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

Want to Improve Your Health? Focus on Nutrition and Not Weight

(Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) If you are watching what you eat, working out, and still not seeing improvements in your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc., here's some hope. A new report … suggests that inflammation induced by deficiencies in vitamins and minerals might be the culprit. In this report, researchers show that -- in some people -- improvement results in many of the major markers of health when nutritional deficiencies are corrected. Some even lost weight without a change in their diet or levels of activity.
"It is well known that habitual consumption of poor diets means increased risk of future disease, but clearly this is not a compelling enough reason for many to improve their eating habits," said Bruce Ames, Ph.D… "However, a relatively easy intervention with something like the nutrient bar used in this study may help people to realize the positive impact that a diet with adequate nutrition can have in their daily lives, which may be a stronger incentive for change."…
"This report shows that what you eat is as important, if not more, than how much you eat and how many calories you burn in the gym."
Community: My question to Dr. Ames and his answer, via email:
Is the nutrition bar you used in this study available commercially?
It is not available commercially. We are working on bringing it to the market.
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How to Protect Yourself From Junk Food Science

(John Tozzi, Bloomberg) Consumers can exhaust themselves trying to assess the risks of GMOs, BPA, meat from animals raised with antibiotics, or whether goji berries will help them live longer. The evidence can range from outright bunk to solid consensus—and many degrees in between. But it's possible, with a basic understanding of nutrition science and a bit of effort, to make rational decisions based on science rather than speculation, marketing, or propaganda. Here's a guide for reasonable people.
Be skeptical
You have to be especially skeptical of food claims… Most nutrition science is observational, which means researchers track people over time. Studies can try to control for other factors, like whether people who eat more vegetables are also more likely to exercise. But evidence from this kind of research is inherently weaker than randomized control trials…
Look for scientific consensus
Any one article can mislead. Small studies or short duration experiments are especially prone to mistaking random variation for meaning…
Consider your entire diet
People tend to latch on to findings about particular ingredients they think are especially harmful or beneficial… Focusing narrowly on certain foods can obscure bigger nutritional problems.
Think about where food comes from
"Mainstream dietary advice tells you to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, eat foods from animals in smaller amounts, and minimize junk food,” says [Marion Nestle, a New York University nutrition professor and food writer]. "All of the business about artificial colors and flavors, those are markers for junk food."
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How the Redesigned Nutrition Facts Label Can Change the Way America Eats

(Yahoo Food) In the 23 years since the nutrition facts label first appeared on the backs of most packaged foods, there has only been one significant change — the addition of trans fat numbers in 2006…
But within the next few years, consumers can expect a complete transformation…
Though there could be further additions to the redesign, here are the changes consumers should know:
Serving sizes updated:
By law, serving sizes on packaged food have to reflect how much people actually eat in one sitting — not, as widely assumed, the “suggested” serving size…
The label will be easier to read:
Unless you’re keen to count calories, the old nutrition facts label made it difficult to tell just how much you were eating at a glance. To remedy the problem, the FDA has proposed overhauling the design to make servings, calories, and daily values of various nutrients clearer…
Nutritional Updates and Added Sugars:…
Daily values for sodium, dietary fiber, and Vitamin D will be updated and manufacturers will, for the first time, be required to list potassium and Vitamin D on labels. Vitamins A and C will be “included on a voluntary basis.”…
[T]he recent proposal to include “added sugars” in addition to total quantity of sugar on the nutrition facts label is easily the most controversial change suggested by the FDA… As critics have pointed out, naturally occurring and added sugars are physiologically indistinguishable. However, foods with high levels of natural sugars — like fruit or milk — are very different in overall nutrition from those with an abundance of added sugar — soda or cookies.
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Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets

(Well, New York Times) Coca-Cola, the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, is backing a new “science-based” solution to the obesity crisis: To maintain a healthy weight, get more exercise and worry less about cutting calories.
The beverage giant has teamed up with influential scientists who are advancing this message in medical journals, at conferences and through social media. To help the scientists get the word out, Coke has provided financial and logistical support to a new nonprofit organization called the Global Energy Balance Network, which promotes the argument that weight-conscious Americans are overly fixated on how much they eat and drink while not paying enough attention to exercise…
Health experts say this message is misleading and part of an effort by Coke to deflect criticism about the role sugary drinks have played in the spread of obesity and Type 2 diabetes…
This clash over the science of obesity comes in a period of rising efforts to tax sugary drinks, remove them from schools and stop companies from marketing them to children. In the last two decades, consumption of full-calorie sodas by the average American has dropped by 25 percent.
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Trans fats, but not saturated fats, linked to risk of death

