Diet Soda Alert: They actually make you fat!

Diet sodas, which Americans guzzle in hopes of reigning in our expanding waistlines, might do more harm than good, a new study has found.

The study adds to the growing suspicions of artificial sweeteners linked earlier this year to increased risk for stroke and dementia.

The Washington Post today reports that studies linked artificial sweeteners to increased belly fat despite their zero calories.

Meghan Azad, a researcher at the University of Manitoba, and others reviewed dozens of studies discovered little proof that diet sodas helped in weight management and that people who drank them routinely had increased body mass index and risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

“I think originally it was calories were the problem, and we’ve made something that was zero calories, so we’re good,” Azad told The Washington Post. “But we’re learning that it’s not just about the calories.”

“We need more evidence from better quality studies to know for sure the cause and effect, but there does seem to be at least a question about the daily consumption of these drinks,” she said.

To read the whole Washington Post story click here.

Health officials: oral sex spreading ‘super gonorrhea’

A dangerous super gonorrhea that’s spread by oral sex has health officials alarmed.

Both CNN and BBC have stories about the World Health Organization’s warning of the bacteria that is rapidly developing resistance to antibiotics.

“The bacteria that cause gonorrhea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them,” said Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at the WHO, in a news release.

Oral sex is producing dangerous gonorrhea and a decline in condom use is helping it to spread, WHO said. About 78 million people pick up the STD each year and it can cause infertility.

“These cases may just be the tip of the iceberg,”  Wi said.

Caused by the bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhea, the STD is known to infect the genitals and rectum, but it can also infect the throat — which is used to a barrage of antibiotics for common colds and flu.

“When you use antibiotics to treat infections like a normal sore throat, this mixes with the Neisseria species in your throat and this results in resistance,” Wi said.

Thrusting gonorrhea bacteria into this environment through oral sex can lead to super-gonorrhoea.

What makes matters worse is that about one in 10 heterosexual men and more than three-quarters of women, and gay men, have no easily recognizable symptoms.

Dr Manica Balasegaram, from the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, said the situation is fairly grim.

“There are only three drug candidates in the entire drug [development] pipeline and no guarantee any will make it out.”

Beware the tick! Lyme disease on the march thanks to this mouse

So what is the most common disease spread by a blood-sucking insect in the United States?

Malaria, Zika, yellow fever? These mosquito-transmitted diseases don’t come close to the mighty black-legged tick and Lyme Disease. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that a whopping 30,000 cases annually.

And while more prevalent in the Northeast and the numbers are not huge, 30 percent of all Lyme disease is transmitted in Florida. The CDC reports that Lyme disease is the fastest-growing infectious disease in the U.S. with the number of cases reported annually increasing nearly 25 fold since 1982.

And now the concern is not so much the tick itself, but the white-footed mouse that is expanding its territory in the U.S. and is a carrier of the bacterium that is transmitted by the insect. If left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

The website fivethirtyeight.com is known for its political acumen, but today it is reporting on rodents of the four-legged variety.

The white-footed mouse is the top reservoir of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. And the cute little bugger has expanded its range to 41 states and is knocking on the door of Florida.

The white-foot mouse, which carries the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, is expanding its footprint in the U.S.

Scientists have linked an abundance of acorns to an increase in these mice and thus an increase in Lyme disease in people.

Kevin Esvelt, an evolutionary engineer at MIT, wants to edit the mice’s DNA to make them unable to pass bacteria and viruses to ticks.

“When engineering a complex system, you should always make the smallest possible change that could solve the problem,” Esvelt said. “For tick-borne disease, that means preventing the ticks from being infected by white-footed mice.”

Want more information? Check out the extensive report at Five Thirty Eight.com

(Featured photo courtesy of CDC)

FAU aims to prevent dementia with new program

Post-mortem studies confirm that 30 percent of Alzheimer’s disease case can be prevented.

Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton is aiming to find how – and will give patients a plan to follow.

