TIME medicine

Puerto Rico Governor Signs Executive Order to Legalize Medical Marijuana

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The order goes into immediate effect

The governor of Puerto Rico signed an executive order Sunday to permit the use of medical marijuana in the U.S. territory.

“We’re taking a significant step in the area of health that is fundamental to our development and quality of life,” Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said in a statement. “I am sure that many patients will receive appropriate treatment that will offer them new hope.”

Padilla noted that research supports the use of marijuana to relieve pain and symptoms from disorders that range from multiple sclerosis to glaucoma.

Puerto Rico’s health secretary has three months to release a report on how the executive order will be implemented in the territory and what its impact will be, the Associated Press reports. Medical marijuana is legal in 23 U.S. states.

[AP]

TIME Research

Parents May Pass On Sleepwalking to Their Kids

Somnambulant parents likely to have kids who walk in their sleep too

Kids are more likely to sleepwalk if their parents also did, a new study suggests.

The new research, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, found that over 60% of kids who developed somnambulism had parents who were both sleepwalkers.

The study authors looked at sleep data for 1,940 kids whose history of sleepwalking and sleep terrors (episodes of screaming and fear while falling asleep) as well as their parents sleepwalking were reported through questionnaires.

The data showed that kids were three times more likely to become a sleepwalker if they had one parent who was, and seven times more likely to sleep walk if both parents had a history of it. The prevalence of sleepwalking was 61.5% for kids with dual parent sleepwalking history.

The overall prevalence of sleepwalking in childhood reported among kids ages 2.5 to 13 years old was 29.1%, while the overall prevalence of sleep terrors for kids between age 1.5 to 13 was 56.2%. Kids who had sleep terrors were more likely to also develop sleepwalking, compared to kids who did not have them.

“These findings point to a strong genetic influence on sleepwalking and, to a lesser degree, sleep terrors,” the study authors write. “This effect may occur through polymorphisms in the genes involved in slow-wave sleep generation or sleep depth. Parents who have been sleepwalkers in the past, particularly in cases where both parents have been sleepwalkers, can expect their children to sleepwalk and thus should prepare adequately.”

TIME Crime

Mother Tosses Baby Off Bridge, Then Jumps

The mother is charged with attempted homicide

A teen mother was seen throwing her baby over a Pennsylvania bridge and into the water below, before jumping off the bridge herself.

The apparent attempted murder-suicide happened Sunday around 1:45 p.m in the city of Allentown, KTLA 5 reports. Witnesses said the 19-year-old mother was seen pushing the baby in a stroller before throwing the child, and then herself, over the Hamilton Street Bridge.

The mother was found unconscious under the bridge and the baby was found 700 yards downstream. Police officers were able to perform CPR on the child. Both the mother and the baby are expected to survive, according to Allentown Police Capt. William Reinik.

The mother has been charged with attempted homicide, NBC10.com reports.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

This Kind of Sugar Triggers Unhealthy Cravings

TIME.com stock photos Food Snacks Candy Peach Rings
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Fructose may mess with how our brains process rewards, a new study says

A new study shows a type of sugar found naturally in fruit may increase cravings for high-calorie foods.

In a small study of 24 people published in the journal PNAS, researchers found that fructose — which we primarily consume as an added sweetener in processed foods — was associated with activity in some areas of the brain that process rewards.

MORE: This Is the No. 1 Driver of Diabetes and Obesity

The researchers gave the volunteers cherry-flavored drinks that were sweetened with fructose on one day and drinks sweetened with glucose on another day, and asked them to report their hunger levels.

Neuroimaging scans of the participants showed more activity in the orbitofrontal cortex and visual cortex of their brains, which are involved in reward processing, when they looked at images of food after they ingested fructose compared to glucose.

The researchers also showed the men and women images of high calorie foods and asked if they would like to have food now, or if they would like a monetary bonus later on. When drinking fructose, the individuals were more likely to say they wanted the food reward right away rather than money later on.

“These findings suggest that ingestion of fructose relative to glucose results in greater activation of brain regions involved in attention and reward processing and may promote feeding behavior,” the study authors write. It’s possible, they suggest, that fructose has less appetite suppressing effects compared to glucose. As TIME has previously reported, the two types of sugar are metabolized differently in the body.