(Reuters Health) A large new review of existing research suggests that for healthy people, a reasonable amount of saturated fat in the diet poses no health risk.
Trans fats, on the other hand, were associated with an increased risk of death from any cause, death from cardiovascular disease and a diagnosis of coronary heart disease.
Dietary guidelines recommend that saturated fats, found in animal products like butter, egg yolks and salmon, make up no more than 10 percent of daily calories. Trans unsaturated fats, known as trans fats, like the hydrogenated oils that keep processed foods and margarine shelf-stable, are primarily industrially produced and should provide no more than one percent of daily calories.
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Southern-Style Diet Is Least Healthy

(MedPage Today) People who regularly consumed a typical "Southern"-style diet had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in a large study examining dietary patterns and heart risk -- more so than other diet types deemed unhealthy.
Individuals eating foods typical to the Southern region -- think fried chicken, fried okra, sweet tea, buttered biscuits, and lots of gravy -- showed a 56% increase in cardiovascular disease, compared with those rarely eating such foods, in the national, population-based, observational Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) trial.
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Fresh Fridays: Spotlight on Italy

(Mediterranean Foods Alliance) Aside from regional differences, Italian food is also shaped by historical class differences. Before the economic and social disorder that ensued during World War II, Italian cuisine could be divided into two types: cucina povera, or the cooking of the poor, and cucina alto-borghese, or the cuisine of the upper classes. Cucina povera was regional, based on local produce, and very simple; it was by no means poor quality food, but a kind of cooking that made the most of available ingredients.
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid is an excellent representation of cucina povera. The most inexpensive dishes utilized foods from the garden (fresh herbs, beans, vegetables, and fruits) and nearby farms (wheat for pasta and bread, corn, rice, olives for olive oil, and grapes for wine). Farm animals were valued as continuous resources for eggs and dairy, and rarely butchered, so meat and poultry were used only sparingly to flavor dishes. Desserts were reserved for special occasions…
Try some of the recipes below, and savor the quality of the ingredients and simple preparation like a true Italian.
Bruschetta with Summer Squash and Peppers
In its simplest form, Italian bruschetta is made by toasting bread, rubbing it with garlic, and topping it with extra virgin olive oil and salt. This recipe turns it up a notch with seasonal summer squash. 
Pasta Salad with Roasted Asparagus, Caramelized Red Onions and Goat Cheese
This summer pasta salad recipe, like many Italian recipes, is easy to make and relies on quality ingredients. Leftovers make a great lunch for work or school.
Fave e Cicoria
Fave e ciccoria (fava beans and chicory) is a popular dish in Puglia, the heel of Italy's boot. It takes inspiration from Egyptian bean purées across the Mediterranean. Allow extra time for soaking the dried fava beans.
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Disease Proof With Dr. David Katz

(Detroit Public Television) Studies have confirmed time after time that we can reduce our risk of all chronic disease by an amazing 80 percent just by being more active, eating nutritious food, and having healthy habits. But if we’ve known this for decades, why isn’t everyone healthy? Is it just a lack of willpower?
The truth is that there are serious (and sneaky) obstacles in our way, and now we can learn to avoid them. Dr. David Katz, a world-renowned preventive medicine expert at Yale University, and president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, shows us how to develop the "skillpower" we need to lose weight, find health, and protect ourselves from devastating disease. "Disease Proof With Dr. David Katz" is part of special programming premiering on PBS stations beginning August 2015.
Community: The first episode airs tonight. KPBS TV streams, so you can see the episode live on the internet.
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For A More Climate-Friendly Burger, Maybe We Should Feed Cows Algae

(Fast Company) Beef has such a massive carbon footprint that eating a lot of burgers can theoretically be worse for the environment than driving a car. But most of that impact comes from the food grown for cows—and what cows eat could soon change.
A new study shows that cattle might be able to start eating algae instead of their usual farmed grain. The algae meal, leftover when manufacturers use algae biofuel, is usually burned—but it turns out that cows think it's tasty.
"After the oil extraction process, the algae residue includes some fat, fiber, and protein, all essential nutrients for cattle," says Stephanie Hansen, an associate professor of "beef feedlot nutrition" at Iowa State University and one of the authors of the study. "Cattle are well suited to digesting fibrous feedstuffs like the algae meal, making it a great ruminant feedstuff."
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For Natural Sunblock Breakthrough, Scientists Look to Fish

