The WellBe Wrap-up: Health News & Research from April + May 2019 You Need to Know

All the health news and wellness research you need to know from April + May 2019.
Trying to stay on top of wellness and health news and research can be overwhelming. It’s a lot to digest (pun intended). We saved you the trouble. Here are 8 things you need to know from April and May 2019, WellBe-style.

1.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Report on Millennials Shows that Health Starts to Decline at Age 27
What: In a comprehensive report focusing on the 55 million millennial Americans who are commercially insured, Blue Cross Blue Shield found that millennials, on average, are less healthy than the previous generation, and that health begins to decline at age 27.
The Details: The 2017 study showed that millennials (defined as people born between 1981 and 1996) were actually living at about 95% of their optimal health. Sounds good, right? But diving deeper into the data showed that millennials on the older end (age 34-36) have higher rates for 10 serious conditions than did Gen X-ers when they were the same age. Those top 10 conditions were comprised of four physical ailments and six behavioral conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, Crohn’s, substance abuse, major depression, and hyperactivity. It’s notable that compared to the national population, millennials were more affected by behavioral health conditions, and that conditions with the largest growth in prevalence from 2014-2017 were depression, hyperactivity, and type II diabetes. The report also showed that the decline in millennials’ health begins at age 27. Um…yikes!
Why Does This Matter for My Health? If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re a millennial, and if you’re not, odds are basically 100% that you know a good number of millennials. After all, there are 73 million of us in the U.S.! Either way, this news matters, a lot. It’s not just about millennials feeling sick or grappling with health issues in the moment: this report has serious repercussions for the future of the American workforce, economy, and healthcare system, as this huge generation will likely continue to face health issues as they become the dominant population.
The WellBe Takeaway: As we always say, the best way to deal with health conditions is to prevent them in the first place. While this report is startling, it provides us with some very useful information about what conditions to be on the lookout for, and motivates us to take preventative action against them — whether we’ve already passed that age 27 threshold (ahem, hello!) or not. It also shows us that things are getting worse as far as the chronic disease crisis in America, and taking action in our own lives and within our families and communities is more important than ever.

2.

Infections During Childhood Linked to Eating Disorders During Adolescence
What: A new study out of Denmark showed that young girls who are treated for serious or repeated infections during childhood have a heightened risk of developing eating disorders in adolescence.
The Details: The study, which was published in JAMA, looked at girls who had been hospitalized for infection or who had filled prescriptions for anti-infective medications — and the results were startling: girls who had been hospitalized for infection were at a 22% increased risk for anorexia, a 35% increased risk for bulimia, and a 39% increased risk for other eating disorders, when compared with girls who had not been hospitalized. As far as prescriptions go, girls who filled three or more prescriptions for anti-infective drugs saw a similar increase in risk compared to those with fewer (or no) anti-infective prescriptions. The relationship was linear: the more infections or hospitalizations a girl had, the higher likelihood that she would develop an eating disorder.
It’s notable that this study was huge: it tracked every girl born in Denmark between 1989 and 2006, a grand total of 525,643 girls!
Why Does This Matter for My Health? When it comes to infection, most doctors (and many patients) are quick to turn to the most aggressive treatment, whether that’s a powerful drug or hospitalization. This is even more true when the person suffering the infection is a child. This study reminds us that we should all be a bit more cautious when it comes to the remedy prescribed. Even if it does cure the infection in the short term, an aggressive course of treatment can often do its own damage, sometimes resulting in far worse consequences than the original ailment. If you’re the parent of a girl, this specific study should open your eyes to the importance of proceeding with caution when it comes to these measures; and if you’re not, it still drives home the scary reality that the course of treatment prescribed by conventional medicine isn’t always the best choice in the long run.
The WellBe Takeaway: This study is observational, so we’re taking it with a grain of salt; there could have been other factors at play in the girls who developed eating disorders, such as genetics or environmental circumstances. But regardless, we view this as another example of the important role our guts play in all areas of our lives and overall health, and the havoc that antibiotics and similar drugs can wreak. As the lead author explained: “it could be that the anti-infective agents are upsetting the microbes in the gut. Changing the microbiome could affect behaviors through the connection of the gut to the brain through the vagus nerve.” Once again, the gut appears to be at the core of the issue (bad pun intended).

3.

