Trying to stay on top of health- and wellness-related news and events can be overwhelming. It’s a lot to digest (pun intended). We saved you the trouble. Here’s what happened in March, WellBe-style.
MAJOR RESEARCH ON MODERATE DRINKING IS BEING FUNDED BY THE ALCOHOL INDUSTRY
What: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) courted alcohol companies to pay for a new 10-year, $100M study on boozing. What the…
The Details: In an investigation, The New York Times found that scientists and NIH officials actively campaigned to get alcohol companies to pick up the tab for their $100 million study. Scientists met with executives, and gave presentations that strongly suggested the study’s results would endorse moderate drinking as a healthy habit. Spoiler alert: Five of them bit and now the study is predominantly funded by some of the world’s largest alcoholic beverage makers — Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, and Carlsberg. Three days after publishing their article, the Times reported that the NIH plans to examine whether health officials violated federal policy against soliciting donations. If they didn’t, well, that policy may need a facelift.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? When industry pays for research that provides favorable results for their business, it compromises the independence of the researchers and the integrity of the trial. This alcohol study will be big (7,800 participants in 16 sites worldwide over 10 years) and could be useful, but it feels compromised already. NIH-Gate 2018.
The WellBe Takeaway: Like we’ve mentioned before (remember the sugar industry cover-up?), any group that pays for research in which the result could affect their business is problematic, especially when it comes to public health. We’re disappointed that the NIH used these tactics and hope this investigation changes federal policy.
HOLDING HANDS WITH A LOVED ONE CAN EASE PAIN
What: A study found that physical contact with a partner who’s suffering can sync their brain waves and reduce pain. Could this news be any cuter?!
The Details: Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and University of Haifa observed that holding hands synced up participants’ breathing, heart rate, and brain wave patterns. When a partner was more empathetic to his partner, the more their brain activity synced. The more the brain waves synced up, the more the pain went away.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? Hands..touching hands…reaching out..anyone? In all seriousness, we knew it was comforting, but this study shows us the magical of human touch is actually backed up by science.
The WellBe Takeaway: We live in a world where the latest tech makes it way too easy for us to unintentionally avoid physical human contact. We’re taking this study as a reminder to put our phones down and really engage with our friends and family, and that includes giving great hugs and holding hands.
STUDY SUGGESTS THERE’S “NO SAFE THRESHOLD” FOR LEAD EXPOSURE
What: About 400,000 deaths — or 18 percent — of all deaths in the U.S. per year can be attributed to lead exposure— that’s 10 times more than previously thought, according to a new study published in The Lancet.
The Details: Looking at data from over 14,000 adults over 20 years, researchers found that people with higher blood levels of lead had a higher risk of death, especially from cardiovascular complications like coronary heart disease. Lead can enter the blood vessels, which hardens arteries and leads to plaque in the blood vessels, which means blood pressure, the risk of heart disease and stroke all go up, Vox reported. We usually think about smoking, lack of exercise, and a bad diet as contributors to heart disease, but this study is a reminder that environmental factors can increase the risk, too. “There’s no apparent threshold or safe level [of lead] for deaths from heart disease,” lead author Dr. Bruce Lanphear, M.P.H., a professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, told Consumer Reports. The study authors suggest blood lead testing should be added to standard adult blood work.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? Lead can get into our systems through paint, household dust, food, water, and cigarette smoke. It’s especially dangerous for children under age 10 or in the womb, because it can pass through the blood-brain barrier and kill off brain cells, Vox reported. Children absorb up to five times as much lead as adults! Researchers hope their findings motivate policymakers to get lead out of our environment through regulation of stricter standards of allowable levels in the air, water, dust, and soil. Vox reported that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declared a “war on lead” in drinking water after the Flint water crisis, but the EPA is moving slowly on regulations for lead in paint.
The WellBe Takeaway: To protect ourselves from lead exposure, follow these tips from Consumer Reports: check for lead paint in in your home (if it was built before 1978 it’s likely to have some) with a kit from the hardware store, have the water in your home tested (if it was built before 1986), consider getting your child tested, and pay attention to recalls and other news about lead (it’s been found in protein shakes and powders!).
MAJOR FOOD BRANDS DITCH POWERFUL LOBBYING GROUP
What: One of the biggest food lobbying groups in the country lost high-profile members, including Nestle, because the group isn’t into GMO transparency and better ingredient labeling.
The Details: The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has been an important player in the food industry for decades, but over the past few months, their biggest members said, “We out.” These include Campbell Soup Company, Mars, Tyson Foods, Unilever, the Hershey Company, and the Kraft Heinz Company. The companies have been quiet as to why they defected, but Quartz reported one reason is that GMA wasn’t into GMO disclosure and more transparent food labels. As in, they don’t want to label foods that contain GMOs or added sugar.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? CHANGE. IS. COMING! This upheaval hopefully signals a shift in big food companies’ stance on promoting transparency, better nutrition, and environmental sustainability, aka listening to what consumers actually want to know about (and have in!) their food. Which means, it’s super important to vote with your wallet and support companies that are open about their ingredients and sourcing. It appears to be effective!
The WellBe Takeaway: We’re happy to see that even the old guard of big food seems to be responding to consumer demands— let’s just hope they stick to it.
