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  • Mouth Taping: What to Know About This Dangerous TikTok Trend
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Videos claiming you can improve the quality of your sleep and reduce snoring are going viral on TikTok, but health experts strongly advise against trying this trend. Vadym Pastukh/Getty Images A new trend called “mouth taping” is sweeping TikTok, but medical providers say the risks far outweigh the benefits.Though sleeping with your mouth closed reduces the risk of snoring, taping it shut could exacerbate breathing problems.Experts share that other treatments, including an evaluation for obstructive sleep apnea and behavioral changes, are safer ways to catch more Zzzs. There’s a new viral trend on TikTok that users swear is helping them sleep better. It’s called mouth taping. Videos using the hashtag #mouthtaping have racked up nearly 25 million views, and they discuss a so-called sleep treatment that entails exactly what you probably think it does. “Mouth taping consists of using tape to keep the lips together during sleep,” says Carleara Weiss, PhD, MS, RN, Aeroflow Sleep’s sleep science advisor and a postdoctoral fellow in sleep and circadian rhythms. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends adults ages 18 to 60 log at least 7 seven hours of sleep per night. But a 2019 study suggests that more than one-third of working American adults don’t get that much. TikTokers are also lauding mouth taping for stopping snoring — something that can affect the sleep of the snorer and any bed partners. About 40% of adult men snore habitually compared to 24% of women, according to the AASM. Sleep hygiene is important. The CDC says it can lower the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and mental health issues. So, it’s probably not surprising that people having problems sleeping would do almost anything to get more rest. But medical professionals share that mouth taping should not be one of them. Why you shouldn’t try mouth taping Mouth taping promises to keep the mouth shut during sleep. But is sleeping with your mouth open actually risky? And if so, do the risks of mouth taping outweigh the risks of sleeping with your mouth open?  Risks of sleeping with your mouth open One sleep specialist says it’s “somewhat unhealthy” to sleep with your mouth agape.  “You are getting cold, unfiltered air into your lungs,” says Michael Breus, PhD, a sleep specialist and clinical psychologist. “Noses are specially equipped with tissue designed to moisten and warm the air and filter it before it gets into your system. Mouth breathers will usually have bad breath [and] more tooth decay.” Mouth breathing can be a sign of nasal obstruction, according to a 2022 review on snoring. And research from 2020 does suggest that mouth closures can reduce snoring. Sleep medicine specialist Dr. Federico Cerrone, of Atlantic Health System, concedes that mouth taping may technically reduce snoring and mouth-breathing during sleep, but he says the risks are not worth it. “It’s incredibly dangerous and is likely a quick fix instead of treating the root cause,” he says.  Risks of mouth taping Experts say the risks of mouth taping include: obstructed breathingworsening of sleep apnea and its risk factorsirritation from or allergic reactions to the tapesleep disruption Nasal congestion can cause a person to sleep with their mouth open, as it helps them breathe, explains Dr. Alex Dimitriu, who is double board certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine and BrainfoodMD. It can also be a cause of snoring. Common causes of nasal congestion include: allergiesillness or infection, such as a colddeviated septumenlarged turbinates (small structures in the nose that cleanse and humidify air as it flows through the nasal cavity and into the lungs) So, though mouth taping proponents may say it helps with breathing, Dimitriu warns it will likely have the opposite effect. “It’s…important to note that laying down tends to make the nose more congested,” Dimitriu says. “Sometimes, people will breathe well nasally when upright, then worse when laying flat. This is because of blood pooling. When we stand, more blood goes down to the legs, so there is less congestion in the nose.” Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, which occurs when a person repeatedly starts and stops breathing while sleeping. Weiss warns that, though mouth taping may help with snoring, it can worsen sleep apnea by making breathing more difficult. As a result, it puts the individual at a higher risk for the dangers associated with sleep apnea, including heart attacks and death. Weiss adds that the tape may irritate or cause an allergic reaction on the face and lips. Dimitriu notes that, in rare cases, a person may throw up or choke because of the tape. Better ways to get sleep Good sleep hygiene is vital for physical and mental health, but experts stress there are more proven ways to improve yours. They suggest lifestyle and behavioral changes as a first-line treatment, including: waking up and going to bed at the same time every daycreating a bedtime routine that focuses on unwindingreducing caffeine and alcohol use more than six hours before going to sleep be patient with yourself Weiss says consistent wake-up and bedtimes can help individuals sustain a natural rhythm and improve sleep quality. She recommends getting exposure to light every morning “‘jump-start’ the biological clock.” This routine might include opening the curtains or taking a morning walk. Weiss and Cerrone agree that the bedtime routine should emphasize relaxation. Cerrone says writing can be relaxing. A 2018 study suggested that people who took five minutes to write a specific to-do list helped people fall asleep faster than journaling about the day’s events.   Caffeine is a stimulant, and Breus prefers that his patients stick to one cup per day about 90 minutes after waking up. However, having a cup of joe later isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. But you’ll want to cut yourself off several hours before bedtime. An older 2013 study indicated that caffeine consumption six hours before bedtime could disturb sleep.  Cerrone says that he often sees people use alcohol as a sleep aid but that it can actually damage sleep. An older 2005 study suggested that consuming alcohol six hours before bed could harm sleep.  Finally, getting better sleep won’t happen overnight — be patient with yourself and start implementing one step at a time, such as writing out that pre-bed to-do list. “Developing good sleep hygiene takes time and is something you can ease into,” says Cerrone. Better treatments for snoring Mouth taping may help stop snoring, but it’s not safe. Experts suggest: getting evaluated for sleep apneaworking with a doctor to treat asthma and allergies, two common causes of snoringchanging sleep positionsweight loss The AASM estimates that about 30 million people have obstructive sleep apnea, and it’s largely undiagnosed. Snoring doesn’t automatically mean a person has sleep apnea, but it’s a hallmark sign of the disorder. Therefore, Weiss suggests getting evaluated for it if snoring is an issue. A primary care physician can refer you to a sleep specialist for an evaluation, which involves a study in which breathing, blood oxygen, and heart rate are monitored during sleep. People with sleep apnea are often prescribed a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) to help with airflow and breathing during sleep.  Sometimes, it’s allergies or asthma, not sleep apnea, triggering snoring. Cerrone recommends working with a doctor to manage these conditions. He adds that back sleepers should attempt to sleep on their side. “This promotes spinal alignment and reduces compression of your airways, allowing you to breathe better,” Cerrone adds. The AASM mentions that obesity is a risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea, and Breus says weight management can help reduce snoring. An older 2009 study of individuals with obstructive sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes improve obstructive sleep apnea.  Bottom line: Talk to your doctor, not TikTokers Weiss says social media can be useful, but people should speak with healthcare providers before trying health and wellness trends at home. “While social media offers relevant and easily accessible information, please avoid taking medical advice from non-healthcare professionals,” Weiss says. “Instead, good resources should come from reputable healthcare providers.”

  • CDC to Undergo Major Overhaul: Everything We Know Right Now
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    A panel including CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci. Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images The CDC director announced the agency will undergo a major overhaul. The reason for the overhaul was the agency’s delayed response to COVID-19. The CDC will also work on improving its communication with the public and restoring public trust in the agency. Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced August 17 that the nation’s lead public health agency will undergo a major overhaul, saying it responded too slowly to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a meeting with senior CDC leadership, Walensky laid out her plans, reported CNN. This includes reorganizing the structure of the agency to focus on public health needs and responding to outbreaks such as those caused by the coronavirus and monkeypox virus. In line with this, there will be less emphasis on publishing scientific papers, with Walensky calling for staff members to produce “data for action” as opposed to “data for publication,” according to a briefing document, as reported by the New York Times. The CDC will also work on improving its communication with the public and restoring public trust in the agency. At times during the pandemic, its public messages — such as those on face masks, social distancing, and boosters — were “confusing and overwhelming,” according to the briefing document. “My goal is a new, public health action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication and timeliness. I look forward to working with the incredible people at CDC and our partners to realize the agency’s fullest potential to benefit the health and well-being of all Americans,” Walensky said in a statement. Some changes are already underway The plan to overhaul the CDC follows a one-month review of the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic by Jim Macrae, an administrator at the Department of Health and Human Services. The report from this review has not yet been released. Walensky also sought feedback from her own staff on the agency’s operations and performance. The CDC’s missteps with the pandemic began early in 2020, with the agency releasing a faulty COVID-19 test to public health laboratories, which left public health officials unaware of the true spread of the coronavirus in the country. Some say the agency also struggled to issue clear public health guidance about COVID-19 mitigation measures or to respond quickly enough to a rapidly changing and spreading coronavirus. Susan Hassig, DrPH, MPH, a professor within the epidemiology department at Tulane University’s School of Public Health in New Orleans, said one of her issues with the CDC during the pandemic was when the agency said people who had received a COVID-19 vaccine no longer needed to wear face masks in indoor public spaces. “That was a very poorly made decision, in terms of actual prevention [of coronavirus spread],” she said, “because the mRNA vaccines were never officially tested in the [clinical] trials for their ability to prevent infection. Masks, though, work to prevent infection.” Walensky acknowledged the agency’s pandemic shortcomings in her statement. “For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” she said. Walensky has tasked HHS Deputy Secretary Mary Wakefield with overseeing the agency’s reorganization, which will include: The Office of Sciences and the Division of Laboratory Science will report directly to the CDC director.A new office of intergovernmental affairs will interact with state health departments and other federal agencies.An agency executive council will set priorities for the CDC, weigh in on budget decisions, and track progress on agency priorities.A new equity office will help increase the diversity of the CDC’s workforce and ensure that the agency’s activities take into account the role of diversity in public health.A new mechanism will be developed for sharing CDC data earlier, before publication in a peer-reviewed journal.The agency will redesign its website to simplify and streamline guidance for the public and health care providers. Many of these can be accomplished through the CDC’s existing authority, but Walensky also plans to ask Congress to mandate that state and local jurisdictions share their public health data with the agency. Currently, this is done on a voluntary basis. Walensky will also ask Congress for greater flexibility in how the agency can use its funding, to allow it to adapt more quickly to a public health crisis when it emerges. The CDC has already started to implement some of its proposed changes, including hiring Kevin Griffis, a former public affairs expert at the Department of Health and Human Services and Planned Parenthood, to head the agency’s communications efforts. Improved communication needed Many public health experts point out that the CDC has been underfunded for years, so if the reorganization is going to be successful, the agency will need the resources to make it happen. “The pandemic has definitely made it crystal clear that we are in need of an overhaul [of the CDC]. So hopefully Congress will provide the funds to make that possible,” said Lorien Abroms, ScD, MA, a professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Abroms, a health communications expert, said the CDC also needs to change how it communicates with the public, to better fit the way people currently consume information — 24/7 and much of it through social media. “In some respects, it feels like [the agency is] still using communication strategies that were developed 40 years ago,” she said. In addition to communicating in a clear and consistent way, Abroms said the agency will need to streamline its review process so it can publish findings more quickly.  Otherwise, this “creates a vacuum” that could be filled by other groups, some of whom may not be sharing accurate information. “A key challenge is to figure out how to communicate in an environment where there is competing information — and often that information is misinformation,” she said. Also, “the source of the message, meaning the government agency, may not be trusted,” she said. “So there are more challenges [today] than there have ever been.” Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, a professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy, said the agency’s problems are not limited to the pandemic. “We’ve seen over the past several years a lot of issues with both the response to COVID-19, as well as to the monkeypox outbreak,” he said. “So there is a need to really reconsider how the CDC is organized.” Lee said the agency drew criticism during the pandemic for a lack of communication about the scientific justification for some of its decisions, including the relaxation of COVID-19 precautions such as face masks and social distancing. “There have been a number of people in the public health community who have wondered why certain precautions were relaxed at certain times,” he said. Challenges lie outside the CDC’s reach While much of the focus in recent months has been on how the CDC has handled the COVID-19 pandemic and the monkeypox outbreak, Hassig said there’s much more to the agency. “They have a huge scope of work. It’s not just infectious diseases — it’s osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, maternal health, injuries, etcetera,” she said. “It’s everything that affects the health of the American public.” Over time, the CDC’s ability to address all of these areas has been hindered by shrinking budgets, she added. Beyond funding, Hassig said there are some aspects of the agency’s mission that it has full control over. However, there are also things that are not entirely of the agency’s own making. This includes the decentralized U.S. healthcare system, which makes it challenging for certain groups to access medical care and testing — this can make it difficult to monitor the spread of pathogens such as the coronavirus and the monkeypox virus. “With monkeypox, most of the cases are found in men who have sex with men,” said Hassig. But “I can guarantee you there are a lot more people in different subgroups of that community — and perhaps in other communities — that just aren’t being tested, because they don’t have access to the testing process,” she said. Another challenge for the CDC, said Hassig, is that much of the work of public health is done at the state level, where public health agencies are also underfunded — and sometimes politically influenced. But even there, the CDC has options. “Those local agencies are really the foot soldiers for implementing public health activities in the United States,” she said. “One way for the CDC to get state and local agencies to cooperate is to use the ‘carrot’ of funding.”

