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.

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.

Beach horror: Can sandcastles make your kids sick?

Is there anything more wholesome than children building sandcastles on an American beach?

Guess again, vacationers. The Environmental Protection Agency and pediatricians have issued warnings that beach sand can contain pollutant and bacteria especially harmful to children.

The Palm Beach Post’s news partner, Channel 5, WPTV noted that beaches are occasionally closed because of poor water quality.

A study five years ago among some 5,000 beach visitors, found that those who dug in the most contaminated sand were twice as likely to fall ill with diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach aches.

And it came from the deep. EPA and health officials warn building sand castles can be dangerous to your child’s health. No kidding. (Photo by Suzanne LaGasa via Creative Commons.)

Those who had been buried in the sand showed an even greater tendency to get sick.

Brittany Schiro said she lives close to Galveston, Texas, but comes to Clearwater in Florida with her family for cleaner beaches.

“We have a lot of problems in the water, bacterial stuff going on there,” says Schiro, who lives close to Galveston, Texas.

So what can bad sand do to you? Symptoms can range from gastrointestinal illness to severe rashes.

Sand pollution is highest after heavy rains. Doctors urge parents to use sanitizer on tiny hands.

Schiro said there are limits to being the ever-cautious parent.

“You gotta let them be children, right?” she said.

(Featured image by Richard Leeming via Creative Commons)

Breakthrough: new vaccines take aim at mosquito-borne illness


A vaccine to combat the Zika virus is now undergoing clinical testing.

And in Africa, people will actually start receiving the world’s first vaccine against malaria next year which the World Health Organization claims will save tens of thousands of lives.

To work, the vaccine needs to be given once a month for three months with a fourth dose 18 months later. The three countries involved in the trial are Ghana, Kenya and Malawi and involve more than 750,000 children between the ages of 5 and 17 months, according to the BBC.

“The world’s first malaria vaccine is a real achievement that has been 30 years in the making,” said Seth Berkley, the chief executive of Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance which is helping to fund the study.

“Malaria places a terrible burden on many of the world’s poorest countries, claiming thousands of lives and holding back economies.”

The Palm Beach Post on this blog reported earlier this month that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has announced that vaccination trials have begun using an experimental DNA serum.

The trial aims to enroll at least 2,490 healthy participants in areas of confirmed or potential active mosquito-transmitted Zika infection, including the continental United States and Puerto Rico, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico.

“A safe and effective Zika vaccine is urgently needed to prevent the often-devastating birth defects that can result from Zika virus infection during pregnancy,” NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci said on March 31.

“Evidence also is accumulating that Zika can cause a variety of health problems in adults as well. This trial marks a significant milestone in our efforts to develop countermeasures for a pandemic in progress.”

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention released a report that 15 of infants were born with birth defects in pregnancies with a confirmed Zika virus infection in the first trimester. “These findings highlight why pregnant women should avoid Zika virus exposure,” the report stated.

The CDC suggest that because the full effects of the virus are unknown, all pregnant women infected with Zika should receive postnatal imaging and a comprehensive newborn physical exam and hearing screen.

More Americans suffering untreated mental illness, study finds

Feeling like there’s a little more mental illness out there in America these days? You are correct.

According to a new study published Monday in the journal Psychiatric Services,  Americans are more stressed, depressed and anxiety-ridden.

And even worse news is that many are unable to get the services they desperately need.

Judith Weissman is a research manager in the department of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City and lead researcher of an evaluation of federal health data.

“Mental illness is on the rise. Suicide is on the rise. And access to care for the mentally ill is getting worse,” she said.

About 3.4 percent of the U.S. population — an estimated 8.3 million American adults —  suffer from serious psychological distress Previous estimates put the number of Americans suffering from serious psychological distress at 3 percent or less, the researchers said.

Much of the distress, Weissman said, is an after-effect of the Great Recession that began in late 2007 and caused long-term emotional damage to many Americans.

Because of the Great Recession, more Americans needing psychological or psychiatric services have gone without.

“The recession seemed to have pushed the mentally ill to a point where they never recovered,” she said. “This is a very disturbing finding because of the implications of what mental illness can do to a person in terms of their ability to function and their life span.”

