Study Suggests More Added Sugar Equals Weight Gain

Polka Dot/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- A new study suggests that added sugar intake is directly related to weight gain, according to HealthDay.

The study, which was conducted by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, examined Minnesota residents for 27 years. Researchers found that over the years patients ate less fat, but more carbohydrates and added sugar. The study also showed that the body-mass index of the patients corresponded with national trends in sugar consumption.

Researchers also found some intriguing differences between men and women. Men ate 38 percent more of their daily calories from added sugar in 2007-2009 than in 1980-1982. By contrast, women ate just under 10 percent more.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association conference in Atlanta on Thursday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Suggests Itching Is Contagious

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.) -- The need to scratch an itch may just be in your mind, according to a new study publishing in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center had participants in the study watch videos of other people itching to determine whether being itchy was really a contagious feeling.  They found that participants who saw the videos scratched themselves more intensely and reported feeling itchier than those didn't watch it.

The concept that itching can be visually transmitted could lead to meditation methods to stop the scratching.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ecstasy-Related ER Visits Spike on Spring Break

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new player may be joining the list of spring break overdose dangers: the "club drug" ecstasy.

New government statistics show a 75 percent spike in ecstasy-related emergency room visits since 2004, prompting Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske to issue a public warning on the dangers of the popular party drug, especially with the spring break season approaching.

"The latest numbers show we need to work urgently and collaboratively to warn young people about the harms of drug use.  Now is the time when a lot of young adults and high school kids are going on spring break trips, and this is unfortunately when young people often experiment with substance abuse," said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesperson for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

And ecstasy-related substance abuse has been especially present in certain spring break hotspots in recent years.

"Miami Beach is like the playground of young adults in America.  We're seeing a lot more ER visits associated with ecstasy.  I'd say ecstasy is one of the top three drugs of choice for Miami Beach," said Dr. David Farcy, director of Mount Sinai Medical Center's Emergency Medicine Critical Division in Miami Beach.

Spring break is one of the peak times the hospital sees ecstasy-related ER visits, Farcy said, often by younger college students.  Other peaks happen during music festivals such as last December's Day Glo Party in Miami, when over a dozen patients came in suffering complications from ecstasy.

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a mood-elevating drug that produces a relaxed, euphoric state but can lead to dangerous, even deadly complications.

Though the U.S. saw a dip in overall youth drug use -- specifically including ecstasy -- at the beginning of the decade, results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show ecstasy climbing in prevalence since 2008.  According to Thursday data, an alarming 18 percent of ER visits associated with the drug were by adolescents under age 17.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How Will Radiation Burns Affect Japan Plant Workers?

YOMIURI SHIMBUN/AFP/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- Three Japanese ground workers laboring to contain the nuclear reactors in Fukushima were rushed to the hospital with radiation burns after irradiated water that escaped from the plant's number 3 reactor seeped through the workers' protective gear.

Following reports of the workers' injuries, nearly a dozen experts on radiation exposure responded to a few questions by the ABC News' Medical Unit on the growing elements of radiation danger to workers on the ground in Fukushima.

Physical burns may not be the only hazard for the workers who came in contact with contaminated water, experts said.

Some reports of radiation injuries may not necessarily be radiation burns, according to Dr. Roger Macklis, chair of the department of radiation oncology at the Cleveland Clinic.

"Healing a radiation skin burn is much more difficult if the patient's bone marrow is failing," said Blackstock.

While it's unclear the extent of the workers' burns, Brook said, deeper radiation burns are harder to treat and are more prone to infection.

Maintaining higher than normal levels of radiation in the body can lead to acute radiation syndrome (ARS). Symptoms of ARS include swelling, itching, and nausea. If left untreated, ARS could cause internal bleeding.

The quicker the onset of symptoms, the higher the radiation dose, Emery said.

Immediate treatment might help curb the potential longer-term effects. It's unclear what other radiation effects some workers may experience, but Brook said, time will tell.

"It may develop within 24 to 72 hours if they got more radiation than estimated," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What's For Breakfast? How About Lower Blood Pressure

George Doyle/Thinkstock(YONKERS, NY) --  Consumer Reports brought to light a new fact about men and high blood pressure on Thursday.  According to a study presented at an American Heart Association meeting in Atlanta, men who start the day with a bowl of cereal are 19 percent less likely to have high blood pressure than those who don't.   And if you’re talking about cereals high in fiber,  that percentage only increases.  Even with less consumption -- two to six servings per week -- men were still 11 percent less likely to have high blood pressure. 

Another benefit the study highlights is the importance of breakfast in one's daily meal routine as it has been linked to other health benefits, including better weight control, healthier cholesterol numbers and triglyceride levels and improved sensitivity to insulin.

Consumer Reports adds that you should look for products with at least three grams of fiber and no more than four grams of sugar per serving.

Consumer Reports also says that while the whole study hasn't yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, it is part of the respected Physicians' Health Study and includes approximately 17 years of follow-up with some 13,400 participants.



Eating Cocoa Associated with Improved Heart Health

Jack Hollingsworth/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- For years we've heard about the health benefits of dark chocolate.  Now researchers have taken another look at the role of cocoa on heart health and presented their study to a conference at Harvard Medical School.

Chocolate comes from the cocoa plant and contains compounds known as flavonoids, which not only act as antioxidants but are known to have cardiovascular benefits.

Researchers reviewed 21 studies on the effects of cocoa on the the heart.  The studies were short term and the more than 2,500 participants consumed sugar-free dark chocolate.