  • The Next COVID-19 Booster Shots Will Target Omicron: What to Know
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images The new COVID-19 booster campaign will include shots that target Omicron virus variants. The new Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech boosters based on the original strain of the coronavirus are currently available for anyone who is eligible for a first or second booster.These boosters have not yet been authorized for use by the general population in the U.S. With the country’s third “COVID fall” approaching, the United States is expected to soon start ramping up its autumn COVID-19 booster campaign. This year’s rollout will include something new. Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech are working on bivalent boosters that include both the original vaccine formula and a component that targets the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the coronavirus. While the Biden administration has yet to reveal details of the rollout plan (expect more on that later), here’s what we know so far. Why are booster doses needed? The Omicron variant has overcome much of the protection against infection offered by two doses of the mRNA vaccines (such as Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech).  A first booster restores some of that protection, but this wanes considerably within about three months after vaccination. In spite of that, Dr. David Cutler, a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., told Healthline that the current vaccines continue to offer strong protection against severe illness and death. This is especially true of the boosters. In May 2022, unvaccinated people were six times more likely to die of COVID-19, compared to people vaccinated with at least a primary series (for most, two doses of the mRNA vaccines), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among people 50 years and older, unvaccinated people were 29 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those who had received the primary series and at least two booster doses, agency data showed. Will an Omicron-specific booster offer more protection? The current COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are based on the original strain of the virus. As CDC data shows, these still offer strong protection against severe disease caused by Omicron. However, in order to better target the variants likely to be circulating in the fall, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked vaccine makers in June 2022 to update their boosters to include a component that targets the currently circulating Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. “We think the Omicron-specific boosters will improve immunity against the existing Omicron variants. This may be particularly helpful during the anticipated winter surge,” Dr. Jimmy Johannes, a pulmonologist and critical care medicine specialist at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center in California, told Healthline. However, not all scientists agree that Omicron-specific boosters will provide greater protection than the current ones. Cutler thinks the strongest benefit of Omicron-specific boosters will be for people who are unvaccinated or have not received the full primary series and any booster(s) for which they are eligible. One problem with choosing which booster to use in the fall is it’s impossible to know for certain which variants will be circulating by then, although some experts expect it to be a descendant of one of the currently circulating Omicron variants. Data presented at an FDA vaccine advisory committee meeting in June 2022, though, suggests that vaccination with a variant-specific booster — such as one targeting Omicron — might lead to a “broadened antibody response” against the coronavirus. Data from Moderna shows the potential for this kind of broader immune response. The company’s bivalent Omicron BA.1 booster also produced a higher level of neutralizing antibodies against BA.4 and BA.5 than the original booster, according to preliminary data. On August 15, the United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency approved Moderna’s bivalent Omicron BA.1 booster for use in adults. When will Omicron-specific boosters be available? The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech boosters based on the original strain of the coronavirus are currently available for anyone who is eligible for a first or second booster. The bivalent boosters from those companies are expected to be available in early to mid-September, Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 response team coordinator, said in a virtual discussion with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation on August 16.  Before these boosters can be rolled out, though, the FDA will need to authorize them and the CDC will need to sign off on their use. The fourth vaccine in the country, Novavax’s protein-based vaccine, was authorized by the FDA on July 13, 2022 for use as a two-dose primary series. This vaccine is based on the original strain of the coronavirus.  The company announced the next month that it had applied for FDA authorization of this vaccine as a booster. It is also testing an Omicron-specific vaccine and a bivalent vaccine that targets Omicron and the original strain, the company said in a release. Who will be eligible this fall for boosters? Everyone currently eligible for a COVID-19 booster will still be eligible in the fall, including: First booster: everyone ages 5 years and older who has completed their primary seriesSecond booster: adults ages 50 years and older; and some people ages 12 years and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised Johannes said anyone at risk of severe COVID-19, or complications of a coronavirus infection, should consider getting boosted when the bivalent vaccine is available.  This includes older adults, as well as those with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, liver or kidney disease, a chronic respiratory condition, cancer, an immune compromising condition, high blood pressure or diabetes. The Biden administration is also expected to open up second boosters this fall to adults under age 50 when the bivalent vaccines are available. This expansion of eligibility was put on hold when vaccine makers said they could deliver the bivalent vaccines in early fall. When the bivalent boosters are available in the fall, these will be used for all booster shots in the United States, including first and second boosters. Pregnant women are also eligible for boosters.  “The [COVID-19 mRNA] vaccines have now been given to tens of millions of pregnant women. They are extremely safe,” said Jha during the online Chamber of Commerce call. “We have seen little to no side effects [in pregnant women], the same side effects that most of us get — the sore arm, sometimes 24 hours of feeling fatigued or a little bit run down.” Bolstering the safety profile of these vaccines, a large study from Canada published August 17, 2022, in The BMJ found that women who received a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy did not have a higher risk of having a preterm birth, a baby who was small for their gestational age at birth, or a stillbirth. Where will boosters be available?  No details are available yet on the fall booster rollout, but it will likely be similar to the initial booster release last year, with vaccines mainly available at doctors’ offices and pharmacies. Some mass vaccinations may also happen in certain locations. To find a vaccination site near you, check out the federal Vaccines.gov or your state’s COVID-19 vaccine website. When should I get boosted? It’s difficult to know what the coronavirus will do in the fall — will there be a large spike early in September or will a new variant emerge? In addition, there’s no guarantee that the bivalent vaccines will definitely be available in September.  As a result, the CDC recommends getting boosted as soon as you are eligible, with whichever booster is available. This is especially important for adults 50 years and older or those with compromised immune systems. It can take one to two weeks after receiving a booster for your immune system to be fully primed. So if you are eligible now and get boosted, you will be better protected should cases surge as we head into the fall and winter. You can always get the bivalent vaccine when it is available. Jha said you will want to space out those two boosters “at least a little bit, probably 4 to 8 weeks.”  The CDC may also weigh in on the timing between boosters when it reviews the data on the Omicron-specific boosters. Can I get the COVID booster at the same time as the flu shot? Jha said if you are planning on getting the seasonal flu shot this fall, you can definitely get this alongside a COVID-19 booster. The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated against the flu by the end of October to ensure they have strong immune protection at the peak of the flu season, which generally happens in February. Scientists don’t know yet if the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will follow a similar seasonal pattern, but cases have tended to increase in colder parts of the country as people head indoors for the fall and winter. If I’m not yet vaccinated, can I get the bivalent vaccine? Although the FDA asked vaccine makers to update their boosters to include an Omicron-specific component, it did not advise them yet to update the vaccine for the primary series. This suggests that unvaccinated people will receive the original vaccine, which the agency said  “provides a base of protection against serious outcomes of COVID-19.”

  • Capri Sun Recall: What to Know Right Now
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Kraft Heinz Kraft Heinz has recalled nearly 6,000 cases of Capri Sun Wild Cherry Juice Drink in the US.There are concerns the drink was contaminated with diluted cleaning solution.The company became aware of the issue when several consumers complained about the taste.Recalled products can be returned to the store from which they were purchased. A total of 5,760 cases of Capri Sun have been voluntarily recalled by the brand’s parent company, Kraft Heinz. Each case contains a number of individual 6.6 FL oz (195 ml) pouches. The move results from fears that a diluted form of cleaning solution — meant for use on food processing equipment — was accidentally added to the drink during the production process. Kraft Heinz was alerted to a potential issue after receiving complaints from several consumers regarding the product’s taste.  Not all Capri Sun products have been affected, however. Only pouches of the Wild Cherry Juice Drink made and sold in the US and with a best before date of 25 June 2023, have been recalled. (Specific recalled carton codes can be found on the Kraft Heinz website.) This means you don’t need to worry if you have different flavors or best before-dated pouches at home.  Kraft Heinz stated it is “actively working with retail partners and distributors to remove potentially impacted product from circulation.” If you have already bought an affected product, you can return it to the store from which you made the purchase. Capri Sun is a popular drink in the US, with research suggesting around a third of adults aged 18-50 drink it at least once a month. And, even though thousands of pouches are affected by the recall notice, this figure is just a small amount of the company’s sales: Globally, over 6 billion pouches are sold each year. What to do if you drink recalled Capri Sun In their recall notice, Kraft Heinz did not state that any customers had reported experiencing adverse health effects from drinking the potentially contaminated juice.  However, “if someone thinks they have consumed or drank a recalled product, they should contact their medical provider, especially if they are feeling any adverse reactions,” Kimberly Baker, PhD, RD, LD, director of the food systems and safety program team at Clemson University Extension Service, explained to Healthline. “If there is a medical emergency, then 911 should be called for immediate assistance.” What is a product recall? A recall is a public notice issued by a brand or company and can occur for various reasons. “The most common recalls are label issues, but many are because of quality or food safety issues,” Matt Regusci, director of growth and public relations at ASI Food Safety, told Healthline. “The company will recall a product if they realize internally there is a problem with the product, they receive complaints from clients or consumers, or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tells them to.” In addition to stating the specific issue, many notices provide recommended actions — in this instance, to not consume the drink and to return any purchased product to the store. Are product recalls common? Numerous product recalls are made by companies in the food and beverage industry each year. Around 150 have already been recorded by the FDA in 2022 alone.  However, the nature of the Capri Sun recall is “not a common occurrence,” revealed Baker.  “Food manufacturers have food safety plans that include policies and procedures…to prevent the likelihood of cleaning or sanitizing solutions from contaminating the food product,” she continued. “However, on rare occasions, contamination can occur.” Regusci highlighted that “people are not perfect, and the more people you have in an operation, the higher the chance for human error. There are many employees in food processing facilities, and most facilities spend a lot of time and money on initial and ongoing training.” It’s important to take note of a recall You should recognize a notice and adhere to any recommendations if you have a recalled product.  “[The consumer] must understand the implication and how it may affect them or family members,” explained Baker. Added Regusci: “The company will…know their products and potential issues with the products better than the consumers.” While the Capri Sun recall impacts all who have purchased the product, Baker revealed that recall notices don’t always affect everyone.  For instance, “some recalls may be for allergen labeling,” she said. “If a product was not labeled that it contains milk when it does, and the consumer does not have a milk allergy, then they would not be impacted by this recall and can continue to consume the product.” Takeaway Food and drink product recalls are common, although potential contamination from cleaning fluid is a less frequent occurrence.  Recalled Capri Sun can be returned to stores, while Kraft Heinz can also be contacted on 1-800-280-8252 (9 am-6 pm EST, Monday-Friday) for reimbursement queries or to check if your product is affected.  If you drink any recalled Capri Sun, consult your medical provider for guidance. 

