A community for people who want to remain as healthy as possible as we age.

Treat 'whole person' by bringing behavioral health into primary care: docs

(Reuters Health) In a new position paper, the American College of Physicians (ACP) lays out six strategies for bringing mental health and substance abuse care into primary care to better treat each patient as “a whole person.”
Mental and behavioral health issues like inappropriate eating behaviors, sedentary lifestyle, and patterns of social isolation, are common, and have been linked to increased physical illness, higher mortality rates, poorer treatment outcomes and higher healthcare costs, the ACP committee writes in the Annals of Internal Medicine…
In the statement, the ACP recommends integrating behavioral healthcare into primary care by removing financial barriers, closing insurance coverage gaps and using government incentives to train and educate an adequate number of providers to administer behavioral health care in the primary care setting.
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Review Indicates Where Cardio Benefits of Exercise May Lie

(Brown University) Everyone knows that exercise generally helps the cardiovascular system, but much remains unknown about how the benefits arise, and what to expect in different people who exercise to improve their health. To gain a more precise understanding of how exercise improves health and whom it helps most, researchers analyzed the results of 160 randomized clinical trials with nearly 7,500 participants…
A key implication from the findings may be that while exercise appears to affect total cholesterol, lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol for at least some people and raising "good" HDL for most, "the proportion of CVD risk that could have been reduced by exercise via effects on total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol is much lower than what has been observed previously." Instead, the researchers note, some of the significant benefits of exercise appear to lie in reducing insulin resistance and inflammation based on how those biomarkers performed in the studies.
Liu said that while the review confirms wide-ranging benefits of exercise, it's still just one of the levers doctors and patients should consider manipulating.
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Brain-Friendly Yoga

(Michael Roizen, MD, and Mehmet Oz, MD) Hatha yoga combines breathing techniques with poses that reduce stress, promote blood flow, flexibility and mental focus. It has been shown to ease everything from chronic lower back pain and chronic inflammation, to depression and elevated blood pressure. Now a study shows that for folks 59 to 77 it can also boost brainpower: Mental flexibility, information recall and task-switching abilities were far better in Hatha yoga participants than a group who only did stretching and toning exercises.
What’s the difference? We suspect Hatha is brain-friendly because of its emphasis on stress-busting deep breathing (that provides more oxygen to those brain cells and protection of memory connections!) and intentional focus on slow movement that also helps control stress responses. Want to try? Go to sharecare.com and try this “Yoga Starter” and other yoga instruction videos.
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Immunotherapy tablets for seasonal allergies offer small benefit

(Reuters Health) Oral tablets for grass pollen allergies, which are available in Europe and the U.S., offer only a small benefit for people with seasonal allergies, and more than half will have side effects from the medication, according to a new review of existing research.
“The reported benefit is very small on average,” said lead author Dr. Danilo Di Bona of the Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Policlinico di Palermo in Italy. “This means that some patients will respond, but the majority will not, and it is not possible to predict who will respond to the treatment.”
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Could insulin pills prevent diabetes? Big study seeks answer

(AP) For nearly a century, insulin has been a life-saving diabetes treatment. Now scientists are testing a tantalizing question: What if pills containing the same medicine patients inject every day could also prevent the disease?...
A small, preliminary study by different researchers, published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests the approach might work. Children who took insulin pills showed immune system changes that the researchers said might help prevent diabetes. The study was too small and didn’t last long enough to know for sure.
The ongoing larger study is more rigorous, randomly assigning participants to get experimental insulin capsules or dummy pills, and should provide a clearer answer.
“Does it prevent indefinitely? Does it slow it down, does it delay diabetes? That also would be a pretty big win,” said Dr. Louis Philipson, a University of Chicago diabetes specialist involved in the study.
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Initial Weight Loss Could Predict Long-Term Success

