Trying to stay on top of wellness and health news and events can be overwhelming. It’s a lot to digest (pun intended). We saved you the trouble. Here are 7 things you needto know from February + March, WellBe-style.
What: In February, the FDA Chief issued a statement announcing a complete overhaul in the way that the FDA approves supplements. The following month, he announced his resignation.
The Details: The FDA describes its change in approach regarding supplements as “one of the most significant modernizations of dietary supplement regulation and oversight in more than 25 years.” The last major development came in 1994, when Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in order to regulate dietary supplements. But since that time, the supplement industry has exploded, going from a $4 billion industry with about 4,000 unique products to a $40 billion industry with more than 50,000 products. This is partly due to advances in science that allow the development of new supplements, but it’s also a lot of garbage-hawkers looking to capitalize on a booming market. These new regulations are meant to protect consumers and crack down on bad actors using misleading claims to market products that are ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. Think fat-burning diet caffeine pills…
Just over three weeks after issuing the statement announcing this overhaul, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb resigned. He’s said to be leaving the agency on good terms, and is proud of the advances he’d made during his tenure, including lowering pharmaceutical costs and setting in motion this new supplement regulation, but we’re still curious about this sudden resignation…
Why Does This Matter for My Health? Three out of four American consumers takes a supplement on a regular basis — and the number rises to four out of five for older Americans — so, chances are, supplements are a part of your life. Because you can buy supplements anywhere, sans prescription, you’re often making your supplement choices based off of marketing or the anecdotal advice from a friend (or maybe an Instagram ad?), which means you could very likely be ending up with products that don’t work or even cause harm. These new regulations will (hopefully!) make it so that you’re getting access to high quality, pure, effective supplements and aren’t being duped with brilliantly marketed but useless supplements.
The WellBe Takeaway: We’re always wary to recommend supplements unless they are verified by some third party or are recommended by health professionals. It’s promising to hear that the FDA is going to take a similar approach — but we’re definitely going to keep doing our research before we incorporate any new supplements into our routine.
What: A new study suggests that HPV could be the cause of a recent increase in vocal cord cancer among young nonsmokers.
The Details: For the past 150 years, cancer of the vocal cords (aka glottic cancer) has been a disease that almost exclusively afflicts smokers over the age of 40. But recently, that has been shifting, to the point where 50% of glottic cancer cases today occur in nonsmokers, and more and more frequently in younger patients.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital may have pinpointed the reason for this change: in a recent study, they looked at the records of 353 patients treated for vocal cord cancer between 1990 and 2018. None of the 112 patients treated from 1990-2004 were 30 or younger, but 11 of the patients treated from 2004-2018 were — and, notably, only three of these 11 were smokers. After analyzing tumor tissue samples from these 11 patients, they found that all but one of them had high-risk strains of HPV.
The WellBe Takeaway: We’re going to keep an eye on this line of research, and watch as the link between HPV and glottic cancer is confirmed. This is why it’s super important for women to get their annual OBGYN check up and pap smear. Most HPV can be cleared from your body by your immune system, but in order for that to happen you need to know you have it, and be supporting your immune system to do it’s best work!
Gut Check: More Confirmation of the Diet-Gut-Mental Health Connection, C. Difficile Bacteria Linked to Antibiotics Use, and Gut Health Now Being Used to Cure Cancer
What: A new survey reinforces the idea that mental health is affected by diet, while a different one confirms that it’s affected by gut health. Meanwhile, kids’ risk of contracting the dangerous bacteria C. difficile (aka C. diff) is found to be linked to antibiotic use and exposure, and scientists are exploring the potential of the gut to help patients battle cancer.
The Details: It’s probably not news to any WellBe readers that your diet, your gut, and your mental health are intimately connected — but two recent developments drive home just how true this is. First, data from the 245,891 respondents to the California Health Interview Survey showed that moderate or serious psychological distress was associated with a lower intake of fruits and vegetables and increased consumption of French fries, fast food, and sugar. The researchers don’t go into why that might be the case, but the next piece of news lends a clue: a study released in February provides population-scale evidence for a link between the microbiome and mental health, showing certain strains of bacteria were related to depression, and others were associated with a higher quality of life. In other words, the makeup of your gut plays a big role in the health of your mind — and, in turn, the kind of food you put in your body plays a big role in the health of your gut. Food → Gut → Mind. Got it?