The findings are still preliminary and the study sample was small, but this isn’t the first time that fructose has been linked to possibly unhealthy effects. A previous 2015 study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings showed that, when compared to other types of sugars and sweeteners, fructose was linked to worsening insulin levels and glucose tolerance—a driver for pre-diabetes—and it was linked to harmful fat storage and markers for inflammation and high blood pressure.

So does that mean you should give up eating fruit? No, says study author Dr. Kathleen A. Page, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California told the New York Times. “It has a relatively low amount of sugar compared with processed foods and soft drinks,” she said.

TIME Addiction

Health Experts Angry FDA Still Doesn’t Regulate E-Cigarettes

TIME.com stock photos E-Cig Electronic Cigarette Smoke
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Prominent medical groups are asking the government to hurry up

A year has passed since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new regulations for e-cigarettes, cigars and waterpipe tobacco, to prevent them from being sold to minors and to require manufacturers to add health warnings to labels—but the new rules still haven’t gone into effect.

Now, public health experts are urging action, arguing it’s unacceptable that it’s taken so long given data shows use of these products among minors has spiked.

Earlier this week, 31 health and medical groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Heart Association wrote a letter to President Obama asking for the federal government to finalize the “long-overdue” regulation. The medical groups say cigar and e-cigarette brands are using marketing tactics that they feel appeal directly to young people, like promoting candy and fruit-flavored products, and they want regulations to put an end to it.

“It’s no wonder use of e-cigarettes by youth has skyrocketed,” the letter reads. “This process has already taken far too long. We cannot afford more delays that allow tobacco companies to target our kids with a new generation of tobacco products.”

Health experts are concerned over a recent U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that showed e-cigarette use among middle school and high school students tripled between 2013 to 2014 and hookah use doubled. The report showed that e-cigarette use among high schoolers increased from 4.5% in 2013 to 13.4% in 2014, which is a rise from approximately 660,000 students to 2 million.

“My concern is always the first-time users,” says Shyam Biswal, a professor in the department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It’s bad it took so long to make a dent in [conventional] tobacco users, and we are now starting something else, and we are just waiting and waiting and waiting. We don’t have the data that e-cigarettes are a gateway [to other tobacco products], so we just wait. It should not be like that.”

In a statement sent to TIME, the FDA said it “remains concerned about the significant increase in e-cigarette and hookah usage among youth.” The agency wrote:

These staggering increases in such a short time underscore why FDA intends to regulate these additional products to protect public health. Rulemaking is a complex process, and this particular proposed rule resulted in more than 135,000 public comments for the agency to review and consider. FDA is committed to moving forward expeditiously to finalize the rule that will extend its authority to additional tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and other currently unregulated tobacco products.

Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research & Education, said he hopes that when the regulation is finalized there are no loopholes. “Given that the White House has blocked eliminating menthol from cigarettes for years despite strong evidence—including from the FDA’s own analysis that doing so would protect public health—I am not holding my breath,” he said.

Several states and local governments have regulated items like e-cigarettes on their own. Data shows at least 42 states and 1 territory currently prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes or vaping/alternative tobacco products to minors.

“I just hope that the final FDA rule does not do anything to make that process more difficult,” said Glantz.

The medical groups concluded in their letter that “further delay will only serve the interests of the tobacco companies, which have a long history of using product design and marketing tactics to attract children to harmful and addictive products.”

When asked for a comment about the letter, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget referred TIME to the FDA.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s Your Health Excuse to Have a Mint Julep

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Mint is one healthy herb

The Kentucky Derby is this Saturday, and that means mint juleps will be on the menu. While there’s really no great health benefit imparted by bourbon, mint certainly has its qualities. If nutrition is what your after, mint soaked in booze may not be the best source, but if you need an excuse for a second mint julep, we’ve got a few.

“Without a doubt, the mojito is my favorite way to enjoy the fresh flavor of mint, but it’s mint in its natural state that I truly love,” says registered dietitian Tina Ruggiero. “Mint is available as a tea; you can buy peppermint oil and, of course, there’s the mint leaf itself.”

Ruggiero says that used in all these forms, mint has the ability to calm an upset stomach, relieve nasal symptoms from cold or allergies, and it’s a good source of Vitamins C and A. Some studies have even found that peppermint oil can be an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.