  • Polio Detected In NYC: Who is at Risk?
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Joel Carillet/Getty Images For the second time in a month, the poliovirus has been detected in the state of New York, this time in New York City wastewater.Officials say the polio disease could be circulating among unvaccinated individuals, with hundreds of cases unaccounted for.According to health experts, vaccination against the disease is crucial to preventing severe illness and minimizing the spread. The poliovirus has been detected in New York City wastewater, suggesting a community spread among unvaccinated people, officials announced on Friday. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH) provided sewage samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which identified the presence of the poliovirus. The virus causes polio, a disease that could lead to paralysis in the arms and legs and may result in death. Hundreds of polio cases may be unaccounted for According to officials, hundreds of polio cases may be circulating among unvaccinated New Yorkers. As New York City officials scramble to meet the demand for monkeypox vaccinations and adjust to the CDC’s new COVID-19 guidelines, residents are grappling with an additional public health threat, the Associated Press reports.  “​​For every one case of paralytic polio identified, hundreds more may be undetected, State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. “The detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples in New York City is alarming, but not surprising.”  Bassett added that the NY State Health Department is “responding urgently” at local and federal levels and “aggressively assessing” the spread of the disease. Health officials did not specify where in the five boroughs the virus was detected. Until recently, polio hadn’t been detected in the United States in nearly a decade. On July 21, an unvaccinated man in Rockland County developed paralysis after contracting the virus.  Officials and health experts encourage vaccination Poliovirus spreads through saliva or fecal matter — but is preventable with vaccination. As such, New York officials are urging unvaccinated individuals, including children, to get immunized against polio as soon as possible.   “The risk to New Yorkers is real but the defense is so simple – get vaccinated against polio,” Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said in a statement.  “With polio circulating in our communities there is simply nothing more essential than vaccinating our children to protect them from this virus, and if you’re an unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated adult, please choose now to get the vaccine. Polio is entirely preventable and its reappearance should be a call to action for all of us.” Vasan noted. What new parents should know Infants can be vaccinated against polio as soon as six weeks of age. Prior to that point, newborns are well protected by the maternal transfer of antibodies, according to Dr. Zachary Hoy, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Pediatrix Nashville Pediatric Infectious Disease.  “If the mother of the infant has been vaccinated, the infant would not be at increased risk,” Hoy said.  Who is at risk Immunocompromised people, including those on medications and chemotherapy that impacts antibody production, are at a heightened risk.  Because polio is spread via fecal-oral transmission, frequent handwashing can help prevent the spread of poliovirus, Hoy said. Other than regular hand washing and getting vaccinated, Hoy says there are no specific precautions that immunocompromised people should take at this time.   Loved ones of at-risk groups should ensure they are up to date with their polio vaccinations and ensure their children are on schedule for their childhood vaccinations, which includes the polio shot.  Dr. Monica Gandhi, MPH, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said the polio vaccine is very effective at preventing illness.  “We know that the initial polio vaccine protects individuals from severe disease for a long time, possibly a lifetime although individuals vary,” Gandhi said. “The only people who need to worry are those who are unvaccinated because vaccines are extremely protective against the severe forms of polio, like the vaccines with COVID. Children are most at risk of paralytic polio so it is imperative to catch up to childhood vaccines as there were setbacks during COVID-19.” Gandhi noted that while vaccines prevent disease, they may not always prevent all spread, as with the COVID-19 vaccine. “However, unlike with COVID-19, since we usually only screen for polio if someone has symptoms, we know very clearly that vaccination does prevent the development of polio symptoms,” Gandhi added. Could there be a polio outbreak? The CDC recommends that children receive 4 doses of the polio vaccine for the best protection. Older research from 2005 shows that the polio vaccine generates strong and durable T cell immunity against polio, and durable memory B cells, Gandhi noted. Most adults in the United States were vaccinated against polio as young children, but in some areas, vaccine rates for today’s children could be improved upon. The New York Times reports the overall vaccination rate for polio among children 5 and under in New York City is 86%. But in other parts of the city, less than two-thirds of children 5 and under are fully vaccinated against polio, which has health officials concerned.  In addition, the CDC recommends a one-time inactivated polio vaccine booster shot for adults who may be exposed to the virus in regions like New York, where the disease may currently be spreading. “Boosters are generally recommended for immunocompromised patients and this may be the group that is targeted for a polio booster during this time (the U.K. is considering this for young children),” Gandhi said. “I do not think there will be an outbreak of paralytic polio (symptomatic disease) with such high rates of vaccination in the U.S. if we can catch up. I think our efforts should focus on vaccinating those who have never had a primary polio vaccine series such as children who missed their childhood vaccines during COVID as well as those (like this young man) who are adults and not yet vaccinated.” Takeaway Polio was detected for the second time in a month in the state of New York, this time in city wastewater. According to officials, detecting the poliovirus in sewage could indicate a community spread among unvaccinated people. While it’s possible to contract polio even if you’re vaccinated, it’s unlikely you’d experience severe symptoms. Health experts say that a polio outbreak is unlikely in the U.S., where vaccine levels remain relatively high. That’s why unvaccinated individuals, especially those living in New York, are being urged by city officials to get vaccinated against polio as soon as possible.

  • Why You May Need to Take a Social Media Break Just Like Tom Holland
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Actor Tom Holland (pictured above) announced he’s taking a break from social media because of the negative effects it’s having on his mental health. Ernesto Ruscio/GC Images/Getty Images Actor Tom Holland is the latest celebrity to announce a break from social media.Experts and research are mixed on how much social media affects mental health. But mental health providers and one recent study indicate that even a short break from it can be beneficial.Mental health providers hope that the increased prevalence of celebrities, like Holland, opening up about their mental health helps further break down the stigma.  Actor Tim Holland hasn’t been on social media much in recent weeks. But he re-emerged Sunday to say hello and goodbye (for now, at least). The star of Spiderman: No Way Home announced he was taking a break from social media in a three-minute video on Instagram, where he has 67.8 million followers.  “I have taken a break from social media for my mental health because I find Instagram and Twitter to be overstimulating, to be overwhelming,” said Holland, 26. “I get caught up, and I spiral when I read things about me online, and ultimately, it’s very detrimental to my mental state. So, I decided to take a step back and delete the app.” Holland also plugged UK-based mental health resource Stem4, which his organization The Brothers Trust supports. “There is an awful stigma against mental health and I know that asking for help and seeking help isn’t something we should be ashamed of,” Holland said. Holland didn’t indicate when he’d return, only that he’d, speak to his fans “soon.” Support rolled in, including from notable names.  Professional skateboarder Shane O’Neill called him a “legend” in the comments.  “Man, you’re an inspiration to so many. But what matters is your physical and mental health, so take care and come back better than ever,” replied wrestler Ricochet. And Justin Beiber said, “Love you, man.” Holland is one of several celebs who have logged off of social media — temporarily or permanently — in recent years to protect or improve their mental health. Justin Bieber’s wife, model Hailey Bieber left Twitter and said she only checked Instagram on weekends, in 2021. Musician Shawn Mendes also took a social media break for his mental health in 2021 and canceled his 2022 tour.  “Things work better when we take intentional time to unplug, pause and reflect,” says Kiana Shelton, LCSW, with Mindpath Health: “Someone will always have an opinion about you and that can emotionally take a toll, even if you do have a strong sense of self.”  Shelton says celebs may be under a larger microscope and face more scrutiny online but feels anyone can benefit from a social media detox. She and other mental health providers discussed the pros and cons of social media breaks and how to log off. Does social media affect mental health? Mental health issues may frequently get pinned on social media. But is it warranted? The data is mixed. A 2016 study of nearly 1,800 people ages 19 to 32 suggested a strong link between social media use and sleep disruption. In a 2021 whistleblower report, Frances Haugen provided documentation that Facebook and Instagram knew that Instagram knew its content was exacerbating eating disorders and mental health issues for teenage girls. The report also said that Facebook’s algorithm elevated content that made people angry because it was more engaging, keeping people on the site and increasing the potential for profits. But a 2019 study suggested that adults who used social media were less at-risk for psychological distress, which is often associated with anxiety disorders and depression.  Research from 2017 indicated that concerns about social media use and mental health may be misplaced.  Amira Johnson, LMSW, concedes social media isn’t all bad, but it can be bad enough to prompt individuals to re-evaluate the value it has in their lives. “In many cases, social platforms can offer encouraging communities for people to connect with like-minded individuals, find new friends, and open themselves up to new information and ideas,” Johnson says. “But it can also be a hotspot for…an incessant amount of negative comments…Social media and the negativity, judgment, and hate-filled comments that come with it can take a toll on anyone’s mental well-being.” Can a social media break help? A study published in May of 2022 suggested that even a one-week layoff from social media can improve mental well-being, depression, and anxiety. Johnson says other benefits may include: decreased FOMO (fear of missing out) from looking at other people’s vacations and milestonesenhanced appreciation for the life you’re livingreduced information overload from seeing bad news unfold in real-timeability to live in the moment  “When I talk to my clients after they’ve taken a social media detox, it’s as if they’re different people,” Johnson says. “Unchaining themselves from social feeds allows for a mental boost where you can just enjoy life…and stop comparing yourself to others you don’t even know but just see on a small screen.” How to tell if you could use a social media break Though anyone can take a social media break for any reason, Don Grant, PhD, MA, MFA, DAC, SUDCC IV, particularly recommends it for people who: constantly negatively compare themselves to others onlinefeel less confident, content, or happy after scrolling social mediaare losing sleep from compulsively viewing or posting contentfrequently regret posting contentare affected emotionally hours or even days after engaging on social media “Any of these experiences can take a serious hit to your self-esteem, healthy emotional homeostasis, physical well-being, and overall happiness,” says Grant, the executive director of outpatient services for Newport Healthcare. That said, Shelton cautions that it’s important not to see social media breaks as a cure-all for mental health issues. She says if you are still feeling the emotions that triggered the break while you’re on it or when you return, you may need more help. She suggests seeking a mental health provider by: searching online for a therapist in your areacalling your insurance company to find in-network therapistsonline databases, such as Psychology Today Drawbacks of social media breaks Social media breaks can be beneficial, but Grant says there are a few cons to consider before logging off, including: feelings of isolationdifficulty keeping up with the lives of a large number of family and friendsfewer ways to express yourself or be creativefewer chances to expand your network, socially and professionallychallenges keeping up with the news, including uplifting stories “When used with its best purpose and intentions, social media can be a terrific tool,” Grant says. But again, the break doesn’t need to be forever — even a short one has its benefits. How to take a social media break The first rule of taking a social media break is that you make the rules, says Dr. Nina Vasan, the chief medical officer at Real.  “You get to create the rules for how long it is, the guidelines around it, and what you share with others,” Vasan says. Vasan suggests following this basic step-by-step: State your reason for taking the breakDecide on the duration and if you’re detoxing from specific platforms or all of themOptional: Announce you’re leaving Be kind to yourself if you slip up  “I think it is important when people are taking a break to engage in mindful reflection around understanding the specific aspects of social media and why they need a break,” Vasan says. “You can use this reflection to personalize the break to fit your own needs.” This customization includes the duration, which Vasan says is highly individual.  “In the same way that someone can feel refreshed from a one-day vacation, while someone else needs one week or one month to feel fully rejuvenated, the amount of time away from social media totally depends on you and what you need.,” she says. Vasan says announcing that you’re taking a break and how else to reach you can reduce confusion and worry from others. It may also help you feel less isolated.  Social media is a large part of many people’s lives. You may be unable to resist the urge to log on or do so accidentally. “Don’t judge yourself, and don’t feel like you fully have to dive into social media if you slipped,” Vasan says. Can celebrities help break down the stigma around mental health? Mental health challenges have surged since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a 25 percent increase in anxiety and depression worldwide. Young people have notably been affected. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on youth mental health, saying it was exacerbated by the pandemic, in December of 2021.  Holland isn’t the only one speaking out about mental health and the need to take a break. Last summer, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of the all-around and team competitions, citing mental health issues. Champion tennis player Naomi Osaka expressed her need for a break after losing in the U.S. Open in 2021.  Grant says these conversations and announcements are breaking down the stigma around mental health.  “Mental health already has a looming stigma where people are embarrassed or ashamed to address it and talk about their personal experiences,” Grant says. “Over the years, it has definitely become more normalized due to the fact that more public figures have decided to be more open about their own experiences.” Grant says celebrities’ large platforms reach millions and show individuals they aren’t alone. “It allows for those who idolize them to realize they are human just like the rest of us,” Grant says. “It lets people know that maintaining your mental health is important, whether you’re an average human or have 1 million social followers.” And Grant believes this message can be life-saving.  “Going forward, I hope it encourages more people to get the help and support they may need,” he says. “The more we talk about mental health openly, the more we can save lives.”

