The American Heart Association released a first-ever scientific statement Monday addressing children’s consumption of added sugar and how it affects heart health. The statement, published in Circulation, recommended that children and teens have no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day (about 25 grams or 100 calories), and no more than 8ounces of sugary drinks per week. The AHA is also advising that kids under age 2 avoid added sugars altogether.
Currently, American children consume three times the recommended amount of added sugar, Dr. Miriam Vos, lead author of the statement and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said in a news release. Vos additionally told LiveScience that parents don’t always know the amount of calories their kids eat daily.
The impact of consuming too much sugar could be fatal. The AHA cites a landmark 2014 study in JAMA Internal Medicine suggesting that indulging in too much sugar could lead to a higher risk of dying from heart disease.
This statement comes on the heels of stepped up efforts by the federal government to regulate consumption of added sugars. Come July 2018, the Food and Drug Administration will mandate that food manufacturers include added sugar stats directly on food labels.
Politico points out that all kid-centered foods, like yogurt and cereal, could now lose popularity among health-conscious parents, though sugary drinks will be hit hardest – a 20-ounce Pepsi has 69 grams of sugar.
Questions still remain that require further research, such as whether the consumption of artificial sweetener impacts children’s health and whether 100 percent juice poses the same potential risks as sugar-sweetened drinks.
STUDY OBJECTIVE: Venomous snakebites can be painful, costly, and potentially life threatening. We seek to learn whether ordinary clothing (denim material from blue jeans) interferes with the kinematics of venom delivery, thereby reducing the amount of venom injected by a representative viper into a human limb.
METHODS: In a laboratory study, we used model human limbs (warm, saline solution-filled gloves) to elicit defensive strikes from small and large southern Pacific rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus helleri). Each snake was videotaped biting a bare glove and a denim-covered glove.
RESULTS: The snakes injected significantly less venom into denim-covered gloves than bare gloves during defensive strikes, with a 60% reduction for small snakes and 66% for large snakes. Latency to bite, number of bites, and duration of fang contact during the bite were similar for the 2 glove types, suggesting that the 2 targets elicited similar defensive behaviors and strikes. Several findings suggested that denim interfered with venom delivery, including the high proportion of dry bites for denim-covered gloves and the large quantity of venom spilled harmlessly on the denim cover. Large rattlesnakes struck more readily, maintained longer fang contact during the bite, and delivered 26 to 41 times more venom into gloves than small snakes.
CONCLUSION: In our model, denim clothing proved effective at reducing venom injection by both small and large rattlesnakes. Wearing long denim pants as an alternative to shorts may provide a simple, low-cost means of reducing the severity of snakebites.
You may have heard stories of that person who eats right and exercises regularly, yet suffered from a major heart attack nonetheless. Maybe you know someone personally who has had this experience. Maybe you have had this experience.
The fact is, no matter how perfectly you eat or how fit you are, there’s no guarantee that you’ll remain heart attack-free.
CNN described the story of one 37-year-old man who exercised daily and ate right, yet suffered a major heart attack.1 Luckily, he was able to get help quickly and recovered, but many are not so fortunate.
The most common symptom of heart disease is sudden death from a heart attack. The condition can strike suddenly, even in people without known risk factors.
However, such cases are the exception and you can significantly reduce your heart attack risk by leading a healthy lifestyle. This will also greatly improve your chances of surviving a heart attack should one occur.
Exercise Increases Your Chances of Surviving a Heart Attack
Researchers from the Henry Ford Health System, in Detroit, and Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore, found that people who were physically fit were 40 percent less likely to die within a year following their first heart attack compared to those who were out of shape.2
Physical fitness was measured using an exercise stress test. The fitter the person, the lower their likelihood of dying from a heart attack became. Specifically, for each level of increased fitness reached during the stress test, the risk of dying in the year following the first heart attack dropped by up to 10 percent.
The association was so strong, the researchers compared low fitness to other traditional risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes, for early death following a heart attack.
Top 6 Factors That Predict Your Heart Attack Risk
If you want to reduce your risk of a heart attack, you should absolutely pay attention to your diet and exercise habits. These, along with four other habits, were said to basically make young women “heart attack-proof,” according to research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.3
Women who adhered to all six guidelines lowered their heart disease risk by 92 percent. Based on that, researchers estimated that more than 70 percent of heart attacks could be prevented by implementing the following:
With respect to BMI, it should be noted that your waist-to-hip ratio is a more reliable risk predictor because it reflects visceral fat. And more reliable still would be an accurate assessment of body fat percentage.