NEW GUIDELINES URGE DEPRESSION SCREENING FOR ALL TEENS + THE DASH DIET
What: Amidst a disturbing rise in suicide rates among adolescents, especially teen girls, the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines asking pediatricians to screen teens during their annual check-ups. A new, unrelated, study found that the DASH diet, which focuses on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, may lower risk of depression in older adults.
The Details: Only about half of adolescents with depression get diagnosed before reaching adulthood and as many as 2 out of 3 young people with depression go undiagnosed. These guidelines recommend everyone, age 12 and up, get screened at least once a year during a well-visit, a sports’ physical, or during another doctor’s office visit, NPR reported.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? A lot of teens don’t see a therapist, so baking this into annual appointments is an opportunity to identify young people with signs of depression. The guidelines encourage docs to talk to their patients alone, without a parent in the room, with the hope that they’ll be more open.
The WellBe Takeaway: The guidelines scare us a bit because a lot of people with depressive symptoms are put on antidepressants when their symptoms may be linked to a different root cause. Several of the people we’ve interviewed have had mental health issues that trace back to other diagnoses— this woman’s bipolar and depression symptoms were misdiagnosed and actually caused by a toxic drug reaction. Screening is important, but we believe a strictly pharmaceutical approach to depression is often a Band-Aid that doesn’t get to the root cause. We think this new DASH diet study shows it might be a better first treatment plan for depression (and it’s just good for your overall health!).
PLASTIC FOUND IN 90 PERCENT OF BOTTLED WATER
What: A study of some of the world’s most popular bottled water brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every liter (33 ounces) of water sold. That’s about 10 plastic particles per ounce. Just. Speechless.
The Details: The researchers analyzed 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 brands. They found roughly twice as many plastic particles in bottled water than in their previous study of tap water, The Guardian reported. The most common type of fragment was the same kind of plastic used to make bottle caps. Only 17 bottles in the study were free of plastics. One finding: a bottle of Nestle Pure Life had concentrations as high as 10,0000 plastic pieces per liter of water. None of the other companies allowed their test results to be made public, Orb Media reported. In response, the World Health Organization called for a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water. And here we go.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? No one wants to unintentionally and unknowingly ingest plastic when they’re just trying to stay hydrated. Plastic bottles have already been linked to various chronic diseases and this is just the latest study to show us there are serious health concerns with humans using plastic.
The WellBe Takeaway: We’re attached to our glass and stainless steel water bottles and fill them with filtered water to avoid potential contaminants. Need a new water filter? Read our guide to see what’s best for your city. Here are a few more reasons we skip plastic. In a pinch, Acqua Panna and Mountain Valley Spring are mineral water companies that have glass bottle options so we look for those when we forget our water bottle at home. Click here to buy Acqua Panna and click here to buy Mountain Valley Spring.
PROBIOTICS DURING PREGNANCY MAY LOWER KIDS’ ECZEMA RISK
What: A new research review suggests that taking probiotics during pregnancy and while breastfeeding may lower the risk of eczema in about 44 cases for every 1,000 children.
The Details: Looking at 28 trials of probiotic uses during pregnancy, researchers found the reduced eczema risk when moms took probiotics during the final weeks of pregnancy and the first six months of breastfeeding.
They also looked at 19 trials of fish oil supplements during pregnancy and saw a reduced risk of egg allergies in kids when women took the supplements throughout the second half of pregnancy and the first three to four months of breastfeeding. Both of these findings point to evidence that the nutrition— either in food or supplement form —consumed by pregnant and breastfeeding moms (and thus babies) may influence development of allergies and autoimmune disease, Reuters reported.
Speaking of babies, a separate study examined gut bacteria, C-sections, and overweight moms and babies. What’s the connection? Overweight women are more likely to have a C-section. Researchers found that C-section babies born to overweight women had different gut bacteria than babies born to normal weight women, and that that difference may contribute to an increased risk for obesity in the baby. For normal weight moms, having a baby vaginally or by C-section didn’t make a difference for the risk for overweight babies, The New York Times reported.
Why Does This Matter for My Health? How you treat your body when you’re pregnant is incredibly important, and these findings are a reminder of how the 100 choices you make a day are your— and your child’s —healthcare. Do keep in mind that researchers didn’t have a definitive idea of the probiotic and fish oil dosage moms should take during pregnancy. They’re hoping their findings will encourage further research to establish guidelines and safety.
The WellBe Takeaway: We’d say keeping your gut bacteria healthy is is an always kind of thing, but if you’re pregnant, apparently it’s a non-negotiable always kind of thing. One way is to load up on probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and bone broth. Pregnant and overweight? Working with a doula helps the reduce your chance of having a C-section. Have you watched our interview with Latham Thomas on having a holistic pregnancy?
WHAT THE FDA WAS UP TO IN MARCH: 2 GOOD, 1 WORRYING APPROVAL
What: The FDA approved a few drugs, tests, and standards recently. Here’s our take.
First off, the wins:
1- The federal agency approved the first screening tests to detect a tickborne parasite, Babesia, in blood. Babesia causes babesiosis and is considered a co-infection of Lyme disease. It can be transmitted by blood donation from an infected donor and is the most frequently reported transfusion-transmitted parasitic infection in the U.S. Terrifying! This new test can help prevent potentially infected blood donations from being shared or made.