WASHINGTON (AP) — There’s more disappointing news about multivitamins: Two major studies found popping the pills didn’t protect aging men’s brains or help heart attack survivors.
“Evidence is sufficient to advise against routine supplementation.”
Millions of Americans spend billions of dollars on vitamin combinations, presumably to boost their health and fill gaps in their diets. But while people who don’t eat enough of certain nutrients may be urged to get them in pill form, the government doesn’t recommend routine vitamin supplementation as a way to prevent chronic diseases.
The studies released Monday are the latest to test if multivitamins might go that extra step and concluded they don’t.
“Evidence is sufficient to advise against routine supplementation,” said a sharply worded editorial that accompanied Monday’s findings in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. Continue reading
A smoggy sunset in San Diego. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
When people think of climate change, they tend to think of it as a science and environmental issue. But climbing levels of greenhouse gases, particulate matter, and rising seas hurts more than the environment. It harms people’s health, too.
“Climate change is one of greatest public health threats of our time,” said Anne Kelsey Lamb of Oakland’s Public Health Institute.
Lamb was talking to a roomful of her own in a gathering this week when some 100 public health professionals from around the state and beyond were in Oakland to learn more about the intersection between climate change and public health — and what they can do about it. Continue reading
You can relax. This is not a story about how much exercise you should be getting. (Although just writing that line made me get up off my chair and take full advantage of my stand-up desk.)
Instead, it’s a story about the power of asking — and measuring. Kaiser Permanente ran a pilot program at four of its 15 medical centers in Northern California and reported Thursday that patients who were asked about exercise lost slightly more weight than patients who weren’t.
Disclaimer: we’re not talking big amounts. Overweight patients in the pilot group lost 0.2 pounds more than those not in in the program. Patients with diabetes had a 0.1 percent greater decline in their blood sugar levels — known as the A1C test. These are not big numbers individually, but the study points to something bigger — the power of an organized system to improve patients’ health. Continue reading
San Francisco City Hall is lit red on World AIDS Day in 2009. (Steve Jennings/Getty Images)
By Jim Bunn
It was the summer of 1983 and my first day on the job at KPIX — San Francisco’s CBS television affiliate. My assignment: cover a news conference at the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank. It was about the new and mysterious disease, AIDS, and the blood supply.
“We need a day. Like ‘Cold-Turkey’ in the States where people quit smoking for a day.”
Sitting in the car to return to the station, my head was reeling. I had heard about AIDS in my previous job on the east coast, but nothing more than that. Clearly this had all the earmarks of a tremendously important story. It was a fearful time. People were dying. The nation’s blood supply was somehow at risk. There was an international race to find the cause and, hopefully, some way to treat this terrible disease and save countless lives.
The kind of story a reporter yearns to cover.
But at the center of it was science. Significant, because not too many years earlier I was the stupidest high school biology student in the history of public education. No joke. Two weeks before graduation I still had an “incomplete” for sophomore biology. Only through the good graces of my biology teacher, who gave me an oral exam, during which he fed me the answers to his questions, was I able to graduate.
So the science of the AIDS “story” stared me in the face –- and scared me. Continue reading
So maybe that headline needs a bit of clarification: This new research has to do with postmenopausal women and their levels of estrogen. (Still, if you’re a pre-menopausal woman, you should read this, too. Men, if you know any women, please read on.)
After a woman goes through menopause, her estrogen levels drop. This study, led by a Stanford School of Medicine researcher, was the first to look at associations between estrogen decline and cognition — both in women who went through menopause more recently (less than 6 years) and longer ago (more than 10 years). The research team wanted to know if the time from menopause made a difference in cognitive ability. And so we return to the headline: They found no connection.
“There were no differences between women close to the time of menopause and further from the time of menopause,” said Stanford neurologist Victor Henderson, lead author of the study. The women were given a battery of neurological tests, not just “a short screening instrument,” the authors wrote. Continue reading
Children under age 2 can reason abstractly, UC Berkeley researchers show. (Getty Images)
By Nancy Shute, NPR
Parents, does your 18-month-old seem wise beyond her years? Science says you’re not fooling yourself.