FAU will launch the Dementia Prevention Initiative at the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health. It will take a genetics, biology and the molecular approach to the disease, as well as a personalized approach and precision medicine to reduce risk.

The belief is that the innovative approach developed at Florida Atlantic University turns the “one-size-fits-all” approach on its head when it comes to battling Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body Dementia, Parkinson’s disease and other related disorders.

This center is one of only a handful of centers around the world that focuses on dementia prevention.

Dr. James E. Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., a world-renowned neuroscientist,  designed the program to deliver a personalized prevention plan, tailored to each individual’s risk profile based on their genetic traits, biomarkers, socio-demographics, lifestyle choices, and co-existent medical conditions.

Galvin’s work supports the idea that there may be multiple pathways to develop neurological disorders –and therefore multiple ways to treat and prevent these diseases.

The photo above shows  Catherine Robson, a nurse practitioner observing as Dr. James Galvin administers a test using to measure eye movement. is used as an early biomarker sign of Parkinson’s disease.

From death’s door to People magazine for Loxahatchee flu girl

A Loxahatchee girl featured in the Palm Beach Post after nearly dying of the flu is now featured in People Magazine.

Jenny Spell came forward to tell her harrowing story to encourage people to get the flu vaccine. The 18-year-old  ended up on an ECMO heart-lung machine for five days in the fall of 2014 and eventually had to have a kidney transplant.

She is now enrolled at the University of Florida in the fall to study pre-pharmacy. People Magazine covered her graduation from King’s Academy.

“Jenny and I were happy to have had an opportunity to speak to People about her story,” her mother, Anne Spell, said.

“She faced tremendous suffering with both resilience and faith, and I am very proud of her. Together, she and I hope that her story will make a life-saving difference in the lives of others through flu vaccination and organ donation awareness.”

 

The teenager spent 241 days — about two-thirds of a year — at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital after going into cardiogenic shock, meaning the heart can’t pump enough blood to sustain your body. Her organs started failing one by one. Liver. Pancreas. Gall bladder. Kidneys. She contracted a deadly fungal infection and suffered an aneurysm in her abdomen.

“Jenny was the sickest patient I’ve ever cared for with the flu and probably one of the sickest patients I’ve ever cared for,” said Dr. Gerald Lavandosky, managing director at Pediatric Critical Care of South Florida at Joe DiMaggio.

To read the Palm Beach Post’s feature on Jenny click here.

To read People Magazine’s story on Jenny click here.

 

Algae blooms may be more dangerous than ever believed

Last week, the  American Civil Liberties of Florida issued a report that the state failed to adequately warn the public of the health dangers related to toxic algae blooms on the Treasure Coast communities last year.

The algae bloom in the St. Lucie River and its estuaries caused an overpowering, noxious smell, burning eyes, headaches, flu-like symptoms, respiratory problems, and rashes.

The local hospital weathered a spike in emergency room patients. People were forced to evacuate waterside properties and escape to more distant lodgings.

The bloom came after the Palm Beach Post’s story on how scientists have linked blue-green algae to neurological disorders like Parkinson’s Disease and ALS.

In the past decade, a consortium of 50 scientists around the world led by ethnobotanist Paul Alan Cox found cyanobacteria in blue-green algae produce a toxin called BMAA.

BMAA leaves sticky plaque buildup around nerve cells and causing protein tangles within those neurons. It is the same calling card found in patients with these neurological illnesses.

Even more intriguing is a related discovery by Cox and his team that ingesting the organic compound L-serine reduces the effect of BMAA in Old World monkeys called vervets.

And all this research has strong ties to Palm Beach County, where philanthropists have bankrolled Cox’s research at the Institute for EthnoMedicine in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Douglas and Liz Kinney of North Palm Beach learned of Cox’s research more than a decade ago and have helped raise millions for research.

“It’s a game-changer,” said Liz Kinney, describing how she witnessed L-serine countering a neurological illness in a friend who was paralyzed with Lewy body disease, which has signatures of both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. “Within 10 days, he was speaking. He had much more life.”