“While mint has trace amounts of potassium, magnesium and calcium, you’d have to eat quite a bit of it to garner any particular benefit,” says Ruggiero. “Instead, use it liberally as an ingredient where appropriate, since it doesn’t add fat, calories or sodium to your meals.” (That probably means mint crushed in your Derby drink isn’t doing you much good).

Besides mint juleps or mojitos, mint can add an extra kick in the kitchen. Try adding some chopped mint to salads or smoothies, or as Ruggiero suggests, infuse cold water with mint for a refreshing and healthy drink.

Gardening enthusiasts also take note: mint is also a great addition to an herb garden.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Foods That Taste Better in May Than They Will All Year

Never know what’s growing now? Let’s take it one season at a time, with the Foods That Taste Better Now Than They Will All Year.

Often we think Spring is the season of abundance, but that’s really not true. While there’s certainly some produce that tastes its best during in spring, summer produces the more abundant yields. While the month of May is still early for some fruits and veggies, it certainly kicks off the season.

“In the produce business, we all kind of wish every month was like May. It’s a time of intense change, and it marks the official start of the summer tree fruit season,” says James Parker, the associate coordinator for Whole Foods Market’s global perishables buying office. “We also see a tremendous increase in local and regional production throughout the U.S. Because it’s domestic season, the product doesn’t have to travel as far.” That means that not only will produce in the grocery store be better quality, but it will likely be a good price too.

Parker says that in May, produce quality is still “contingent on the whims of Mother Nature.” But we will start seeing lots of fruits and vegetables that were in poor supply in the Spring and Winter months. Here are five foods to add to your shopping list this month.

Corn: You may think of July and August as peak corn season, but consider this: “You want to buy corn as close to where it’s grown as possible,” says Parker. “That’s because the longer the corn is held in storage, or the longer it has to travel, the less sweeter it becomes—its sugars convert to starch.” Not only will corn by growing in abundance in California and Florida, but southern states will start seeing large crops too, which means less delivery travel nationwide.

Blueberries: Blueberries tend to taste better if you buy them locally, and domestic production of blueberries will be happening this month in many parts of the country. Not only will blueberries be fresh and sweet, but you’re likely going to get a good deal too since berries will start competing against summer tree fruits for consumers’ attention.

Apricots: Apricots tend to have a pretty short season, but Parker says this year’s weather indicates there will be tasty apricots in May. “Most folks have them in preserves or dried, but the fresh fruit season is touch and go,” he says. If the weather is really inconsistent, Parker says it can affect the apricot quality. “But this year we had a pretty mild winter,” he says. That means there will likely be some delicious apricots available this month.

Cherries: “If you like cherries, chances are you are going to have a really good May,” says Parker. The season for cherries on the west coast is starting earlier this year, so you’ll likely be getting your fix of sweet and sour cherries this month.

Avocados: May kicks off the season for summer salads, and avocados are an especially tasty topper. “We see an overlap in domestic and import avocado production in May,” says Parker. “[Avocados] are in great quality.” In places with more temperate climates, avocados can be in season all year round, but in the U.S. May is a good time to start looking for especially delicious fruits.

TIME Research

This New Drug Might One Day Cure Even the Most Painful UTIs

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More and more women are getting antibiotic-resistant UTIs

Antibiotic resistance is becoming a growing global problem, and for many women that’s having an unexpected effect. One very common infection among women, the urinary tract infection, is becoming increasingly resistant to the drugs used to treat it. New research published in the journal PLOS Pathogens sheds light on the rise of the antibiotic-resistant UTI and hints at a potentially new treatment that may one day offer women some relief.

More than half of women will experience at least one UTI in their lifetime, and between 30 and 40% of those infections will come back within six months. UTIs account for around eight million visits to the doctor’s office every year, totaling about $450 million in medical costs. Most UTIs are caused by the bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli), and recent surveillance data shows a significant rise in cases of UTIs caused by E. coli that are resistant to the antibiotics most commonly used to that treat them. One study that looked at cases of UTIs from 2000 to 2010 found that the number of UTIs caused by E. coli that were resistant to the antibiotic ciprofloxacin increased five fold, and the number of UTIs resistant to the commonly used antibiotic trimethoprim-sulfame-thoxazole rose from about 18% to 24% during the same time period.