Very small children can reason abstractly, researchers say, and are able to infer the relationships between objects that elude older children who get caught up on the concreteness of things.
In experiments at the U.C. Berkeley, children as young as 18 months were able to figure out the relationship between colored blocks.
The child would watch a researcher put two blocks on top of a box. If the blocks were identical, the box would play music. The majority of children were able to figure out the pattern after they were shown it just three times. They would then help the researcher pick the correct block. Continue reading
Two-thirds of children between the ages of two to five years old eat fast-food at least once a week in California, according to a study released Monday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
The study gathered data from the 2007 and 2009 California Health Interview Survey and found that 60 percent of children are eating fast food at least once a week, and one in 10 is eating three fast food meals a week.
“That’s too high for me,” says Susan Holtby, the lead author of the study and a senior researcher at the Public Health Institute in Oakland. “To have that many children that young eating fast food every week calls for attention. Those are the years where you really set the pace and set the tone for what a child’s diet will be like going forward to teens years.” Continue reading
Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.
After long discussion, the board of Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, voted unanimously Thursday to stay the course and phase out plans that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act by Dec. 31.
The board’s decision comes a week after President Obama said states should consider allowing consumers whose plans were canceled to renew them through 2014. Dave Jones, California’s insurance commissioner, said he agreed with the president’s request.
But ultimately the authority to permit renewals rested with the board –- because of the contracts insurers have with Covered California. The board weighed whether to release carriers from the provision requiring them to phase out plans that do not have the benefits required by the ACA.
The board had three options before it: permit no renewals; permit consumers to renew through Mar. 31, 2014; or permit renewals through Dec. 31, 2014. In a detailed analysis (definitely worth a read), Leesa Tori, senior advisor to Covered California laid out the pros and cons of each, but there was no clear best option. “If we (allow extensions), are we making more of a mess or are we actually helping?” she said. Continue reading
A prescription label for the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor, a brand name statin medicine. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
Last Monday two major groups released a set of new guidelines designed to lower cholesterol. Now, it appears a major component of the guidelines — an online risk calculator — may be flawed, the New York Times reports.
Since the publication of the guidelines, two Harvard Medical School professors “evaluated the guidelines using three large studies that involved thousands of people and continued for at least a decade,” the Times reported. They knew the patients’ health status at the start and then they looked to see how many had had a heart attack or stroke in the next decade. How accurate was the new calculator in predicting risk? From the Times:
The answer was that the calculator overpredicted risk by 75 to 150 percent, depending on the population. A man whose risk was 4 percent, for example, might show up as having an 8 percent risk. With a 4 percent risk, he would not warrant treatment — the guidelines that say treatment is advised for those with at least a 7.5 percent risk and that treatment can be considered for those whose risk is 5 percent.
Isabel Solorio (left) and Carrie Bonner talk about water issues outside the Lanare Community Center. (Alice Daniel/KQED)
By Alice Daniel, KQED
There are no streetlights here in Lanare, no sidewalks, no sewer system in this tiny, rural enclave of 600 smack dab in the middle of farming country in the Central Valley.
There is a community center and on this night, many locals are here dancing and eating.
“Tonight I make salad and my friend makes beans, and I make beans so just, you know, everybody help,” said Isabel Solorio.
Many people stopped drinking the tap water years ago because it has high levels of arsenic.
Solorio is the president of a local group that holds fundraisers twice a year to support the community center. The group also advocates for clean drinking water –- something Lanare doesn’t have. Lanare did not come out of an organized planning process. Like many unincorporated communities in the San Joaquin Valley, the town arose out of the fields surrounding it.
“It was a lot of labor camps, they call them,” said Carrie Bonner, a Lanare resident still tall and strong at 89. “Cotton chopping, picking and cutting grapes. … Whatever season it was, that’s what they would do.” Continue reading