(Obesity Society) New research using data from the reputable Look AHEAD study suggests doctors may want to look at results from a patient's first two months of intensive lifestyle intervention (ILI) to help predict his or her long-term success. These secondary analyses … examined the association between initial weight loss (first two months of treatment) and long-term weight loss (eight years after initial treatment).
"This is the first study of its kind to show that if patients enrolled in intensive lifestyle intervention treatments aren't successful in losing weight after the first two months of treatment, they aren't likely to be successful using this approach alone long-term," said lead author Jessica L. Unick, PhD, of the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, The Miriam Hospital and Brown Medical School, Providence, RI. "The results imply that clinicians should evaluate ILI patients after the first two months and make a determination about the trajectory of the patient's treatment. This is a key time to determine whether additional treatment options may be necessary."
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Electrical Nerve Stimulation Can Reverse Spinal Cord Injury Nerve Damage in Patients

(American Physiological Society) A new study … reports that peripheral nerve stimulation therapy can reverse [spinal cord injury (SCI)]-associated nerve deterioration, potentially improving the benefits of current and emerging rehabilitation treatments…
After six weeks of therapy, the nerves in the treated limb responded to electrical stimulation more like nerves in healthy subjects. Nerve function in the untreated limb did not change over the six-week period…
According to the researchers, short-term peripheral nerve stimulation may be a new approach to preventing long-term changes in nerve and muscle function and improving rehabilitation outcomes.
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Scientist's stiff fraud sentence sends message

(Des Moines Register) How long should a scientist who cheats spend in prison? If you're Dong-Pyou Han, the answer is nearly five years, according to a federal judge who sentenced the researcher Wednesday to 57 months in prison for misusing taxpayer funds.
Han has admitted to cooking data using government grant money to make the AIDS vaccine he was working on look more effective. In addition to incarceration, Han was ordered to pay back more than $7 million to the National Institutes of Health­ — a sum that's surely symbolic for a former assistant professor of biomedical sciences at Iowa State University. The judge ignored pleas for leniency from Han's lawyer, who'd asked for probation.
Community: Good! Throw him UNDER the jail!
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Serve a safer burger this 4th of July

(Consumer Reports) Tasty though it may be, ground beef is a significant source of foodborne illness, and summer is a risky time. Outbreaks caused by beef contaminated with the deadly bacteria E. coli 0157: H7 peak in July, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 2009 and 2013, nearly half of the 74 E. coli 0157 outbreaks were traced to ground beef, and more than 40 percent of them were from meat people cooked at home.
You can reduce your odds of becoming one of those statistics by taking the right safety precautions at each step of your burger’s journey, from the supermarket to your plate. 
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How Walking in Nature Prevents Depression

(The Atlantic) [Henry David] Thoreau extolled (and extolled and extolled—the piece was more than 12,000 words long) the virtues of walking in untamed environments. In the decades since, psychologists have proved him right. Exposure to nature has been shown repeatedly to reduce stress and boost well-being.
But scientists haven’t been sure why. Does it have to do with the air? The sunshine? Some sort of evolutionary proclivity toward green-ness?
A group of researchers from Stanford University thought the nature effect might have something to do with reducing rumination, or as they describe it, “a maladaptive pattern of self-referential thought that is associated with heightened risk for depression and other mental illnesses.” Rumination is what happens when you get really sad, and you can’t stop thinking about your glumness and what’s causing it: the breakup, the layoff, that biting remark…
In general, decreases in rumination are linked to so-called “positive distractions,” like taking part in a hobby or enjoying a long chat with a friend. You’d think that walking in uninterrupted nature wouldn’t provide many diversions from a whorl of dark thoughts. Surprisingly, the opposite seemed to be true: Natural environments are more restorative, the authors write, and thus confer greater psychological benefits.
This effect should work with many types of natural landscapes, particularly those that engender “soft fascination,” the “sense of belonging,” and the “sense of being away,” the researchers note.
Community: We’ve seen before how natural settings, and even just the color green can be therapeutic:
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The Norwegian Town Where the Sun Doesn't Rise but Depression Rates Are Low

