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Almost 1 in 5 Americans Plagued by Constant Pain, Survey Suggests

Thu, 2014-10-30 16:37

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Almost one-fifth of Americans do daily battle with crippling, chronic pain, a large new survey reveals, with the elderly and women struggling the most.

The poll of roughly 35,000 American households provides the first snapshot of the pain landscape in the United States, the survey authors said.

The bottom line: Significant and debilitating pain that endures for three months or more is now a common feature in the lives of an estimated 39 million Americans.

“I wasn’t particularly surprised by our findings,” said study author Jae Kennedy, a professor of health policy and administration at Washington State University in Spokane. “But I found it sobering that so many American adults are grappling with persistent pain.”

“Going forward, it will be important to track changes in rates of persistent pain within the U.S., and compare these rates to other countries with different health care systems,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy and his colleagues report their findings in the October issue of the Journal of Pain.

To get a sense of the scale of the Americans’ experience with pain, the study authors analyzed responses to a 2010 National Center for Health Statistics survey.

Those who said they had experienced serious continual pain during the prior three months were the focus of the poll, rather than participants who said they had experienced short-term pain or pain that was intermittent or moderate in nature.

The result: Overall, 19 percent of the adults polled were deemed to have experienced “chronic” and severe daily pain.

That grouping did not, for the most part, include adults who said they struggled with arthritis or back and joint pain, as those people tended to say their pain was not constant and persistent, the study authors noted.

That said, the chronic pain figure exceeded 19 percent among specific groups of respondents, including those between the ages of 60 and 69, women, those who said their health was fair or poor, those who were obese or overweight, and those who had been hospitalized in the prior year.

And among those with chronic pain, more than two-thirds said their pain was “constantly present,” while more than half said their pain was at times “unbearable and excruciating.”

That level of physical pain can prompt psychic pain, Kennedy noted.

“Being in pain is depressing,” he said in a statement. “Being in pain all the time is tiring. Being in pain all the time is anxiety-provoking. So it’s plausible that pain is triggering other kinds of more psychological distress.”

Kennedy suggested that for those experiencing chronic, crippling pain there are a variety of potential interventions, including physical and occupational therapy, exercise, dietary changes, weight loss, massage and psychotherapy, alongside alternative interventions such as acupuncture, yoga and chiropractic services.

Medicines, including narcotic painkillers like hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine, can also be helpful, but only if long-term use is avoided, Kennedy said.

“We are clearly overusing opioids [narcotics],” he noted. “The U.S. consumes about 80 percent of the world’s opioid supply, and 99 percent of the hydrocodone supply. These medications are effective in the short term, [such as] for managing postoperative pain, but long-term use often leads to dependency or addiction.”

Bob Twillman, director of policy and advocacy for the American Academy of Pain Management, agreed, noting that the kind of crippling pain that can make it impossible for people to work tends to have many different sources, not all of which are best addressed with narcotic painkillers.

“If it was just one thing causing pain, we might have one treatment that would work for most people,” he said. “But, given that we have millions of people with dozens, or perhaps even hundreds of causes for their pain, we can’t use a cookie-cutter approach to treating pain.”

And that means, Twillman added, that medications may not always be the best answer for every patient.

“Those medications are wonderful when they work, but on average, they only relieve about a third or less of the chronic pain people experience, and may be completely ineffective in treating some kinds of chronic pain,” Twillman said. Also, the drugs don’t do anything to tackle the emotional, mental and behavioral aspects of pain management, he added.

“If we’re going to do the best job possible of caring for people with chronic pain, we need to look at all of these aspects of the pain experience, and try to address them all,” Twillman said. “When we are able to do that, we’ll be successful in addressing the chronic pain that millions of Americans live with every day.”

More information

Visit the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for more on chronic pain.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Cronut Calories: How Dunkin’ Donuts’ Version Compares to the Original

Thu, 2014-10-30 15:47

Photo: Dunkin’ Donuts

By now you’ve probably heard the buzz surrounding all that is the delicious cronut—a buttery, flaky fusion of donut and croissant, created by the famed chef Dominique Ansel. The treat still commands lines outside his bakery and just recently Ansel revealed his recipe, an epic 2,300-word long, 3-day process with so many steps it’s enough to make your head spin.

Getting in on the trend, Dunkin’ Donuts announced this week that they’ll be launching their own (ahem, copycat) version of the confection in 7,900 stores for a limited time starting on November 3. They describe the $2.49 croissant donut as “24 layers of buttery dough…covered in the same sweet distinctive glaze used on our Glazed Donuts.”

Sounds like a total calorie bomb, but it’s not quite as bad as you’d think. The Croissant Donut isn’t currently listed in the company’s nutrition catalog, but according to Dunkin’ Donuts, each one has 300 calories, 14g of fat (8g saturated), 39g of carbohydrates.

Ansel’s recipe is way more of a Halloween scare. We did a nutritional analysis to find out just how many calories are in one of his famed cronuts—specifically the one with chocolate-champagne ganache, orange sugar, and champagne-chocolate glaze. Read at your own risk.

Dominique Ansel’s Cronut

Calories: 675*
Total fat: 38g
Saturated fat: 23g
Sodium: 823mg
Carbohydrate: 80g
Fiber: 3g
Protein: 7g

*That’s nearly 150 calories more than a McDonald’s Big Mac!

RELATED: 10 High-Protein Breakfast Recipes

Categories: Health & Fitness

The Best Day to Start a New Healthy Habit

Thu, 2014-10-30 14:48

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When the clock “falls back” this weekend, we’ll get an extra, precious hour on Sunday—and that morning is the perfect time to begin a feel-good habit, says happiness guru Gretchen Rubin.

“For most people, mornings are great for habits,” Rubin explains. And she would know. The bestselling author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home is finishing up a new book all about habit formation. (Better Than Before comes out next March.)

“Our self-control tends to be strongest in the early hours,” she says. “As the day goes on, it gets depleted by all the temptations and choices we face.” Plus, the morning tends to unfold in a predictable way. “Later on, complications arise and you may end up pushing off the activity.”