In other gut news, researchers performed a meta-analysis of studies that included over 10.5 million children (which is a BIG study), 22,320 of whom developed the C. diff infection, and found that previous exposure to antibiotics and proton-pump inhibitors (or PPIs, which includes aspirin) was the most important risk factor. In fact, children with prior antibiotic exposure had about twice the risk of developing C. diff compared to kids without a recent history of antibiotic exposure. One of the major lingering effects of antibiotics is the damage they can do to gut health, so a little reminder to only take them when absolutely necessary and to avoid meat that might have antibiotics in them.
And under the “happy news” front, there’s new evidence suggesting that the gut may hold potential when it comes to curing cancer. Research from Dr. Stephanie Culler — a chemical engineer and founder of Persephone Biome, which studies the relationship between gut bacteria and cancer — indicates that the absence of certain gut microbes could explain why certain cancer drugs (specifically, immune checkpoint inhibitors) don’t work on some patients, and her company hopes to engineer a mix of select gut bacteria that could be taken in pill form to heal patients’ microbiomes and improve their odds when it comes to fighting cancer.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? It’s pretty obvious why preserving your mental health is important (who doesn’t want to feel happy, right?), which means that these new diet-gut-mental health confirmations should hit close to home for everyone. And regardless of whether you’re afflicted by or concerned about C. diff — which can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to a life-threatening inflammation of the colon — and cancer, these news stories show just how important your gut is to other parts of your health. Given that at least 70% of immune cells are believed to reside in the gut, this shouldn’t be too much of a shock.
The WellBe Takeaway: We care a lot about gut health, for all of the reasons above and many more. That’s why we don’t skimp on prebiotics and probiotics, and why diet is always the first place we look when something feels “off.” These studies reinforce our commitment to our own gut health — and make us very, very excited to share with you The WellBe Gut Health Guide we’ve been working on for months!
What: A new study shows a strong link between eating eggs and developing cardiovascular disease, adding a new twist to a decades-long debate about whether eggs are “good” or “bad.”
The Details: The study out of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine looked at data from 29,615 American adults over a median of 17.5 years. It found that higher cholesterol consumption was consistently associated with health risks, in particular heart disease: consuming 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol a day was associated with a 17% higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and an 18% higher risk of death from any cause. Given that one egg yolk has 186 mg of dietary cholesterol, this would be a blow to eggs by itself, but the study additionally found that eating three to four eggs a week was linked with a 6% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and an 8% higher risk of dying from any cause.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? There have been many studies over the years that contradict one another when it comes to the risks or benefits of eating eggs. However, this study is notable due to the size and extent of its analysis, and the fact that it accounted for the effects of saturated fat and other factors that could affect heart health — so it merits being taken pretty seriously. In fact, the findings may lead to a reevaluation of current U.S. dietary guidelines, which don’t include a specific limit on cholesterol (not that we take those guidelines too seriously, but still…).
The results suggest that eating three to four eggs a week only increasing risk of cardiovascular disease slightly, whereas eating two eggs a day led to a 27% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and a 34% higher risk of death. Of course, experts also point out there are are beneficial elements to eggs, such as amino acids and choline. For us egg-eaters, all this means that we should take a look at how many eggs we’re consuming, in conjunction with our overall intake of other cholesterol-containing foods (like red meat), and make sure that we’re on the moderate to low end.
The WellBe Takeaway: We’re already pretty picky about our eggs (have you checked out our guide to choosing the healthiest eggs yet?), and this recent research tells us that we should also be cautious when it comes to how many eggs we’re eating. You may know that we love the blue zones longevity study at WellBe, and this news about eggs actually matches what the blue zones research found over a decade ago: “people in all of the blue zones eat eggs about two to four times per week. Usually they eat just one as a side dish with a whole-grain or plant-based dish.” Given all the varying info out there on eggs, we’ll take this latest finding with a grain of salt (and pepper, please), while still trying to limit our egg consumption to 3 eggs per week!
What: Speaking of heart health, a study released in February suggests that being able to do 40 or more push-ups is associated with a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease. How many can you do?!