(The Atlantic) Located over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø, Norway, is home to extreme light variation between seasons. During the Polar Night, which lasts from November to January, the sun doesn’t rise at all. Then the days get progressively longer until the Midnight Sun period, from May to July, when it never sets. After the midnight sun, the days get shorter and shorter again until the Polar Night, and the yearly cycle repeats…
Despite the city’s extreme darkness, past research has shown that residents of Tromsø have lower rates of wintertime depression than would be expected given the long winters and high latitude…
In Tromsø, the prevailing sentiment is that winter is something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured. According to my friends, winter in Tromsø would be full of snow, skiing, the northern lights, and all things koselig, the Norwegian word for “cozy.” By November, open-flame candles would adorn every café, restaurant, home, and even workspace. Over the following months I learned firsthand that, far from a period of absolute darkness, the Polar Night in Tromsø is a time of beautiful colors and soft, indirect light. Even during the darkest times, there are still two or three hours of light a day as the sun skirts just below the horizon, never fully rising. During the longer “days” of the Polar Night, in November and January, the skies can be filled with up to six hours of sunrise and sunset-like colors…
[In a survey, the] people who had a positive wintertime mindset, in other words, tended to be the same people who were highly satisfied with their lives and who pursued personal growth.
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Implantable 'artificial pancreas' tracks blood sugar, releases insulin

(UPI) An implantable artificial pancreas that monitors glucose levels and delivers insulin as needed was shown to work in lab tests and will soon be tested with animals, researchers said.
The device has been a longtime goal to simplify the lives of Type 1 diabetes patients who monitor, calculate and inject the amount of insulin their bodies need using either a needle or an insulin pump…
Testing in animals is expected to begin soon.
Community: That would be great, except that there’s now a patch doing the same thing that’s cheaper and doesn’t require invasive surgery ('Smart insulin patch' could revolutionize glucose control for diabetics). I know which one I’d choose, if I needed insulin.
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New weight-loss shot: How well does it work?

(CBS News) A new injectable drug, aimed at helping obese and seriously overweight people who have other weight-related health conditions, has proven effective in a new round of testing.
The drug, called liraglutide (brand name Saxenda), won FDA approval in December, but with a requirement for further testing. The latest study involved 3,700 people from six continents and showed similar results to those in the previous trial: improved weight loss and control of blood sugars, but also several known side effects…
"The overall effect of the drug was very good and very comparable or better than the drugs that are now on the market," lead researcher Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer of Columbia University Medical Center told CBS News.
The drug is given as a daily shot under the skin. Its approval was limited to adults who are obese or who are overweight and have at least one related condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol.
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People With Epilepsy Can Benefit from Smartphone Apps to Manage Their Condition

(Elsevier) While many people with epilepsy can control their seizures with medication, those unpredictable and involuntary changes in behavior and consciousness can be limiting for others. Neurologists writing in the International Journal of Epilepsy evaluated the application of smartphones in epilepsy care…
[Lakshmi Narasimhan] Ranganathan's team evaluated the mobile applications available for the everyday care of patients with epilepsy. Those apps include seizure diaries as well as medication trackers with reminders to take the next dose of medication. In addition, apps are available to answer any questions patients with epilepsy might have, to detect potential drug interactions and to detect seizures. The latter type of apps senses the irregular motions characteristic of an epileptic seizure and automatically set off an alarm to alert caregivers and doctors…
The authors say that special sensors integrated into smartphones might allow continuous drug monitoring too. Rather than taking anti-epileptic drugs continuously and suffering from their cognitive side effects, people might take those drugs only when a seizure is coming on.
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Fireworks Bring Exhilaration, Joy, And Pollution