But resetting your alarm clock—and your body’s natural rhythm—to start a new habit, whether it’s meditating or jogging, can be painful. (For me, it has become a daily habit of hitting snooze, with the hope that any day now, I really will hit the gym before work!) That’s why Rubin suggests seizing the end of Daylight Savings Time, when getting up early doesn’t actually feel like getting up early.

RELATED: 7 Bedtime Behaviors That Will Help You Sleep

If you’ve been thinking about joining a yoga studio, instituting a regular walk with a friend, blocking out time to read for pleasure, or picking up any other healthy habit, try starting this Sunday. Just make sure it’s an activity you enjoy, says Rubin. “If it’s something you want to do, you’ll be more motivated to get out of bed every day going forward.”

One caveat for night owls: This trick probably isn’t for you. “There are some people who prefer to stay up late, but struggle in the morning,” Rubin says. “For them, a morning habit won’t make sense.” Heed your true nature, she says, and schedule your healthy habits at times that work best for you.

 RELATED: 5 Ways to Deal with the End of Daylight Savings Time

Categories: Health & Fitness

‘Informal Care’ for Older Americans Tops $500B Annually, Study Finds

Thu, 2014-10-30 14:37

THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Each year, people across the United States spend an estimated 30 billion hours caring for older relatives and friends, which costs $522 billion, according to new research.

A RAND Corp. study put a price tag on the time and wages that caregivers give up every year to help older people who need assistance in daily activities. The study authors said the significant financial toll of informal care has generated interest in workplace flexibility policies.

“Our findings provide a new and better estimate of the monetary value of the care that millions of relatives and friends provide to the nation’s elderly,” study author Amalavoyal Chari, a lecturer at the University of Sussex and a former researcher at RAND, said in a news release from the nonprofit research organization. “These numbers are huge and help put the enormity of this largely silent and unseen workforce into perspective.”

To get a better sense of the value of informal care, the researchers analyzed data from the 2011 and 2012 American Time Use Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Participants of this survey were asked about their job status, as well as how much time they spent helping older relatives with their daily activities. The researchers also calculated participants’ hourly pay based on their hours worked and weekly wages as well as their education, age and gender.

They found that three out of five caregivers have jobs. People younger than 65 provide 22 billion out of 30 billion hours of caregiving. This accounts for the largest portion of informal care costs, or $412 billion per year, the researchers said. To provide care, however, working adults often cut back on their hours and lose income, researchers noted.

“Our findings explain the interest in workplace flexibility policies being considered by a number of states that provide paid time off from work for caregivers, as well as programs such as Medicaid’s Cash and Counseling program that allows family caregivers to be paid for their assistance,” study author Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, a researcher at RAND and an associate professor at the Harvard Medical School, said in the news release.

Replacing the informal care provided by friends and relatives with unskilled workers would reduce the cost of informal care to $221 billion per year, the study published online Oct. 28 in the journal Health Services Research found. On the other hand, if skilled nurses provided this care, the cost would jump to $642 billion annually.

More information

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office provides more information on rising demand for informal health care among older people.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Does Having Lots of Sex Lower Prostate Cancer Risk?

Thu, 2014-10-30 13:45

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By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Don Juans of the world, take note: Men who sleep with lots of women may be less likely to develop prostate cancer than men who don’t play the field, a new Canadian study suggests.

Researchers said they found that Montreal-area men who’d had more than 20 female sex partners in their lifetime had a 28 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer, compared with men who only ever slept with one woman.

Previous studies have suggested that frequent ejaculation can protect against prostate cancer, said senior study author Marie-Elise Parent, an associate professor at the University of Montreal School of Public Health. One possible explanation: the beneficial effect might be due to a reduction in the concentration of cancer-causing substances in prostatic fluid, the researchers said.

But don’t bolt for the bedroom just yet. Parent termed the findings preliminary. And she added that they don’t prove multiple partners protect against the disease, just that a link was uncovered between the two. So, men shouldn’t use the findings as an excuse to sleep around.

“I don’t think we can say that. But I think men want to hear that,” she said. “It shouldn’t be for prostate cancer that a man would decide to do that.”

Dr. David Samadi, chairman of urology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, agreed that the protective benefits found in this study come “not so much from the number of partners, but the frequency of ejaculation.”

The study revealed some other intriguing associations.

For instance, men who said they’d never had sexual intercourse were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer as those who said they had intercourse.

The researchers also found that a man’s risk of prostate cancer increased if he only slept with men. Having more than 20 male partners in one’s lifetime doubled the risk of prostate cancer, compared to men who never slept with another man.

Parent noted, though, that the findings regarding gay sex weren’t statistically significant and certainly require further research.

The new study, published Oct. 28 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, is part of a larger effort by Parent and her colleagues to examine the possible causes of prostate cancer.

“We’re asking questions about everything you can think of under the sun,” she said. “This is only one segment out of many, many others that we are investigating.”

For the study, more than 3,200 men in the Montreal area responded to a comprehensive questionnaire that covered many aspects of their lives, including their sex life. About half had been diagnosed with prostate cancer between September 2005 and August 2009, while the rest formed the healthy control group.

The greater the number of female sex partners, the greater protection from prostate cancer, the findings suggested. For example, men who slept with between eight and 20 women had an 11 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer, compared with a 28 percent reduced risk for men with more than 20 female partners.

Men with more than 20 female partners also had a 32 percent reduced risk for less aggressive forms of prostate tumors and a 19 percent reduced risk for more aggressive prostate tumors, the researchers found.

Conversely, men who had more than 20 male sex partners had a more than five-fold increased risk of less aggressive prostate cancer, and a 26 percent increased risk of more aggressive prostate cancer, compared with men who only had one male partner.

The researchers speculated that this might be due to more risky sexual behaviors among gay men, or because of physical trauma to the prostate gland.

Samadi said such trauma to the prostate could actually increase detection of minor prostate cancer, by spurring the prostate to release the protein prostate-specific antigen, or PSA. Tests that check the level of PSA in a man’s blood are often used to diagnose and monitor prostate cancer.