(Wall Street Journal) Scientists have developed a powerful new sun-blocking material derived from natural protective agents that evolved in fish living off Australia’s sunbaked coast.
In laboratory tests, the material was found to be twice as effective at filtering out ultraviolet radiation as traditional sunscreen compounds, said Vincent Bulone, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
The development, reported recently in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials & Interfaces, could lead to new sun creams made of all natural ingredients and to coatings that protect products from degrading in sunlight, such as outdoor furniture and car dashboards, Dr. Bulone said.
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New Breath Test Shows Possible Biomarker for Early-Stage Liver Disease Diagnosis

(University of Birmingham) A natural compound called limonene, which is found in oranges and lemons, could be indicative in early-stage diagnosis of liver disease, according to research…
[Said Dr Margaret O'Hara, from the Molecular Physics Group and primary investigator on the project:] 'We already knew that people with liver disease have a very distinct smell on the breath and we wanted to find out what caused that smell. Now that we have found a biomarker for the disease in limonene, we can continue to verify how good it is for diagnosing liver disease.
'If our further research is successful, in the future we can envisage a small portable breath analyser that can be used by GPs and other health professionals to screen for early stage liver disease , leading to earlier treatment and better survival rates.'
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Device May Detect Urinary Tract Infections Faster

(American Institute of Physics) Urinary tract infections can quickly move from being a merely miserable experience to a life-threatening condition. Untreated cases may trigger sepsis, which occurs when the immune system, in an attempt to fight off the infection, inadvertently activates body-wide inflammation that can cause blood clots and leaky blood vessels…
[A] team of researchers in Germany and Ireland set out to speed up the detection process for bacteria that cause urinary tract infections.
In [an article], the team describes creating a Lab-on-a-Disc platform that combines microfluidics and Raman microscopy, a modern optical detection method.
Their medical diagnostics device is designed to harness centrifugal force -- akin to the circular swing of a "Chair-o-Plane" carnival ride, in which a fast rotation creates a force that causes the seats to drift radially away from the ride's center -- to capture the tiny bacteria directly from patients' samples of bodily fluids…in this case, urine.
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Tell-tale biomarker detects early breast cancer in NIH-funded study

(National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering ) [Rese]archers have shown that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect the earliest signs of breast cancer recurrence and fast-growing tumors. Their approach detects micrometastases, breakaway tumor cells with the potential to develop into dangerous secondary breast cancer tumors elsewhere in the body. The approach may offer an improved way to detect early recurrence of breast cancer in women and men…
“We showed with this technique that we can detect very tiny tumors of just a few hundred cells,” [said Zheng-Rong Lu, Ph.D.], adding that the study pushed imaging boundaries, revealing smaller cancers than can be detected with current clinical imaging modalities. “Our imaging technology has the potential to differentiate aggressive tumors from low-risk tumors. These are two things that potentially can make a big impact on clinical practice and also management of cancer.”
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High risk medical devices backed by few studies

(Reuters Health) Many high-risk therapeutic devices get Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval with only one study proving their safety and efficacy before going to market.
Studies of how the devices work once they are on the market are also few and far between, according to a new study that looked at all 28 high-risk devices approved in 2010 and 2011 by the FDA Premarket Approval pathway
“Medical device regulation in the U.S. is well known to be more rigorous than in other parts of the world,” but there had not been a comprehensive review of the evidence behind high-risk devices, said senior author Dr. Joseph S. Ross of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.
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After Becoming Alphabet, Google Inks Another Healthcare Deal

(Forbes) As if Google’s big news weren’t enough, it was revealed today that Dexcom, a leading glucose-monitoring company, is partnering with the company’s Life Sciences group to make smaller, better devices for people with diabetes. Dexcom’s hope is that, by combining its own technology with miniaturized electronics from Google, “when we get through the development we’ll have something that is very, very low cost and very small,” says Dexcom vice president Steve Pacelli.
The announcement comes just on the heels of Google’s much more widely reported announcement that it’s reinventing itself as holding company Alphabet. Notably, that new company will cover under its umbrella both Life Sciences and Calico, a group that aims to tackle the problem of aging.
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HHS announces an additional $169 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 266 community health centers

(U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell [has announced] $169 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 266 new health center sites in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico for the delivery of comprehensive primary health care services in communities that need them most. These new health center sites are projected to increase access to health care services for over 1.2 million patients. These awards build on the $101 million awarded to 164 new health center sites in May 2015.
“Across the country, health centers have provided a source of high-quality primary care for people in rural and urban communities for 50 years,” said Acting Deputy Secretary Mary Wakefield. “These Affordable Care Act funds build on the strong legacy of the health center program and provide even more individuals and families with access to the care they need the most.”
This investment will add to the more than 700 new health center sites that have opened as a result of the Affordable Care Act, including those awarded earlier this year.
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Is Modern Living Leading to a ‘Hidden Epidemic’ of Neurological Disease?