(Popular Science) Fireworks are awesome. They are the best. They are also flaming rockets of exploding material that we send flying into the air above our heads. And amazing as they are, there is a downside.
And we aren’t talking injuries, or fires (PSA: Don’t be dumb with fireworks), though both are serious. Apparently an unseen danger or fireworks lingers in the air after they go off. Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a study that showed that for a brief amount of time between the evening of July 4 and the morning of July 5, the amount of fine particles in the air goes up by 42 percent across the entire country. Measurements taken right next to areas where fireworks were being shot off showed an increase of 370 percent…
That’s a lot of fireworks, and a lot of pollution. But that doesn’t mean we should panic. While people that have respiratory illnesses should probably stand upwind of the fireworks, the increase in particulate matter due to fireworks shouldn't make a big difference to the rest of us.
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Half of heart disease deaths due to preventable factors

(Reuters Health) In the U.S., preventable risk factors still account for 50 percent of deaths from cardiovascular disease among adults age 45 to 79, according to a new analysis…
The researchers write … that had it been possible to completely eliminate every case of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking in the U.S., 54 percent of heart disease deaths among men and almost 50 percent of heart disease deaths among women in 2010 could have been prevented.
They also estimated, in a more feasible scenario, that if all states could have brought the levels of those five risk factors down to the levels achieved by the five best-performing states in the U.S., that would have prevented about five percent of heart disease deaths.
“Even the best states aren’t doing that well,” Patel said.
High blood pressure and smoking were tied to the highest proportion of preventable deaths.
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Healthy Diet Linked to Lower Death Rates Among Low-Income Residents in Southeastern USA

(Vanderbilt University Medical Center) Eating a healthy diet was linked with a lower risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, cancer or other diseases among a population of low-income individuals living in the Southeastern U.S., according to research led by Vanderbilt University investigators…
At the time of recruitment, [study] participants responded to a detailed food frequency questionnaire which noted the types and amounts of foods in their usual diet. For this follow-up study the investigators used the federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), and the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) to assess the healthfulness of the participants' diets. The DGA emphasizes a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in low- or non-fat dairy and alcohol; and low in red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains. .
Of the 77,572 participants with follow-up information over a mean period of 6.2 years, 6,906 participants died --2,244 from cardiovascular disease, 1,794 from cancer and 2,550 from other diseases. After controlling for factors such as age, weight, exercise, smoking and prior history of some chronic diseases, the investigators found that participants who ate the healthiest diet had an approximately 20 percent lower risk of death from those diseases than those with the least healthy diet.
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Omega-3 Supplements, Antioxidants May Help With Preclinical Alzheimer's Disease

(Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) Here's more evidence that fish oil supplementation and antioxidants might be beneficial for at least some people facing Alzheimer's disease: A new report … describes the findings of a very small study in which people with mild clinical impairment, such as those in the very early stages of the disease, saw clearance of the hallmark amyloid-beta protein and reduced inflammation in neurological tissues. Although the findings involved just 12 patients over the course of 4 to 17 months, the findings suggest further clinical study of this relatively inexpensive and plentiful supplement should be conducted.
"Prevention of mild cognitive impairment progression is one of the best hopes," said Milan Fiala, M.D., Research Professor at the University of California's Department of Surgery in Los Angeles. "In addition to physical and mental exercises recommended by experts, this study suggests that nutrition is equally important."
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PTSD may increase heart attack, stroke risk in women

(CNN) New research reveals that the effects of PTSD can go beyond the mind -- and put women's hearts and brains at risk.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can wreak havoc on a person's ability to deal with small disturbances, such as a loud noise or an upsetting story in the news, and it can keep them from getting good sleep. In addition to these problems, and perhaps because of them, PTSD might also increase women's risk of heart attack and stroke, according to new research.
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To Shed Weight, Go Vegan

(Springer Science+Business Media) People on a vegetarian diet, and especially those following a vegan one that includes no animal products, see better results than dieters on other weight-reducing plans. In fact, they can lose around two kilograms more on the short term, says Ru-Yi Huang of E-Da Hospital in Taiwan after reviewing the results of twelve diet trials…
Overall, individuals assigned to the vegetarian diet groups lost significantly more weight (around 2.02 kilograms) than dieters who ate meat and other animal products. Vegetarians who followed a vegan diet lost even more weight. Comparatively, they lost around 2.52 kilograms more than non-vegetarian dieters.
Community: Note to the metric impaired: one kilogram equals about 2.2 pounds.
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Does Radiation from X-Rays and CT Scans Really Cause Cancer?