Still, the results of this study echo the results of a 2014 study concluding that essentially the same health habits could prevent nearly 80 percent of first-time heart attacks in men.4
5 Lifestyle Changes Could Prevent 80 Percent of Heart Attacks
Research conducted at the Karolinska Institutet found that engaging in five healthy lifestyle habits could prevent nearly 80 percent of first-time heart attacks in men. Even the researchers were surprised at how powerful a healthy lifestyle could be, noting:5
“It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks … What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped due to these factors.”
The 2004 INTERHEART study, which looked at heart disease risk factors in over 50 countries around the world, also found that 90 percent of heart disease cases are completely preventable by modifying diet and lifestyle factors.6
Unfortunately, most people are not using these lifestyle habits to their advantage. The Karolinska Institutet study involved men aged 45 to 79, and only 1 percent of them engaged in all five of the “low-risk” behaviors that could prevent a heart attack. So what are the five healthy lifestyle habits?
- A healthy diet
- Being physically active (walking/bicycling ≥ 40 minutes/day and exercising ≥ 1 hour/week)
- Healthy waist circumference (waist circumference < 95 centimeters)
- Moderate alcohol consumption (10 to 30 grams/day)
- No smoking
I used to watch guys at the gym all the time for one reason only. Some of them were just plain massive! I think everyone has probably seen guys like that before, where they look like they live in a gym 24/7. I did not have the right type of body to look like that, or at least that is what I thought when I first started lifting weights. I was doing it just to build up a bit of muscle, though I secretly wanted huge muscles. I heard some of them talking about Pump 2400 supplements my second week of lifting, and I went home and looked that up on the Internet.
I had no idea what it meant, but I knew that I would be able to find it online. My search did not disappoint me. I actually learned about Pump 2400 as well as another supplement called TST 1700.
People are constantly releasing new pollutants into the watery environment. Some may be bits of plastic we can see. Others may be chemicals that wash down the drain or get flushed down the toilet. We may not see those chemicals, but three teens have shown that some polluting wastes can harm freshwater organisms, such as water fleas. But even these can play important roles in watery ecosystems.
Sarayu K. Das, Ella Suzanne Haefner and Elaine Adams presented the results of their research at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Created by Society for Science & the Public and sponsored by Intel, the 2016 competition brought together more than 1,600 students from over 70 countries. (SSP also publishes Science News for Students.)
All three teens studied the tiny creature Daphnia magna — a small freshwater crustacean popularly known as the water flea. (It’s not really a flea, but a relative of shrimp and crayfish.) Although Daphnia may only be a single millimeter (0.039 inch) long, these critters are a large source of food for bigger animals.
A germ-killer floods in
When people try to kill microbes that can cause infection, they may turn to antimicrobials such as triclosan. Many hand soaps and other cleaning products (even toothpaste) may include this widely used chemical. But Ella and Elaine worried that triclosan might harm more than germs. To find out, the 17-year-olds at Loyola High School in Mankato, Minn., put it to the test.
Neither had heard of triclosan before looking for a science fair project. But “it’s being banned in Minnesota in 2017,” Elaine explains. So, she and Ella thought, as a potentially dangerous chemical, “We wanted to test its effect on the environment.”
They decided to use Daphnia as their guinea pig. Being “at the bottom of the food chain, small juvenile fish eat them [the Daphnia],” explains Ella. That makes water fleas a very important indicator species, she says. “If there’s no Daphnia,” she argues, juvenile fish may go hungry and die off. If that happens, she worries, the rest of the ecosystem might suffer.
Triclosan has already been found in streams in the teens’ home state. Ella and Elaine wanted to know whether the levels of triclosan in that water was high enough to hurt water fleas.
They selected concentrations seen in streams of three cities in their state — Duluth, Worthington and Hutchinson. Worthington had the lowest levels — only 18 nanograms of triclosan per liter of water (or 0.018 parts per billion, or ppb). Hutchinson had 0.18 ppb and Duluth had 0.41 ppb. These were well below the triclosan level considered a possible risk to people: 50 ppb.