Lawsuit Accuses Poland Spring of Falsely Marketing Itself as “Spring Water”
What: A judge has ruled that a class-action lawsuit can move forward which alleged that Nestlé Waters defrauded consumers by advertising Poland Spring as “100% Natural Spring Water.”
The Details: The lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2017 and then dismissed in 2018, has been reframed and allowed to move forward. It alleges that “not one drop” of Poland Spring water is actually spring water, but rather common groundwater that has been mislabeled to boost sales. There are some other specific — and shocking, if true — claims made by the lawsuit, including that the actual “Poland Spring” in Maine ran dry 50 years ago, to be replaced by six man-made “springs” that technically comply with the FDA’s regulations for spring water; it also claims that one of those springs is near a human waste dump (ummm okay buying a new water filter ASAP). The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in damages, and also wants to ban Poland Spring from continuing to call itself spring water.
Meanwhile, the company maintains that the water is 100% natural spring water, citing an independent investigation in 2018 that confirmed Poland Spring’s compliance with FDA regulations, and asserting that state regulators have also confirmed their compliance.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? When it comes to your health, the kind of water you drink matters, and for most of us, we only have a brand’s marketing language to go off of when we choose what to drink. What’s more, at least 13 million consumers nationwide buy Poland Spring water. Both of these factors mean that a lot of us are trusting our health to a bottled water that might not be what it says it is — and if you’re drinking enough of it, could end up having a harmful impact on your health.
The WellBe Takeaway: Because of the negative environmental impact of buying bottled water (among other reasons!), we’re already big proponents of purchasing a reusable water bottle and filling it with water purified by a water filter. Regardless of the final verdict, this lawsuit makes us feel even more strongly about that choice, and also adds to our already very healthy skepticism of marketing buzzwords used by big corporations to trick trusting consumers into thinking their products are healthy or at least not harmful.

4.

Eating More Than a Half Pound of Meat Day Increases Risk of Early Death in Men
What: A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, for men, eating this certain amount of meat (including poultry!) is associated with a higher incidence of early death.
The Details: Researchers in Finland looked at the health data of 2,641 men between the ages of 42 and 60, following them for an average of 22 years; during that time, 1,225 of the men died (just about half). Looking at the data, they saw that the men who ate more than a half pound (8 ounces ) of meat each day were more likely to die than those who ate less than 2.6 ounces of meat. For the purposes of this study, “meat” was defined as “red meat, white meat and organ meat combined.” Eating protein from fish, eggs, dairy, or plants had no effect on mortality. The study also controlled for dozens of potential influencing factors, including lifestyle, income, and health history, which makes the results even more powerful.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? The American diet is very meat-heavy (especially now that keto has exploded!), and now that summer grilling season is here, you’re bound to be surrounded by even more opportunities to indulge in burgers, steaks, hot dogs, and more. This study is a reminder that it’s important to think twice before making meat a regular part of your diet. Even if you don’t see immediate consequences, there could be serious repercussions (like, uh, death?) down the line.
The WellBe Takeaway: We’re not swearing off meat, or telling you to do so. But we are taking the results of this study as added motivation to stick to our commitment of eating a mainly plant-based diet. And when we do eat meat, we’re sure to keep our portions small (no more than the size of a hockey puck or a deck of cards) choose only hormone- and antibiotic-free options, and make sure we’re grilling them safely.

5.