More information

To learn more about prostate cancer, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Leprosy Still Occurs in U.S., CDC Reports

Thu, 2014-10-30 13:37

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Leprosy, although quite rare, continues to appear in the United States, a new U.S. government study reports.

Approximately 100 new cases are reported in the United States each year, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. That compares to about 250,000 cases that occurred worldwide in 2008, according to the CDC.

Known since biblical times, leprosy is an infectious disease that causes skin sores, nerve damage, and muscle weakness that can worsen over time. Effective medications exist to treat the disease.

Most U.S. cases occur in people who traveled to the United States from areas of the world where the bacterial infection is endemic, the study authors said.

“It’s a surprise to most people that leprosy is still in the United States,” said lead researcher Dr. Leisha Nolen, an epidemic intelligence service officer with the CDC.

“Many people think leprosy is something limited to underdeveloped nations and has been eliminated from the United States,” she said.

Leprosy does infect a few people born in the United States — about 20 to 40 a year — but is mostly a problem for people born outside the country who were infected before arriving here, Nolen said.

The rate of infection for those born in the United States hasn’t changed in the past 15 years, Nolen said. Infections are mostly confined to areas where leprosy is still found, such as in Texas and Louisiana, according to past research.

In these states, the bacteria can be found on armadillos, and they can pass the infection to humans, Nolen explained.

According to the report, from 1994 to 2011, there were just over 2,300 new cases of leprosy — also called Hansen’s disease — diagnosed in the United States.

The yearly incidence rate of leprosy from 1994 to 1996 was 0.52 cases per 1 million people in the United States. From 2009 to 2011, that rate dropped to 0.43 cases per 1 million people, the researchers found.

The rate for people born abroad is 14 times higher than that of those born in the United States, the findings showed. The study found that the highest rate is among those born in the South Pacific who traveled to Hawaii.

“The rates of leprosy in people born overseas is going down,” Nolen said. “There’s been a 17 percent decrease from 1994 to 2011.”

“These data further emphasize the value of considering travel and residence history as part of the standard physical examination, as it may help clinicians detect otherwise potentially rare diseases in some individuals,” said Richard Truman, chief of the Laboratory Research Branch of the National Hansen’s Disease Program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Leprosy is a treatable disease. “Most people think you can’t do anything about it, but leprosy is a disease that’s treatable with antibiotics,” Nolen said.

Without treatment, however, leprosy can progress to a debilitating disease with nerve damage, tissue destruction and loss of function, according to the study.

Nolen added that leprosy is a hard disease to catch. It can only be passed through close contact with an infected person, she explained.

“It takes four to seven years before somebody develops symptoms. This bacteria grows exceptionally slowly,” Nolen said.

Doctors should be aware that leprosy is still present in the United States, she said. “It’s rare. It’s not like they are going to see a case, but it would be tragic if they miss it,” Nolen said.

Leprosy usually appears as a skin rash that is lighter than the person’s normal skin, and the patient may have no feeling in that area, she explained.

Leprosy is still a problem in the United States, but it’s not something to be afraid of, Nolen added. “People aren’t going to be sent off to leper colonies as they were in the past. It’s something that can be treated,” she said.

The new study was published Oct. 31 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

More information

For more information on leprosy, visit the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Fewer Malpractice Claims Paid in U.S.

Thu, 2014-10-30 13:37

THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The number of medical malpractice payments in the United States has dropped sharply since 2002, according to a new study.

And compensation payment amounts and liability insurance costs for most doctors remained flat or declined in recent years, researchers report online Oct. 30 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“For many physicians, the prospect of being sued for medical malpractice is a disturbing aspect of modern clinical practice,” researchers, led by Michelle Mello, of Stanford Law School, wrote in a journal news release. Various reforms have attempted to stabilize malpractice insurance prices and, in the process, escalating health costs.

For this study, researchers analyzed 2002-2013 data from California, Colorado, Illinois, New York and Tennessee. Overall, the rate of paid malpractice claims decreased from 18.6 to 9.9 percent per 1,000 physicians, they found.

The estimated average annual decrease was more than 6 percent for MDs (medical doctors) and more than 5 percent for DOs (osteopathic doctors), the study found.

Meanwhile, the median indemnity, or compensation, amount of paid claims in 2013-adjusted dollars increased 5 percent annually from 1994 to 2007, the researchers said.

But since 2007, median indemnity fell by an average of 1.1 percent a year — declining to $195,000 in 2013, they found.

There were mixed trends in liability premiums paid by doctors. In California, Illinois and Tennessee, premiums charged by each state’s largest medical malpractice insurer to internists and obstetrician-gynecologists fell 36 percent from 2004 to 2013. Premiums charged to general surgeons decreased 30 percent.

Colorado saw a 20 percent drop in premiums for internists, but an 11 percent increase for ob-gyns and a 13 percent rise for general surgeons.

In New York, rates charged by the largest insurer rose 12 percent for ob-gyns, 16 percent for internists, and 35 percent for general surgeons.

The authors write that nontraditional malpractice reforms, including communication-and-resolution programs and pre-suit notification and apology laws, look promising.

Reform approaches “that accelerate the recognition of errors and the resolution of disputes are likely to further both monetary and nonmonetary goals of malpractice reform,” Dr. William Sage, of the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, wrote in an accompanying journal editorial.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers a guide to health care quality.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Brain Scans Yield Clues to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Thu, 2014-10-30 13:37

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THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) — There are clear differences in the brains of people with chronic fatigue syndrome and the brains of healthy people, new research indicates.

Scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine said their findings could help doctors diagnose this baffling condition and shed light on how it develops. People with chronic fatigue syndrome are often misdiagnosed or labeled as hypochondriacs.

Using three types of brain scanning technologies, “we found that [chronic fatigue syndrome] patients’ brains diverge from those of healthy subjects in at least three distinct ways,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Michael Zeineh, assistant professor of radiology, in a Stanford news release.

Chronic fatigue syndrome affects up to 4 million people in the United States alone, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition, which causes debilitating and constant fatigue that persists for six months or more, is difficult to diagnose. Other symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome can vary from one patient to the next. They are also similar to symptoms often associated with other health issues.

