicator of his risk for such weight-linked maladies as diabetes, stroke and heart disease. As one medical specialist noted, a man who is too obese to see his penis is five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, three times more likely to suffer cancer of the colon, and 2.5 times more likely to have high blood pressure.
Try to Have Yours Elsewhere
It turns out that one of the worst places to suffer an unexpected heart attack is while in a hospital. Based on recent studies covering over 60,000 patients and 300 hospitals, persons who’ve been hospitalized for medical problems or surgeries unrelated to heart disease who have heart attacks while there are from three to ten times more likely to die than persons who arrive at the hospital ER after having heart attacks somewhere else. Overall, some five percent of all major heart attacks in the U.S., or roughly 10,000 per year, occur to people in hospitals for unrelated reasons ranging from cancer and pneumonia to hip or knee replacement. Among the reasons: those patients are often already weakened, and their medical issues or medications may mask telltale heart attack symptoms.
Math & Science Gigs Leanest
Members of the "public safety" professional category have the highest rates of obesity in working America, based on data compiled by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The category, which is made up of police officers, firefighters, and security guards, has an obesity rate of 40.7 percent, according to a data analysis by the Wall Street Journal. Next on the high-obesity rankings are largely sedentary professions such as truck drivers and engineers, but also, somewhat unexpectedly, members of the clergy. At the low end of the obesity spectrum are scientists, economists and psychologists, at a 14.2 percent rate, despite their professions' modest activity demands. Also enjoying low-obesity rates are higher-energy professions: actors, athletes, and journalists.
Bowing to Parental Requests
In response to lobbying campaigns by public health experts and parental activist groups, the Dairy Queen fast food chain has announced that it is removing soft drinks and other sugary beverages from its children's menu and replacing them with healthier choices such as milk and water. DQ, with almost 6,400 outlets, thus becomes the latest in a growing list of major fast food players that have announced similar menu changes recently, including McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King. Some observers noted the irony that DQ is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, whose chairman and CEO, Warren Buffett, is notorious for his unapologetic love of fast food and junk food, and who claims that he consumes 25 percent of his daily calories in the form of Coca-Cola products alone.
Most Common US Skin Cancer
Australian researchers report that persons who experience recurring cases of non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell or squamus cell carcinomas can reduce their likelihood of reoccurrence by 23 percent by taking a surprisingly cheap, safe and commonly available nutritional supplement: vitamin B3. At 3.5 million cases per year, these are the two most common skin cancers in the U.S., and the B3 regimen could eliminate thousands of surgeries, but researchers specify the dosage at two pills a day of nicotinamide, a form of B3 that has fewer side effects than niacin, note that the cancer-resistant effect seems to last only as long as the daily dosages continue, and that the B3 regimen should only be adopted by individuals who repeatedly get these skin cancers.
So You Get Burned Twice
The 2015 sunscreen guide produced by the Environmental Working Group reports that 80 percent of the products claiming to provide SPF protection from the sun fail to do so, and in fact provide "inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients" such as oxybenzone, a possible hormone disrupter, and vitamin A, which can actually increase the skin's sensitivity to sun exposure. The EWG analyzed and has rated over 1,700 sunscreens, lip balms and moisturizers, and comes down especially hard on Neutrogena products, as well as products boasting SPF levels of 100 or more, given that the FDA has found no increase in sun protection beyond the SPF 50 level. Only 14 percent of men and 30 percent of women regularly put on sunscreen when spending more than an hour in sunlight in any case.
Better Start Flexing
A study that tracked the health of nearly 140,000 people across 17 diverse countries found that measuring the strength of one's hand grip is a simple and inexpensive way to predict one's chances of dying from cardiovascular and other diseases. The study, published in The Lancet, found that for every 11-pound decrease in grip strength there is a corresponding nine percent increase in stroke, a seven percent increase in heart attack, a 17 percent increase in death due to cardiovascular disease, and a 16 percent increase in death overall. Grip strength was also linked to the likelihood of pneumonia and cancer patients dying from their illness. Researchers were unable to explain the association between grip strength and cardiovascular health and mortality.
The Danger: Overconfidence
"Brain doping," or taking cognitive-enhancing drugs to improve one's mental sharpness and concentration, is no longer overwhelmingly the domain of college students looking to boost their academic performance. According to several studies, the use of drugs such as Adderall, normally prescribed to treat ADHD, has begun spreading into several professional fields where certain drug side-effects, most notably the tendency to overestimate one's own competence and ability, could prove destructive. The practice has become so widespread in the financial sector, among bankers and others making major investment decisions, that the governments of Germany and Sweden have begun to research the possible repercussions. Also worrisome, a survey found nine percent of surgeons using the drugs.