(Bournemouth University) Modern living could be responsible for an 'almost epidemic' increase in neurological brain disease, according to new research from Bournemouth University…
[T]he study compared 21 Western countries between 1989 and 2010 and found that dementias are starting a decade earlier than they used to in adults.
Furthermore deaths caused by neurological disease have risen significantly in adults aged 55-74, and for adults 75+ the rate has virtually doubled in every Western country in just the last 20 years.
In the US, the problem is particularly acute…
"These results will not be welcome news as there are many with short-term vested interests that will want to ignore them. It is not that we want to stop the modern world but rather make it safer.
Essentially, it is time for us to wake up and realize that a major problem we now face is unprecedented levels of neurological disease, not just the earlier dementias and thinking of the USA -- `when America sneezes, Europe gets cold a decade later."
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or minimize the severity of cognitive decline.
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Special veg-rich diet may slow cognitive decline in elderly, study shows

(Reuters) A diet rich in green leafy vegetables, beans, berries, whole grains and wine can help to slow normal brain aging and cognitive decline, researchers said on Tuesday.
Cognitive decline is a normal part of aging but a study by scientists at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago showed that elderly adults who strictly followed the MIND diet were 7.5 years younger cognitively over a period of nearly five years than those who adhered the least…
MIND, or Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil and vegetables and the DASH eating plan designed to control high blood pressure.
It consists of 15 dietary components and recommends at least three servings of whole grains, a salad and another vegetable each day and a glass of wine. Beans and poultry should be eaten at least twice a week and fish once a week.
Followers of the diet limit the amount of the five unhealthy food groups - red meat, butter, stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets and fried or fast food - they eat.
The only fruits in the MIND diet are berries.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or minimize the severity of cognitive decline.
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Variety Strengthens the Aging Brain

(Michael Roizen, MD, and Mehmet Oz, MD) If you want to clear out the cobwebs…, here’s how: Put yourself in situations where you have to deal with complex, new situations… That’s what researchers from Johns Hopkins discovered when they examined the brains of participants in Baltimore’s Experience Corps -- a program that brings retired people (65+) into public schools to serve as mentors to young children…
The takeaway? Your enduring brain health is given a real boost when you challenge yourself by learning new things in new situations. Volunteers -- and soccer players -- meet different people in different situations every day. (One more tip: Eat 6 to 12 walnut halves daily. Studies show that regularly eating walnuts can protect you from dementia!)
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or minimize the severity of cognitive decline.
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Could Body Posture During Sleep Affect How Your Brain Clears Waste?

(Stony Brook University) Sleeping in the lateral, or side position, as compared to sleeping on one's back or stomach, may more effectively remove brain waste and prove to be an important practice to help reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurological diseases, according to researchers at Stony Brook University.
By using dynamic contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to image the brain's glymphatic pathway, a complex system that clears wastes and other harmful chemical solutes from the brain, Stony Brook University researchers Hedok Lee, PhD, Helene Benveniste, MD, PhD, and colleagues, discovered that a lateral sleeping position is the best position to most efficiently remove waste from the brain. In humans and many animals the lateral sleeping position is the most common one. The buildup of brain waste chemicals may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease and other neurological conditions.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or minimize the severity of cognitive decline.
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Discovery About Brain Protein Causes Rethink on Development of Alzheimer's Disease

(University of Melbourne) Researchers at the University of Melbourne have discovered that a protein involved in the progression of Alzheimer's disease also has properties that could be helpful for human health.
The discovery helps researchers better understand the complicated brain chemistry behind the development of Alzheimer's disease…
An international team of researchers, led by Dr Simon Drew at the University of Melbourne and Prof Wojciech Bal at the Polish Academy of Sciences, has revealed that a shorter form of a protein called beta amyloid, may act as a sponge that safely binds a metal that can damage brain tissue when it's in excess.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or minimize the severity of cognitive decline.
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New antibody treats traumatic brain injury and prevents long-term neurodegeneration

(Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) New research … provides the first direct evidence linking traumatic brain injury to Alzheimer's disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) -- and offers the potential for early intervention to prevent the development of these debilitating neurodegenerative diseases. TBI can result from repetitive contact sport injuries or from exposure to military blasts, and is one of the most significant risk factors for both Alzheimer's disease and CTE…
[T]he researchers found that a misshapen isoform of the tau protein can develop as soon as 12 hours after TBI, setting in motion a destructive course of events that can lead to widespread neurodegeneration. Importantly, the researchers have developed a potent antibody that can selectively detect and destroy this highly toxic protein…
"Alzheimer's disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy are terrible diseases that progressively rob individuals of their memory, judgment and ability to function," said study coauthor Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD…
"These findings … offer us a new way to approach Alzheimer's disease, which poses a staggering unsustainable burden throughout the world. Alzheimer's afflicts both individuals and their families and, it deprives society of the contributions of experienced and wise elders."
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or minimize the severity of cognitive decline.
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Plasma Tau Levels Increased Post-Traumatic Brain Injury

(MedPage Today) Military personnel who reported three or more traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) showed high total tau protein concentrations in plasma, in some cases long after the injuries had occurred, an observational study indicated.
These findings suggest that accumulations of the plasma biomarker, tau, may contribute to chronic neurological symptoms following TBI, Jessica Gill, PhD, RN, of the National Institute of Nursing Research in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues reported…
[D]eposits of hyperphosphorylated tau are well-known features of Alzheimer's disease and have also been found in the condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or minimize the severity of cognitive decline.
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Fly catcher robot to speed up insights into Alzheimer's

(Reuters) Stanford University researchers are using the most sophisticated fly catcher in the world with the potential to speed up the rate of scientific insight into diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Utilizing robotics, computer vision, and high speed cameras along with a powerful suit of sensors, this robot can handle and study fruit flies with unprecedented speed and accuracy.
Fruit flies and humans share more than 50 percent of the genes known to affect human disease, making them crucial to genetic research.
"Historically the fruit fly has been an important model for the study of various biological processes and has led to important discoveries initially in genetics but then in other fields as well," said Mark Schnitzer, a professor of biology and applied physics at Stanford University.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or minimize the severity of cognitive decline.
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Common Medications for Dementia Could Cause Harmful Weight Loss

(University of California - San Francisco) Medications commonly used to treat dementia could result in harmful weight loss, according to UC San Francisco researchers, and clinicians need to account for this risk when prescribing these drugs to older adults, they said…
"This is very relevant to patient care because unintentional weight loss in older adults is associated with many adverse outcomes, including increased rates of institutionalization and mortality, a decline in functional status, and poorer quality of life," said lead author Meera Sheffrin, MD, geriatrics fellow in the UCSF School of Medicine at the UCSF-affiliated San Francisco VA Medical Center. "Our study provides evidence in a large, real-world population that cholinesterase inhibitors may contribute to clinically significant weight loss in a substantial proportion of older adults with dementia."
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Liver disease drug may be the key to helping Parkinson's Disease sufferers

(The Mirror) Parkinson's Disease victims could be helped by a drug used for liver disease.
Scientists found ursodeoxycholic acid increased energy levels in the cells of Parkinson’s sufferers.
They found it can slow the development of the condition, which affects 127,000 people in the UK.
As UDCA is already approved for treating liver disease, scientists hope it could be approved for Parkinson’s patients very quickly if more clinical trials prove its worth.
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The Latest from The People’s Pharmacy

Cherries Are Cherished for Fighting Inflammation
New research shows that [tart] cherries are able to reduce inflammation significantly. It has benefits for athletes and those with gout.
Coconut Defeats Debilitating Diarrhea
Eating coconut can often reduce or eliminate diarrhea, whether it is due to IBS or to dietary indiscretion. Overdoing can cause constipation.
A Whiff of Eucalyptus for Ear Pain When Flying
Sniffing essential oil of eucalyptus can ease congestion, open blocked nasal passages and prevent ear pain when flying.
AmLactin Cream Soothed Hands Jalapenos Hurt
Handling jalapenos with bare hands can result in a long-lasting burning sensation. To ease it, apply something acidic or a dairy product containing casein.
Wife Hates Husband’s Ugly Feet
Nail fungus can make feet look unattractive but readers have come up with dozens of home remedies that can turn ugly toes into beautiful tootsies.
Pot Marigold Leaves Stop Cuts from Bleeding
Crushed leaves of pot marigold have a history for stopping bleeding from a cut. What else might you use in a first-aid situation?
Inhaled Steroid Can Cause Hoarseness
An inhaler used to treat asthma and COPD can cause hoarseness during its use.
Are Your Drugs Secretly Causing Your Diabetes?
Many medications can make it hard to control blood sugar.
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Best smartphones for seniors

