Foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners may not be a guilt-free way to enjoy treats after all.
New research suggests artificial sweeteners may change the microbes living in our intestines, which can then affect blood-glucose levels.
Researchers curious about how various sweeteners impacted the microbes living in the human intestine began by looking at the impact to mice, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers gave one group of mice water that contained a natural sugar (glucose or sucrose) and another group of mice received water that contained an artificial sweetener (saccharin used in Sweet’N Low, sucralose used in Splenda or aspartame used in Equal and Nutrasweet).
Researchers discovered many animals in the artificial sweetener groups (especially those in the saccharin group) developed glucose intolerance, which is characterized by high blood-sugar levels and is a warning sign for Type 2 diabetes.
The mice that drank sugar water remained healthy, according to researchers.
The researchers analyzed the artificial sweetener group’s gut microbiome and found a distinctly different collection of microbes than in the mice that drank sugar water.
The researchers used antibiotics to wipe out the gut microbes of the artificial sweetener group and the blood-sugar levels returned to normal – evidence the microbes were causing glucose intolerance, according to researchers.
Next, the researchers looked at humans.
Researchers looked at clinical data from 400 people in an ongoing nutritional study. They found that, compared to people who didn’t consume artificial sweeteners, long-term consumers of artificial sweeteners tended to have higher blood-glucose levels and other indicators associated with diabetes and obesity, according to researchers.
The researchers then asked seven people who had never consumed artificial sweeteners to consume the maximum dose of saccharin allowed by the Food and Drug Administration for six days.
Four of the seven volunteers developed glucose intolerance. The other three maintained normal blood-sugar levels.
Researchers transplanted the microbes from the people to germ-free mice. The microbes from the humans with glucose intolerance triggered glucose intolerance in the mice, but the microbes from humans with normal blood-sugar levels had no effect on the mice, according to researchers.
The results of the study must still be confirmed in larger studies.]]>
A daily soda habit could age you as much as smoking cigarettes, according to new research.
A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health found regular soda consumption can age your body’s immune cells.
Researchers studied telomeres – the caps at the end of chromosomes – from white blood cells. Shorter telomeres have been linked to shorter lifespans, more stress, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, according to a Time article.
The researchers found that people who drank more sugary soda tended to have shorter telomeres.
People who drank 8 ounce of soda every day had nearly two years of additional aging. Those who drank 20 ounces every day had 4.6 more years of aging, researchers found.
“The latter, the authors point out, is exactly the same association found between telomere length and smoking,” according to the Time article.
Researchers didn’t see any association between telomere length and diet soda intake or non-carbonated sugary drinks, such as fruit juice. Researchers suspect the results might be different if the data was more modern; the study used data from 14 years ago.
“We think that the jury’s still out on sugared beverages—theoretically they’re just as bad,” senior study author Elissa Epel told Time. “But 14 years ago people were drinking a lot less sugared beverages … they were mostly drinking soda.”
About 21 percent of adults in the study said they drank 20 ounces or more of soda each day, according to the article.
Telomere length dwindles naturally with age, but research has shown it’s possible to increase telomere length by stressing less and eating a healthy diet, according to the Time article.]]>
Most people in the U.S. believe Ebola can be transmitted through a sneeze or cough, according to a new poll.
(Spoiler: Ebola is not spread through sneezing or coughing.)
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a poll on Ebola earlier this month.
The poll found most people (81 percent) believe Ebola is likely spread from person sick with the disease and showing symptoms. Nearly all of the respondents (95 percent) agree that a person is likely to get Ebola if they come into contact with bodily fluids of a symptomatic person.
About 85 percent of people said someone would be likely to get Ebola if a symptomatic person sneezed or coughed on them, according to the poll.
“These data suggest that the public currently sees Ebola as likely spread by multiple routes, including one that the World Health Organization (WHO) has said is not likely – sneezing and coughing,” the researchers said.
The poll conducted by Harvard researchers also found that more than half of adults (52 percent) believe there will be a large Ebola outbreak inside the U.S. within the next year.
Nearly 40 percent of people are concerned that they or someone in their immediate family will get sick with Ebola in the next year, according to the poll.
But, according to the poll, most people in the U.S. (80 percent) think someone in their community would likely survive Ebola if they received immediate medical care.
In an attempt to counter some of the misconceptions, here is some factual information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about Ebola.
Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth) with:
-blood or body fluids, such as urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk and semen, of a person who is sick with Ebola.
-objects, such as needles and syringes, that have been contaminated with the virus.
Ebola is not spread through the air or by water or, in general, by food, according to the CDC.
There is no evidence that mosquitoes or other insects can transmit Ebola virus; only mammals have shown the ability to become infected, according to the CDC.
“Health care providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids of sick patients,” according to the CDC.
Once someone recovers from Ebola, they can no longer spread the virus, according to the CDC.]]>
A recent survey of nurses found the majority of nurses don’t feel safe or prepared for the unfolding Ebola situation.
The survey, conducted by the online networking site for nurses, www.allnurses.com, asked 3,000 nurses about Ebola preparation. The survey was conducted this weekend.
The majority of nurses (74 percent) said they don’t feel safe with the unfolding situation and they don’t feel prepared to deal with a potential Ebola patient or an outbreak, according to the survey.
More troubling, most nurses (73 percent) also said their hospital or hospital facility hasn’t addressed Ebola or provided training to them or other nurses.
Side note: Vancouver’s two hospitals – PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center – have been holding regular meetings to discuss Ebola preparedness and have directed staff to specifically (and repeatedly) ask patients if they have traveled to Africa within the previous three to four weeks.
Nurses who responded to the survey also indicated what they needed, if order of importance, to deal with the threat or reality of Ebola. Topping the list was in-person training sessions or practice drills, followed by better communication about preparedness at the facility and more or better educational resources.]]>
A recent telephone poll found the majority of Americans believe children should be required to vaccinations for childhood diseases and a small majority thinks kids who aren’t vaccinated should be banned from public schools.
The latest Reason-Rupe poll interviewed 1,004 adults on cellphones and landlines from Oct. 1 to Oct. 6.
The poll found that 60 percent of Americans would require children to be immunized for childhood diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough. Thirty-seven percent think the decision should be left to parents, according to the poll.
About 52 percent believe unvaccinated children should be banned from attending public schools and 44 percent think they should be permitted to attend, according to the survey.
Democrats (65 percent) are the most likely political group, followed by Republicans (58 percent), to say all children must be vaccinated, according to the poll.
And Americans older than 55 support required vaccination at a higher rate (67 percent) than millennials (51 percent), according to the poll.
The poll also asked Americans about Ebola.
The majority of people (62 percent) said they believe an Ebola outbreak in a U.S. city is likely – 23 percent said “very likely” and 39 percent said “somewhat likely,” according to the poll.
About 25 percent of respondents said a local Ebola outbreak is “not too likely” and 11 percent said it’s “not at all likely,” according to the poll.]]>
Researchers have found a possible cause for coffee cravings: genetics.
A new study identified genetic variants that may explain why some people crave caffeine, according to a Time article.
Researchers looked at more than 120,000 coffee drinkers and found six markers linked to caffeine responsiveness – some of which have already been identified as being related to smoking initiation and other types of addictive behaviors, according to the article.
“There is controversy as to whether it can be addictive, and some of the genes that come up in the study suggest that’s quite possible,” Marilyn Cornelis, lead author of the study, told Time. “The stimulating effects caffeine has would suggest that caffeine is a major driving in habitual coffee consumption at the genetic level.”
The findings may also explain why some people may be more affected by a cup of coffee than others.
“We assume that any health effects from one cup of coffee will be the same for everyone, but this data suggests that’s not true,” Cornelis told Time.]]>
The number of people dying from heroin overdoses doubled between 2010 and 2012.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed recent mortality data from 28 states to determine the scope of an increasing heroin overdose death rate and to determine whether the increase was associated with the a declining opioid pain reliever death rate.
The heroin overdose death rate increased from 1 per 100,000 people in 2010 to 2.1 per 100,000 in 2012, according to the CDC report.
During that same time, the death rate from prescription opioid pain relievers decreased from 6 per 100,000 to 5.6 per 100,000, according to the CDC report.
The heroin overdose death rates increased significantly for both sexes, all age groups, all census regions and nearly all racial/ethnic groups, according to the CDC report.
Opioid deaths declined significantly among males, people younger than 45, people living in the South and non-Hispanic white people, according to the report.
Overall, the rate of drug overdose deaths rose 4.3 percent during the two-year period, according to the CDC.
The 28 states included in the report represent 56 percent of the U.S. population, according to the CDC. Eight states in the West region – Washington, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico – were included in the report.
