Category: Lifestyle

Vaping on the Rise

In 1965, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) began tracking cigarette smoking in the United States. Although it is still a widespread and serious problem in the US, the rates of traditional cigarette smoking have steadily declined. Now, in 2018, our nation is faced with a new tobacco use: vaping.

A new statement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that adolescents are vaping at a dangerous level. From 2017 to 2018, the FDA found an 80% increase in the number of high schoolers vaping, and a 50% increase in middle schoolers. In total, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control found that one out of five high schoolers have vaped in the last month.

Many people worry that the spike in adolescent vaping is a result of youth-targeted branding by e-cigarette companies. In particular, many people have pointed fingers at the e-cigarette brand “Juul”. In the recent past, Juul’s advertising campaigns contained images full of young faces, bright colors, and several fruit-flavored vaping options. Now, due to a series of initiatives from the FDA, Juul has recalled many of these campaigns and suspended sales of untraditional flavors.

Evidence does suggest that e-cigarettes should be safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes. However, these products are still new to the market and health-associated risks have not been fully evaluated.  In addition, when adolescents vape they are still being exposed to nicotine. This is a dangerous and addictive substance which can be harmful to a developing brain.

 

 

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0118-smoking-rates-declining.html

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm625884.htm

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/15/health/fda-vaping-ecigarette-regulation/index.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/13/health/juul-ecigarettes-vaping-teenagers.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4110871/

https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/knowtherisks.html

 

 

 

Run Long, Live Longer?

Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for you – it controls your weight, helps you combat disease, improves mood and energy, and many other benefits. However, the extent to which exercising can improve and lengthen your life is still being discovered. Now, a new literature review has shown that exercising regularly can generously lengthen life expectancy.

The review found that people who engage in the highest levels of physical activity lived up to 5.5 years on average longer than those who did not. A different study discovered similar benefits. Researchers found that women who regularly exercised were at a 31% lower chance of dying prematurely.

These results show that exercise may be a crucial tool to living a longer life. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published physical activity guidelines which can help people improve their health by exercising. Following these recommendations can help anyone engage in this healthy behavior, and get them on track for a longer, healthier lifestyle.

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6139866/pdf/ms115_p0098.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25844730

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/policies_practices/physical_activity/guidelines.htm

 

 

meet the new, self-lubricating condom

It’s no secret that the U.S. still has a long way to go in the field of contraceptives and STI prevention. According to the CDC in 2017, only about one-third of sexually active Americans use condoms, and it has been a long-term public health issue. Abstaining from condom use (or other forms of protection) during sex can lead to a myriad of health concerns, including unwanted pregnancies, bacterial and viral infections. These new troubling statistics beg questions as to why condom use is so low, especially amongst those who aren’t opting for other birth control or protective options.

Scientists at Boston University have acknowledged this issue, and have responded with a new, friction-lowering self-lubricating condom that may up condom usage. Some of the reasons people abstain from use is due to complaints that condoms are uncomfortable, painful and detract from sensation and sexual pleasure. The team at BU has found a way to eliminate some of these negative qualities with their new technology. This new condom has the ability to self-lubricate when it comes into contact with moisture – such as bodily fluids – making sexual experiences more comfortable and enjoyable.

Their study showed that 73% individuals surveyed preferred the texture of their new condom, and also noted that they would be more inclined to use condoms such as this one. The condom still has to be tested during sex, but if introduced to the market, it could increase the prevalence of safe-sex behaviors and contraceptive use.

 

 

 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr105.pdf

https://consumer.healthday.com/sexual-health-information-32/condom-health-news-154/only-about-one-third-of-americans-use-condoms-cdc-725436.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/17/health/condoms-self-lubricating-prevent-stds-intl/index.html

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1258/ijsa.2008.008120?journalCode=stda

http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/5/10/180291

 

 

 

 

Yogurt: a health food packing stealthy sugar

It seems as if everyone is always trying to find foods that are both nutritious AND delicious. Recently, it seems as if yogurt has become many people’s go-to option. Yogurt is praised for its nutritious profile: it’s high in protein, calcium, and “healthy” probiotics. While all this remains true, it’s important to consider the looming sugar content within these products.