(Consumer Reports) As your eyesight, hearing, or dexterity declines with age, using a smartphone could become a bit more difficult. You might, for instance, find yourself squinting at tiny buttons or struggling with confusing options when you're making a call, taking a photo, sending an e-mail or text, surfing the Web, or using any other feature or app.
But you don't have to switch to one of those clunky-looking large-buttoned phones. Many high-scoring phones in Consumer Reports’ Ratings have easy-to-use settings to accommodate your needs, making them the best smartphones for seniors and others whose eyesight, hearing, or dexterity isn't as sharp as it used to be.
Two of the best smartphones for seniors are the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Apple iPhone 6 Plus. Both have a large, high-definition display (5.7 and 5.5 inches, respectively) that is easy to read, even in bright light. They also have great cameras and long-lasting batteries.
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Do-it-yourself health screening tests that are worth the money

(Consumer Reports) Ever suspect that you have a medical condition but would rather not go to a doctor to find out for sure? Maybe you prefer to keep it private or save some money, or you just don’t have the time for an office appointment and tests.
Whatever the reason, more of us are already taking matters into our own hands, checking for everything from high cholesterol to diabetes. We’re snapping up health screening kits, which can cost as little as $8 to as much as $175, at drugstores and online. But just because the kits are widely available doesn’t mean they’re always a wise idea. Here’s our advice on when they do—and don’t—make sense.
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Pharmacy benefit manager CVS urges rewrite for U.S. heart guidelines

(Reuters) CVS Health Corp, the second-largest manager of drug benefit plans for U.S. employers and insurers, asked heart specialists on Monday to revamp guidelines for treating patients with high cholesterol after the launch of new, expensive medications.
The unusual move is the latest salvo in the war on escalating U.S. healthcare costs, with insurers using aggressive tactics to extract steep price discounts from drugmakers, even for the newest medications, and controlling patient access to the most expensive drugs.
CVS, in a letter published in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, said current guidelines, which include a formula for assessing heart disease risk rather than specific targets for levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, do not provide clarity on how to choose the best, and most cost effective, therapy.
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Seniors at High Risk for Readmission After Ambulatory Surgery

(Northwestern University) Patients 65 and older who have ambulatory surgery are much more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days than younger patients, regardless of their health before surgery, reports a new, large national Northwestern Medicine study. The likely cause, based on previous research, is difficulty understanding medication dosing and discharge instructions, as well as cognitive impairment among older patients.
The study found age is an independent risk factor for ambulatory surgical complications, which was not previously known…
In a subsequent study underway at Northwestern, the investigators noticed that a patient, who had had a lumpectomy, removed her sterile strips holding the wound together instead of just changing the gauze. She had to return to the surgeon. Another patient took four opioid pills an hour instead of four a day and ended up in the emergency room.
The solution is to design clearer discharge instructions tailored to seniors, [corresponding study author Dr. Gildasio] De Oliveira said.
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Spirituality may be tied to easier cancer course

(Reuters Health) Cancer patients who report more religiousness or spirituality may also experience fewer physical symptoms of cancer and treatment and more social connection, several new papers suggest.
The new analyses reviewed previous studies of spirituality involving more than 44,000 cancer patients altogether. The studies varied in many ways, but religion and spirituality were associated with better health regardless of specific religion or set of spiritual beliefs.
Some previous research has found this connection while others have not, said Heather Jim of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, who led one of the new studies.
Community: I’m glad they’ve started basing these studies on “spirituality”, rather than “religion”. You can be spiritual without being religious.
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Be Happy, Live Longer

(Sharecare) [A] 2015 study followed 4,458 adults over a nine-year period; they were at least 50 years old when the study began. Once a year the participants were asked to rate their life satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most satisfied. The researchers also tracked important health indicators such as whether or not they smoked, exercise, existing medical conditions and more.
Those at the higher end of the satisfaction scale had 18% lower mortality over the nine years…
While the study didn’t specify what’s meant by life satisfaction, it’s safe to say that managing your health by doing things like eating healthy and getting regular exercise can improve your outlook. Reducing stress -- using time-honored techniques such as breathing exercises, yoga and meditation -- can also make it easier to cope. Social connections add another piece to the puzzle… [J]ust knowing you don’t have to go it alone can make the ride a little less bumpy -- and more satisfying.
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Picking Up the Phone to Improve Mental Health in Seniors

(Washington University in St. Louis) As Baby Boomers age, meeting their health needs — including mental health care — will become more and more challenging.
A new study … shows that therapy provided via telephone for older adults in rural areas is effective in treating anxiety disorder and may help people in parts of the country that are underserved by mental health providers.
In an accompanying editorial, geriatric psychiatrist Eric J. Lenze, MD, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, wrote that the health-care system lacks the capacity to help the growing elderly population — in which one in five individuals has a mental disorder — and that relying too heavily on sedative medications isn’t the answer.
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Depression In Women Linked To Highly Refined Carbohydrates, Says Study

