TIME Research

Health Stores Often Promote Diet Pills to Minors

TIME.com stock photos Health Prescription Pills
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Despite warnings that they are intended for adults

Health store employees will often promote the use of over-the-counter body-changing supplements to minors, despite the fact that they often contain warnings that they are intended for adults.

In new research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in San Diego, researchers had study participants call 244 health food stores in 49 states and identify themselves as 15-year-old boys and girls. The researchers discovered that even though testosterone boosters are not recommended for kids and teens under age 18 without a medical reason, 9.8% of sales associates recommended them. Testosterone boosters contain messaging indicating they are for adults only, but 41% of the sales associates told the callers they thought were 15 that they could buy them on their own.

Health store employees would frequently recommend supplements for callers posing as teen girls who said they were looking to lose weight.

“Adolescents are being enticed by flashy advertisements and promises of quick, body-shaping results,” says Dr. Ruth Milanaik of Cohen Children’s Medical Center. “In this body-conscious world, flashy advertising of `safe, quick and easy body shaping results’ are very tempting to younger individuals trying to achieve ‘the perfect body.’ It is important for pediatricians, parents, coaches and mentors to stress that healthy eating habits, sleep and daily exercise should be the recipe for a healthy body.”

Though the research is preliminary and still a relatively small study size, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says dietary supplements have not been tested for safety or effectiveness in kids. Despite the research and warnings, though, the study authors note that it is still legal for minors to purchase these supplements in 49 states.

TIME movies

This Is Why Germans May Not Be Able to See The Avengers

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, 2015.
Marvel Studios AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, 2015.

Small theaters are upset over rental fee hike

Hundreds of small movie theaters in Germany are threatening to extend their boycott of the film The Avengers: Age of Ultron to include all future films from Disney in protest of the company’s rental fee hike.

193 towns in Germany refused to show the film after Disney raised its rental fee (the amount Disney collects from ticket sales) for its films from 47.7% to 53%, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The smaller theaters say this puts them at a financial disadvantage since Disney focuses its advertising on larger cities. This means they don’t benefit from the studio’s advertising and have to use more resources, which is why they’ve historically had lower rental fees.

Disney has told the theaters that it is not changing the fees, leading the theaters to argue that if Disney does not meet demands, the boycott will extend to all upcoming titles from the studio.

The size of the impact is hard to pin down. According to THR, the theater boycott includes 686 screens, but not all of the screens were going to show The Avengers. The loss of screens not playing the film is likely closer to under 200.

[THR]

TIME movies

Vanilla Ice Defends Adam Sandler’s ‘Ridiculous Six’ Film

Actor Adam Sandler attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Special at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, NY, on Feb. 15, 2015
Behar Anthony—SIPA USA Actor Adam Sandler attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Special at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, NY, on February 15, 2015. (Photo by Anthony Behar) *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***

Rapper Vanilla Ice has defended Adam Sandler’s comedy The Ridiculous Six amid criticism over cultural insensitivity.

Sandler has come under fire after several Native American actors walked off the set arguing the film was offensive. The film is reportedly a spoof on the Western film The Magnificent Seven.

Vanilla Ice plays Mark Twain in the movie. The rapper defended the film to TMZ saying, “It’s a comedy. I don’t think anybody really had any ill feeling or any intent or anything. This movie isn’t [Dances] With Wolves, it’s a comedy. They’re not there to showcase anything about anybody they’re just making a funny movie.”

Vanilla Ice added that he does see both sides, saying he is part Native American.

[TMZ]

TIME Addiction

Hawaii Set to Become First State to Raise Smoking Age to 21

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

The bill covers both cigarette and e-cigarette use

Hawaii is set to become the first state to pass a law banning the sale, use and possession of cigarettes and e-cigarettes to people under the age of 21.

If a bill approved by Hawaii lawmakers on Friday is signed into law by Gov. David Ige, adolescents will be prohibited from smoking, buying and possessing both conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes. First-time offenders will be fined $10, and after that they can be charged a $50 fine or be required to complete community service, the Associated Press reports.

Some local governments have raised the smoking age to 21 in certain counties and cities — New York City among them — but if the bill becomes law, Hawaii will be the first state to do so.