“Chronic fatigue syndrome is one of the greatest scientific and medical challenges of our time,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Jose Montoya, professor of infectious diseases and geographic medicine, in the Stanford release.

“Its symptoms often include not only overwhelming fatigue but also joint and muscle pain, incapacitating headaches, food intolerance, sore throat, enlargement of the lymph nodes, gastrointestinal problems, abnormal blood-pressure and heart-rate events, and hypersensitivity to light, noise or other sensations,” he said.

Montoya and his team have been following 200 people with chronic fatigue syndrome for several years, hoping to improve diagnosis and treatment. In order to gain a better understanding of the condition, the researchers used MRI technology to compare the brains of 15 of these patients with 14 similar people without the condition or any related symptoms.

“If you don’t understand the disease, you’re throwing darts blindfolded,” said Zeineh. “We asked ourselves whether brain imaging could turn up something concrete that differs between [chronic fatigue syndrome] patients’ and healthy people’s brains. And, interestingly, it did.”

The study, published in the Oct. 28 issue of Radiology, found patients with chronic fatigue syndrome had less overall white matter (nerve tracts that carry information from one part of the brain to another) than the people who didn’t have the condition.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is thought to involve chronic inflammation, which may be due to an unidentified viral infection. Since such an infection can take a toll on white matter, this finding was not surprising, the researchers said.

Using advanced imaging techniques, however, the study’s authors also identified a specific brain abnormality among the patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. This abnormality was found in an area of the brain that connects the frontal lobe and temporal lobes, called the right arcuate fasciculus.

There was a strong link between the severity of this abnormality and the severity of chronic fatigue syndrome, the researchers said.

The study also found that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome had a thickening of the gray matter in two areas of their brain connected by the right arcuate fasciculus.

The researchers said that despite the strength of their findings, the results should be confirmed with more research. “This study was a start,” Zeineh said. “It shows us where to look.”

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more on chronic fatigue syndrome.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Eczema Tied to Bone Fracture Risk in Study

Thu, 2014-10-30 13:37

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The skin condition eczema may increase slightly the risk of broken bones and injured joints, a new study reports.

In a study of 34,500 adults, researchers found that among 7 percent of people who had an eczema flare-up in the past year, 1.5 percent had a bone or joint injury and 0.6 percent had an injury that caused a limitation of function.

Compared to people without eczema, those with the skin condition had more than double the risk of having had a fracture or bone or joint injury, according to the study.

“Adults with eczema have higher rates of injuries, including fractures and bone and joint injuries,” said lead researcher Dr. Jonathan Silverberg, an assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Although this study found an association between eczema and bone and joint injuries, it wasn’t designed to prove whether eczema is somehow a direct cause of those injuries.

Another expert said follow-up research is necessary. “Further studies would be needed to show if there’s a direct effect or association of eczema with bone condition and strength over time,” said Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“The skin is often a reflection of the general health and well-being of our patients. Sometimes the connection is direct, but often it’s more subtle,” Day said.

The study was published online Oct. 29 in JAMA Dermatology.

Eczema is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin that causes red, itchy, scaly patches. Eczema is not contagious, and is often triggered by allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

The study included about 2,500 people with eczema and more than 32,000 without the skin condition.

The researchers found the risk of injuries increased with age and peaked at 50 to 69, he said.

“Eczema by itself was associated with higher rates of injuries. However, adults with eczema who also had sleep disturbance or psychiatric and behavioral disorders had even higher risk of injuries than those with eczema alone,” Silverberg said.

Adults with eczema have a number of risk factors for injuries, including distraction caused by itch, sleep deprivation, psychological and behavioral disorders, and the use of sleep aids and steroids that may lower bone strength, he said.

Although there’s no cure for eczema, treatments can help control it, which include moisturizers and topical steroids to control itching and reduce swelling, according to the AAAAI.

Oral steroids are usually reserved for more severe flare-ups, according to Day. However, over many years this can have an effect on bones and other organs, Day said.

“Adults with eczema would likely benefit from improved control of their skin disease and less use of medications that might increase the risk of injury,” Silverberg said.

More information

For more on eczema, visit the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases .

Categories: Health & Fitness

How Food Labels Are Changing (and Why Some Companies Don’t Like It)

Thu, 2014-10-30 13:19

Photo: Proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts label; U.S. Food and Drug Administration

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first proposed changes to the “nutrition facts” label in February, it was great news for many consumers. After all, the current labels don’t always reflect how people really eat—like a 20-ounce soda listing calories in an 8-ounce serving, not the entire bottle.

Still, there’s one potential change drawing resistance from food manufacturers: the listing of added sugar. That is, sugar that doesn’t occur naturally in food.

As early as August, some food companies began speaking out against the FDA’s new stance on sugar. The director of regulatory affairs and nutrition for Campbell Soup Company told Reuters, “Giving consumers a false impression that reducing added sugars without reducing calories may actually delay finding a real solution to the problem” of obesity.

RELATED: 16 Most Misleading Food Labels

But it seems that added sugar intake alone is a health problem: A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that an average diet in the U.S. contains enough added sugar to up the risk of heart-related death by nearly 20%. And that risk is more than doubled for the 10% of Americans who already get a quarter of their daily calories from added sugar, said the study’s lead author.

The good thing about the FDA’s proposed changes is that more people would be able to tell just how much added sugar they’re consuming by looking at the label.

RELATED: 25 Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day

While the opportunity to submit comments on the proposed labels directly to the FDA has passed, there’s a Change.org petition from the American Heart Association addressed to FDA Commissioner Margret Hamburg you can sign in favor of the new changes, including support for listing added sugar on food labels. It has more than 11,000 supporters already but is still in need of “signatures” from a little over 3,800 people.

It’s one step you can take to make your voice heard before the changes are set in stone.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Many Colleges Have Tanning Salons on or Near Campus; Some Accept Campus Cash

Thu, 2014-10-30 12:07

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Many U.S. colleges have indoor tanning salons on or near campus, even though tanning increases the risk for skin cancer, researchers report.

Tanning remains popular among young adults, particularly white women, so colleges should adopt tanning-free policies, to help protect students’ health, the researchers said.