Algae formed around the Herbert Hoover Dam on Lake Okeechobee on Friday, July 8, 2016. The algae bloom from Lake Okeechobee has grown since it was first measured in May. Environmentalists believe it stretched more than 200 square miles. (Joseph

The ACLU’s full report is available here: www.aclufl.org/taintedwaters.

The Post’s full report tying cyanobacteria to neurological disorders can be read by clicking here.

ACLU: State failed to warn public of health dangers of toxic algae bloom

The American Civil Liberties of Florida is taking aim at the state, saying it failed to adequately warn the public of the health dangers related to toxic algae blooms on the Treasure Coast communities last year.

The ACLU on Wednesday issued the report, “Tainted Waters: Threats to Public Health and the People’s Right to Know,” concluding blue-green algae have not been sufficiently researched by the state.

The Palm Beach Post last year published a story on a group of prominent researchers have tied blue-green algae to neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease and ALS. To read that story click here.

Algae formed around the Herbert Hoover Dam on Lake Okeechobee on Friday, July 8, 2016. The algae bloom from Lake Okeechobee has grown since it was first measured in May. Environmentalists believe it stretched more than 200 square miles. (Joseph Forzano / The Palm Beach Post)

The ACLU report was written by former Palm Beach Post investigative reporter John Lantigua.

“Open government means people have a right to be informed about what public officials and employees are doing, and that information is particularly crucial when it comes to public health issues,” Lantigua said. “What we found was a lack of urgency and transparency on the part of the state in reporting information about the crisis, caused by the release of tainted waters from Lake Okeechobee.”

The algae bloom in the St. Lucie River and its estuary certainly appeared and smelled toxic. It caused an overpowering, noxious smell, burning eyes, headaches, flu-like symptoms, respiratory problems, and rashes. The local hospital weathered a spike in emergency room patients. People were forced to evacuate waterside properties and escape to more distant lodgings.

It caused an overpowering, noxious smell, burning eyes, headaches, flu-like symptoms, respiratory problems, and rashes. The local hospital weathered a spike in emergency room patients. People were forced to evacuate waterside properties and escape to more distant lodgings.

His report quotes scientists concerned that the state provided no public warning about the threat to downriver communities. The state tested waters where toxins where the algae were least concentrated, as well, the report states.

It also notes a task force created by state law in 1999 to monitor and mitigate the effects of algae blooms has not been funded since 1999.

The ACLU’s full report is available here: www.aclufl.org/taintedwaters

News Chocolate Lovers Can Literally Take to Heart

Eating chocolate moderately — note the word moderately, now — can significantly lower risk of being diagnosed with a common and dangerous type of irregular heartbeat, according to a new study led by researchers at Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published Tuesday in Heart.

The new findings add to the consensus of previous studies that suggested cocoa — particularly dark chocolate — is yummy as well as good for the heart muscle. The new findings shed light on atrial fibrillation for the first time.

“Our study adds to the accumulating evidence on the health benefits of moderate chocolate intake and highlights the importance of behavioral factors for potentially lowering the risk of arrhythmias,” said Elizabeth Mostofsky, instructor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard.

The study included 55,502 men and women participating in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Heath Study.

“Despite the fact that most of the chocolate consumed by the study participants likely had relatively low concentrations of potentially protective ingredients, we still observed a significant association between eating chocolate and a lower risk of AF,” Mostofsky said.

To read more on the study click here.

Advocates: Disabled take huge hit under GOP health reform

Advocates for the disabled say the House Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act seriously threatens some of the most vulnerable Americans.

The website DisabilityScoop reports that advocates say the bill threatens home- and community-based services and other supports that people with developmental disabilities rely upon.