Though the rates of high school age smokers have dropped in recent years, some 2.3 million children and young adults started smoking in 2012. In addition, a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that e-cigarette use among middle school and high school students tripled in one year.

If the Hawaii bill passes, it will go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

[AP]

TIME Research

6-Month-Old Babies Are Now Using Tablets and Smartphones

smartphone-front-view
Getty Images

Babies are using mobile media

Over a third of children under the age of 1 have used a device like a smartphone or tablet, according to a new study.

The study, which was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, showed that by age 2, most kids have used mobile devices. To reach these findings the study authors surveyed 370 parents of kids between the ages of 6 months to 4 years about their exposure to media and electronics.

Overall, technology in the home was common. The survey results show 97% of the families’ homes had TVs, 83% had tablets, 77% had smartphones and 59% had Internet access. According to the parents’ responses, 52% of kids under the age of 1 year had watched TV, 36% had touched or scrolled a screen, 24% had called someone, 15% used apps and 12% played video games. The amount of time the children spent using devices rose as they got older, with 26% of 2-year-olds and 38% of 4-year-olds using devices for at least an hour.

Given the ubiquity of electronics, it’s not so surprising that children come across media and devices in the home. Still, the researchers note that the children in this study were often very young and that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) frowns upon television and other media exposure for kids under the age of 2. The AAP says excessive media use can contribute to school trouble, attention problems and obesity, according to studies, and that Internet and cell-phone use can be platforms for risky behavior.

The survey results also suggest that parents let their children use media or mobile tech as distraction. For instance, the study showed 73% of surveyed parents let their kids play with mobile devices while they were doing chores around the house. Sixty percent said they let children use them while running errands, 65% to calm their child and 29% to put their kid to sleep. Just 30% of the parents in the survey said they spoke to their pediatrician about media use.

“A better understanding of the use of mobile media in young children and how it varies by population groups is critical to help develop educational strategies for both parents and health providers,” the study authors write.

TIME Addiction

Health Officials Worry as HIV Cases in Indiana Grow

TIME.com stock photos Health Syringe Needle
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Health officials say families are using drugs together

The number of new HIV infections in Scott County, Indiana, has risen to 142, prompting local and state officials to call it a public-health emergency.

A new report released by the federal and state health officials on Friday reveals disturbing trends in injection drug use in a county of only 4,200 people. Scott County has historically reported less than five new cases of HIV each year, making the new tally of 142 all the more alarming. Health experts say the recent outbreak is reflective of a growing drug epidemic nationwide.

“There are children, and parents and grandparents who live in the same house who are injecting drugs together sort of as a community activity,” said Dr. Joan Duwve, the chief medical consultant for the Indiana State Department of Health, at a press briefing. “This community, like many rural communities, especially those along the Ohio River and Kentucky and West Virginia, has really seen a lot of prescription opioids flooding the market. With few resources [and] not a lot to do, the use and abuse has been occurring for at least a decade and probably longer.”

Health officials note that like many other rural counties in the U.S., Scott County has high unemployment, high rates of adults who have not completed high school and a large proportion of residents living in poverty with limited health care access. The report underlines the fact that the county consistently ranks among the lowest in Indiana for health and life expectancy.

“The outbreak highlights the vulnerability of many rural, resource-poor populations to drug use, misuse and addiction,” said Duwve.

The ages of the men and women diagnosed with HIV in Scott County range between ages 18 and 57. The health officials report that no infants have tested positive, though a small number of pregnant women have. Ten women in the cluster were identified to be sex workers. Around 84% of the patients have also been infected with hepatitis C. Eighty percent of the patients with HIV have reported injection drug use and among those people, all of them have reported dissolving and injecting tablets of oxymorphone. Some also reported using methamphetamine and heroin.

Dr. Jonathan Mermin, who runs the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, reminded reporters that the United States is facing an epidemic of prescription opioid abuse. “An estimated two million people are dependent on or abuse prescription opioids nationally. So while opioid pain relievers can play an important role in the management of some types of pain, the overprescribing of these powerful drugs has created a national epidemic of drug abuse and overdose,” he said.