(Loyola University Health System) In recent years, there has been widespread media coverage of studies purporting to show that radiation from X-rays, CT scans and other medical imaging causes cancer.
But such studies have serious flaws, including their reliance on an unproven statistical model, according to a recent article… Corresponding author is Loyola University Medical Center radiation oncologist James Welsh, MS, MD.
"Although radiation is known to cause cancer at high doses and high-dose rates, no data have ever unequivocally demonstrated the induction of cancer following exposure to low doses and dose rates," Dr. Welsh and co-author Jeffry Siegel, PhD, write.
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U.S. doctors, hospitals reap $6.5 billion from drug and device makers: report

(Reuters) U.S. doctors and research hospitals collected nearly $6.5 billion in payments for services rendered to pharmaceutical and medical device companies in 2014, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Open Payments report released on Tuesday.
The report, in its second year, lists 11.4 million payments to 607,000 physicians and more than 1,100 teaching hospitals made by 1,444 companies. (openpaymentsdata.cms.gov/)
The Open Payments program, which was created under the Affordable Care Act healthcare reform with the aim of improving transparency, requires drug and device manufacturers to report payments to health care providers for things like speaking engagements about their products and research grants.
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Sugary drinks linked to 25,000 deaths in the U.S. each year

(Los Angeles Times)  By contributing to obesity and, through that, to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks appears to claim the lives of about 25,000 American adults yearly and is linked worldwide to the deaths of 180,000 each year, new research says…
As incomes grow in many developing nations, some are experiencing spurts in obesity that mirror, in compressed form, Americans' four-decade run-up in weight. Many researchers attribute those patterns, at least in part, to increases in their populations' consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, which add calories without improving nutrition.
"This is not complicated," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of Tuft University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and a senior author of the new research. "There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year."
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Neighborhood Environments and Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

(The JAMA Network Journals) Neighborhood resources to support greater physical activity and, to a lesser extent, healthy diets appear to be associated with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, although the results vary by the method of measurement used, according to an article…
After accounting for a number of patient-related factors, a lower risk for developing T2DM was associated with greater cumulative exposure to neighborhood healthy food (12 percent) and physical activity resources (21 percent). However, the results varied based on the method of measurement used with the associations primarily found with survey-based, not GIS-based, information. Neighborhood social environment was not associated with new cases of T2DM.
"Our results suggest that modifying specific features of neighborhood environments, including increasing the availability of healthy foods and PA [physical activity] resources, may help to mitigate the risk for T2DM although additional intervention studies with measures of multiple neighborhood features are needed. Such approaches may be especially important for addressing disparities in T2DM given the concentration of low-income and minority populations in neighborhoods with fewer health-promoting resources," the study concludes.
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Few people heading toward diabetes know it

(Reuters Health) Only about one in eight people with so-called pre-diabetes, often a precursor to full-blown disease, know they have a problem, a U.S. study found.
Lacking awareness, people with the elevated blood sugar levels were also less likely to make lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise or eating less sugary food that might prevent them from ultimately becoming diabetic.
“People with pre-diabetes who lose a modest amount of weight and increase their physical activity are less likely to develop diabetes,” lead study author Dr. Anjali Gopalan, a researcher at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, said by email. “Our study importantly shows that individuals with pre-diabetes who were aware of this diagnosis were more likely to engage in some of these effective and recommended healthy lifestyle changes.”
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Muscadine Grape Seed Oil May Help Reduce Obesity