  • Nutri-Score: The Pros and Cons of Europe's Food Labeling System
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Experts say consumers can be misled by the sugar contents listed on food labels. d3sign/Getty Images Researchers say the Nutri-Score labeling system in Europe can help consumers determine the sugar content and other healthy components of food products.The system grades products from “A” to “E” based on their content of fibers, proteins, saturated fats, and sugars.Experts say such a system could help U.S. consumers quickly determine which products are the most healthy to purchase.They do note that there is a tendency for people to over-consume products that are ranked favorably, leading to weight gain and other health issues. Sugar claims on food labels can mislead consumers into believing they’re making healthier choices than they really are, experts say. Phrases such as “less sweet” and “without added sugar,” for example, tend to give the impression that these food items fit into a balanced diet when really they might not. Now, an analysis from researchers at the University of Göttingen in Germany published today in the journal PLOS ONE suggests there may be a solution to this sugar confusion.  It’s called Nutri-Score, a nutritional food scoring system with increasing usage throughout Europe. The new analysis examined data from an online survey including 1,103 German participants. Researchers said that without the Nutri-Score on labels of instant cappuccino, chocolate muesli, and an oat drink, people were misled into thinking the food choice was healthier than it was.  In contrast, when people were presented with the same food items and their Nutri-Score, researchers said misconceptions about healthiness were significantly reduced.  The researchers called for restricted use of sugar content claims and similar labels, and mandatory use of the Nutri-Score by companies that do make such claims. The study authors said more research is needed on the effects of the Nutri-Score for additional food categories beyond sugar and in the context of other advertising claims that could mislead consumers about food healthiness. How Nutri-Score works Nutri-Score is a grading system developed to help people make healthier food choices more easily.  It is made up of a 5-point scale: Letter “A” is the most favorable choice and is presented in dark greenLetter “B” is light green, meaning it’s still a favorable choiceLetter “C” is a balanced choice and is yellowLetter “D” is less favorable and is orangeLetter “E” is the least favorable choice and is red Healthier choices and more favorable scores are associated with a higher content of fiber, proteins, fruits, and vegetables.  Saturated fats, added sugars, and salt all contribute to a less favorable score.  What nutrition experts have to say “The Nutri-Score may be able to offer folks a quick way to determine if a product would be a good fit for their family,” says Amy Bragagnini, MS, RD, CSO, an oncology nutrition specialist at Trinity Health Lacks Cancer Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as well as a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Consuming a healthy and well-rounded diet can help lower risk of disease and that healthy eating begins in the grocery store,” she told Healthline. “However, picking out the right kinds of foods and beverages to enhance one’s diet can often be time-consuming and confusing,” Bragagnini noted. “Most people want to get in and out of the grocery store in a short amount of time, all the while choosing the healthiest food for their family.” The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends: Men consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of added sugar per dayWomen consume no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) Amy Reed, MS, RD, CSP, LD, a pediatric dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells Healthline that the Nutri-Score system looks to be aligned with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encouraging the intake of nutrient-dense foods. Nutri-Score may miss specific needs Reed says different age groups have different nutrient needs and that’s not reflected in these scores. For example, says Reed, children less than 2 years of age typically have a diet higher in fat to encourage optimal brain development.  “Therefore, if a parent chooses a product based on a Nutri-Score that indicates it is ‘low in fat,’ that may not be the best for the small child,” she explained. “My concern would be if people don’t understand the basics of good nutrition they may rely solely on the Nutri-Score and not think critically about each of the products they are choosing,” she added. So while filling your cart with all “A” scores is all well and good, Reed says, it can be a different reality when you get home and are met with an angry family that occasionally likes to have foods that fall in the “D-E” range.  “I would advise consumers to take the Nutri-Score into account but also think logically about the needs and desires of their family,” she said.  Watch for the ‘health halo’ effect Another concern with using the Nutri-Score is that people may begin to utilize the “health halo” effect when purchasing “A” products, says Reed.  “People may overestimate the healthiness of a product and consume it in excess,” she said. For example, a green smoothie drink earning an “A” may be healthy, but only if consumed in moderation.  Ultimately, consuming too much of an “A” product may lead one to take in too many calories, which may lead to unwanted weight gain anyway. Reducing sugar in your diet The AHA says sugar consumption in the American diet has been steadily increasing over the past 30 years. This increase is associated with excess calorie intake without any nutritional benefit. As such, the AHA recommends avoiding unnecessary calories that can lead to weight gain and poorer heart health by limiting the amount of added sugars you consume.  Take stock of your current sugar intake “The best way to reduce intake of added sugar is by taking time to look at the food labels of the products you are buying,” says Bragagnini.  “I always encourage my patients to get curious about the foods currently in their house. Spend time looking at the label and figuring out an approximate baseline of how much added sugar is in their diet,” she suggests. “The current food label will list total grams of sugar and total grams of added sugar. I generally have patients focus on the added sugar number vs. the overall sugar provided, as milk and fruit have natural fruit sugars,” she says. Check out labels at the grocery store The next step, says Bragagnini, is to take this knowledge to the grocery store and spend some time in the aisles to compare product labels and choose products with lower amounts of added sugar. Slow and steady rather than all at once  Bragagnini reminds people that sugar can be difficult to quit consuming. So, it can be helpful to slowly cut back rather than remove all added sugars at once. Doing too much too soon can leave some people feeling unsatisfied when they eat, she explains, which may lead to overconsumption of sugary foods and drinks later. Honor your sweet tooth Many people have a “sweet tooth” or ongoing cravings for sweets. Bragagnini says she tells her clients to honor their sweet tooth when they have a craving but not before stopping to take a drink of water and waiting 15 minutes. “Often people feel cravings coming on if they are not adequately hydrated. If they still have a desire for sugar after 15 minutes, then choose something small but satisfying,” she says.  “Fruit is sweet and can be satisfying, but if someone is having a full-on sugar craving, fruit may not be the answer,” she adds. In such cases, choosing a small, individually-wrapped chocolate candy, one scoop of good ice cream in a coffee mug, or one cookie may be the answer to their craving.”  Other ways to reduce sugar Reed offers the following tips for reducing sugar. Decrease added sugars from beverages: Replace soda and juice with water and reduce added syrups and flavorings in coffee drinks Utilize the natural sweetness in fruits to flavor foods such as plain yogurt, plain oatmeal, or unsweetened cerealWhen purchasing prepared foods, refer to the added sugars on the food label and choose foods that have less than 5 grams of added sugar per serving.Prepare baked goods by replacing half to all of the sugar with unsweetened apple sauce or blended dates.

  • Mama Roo Infant Swings from 4moms Recalled: What to Know
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Infant swings seen here are being recalled. Photo Provided by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Over 2 million infant swings and rockers are being recalled over strangulation risk. 4moms and the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall this week. The products being recalled include the MamaRoo Baby Swing and RockaRoo Baby Rockers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 4moms, a manufacturer of products for young children, has issued a recall of their MamaRoo Baby Swing (versions 1.0 through 4.0), and RockaRoo Baby Rockers. The 4moms recall affects two million MamaRoo swings and 220,000 RockaRoo rockers, according to the CPSC. The company said that the recalled swings and rockers were sold at BuyBuy Baby and Target stores nationwide and online at 4moms.com and Amazon between January 2010 and August 2022. Strangulation risk This recall addresses a potential danger when a 4moms swing or rocker is not in use. Restraint straps on these products may dangle below the seat and crawling infants could become entangled, posing a risk of strangulation. “When the swing or rocker is not in use, the restraint straps can dangle below the seat and crawling infants can become entangled in the dangling straps, posing a strangulation hazard,” the company said in a press release. The company said they’ve received two reports of “entanglement incidents” that involved infants becoming caught by the strap under an unoccupied MamaRoo infant swing after crawling beneath the seat. One incident resulted in the death of a 10-month-old by asphyxiation, and the other was a 10-month-old who experienced bruising to the neck before being rescued by a caregiver. “No incidents involving the RockaRoo have been reported,” the company noted in the press release. Sleeping in swings and rockers could also impede breathing Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, double board-certified in OB/GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine, and Director of Perinatal Services/Maternal Fetal Medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in the Bronx, told Healthline these devices can help but must be used with caution. She explained that while a rocker or swing can give parents a rest from holding and carrying their infant, it’s not intended for a baby to sleep in. “As their unsupported heads can drop forward and impede breathing,” Dr. Gaither warned. Identifying the recalled products 4moms said that the model number is located on the bottom of the device and that the recall only includes those MamaRoo models using a 3-point harness. This includes versions 1.0 and 2.0 (model number 4M-005), version 3.0 (model number 1026), and version 4.0 (model number 1037). According to 4moms, the MamaRoo model using a 5-point harness is not included in the recall. To identify the recalled RockaRoo baby rocker, the company said there is an analog knob and power button to control the range of motion on the base, and the model number 4M-012 can be seen on the bottom of the unit. The recalled products can be easily repaired. 4moms is making available a strap fastener that will secure the dangling straps when the swing or rocker isn’t being used. The fasteners are free and will be sent to affected consumers on request. Owners of the recalled products can email safetyandrecall@4moms.com, call the 4moms recall hotline at 877-870-7390, or order the fastener online through their website. Using baby swings and rockers safely Gaither said to begin by carefully reading the manufacturer’s information, and then ensuring your child matches the age and weight recommendations. She recommended that parents look for a Rocker with an easy-to-remove and wash cover, “Preferably organic nontoxic materials, like cotton,’ she said. Gaither said important factors to consider when purchasing one of these products includes: PortabilitySturdiness, with a skid-proof base such that it can’t move or tip overThat it’s comfortable for baby, with secure straps to hold baby safely Avoiding strangulation risks at home According to Mary Aitken, MD, chair of pediatrics with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston any device with straps, strings, or other cords can pose a strangulation hazard.  “Pillows, padding, and other items in the bed can pose a suffocation risk, leading to a recent ban on crib bumpers,” Dr. Aitken said. “Necklaces, pacifiers attached with cords, or clothing with drawstrings should be avoided.” She added that another significant hazard is cords from window blinds and draperies.  “Cordless window coverings are advised, and cribs should be kept away from windows,” Aitken said. She recommended that parents visit healthychildren.org to find more ways to make baby’s room safe.    The bottom line Baby gear manufacturer 4moms has recalled their MamaRoo Baby Swing, and RockaRoo Baby Rockers due to a strangulation risk from an unsecured strap. The company emphasized there is no need to throw out the recalled products, only to stop using them until parents can apply a free fix available from 4moms by request. Experts say that anything in the home with cords or straps can pose a suffocation risk, and should be kept away from children.

  • Exercise: Research Shows It’s How Often You Do It, Not How Much
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Experts say small amounts of exercise every day can provide benefits over the long term. STUDIO TAURUS/Stocksy Researchers report that small amounts of daily activity are better for muscle strength than less frequent, more intense workouts.Experts add that exercising every day is also better for overall health and can reduce the risk of injury.They recommend that people who don’t currently exercise start slowly with less intense activity for short periods of time. The tortoise was probably on to something when he said steadiness wins over the more explosive but inconsistent hare. New research from Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia indicates a small amount of daily activity is more beneficial than less frequent, more intense workouts when it comes to muscle strength. ECU collaborated with Niigata University and Nishi Kyushu University in Japan on a four-week training study featuring three groups of people doing an arm resistance exercise with researchers measuring changes in muscle strength and muscle thickness. The exercise consisted of “maximal voluntary eccentric bicep contractions” performed on a machine measuring muscle strength in each muscle contraction one would do at the gym. Two groups did 30 contractions per week. One group performed six contractions a day for five days a week while the other jammed all 30 into a single day, once a week. Another group only performed six contractions one day a week. After four weeks, the group doing 30 contractions in a single day didn’t show any increase in muscle strength, although muscle thickness increased by almost 6%. The group doing six contractions once a week showed no changes in strength or size. However, the 6×5 group showed significant increases in strength – more than 10 percent – with an increase in muscle thickness similar to the 30×1 group. The results were similar to people in a previous study performing only one 3-second maximal eccentric contraction per day for five days a week for four weeks.  “People think they have to do a lengthy session of resistance training in the gym, but that’s not the case,” said Ken Nosaka, ECU exercise and sports science professor, in a statement. “Just lowering a heavy dumbbell slowly once or six times a day is enough.” Although researchers only examined bicep curls in the study, “we believe this would be the case for other muscles also, at least to some extent,” Nosaka said. What other experts think Dr. Katie Hill, the chief medical officer of healthcare provider Nudj Health, told Healthline it’s “much better” to have moderate exercise as many days a week as possible rather than one or two mega-sessions per week.  “There is more and more evidence proving that moving regularly throughout each day needs to be combined with about 150 minutes (per week) of moderate intensity exercise to best reduce the risk of death, heart disease, obesity, and other chronic illnesses,” Hill said. “In fact, people who routinely live to over 100 years old, like those from Loma Linda, California, Sardinia, Italy, and Okinawa, Japan, have lives that naturally require movement about every 20 minutes.” Hill added that regular movement is the best way to stay fit at any age. “No one is too old to benefit from moving more,” she said. “Every exercise schedule should include a mix of strength training, balance training, and aerobic activities. Strength and balance training maintains bone health, reduces fall risk over time, and is linked to improved insulin sensitivity and other metabolic laboratory values, among other benefits. Aerobic activity improves cardiovascular fitness and directly contributes to lengthening telomeres, which is closely linked to longevity.” Dr. Rafael S. Garcia-Cortes, a cardiologist and heart failure and transplant specialist with Ascension Medical Group at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, told Healthline that people should remember that “anything that you do is better than nothing.” “Walking one mile at a low speed is better than sitting at home,” Garci-Cortes said. “In fact, the (Physical Activities Guidelines for Americans) emphasize that moving more and sitting less will benefit nearly everyone. Therefore, you should try to always hit at least 10 minutes per session and to continue progressing. In the beginning, it’s OK to be humble and continue working toward improvement rather than risking an injury.” “Having said that, you should at least try to follow 3 to 5 days of physical activity and, if you manage to continue improving, you will undoubtedly meet the goals for physical activity, you will see all the long-term benefits on your overall health,” he added. Why consistency matters The type of activity can vary, but what’s important is that it’s regular, says Dr. Nick West, a cardiologist and chief medical officer of Abbott’s vascular business. “Recent evidence from different sources suggests that relatively short but regular bursts of weight training, even at low intensity, can not only provide the same strength/muscle-building effects as infrequent more strenuous workouts but also that short walks, especially after meals, can lower blood sugar surges and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” West told Healthline. “These data clearly emphasize that frequent but lighter exercise can provide important health benefits,” he added. Regular, less-intense workouts also minimize the risk of injury, said Dr. Rene Armenta, a bariatric and general surgeon for Renew Bariatrics. “When you work out intensely, you put your body under a lot of stress, which can lead to injuries if you’re not careful or if you’re not used to that level of intensity,” Armenta told Healthline. “By spreading out your exercise routine, you give your body time to recover between sessions and reduce your overall risk of injury. “This is convenient for those who can’t commit to mega-sessions a week but can realistically commit to moderate exercise most days,” he added. “Small exercise is still exercise and will always be better than no exercise at all. Even just five minutes of activity can already make a big difference. Even if they’re small and short, they can still have a big impact on your overall health and well-being, especially when all your efforts are put together.” “Daily moderate exercise can also be beneficial for those who find themselves in a love-hate relationship with exercise,” Armenta noted. “If you often find yourself skipping workouts because you dread them, then moderate exercise might be a better solution for you. This way, you won’t have to force yourself to work out as much, and you’re less likely to get burnt out and give up on your fitness goals altogether. How to stay consistent Hill said people who don’t already exercise should start simple in ways that fit into existing routines. “Choose one or two exercise movements and pick a small minimum goal, a goal so easy it’s hard not to succeed even on a bad day,” Hill said. “Pick an activity during your day that you already do automatically and commit to doing that minimum exercise right after that activity.” “Write the goal down somewhere visible. For example, ‘Every time I use the restroom today, I will do at least two squats.’ Evidence suggests that most people will naturally do a little more than their minimum once they get moving, so a typical person might actually accomplish 3 to 5 squats three or four times a day,” she explained.  “After accomplishing the minimum goal, celebrate in a simple way, such as a fist pump combined with a “YESSSS!” Research suggests that the people who are most successful at maintaining an exercise habit over time are those who derive some immediate benefit instead of those who only focus on a long-term goal like weight loss. The celebration at the end of the exercise activity is an important way of getting that immediate reinforcement,” Hill noted. “Over time, increase your reps, add weight, or add another exercise. Eventually, reserve time in your schedule for your new physical activity habit and it will become an essential part of your self-care routine,” she said.