The CDC estimates that nationwide about 3,900 new HIV infections each year are attributable to injection-drug use, which is down nearly 90% from a peak of about 35,000 in the late 1980s, says Mermin. He adds that opioid poisoning deaths in the United States have nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2011. This epidemic has already played a major role in a growing epidemic of viral hepatitis among people who inject drugs with a 150% increase in reports of acute hepatitis C nationwide between 2010 and 2013.

State health officials and the CDC are working together to control the outbreaks of HIV and hepatitis C. The state has launched a public health campaign to notify residents of the support available to them: lab testing and treatment, referrals to addiction services and employment, and help with insurance registration. The state initially declared a 30-day public health emergency for Scott County on March 26, but expanded the executive order another 30 days. “I want to assure everyone [that] the state of Indiana will not abandon this community once the executive order is over,” said Dr. Jerome M. Adams, the Indiana State Health Commissioner.

The CDC also released a health advisory on Friday, and is asking states to look closely at their most recent data on HIV and hepatitis C diagnoses, overdose deaths, admissions for drug treatments, and drug arrests in order to help identify communities that could be at high risk for unrecognized clusters of the infections.

“We must act now to reverse this trend and to prevent this from undoing progress in HIV prevention to date,” said Mermin.

TIME Cancer

Removing Ovaries During Breast Cancer Could Save Lives, New Research Says

For women with the BRCA1 mutation and breast cancer, a new study finds potential benefits from removing ovaries

In women who have both breast cancer and the BRCA1 mutation, having surgery to remove the ovaries can significantly lower their risk of dying from the disease, suggests a new study published in the journal JAMA Oncology.

Women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations have up to a 70% risk of getting breast cancer and a high risk for ovarian cancer. Like actress Angelina Jolie, these women will often consider undergoing preventative surgeries to remove the breasts and ovaries to keep that risk at bay. Now, a new study shows that for women who already have cancer and have a BRCA1 mutation, surgery to remove ovaries—called oophorectomy—could lower the risk of dying of breast cancer by 62%.

Women with BRCA mutations who already have breast cancer will often consider also removing their ovaries to prevent ovarian cancer or secondary breast cancer. Hormones from the ovaries are thought to stimulate the breast tissue and contribute to breast cancer risk.

The study looked at 676 women with stage I or II breast cancer and a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. They were observed for up to 20 years after their diagnosis. Among the women, 345 underwent oophorectomy and 331 women kept their ovaries. At 20 years, the overall survival rate was around 77%—and the women who opted to remove their ovaries had a 56% lower risk for breast cancer death than women who didn’t. For women with the BRCA1 mutation, oophorectomy was associated with a 62% reduction in risk of death from breast cancer, but there was no significant association for women with the BRCA2 mutation. The study authors note that the number of women in the study with the BRCA2 mutation was also much lower than those who had BRCA1.

“The data presented here suggest that oophorectomy should be discussed with the patient shortly after diagnosis,” the study authors write. “We recommend that the operation be performed in the first year of treatment to maximize the benefit.”

Oophorectomy proved particularly beneficial for women with estrogen receptor–negative breast cancer. “It seems kind of counterintuitive,” says Dr. Robert DeBernardo, a gynecology-oncology surgeon at Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Health Institute (who was not involved in the research). “The ovaries make the estrogen, and if we take it out, we expect to see less estrogen positive breast cancers, but we see a benefit from estrogen negative cancers. That very well may be because the ovary doesn’t just make estrogen or progesterone. It may also make some other things that we have not recognized.”

For women with BRCA mutations, DeBernardo says the study offers more insight into the risk and benefits of their surgical options. “All women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations [will likely] see a specialist like myself to talk about the role of removing their ovaries and tubes,” says DeBernardo. “Now we have something else to discuss to make it easier to make a decision.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Trouble With Foods Kids See Advertised on TV

TIME.com stock photos Food Snacks Chips Cheetos
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

More than half the foods advertised to kids do not meet federal nutrition guidelines

A new study shows that 53% of food products approved for advertising on TV programs that cater to kids do not meet U.S. recommended government nutrition guidelines.

Kids see 10 to 13 food-related TV ads every day, says the study published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, and about half of those ads air during programs that specifically cater to children. The researchers looked at two sets of nutritional guidelines designed specifically to recommend whether a food should appear in a commercial aired during kids’ programming: one set is from a food-and-beverage industry group called the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), and the other is from a government group that represents the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, called the Interagency Working Group (IWG).