The teens filled 20 cups with spring water, then placed 10 water fleas in each. They added enough triclosan to reach levels of 18 ppb in five cups, 0.18 ppb in another five and 0.41 ppb in five more. A final five cups contained no triclosan. These served as their controls.
Elaine and Ella monitored the cups for 21 days, counting the water fleas every day. They tracked how many died and how many were born. After the 21 days, the control and the two lower doses had Daphnia that were doing equally well. But a level of 0.41 ppb triclosan proved harmful. Fewer water fleas were born and more died. “It shows that even the levels in our environment today are having an effect,” Ella concludes.
The girls hope their data will raise awareness of risks posed by even low levels of triclosan. “Minnesota is the only state to have banned it already,” explains Elaine. “Canada has banned it. Japan has banned it. It’s on a list of dangerous chemicals for the United Nations, so other countries are aware of it. Banning it across the country will really help the ecosystem as a whole,” she believes.
Antibacterial soaps will not remain on U.S. grocery store shelves for much longer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, has just approved a new measure that will ban 19 ingredients in soaps. The ban will go into effect in one year. All of the banned substances had been promoted as germ killers.
What made FDA take this move? The term “antibacterial” suggests that such soaps can halt the spread of germs. In fact, “we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” says Janet Woodcock. She directs FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. It’s in Silver Spring, Md. Three years ago, FDA asked soap makers to submit data on the safety and efficacy of such products. But they could not prove that these chemicals made their products better than regular soap at getting rid of germs.
Worse, some data suggest these germ killers “may do more harm than good over the long-term,” Woodcock adds.
Why? In the Federal Register document outlining the new ban, FDA described this issue. Antiseptic chemicals do kill germs. But low levels of these chemicals are not very effective. Any germ that isn’t killed may even evolve a resistance to these chemicals — especially when exposed to dilute amounts. And when these chemicals wash down a sink’s drain and into the environment, they will be diluted. Once a microbe develops genes to resist the “germ killer,” it can share those genes with other germs. Eventually, a great many germs may become resistant to — unaffected by — these chemicals.
The soon-to-be outlawed chemicals include triclosan (TRY-klo-san) and triclocarban. They are the two most widely used non-prescription antiseptics. Each year, U.S. soap manufacturers use an estimated 363,614 kilograms (799,426 pounds) of triclosan and 640,000 kilograms of triclocarban for their products, FDA said.
Concerns over triclosan
Of the two chemicals, triclosan is best known. That’s largely because of studies pointing to the risks it may pose.
A report on triclosan in Science News, 15 months ago, noted that: “In people, the chemical shows up in blood, urine, breast milk, umbilical cords and snot. The health risks of prenatal doses of triclosan are unknown. In the nose, however, researchers found that triclosan-laced snot helps Staphylococcus aureus bacteria invade the body. Such invasions increased the risk of staph infections, which can cause pneumonia.” Pneumonia is a potentially life-threatening lung disease.
The triclosan that washes down the drain when people wash their hands flows to city water-treatment plants. There the pollutant can affect the bacteria relied upon to break down sewage. Studies have suggested that the chemical can kill off some of these good microbes. And it can make others resistant to the antiseptic.
The European Union has reported finding concentrations of triclosan in a number of regions that suggest “bacterial resistance could occur,” the FDA said. There’s no proof that triclosan resistance is a public health risk yet. But FDA cited studies indicating that resistance to this chemical is building.
That’s why, to play it safe, FDA noted that it could not characterize this chemical — or the others affected by the new ban — as “generally recognized as safe.”
The new FDA ban does not include hand sanitizers. FDA is studying them separately. In the meantime, the agency recommends using hand sanitizers that are at least 60 percent alcohol. Or people can just wash with old-school soap and water.
We’re living longer than ever before and our death rates are falling, but the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s national report card shows where we’re still falling down.
The Australia’s Health biennial report released Tuesday “shows that Australia has much to be proud of in terms of health,” AIHW director and chief executive Barry Sandison said.
A baby boy born between 2012 and 2014 can expect to live to 80.3 years old and a baby girl’s life expectancy is 84.4, and our disease survival rates are rising.
But how well did Australians score on our national report card?
1. We think we’re healthy, but we could be kidding ourselves
Australians are optimistic folk, but we might think we’re healthier than we really are. About 85 per cent of Australians aged 15 and over rated their health as ‘good’, ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ in 2014-2015. Our self-rated health is better than most developed countries, ranking fourth of 38 OECD nations behind New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
“Most of us consider ourselves to be in good health,” Mr Sandison said.