  • How Cutting 1 Gram of Salt Per Day Can Lower Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Experts say using alternative seasonings can help reduce salt intake. Getty Images Researchers report that lower salt intake by as little as 1 gram per day can reduce the risk of heart disease.Experts say reducing daily salt consumption can be difficult, but you can start by eating fewer restaurant and processed foods and instead buying lean meats, whole foods, and foods high in potassium.They also suggest using alternative seasonings such as turmeric and oregano. Reducing salt intake by 1 gram per day can significantly lower your cardiovascular risk, according to a study completed in China and published today in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, & Health. The researchers noted that China has one of the highest daily salt intakes in the world with an average consumption of 11 grams per day – more than twice the amount of daily salt the Chinese government recommends. About 40 percent of all deaths in the country are associated with or because of cardiovascular disease. The researchers looked at data to see how reducing daily salt consumption would affect health. They analyzed data in three ways: Salt reduction of 1 gram per day within the first yearReducing salt intake by 30 percent by 2025, equivalent to a gradual reduction of 3.2 grams per dayReducing salt intake to less than 5 grams per day by 2030 The scientists hypothesized that the systolic blood pressure (the higher number) would drop. They said the results showed they were right. The findings include: Reducing salt intake by 1 gram per day could lower the average systolic blood pressure by 1.2 mm/Hg and prevent 9 million cardiovascular disease events and stroke cases by 2030. The researchers estimate that 4 million of these cases would have been fatal.In another 10 years, the researchers said, 13 million cases would be avoided, of which an estimated 6 million would have been fatal.A reduction of 3.2 grams per day, continued for an additional five years, could prevent 14 million heart attacks or strokes, with an estimated 6 million of those being fatal.If salt reduction continued until 2040, there would be a cumulative reduction of 27 million heart attacks or strokes, potentially stopping 12 million fatal cardiovascular events. The researchers reported that the benefits of lowering salt intake would apply to people of all ages. Other potential (but not tracked) benefits of reducing salt intake include reductions in chronic kidney disease and stomach cancer. “While this study focused on the salt intake in China, the benefits of salt reduction in an American diet are well established,” Dr. Jeffrey Tyler, a cardiologist with Providence St. Joseph Hospital in California, told Healthline. “People who are middle or older age, diabetic, with kidney disease… benefit, even more, when reducing salt intake.” People in the United States consume about 3.4 grams of salt per day. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 2.3 grams a day of salt and the American Heart Society recommends lowering salt intake to less than 1.5 grams per day. How this applies in the United States “Diet is the foundation for elevated blood pressure and risk for heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases,” says Tyler. “We know from studies that a diet with vegetables, fruit, legumes, and low-fat dairy will lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension.” Experts estimate that 90 percent of the U.S. population consumes too much sodium. “Now we know that any sodium consumption greater than [2.3 grams] per day is excessive,” Dr. David Cutler, a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, told Healthline. “And some people with pre-existing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, or stroke, would likely benefit from an even lower dose of 1,800 milligrams per day. That is quite a reduction from the current average adult American diet: [3.4 grams] of sodium per day.” According to the American Heart Association, excess salt consumption increases your risk for: Enlarged heart muscleHeadachesKidney diseaseStrokeHeart failureHigh blood pressureKidney stonesOsteoporosisStomach cancerWater retention that can lead to puffiness, bloating, and weight gain A 2021 study reported that a decrease in salt consumption was beneficial to even those with low sodium intake and normal blood pressure. Those researchers looked at 85 studies that followed participants from 4 weeks to 3 years. They found that both the systolic and diastolic numbers decreased. They noted that consuming less than 1.5 grams of sodium per day further lowers blood pressure. The researchers said their study shows that people who reduce sodium intake by eating a healthier diet could significantly improve cardiovascular health. How to reduce salt intake Reducing salt isn’t as easy as it sounds. “I think following a lower sodium diet is one of the hardest dietary changes to follow,” says Liz Weinandy, MPH, RDN, LD, a registered dietician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Almost 100 percent of restaurant food and highly processed foods are high in sodium,” Weinandy told Healthline.  “The ones which aren’t high in sodium are usually high in sugar. The difficulty is finding foods lower in sodium that may be quick to make. It almost forces people to be cooking foods from scratch or buy special lower sodium ingredients to make meals. It is not impossible, but it takes more time and planning. The problem is our taste buds get used to foods being higher in sodium and then when we cut down, foods taste bland and less appealing.” The American Heart Association indicates that more than 70 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed and restaurant food. Only about 11 percent comes from food prepared and cooked at home. The first step, therefore, is to eat a low-sodium diet by preparing and eating fresh food more often where you can control the amount of salt you use. Dr. Mahmud Kara, an internist with Kara MD, offered Healthline these other ways to reduce salt intake. Buy fresh foods Pre-packaged foods such as canned vegetables or fruit, snacks, frozen meats or fish, and ready-to-make meals often contain added sodium for preservation. Experts say it is always better to buy the fresh option of these foods whenever possible. Read labels to track sodium The human body does need some sodium to survive. While many people track other nutritional factors such as calories or fat, most people don’t track sodium. Experts recommend starting by reading the labels of the food you are eating and tracking sodium for a week to get a baseline, then try to reduce your intake from there. Get rid of the obvious culprits Foods such as chips, popcorn, packaged snacks, and certain condiments like ketchup or barbeque sauce are known to be high in sodium It can be helpful when you are first starting to cut back on sodium to eliminate these foods. Spice it up at home Eating at home allows you to control the amount of salt you put in your food and oftentimes is the better option. You can also try to flavor your foods with other spices such as turmeric, cayenne, ginger, oregano, or even alternatives like unsalted butter. These provide flavor while helping you cut back on sodium. Add potassium-rich foods to your diet Potassium and sodium often work together to keep a proper fluid balance in the body, which means that high-potassium foods can be helpful to include in your diet, especially as you start to eat less and less salt. Examples of potassium-rich foods include bananas, avocados, and mushrooms. Organic and whole foods Along with selecting fresh options, try to stick with whole foods and shop organic whenever possible to avoid high sodium content as well as preservatives that can be harmful to your health. Leans meats and fatty fish Most of the popular processed meats are high in sodium. Instead of eating ham, cold cuts, hot dogs, sausage, or other processed meats, experts recommend trying to include more poultry, turkey, and fatty fish such as salmon or cod in your diet as these options typically have less salt. Sauces on the side If you are going out to eat or even planning a dish at home, put any condiments, sauces, or dressings on the side. This can help moderate their use during meals. Other suggestions It can be hard to get rid of our favorite foods, even if we are cutting back on salt. Kara added that there are a variety of online tools available to help you compare the foods you are eating and find low-sodium alternatives. He notes that sometimes working with a medical professional, such as a dietician, to understand your eating habits and develop a plan to reduce sodium intake can be a helpful solution.

  • Monkeypox Detected in Dog: What to Know
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    For the first time monkeypox was detected in a pet dog. The dog was an Italian greyhound the same breed as the dog seen above. Jen Marquez Ginn/500px/Getty Images Wild animals, including rodents and primates, are known to get infected with monkeypox in countries where monkeypox is endemic.Now for the first time, a case of a pet dog getting monkeypox has been documented.The authors say the evidence shows the virus caused real canine disease and highlights the need for infected people to isolate themselves from their pets.  A pet dog appears to have contracted monkeypox from its infected owners, according to evidence published in the medical journal The Lancet.  Though there is prior evidence that wild animals can get monkeypox, this is the first known case of a pet dog contracting the monkeypox virus via human transmission, the report states.  More research is needed to understand the disease trajectory in dogs, however, the researchers state the evidence suggests people infected with monkeypox should isolate from their pets. Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), says he was expecting to hear that monkeypox had spread to domesticated animals. “I think that it’s going to be very uncommon, but it could have been anticipated because this is a virus that originates in the animal population, gets into humans, and is transmitted in humans usually in a very localized fashion in Africa, but obviously has broken out and now is being much more widely transmitted from person to person in Western Europe, Canada, and the United States,” Schaffner told Healthline.  Dog contracts monkeypox through close contact with owners Two men, ages 44 and 27, visited a hospital in France on June 10, 2022, with rashes, headaches, fatigue, and anal lesions. The men, who live in the same household and are non-exclusive partners, developed anal ulcerations six days after having sex with other partners.  Twelve days after their symptoms appeared, their dog — a four-year-old Italian greyhound with no underlying health issues — developed mucocutaneous lesions, abdomen pustules, and an anal ulceration. The dog’s lesions were swabbed via a PCR test and subsequently tested positive for monkeypox. Viral sequencing demonstrated that the dog was infected with the same strain as one of its owners — a strain that has been spreading in non-endemic countries throughout 2022.   According to the report, the owners say they were careful to not spread the infection to their dog but did allow the dog to sleep in their bed.  Monkeypox is primarily spread through close contact and contaminated surfaces.  “We think the respiratory route is a less effective way to transmit it, and you really have to be close to a person for prolonged periods of time,” Schaffner said.  According to Schaffner, infected people who have lesions can shed infectious virus onto bedding, which can then pass the virus to others.  It’s also possible that the owners were affectionate with the dog and spread the infection from prolonged close contact.  “Here is an instance where a dog was in very close contact with two people who had monkeypox, who had obvious lesions, and it’s the lesions that are extremely infectious,” Schaffner said.  Wild animals can get monkeypox Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and an infectious disease expert, says monkeypox is primarily a zoonotic infection that arises from animals.  Wild animals, including rodents and primates, are known to get infected with monkeypox in countries where monkeypox is endemic. Monkeypox has been detected in captive primates in Europe and prairie dogs in the United States after being exposed to imported animals that were infected. “We know that monkeypox can infect a variety of animals so it is not surprising,” Adalja said. This is the first case of a domesticated animal being infected. The authors say the evidence shows the virus caused real canine disease and highlights the need for infected people to isolate themselves from their pets.  “If you develop monkeypox, I think you need to keep your distance from your dog or cat,” Schaffner said.  That said, if you do not have the infection, there is no need to isolate yourself from your pets or worry about giving your pet the infection, Schaffner added. More research is needed to understand how common this type of transmission is along with the prognosis in dogs.  The bottom line: New evidence shows that a pet dog appears to have contracted monkeypox from its infected owners. Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease that originates in animals, so infectious diseases specialists are not surprised to hear that a domesticated dog has contracted the infection. Doctors say that infected individuals should isolate from their pets to avoid transmitting the virus to them. 