Injuries Plentiful, However
A fall from a treadmill that recently took the life of Silicon Valley luminary David Goldberg has produced a spike in inquiries as to the devices' safety, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which reports that while treadmill-linked deaths are rare, injuries are anything but. Whereas there were just 30 known deaths over a ten-year period ending in 2012, there were over 24,000 treadmill injuries last year alone, out of some 63,000 total injuries tied to exercise equipment, including weights, trampolines, and even swimming pools. The greater danger posed by treadmills, say experts, is due to the fact that the pace is set by a motor and not the exerciser, and that such forced demands on the body can cause fainting or falling in those who are physically less fit.
1/3 Unhealthy After 5 Years
"Healthy obesity" may be a misnomer, or at least a merely temporary condition, according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which reported that obese individuals with no multiple risks of metabolic disorder are likely to develop such risks over time. Specifically, a 20-year study of over 2,500 British government workers found that, of those who were obese but with no metabolic risk factors at the study's outset, nearly a third, 32 percent, had developed multiple risks just five years later. After ten years, 41 percent had become risk positive, and over half, at 54 percent, after twenty years. Those who were "healthy obese" at the start were eight times more likely to become unhealthy over that period than those who were not obese when the study began.
At Least 15 Miles/week However
You can significantly reduce your risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer's in your later years by running or briskly walking now, but only if you exceed the national guidelines for such exercises by at least 100 percent. An analysis of data derived from following 154,000 participants in the National Runners' and Walkers' Healthy Study for 11.6 years conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has determined that those who ran or walked vigorously for more than 15.3 miles per week cut their Alzheimer's risk by 40 percent, while those who merely met the standard recommendation of five to eight miles weekly saw no such statistical risk reduction. To meet the new standard would require a minimum of 150 minutes of weekly running or 300 minutes of energetic walking.
For over 50s, Every Two Years
A new report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on the risks and benefits of mammograms for breast cancer detection recommends such screening every other year for women age 50 or older, but suggests that women in their 40s balance the statistically very small reduction in their risk of dying against such serious potential downsides as unnecessary biopsies and cancer treatments. The report noted the following rate of outcomes for every 1,000 women ages 40 to 74 who undergo such mammograms: eight cancer deaths prevented, 1,529 false positive results, 204 unnecessary breast biopsies, and 20 needless courses of treatment for tumors that were never life-threatening. The American Cancer Society and other medical groups continue to recommend annual screening for women over 40.
Sweaty but Longer-Lived
Americans don't generally spend much time in saunas, but a new study from Finland suggests they'd be doing their hearts a favor if they began sweating it out in one regularly. The 20-year study of over 2,000 middle-aged Finnish men found that the more often they used a sauna, the lower their risk of death due to cardiological causes such as sudden heart attack, coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease. Specifically, while 10 percent of those who spent time in a sauna once a week suffered such a fatality, the risk fell to 8 percent for those who hit the sauna two or three times a week, and to just 5 percent for those who did so four days per week or more. Doctors speculated that stress-reducing relaxation and improved circulation may be responsible for the linkage.
Buy Organic but Also Buy Junk
Grocery shoppers who provide their own reusable bags when at the market buy more organic food items than non-providing customers, but they also buy more high-calorie, high-fat items such as chips, candy bars, cookies and ice cream. This pattern seems consistent both for shoppers who always bring their own bags and those who only do so now and then. The researchers, from Harvard and Duke business schools, speculate that shoppers are subconsciously "rewarding" themselves with treat foods for being environmentally responsible citizens. Among the findings: occasional bag providers only bought treat food on those occasions when they brought bags, and neither group bought treat food when told that they were required to provide bags, but only when they did so voluntarily.
2% Levy on Chips, Sodas, Etc.
The Navajo Nation, a 27,000 square-mile sovereign entity that stretches over parts of three states and is home to 300,000 members, has enacted the first junk food tax in the United States. The country’s largest reservation will levy the two percent tax on sodas, desserts, snack chips, baked goods, fried foods, sweetened beverages and other food items that offer "minimal to no nutritional value" and that are sold within its geographical boundaries. The Nation, which the USDA has designated as a "food desert" where processed foods are more available than fruit and vegetables, will spend the income from the tax on greenhouses, community gardens, farmers' markets and traditional cooking classes. An estimated one-third of the Nation's people are currently diabetic or pre-diabetic.