The authors found that eating chocolate lowered blood pressure and improved the ability of insulin to lower blood sugar "without weight gain."

They concluded chocolate is good for the heart.  However,  they didn't say how much is needed or for how long one should enjoy its benefits.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


A Portrait of Tuberculosis: Disease Still Kills 1.7M Per Year

Duncan Smith/Thinkstock(GENEVA, Switzerland) -- For the past three years, David Rochkind has documented the devastating effects of a disease that, despite being treatable and preventable, has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization: tuberculosis.

Rochkind, an American photojournalist living in Latin America since 2003, naturally became interested in migrant groups in the region. In 2008, he set off to South Africa to report on tuberculosis among migrant gold miners, a disease he'd heard was plaguing the population, but he knew very little about it. What he found there shocked him.

TB was completely rampant, and its reach knew no boundaries. "The disease didn't just affect the individual patient who has it, but also affected their family and the communities where it was found," says Rochkind.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2010, Africa's mining industry contributes up to 760,000 new cases of TB each year, with the migrants traveling to work in South Africa at highest risk. Miners in the area are particularly susceptible to TB because of high rates of HIV and silicosis, a lung disease caused by the dust formed during mining. When the miners return home, they take TB with them, passing it on to their families and communities, frequently far from any health center able to treat the disease.

But South Africa isn't alone in the epidemic.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.7 million people died from TB in 2009. While the incidence rate is declining worldwide, the number of cases is still rising globally, because of population growth. TB is a cruel disease, stalking the poor and others who live in crowded conditions. While 90 percent of cases are in the developing world, TB has become a growing concern in the U.S. and Europe in recent years. Even more disturbingly, multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB), the disease's more difficult and expensive to treat relative, is spreading rapidly in many countries. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Faith and Fat: Religious Youths More Likely to Be Obese by Mid-Life

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(EVANSTON, Ill.) -- Americans who are religious are more likely to be happy, healthy...and hefty?

According to research from Northwestern University, youths of a healthy weight who frequently participated in religious activities were twice as likely to become obese by middle age than their less-religious peers.

Even when controlling for race, sex, education and income -- several factors that could independently be affecting likelihood of obesity -- this affect remained. Researchers drew on data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, which tracked weight and a number of physical and behavioral variables, including religious involvement, in more than 2,000 men and women over the past two decades.

"We had previously found that those with high religious involvement were more likely to be obese [as middle-aged or older adults], but we wanted to follow people over time to make sure that people who are religious are more likely to become obese, not that people who weigh more are more likely to turn to religion," said Mathew Feinstein, lead author of the study and an M.D. candidate at Northwestern University.

Several studies, including some of Feinstein's past work, have found an association between high religious involvement and obesity, but the studies didn't necessarily find an association between religiosity and negative health outcomes, such as markers of cardiovascular disease. Indeed, several studies link faith to an increased lifespan, more positive mood, and avoidance of unhealthy behaviors like drinking and smoking.

In the current study, for instance, the more frequently participants attended religious services, the less likely they were to smoke. The avoidance of such unhealthy behaviors may explain, in part, why religious people live longer, said Feinstein. But why they tend to put on more weight than their less-religious peers remains a bit of a mystery. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Comfort Foods Emotionally Good for You

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- Comfort foods may not be good for your waistline or your cholesterol level, but they can definitely warm your heart, according to a new study published in Psychological Science.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo ran multiple experiments to judge or invoke participants' loneliness, and then measured their feelings and thoughts when comfort foods were thrown into the mix.  They found that when the participants wrote about the foods, memories of eating with loved ones arose.  Participants who were given soup also thought more about relationships.

"What we found is that people have the capacity to create a comfort food for themselves by having it be something that's consistently associated with their close others," said the study's co-author, Jordan Troisi.

Researchers concluded that comfort foods are social surrogates, which is why people turn to them when they're feeling lonely or sad in an attempt to fill the hole in their hearts.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obsession: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- Francesca is a smart, accomplished attractive woman in her mid-30s. A professor of art history and archeology at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., she's the last person you'd expect to act like an insecure middle schooler over some boy she likes.

You'd be wrong.

"I obsess. I use the quantity of contact with my partner as an index of my self-esteem for the day," she said, asking that her last name not be used. "It is rather creepy, now that I think about it, but I'll look to see where someone checked in on [the social network site] Foursquare to find a justification for their silence."

She's not alone. Women, it turns out, tend to find men more attractive the less sure they are about how much the men like them.

Uncertainty itself -- not the thrill of the chase -- might rank among the greatest aphrodisiacs, according to a new study by Erin R. Whitchurch and Timothy D. Wilson of the University of Virginia and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard.

Women are apt to find men who might like them more attractive than men who definitely do, according to their paper, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not ... Uncertainty Can Increase Romantic Attraction.

"Uncertainty affects our thoughts in general," Whitchurch, who led the research as part of her dissertation, said. "If you can get a person to think about you, you can make that person think they're attracted to you. Uncertainty is one way to get them to think about you."

The experiment was conducted on female undergraduates, although Whitchurch believes, she said, the findings would hold true for men as well. The female subjects were told that the experiment was testing whether Facebook could be used as a dating site.

One group of women were told that four phony male profiles belonged to men that liked them the most. A second group was told they were liked an average amount. A third group was ambiguously told that they were liked either the most or an average amount by the men.

The results: Women did tend to like the men who found them most attractive. The men who were deemed most attractive of all, however, were the ones who were ambiguous on whether they liked the women a lot or just an average amount.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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