  • Inflation Reduction Act: What It Will and Won't Do to Lower Insulin Prices
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Many people with diabetes need to monitor their blood sugar levels. Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images The United States has the highest price of insulin of any country in the world.The Inflation Reduction Act caps the cost of insulin at $35 per vial for people on Medicare, but a provision to place the same cap on people with private insurance wasn’t included in the legislation.Experts say more needs to be done to reduce the price of this life-saving drug needed by many people with diabetes. Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. Yet, access to insulin, the life-saving drug that helps regulate blood sugar among people with diabetes remains a financial burden for many Americans. The Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed today by President Joe Biden, would have included a provision to cap insulin co-pays at $35 per vial for insured Americans, but that measure failed when the majority of Senate Republicans blocked its passage. The new law caps out-of-pocket costs among Medicare recipients at $35, a provision that takes effect on January 1. The United States has the highest insulin prices in the world, at an average of $98.70 per vial across all forms of the drug. That’s nearly seven times higher than the country with the next most expensive insulin, Japan, which averages $14.40 for the drug, according to a recent RAND Corporation report. “More than 7 million people in the U.S. use insulin and for the vast majority, having consistent access to insulin is nothing short of a life-or-death issue both in the short-term and long-term,” Keri Hurley-Kim, PharmD, MPH, an associate clinical professor at the University of California at Irvine’s College of Health Sciences, told Healthline. “Patients with type 1 or advanced type 2 diabetes can experience very severe complications that require hospitalization and, in some cases, can be fatal,” she added. “In the long term, insufficient insulin use can cause diabetes to be more difficult to control and lead to complications such as amputations, kidney disease, heart attack, stroke, and loss of vision.” As the government struggles to rein in insulin costs, people with diabetes have turned to taking caravans to Canada to buy lower-cost insulin. Some researchers are also trying to “open source” complex insulin formulations for public consumption. But neither effort represents a near-term solution to the problem. The need for insulin The average retail price for insulin has risen 54 percent between 2014 and 2019, according to research from prescription drug outlet GoodRx. Prices declined slightly – by 5 percent – in 2020 and 2021, but not enough to make up the difference. And as prices have risen, so have deaths. In 2019, 87,647 Americans died from diabetes. By 2020, that number had risen to 102,188, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2021, deaths where diabetes was the underlying cause topped 100,000 again. How insulin became expensive But how did a drug whose creator gave away the patent to the University of Toronto nearly for free 100 years ago in the hopes it wouldn’t be exploited for profit end being the subject of decades of price-gouging and patient desperation? One reason is that not all insulins are created equal. There are many different formulas and the most effective treatments often carry the highest price tag. “Without insurance, most patients in the U.S. have to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars per month for standard-of-care insulins,” Dr. Arti Thangudu, an endocrinologist in private practice in San Antonio, Texas, told Healthline. “Insulin pens are safer and more convenient but often 10 times the cost of vials,” Thangudu explained. “Some insurance companies have pharmacy deductibles, forcing patients to pay high amounts before their insulin is covered despite paying monthly premiums. This forces patients to ration insulin leading to unnecessary hospitalizations, complications, and even death.” Another reason is that there is no genuinely generic insulin in part because manufacturers often tweak their formulas in a process called “evergreening” to prevent their patents from expiring. Is capping prices the solution? While the Inflation Reduction Act represents a step in the right direction, experts say more is needed to rein in insulin prices. “The people most impacted by the price of insulin are those who do not have coverage and so must pay in cash for medications, as well as those with certain commercial plans that may have low premiums in exchange for very high deductibles,” Hurley-Kim explained. “These patients can pay hundreds of dollars per month for insulin alone, particularly if they require high doses. Many people with diabetes use two different types of insulin, which can double the cost.” Even capping co-pays doesn’t do much for millions of uninsured Americans and critics of co-pay capping say that insurers will simply pass the costs on to consumers through increased premiums. “The most salient argument against price capping revolves around the idea that the cost of insulin is simply one symptom of our broken healthcare system,” Hurley-Kim said. “It does not ensure access to comprehensive diabetes care, address the myriad other medications that are unaffordable, or acknowledge the ways the U.S. ignores the importance of effective preventative medicine and chronic disease management.” Generic insulin should be available in the United States in 2024, she said, but even that will “not offer a complete solution.” “It will still cost more than insulin in other countries. Even $30 or $100 a month can force a decision between enough medicine and enough food for some families,” Hurley-Kim said.

  • How Banana Peels Can be Turned into Tasty, Nutritious Treats
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    From cooking with banana peel flour to frying up some banana peel bacon, there are a number of ways you can turn the skin of this fruit into a healthy treat. Nicolas Balcazar/EyeEm/Getty Images New research finds banana peels can be powdered and used to increase the nutritional value and shelf life of sugar cookies.Experts say that banana peels are a source of powerful antioxidants and important vitamins. They also say that while peels are nutritious, they don’t replace any food groups but could be part of a balanced diet. Increasingly, an item once considered inedible is being turned into delicious meals. Now researchers have found the banana peels we typically compost or throw away can be processed into nutritious flour. A new study finds that using the right amount of banana peel flour in sugar cookie batter creates a more nutritious cookie that’s still tasty. “The main objective of this study was to convert raw banana peel into a valuable product because it is rich in dietary fiber and antioxidants, which are very beneficial for health,” study author Faizan Ahmad, assistant professor at Aligarh Muslim University, told Healthline. Researchers baked with banana peel The researchers began by blanching the banana skins, and then they dried and ground them into a fine powder. They mixed different amounts of this banana peel flour with butter, skimmed milk powder, powdered sugar, vegetable oil, and wheat flour, to create five different batches of sugar cookies, and baked them. Ahmad and his team discovered that replacing 15% of wheat flour with banana peel flour produced browner and harder cookies, possibly a result of the increased fiber from the peels. A healthier cookie According to researchers, the cookies containing banana peel flour were more healthful, with less fat and protein, higher amounts of phenols, and improved antioxidant levels than those made with only wheat flour. Ahmad emphasized that utilization of banana peel in the food product formulations could help improve nutritional quality while also helping prevent various diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, constipation, colon cancer, diabetes, and obesity. “It can also help in reducing blood sugar levels and cholesterol,” he added. The best batch A trained panel found that the cookies containing the least banana peel powder (only 7.5%) had the best texture and highest overall acceptability compared to the other four batches. This batch also kept well and tasted the same as the wheat-only versions even after being stored at room temperature for three months. “Therefore incorporation of banana peel in the formulation of cookies can be used as a good alternative in order to enhance their nutritive value and shelf life,” Ahmad noted. Banana peel is rich in nutrients “According to our research, utilization of bananas can be a good alternative in the formulation of bakery products since they are consumed on a large scale,” said Ahmad. He pointed out that cookies supplemented with banana peel have improved “functional and nutritional properties” and enhanced shelf life because banana peel is rich in antioxidants and phenols. “Polyphenols are strong antioxidants which have been researched and shown to improve blood flow and circulation within your body, which can assist in reducing your blood pressure and improve your heart health,” said Amargo Couture, a registered dietician at Staten Island University Hospital in New York. Some banana peel history Emily Feivor, a registered dietician at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in Queens, part of Northwell Health in New York, said that in non-westernized countries, many chefs and cultures leave the banana peel on in cooking. “Those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet may use the peels as a meat alternative in recipes such as ‘banana peel bacon’ or ‘banana peel carnitas,’” she added. Feivor said that peels provide a good source of fiber as well as a similar texture that mimics protein and there are many recipes available on the internet that utilize them. “Recipes as simple as boiled, sprinkled with cinnamon and eaten with a spoon to a more complex preparation of caramelization to be used as an ice cream topping,” she said. A way to reduce food waste “For those looking for ways to reduce food waste, this may be an option,” said Feivor. “ She also said that for people seeking ideas to experiment with by trying new ingredients, banana peel may be something that challenges their culinary abilities. “Especially if you’re gluten-free and would like to increase fiber in gluten-free baking,” said Feivor. However, she cautioned that although peels provide additional fiber and vitamins/minerals when used as an ingredient, they don’t take the place of any food group but may be used as part of a balanced diet.  Clean peels before using Feivor recommends washing and scrubbing banana peels thoroughly to remove any bacteria, dirt, pesticides, or contaminants from the exterior. Feivor also said peels are another interesting way to add healthful variety to our diets. “If you’re looking to include a new texture and taste in your cooking, then try a recipe with a banana peel as an ingredient,” she said. “The benefits may help your body in disease prevention.” The bottom line New research finds banana peels can be powdered and used to increase the nutritional value and shelf life of sugar cookies. Experts say that banana peels are a source of powerful antioxidants and important vitamins. They also say that while peels are nutritious, they don’t replace any food groups but could be part of a balanced diet.

  • Flu Season Could Start Early: When's the Best Time to Get Your Shot?
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Experts say the best time to get a flu shot is before the illness starts circulating in your community. FG Trade/Getty Images Experts say the flu season in the United States could start early this year.They add the illness could also be stronger this season due to the low number of cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, a situation that has produced a gap in immunity.They say the best time to get vaccinated is probably in September or October.They note the vaccines’ protection last from four to six months, so it’s important not to get vaccinated too early. The Southern Hemisphere has been experiencing an unusual surge in flu cases early this season and experts say the same could happen in the United States later this year. The Australian flu season usually spans from May to September, but this year the number of flu cases from mid-April exceeded the 5-year average. “The Australian experiences is suggestive that this could be a really bad flu season in the Northern Hemisphere as well,” Dr. Dean Blumberg, the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California Davis Children’s Hospital, told Healthline. Blumberg says the influenza season in the United States has been unusual since the COVID-19 pandemic began and this could have consequences for this year’s season. “We saw historically low rates of influenza during that 2021 flu season and relatively low rates during 21/22 in the U.S., and yet, we had lingering influenza cases that occurred in May and June and we were still seeing patients admitted to the hospital in May and June, treating them for influenza, which is highly unusual,” he said. “I worry about it because I think with all the social distancing and mask wearing people have not been getting infected, which is a great thing, but they also haven’t been building up immunity,” Blumberg explained. “So those people who don’t get immunized, there’s going to be a significantly larger proportion of them who don’t have any recent experience with influenza infections. And that could lead to a higher rate of infection and also more severe cases.” In Australia so far this year, children younger than 5 and those aged between 5 and 19 had the highest rates of reported flu. Flu shot recommendations For the 2022/2023 flu season, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that every person over 6 months of age should be vaccinated against flu. This year, there are six options for the flu vaccine, including egg-free vaccines, a nasal spray vaccine, and higher potency vaccines for those aged 65 and over. In June, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to preferentially recommend three higher potency flu vaccines for people aged 65 and older. In this age group, these specific vaccines may produce a more effective immune response than the standard dose. “Fortunately, everyone aged 65 and older, in essence in the United States, is a Medicare recipient. And for them, there is no out-of-pocket cost for influenza vaccine, including these vaccines,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told Healthline. “Each year, we vaccinate two-thirds of the population aged 65 and older. That’s a great achievement. But interestingly enough, it means that a third of people in the United States 65 years of age and older, the very population that suffers disproportionately the most severe aspects of influenza, do not avail themselves of the vaccine. When it’s free. As I like to say, all they have to do is roll up their sleeves,” Schaffner said. When to get a flu shot In recent years, experts say manufacturers of vaccines have shipped their products to pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics relatively early in the flu season. But experts stress it is important not to get the flu vaccine too early, even if it is available. “Historically, we’ve been recommending as soon as the influenza vaccine is available. However, with recent data showing that the protection lasts between four and six months it’s been recommended by some to push back the vaccination date to late September or early October to provide the maximum protection during the peak months of infection,” Blumberg said. The CDC advises it is best to get vaccinated before influenza starts circulating in the community, with September and October being good times to be vaccinated. It advises that ideally everyone should have received their influenza vaccination by the end of October. However, in some cases, early vaccination can be considered. Some children require two doses of flu vaccine and these children can get vaccinated with their first shot as soon as vaccines are available, even if this is in July or August. Those in the third trimester of pregnancy can also consider an early vaccination. It will take two weeks following vaccination for antibodies to develop to protect against an influenza infection. Experts say relying on last year’s vaccine is not a good idea, as protection from the vaccine decreases over time and the influenza virus changes every year, which is why an annual vaccine is necessary. “We have to adapt the vaccine. We have to update it in order to account for the strains that we think will be more prominent to come in the winter,” Schaffner said. With a “twindemic” of both COVID-19 and influenza expected this winter, experts say the influenza vaccination is an important tool to prevent respiratory illness. “I would hope people would take advantage of a simple preventative measure, to get the influenza vaccine to try to prevent a respiratory illness,” Schaffner said. “And then also think about, if you do get influenza, you’re going to have a fever, you’re going to have a cough, you’re not sure what you have at the time, you’re probably going to be worried that you have COVID. So who needs that anxiety?”