“Public health efforts are needed to raise university administration and student population awareness of the harms that indoor tanning poses to young adults in order to increase demand for policy-related action,” the study authors wrote.

“The presence of indoor tanning facilities on and near college campuses may passively reinforce indoor tanning in college students, thereby facilitating behavior that will increase their risk for skin cancer both in the short term and later in life,” the researchers, led by Sherry Pagoto, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass., added.

In conducting the study, the researchers investigated the top 125 colleges ranked by U.S. News & World Report. They made phone calls and searched the Internet to find out where local tanning services were located in each college town.

The investigators also inquired about payment options at each indoor tanning facility to find out how students could pay for services.

The study, published online Oct. 29 in the journal JAMA Dermatology, found that 48 percent of the colleges examined have indoor tanning facilities either on campus or nearby in off-campus housing.

Of all the colleges included in the study, 12 percent had indoor tanning available on campus. Meanwhile 42 percent had this service in off-campus housing, according to a journal news release.

As for payment options, students could use their campus cash cards to pay for tanning services at about 14 percent of the colleges in the study, and most off-campus housing facilities that had tanning beds on-site allowed tenants to tan free of charge, the researchers found.

“In step with tobacco-free policies, tanning-free policies on college campuses may have high potential to reduce skin cancer risk in young adults,” the study authors concluded.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about the dangers of indoor tanning.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Halloween Safety Tips for Kids With Asthma

Thu, 2014-10-30 11:37

THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Wearing masks made of latex and taking hayrides are among the Halloween festivities that could be risky for children with asthma, according to the American Lung Association.

The association advises parents to be proactive about managing their child’s asthma to ensure that Halloween is safe and enjoyable.

Some of the steps they recommend parents take include:

  • Be prepared. Hayrides and haunted houses are exciting adventures that can lead to asthma flare-ups. Make sure children carry their quick-relief inhaler with them at all times so they can use it at the first sign of worsening symptoms. Children who’ve had breathing problems on Halloween in the past may benefit from medication before they go trick-or-treating, the experts noted in a news release. Talk to your child’s doctor about options that could help.
  • Keep it clean. Any costume that has been packed away for a while should be washed before a child with asthma wears it to prevent exposure to dust, mold and dust mites that can trigger asthma symptoms.
  • Rethink the mask. Latex is a known asthma trigger, but it’s used to make many costume masks. Before buying a mask, check its label. Keep in mind that masks also make it more difficult to breathe normally. Cutting a mask in half or skipping one entirely may be the best option for kids with asthma.
  • Check the forecast. The air quality on Halloween night can make a difference for kids with asthma. Wearing a scarf is also a good idea since cold air can trigger an asthma attack.
  • Be cautious. Teach kids to not enter anyone’s home while they are out trick-or-treating. Aside from being a common-sense safety precaution, this can also keep them healthy. The homes of strangers could have pets or cigarette smoke, which could trigger an asthma attack. And, for kids with food allergies along with asthma, be sure to check your little ones’ candy haul for treats that could spell trouble.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more Halloween health and safety tips.

Categories: Health & Fitness

World Bank Pledges $100M More to Fight West Africa’s Ebola Outbreak

Thu, 2014-10-30 11:37

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The World Bank pledged Thursday an additional $100 million in the fight against the Ebola outbreak wreaking havoc in West Africa.

The money, which brings the World Bank’s total pledge to more than $500 million, will be used to attract more foreign health care workers to the three hardest-hit countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“The world’s response to the Ebola crisis has increased significantly in recent weeks, but we still have a huge gap in getting enough trained health workers to the areas with the highest infection rates,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in a news release. “We must urgently find ways to break any barriers to the deployment of more health workers. It is our hope that this $100 million can help be a catalyst for a rapid surge of health workers to the communities in dire need.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) says an estimated 5,000 international medical and support personnel are needed in the three countries in the coming months. In some cases, health care workers in the three countries are reluctant to treat Ebola patients because they lack adequate protection.

There have been an estimated 13,700 infections and about 5,000 deaths in West Africa.

The World Bank has warned that if the epidemic continues unchecked, the financial toll to the region could hit $32.6 billion by the end of 2015.

There has been a bit of encouraging news in recent days, however.

WHO officials said Wednesday that the outbreak in Liberia may be slowing.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO’s assistant director general, said there’s been a decline in the number of burials in Liberia and no increase in laboratory-confirmed cases. He said he was cautiously optimistic that the global push to tame the epidemic may be making some progress, The New York Times reported.

“Do we feel confident that the response is now getting an upper hand on the virus?” he said in a telebriefing with reporters from the organization’s Geneva, Switzerland, headquarters. “Yes, we are seeing slowing rate of new cases, very definitely” in Liberia.

Aylward cautioned against assuming that health care workers had turned the tide against Ebola in Liberia, where more than half of West Africa’s infections have occurred. Ebola cases could surge again, as has happened since the epidemic began last spring.

Meanwhile, health officials in Sierra Leone said late Wednesday that the country remains “in a crisis situation which is going to get worse,” the Associated Press reported.

More information

For more on Ebola, visit the World Health Organization.

Categories: Health & Fitness

4 Steps Could Quell Ebola in West Africa, Researchers Say

Thu, 2014-10-30 11:37

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A full-court press involving all public health tactics known to prevent Ebola transmission will be required to quell the current West African epidemic, a new study reports.

Four practices in particular — burying the Ebola-infected dead in a hygienic way, immediately isolating new patients, tracing people potentially exposed to the virus, and providing better protection for health care workers — can stop the epidemic within six months, researchers believe.

If public health officials can achieve these goals 60 percent of the time, the number of new Ebola cases in Liberia could fall to seven a day by Dec. 1 and to nearly none by March 15, the researchers report in the Oct. 30 issue of the journal Science.

“If these interventions are implemented at a moderately high but not unrealistic level, this thing can be contained reasonably quickly,” said co-author Jan Medlock, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University department of biomedical sciences and an expert in mathematical epidemiology and evolution of infectious disease.