In the West, the heroin death rate increased from 1.2 per 100,000 in 2010 to 2.3 per 100,000 in 2012. The opioid death rate did not change (7.9 per 100,000).]]>
New recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics consider long-acting reversible contraception, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and progestin implants, the “first-line contraceptive choices for adolescents.”
The pediatrician group made the recommendation given the contraceptives “efficacy, safety and ease of use.” But, the group said, pediatricians should also encourage the consistent and correct use of condoms for every sexual act.
“Every year, approximately 750,000 adolescents become pregnant, with more than 80 percent of these pregnancies unplanned, indicating an unmet need for effective contraception in this population,” according to the pediatrician group.
Nearly half of high school students in the U.S. report ever having had sexual intercourse, and condoms are the most frequently used form of contraceptive, according to the group.
In a survey, 52 percent of females reported condom use the last time they had sex. The use of more effective hormonal methods, including oral contraceptives and other hormonal methods, was lower – 31 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
Use of highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptives was much lower, less than 5 percent, according to the pediatrician group.
IUDs are small T-shaped devices that doctors insert inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy. The device can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years and has a failure rate of about 0.8 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An implant is a single, thin rod that is inserted under the skin of a woman’s upper arm. The rod releases progestin into the body for three years and has a failure rate of 0.05 percent, according to the CDC.
Oral contraceptives, taken daily, contain the hormones estrogen and progestin. They have a failure rate of about 9 percent. Male condoms can prevent pregnancy and protect against sexually transmitted infections but have a failure rate of about 18 percent, according to the CDC.
The last set of recommendations from the pediatrician group came in 2007.]]>
Most parents of school-age children support strong national nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold to kids during school, according to a new poll.
The poll was released earlier this month by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association.
The poll asked parents’ opinions of nutrition standards for school meals, snack foods and beverages. About 80 percent of parents polled are concerned by the state of children’s health; 74 percent are concerned about childhood obesity, according to the poll.
Here are some more findings from the poll:
-72 percent favor national standards for school meals.
-72 percent support standards for school snacks.
-91 percent support requiring schools to include a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal.
-75 percent think salt should be limited in meals.
-72 percent think snacks and beverages sold in school stores are only somewhat healthy or not at all healthy; 81 percent feel the same way about vending machine snacks and drinks.
The Agriculture Department’s “Smart Snacks” standards, which took effect on July 1, 2014, represent the first major updates to national guidelines for school snack foods and beverages in more than 30 years, according to the Pew report.
To meet the standards, a snack food must be a fruit, a vegetable, protein, dairy, or whole grain; have fewer than 200 calories; and be low in fat, sodium, and sugar, according to the Pew report.
These guidelines follow similar nutrition standards for school lunches that took effect during the 2012-13 school year and are being met by approximately 90 percent of school districts, according to the Pew report.]]>
If the Food and Drug Administration was to reverse its policy prohibiting blood donation by men who’ve had sex with men, the total annual blood supply could increase by 2 to 4 percent, according to a new report.
The FDA’s ban prohibits any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from ever donating blood.
The Williams Institute, a national think tank at UCLA Law, used population data to estimate the size of the banned population and blood donation patterns in the U.S to predict the impact of lifting the ban.
The analysis found that lifting the ban could add 345,400 to 615,300 pints of blood to the total blood supply each year.
In recent years, both the U.K. and Canada have made changes to their laws, shifting from a ban to a 12-month and 5-year deferral, respectively, according to the report.
The American Red Cross, American Association of Blood Banks and America’s Blood Centers have called for a modification of the lifetime deferral and consideration of a 12-month deferral, according to the report.
The Williams Institute analysis looked at the potential impact on the nation’s blood supply in three scenarios: lifting the ban entirely, a 12-month deferral and a 5-year deferral.
The report found lifting the donation ban entirely would result in an additional 4.3 million eligible donors. Of those, they estimate 360,600 men would be likely to donate, generating an additional 615,300 pints of blood.
Under a 12-month deferral, an additional 2.2 million men would be eligible to donate blood. About 186,000 would be likely to donate, resulting in an additional 317,000 pints of blood, according to the report.
And under a 5-year deferral, an additional 2 million men would be eligible. Of those, 172,000 men would be likely to donate, adding 293,000 pints of blood to the total supply, according to the report.]]>