  • What Anne Heche's Death Teaches Us About Traumatic Brain Injuries and Organ Donation
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Anne Heche died of a traumatic brain injury at the age of 53. Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic Actor Anne Heche was taken off life support and died this past weekend at the age of 53.Medical experts said she developed an anoxic brain injury after her car crashed into a home.This type of brain injury is caused by a sudden lack of oxygen and can be the result of head trauma as well as cardiac arrest, stroke, or suffocation. We do not fall in love with the package of the person, we fall in love with the inside of a person. That is a quote from actor Anne Heche, who was taken off life support and died this past weekend at the age of 53. On August 5, Heche crashed her car into a house in Southern California. She was reportedly traveling at more than 100 miles per hour. The crash caused her car and the house to catch fire. It took 59 firefighters 65 minutes to extinguish the fire and pull her from the vehicle. Heche was born on May 25, 1969, as Anne Celeste Heche. Her early acting career included playing Vicky Hudson and Marley Love in the soap opera, “Another World.” She won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actress in 1989 and 1991. She had numerous parts in films, including “Donnie Brasco” and “Return to Paradise.” Heche lapsed into a coma after the car accident and did not regain consciousness before being declared legally deceased. On August 14, she was taken off life support after being matched with an organ recipient. What is an anoxic brain injury? “Anoxic brain injury is any form of brain injury resulting from decreased oxygen supply for some period of time,” explains Dr. Christopher P. Kellner, an assistant professor in neurosurgery and associate director of the Neurosurgery Residency Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “This can occur from cardiac arrest, smoke inhalation, drowning, or other causes that would prevent blood and/or oxygen from getting to the brain,” Kellner told Healthline. Brain cells without enough oxygen will start to die after 4 minutes, according to the Beth Israel Lahey Health Winchester Hospital. The longer the person is without oxygen, the more severe their injury. Anoxic brain injuries often result in disability or death. “The reason full recovery from this type of injury is so difficult is that brain cells can start to die after only a few minutes without oxygen,” said Dr. Walavan Sivakumar, a neurosurgeon and director of neurovascular surgery at Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California. “Additionally, the different parts of the brain can be affected by decreases in oxygen in a variable pattern. Certain parts of the brain are less resilient to oxygen loss,” Sivakumar told Healthline. “The brain makes up only about 2 percent of the body weight but takes about 20 percent of the body’s blood flow. Being that dependent on oxygen and having that high of a requirement for it makes these injuries so dangerous.” Head injury is only one cause of anoxic brain injury. “The most common cause for anoxic brain injury is actually a cardiac arrest,” added Sivakumar. “Strokes are another common cause that we see a lot of. Less common causes include choking or suffocation, anesthesia complications, drowning, smoke inhalation like during a fire, drug overdoses, and carbon monoxide to name a few.” Organ donation During her life, Heche was a vocal advocate for organ donation. “It has long been her choice to donate her organs and she is being kept on life support to determine if any are viable,” according to a family statement issued last week. “Organ donation is still possible after anoxic brain injury,” Kellner said. “If the brain was injured but the other organs were not, then organ donation is still possible. In many states, a patient is considered formally dead when there is no brain activity even if the body is still maintained on a ventilator. In that case, the organs can be evaluated to see if they can be donated even after the person is declared dead because of brain death.” Organ donation saves and improves lives. The United Network for Organ Sharing states that the heart, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, skin, tendons, bone, nerve, corneas, and heart valves can be donated. Each person can save the lives of up to eight people by donating organs, more if tissues are also donated.  The United States has one of the highest performing organ donation and transplant systems in the world. People of all ages, races, ethnic groups, and medical histories can register as organ donors. Specialists will determine what organs and tissues can be donated at the time of death based on the medical condition.

  • Olympic Swimmer Ryan Murphy Opens Up About Living with Eczema
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Olympic swimmer Ryan Murphy (pictured above) was diagnosed with atopic dermatitis (AD) at an early age. Kena Betancur/AFP via GettyImages Olympic Swimmer Ryan Murphy and professional surfer Coco Ho are speaking out about living with atopic dermatitis (AD).AD affects more than 9.6 million children and about 16.5 million adults in the United States.While the exact cause of AD is not known, scientists have detected a genetic component and connection to immune system dysregulation. Swimmers spend much of their time uncovered and for Olympian Ryan Murphy, exposed skin means his atopic dermatitis (AD) often shows. Murphy was diagnosed with AD as a child. As the most common type of eczema, the condition affects more than 9.6 million children and about 16.5 million adults in the United States, according to the National Eczema Association (NEA). “It’s kind of a unique sport to have eczema. I’m in a sport where I’m walking around in a Speedo, so people are seeing a lot of my skin and [I’m] learning how to be comfortable answering questions like what’s on your skin? Is it contagious?” Murphy told Healthline. For the record, it’s not contagious. The condition causes flare-ups of rashes and dry skin, which can become infected and burn under water. Murphy often experiences flare-ups all over his body, including on his feet, legs, knees, armpits, and neck. Sun, stress, sweat, sand, and saltwater can trigger skin lesions, making his time as a swimmer more difficult. Professional surfer Coco Ho knows Murphy’s struggle all too well. She was diagnosed with AD in her 20s after experiencing an itchy, burning patch behind her ear. “I originally just thought it was a rash, maybe a stress-related rash that would go away and I ignored it for some time…it would get worse and worse and I’d surf and hop in the salt water and it’d burn, so I realized it was something much more serious than a rash from stress,” she told Healthline. Both water lovers found treatment and ways to cope with AD so they could continue their time in the water. To stay mentally strong and focused while swimming despite his AD, Murphy sticks to a well-thought-out plan. His plan includes preventive measures such as moisturizing his skin, using towels made of soft, non-irritating material, showering after being in saltwater or chlorine, and sitting on a towel or blanket at the beach to avoid contact with sand. “[When] I have a plan, I feel really comfortable and it takes some of the stress away,” he said. Before competing, Ho focuses on stress reduction by surrounding herself with people who have a calm demeanor, including her closest friends and coach. “[I also] keep really hydrated [which] helps calm my whole system pretty quickly and try to enjoy everything and not think about itching,” she said. Right before she enters the ocean, her AD can become inflamed, especially when she’s surfing in hot areas like Hawaii. “I’ll hop in the water and have a burning sensation for a little bit and I’ll hit a wave and kind of forget about it. [It’s about] learning to make sure I’m treating it before events and keeping my system as cool and calm as I can,” said Ho. “It’s kind of a unique sport to have eczema. I’m in a sport where I’m walking around in a Speedo, so people are seeing a lot of my skin and [I’m] learning how to be comfortable answering questions like what’s on your skin? Is it contagious?” Murphy (pictured above) told Healthline. Quinn Rooney/Getty Images Making a splash for eczema awareness To raise awareness about AD, both Murphy and Ho teamed up with Dupixent for The Now Me: Beach Mode campaign. By sharing their personal journeys with AD, they hope to erase stigma surrounding skin conditions, ignite confidence for others to be comfortable in their own skin, and inspire those with skin conditions to seek medical attention. “Patients do come in and say, ‘I’ve never worn short sleeves’ or ‘I’ve always worn long sleeves to cover my body,’” Dr. Annabelle Garcia, a dermatologist in San Antonio, told Healthline. She treats AD patients who have deep scratches on their skin from intense itching as well as patients who have difficulty sleeping due to discomfort. “It’s important to know that there are treatments and most of the time we can keep eczema under control,” Garcia said. Dr. Adnan Mir, a member of the Society for Pediatric Dermatology, added that AD can also affect mental health. “Chronic itch, loss of sleep, and the appearance of eczema can lead to anxiety for both children and parents, poor school performance, and low self-esteem,” he told Healthline. These are problems that should not be ignored, and your doctor and the community can provide invaluable support.” A healthcare professional can also help explain misunderstandings regarding AD. For instance, Mir pointed out that while there are certain types of eczema that are caused by contact allergies, AD is intrinsic to the skin. “Your skin acts as a barrier that keeps what’s supposed to be inside (water) in, and what’s outside (potential allergens and irritants) out. When that barrier doesn’t function properly, the skin dries out through water loss, and irritants are allowed to contact the deeper layers of the skin resulting in inflammation,” he explained. “So, the chances are that your child isn’t really allergic to anything that’s causing the eczema — it’s just the nature of their skin.” He recommended restoring the skin barrier with moisturizing creams and ointments and avoiding harsh soaps, products with fragrances, and hot baths. Garcia reassured that AD is not related to hygiene. While scientists don’t know the exact cause, they have detected a genetic component and connection to immune system dysregulation. “But it’s nothing the patient did wrong; it’s nothing that you’re causing. It’s just sensitivity in the skin and studies have shown that there’s different barrier issues on the skin of patients,” said Garcia. Treatment for AD might include trigger management, medicated ointments, creams, lotions, biologics, phototherapy, as well as complementary and alternative options, according to the NEA. Learning about the condition and treatment options is what Ho hopes for everyone living with AD. She also aims to make them feel less alone. “It’s a small intricacy but in your body it’s the biggest thing ever…when I’m in my office, which is the salt water, and it’s burning and I’m trying to focus and compete at the highest level, if I knew 10 years ago, that a lot of other people or other athletes were dealing with this, I’d empathize or feel better about myself,” said Ho. Murphy agreed. By speaking out, he hopes to help others embrace their AD. “This is a unique experience that I feel I’ve had growing up. At a really young age, I learned to be comfortable with [AD] and it’s really cool to be part of this campaign and hopefully help everyone feel comfortable with it,” he said.

  • TikTok Video Goes Viral Making False Claim Some Tampons Cause Cancer
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Users on the social media platform TikTok are gaining attention by spreading false claims that Titanium Dioxide in tampons causes cancer, yet there is no evidence it does. Ani Dimi/Stocksy United A viral TikTok video is spreading misinformation that an ingredient occasionally found in tampons — titanium dioxide — can cause cancer. Though some research identified a link between the inhalation of the chemical in mice, there is no evidence that suggests the chemical can cause cancer in humans. Health experts say people should not be concerned about the use of titanium dioxide in tampons.  A TikTok video is spreading misinformation claiming that an ingredient occasionally found in tampons — titanium dioxide — can cause cancer. There is no evidence that titanium dioxide, a naturally-occurring mineral that’s used in many cosmetic products, causes cancer in people.   Some evidence suggests that titanium dioxide could potentially be carcinogenic when inhaled, however, this has only been observed in mice, not people.  “This misconception is a good example of pseudoscience, when something sounds plausible because of some grain of truth but misinterprets actual scientific evidence into something that is not true,” Dr. Ryan Marino, a medical toxicologist and assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University, told Healthline. What is titanium dioxide? Titanium dioxide is a natural mineral found in the Earth’s crust.  It’s commonly used in medications, foods and cosmetic products like mineral sunscreen.  Dr. Kecia Gaither, an OB/GYN and maternal fetal medicine physician, and Director of Perinatal Services/Maternal Fetal Medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, says that titanium dioxide is used as a bleaching agent to make materials whiter.  “Because it’s found in so many everyday products, it’s likely that we are all exposed to titanium dioxide on a regular basis,” says Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, a medical toxicologist and co-medical director of the National Capital Poison Center.  Titanium dioxide recently came into focus after a California-based lawsuit claimed that Skittles, which contain titanium dioxide, are harmful to our health.  The Food and Drug Administration permits the use of titanium dioxide, with some restrictions, for the coloring of foods.  Other areas, including the European Union, have banned the additive due to potential health concerns.  What research says about titanium dioxide According to Johnson-Arbor, there are no medical studies that address whether titanium dioxide in tampons causes cancer. Gaither says little is known about the potential risks associated with titanium dioxide due to a lack of data on the chemical.  The Internal Agency for Research on Cancer — an agency that researches the potential cause of cancer — states that titanium dioxide is possibly carcinogenic to humans, Johnson-Arbor added. This is because animal studies that were conducted on rodents have linked inhalation of titanium dioxide to lung cancer. However, it is difficult to extrapolate those findings to human cancer cell growth, says Johnson-Arbor. “Ingestion of (eating) massive amounts of titanium dioxide has shown inflammation in mice, although only at levels that majorly exceed any current human food use, and, again, there is no evidence that this happens in humans,” Marino said.  What is the risk? Johnson-Arbor says most people do not need to be concerned about getting cancer from foods, cosmetic products, or household products that contain titanium dioxide. Furthermore, TikTok and other social media platforms are not reliable sources of medical information. If you are concerned about the potential health effects of a certain product or chemical, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional.  “Titanium dioxide is a widely-used, and almost environmentally ubiquitous, mineral that has been well studied, and the evidence does not show that human uses are unsafe,” Marino said.  The bottom line A viral TikTok video is spreading misinformation that an ingredient occasionally found in tampons — titanium dioxide — can cause cancer. Though some research identified a link between the inhalation of the chemical in mice, there is no evidence that suggests the chemical can cause cancer in humans. Health experts say people should not be concerned about the use of titanium dioxide in tampons. 