The study included national health data from a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 35,000 households nationwide participate each year.

“We need to increase access to care for the mentally ill,” Weissman told CBS. “We also need to put trained psychiatrists and mental health providers within the primary care setting.”

New report says 1 in 5 Americans have cancer-causing HPV

The human papillomavirus  – or HPV – is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.  There are 150 distinct types, two of them are responsible – according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – for 70 percent of cervical cancer

The CDC announced last week that nearly half of U.S. adults have caught HPV. That is nearly 80 million Americans and about 20 percent of them — or 1 in 5 — have the kind the causes cancer. Other types of HPV cause genital warts.

 

 

About 45 percent of Americans ages 18 to 59 had some form of genital human papillomavirus. The report released last Thursday is the most complete look at how common HPV is among adults.

More concerning, about 25 percent of men and 20 percent of women had certain strains that carry a higher risk of cancer.

Vaccinations against HPV first became available in 2006, aimed at protecting kids before they become sexually active.

Geraldine McQuillan, a senior infectious disease epidemiologist with the CDC and the lead author of the report, said researchers were surprised to see the number of adults who had high-risk genital HPV.

Previous data estimated that 15 percent of adult females had high-risk HPV.

“The next step is to increase awareness of the high prevalence of high-risk genital and oral HPV in our general US population so individuals will realize that this is a serious problem and they will get their children vaccinated in early adolescence before they become sexually active,” McQuillan told CNN.

Chewing gum that detects cancer in development

Who needs fancy scanners, blood tests and X-rays to tell us if we have cancer. Soon, if an Alabama company has its way, all we will need is to chew a stick of gum.

Volatile Analysis is developing the product that can determine if a person has cancer. The gum works by having the wad absorb what are called “volatiles” in the saliva as it is chewed, according to a story on Fox News Health.

The gum then will be analyzed to see if it contains certain chemicals that are produced when a person has the deadly disease.

And last year there were 1.5 million new cases of cancer.

“Over the last 15 years there have been a lot of attempts with different products and processes for early detection of cancer,” Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said.

Breath samples, urine samples and even dogs that might be able to smell cancer have been tried recently. “None of these efforts are proven to detect cancer early,” Lichetenfeld said.

The gum is in the testing stage but Volatile Analysis plans to have the gum available to doctors and patients sometime in 2018.

Read the whole Fox News Health story by clicking here.

No word if the cancer detecting gum will be available with baseball cards.

Thanks a lot! Now the clothes in your closet are polluting the planet

You know that non-iron dress shirt or sexy cocktail dress you love? It’s killing Mother Earth!

Last week, we learned we can’t drink white wine without getting cancer. Today, well, we find out that research says maybe if we really cared about the planet we’d go naked. Or maybe wear hemp or something wrinkly.

According to a story on Health News Florida from WSFU-FM, new research shows pollution in the Gulf of Mexico is coming straight from our closets.  The culprit: polyester, nylon and acrylics that are washing out of household fabrics and into the ocean.

University of Florida scientist Maia McGuire, who is marshaling up this research told WSFU-FM, that scientists aren’t just concerned about styrofoam, plastic bags and K-cups anymore.  Microscopic pieces of plastic are believed to be tiny fibers coming from clothing.

“Essentially they are from fabrics or other items that are made of little tiny threads of petroleum-based plastics. So when you think of fabric like polyester and nylon and acrylic,” she said.

University of Florida scientist Maia McGuire thinks microscopic fibers found in the Gulf of Mexico is washing out of our clothes.

These plastic microfibers are starting to show up in the stomachs of plankton, fish and oysters.

“That is something that a lot of people are trying to figure out. We know a lot of organisms, a lot of marine life are consuming these plastics,” McGuire said.

McGuire says the best way for consumers to limit pollution from plastic microfibers is to be more aware of their purchases, check the labels, and limit the use of plastic-based products.

So pick up an iron for goodness sakes!

To read the whole Health News Florida article click here.

Not getting any? FAU study finds American sex habits at all-time low

Not getting any? Join the club.

A new study co-authored by researchers at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton found Americans in all age groups are less sexually active than ever.