Government Action + Inaction Roundup!
What: Dang, it’s been quite a couple months when it comes to what government agencies have (and haven’t) been up to. From the FDA to the EPA to the CDC to the USDA, there’s a lot to know about: the EPA sided with Monsanto over claims that Roundup causes cancer, while a California jury awarded over $2 billion to a couple who claimed their cancer was caused by exposure to Roundup. Confusing right? Meanwhile, the FDA ordered manufacturers of vaginal mesh products to pull their merchandise from the shelves due to doubt about their effectiveness and safety after many women came forward about severe internal damage and campaigned to take this dangerous medical device off the market. The FDA also decided NOT to ban a type of breast implant linked to a rare cancer, even though it has been banned in many other countries, after holding a hearing to determine whether it should be banned. And finally, the Trump administration is planning to replace many federal inspectors at hog plants with plant employees, shifting the power for food safety from the government to the pork industry itself. This comes at the same time as a new E. coli outbreak that has afflicted at least 196 people and has been traced back to ground beef, though the CDC hasn’t yet pinpointed a specific source of origin or issued a recall. Self-monitoring seems like a great idea in this scenario…right?
The Details: Okay, let’s go through these things one at a time, shall we?
  • The EPA stated that the active ingredient (glyphosate) in Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup is safe, ignoring a growing body of research showing a strong connection between glyphosate and cancer. A report from Environmental Sciences Europe documented how the EPA ignored independent, peer-reviewed studies, instead using research paid for by Monsanto to support the agency’s position that the compound doesn’t cause cancer.
  • There are now more than 13,400 cases against Monsanto alleging that Roundup causes cancer, and in one of those cases, a California couple was just awarded an unprecedented $2.055 billion by a jury. The couple, who used the weedkiller on their property for over 30 years, were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma four years apart.
  • Over the past few years, there’s been a significant increase in the number of negative health repercussions stemming from the use of surgical mesh for transvaginal repair of pelvic organ prolapse (POP). In response to that rise, the FDA required that companies selling these mesh devices provide evidence that their products are both safe and effective. Because the companies who make the devices couldn’t provide such proof, they now have 10 days to submit plans to pull the products from the market.
  • The FDA held a panel where women with illnesses linked to breast implants implored regulators and implant makers to provide more information (including a required “black box” warning label) about the risks of breast implants, and also called for a complete ban on a particular type of implant that’s associated with large cell lymphoma, a rare type of cancer. It then decided not to ban them despite overwhelming evidence of harm and risk provided at the hearing.
  • An E. coli outbreak has infected at least 196 people across 10 states, including 28 hospitalizations. According to the CDC, the outbreak stems from ground beef, but they haven’t identified a common supplier or brand. This particular strain of E. coli is a new and rare pathogen, which is known to produce a toxin that causes hospitalization and hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening blood condition. So far, the CDC hasn’t made any recommendations in terms of avoiding ground beef at restaurants or discarding certain products at home.
  • The Trump administration continues to shift power away from the USDA and over to industry in a new move that plans to cut 40% of federal inspectors in hog plants and replace them with plant employees. This gives a huge amount of discretion to the pork industry, who would have unlimited slaughter-line speeds. This latest proposal is just one in a string of similar moves: the government is on its way toward delegating inspections to the livestock industry, and recently allowed poultry plants to increase line speeds.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? What happens on a higher level with the agencies mentioned above can have major impacts on your daily life. After all, these regulations are what determine the food, medicine, and treatments we have available to us, and have a huge impact on our environment. It might seem abstract to read about, but think about it this way: the quality of the pork on your plate — and the impact it will have on your health — is directly affected by the policies proposed and voted on at government agencies.
The WellBe Takeaway: We’ll of course continue to monitor these major policies and changes, and advocate for our health and our environment however we can. And as these big government agencies make changes we may or may not agree with, and may not be able to control, we’ll remember that we absolutely can control things on a smaller level when it comes to our health. So that means making sure we know the source of all of our meat products (actually, all food!), doing our research on any medical procedures or devices recommended to us by doctors, and steering clear of any product linked to negative health outcomes.

6.

Sitting for More than 13 Hours a Day Can Cause Metabolic Problems — Even If You Exercise
What: A small study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that being sedentary for long periods of time can lead to metabolic issues, even if you exercise.
The Details: Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin asked 10 healthy, physically active graduate students to be almost completely inactive (defined as sitting for 13 hours and walking fewer than 4,000 steps each day) for four days (by the way, we know plenty of people who walk fewer than 4,000 steps a day)! On the morning of the fifth day, the students were instructed to drink a total sugar-and-fat bomb — a “milkshake” made of half and half and melted ice cream — and then the researchers tested their metabolic reaction by monitoring their blood for triglycerides (the fatty acids from food that stick around in your blood if not metabolized), blood sugar, and insulin. They then repeated the entire five-day experiment again, with one adjustment: on the fourth night, the students ran for one hour on the treadmill before returning to the lab the next morning for another milkshake.
The idea of this two-part experiment was to see how inactivity affects the metabolism, and whether or not brisk exercise can counteract the negative metabolic impact of being primarily sedentary. The results were not hopeful for those of us who like to squeeze all our physical activity into a small portion of the day: after four days of inactivity, all of the students were left with slow, inefficient metabolisms, and the run made no difference whatsoever. This may mean, according to the senior author of the study, that sitting for long periods of time might create conditions in our bodies “that make us resistance to the usual metabolic improvements after acute exercise.”
Why Does This Matter for My Health? In today’s fast-paced, go-go-go world, it’s not uncommon for many of us to spend most of the day working (aka sitting in front of a computer), and then maybe squeeze in an hour-long exercise class or 45 minutes at the gym sometime during the day. For a lot of us, we count that as a win. But this study, unfortunately, suggests that if you’re inactive for most of the day, that might sabotage the benefits of your exercise sesh, even if you work out super hard.
The WellBe Takeaway: First, we’ve gotta point out that this study is very, very small, so we’ll wait to see if more research on this topic comes out before jumping to any definitive conclusions. But in the meantime, we’re going to make an extra effort to get in more steps when we can, even if it’s just a walk around the block between meetings, standing up during calls, or taking the long route when we duck out for lunch (in addition to trying to squeeze in workouts whenever we can! I mean, remember the study about not exercising being worse than smoking??).