  • Children Hospitalized with COVID-19 Can Have Lingering Health Issues Months Later
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Children hospitalized for COVID-19 can have lingering symptoms months later. Alexandra Pavlova/Getty Images Researchers say 27 percent of children hospitalized for COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic had health issues months after being treated.They said the most common ailments were activity impairment and persistent symptoms.Experts say parents can help their children by lowering their risk of contracting COVID-19 by getting their kids vaccinated and observing safety protocols such as mask-wearing and physical distancing. More than a quarter of children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic had health problems two to four months later. Research published today in the journal Pediatrics reports that 27 percent of children hospitalized with COVID-19 had either activity impairment, persistent symptoms, or both conditions two to four months after being treated for the disease. “Almost three quarters were back to baseline, which is reassuring. But, unfortunately, more than one in four were not,” Dr. Adrienne Randolph, lead investigator of the study and a senior associate in critical care medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, said in a press release. “Although this is much better than many reports in hospitalized older adults, it is still very worrisome. The risks of severe illness and lingering complications are higher than the risk of complications from the vaccine, which are very rare,” she added. The research was conducted between May 2020 and May 2021, before vaccines were available for children. The most common lingering symptoms were fatigue or weakness, shortness of breath, cough, headache, muscle and body aches, and fever. Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of California Davis Children’s Hospital says the study is a good reminder that while the rates of hospitalization and ICU admission may be lower in children than in adults, COVID-19 can still have a significant long-term impact on them. “They still are significantly affected by this. This can change their lifestyles. It can change the ability for them to participate in normal childhood activities. I think it’s a wake-up call for some parents at least about how important it is to protect their children against COVID to make sure that they are vaccinated and that they do avoid situations that are high risk for infection,” Blumberg told Healthline. The children and adolescents in the study also reported activity impairment after two to four months. This included not being able to walk or exercise as much as they previously could, sleeping more than usual, feeling distracted or unfocused, and having difficulties completing schoolwork. It’s something that Dr. Jaime Friedman, a pediatrician in San Diego, has seen in her patients. “I have seen children with decreased endurance and trouble returning to sports following COVID. Thankfully, in the children I have seen this was temporary,” she told Healthline. “It’s very worrying because so many believe COVID doesn’t affect children. We know that’s not the case. With schools starting I’m worried about increased infections. It’s not ‘just a cold’ for everyone,” Friedman added. Protecting children Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more than 1 million people in the United States have died due to COVID-19. Of these, only 1,201 were children and adolescents. However, experts say COVID-19 still needs to be taken seriously in children as the long-term impact of lingering symptoms or impairment can be significant. “If long COVID results in impairment in learning then that can affect a child’s future. It can affect their future careers, their financial success, it can affect them in so many ways,” Blumberg said. “There is increasing evidence that infection with COVID can result in the development of more chronic diseases such as diabetes, and so it can affect their physical health as well,” he added. “There’s a lot of different effects that can happen in children and the real tragedy of it is there’s no good solutions. There’s been very few studies of what to do with patients with long COVID and to develop any kind of effective therapies.” While the study examined children who were admitted to the hospital, experts say even children who aren’t hospitalized can still experience health problems following a COVID-19 infection. “Some children also have persistent symptoms or activity impairment after COVID-19 even if they did not require hospitalization,” Dr. Julianne Burns, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health in California, told Healthline. “Pediatricians have seen many kids whose lives are affected after a COVID-19 illness. Persistent symptoms, especially fatigue, may prevent older kids from attending school and participating in sports and other activities they previously enjoyed. Even younger children may experience symptoms that affect their daily life, like needing to nap more often,” she added.   The experts who spoke with Healthline say the best thing parents can do to protect their children is to try and avoid COVID-19 in the first place by taking sensible precautions. “Parents can ensure that their children are up to date on COVID-19 vaccination (including boosters, if eligible) which has been shown to reduce the risk of severe illness. This is important even if children have already had COVID-19,” Burns said. “Parents can also take sensible protections to try to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19, such as wearing a mask in crowded settings, and especially indoors,” she added.

  • 2 Cups Of Grapes Per Day Could Help You Live Longer, Study Shows
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Marisol Ogando/Addictive Creative/Offset Images Recently published studies suggest that grape consumption may have a positive impact on health and lifespan.Adding more grapes to a high fat Western diet could decrease the risk of fatty liver disease and increase longevity. Despite the positive results, experts say that grape consumption is not a cure-all for poor eating habits and does not offset the overall effects of consuming a high fat Western diet over the long term.A healthy, balanced diet consisting of nutrient-dense whole foods is recommended by most experts for optimal health and well-being. Growing evidence supports the positive effects of eating a diet derived from whole food sources, including fruits, vegetables, and other non-processed foods. A series of new studies, published in the journal Foods, suggest that grape consumption may have a significant impact on health and mortality, particularly when added to a high fat Western diet. The research, which was partially funded by the California Grape Commission, suggests that adding about 2 cups of grapes per day to a high fat Western diet led to a decrease in fatty liver disease and a longer lifespan in mice. Fatty liver disease can lead to liver cirrhosis and eventually liver cancer. According to the study findings, table grapes may have an important role to play in reducing the incidence of fatty liver disease and its lethal sequelae. Grape consumption, health, and longevity Lead author John Pezzuto, PhD, dean and professor of pharmaceutics of the Western New England University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, said that his research demonstrates how eating grapes could help to offset some of the effects of a high fat Western diet. “First, lifespan is increased, which indicates a global, full-body response,” Pezzuto told Healthline. “Next, the antioxidant defense system of the body is enhanced. Additionally, fatty liver, which is estimated to affect 25% of the population and lead to poor health outcomes, is prevented or at least delayed.” According to Pezzuto, the study findings also indicate that anyone could potentially benefit from eating more grapes, regardless of which diet type or eating pattern a person might adhere to. “The mechanisms we have shown to be mediated by grapes can be generalized to promote good health, irrespective of diet,” Pezzuto said. Grapes boost microbiome function A healthy gut microbiome is important for overall health and well-being and influences the functioning of vital organs, including the brain.  Study co-author Jeffrey Idle, PhD, director and endowed professor at the Arthur G. Zupko’s Systems Pharmacology and Pharmacogenomics at Long Island University, explained that it was apparent in the research that the addition of grapes had a profound effect on microbiota in the mouse model. But further research is still needed to establish whether the health effects of grapes can be reproduced in humans, particularly if grape consumption could reduce or reverse fatty liver disease. Grapes may not offset poor eating habits In general, experts do not recommend a high fat Western diet, even if adding more grapes into the mix could potentially offset some — but not all — of the negative effects. “Grapes are known to contain resveratrol, a phytonutrient [and] antioxidant that is anti-inflammatory, and may be beneficial to health,” said Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, senior clinical dietitian UCLA Medical Center, assistant professor UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and author of “Recipe For Survival.” “With that said, a high fat [or] high-animal-protein Western diet cannot fully be negated with just the addition of 2 cups of grapes [per] day, just as we have seen that adding fish oil supplements to an unhealthy diet is not a panacea for what ails us either.”  Hunnes noted that it’s often difficult to observe any sufficient changes in health outcomes in nutrition studies conducted over short periods of time, particularly in non-human animal studies (Pezzuto’s mouse study spanned just over 18 weeks). Healthy eating patterns for disease prevention Research from 2020 attributes the high fat Western diet to the prevalence of fatty liver disease in developed countries like the United States, with as many as one-quarter of all Americans affected. To reduce the effects of Western eating patterns, most health experts recommend following a healthy, balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense whole foods. For example, a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fish and plant-forward foods, is high in nutrients, including healthy fats (monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats), which are known for their health benefits and ability to help ward off chronic disease. In addition, a whole-foods, plant-based diet, when balanced, is known to lower the risk for chronic conditions including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease. In other words, simply adding a couple of cups of grapes to an otherwise unhealthy diet is less effective for overall health than following a healthy, balanced eating pattern for life. According to the new research, grapes can be a valuable addition to the current dietary recommendations. “Such that diet influences disease, a healthy, balanced diet provides the best overall disease prevention,” Idle said. “Daily consumption of 5 servings per day of fruit and vegetables has been recommended, with no stipulation as to specific fruits, for example. Our research in conjunction with Dr. Pezzuto strongly suggests that table grapes should be a major constituent of these 5 servings per day.” Areas for further research A next step worth investigating could be the palliative effect of grapes on the development of fatty liver disease. “This might be profoundly important since so many people are affected by fatty liver. We need to examine this in greater detail,” Pezzuto said. “We are particularly fascinated by the effect of grapes on gene expression. We have reported this effect in the brain and liver, both with good outcomes, but we know from unpublished work that gene expression is also changed in other tissues, like the kidney, for example,” Pezzuto said. “We will explore this in greater detail.”  In addition, Pezzuto’s grape study was conducted with females, and his team is currently conducting studies to investigate the effect of grapes on males. “Some colleagues have suggested the effects may be even greater [in] males,” Pezzuto said. “This is a long-term study, but we are excited to have the opportunity to continue this work.” Takeaway The growing body of research on the health benefits of grapes speaks to the positive health effects of consuming a nutrient-rich whole food.  “Overall, I believe this work will be viewed as a tour de force in the field of nutrigenomics,” Pezzuto said. “Not only [are] ‘you are what you eat,’ but ‘you become what you eat’ through alteration of gene expression, even in the brain. You must wonder if dietary habits and behavior and personality are more closely related than ever imagined.” Despite the positive findings, however, experts note that adding healthy foods like grapes to an otherwise unhealthy diet is unlikely to make a significant impact on human health and lifespan over the long term. Further studies in humans are still needed to determine whether grape consumption can reduce the risk for chronic diseases like fatty liver and increase lifespan. For now, experts continue to recommend a healthy, balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense whole foods to promote overall health and well-being.

  • Updated CDC COVID-19 Guidelines: No More Social Distancing, Quarantine, or Test-to-Stay for Schools
    on August 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    The CDC has announced new COVID-19 guidelines that are less stringent than the previous recommendations. Leo Patrizi/Getty Images The revised guidelines are now the same for both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, reflecting the high levels of population immunity from vaccination, prior COVID-19 infection, or both.The new guidelines include a significant easing of social distancing and quarantine requirements.The CDC also no longer recommends “test to stay” for schools that allow children to remain in class as long as they test negative after exposure to the virus.Experts also acknowledge that the agency likely made these changes to better align with observed public behavior and changing attitudes toward COVID-19. Changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 guidelines were announced on Thursday, according to an agency press release. The revised guidance is explained in a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) and includes ending the recommendation that children in different classrooms avoid mixing, a practice called “cohorting.” The CDC also no longer recommends “test to stay,” which allowed children in close contact with someone COVID-19 positive to remain in class as long as they tested negative for the virus. “This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives,” Greta Massetti, Ph.D., MPH, and MMWR author, said in a statement. CDC guidelines will recognize differing risk factors The revised guidelines will bring the recommendations for unvaccinated people in line with those who have been fully vaccinated, reflecting high levels of population immunity from vaccination, prior COVID-19 infection, or both. Dr. Theodore Strange, associate chair of medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in Staten Island, New York, told Healthline that we should use “common sense” regarding transmission risks. Strange also advised we take precautions as the situation merits. “If you’re going to be in an environment where you have an elderly grandmother, and you’re concerned, and it’s an allergy season, [and] you have some sniffles, put a mask on,” he said.   The virus will be with us for a long time “Because this virus has become less virulent as it has gone on in its progression and mutations, this virus is going to be living with us for a long time,” said Strange. According to Strange, the coronavirus has moved from infecting the lower respiratory tract to the upper respiratory tract, where it causes a cold and sore throat. “It’s the cold virus,” he said. “What we’re actually seeing is people with cold symptoms and flu symptoms.” Changes are an admission of reality Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology at Northwell Health and the chief of infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital and LIJ Medical Center, thinks changes like these are partly an “admission of reality” from the CDC. “I can’t speak for the CDC, but I think in this particular case that their guidelines have to be, at least somewhat, in touch with what people are doing regardless of what their guidelines are,” he said. He also believes that, in some respects, it’s an admission that the agency has lost the ability to make policies that are “really followed.” “From that point of view, it’s a practical reality and whether the consequences of it will be significantly different than what otherwise would have occurred is far from clear,” he said. “I think we all know that people are not following most of those guidelines anyway.” Learning to live with COVID-19 The new guidelines include easing social distancing and quarantine requirements. “So we’re going to have to figure how we best can live with this without affecting society with lockdowns,” admitted Strange. He also pointed out that we can’t have kids “walking around in school wearing masks all day.” “It’s not good for their social health and mental health, physical health. It just doesn’t work,” he added. He pointed out that vaccination is key to controlling the pandemic, saying that there’s “no question” we want to protect the most vulnerable among us. “And the best way to do that is with immunizations, no questions [about it], and the boosters,” he said. Fight against pandemic at a “stalemate” Farber said we’ve reached a “stalemate” in our fight against the pandemic virus. “The pandemic is obviously not over. You can call it endemic, you can call it a pandemic, but needless to say, I think it’s obvious to everyone that COVID has not disappeared,” he said. “It is not disappearing and at no time in the foreseeable future, in my mind, probably our lifetimes, where COVID is going to be gone,” he continued. Farber did note that the virus is less virulent, and the “overwhelming majority” of the American population has some immunity to it. “There are treatments for it,” said Farber. “People who get vaccinated and get treated early rarely die.” Are enough children being vaccinated to justify the changes? “Probably not, no,” said Farber. He emphasized that vaccine uptake in the pediatric population has been “disappointing” to public health people, including himself. “Some studies show that it’s only 30 percent. It all depends on what age group you look at,” he continued. Farber pointed out that in the youngest age group, those under the age of five who may be in day care and other settings have a “fairly low” vaccination rate. “So, no, I don’t think vaccination rates are particularly good,” he said. Exceeding CDC guidelines by region Farber believes it’s advisable for certain regions or localities to exceed the revised CDC recommendations. “This is a big country … we have 340 million people,” he said. “Rates vary frequently among different parts of the country, and I think yes, I think one size probably will not fit all.” He said this is also because there’ll be “clusters and there’ll be events” in localized communities whether they’re super-spreader events or other COVID strains that crop up. “That would merit that places have the ability to gear these [recommendations] to their local community rates and their local desires,” said Farber. He warned that this is five times the number of people who die from flu every year and will probably continue to die of COVID. “That’s why I call it a stalemate,” said Farber. “It’s certainly not gone. Anyone who thinks it’s gone is not seeing things the way they are.” The bottom line The CDC has announced new COVID-19 guidelines that are less stringent than the previous recommendations. Experts say this is partly due to the agency losing its ability to set rules that will be followed by the public. They also say that being vaccinated and getting our booster shots may be the best way to protect those people most vulnerable to the disease.

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