But the burden of health problems is bigger than we like to admit. Half of all Australians have at least one chronic disease, 19 per cent have a disability and 20 per cent had a mental health disorder in the past 12 months. A total of 13 per cent still smoke daily, 18 per cent drink alcohol at risky levels and 95 per cent don’t eat the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables.
“And while 55 per cent do enough physical activity, 63 per cent of us are overweight or obese,” Mr Sandison said.
2. Australia’s new biggest killer
For the first time cancer has overtaken cardiovascular disease as the biggest overall cause of death in Australia, the report shows. The total number of deaths due to all types of cancer combined was 44,100 in 2013. Cardiovascular disease accounted for 43,600.
But while the number of cancer cases rose 22 per cent between 1982 and 2016, more people are surviving cancer. Five-year survival rates jumped from 40 to 66 per cent for males and 52 to 68 per cent for females between 1982 and 2011.
Coronary heart disease was still the leading specific cause of death, totalling 19,800 of the 147,700 deaths recorded in Australia that year, though death rates falling by 75 per cent over the past three decades.
The top five disease specific mortality rankings for all deaths in 2013 were: coronary heart disease 13.4 per cent; dementia and Alzheimers 7.4 per cent; cerebrovascular disease 7.1 per cent; lung cancer 5.6 per cent; and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 4.4 per cent.
Cancer also took the greatest toll on those living with disease, accounting for 19 per cent of Australia’s disease burden, compared to 15 per cent for cardiovascular disease, and 12 per cent for mental illness and substance-use disorders respectively in 2011.
3. Cash-strapped Aussies are avoiding dental work
Almost one third of people reported delaying or avoiding a visit to the dentist due to the cost in 2013. People with no private health insurance were more than twice as likely to avoid an appointment as those with insurance (44 per cent vs 20 per cent).
One in five patients who did visit a dentist in the previous 12 months did not have the recommended dental work done due to the cost of the treatment.
4. Too many kids are overweight and obese
Almost one in five Australian children between five and 14 years old were overweight, and 7 per cent were obese in 2014-2015. Fewer than a quarter of people (23 per cent) met the national physical activity recommendations of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.
Australian girls ranked the third worst for overweight and obesity rates among 33 OECD countries. Boys fared slightly better, floating in the middle third of rankings.
5. Health expenditure ain’t what it used to be
Health spending had typically increased faster than the growth rates of inflation, population or the economy, but in the past two years health expenditure was relatively slow, according to the report.
An estimated $155 billion was spent on health in Australia, $145 billion was recurrent spending. Real growth rate was 1.1 per cent between 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, and 3.1 per cent from 2012-2013 to 2013-2014, below the average 5 per cent annual growth over the previous decade.
“Those who claim that health expenditure is growing out of control, and the health system is unsustainable need to look very carefully, because the data’s not showing that,” said health economist at Grattan Institute Dr Stephen Duckett.
The government found savings by shifting costs to consumers by slowing government subsidies for private health insurers, as well as reining in pharmaceutical spending, Dr Duckett said.
The overblown unsustainability rhetoric potentially misleads decision-makers into attempting to push through budget decisions that could be counterproductive, for instance the failed GP Medicare co-payment, he said.
We’ve all heard the story about the kid who went into anaphylactic shock as a result of some other kid bringing a peanut butter sandwich to school. If you’re a parent, no doubt it scared the pants off you. But given the fact hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions have doubled over the last decade in Australia, the U.S. and UK — not to mention increased five-fold in Australia for kids aged 0-4 years during the same period — accidentally exposing a child to an allergen is a very real concern.
Something as innocent as hosting a child’s birthday party can become quite the ordeal once you take into account George has to go gluten-free and peanuts could kill Pixie-Belle. So how do you host an allergy-friendly birthday party without ruining all the fun?
A thing or two about allergies
According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, 10 percent of children up to one year of age have a food allergy, with this number dropping to 4-8 percent of children aged up to five years.
“The overall incidence is around 88 percent, with allergies being more common in children,” Brooke Harcourt from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute told The Huffington Post Australia. “Multiple food allergies are more common in children as well.