(University of Florida) Muscadine grape seed oil supplies a form of Vitamin E, giving scientists another clue to reducing obesity, a new University of Florida study shows.
The oil may help mitigate the formation of new fat cells because it produces tocotrienol, an unsaturated form of Vitamin E, said Marty Marshall, a UF professor of food science and human nutrition.
“Thus, consuming foods made with muscadine grape seed oil could curtail weight gain by reducing obesity,” Marshall said.
Muscadine grape seed oil would be a valuable addition to the market of edible oils because it is a unique source of tocotrienol in addition to being a good source of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, Marshall said. In addition, scientists anticipate that muscadine grape seed oils fortified with additional tocotrienol from underutilized muscadine varieties could be developed to help stem obesity.
Community: There are also other health benefits to tocotrienols, which are available as supplements.
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Virtual reality pedals and dances its way into fitness classes

(Reuters) Virtual reality is making inroads into group fitness classes and personal training sessions and promises to get more immersive as the technology advances, according to fitness experts.
It can transport an indoor cyclist in snowy Minnesota to Miami Beach or drop a novice into the middle of a three-dimensional exercise class that was taped days ago and miles away.
Anytime Fitness, a worldwide franchise, uses automated kiosks to screen immersive classes from indoor cycling to yoga.
“We have doubled down on our concentration of virtual fitness,” said Shannon Fable, corporate director of programing. “It’s an electronic way to deliver reliable, affordable group fitness for free.”
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'Drink When Thirsty' to Avoid Fatal Drops in Blood Sodium Levels During Exercise

(Wolters Kluwer Health) For hikers, football players, endurance athletes, and a growing range of elite and recreational exercisers, the best approach to preventing potentially serious reductions in blood sodium level is to drink when thirsty, according to an updated consensus statement on exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH)…
"Using the innate thirst mechanism to guide fluid consumption is a strategy that should limit drinking in excess and developing hyponatremia (low blood sodium) while providing sufficient fluid to prevent excessive dehydration," according to [new] recommendations…
EAH Deaths Are Preventable "If We Just Listen to Our Bodies"
Community: So much for the recommendations to drink 8 glasses of water a day.
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High Intake Of Citrus Juice May Increase Risk Of Melanoma

(Tech Times) People who consume large amounts of citrus, either as juice or in fruit, may have an increased risk of getting melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, researchers say.
In a study of 100,000 Americans, an unexpected association was found between high consumption of citrus, specifically orange juice or whole grapefruit, and risk of melanoma, they say.
A 36 percent higher risk of the cancer was seen in those who had a serving of citrus fruit or juice 1.6 times each day when compared with who had a serving less than two times a week, the researchers report…
Overall, the risk of melanoma is small - fewer than 2 percent of the 100,000 people in the 25-year study got melanoma.
Community: Well, I’m not going to give up my half a grapefruit a day unless I hear more about this.
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Blood Test for Lung Cancer a Step Closer

(Valley Health System) The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ, is pleased to announce that two of its oncologists and a research scientist are helping pave the way to an easier, more accurate, less invasive way to screen for the most common form of lung cancer…
The team discovered a protein that circulates in the blood that appears to be more accurate than the current method of low-dose CT scans for detecting non-small cell lung cancer…
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends an annual screening for patients 55 to 80 years old with a history of smoking and who are at high risk for developing lung cancer. Confirming the accuracy of the protein, AKAP4, in a broader, more robust study could result in developing a simple blood test for annual screenings, rather than the less accurate, more expensive CT scan, which exposes patients to radiation.
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Flatworms Could Replace Mammals for Some Toxicology Tests

(University of California - San Diego) Laboratories that test chemicals for neurological toxicity could reduce their use of laboratory mice and rats by replacing these animal models with tiny aquatic flatworms known as freshwater planarians.
Scientists at UC San Diego have discovered that planarians, commonly used in high-school biology labs to study regeneration and the primitive nervous system, are actually quite sophisticated when it comes to modeling the response of the developing human nervous system to potentially toxic chemicals.
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Taking anti-depressants like Prozac in menopause 'raises risk of broken bones'

(Daily Mail) Women who take common anti-depressants to counter the impact of the menopause may have a 76 per cent higher risk of broken bones, scientists warn.
The risk appears to last for several years after women take the drugs, leading to calls for doctors to reduce the period for which they are prescribed…
Among those who took the SSRIs, the rate of fractures was 76 per cent higher one year after starting treatment, 73 per cent higher after two years and 67 per cent higher after five years.
The researchers stressed that their study was purely based on statistics, so they could draw no definitive conclusions about cause and effect. But previous research has suggested that anti-depressants may alter the way bones grow, making them thinner and weaker.
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Should you treat chronic pain with opioids?