The Details: The study looked at 1,104 active adult men, taking into account their baseline push-up capacity and then looking at incident cardiovascular disease risk over a 10-year period. They found that the participants who were able to complete more than 40 push-ups saw a significant reduction in incident cardiovascular disease compared with those who could complete fewer than 10 push-ups, after adjusting for age and BMI.
Though larger studies are needed to confirm the relationship, the findings suggest that higher baseline push-up capacity can be used as a direct indication of one’s risk of heart disease (at least for men).
Why Does This Matter for My Health? Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. And while we know that staying fit (as well as avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy weight) is important when it comes to lowering your risk, there’s not a clear definition of what “fit” means. This study could provide people (or at least men!) everywhere with a no-cost, fast, and simple way to assess their cardiovascular risk, without needing to go to a doctor or be subject to a whole bunch of tests.
The WellBe Takeaway: Yet again, we’re reminded of how important physical activity is (remember the story from last fall about how not exercising is worse than smoking??), and this is just another piece of info to motivate us to get our butts to the gym. And while this study was of a group of male firefighters — so the 40+ number might be a bit extreme for most of us — we’ll definitely be integrating push-ups into our routines to give our hearts a little extra boost.
What: Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, may file for bankruptcy in the face of a slew of lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic. Most recently, they paid out $270 million in a settlement with the state of Oklahoma.
The Details: More than 1,500 local and state governments are currently suing big pharma, arguing that companies like Purdue, and specifically their aggressive marketing of highly addictive painkillers, were the trigger for the opioid crisis. Recently revealed internal documents show that the Sackler family, which owns a controlling interest in Purdue, pulled about $4 billion out of the company while its opioid sales grow. Facing a number of these lawsuits, Purdue is apparently considering bankruptcy, according to a statement from its spokesman.
One of the lawsuits, filed by the state of Oklahoma and alleging that Purdue underplayed the addictive nature of OxyContin, just reached a $270 million settlement. This could lead to more sizeable settlements in the many other pending cases.
If Purdue does file for bankruptcy, it would be a blow to the pending lawsuits — which are hoping to use any money they win to pay for things like increased law enforcement and rehab programs — as it would limit Purdue’s liability and prevent it from paying the full amount in damages. CVS, Walmart, and Johnson & Johnson are also targets of opioid-related lawsuits.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? We often mistakenly believe that if a company has been given the go-ahead to market a medication, it must be safe to use. The opioid crisis is just one powerful example of that not being true, and as the fallout continues, we should all take this lesson to heart. If it’s necessary for you to take medication, be sure that you do your research and talk with an integrative health professional to understand potential risk factors and complications and whether there are any more natural therapies to try instead.
The WellBe Takeaway: Though the bankruptcy claim could protect Purdue in some ways, we’ll take some satisfaction in knowing that the outrage of individuals and local governments caused such a behemoth pharmaceutical company to resort to this tactic — and hope to continue to see them pay for it with big settlements. We’re discouraged and outraged by the maneuverings of big pharma in this massive epidemic, but heartened by the power of grassroots dissatisfaction to spur major change.
What: Another one for the bankruptcy files: Remember the story from the last wrap-up about Johnson & Johnson’s knowledge of asbestos in their baby powder? The latest development is that a key supplier of J&J’s talc powder just filed for bankruptcy.
The Details: Facing nearly 15,000 lawsuits over its talc mineral product, Imerys Talc America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-February. The lawsuits all center around the claim that the talc products cause ovarian cancer and asbestos-related mesothelioma (cancer of the lungs, heart, or abdomen, and that they were aware of this for decades.
One of the primary lawyers representing the lawsuits commented that the company’s bankruptcy filing will not impact their litigation, as their primary targets are J&J and Colgate Palmolive (also accused of putting asbestos-laced products on the shelf).
Why Does This Matter for My Health? Seeing the ongoing and massive legal and financial backlash against J&J will hopefully serve as a cautionary tale to other big companies who may be trying to cover up toxins in their products. But regardless, this story is definitely a cautionary tale to us consumers: just because something is a trusted name brand and has been around forever, doesn’t mean it’s safe.
The WellBe Takeaway: We’ll continue to watch this case and hope that the major players get their comeuppance. And in the meantime, we’re only filling our home with products from brands that we know are non-toxic.