The current epidemic has caused nearly 5,000 deaths out of more than 13,000 cases of Ebola infection in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

A second study in Science reports that scientists using mice have made headway in figuring out why Ebola causes only mild symptoms in some but life-threatening reactions in others.

By breeding mice that are susceptible to Ebola’s worst symptoms, researchers have shown that genetics likely play a role in people’s response to the virus.

“Host genetics play an important role in disease progression,” said Michael Katze, a professor of microbiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. “This happens to be Ebola we’re talking about, but it’s true with any virus.”

In Medlock’s study, researchers used complex mathematical models to assess how the disease is spreading, what steps are being taken to slow its progression and how effective those steps are. They focused on Liberia, the nation they said is the focal point of the epidemic.

The goal is to shift the momentum of the epidemic so that it slowly declines, by reducing the number of people who catch the virus from an infected person to fewer than one — a figure scientists call the “basic reproductive number.”

The researchers estimated that in Liberia, the Ebola reproductive number is currently 1.63, meaning two infected people will on average infect about three more people.

Unless a range of steps are successfully implemented, the epidemic will continue to gather steam, generating 224 more cases a day in Liberia through Dec. 1 and up to 348 cases a day by the end of that month, they projected.

There’s no one single public health tactic that can end the epidemic, the researchers concluded.

“We found that just one wasn’t likely to stop this thing within six months,” Medlock said. “We really need combinations of tactics to stop the epidemic.”

However, Medlock added that hygienic burial practices are particularly crucial, so much so that the researchers refer to funerals as “super-spreader events.”

“We know that the bodies of Ebola victims are very infectious after they die, and funeral practices in West Africa have a lot of touching and kissing of the body, washing of the body,” he said. “It seems like a very important transmission route.”

Health officials are trying to encourage washing bodies with disinfectants before holding funeral services, or burying victims without a funeral, Medlock said.

In the other study, researchers found that mice bred specifically to expand their genetic diversity were more apt to display the full range of Ebola symptoms that humans suffer.

Until now, lab mice have died when exposed to Ebola but have not suffered the intense bleeding and other dire symptoms common to the virus, the study authors said.

Mice that more closely mirror human reactions to Ebola will be useful in conducting laboratory experiments that shed light on the genetics in play with infection, Katze said.

“This doesn’t mean there’s going to be a cure or a quick fix to the current outbreak,” Katze said. “This is an incremental step forward in understanding a disease that’s becoming of increasing global importance.”

More information

For more on Ebola virus, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Crash Test Dummies Are Getting Fatter to Make Americans Safer

Thu, 2014-10-30 11:34

Source: Humanetics

There is no getting around it: Americans’ waistlines are growing. And as we continue to widen, it’s time the crash test dummies—the vinyl and metal soldiers that help manufacturers build safer cars—catch up, ABC News reports.

Currently, the crash test dummy is modeled after a person who weighs 167 pounds and has a healthy body mass index. But Humanetics, the only U.S. company that produces them, has announced that the organization will be designing new dummies that weigh 267 pounds and have a BMI of 35, which counts as morbidly obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

RELATED: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

A study from the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health found that obese drivers are 78% more likely to die in a car crash compared to thinner people.

So really, it’s about time. If seat belts, air bags, and other safety features are designed for thinner people, it’s not a stretch to say this may be part of the reason why accidents are more dangerous for people who are overweight. They don’t fit larger people the same way, Humanetics CEO Chris O’Conner explains to ABC News.

RELATED: 13 Oversize Products for Overweight People

“Typically you want someone in a very tight position with their rear against the back of their seat and the seat belt tight to the pelvis,” he said. “An obese person has more mass around [their] midsection and a larger rear which pushes them out of position. They sit further forward and the belt does not grasp the pelvis as easily.”

While we all could do better to turn back the rising tide of obesity, in the meantime, accidents happen. We’re glad to see someone is working on making the cars we drive safer for every body.

RELATED: The Same 10 Weight Loss Mistakes All Women Make



Categories: Health & Fitness

Sandra Bullock Aids Extra in On-Set Medical Emergency

Thu, 2014-10-30 09:44

Getty Images

Sandra Bullock is one of those stars who just seems nice, and earlier this week she did something that helps prove our hunch.

TMZ reports that Bullock rushed to the side of an extra who collapsed from apparent heat stroke on the New Orleans set of Our Brand Is Crisis last SundayBullock reportedly took charge by giving her water and fanning her in a shaded area until an ambulance arrived and transported the woman to a local hospital.

The Big Easy has been experiencing unseasonably hot weather this fall, with the sun blazing and temperatures climbing close to 90. Actors were required to wear warm clothes and heavy jackets on the day the incident occurred, according to TMZ.

Our Brand Is Crisis is a George Clooney-produced political drama based on a 2005 documentary of the same name about bringing American political campaign strategies to South America. Bullock stars as a retired political consultant known as “Calamity Jane.” The movie also features Billy Bob Thornton. Warner Bros. will release the film in 2016.

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Categories: Health & Fitness

Study Compares 2 Common Weight-Loss Surgeries

Thu, 2014-10-30 09:37

THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A comparison of two of the most common types of weight loss surgery found that laparoscopic gastric bypass helped patients shed more excess pounds than adjustable gastric banding, but carried a higher risk of short-term complications and long-term hospitalizations.

Gastric-bypass surgery makes the stomach smaller and reroutes the small intestine, so your body does not absorb all the calories from food you eat, according to the National Institutes of Health. Gastric banding is a type of weight-loss procedure in which an adjustable band is placed around the top of the stomach to create a small stomach pouch.

There is ongoing debate about the risks and benefits of the two types of weight loss surgery, and previous studies have yielded conflicting findings, according to the researchers. The study analyzed data from more than 5,800 patients in the United States who had laparoscopic gastric bypass and nearly 1,200 who had gastric banding.

Overall, patients who got the laparoscopic gastric bypass procedure lost almost twice the amount of weight as those who got the banding procedure, the study found.

However, there were more complications with bypass vs. banding. Within a month after surgery, 3 percent of gastric bypass patients had experienced one or more major complications, compared to 1.3 percent of gastric banding patients, the study found.