(Headlines & Global News) Eating food with highly refined carbohydrates may increase the chances of new-onset depression in post-menopausal women, a new study from psychiatrists at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) has found out…
The scientists said that while carbohydrates consumption normally increases blood sugar levels, eating highly refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, rice and junk food, triggers a hormonal response that affects the glycemic index. This then exacerbates changes in a woman's mood and triggers fatigue as well as other depression symptoms…
Meanwhile, a diet consisting of vegetables, fiber, whole grains and non-juiced fruits showed a decrease in the risk of depression.
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Untreated hearing loss can result in depression, dementia

(UPI) Several studies show that hearing loss often goes untreated, leading to depression and other cognitive issues as it progressively gets worse, according to new research presented today at the American Psychological Association's annual conference.
Introducing hearing loss patients to modern hearing aids, as well as newer technology such as hearing loops, can significantly alter what Dr. David Myers said is progressively negative path caused by not addressing the problem.
"Many hard of hearing people battle silently with their invisible hearing difficulties, straining to stay connected to the world around them, reluctant to seek help," said Dr. David Myers, a psychology professor at Hope College, in a presentation at the conference. "Anger, frustration, depression and anxiety are all common among people who find themselves hard of hearing."
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Group Therapies for PTSD Show Promise for Veterans

(MedPage Today) Veterans treated for PTSD with a fairly new alternative therapy called "mindfulness-based stress reduction" experienced slightly more improvement in symptoms compared to active controls, according to the results of a small randomized trial.
Melissa A. Polusny, PhD, of the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, and colleagues found that veterans who underwent mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) therapy reported a greater improvement in PCL (PTSD checklist) scores during treatment (63.6 to 55.7 and 58.8 to 55.8, respectively…) and at 2 months follow-up compared to present-centered group (PCT) therapy (63.6 to 54.4 and 58.8 to 56.0…).
A greater portion of the MBSR group (49.1%) were also associated with clinically significant improvements … they wrote.
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Trauma Experiences Change the Brain Even in Those Without PTSD

(University of Oxford) Trauma may cause distinct and long-lasting effects even in people who do not develop PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), according to research…
Professor [Morten] Kringelbach said: 'This research suggests that there may be a spectrum of traumatic effect on the brain, where people who have experienced trauma may not meet the threshold for a diagnosis of PTSD but may have similar changes within the brain. This could make them more susceptible to PTSD if they experience a subsequent trauma.
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Researchers show how single genetic mutation can cause autism

(UPI) While studying the development of a rare neurological disorder called Angelman syndrome, researchers discovered the way one specific genetic mutation can cause autism -- and they may have a treatment to reverse it.
Only about 27 genes have been identified with high confidence by researchers as causing autism when mutated, however hundreds more have been identified as potentially causing the condition.
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Hand washing web programme 'helps reduce infections'

(BBC News) A web-based programme encouraging people to wash their hands more frequently could reduce the risk of catching and passing on infections, a study suggests.
Researchers …  tested it on around 16,000 households in the UK during the winter flu season.
They found a 14% reduction in general risk of infection and a 20% lower risk of catching flu in those who used it.
This group also visited their GP less and needed fewer antibiotics.
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Nicotine-eating bacteria show promise as new anti-smoking therapy

(Medical News Today) Although there is still a way to go, a team working on a new type of anti-smoking therapy based on a bacterial enzyme that devours nicotine before it can reach the brain are hopeful of success…
[S]cientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, CA, report how the enzyme can be made in the lab and has a number of features that make it a promising candidate for drug development.
Kim Janda, senior author and professor of chemistry, says: "Our research is in the early phase of drug development process, but the study tells us the enzyme has the right properties to eventually become a successful therapeutic."
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Team Advances Therapy Preventing Addiction Relapse by Erasing Drug-Associated Memories

(Scripps Research Institute) Recovering addicts often grapple with the ghosts of their addiction--memories that tempt them to relapse even after rehabilitation and months, or even years, of drug-free living. Now, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have made a discovery that brings them closer to a new therapy based on selectively erasing these dangerous and tenacious drug-associated memories.
"We now have a viable target and by blocking that target, we can disrupt, and potentially erase, drug memories, leaving other memories intact," said TSRI Associate Professor Courtney Miller. "The hope is that, when combined with traditional rehabilitation and abstinence therapies, we can reduce or eliminate relapse for meth users after a single treatment by taking away the power of an individual's triggers."
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How a crime scene compound could help combat malaria