Photo: Joshua Zader/Creative Commons

“The American Health Care Act shows callous and dangerous disregard for the well-being of people with disabilities and their families and erases decades of progress,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, an organization that service people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

The House passed the bill 217 to 213, allowing President Donald Trump and Republicans to do a victory lap that they had finally succeeded in destroying Obamacare. The measure though was roundly criticized by doctors, hospital and senior groups. It must still pass the U.S. Senate, which gave it a lukewarm response and promised to address its more draconian measures.

While the disabled take a hit, the most wealthiest Americans are big winners with the new legislation as it delivers a big tax cut the would redistribute billions of dollars to the upper tier.

 

How does it hurt the disabled? The many groups who represent them say the bill would institute a per capita cap for Medicaid. This means the federal government would offer a fixed amount of money for each beneficiary.

“These huge cuts and caps will likely put pressure on states to cut home- and community-based waiver services, especially those that are ‘optional,’ like personal care services and therapies,” said Kim Musheno, chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a coalition of disability advocacy groups.

Schools also would be affected by the Medicaid shift because they are currently able to seek reimbursement for a variety of services provided to disabled children to a tune of $4 billion annually. That means money to reimburse schools for speech and occupational therapy, specialized playground equipment, and even wheelchairs is now in jeopardy.

Advocates for the disabled say House Republicans would allow states to no longer consider schools as eligible Medicaid providers.

To read all of the story by DisabilityScoop click here.

 

Congress deals vape industry another blow – but battle far from over

A provision to protect mom-and-pop vape shops from an industry-destroying FDA regulation died in the current budget battle between President Donald Trump and the Democrats.

The Democrats were intent on killing any of Trump’s “poison pills” in the current budget deal, and while most of the attention was on the president’s border wall — you know the one Mexico was going to pay for — the provision to protect the vape industry became collateral damage.

The Cole-Bishop Amendment would have restricted the Food & Drug”s deeming” regulations to e-cigarette products sold as of Aug. 8, 2016 that fails to grandfather in existing products, whether it be devices or liquids. To get FDA approval for each product could cost millions of dollars and put many companies out of business, the industry says.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in a statement that death of Cole-Bishop “delivers critical victories for America’s kids and health over the tobacco industry by rejecting proposals to greatly weaken FDA oversight of electronic cigarettes and cigars and slash funding for the CDC’s programs to reduce tobacco use.”

But while American health officials deride electronic cigarettes, there is little evidence that they are even remotely as deadly as traditional tobacco.

In England, health officials have promoted vaping and electronic cigarettes as an alternative to smoking, but in the U.S. there has been a concerted effort to rein in the hundreds of small businesses that have sprouted up around the industry.

The vaping industry says the reason is clear: they take away profits not only from Big Tobacco, but the pharmaceutical industry peddling cessation patches and gums, as well as the government that heavily taxes cigarettes.

Read the Palm Beach Post’s investigation into whether health officials claims on vaping are legit by clicking here. 

Greg Conley of the American Vaping Industry vows the fight to roll back FDA regulations is far from over.

Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Industry, says the fight is far from over with a separate bill, HR 1136, sponsored by Democrats that mimics Cole-Bishop.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has also introduced HR 2194, The Cigarette Smoking Reduction & Electronic Vapor Alternatives Act.

“This budget is done with, but they need to come back in October and pass the FY 2018 budget,” he said. “The appropriations committees will likely start on that again soon and we will be pushing for Cole-Bishop or similar language to again be included.”

Nick Molina, CEO of Miami-based VaporFi.

In the meantime, Conley warns politicians who carry water for Big Tobacco against the vaping industry. He said if Democrats want to motivate millennial voters to come out to vote against the party, then dare to oppose measures to protect this alternative to traditional tobacco.

Nick Molina, CEO of Miami-based VaporFi, said while last week was disappointing, there are several avenues for the industry to pursue still in Congress.

“In addition to a handful of lawsuits filed against the FDA that are working themselves through the legal system, there is the bill introduced last week by Rep. Duncan Hunter,” he said. “That bill places e-cigarettes in a new category for harm-reduction products to move people off of tobacco-containing cigarettes.”