Longer-term follow-up found that in the gastric banding group, 0.2 percent of patients died, about 12 percent were hospitalized again, and about 14 percent had one or more subsequent interventions. In comparison, 0.3 percent of patients getting bypass died, about 20 percent faced rehospitalization, and 5.5 percent required another procedure.

“We found important differences in short- and long-term health outcomes for the [gastric banding] and [gastric bypass] procedures across 10 health care systems in the United States,” wrote a team led by Dr. David Arterburn of Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. “Severely obese patients should be well informed of these differences when they make their decisions about treatment,” they said.

The study was published online Oct. 29 in the journal JAMA Surgery.

The findings are important but may already be outdated, one expert said.

“Since the time this study commenced, there has been a large shift in procedure selection,” said Dr. Mitchell Roslin, chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Although the article states that banding and bypass are the two most common procedures, that is no longer true — bands have dropped in popularity.”

“At their peak, they represented over 40% of all bariatric procedures,” Roslin said. “Today, that number is less than 20%. The reason is less weight loss and a high rate of [later need for band] extraction, which approaches 5 percent per year.”

And he said that a procedure called “vertical sleeve gastrectomy has surpassed gastric bypass as the most popular stapling procedure.” Sleeve gastrectomy is a surgery that reduces the size of the stomach.

According to Roslin, “a major issue with great cumulative studies is that they take time to perform. By the time the information is reported, fields have continued to grow and, hopefully, advance.”

Another expert said that it’s important to match the right patient with the procedure that best suits him or her.

“The study confirms what those of us in the field have observed in our patient populations,” said Dr. Collin Brathwaite, chief of the Division of Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgery at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

“It should be noted, however, that previously reported reoperation and intervention rates are much higher than reported here,” he added. “We have patients that have done extraordinarily well with gastric banding. The real challenge is selecting the right operation for the right patient to get the best outcome.”

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about weight loss surgery.

Categories: Health & Fitness

7 Inspiring Women Athletes Over Age 70

Wed, 2014-10-29 16:36

Photo: Madonna Buder, Getty Images

When we think of women over the age of 70, it’s almost a given that the majority of our thoughts drift to a sweet, frail, salt-and-pepper-haired granny. But these seven inspiring women are anything but that. They are true athletes— some even world-record holders. And their age-defying acts are a constant reminder that age really is just a number.

So, if you’ve been having trouble committing to your fitness routine lately, you really need to check out these women. They’re just the dose of fitspiration you need to get back on track.

Madonna Buder, 84 (above)

Known as the ‘Iron Nun,’ Buder, a member of the noncanonical Sisters for Christian Community, is the oldest woman ever to finish an Ironman triathlon. (That’s a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride and topped off with a 26.2 mile run!) Even more impressive, the 2013 USA Triathlon Hall of Fame inductee estimates that she’s completed roughly 360 triathlons, according to the Huffington Post.

Edith Connor, 79

Did you know that only about 20% of American women get in their recommended two strength-training sessions per week? Luckily for Connor, she is in the minority on this one: According to the Guinness Book of World Records, she holds the title for the Oldest Female Competitive Bodybuilder as of 2012. And Connor—a mother of three, grandmother of seven, and great grandmother of six—its the gym three times a week to keep her body competition-ready, according to Reuters.

RELATED: 16 Unexpected Ways to Add Years to Your Life

Tao Porchon-Lynch, 96

As we age, flexibility is a trait that usually tends to give. Let’s face it, most of us can’t even touch our toes. Then there’s Porchon-Lynch whose ability to get bendy puts athletes 70 years her junior to shame. The founder of the Westchester Institute of Yoga, who didn’t even get into the practice until age 73, is also a Guinness Book record holder; she’s cited as the world’s oldest yoga teacher.

Harriette Thompson, 91

As a marathoner, Thompson is already in a pretty exclusive club: Less than 1% of the U.S. population has run the hallowed 26.2-mile distance. The fact that she’s 91 and finished June’s Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon in 7:07:42, capturing the record for the fastest time run by a woman 90 or older, is just icing on the cake. Did we mention that she completed this feat despite the fact that she recently finished up radiation treatment to treat squamous cell carcinoma on her legs?

RELATED: 15 Running Tips You Need to Know

Jackie Stallone, 92

Clearly Sylvester Stallone gets his athletic prowess from his mother. The astrologer was recently spotted in LA at a CrossFit box taking on everything from the erg (indoor rower) to back squats to kettlebell swings. But CrossFit isn’t the former dancer’s only way of staying active. She’s also been spotted taking dance classes at the Pretenders Studio in Santa Monica.

Phyllis Sues, 91

You’d think that by this age, a person would have checked off any daring to-dos from their bucket list, but it seems like Sues is just starting. A self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, she recently took up skydiving. And when she’s not jumping out of planes, you can find her showing off her fancy footwork as a competitive Tango dancer.

Lucille Singleton, 91

Singleton has been quoted as saying that her doctor told her she has the heart of a 25-year-old. Her secret? She’s a regular runner and gym goer. And she’s not letting anything stop her—not weekly dialysis treatments or knee replacement surgery. A 34-year member of the New York Road Runners running club, she’s run the New York City Marathon three times, and has also placed in the top 10 in her age group each time. Oh, and she ran her first marathon at the tender age of 75.

RELATED: 22 Stars Who Don’t Seem to Age

Categories: Health & Fitness

5 Reasons Why We Love Being Scared

Wed, 2014-10-29 15:44

Getty Images

Haunted houses. Dogs dressed up in Darth Vader costumes. Candy corn-flavored Oreos. Let’s face it: Halloween season is big business.

And nowhere is this more evident than in Hollywood’s box office returns. The latest fright night offering, Annabelle (a story about an overly made-up doll with some serious anger issues) has a domestic total of $80 million so far according to Box Office Mojo—not bad for a movie with an estimated budget of $6.5 million. Your 401(k) should be posting those kinds of returns.

Weird, right? In the real world, none of us would want to get up close and personal with a killer doll or confront a guy who’s wearing a hockey mask and wielding a blood-soaked machete. Yet we’ll shell out twelve bucks to sit in a darkened theater to watch Jason (and Freddie and Michael Meyers) go about their grisly business. What’s up with that?