Viagra? Hook-up apps? The reported new era of free love seems to have been greatly exaggerated.

Researchers from FAU along with those from San Diego State University and Widener University in Pennsylvania culled data from the General Social Survey of 26,620 American adults from 1989 to 2014. They published their results Tuesday in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

What could she be whispering? According to a new FAU study, most likely it is “Not tonight, I have a headache.” (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

Those particular archives sound like some interesting reading.

But anyway, when it comes to making whoopee, there was only bad news with results showing a drop in sexual activity along gender, race, region, work status and education level.

And what about that “marriage advantage?” That no longer holds true as the rate of sexual activity also fell among those who are married or living with partners. The group went from 73 trysts a year in 1990 to 55 in 2014. Single people said they were having more sex a year with an average of 59.

But those who are married don’t need a study to tell them what they already know.

Not surprisingly sexual activity declined with age. People in their 20s reported having sex about 80 times a year, while people 65-years and older reported hooking up about 20 times annually – which is still pretty impressive.

Ryne Sherman, associate professor of psychology at FAU, says maybe people are having less sex these days because they are just simply unhappier. Ouch!

So if we compare generations, who is the friskiest? Researchers say it was those born in the 1930s, known as the Silent Generation. And who are the most chaste? You guessed it. The millennials.

The decline apparently, according to the study, is not associated with hours worked or pornography use either.

The study didn’t look into the popularity of Netflix. Admit it, you rather be watching the “Santa Clarita Diet” than making love.

Overall, two factors seem to be driving declines in sexual frequency.

Here’s Ryne Sherman, an associate professor of psychology at FAU and co-author of the study, delineating the act of love into the least romantic terms imaginable.

“First, an increase in the percentage of people who are unpartnered, which is interesting considering the availability of the Internet and Tinder age; and second, a decrease in sexual frequency among those who are partnered,” said Ryne Sherman, associate professor of psychology at FAU.

“Honey, I was just wondering if … if … if you would like to watch the new episode of “Game of Thrones?” (Creative Commons)
 Maybe, our love-making has fallen because we are more likely to be living alone.

In 1986, 66 percent of American adults had a partner at home, but by 2014 those living with a partner was only 59 percent.

“While we don’t know for certain, we suspect that there are a number of factors that are contributing to this decline including putting off parenthood and parenting later in life, as well as the need for two-income families to make ends meet which can lead to fatigue,” said Sherman.

Oh yes, and there is this little silver lining:

“Also, people are generally less happy now and this may impact their overall satisfaction with their relationships or their marriage,” Sherman said.

Thanks, Sherm. Any other nuggets to cheer up us overworked, sex-deprived, depressed masses in loveless marriages?

The FAU study doesn’t answer this question, however:

Who are these people who tabulate how many times a year they have intercourse? What are they doing, putting notches on their bedpost? Is there a phone app? If not, should we invent one? Curious minds want to know, Sherm. We want to know.

Naples with a bullet: Florida city again tops healthiest and happiest list

The Naples, Florida area again tops the list of healthiest and happiest city in the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being 2016 Community Rankings.

For the second straight year, the Naples-Immokalee and Marco Island area is atop of the list that measures how residents in 189 U.S. cities feel about physical health, social ties, financial security, community and sense of purpose.

“Naples does a lot of things right,”  Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, told the website for NBC’s Today Show. “[People in] Naples really take care of themselves well.”

Following Naples on the list were Barnstable Town, Mass;, Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.; Honolulu, Hawaii and Charlotte, Virginia.

Naples Beach where some of the happiest and healthiest people frolick, according to a new survey.

The Sarasota-Bradenton-North Port area — also in Southwest, Fla. — landed in the sixth position.

So what is the unhappiest and unhealthiest city or area in the survey?

That honor was bestowed upon Fort Smith — located on the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons.

“Fort Smith, Charleston (West Virginia) and Huntington (West Virginia) are probably your big three as far as jostling for that unhappy spot at the very lowest rung on that ladder,” Witters said.

Fort Smith has a very high smoking rate and an obesity rate that’s “through the roof” at almost 40 percent, Witters said.

To read more on the healthiest and happiest cities in the survey — and their counterparts — click on the Today story here.