A new study is criticizing many popular yogurts for their deceptively high sugar contents. Within the study – which examined over 900 yogurt brands found in UK grocery stores – only 9% of general yogurts can be considered low in sugar. What’s worse, only a measly 2% of yogurts marketed exclusively to children can be classified as low sugar.

Along with these findings, it became apparent that products marketed as “organic” may be among the worst offenders. Organic is a term used to described the processes behind a food’s production. Although items which are USDA Organic Certified may be produced ethically, this label does not have specific nutrition implications. Despite this, people often think an organic product is healthier than a non-organic option. The study found quite the opposite: that organic yogurts have substantial amounts of sugar, especially when compared to their natural and Greek yogurt counterparts.

As a snack, yogurt is not a bad choice. The health benefits prevail, and it often beats out many other sugary snack options. But when picking out your next yogurt at the store, it’s worthwhile to pause and consider the varying sugar contents. This way, you can pick the healthiest option… or just call it dessert.

 

https://invisiverse.wonderhowto.com/news/yogurt-isnt-just-probiotic-its-unique-proteins-kill-bad-bacteria-0178030/

https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/8/e021387

https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/about/live-healthy/consumer-labels?gclid=Cj0KCQjwuafdBRDmARIsAPpBmVXF1IT7cB-KLvFRhzGXTiRjwaGDyUr5wOmO3zPqDxUJn8YLRswira4aAgHiEALw_wcB

 

 

 

Hurricanes & Our Health

As Hurricane Florence approaches, there are many worries on the minds of those who live in its path. Residents in the South Eastern United States are anxious about the wellbeing of their property, belongings, surrounding environment and loved ones. Along with these concerns, it’s important to be weary of how a destructive hurricane can also have serious implications on medicine and public health. Considering these risks before the onset of the storm could eliminate smaller preventable problems and render larger issues easier to address.

Before the hurricane arrives, it’s advised that any medical prescriptions be refilled and retrieved promptly. Resultant power outages and infrastructural damages may limit a pharmacy’s ability to operate and supply their patients’ needs. If you know you are at risk of power outages, it’s important to stock up on non-perishable foods, water, and anything else necessary for your individual health. Along with this, following proper safety precautions to protect your home from water and wind damage can also prevent a number of storm-related injuries.

In North Carolina, the magnitude of rain expected to come with Hurricane Florence is especially worrisome. Excessive rainfall could cause flooding in farmland which contain animal manure lagoons. Such lagoons could overflow, spreading waste and increasing risk of disease transmission. Additionally, North Carolina is home to a number of dangerous coal-ash ponds. If these sites flood, it could unleash this waste into the surrounding environment. Coal-ash is toxic, and if released from ponds could contaminate people’s public drinking water.

 

https://www.wltx.com/article/news/local/make-preparations-for-your-health-ahead-of-hurricane-florence/101-592900265

 

http://time.com/5392478/hurricane-florence-risks-sludge-manure/

 

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/hurricane-safety-tips/

 

 

 

The Keto Diet: Healthy or Unhealthy?

It seems like every couple of years a different diet fad takes the world by storm, often touting weight loss and/or a host of health benefits, and the ketogenic “keto” diet is no exception. This latest diet trend has produced quite the buzz in recent years for its potential weight loss benefits, but the verdict seems mixed on just how healthy this diet may be.

The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. This includes eating foods such as meats, cheeses, eggs, fish, and oils, and avoiding foods such as breads, fruits, starchy vegetables, and sugars.  Carbohydrates provide our bodies with glucose that gives us energy. By consuming less carbohydrates, our bodies are forced to turn to fats as a source of energy, placing our body in a state of “ketosis.”

While the keto diet has only recently made headlines, it has actually been used for nearly a century as a sort of last medical resort for treating individuals with epilepsy, particularly children. However, while beneficial for these individuals, it may not necessarily benefit those with other health conditions. Further, it is still  unknown what the long-term effects of a ketogenic diet are.