7.

Whitening Strips May Do Serious Damage to Your Teeth
What: New research suggests that teeth whitening strips may damage the structure of your teeth.
The Details: These new findings come from a series of experiments conducted at Stockton University, in which whole teeth were placed in artificial saliva and then treated with whitening strips for 20-60 minutes (the time recommended on the product) with a round of 20 strips (the normal amount in a package). The results showed that exposure to hydrogen peroxide, the primary ingredient in whitening strips, broke down the protein in the tooth into smaller fragments; they also found that hydrogen peroxide kills collagen, which is the primary protein in teeth.
The study only looked at over-the-counter tooth whitening products, but since the same active ingredient is used in clinical whitening procedures, the lead author of the study thinks these findings apply to all whitening treatments.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? Dental health is really important; it impacts all other areas of our health (including the all-important gut!), and so we should always pay attention to how we’re treating our teeth, mouth, and gums. There’s still research needed on this topic (it’s important to note that the chief of dental medicine at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital disputes the results and asserts that whitening treatments are safe), but the preliminary results definitely raise a red flag.
The WellBe Takeaway: We all want to look our best, and having a dazzling white smile can be a part of this — but never at the expensive of our dental health. We’ll keep an eye out for more research on this topic, and keep doing everything we can to maintain healthy teeth, like using an electric toothbrush and flosser, eating an alkaline diet, and steering clear of sugary drinks that we know can do damage.

8.

Advanced Paternal Age Can Have a Negative Impact on Baby (and Mama!)
What: A recent study showed that babies born to older fathers are at a heightened risk for a host of health issues, both at birth and later.
The Details: The research, published in The BMJ, included more than 40.5 million births (that’s a lot!) in the United States, looking at the dad’s age alongside health issues for the baby. It found that having an older father increased the baby’s risk of premature birth, low birth weight, low Apgar score, and seizures, and also upped the odds that the mother would develop gestational diabetes. According to the lead author, over 12% of births to fathers over 45 had adverse outcomes that could have been prevented if that father were younger. As compared to babies with dads in their 20’s or 30’s, babies with dads over 45 babies had a 14% greater risk of being born prematurely and having a low birth weight, and mothers had a 28% increased risk of gestational diabetes. The risk to the baby continued to rise alongside the father’s age.
This study reinforces results from several previous studies on paternal age, which linked older dads to issues from congenital diseases to psychiatric disorders to autism.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? The conversation about having kids at an older age usually focuses on the mom’s age; nobody bats an eye at a silver-haired gentleman fathering a baby. But this research shows that dad’s age needs to be part of the discussion. This is particularly relevant today, as more and more couples choose to delay having kids until they’re older (since the 1970’s, the percent of babies born to fathers over 40 has doubled!), and many of them never even consider dad’s age as a factor. While older moms have all sorts of screenings and monitoring, older dads are often left entirely out of the picture. These findings suggest that this needs to change, for the health of both baby and mom.
The WellBe Takeaway: We’re all for taking your time when it comes to having kids — whether it’s to find the perfect partner, make sure you’re 100% positive about the decision, focus on your career, travel the world, or whatever — but this news is an important factor to consider when planning for a family. We’re glad to have the info, and hope that all prospective parents will make these results part of the conversation. But regardless of age, anyone planning on kids can take action today to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby, simply by eating well, exercising, and avoiding unhealthy behaviors like smoking and drinking too much (oh wait, that’s a good idea for everyone!).
Other news worth noting:
Omega-3’s May Reduce Asthma Symptoms (New York Times)
Three Drug Companies Pay $122 in Kickback Fees (Wall Street Journal)
Developmental Delays in Kids Tied to Living Near Highways (New York Times)
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