(Medical News Today) You are likely to have seen it on CSI - the spray detectives use at crime scenes to illuminate tiny blood particles invisible to the naked eye. But there may be much more to this spray than its crime-solving potential; a new study suggests it could be used to combat malaria.
The spray of topic is luminol - a chemical compound that glows in the dark when it comes into contact with an oxidizing agent. One such oxidizing agent is hemoglobin - a protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.
In their study, first author Paul Sigala and colleagues, from Washington University in St. Louis, reveal how luminol triggers an amino acid present in hemoglobin to kill the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in red blood cells.
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Study finds higher survival rates for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer

(Medical News Today) UC Davis study should help guide patients and their oncologists
Combing data collected on thousands of California ovarian cancer patients, UC Davis researchers have determined that almost one-third survived at least 10 years after diagnosis.
The unprecedented findings upend the notion that women diagnosed with cancer of the ovary always face a poor chance of survival. In fact, while the study confirmed earlier findings on characteristics associated with ovarian cancer survival -- younger age, earlier stage and lower grade tumors at diagnosis -- it also identified a surprising number of long-term survivors who didn't meet those criteria.
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Oral Contraceptives Have Prevented About 200,000 Cases of Endometrial Cancer in the Last Decade

(The Lancet) Use of oral contraceptives (usually referred to as "the pill"), even for just a few years, gives substantial long-term protection against endometrial (womb) cancer, and the longer the pill is used the greater the reduction in risk, according to a detailed re-analysis of all the available evidence…
"The strong protective effect of oral contraceptives against endometrial cancer -- which persists for decades after stopping the pill -- means that women who use it when they are in their 20s or even younger continue to benefit into their 50s and older, when cancer becomes more common," explains study author Professor Valerie Beral, from the University of Oxford in the UK.
She added "Previous research has shown that the pill also protects against ovarian cancer. People used to worry that the pill might cause cancer, but in the long term the pill reduces the risk of getting cancer."
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Court Ruling Could Loosen Rules on Drug Marketing

(TIME) A federal judge ruled Friday against the Food and Drug Administration’s attempt to stop a drug company from telling doctors about unapproved uses for one of its products, in a case with potentially significant implications for the agency’s ability to regulate drug marketing.
The preliminary injunction prevents the FDA from blocking actions by Amarin Corp. in marketing its fish oil Vascepa drug for off-label usage. The drug company sued the FDA, framing the issue as a First Amendment violation.
The judge ultimately ruled that it was unconstitutional for the FDA to impose off-label promotion restrictions for the drug when Amarin could provide evidence backing its promotional claims. The FDA tried to restrict Amarin from marketing that Vascepa could benefit patients with “persistently high triglycerides,” since the drug is only approved for the more severe “very high triglycerides” level.
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You can now look up ER wait times, hospital noise levels and nursing home fines on Yelp

(Washington Post) Yelp is adding a ton of health-care data to its review pages for medical businesses to give consumers more access to government information on hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis clinics.
Consumers can now look up a hospital emergency room's average wait time, fines paid by a nursing home, or how often patients getting dialysis treatment are readmitted to a hospital because of treatment-related infections or other problems.
The review site is partnering with ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization based in New York. ProPublica compiled the information from its own research and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The data is for 4,600 hospitals, 15,000 nursing homes, and 6,300 dialysis clinics in the United States, and it will be updated quarterly.
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No, Giving More People Health Insurance Doesn’t Save Money

(New York Times) There’s an oft-expressed view that getting all those people covered could actually save the health system money. The argument goes something like this: Once people have insurance, they’ll go to the doctor instead of an expensive emergency room. Or: Prevention costs far less than a serious illness down the road.
In selling the Affordable Care Act, President Obama was fond of making these sorts of arguments…
This argument for the cost savings from universal health coverage makes some intuitive sense, but it’s wrong. There’s strong evidence from a variety of sources that people who have health insurance spend more on medical care than people who don’t. It also turns out that almost all preventive health care costs more than it saves.
Community: Jumping the gun. Again. WOT a surprise!
Email message from Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research, regarding the article above:
I am somewhat familiar with this literature, but I don't feel I know enough to say the conclusion is wrong. There was an uptick in the rate of increase in health care costs last year, but it may be fading this year. This would be consistent with a lot of people getting insurance for the first time and getting a lot of things treated that they had put off. In that case, it is a one-time rise, following by slower rates of growth going forward. we will need more data to know for sure.
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