Over 50% of (hic!) Total Sales
The U.S. alcoholic beverage industry is so dependent on Americans with drinking problems that if the heaviest drinkers, the top 10 percent in consumption, reduced their intake to average amounts, it would shrink total alcohol sales by 60 percent. This was one finding of a recent analysis of data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Other statistics: the top 10 percent of drinkers slug down an average of 74 drinks per week, thereby accounting for over half our annual national alcohol intake; 30 percent of Americans drink no alcohol at all, while another 30 percent have one drink a week or less; those who take just one glass of wine each evening rank in the top 30 percent for per-capita alcohol intake; those who take two are in the top 20 percent.
Boosts Weight Loss by 8.5%
For the first time in seven years, the Food and Drug Administration has approved an implanted device to treat obesity. The Maestro Rechargeable System is surgically inserted into the stomach, where it sends out electrical pulses designed to impede the activity of the vagus nerve, which connects the brain and the stomach and sends hunger messages to the brain when the stomach is empty. The device, which effectively sends “default” messages of fullness, resulted in an 8.5 percent greater weight loss after twelve months among recipients compared to a control group of dieters. This actually fell short of the study's initial goal, which was a 10 percent greater weight loss, but the study results were considered beneficial enough to justify the risk of surgery and warrant FDA approval.
Think of It As Vax Populi
According to a February survey by ORC International pollsters, Americans believe that parents should be required to vaccinate their children against preventable, communicable diseases by a wide margin, 78 percent to 22 percent. The demo groups most in favor are people over age 50 (84 percent, versus 72 percent of those under 50), women (81 percent, versus 75 percent of men), and those with children younger than 18 (70 percent). Nearly 60 percent overall feel unvaccinated children should not be allowed to engage in public school or daycare activities. Women and Democrats are more worried about measles outbreaks in their community than men or Republicans, while geographically, residents of the West are most likely to be worried at 39 percent, compared to 8-10 percent in other regions.
Kids Eating More & Better
Critics of recent federal rules requiring more nutritious food in American grade school lunches have claimed that the students hate the healthier food and either leave the food program or throw more food away, resulting in higher costs and more wasted food, but a study just released by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found just the opposite. The three-year study concluded that cafeterias offering more fresh fruit had increased the percentage of students who selected it, from 54 percent to 66 percent, and also the amount of the entrees that the students actually ate, from 71 percent before the new regulations took effect in 2012 to 84 percent now. The researchers also found that the decline in students who use the food programs began before the new rules, not as a result.
Booze Called 114 Times Worse
Study results published in Scientific Reports last month comparing the risk of dying from a typical recreational amount of ten widely-used drugs found marijuana to be far and away the least dangerous. On a scale of toxicity, with zero being the most toxic, alcohol scored a 2, heroin 2.5, cocaine 3, tobacco 7, ecstasy 10, and methamphetamine 14. Cannabis, in striking contrast, scored 149. Using the difference between a fatal amount of a drug and an average amount consumed, pot was 114 times safer than alcohol. Researchers emphasized that this was not meant to imply that marijuana is either healthy or safe to indulge in, but to illustrate the fact that the level of legal prohibitions or restrictions on various intoxicants does not reflect their actual health hazard or fatality risk.
Gotta Put Your Mind to It
Ohio University researchers report that merely imagining muscle exercises can strengthen those muscles. The study involved two groups of volunteers, each of whom had one wrist immobilized in a cast for four weeks, with one group instructed to spend 11 minutes a day, 5 days a week, focusing intently on imagining that they were flexing that arm's muscles. The other group got no instructions. At the end of one month, the mental exercisers' arm muscles were twice as strong as the other group's. While prior research has indicated that mental exercising can boost muscle strength, “our study suggests is that imagery exercises could be a valuable tool to prevent or slow muscles from becoming weaker when a health problem limits or restricts a person's mobility," said author Brian Clark.
Surgeon General Hints It's Over
An offhand remark by the U.S. Surgeon General may signal that the federal government has abandoned or even reversed its opposition to the medical use, or even medical research, of marijuana. When asked by Gayle King on "CBS This Morning" last week about his opinion regarding medicinal pot, Vivek Murthy, at age 37 the youngest surgeon general in U.S. history, said, “We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms marijuana can be helpful. We have to use that data to drive policy making.” When later questioned by the Daily Beast, Murthy commented that, “the Federal Government has and continues to fund research on possible health benefits of marijuana," which explicitly contradicts the government's decades-long prohibition on such research.
Strenuous Joggers Die Sooner
Based on data from the Copenhagen Heart Study, which monitored some 1,100 joggers and 4,000 non-joggers for twelve years, joggers in general enjoy longer lifespans than sedentary non-joggers, but this extra longevity only applies to those who jog less frequently and at a light or moderate pace. In contrast, those classified as strenuous joggers or intense joggers had the same mortality rates as the non-joggers. Strenuous jogging was defined as running faster than 7 mph for more than four hours per week or running that fast more than three times a week for a total of more than 2.5 hours. The mortality rate was lowest for those who ran no more than three times a week for one to 1.4 hours total at a slow or moderate pace, or roughly a mile every 12 minutes.