“There are allergies or foods that children are more likely to react to, but then are also likely to grow out of, then the ones that persist into adulthood and remain a severe anaphylactic risk.”
In terms of the riskiest types of foods, there are ‘the big eight’ which Harcourt says “90 percent of all food allergies are caused by.”
- Other tree nuts
“These can cause a range of different reactions that can range from a hives type of reaction through to anaphylaxis,” Harcourt said. “They will manifest differently in different kids as well, depending on what [sort of allergy] they’ve got.”
When it comes to throwing a birthday party, the most important thing is knowing what you’re dealing with in advance. “To avoid any unnecessary concern, ask all parents to declare any allergies and the trigger foods when they RSVP to the party,” advised Amcal dietitian Megan Alsford.
“If you do get an RSVP from a parent who tells you their child has allergy, the first step is to contact them and ask for advice and support. They will be happy to help and glad their child isn’t unnecessarily excluded from the party. Then you’ll need to avoid the trigger food in any food preparation.”
Adds Harcourt: “Most parents are quite responsible and will let the parent know if there’s anything to be concerned about.
“You can always ask the parent [of the allergic child] to provide some food for the child to bring with them so they can safely interact and contribute.”
“A great way to ensure kids don’t get their hands on any foods they shouldn’t is to employ a colour-coded plate system,” Harcourt told HuffPost Australia.
“Make sure there are ‘safe plate colours’ as opposed to ‘danger plate colours’, just to keep things positive.
“It’s also pretty accepted that having a child with an allergy at a party is quite a big responsibility, so feel free to invite the parent of that child to stay. Or at the very least, someone who knows how to administer an EpiPen. A lot of kids have them these days.”
Alsford also recommends moving the ‘danger food’ out of reach of children so it can’t be grabbed by accident during the party, and ensuring you clean all surfaces thoroughly.
“Also consider exposure during any party games, avoid food as prizes and avoid food packaging such as egg cartons,” she advised.
One of the greatest mysteries of life is how single cells came together to form multicellular organisms. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s deeply odd: The cells would have to sacrifice their own fitness for the sake of the group. But in a series of experiments, William Ratcliff revealed surprising insights into what might have been necessary for this transition to occur.
Ratcliff works with single-celled yeast. Sometimes those cells make copies of themselves that don’t separate but stay attached, forming lacy multicellular structures called snowflakes. In his initial tests, Ratcliff put the yeast cells under pressure by selecting those that fell fastest to the bottom of a test tube—a race that snowflakes tended to win—and discarding the rest. Over time, a strange thing happened: Instead of favoring genes that improved individuals, the yeast began to turn down the expression of some genes and turn up the expression of others, in ways that made it harder for cells to split off from the group. That allowed the snowflakes to grow larger and evolve into greater complexity.
“That shift is the heart of the whole transition to multicellularity,” says Ratcliff. “That’s what you need in order for groups to evolve to be more complex.”
Now Ratcliff is investigating whether snowflake members can develop different talents to aid the group, which is the next step toward evolving specialized structures like organs. He and a colleague are also testing a new scenario: When predators (such as single-celled paramecia) prey on individual algae, will the algal cells start to evolve into clusters that are too big to eat? Ratcliff thinks the results could offer more clues into the mystery of evolution.
Danielle Bassett launched her career by challenging a central tenet of neuroscience: Studying the brain by dividing it up into regions that each handle specific tasks fails to capture the wild variety of what the organ can do.
In her view, brains aren’t so much a collection of unchanging divisions as they are a dynamic network of neurons—morphing over time and often changing function depending on our experiences. Her theory helped spawn an entirely new field—network neuroscience—that incorporates her background in physics and complex systems theory.
Bassett is now using her model to study why some people learn quicker than others, and how to improve our ability to learn. In recent experiments, Bassett and her team have people learn a new skill—such as playing a keyboard—while inside an MRI machine. They watch how the network of active areas in subjects’ brains shift as hand-eye coordination recedes into muscle memory over a period of six weeks.
What they discovered is that slow learners tended to use brain networks associated with conscious control for much longer. The takeaway? People might be trying too hard, Bassett says. “We think it’s hampering the learning process.”
She also found that the brains of the quickest learners were incredibly “flexible”—meaning their regions had very changeable patterns of communication. But promising news for people with less pliable brains: Research from Bassett and others suggests that being fed, caffeinated, and well-rested can each boost brain flexibility.