In an interview with Plant Based News, Dr. Kim Williams, former President of the American College of Cardiology, claimed that, while it may offer short-term weight loss, the keto diet offers limited health benefits. Furthermore, in a recent study by Seidelmann et al. (2018), researchers found that low-carbohydrate diets that relied on animal proteins and fats were associated with greater risk of death. As Dr. Marcelo Campos, lecturer at Harvard Medical School, describes, the keto diet can include heavy red meat and unhealthy foods that are fatty and processed. Further, the keto diet may lead to nutritional deficiencies given its high-fat diet. Ultimately, Dr. Campos suggests that individuals engage in long-term, sustainable change, consuming a balanced, unprocessed diet as opposed to a short-term diet like the keto diet.

What are your thoughts on the keto diet? Let us know in the comments below!

References

Belluz, Julia. (2018, June 13). The keto diet, explained. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/2/21/16965122/keto-diet-reset

Campos, Marcelo. (2017, July 27). Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketogenic-diet-is-the-ultimate-low-carb-diet-good-for-you-2017072712089

Chiorando, Maria. (2018, August 24). ‘No One Should Be Doing Keto Diet’ Says Leading Cardiologist. Retrieved from https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/no-one-should-be-doing-keto-diet-leading-cardiologist

Epilepsy Society. (2016, March). Ketogenic Diet. Retrieved from https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/ketogenic-diet

Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. (N.d.). Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/

Seidelmann, S. B., Claggett, B., Cheng, S., Henglin, M., Shah, A., Steffen, L. M., … & Solomon, S. D. (2018). Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. The Lancet Public Health.

WebMD. (2017, February 1). What’s a Ketogenic Diet? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-ketogenic-diet

 

 

Dr Lisa on the Streets: An approach to improve health literacy

Health literacy has become a buzzword not only in the public health world but in general. As the technologies, treatments and advancements are improving the quality of medicine, the way that these new discoveries are communicated are not. One physician and public health professional has made it her mission to increase the awareness of the health literacy crisis here in the United States by taking it to who it affects the most, Americans. She has launched a “Dr. Lisa on the Streets” campaign to increase awareness and gather support to improve the way health information is communicated. In her TedX talk “Are you confused about health information? You’re not alone” she discusses the economic consequences of low health literacy and how as a nation we can attempt to improve this. She refers to the “grapevine” (casual conversations, internet etc.) as one of the most powerful educators and needing to capitalize on this as a means of sharing health information.

Here are few strategies mentioned in the video about improving health literacy:

  • Manage the grapevine, it’s like ivy if it isn’t maintained it will get out of control
    • Need grapevine to counteract misinformation through verification before spreading information
  • Doctors need to embrace technology
    • Change is inspired by the masses
  • Health literacy is up to you!
    • Avoid gaps in care
    • Find your provider
    • Be persistent

To learn more about this movement and health literacy watch the full TedX talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x6DLqtaK2g

“Organic Pesticide” Feels Like an Oxymoron

North Carolina was in the top ten states (we were number 10, but still) of certified organic commodity sales in 2016. People purchase organic because they believe that it is healthier and safer. How true is this? Admittedly, this is an overwhelming question. My primary response is that more research is needed. Until then, here is a general synthesis of what we know so far.

Nutritionally speaking, some research has found higher levels of nutrients/vitamins in organic while other research has found no significant difference to nutritional quality. The jury is out on that—did I mention the need for more research?

Pesticide wise, just because something is “natural” does not mean that it is safe. Arsenic is natural. Here is an excerpt from the National Pesticide Information Center:

Organic foods are not necessarily pesticide-free. The pesticides that are allowed for organic food production are typically not manmade. They tend to have natural substances like soaps, lime sulfur and hydrogen peroxide as ingredients. Not all natural substances are allowed in organic agriculture; some chemicals like arsenic, strychnine and tobacco dust (nicotine sulfate) are prohibited.