Nine Models Boast Zero Deaths
Based on the latest available figures, improved automotive safety technology and vehicle design--and an overall reduction in driving due to the recession-- reduced the risk of dying in an accident while driving a late-model car or light truck by nearly 42 percent over a three-year period ending in 2012, from 48 driver deaths per million vehicle years for 2008 models to just 28 such deaths for the 2011s. And for the first time since the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety began compiling the data, there were some models that recorded driver death rates of zero. The fatality-free vehicles were the Audi A4, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorento, Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Sequoia, and Volvo XC90. All but the Audi, Honda, and Subaru are SUVs.
7 of the 8 Highest Rates
Adults who engage in "high risk" sexual activity, i.e. with strangers, recent acquaintances, or persons known to be sexually promiscuous, should take extra protective measures in the Deep South, where seven of the eight states with the highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are located, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The states with the highest numbers of those sexually transmitted diseases per 100,000 residents are Mississippi (1010), Alaska (858), Alabama (833.5), Louisiana (799), South Carolina (748), Arkansas (717.5), Georgia (700), and North Carolina (676). At the sexually safer end of the spectrum are New Hampshire (247), Utah (288.5), Vermont (292), Maine (293), Idaho (299), West Virginia (303), and Wyoming (378).
College Kids Get a Bum Rap
Studies of binge drinking have heretofore focused on young adult Americans, especially college students, but according to a new report from the CDC, the majority of binge-drinking episodes each year involve middle-aged white males, and adults aged 35 to 64 are responsible for 75 percent of the approximately 2,200 deaths from excessive alcohol consumption each year. Among the report's other findings: more than 38 million Americans binge drink each week, consuming an average eight drinks during one episode; while younger adults tend to binge on hard liquor, middle-aged bingers generally overdo it on beer; nearly 70 percent of U.S. alcohol-related deaths involve non-Hispanic whites. Overall, Americans 26 or older tally up an estimated 1.5 million instances of binge drinking per year.
Want Fries with That Dumburger?
Ohio State University researchers who analyzed the eating habits and academic records of 11,470 school children in the fifth through eight grades found that the more often a child eats fast food, the greater the likelihood that he or she will do poorly in school. Specifically, those who ate fast food from four to six times a week scored, on average, 20 percent lower on tests than those who reported eating no fast food at all. The study, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, acknowledged that no direct causal relationship could be imputed from the results, but noted that the linkage was consistent even when such factors as economic and social status, family background, and amount of daily exercise were controlled for.
Some Raise Risk by 90%
Pesticides have been associated with depression among farmers anecdotally and in small studies, but a recently released, 20-year-long mega-study by the National Institute of Health involving some 84,000 farmers and their spouses since the mid-1990s has established a significant, if unexplained, correlation between the use of certain commercial pesticides and clinical depression. Those that most drastically send the user's likelihood of depression soaring are organochlorine insecticides, which boost the depression risk by 90 percent, and fumigants, raising it by 80 percent. The NIH cites seven pesticides in specific, the most commonly used being malathion, applied by 2/3 of the farmers surveyed. The causal connection is unknown, but pesticides work by damaging insects’ nervous systems.
Spooked by Concussions, Etc.
After a year that was a gauntlet of troubles for the NFL, from growing concern over concussions to domestic violence headlines to a team name that happened to be a racial slur, the year ended with possibly the worst news yet: half the country no longer wants its kids to even play football, and most of us believe the sport's popularity has peaked. According to a recent Bloomberg survey, more Americans would oppose their son playing football, 50 percent, than those who would want him to, 43 percent. And a striking 83 percent believe pro football will be no more popular, and possibly less, in 20 years than it is today. Those most opposed to their kids playing football were the college-educated and the high income, at 62 percent each, and women, a major NFL target demo, at 58 percent.
Actually Eases Symptoms
This is the season for colds, but fortunately it’s also the season of social activities and hugs, and according to a new study published in Psychological Science, the latter may ease the intensity of the former. Researchers curious to see if social support could have a positive effect on common illness took 404 volunteers whose stress levels made them cold-susceptible, exposed them to cold germs, and documented the amount of support they received from others in the form of hugs. Those who received hugs on a daily basis suffered less severe cold symptoms, regardless of their initial levels of stress, than the less-hugged. The effect was even stronger for those who perceived that they were receiving others' support. Study authors recommend daily hugs to help boost one's immune system.