UTIs typically cause women to have a severe urge to urinate, and to do so frequently. It’s also often very painful when they do, and many experience a burning sensation in their bladder or urethra. Uncomplicated UTIs usually go away with drugs within two to three weeks, but in some cases women may take antibiotics for 6 months or longer if their UTIs keep coming back.

“It’s definitely a growing problem,” says Dr. Victor Nizet, a professor of pediatrics and pharmacy at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. “Some women get them over and over again, year in and year out.”

In the new study, Nizet and his colleagues looked at an alternative way to treat UTIs. The researchers tested an experimental drug—not an antibiotic but an immune-boosting agent. The drug stabilizes a protein called HIF-1alpha, which was shown to protect mice and human bladder cells from infection with a common UTI pathogen, a kind of E. coli. The researchers found that using the experimental drugs in healthy human urinary tract cells made the cells more resistant to infection by the pathogen. The researchers also discovered that using the stabilizers directly in the bladders of mice protected against infection and that mice who were treated saw a 10-fold reduction in bacteria colonization in their bladders compared to untreated mice.

“A classic antibiotic is something that targets the bacteria directly,” says Nizet. “This [new drug] would be a treatment that would stimulate the body to produce its natural antimicrobials, which are many.” Nizet says the next step is to explore testing in humans and learn more about the effectiveness of oral versions of the drugs.

Dr. Mamta M. Mamik, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (who was not involved in the study) says she’s seen more and more women with UTIs that are resistant to drugs. In those situations, physicians will sample and isolate the bacteria to see what it’s sensitive to and then recommend a drug based on those results, she says. In a worst-case scenario, they may need to give women intravenous antibiotic therapy.

“I think use of antibiotics should be monitored strictly,” says Mamik. “Very judicious use of antibiotics is really necessary or we will end up in a situation that’s really terrifying. If everyone starts attracting these bacterial-resistant infections, we don’t have the resources. We can’t give intravenous antibiotics to everybody—that’s not a solution.”

Mamik says that women who think they have a UTI should schedule an appointment to see their doctor in person, and not to ask their physician to call them in a prescription for antibiotics. Doctors should insist on seeing their patients too, if they want to cut down on the risk, she says. “It’s uncomfortable but not life-threatening, so [women] don’t go in,” says Mamik. “That’s a practice that has to stop. It perpetuates the problem. You don’t know what you’re treating.”

TIME movies

Watch the Trailer for Woody Allen’s New Movie Irrational Man

The film stars Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone

The trailer for Woody Allen’s upcoming film, Irrational Man, shows the relationship between a philosophy professor played by actor Joaquin Phoenix and his student Emma Stone. Phoenix’s character appears troubled, and possibly has an alcohol problem. “You suffer from despair,” Stone’s character tells him. But the new trailer for the film, which opens in U.S. theaters in July, also hints at a transition for the professor, who finds new purpose.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Weight Watchers Founder Dies at 91

Jean Nidetch
Alan Diaz—AP In this photo taken July, 18, 2011, Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers, is shown at her home in Parkland, Fla.

Jean Nidetch made weekly weight loss meetings into a big business

Jean Nidetch, the founder of the popular diet plan Weight Watchers, died Wednesday at the age of 91.

Nidetch, who struggled to lose weight, started Weight Watchers after hosting weekly meetings with overweight friends at her home to talk about their issues with weight and dieting. She went from 214 pounds to 142, and before long, Weight Watchers was founded. Nidetch and her fellow founders became millionaires when the company went public in 1968, the New York Times reports. The company was eventually sold to H.J. Heinz.

Nidetch died at her home at in Parkland, Fla., CBS News reports.

“Compulsive eating is an emotional problem, and we use an emotional approach to its solution,” said Nidetch in a 1972 article published in TIME. The first version of Weight Watchers focused on foods like lean meats and fruits and vegetables, but as the New York Times writes, the emotional support was always one of the distinguishing parts of the program.

Today Weight Watchers remains a very popular diet, and continues to offer weekly meetings. Recent studies have shown that Weight Watchers tends to work better than other diets for people trying to slim down.

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