(Consumer Reports) Narcotic painkillers like Oxycontin, Vicodin or Percocet, also known as “opioids,” are commonly prescribed to treat moderate-to-severe pain after surgery, an injury or a kidney stone. They can also help reduce pain associated with terminal or very serious illnesses, such as cancer. But opioids are also prescribed to millions of people who have long-term, chronic pain—arthritis, lower-back pain, or nerve pain, for example.
Yet there’s a surprising lack of medical evidence that supports using opioids against those types of pain. That’s according to a large systematic review published in September 2014 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Since then, physician groups have started to change their prescribing guidelines. Instead of opioids, they suggest that other medications and even nondrug treatments since that can provide relief with less risk.
Besides not treating long-term pain very well, opioids can cause side effects, including constipation and sedation. There’s also the risks of overdose, physical dependence and addiction. Because of these factor, our Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs program has not chosen any opioid as a “Best Buy.”
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USDA proposes healthier fare for child, adult day cares

(Austin Herald) As teachers lament seeing toddlers too large to fit in playground swings, a federal program that feeds millions of low-income children may be overhauled for the first time in almost 50 years, aiming to make the meals at day cares healthier and reduce obesity…
More vegetables and less sugar lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposals, developed with guidance from experts.
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Don’t weaken GMO labeling

(Consumer Reports) At Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, we strongly support labels that give consumers valuable, meaningful information about the products they purchase—whether it’s for food, cars, or any other product.
For more than 20 years, we’ve supported the labeling of genetically engineered foods, also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. And consumers agree with us about GMO labeling…
But legislation currently moving through Congress would bring these and any future efforts to an end by prohibiting GMO labeling requirements at the local, state, and federal level…
And that's not all. A new draft version of this anti-consumer legislation that is being discussed in the House of Representatives is far more sweeping, also barring states and local communities from regulating genetically modified crops in other ways. Several counties in California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington have measures in place that restrict where GMO crops can be grown. The bill would nullify these measures.
Community: We get all upset about these trade treaties that take away local options. Why would we be okay with the federal government doing the same thing? I say give people the choice of which foods to buy.
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New data fuel hopes for broad use of Novartis psoriasis drug

(Reuters) Novartis is increasingly confident about the potential of its new injectable drug Cosentyx, as fresh clinical data confirms its long-term benefits in treating psoriatic arthritis.
Cosentyx was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in January for treating the painful skin condition plaque psoriasis, but the company also has high hopes for the product in related conditions.
Trial results published in the medical journal The Lancet on Monday showed the drug acting rapidly on psoriatic arthritis and, significantly, that its efficacy was sustained over one year. The treatment is given once a month.
The length of response is important because older biotech drugs known as anti-TNFs, which are used to treat such conditions, can lose their effectiveness over time.
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Top Obamacare official looks ahead after Supreme Court ruling

(Reuters) The U.S. official overseeing Obamacare said on Friday she has not seen any indication that states will back away from running their own health insurance marketplaces now that the Supreme Court has validated the federal insurance exchange.
Sylvia Burwell, secretary of Health and Human Services, also said she expected enrollment in both the state and federal health insurance exchanges established under the 2010 Affordable Care Act -- called Obamacare -- to decline from 10.2 million currently to 9.1 million by the end of 2015. That was the number her department had originally set as a goal for 2015.
Speaking with reporters in her office, an upbeat Burwell said now that the Court has upheld the law, she is ready to build on the five-year-old program's progress by continuing to expand Medicaid, which makes benefits available to low-income people.
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