The study authors looked at the 407 foods approved by the CFBAI to see how they matched up to the recommendations from the IWG. More than half of the foods fell short of the IWG standards, they found.

The researchers evaluated the foods based on the IWG’s “nutrients to limit” list, which includes caps for things like saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium. They found that 32% of the CFBAI-approved foods were above the suggested limit for sugar, 23% were above the limit for saturated fat and 15% were over for sodium. Fewer than 1% were over the limit for trans fat.

These are the foods that appeared most often on television commercials, they concluded. “Companies manufacture food and beverage products that meet IWG recommendations; however, these are not the products most heavily marketed to children,” the study reads. “Evidence shows that 96% of food and beverage product advertisements (excluding those for restaurants) seen by children on children’s television programs were for products high in nutrients to limit.”

“A viable solution to this would be for companies to choose to advertise food and beverage products on children’s programming from the 47% of products from their approved list that do meet the IWG recommendations,” says study author Rebecca Schermbeck, a research specialist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Until then, the study suggests, kids who watch TV are probably still seeing ads for foods that don’t square with recommended national nutritional guidelines.

TIME Research

Chinese Researchers Modify Human Embryos in Study

Scientists and ethicists alike are expressing concern

This week, a team of Chinese researchers used a gene editing technique to try to modify several human embryos. The results have raised concern among many in the scientific community, including those who developed the technique.

The gene-editing technique, called CRISPR-Cas9, allows scientists to add or remove genetic material, which has significant implications for a variety of health problems. As TIME recently reported in the TIME 100 issue, CRISPR could, in theory, edit any human gene.

However, as science writer Carl Zimmer writes in National Geographic, scientists including those who developed the technology have publicly said it should not yet be used for any human engineering and that it’s not ready for clinical use. Researchers at Sun Yat-sen University recently tested the technique on human embryos (notably, embryos that would not have ever grown into a human). Zimmer writes:

All told, the researchers injected 86 embryos, 71 of which survived long enough for them to study. CRISPR only managed to cut DNA in a fraction of the embryos, and in only a fraction of those embryos did cells manage to take up the new version of the target gene (called beta-globin).

The experiment “came out poorly,” Zimmer says; in some cases, DNA was placed in the wrong spot and “off-target” mutations were discovered in the DNA. As Zimmer reports, scientists behind the CRISPR technique are arguing it was not ready for use. Jennifer Doudna, one of the creators of CRISPR, told Zimmer: “Although it has attracted a lot of attention, the study simply underscores the point that the technology is not ready for clinical application in the human germline. And that application of the technology needs to be on hold pending a broader societal discussion of the scientific and ethical issues surrounding such use.”

Read more of Zimmer’s coverage of the new study at National Geographic.

TIME Research

Your Chance of Getting Mosquito Bites Could Be Genetic

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Identical twin sisters partake in an experiment to see how attractive their hands are to mosquitoes.

A new study focuses on sets of twins

If you’re always getting mosquito bites, you may be able to blame your genes, a new study suggests.

To understand whether the traits that make a person more or less attractive to mosquitoes are genetic—odors for instance—researchers conducted a study looking at 18 sets of identical twins and 19 sets of non-identical twins. Their findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The researchers released mosquitoes into a Y shaped tube that allowed the mosquito pick a side to fly down. The twins’ hands were at either end of the tube (see photo). If the mosquitoes were attracted to the hands’ odor, they would fly toward them and if they were repelled by the hands they would fly away from them.

Interestingly, identical twins were more similar in the level of attractiveness to mosquitoes than non-identical twins, which the researchers suggest could mean that genes play a role. It’s possible that identical twins have very similar odors since they are genetically exactly the same.

Though the sample size is small, the researchers say the findings have implications for future mosquito bite prevention. “By investigating the genetic mechanism behind attractiveness to biting insects such as mosquitoes we can move closer to using this knowledge for better ways of keeping us safe from bites and the diseases insects can spread through bites,” said study author James Logan, a senior lecturer at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in a statement. “In the future we may even be able to take a pill which will enhance the production of natural repellents by the body and ultimately replace skin lotions.”

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