Well thank goodness they don’t allow arsenic, I would’ve thought that went without saying.

The EWG’s Dirty Dozen list we talked about a few weeks ago only noted the presence of residue, not the amount or the type. In 2011, Winter and colleagues published a paper in the Journal of Toxicology in response to these lists. Their conclusion was that exposure to the 12 most commonly detected pesticides in conventional farming pose negligible risks to consumers and that substituting organic pesticides does not decrease this negligible risk.

After trying to make sense of this issue of whether organic is objectively (and empirically) better than convention, my sentiment is mixed. A common notion I came across in researching this was that the dose amount of pesticide is what makes the difference in toxicity. The naturally-derived substances seem to have the capability of being toxic just like the conventional ones.

So what should the takeaway be? Rinse your produce, just rinse it no matter what you buy.

Bring on the zinc oxide!

As the temperatures begin to rise and the sun starts to shine means many of us will be flocking to the nearest body of water whether that’s the neighborhood pool or the breezing beach. As I am getting ready for my beach weekend, I head to the nearest drug store to stock up on all the essentials: diet coke, snacks, trashy tabloids and of course sunscreen. I always look dumbfounded in the sunscreen aisle since there are so many to pick from and how do you know which one works best? For those with fair skin like me I burn fairy quickly after being in the sun so I’m always looking for the highest SPF to protect my skin. Many dermatologists such that any SPF over 50 doesn’t significant protect much more against UVA/UVB rays and folks using the higher SPF sunscreens and feel more protected and therefore don’t practice other protective behaviors such as wearing hats and seeking shade. However, there is a new mineral that provides your skin an additional layer of protection, zinc oxide. Zinc oxide provides a physical barrier between your skin and the sun and deflects the sun off your skin while traditional sunscreens absorb the rays. So next time you are purchasing sunscreen make sure to check out those with zinc oxide!

 

References:

http://www.businessinsider.com/do-high-spf-sunscreens-work-better-50-2017-5?r=UK&IR=T

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mineral-sunscreen_us_591e8d33e4b03b485cb0543b

“Is it organic?”

No those aren’t transformers you’re not about to be Michael Bay-ed. Last week we talked about the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists of produce with the most and least amounts of pesticide residue found on them. And as promised, let’s take a closer look at what exactly that USDA organic label provides (does peace of mind count).

Below is a very useful breakdown from the Mayo Clinic.

What is organic farming?
The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to meet the following goals:
• Enhance soil and water quality
• Reduce pollution
• Promote a self-sustaining cycle of resources on a farm

Materials or practices not permitted in organic farming include:
• Synthetic fertilizers to add nutrients to the soil
• Sewage sludge as fertilizer
• Most synthetic pesticides for pest control
• Irradiation to preserve food or to eliminate disease or pests
• Genetic engineering, used to improve disease or pest resistance or to improve crop yields

Organic crop farming materials or practices may include:
• Plant waste left on fields (green manure), livestock manure or compost to improve soil quality
• Plant rotation to preserve soil quality and to interrupt cycles of pests or disease
• Cover crops that prevent erosion when parcels of land are not in use and to plow into soil for improving soil quality
• Mulch to control weeds
• Predatory insects or insect traps to control pests
• Certain natural pesticides and a few synthetic pesticides approved for organic farming, used rarely and only as a last resort in coordination with a USDA organic certifying agent

Me again. So what are those benefits? Organically grown crops have been shown less likely to contain pesticides and 48% less likely to test positive for cadmium (toxic heavy metal). The jury seems to be out on whether organic compared to conventionally grown impacts the level/quality of nutrients in the produce. As mentioned last week it’s a good idea to give produce a good rinse before consuming; it may also be a good idea to peel/remove the outer layer of conventionally grown produce that made the Dirty Dozen to limit pesticide injection. This may in turn then decrease the level of nutrients the produce provides. Next post, let’s explore the research on pesticides.

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880

http://time.com/4871915/health-benefits-organic-food/