Here, some theories on why we love that scary feeling:

It makes us feel good

Yep, fear is a natural high—and here’s why: “There’s a strong physiological response when watching horror movies,” says Margee Kerr, PhD, a sociologist at the University of Pittsburgh, who studies fear. As the carnage continues, adrenaline, endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine are being released into your brain and body (Kerr describes it as a “full-on chemical cascade”), creating genuine thrills to go with those chills.

“We experience a kind of arousal from watching horror movies,” explains Glenn Sparks, PhD, a professor of communication at Purdue University’s Brian Lamb School of Communication. “Your heart rate increases, your skin temperature drops, your blood pressure goes up.” But here’s the thing, says Sparks: It takes time for that feeling of arousal to subside and return to normal baseline level. So even though your frightening experience has ended, that aroused feeling lives on for a while—and makes whatever emotion you’re feeling afterward even more intense. “When you think back on a scary movie you saw, you might think, ‘Wow—I loved that!’ Not really,” he says. “What you loved was the aftermath of it.”

RELATED: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

It’s pretty irresistible

Simply put, a lot of us are drawn to the dark side of human nature. Horror films let us experience all sorts of threatening things…but at a distance. Glenn Walters, PhD, associate professor of criminal justice at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, puts it this way: “We get to explore fear with a safety net.”

RELATED: 14 Strategies to Become a Happier Person

It’s a bonding thing

Fear creates a kind of camaraderie. “When people go through an intense experience together it can bring them closer together,” explains Frank Farley, PhD, a psychologist at Temple University and former president of the American Psychological Association. “In that way, emotions can be contagious—you scream and other people join in. It’s creating a social experience.”

It’s a confidence booster

Believe it or not, being scared can have real psychological benefits. “When people face down fears in safe ways, they feel successful and more confident. You feel as though you’ve not only survived but conquered something threatening,” says Kerr. What’s more, with each nail-biting viewing, you’re actually building a higher tolerance for stress. “In that sense,” says Kerr, “you could think of watching horror movies as training wheels for encountering everyday stress.”

RELATED: 13 Ways to Beat Stress in 15 Minutes or Less

It’s kind of a turn-on

While it may not sound very PC, fear has a way of causing us to revert back to traditional gender roles, notes Sparks. For example, studies have shown that females tend to find men more attractive when they show ‘mastery’ over their emotions. Guys, on the other hand, find females more attractive—and the viewing experience more enjoyable—when they appear to be vulnerable.

RELATED: 20 Weird Facts About Sex and Love

Categories: Health & Fitness

9 Things to Know Before Buying Another Supplement

Wed, 2014-10-29 15:40

Getty Images

The supplement aisle at the drug store is lined with products that promise to prevent illness, improve energy, boost metabolism, even brighten your skin. You probably already know these capsules aren’t necessarily silver bullets to perfect health. (Whatever benefits your multivitamin or Omega-3 supplements offer, you still have to exercise and eat right, for example.) But you do expect them to be safe to swallow, at the very least.

Sadly, a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests otherwise. After analyzing supplements that had been recalled by the FDA for containing banned substances—such as steroids or powerful prescription medications like Viagra and Prozac—researchers found that roughly two-thirds of the tainted products were back on store shelves with the same illicit ingredients at least six months later.

RELATED: 6 Myths (and Facts) About Weight Loss Supplements

Because supplement makers are subject to little regulatory oversight from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, they aren’t required to prove a product’s safety (or efficacy) before it goes to market. And as this study shows, some fail at accurately providing the most basic safety information.

That said, the supplement industry is vastAmericans are expected to spend $32.4 billion on vitamins and dietary supplements in 2014, according to a Euromonitor International report. And there are reputable, safe supplement-makers out there.

Our buyer’s guide can help you avoid sketchy ingredients and choose the most established, trusted brands.

Be wary of certain types of pills

Namely exercise, weight-loss, and sexual-enhancement supplements. The products analyzed in the JAMA study fell into these three categories. Several of the weight-loss supplements actually contained an amphetamine-like drug called sibutramine, which is banned in the U.S., Asia, and Europe.

RELATED: Warning: Do Not Mix These Supplements

Shop selectively

Big-chain drugstores, pharmacies, and supplement stores like GNC or the Vitamin Shoppe may act faster to pull recalled items.

Don’t bargain-hunt

A University of Minnesota analysis found that for six types of herbal products, the more expensive the supplement was, the more likely it was that the recommended dosage would be consistent with established standards.

Steer clear of supplements made in China

Lack of regulation and poor manufacturing practices in China mean their goods may be more likely to be contaminated with substances like lead.

RELATED: Probiotic Foods and Supplements That Really Work

Check for a USP Verified Mark

It means that the nonprofit US Pharmacopeia has verified that a product contains the ingredients on the label in the amounts specified and doesn’t contain unacceptable levels of contaminants.

Do research at reputable sites

You can read supplement fact sheets from National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements to get all the info you need on everything from the recommended daily amount (RDA) to the latest on the health benefits of a certain supplement. It’s also a good idea to stay on top of warnings or recall alerts from the FDA. When you’re ready to buy, the USP website has a store directory and list of all the participating supplement companies if you want to check before you head to the store.

RELATED: Vitamins: What to Take, What to Skip

Consult the experts

Namely, the store pharmacist and your doctor. The former can alert you to any potential adverse events or drug interactions, and your doc can advise you on which supplements are safe and effective.

Skip dubious ingredients

These four have been linked to serious side effects, and aren’t worth the risk.

1. Kava. It has been reported to cause liver damage.
2. Bitter orange. It contains the chemical syndephrine, which has been linked to heart attacks and strokes in healthy people when taken alone or combined with caffeine.
3. Contaminated L-tryptophan. It’s associated with neurotoxic reactions.
4. Chromium. When overused, it’s been linked to anemia—even kidney failure.

RELATED: Best Foods For Every Vitamin and Mineral

With additional reporting by Hallie Levine

Categories: Health & Fitness