TIME Diet/Nutrition

Americans’ Diets Are Improving (Sort Of)

New research shows Americans as a whole are eating healthier, but there's still a lot of room for improvement

Americans have started eating better in the past few years, largely because we’re eating less trans fat, new research shows. But major disparities continue to persist in who’s making the healthier choices.

Harvard Medical School researchers looked at the changing American diet from 1999 to 2010 using national health surveys of 29,124 adults. The surveys used the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, a tool that rates dietary quality on a scale from 1 to 11o. The higher the score, the healthier the diet.

Researchers found that between the study period, diet quality went up from 39.9 to 46.8, and they were able to determine that a lot of that increase came from a significant reduction in consumption of trans fats. In 2006, the FDA required manufacturers to include trans fats on nutrition labels, and more recently the FDA has inched toward banning them altogether–a new study released last week finds that trans fats still lurk in many of our foods. The researchers found the bump encouraging, especially when they also noticed that Americans are eating more fruit, nuts, whole grains, and healthy fats while drinking less sugary beverages.

But the researchers also found significant differences in Americans’ diets based on socioeconomic status. In the study time frame, dietary quality was also lowest among people with 12 years or less of school. Their diets also improved more slowly. The researchers believe the income-related differences are possibly due to the cost of some healthy foods and the fact that healthy food is not always accessible.

“Considering the elevated disease risk associated with poor dietary quality, dietary assessment and counseling in clinical settings deserves greater attention,” the authors write in their study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

While the findings show we’re making strides when it comes eating better, it’s worth noting that a score of 46.8 is still pretty bad when optimal is 110. Clearly, Americans still show a lot of room for improvement, regardless of where we fall on the scale.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Family Dinners Protect Against The Effects of Cyberbullying

An argument for sitting down to dinner

About 1 in 5 young people experience some form of online bullying, which can have serious effects on mental health and behavior. However, a recent study shows that eating dinner as a family may actually protect against some of the negative effects of being bullied.

In the new research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the researchers surveyed 18,834 students between the ages of 12 and 18 from 49 schools in the Midwest. Their findings showed a positive association between cyberbullying and problems like anxiety, depression and self-harm as well as substance abuse like frequent drinking and prescription drug abuse.

Interestingly, the researchers found teens eating dinner with their families reduced the effects of cyberbullying. The data show that when there are no family dinners, there’s an increase in the rates of problems with cyberbullying, but four or more family dinners a week resulted in fewer problems.

“With more frequent dinners comes more regular family contact, which facilitates parental guidance and support, open communication with parents and siblings, and opportunities for adolescents to express problems and concerns as they arise,” the study authors write.

The researchers acknowledge that their findings do not conclude that bullying on its own is enough to increase the risk for mental health and behavioral problems, nor are family dinners necessarily enough to protect against them, since there are several other factors in an adolescent’s environment that could play a role.

It’s likely that having family dinners can serve as a release for young people, and that they benefit from communicating their problems and frequently interacting with their family. It’s an argument for seeing family meals as more than just an opportunity to eat.

TIME Heart Disease

New Heart Drug Saves More Lives Than Standard Treatment

A new drug may replace the current standard of treatment for heart failure

Drug maker Novartis released highly anticipated results from its clinical trial, PARADIGM-HF, showing its new heart failure drug cut cardiovascular deaths by 20%. The results were announced at the European Society of Cardiology meeting on Saturday.

Novartis has been testing a drug called LCZ696 for chronic heart failure in hopes of replacing ACE inhibitors, one of the mainstays of heart failure treatment. In March, an ethics council that was monitoring the trial data simultaneously requested the company end the trial since it was clear that participants using LCZ696 lived longer without being hospitalized for heart failure compared to those using the standard-care ACE inhibitor, enalapril.

Anticipation over the drug’s results has been mounting since the recommended closure of the trial; results were so impressive that the treatment showed potential to become the next standard of care. The latest trial showed significantly more patients on LCZ696 were alive, and they had 21% fewer hospitalizations compared to people on enalapril. They also found that the drug doubled the effect enalapril had on all-cause mortality, which is the holy grail of trial end points.

About 20 to 26 million people live with heart failure across Europe and the U.S., and even with treatment it has a poor prognosis and costs $100 billion to treat globally. The majority of those costs come from hospitalizations.

“We thought, what if we could replace the cornerstone of heart failure treatment, ACE inhibitors,” says Patrice Matchaba, development head for Novartis’ critical care franchise. “That’s why we designed PARADIGM and it was a bold decision to make.”

LCZ696 is a pill taken twice a day and is part of a new class of drugs that blocks receptors exerting harmful effects on the heart. The treatment protects the heart by reducing muscle strain, which allows the heart muscle to recover.

Fewer patients using LCZ696 discontinued the trial for adverse events, but the group did have more hypotension and non-serious angioedema compared to patients on enalapril. They had less renal impairment, hyperkalemia and cough.

Matchaba says Novartis will be submitting to the FDA by the end of 2014 and that they’ve already received fast-track status. They will submit in Europe the first quarter of 2015.

TIME Crime

Man Acquitted of Charges He Shot Drunk Driver Who Killed His Sons

David Barajas
David Barajas leaves the courtroom during a break in his murder trial Aug. 20, 2014, in Angleton, Texas. B Pat Sullivan—AP

David Barajas was acquitted Wednesday over charges that he shot and killed a drunk driver who had earlier hit and killed his two sons.

Barajas was on trial for fatally shooting Jose Banda, who drove into Barajas and his 11-and-12-year-old sons while they were pushing a truck that had run out of gas. Barajas survived the incident, but his two young boys were killed. The prosecutors in the case said Barajas went home to get a gun and returned to shoot and kill Banda, the Associated Press reports.

The case was complicated, as there were no witnesses of the shooting, the murder weapon was never recovered, and gun shot residue tests on Barajas came back negative. However, ammunition and a holster for the type of gun that killed Banda were found in Barajas’ home.

The defense, however, argued that there was not enough evidence to tie Barajas to the crime. Barajas may have also had jury sympathy, since he had support from the community in his Houston-area city of Alvin.

According to the AP, both Barajas and his wife cried when the verdict was read.

[AP]

TIME Gadgets

You Can Now Buy a GoPro Camera Harness For Your Dog

GoPro's new Fetch Dog Mount. GoPro Inc

The video camera maker has launched a new product for pet lovers

Now you can feel even closer to your dog by seeing the world from a more canine point of view.

GoPro, which makes tiny cameras popular with adventurers and travelers, has launched a new camera mount for dogs called Fetch. The dog harness is adjustable to accommodate dogs of all sizes, and GoPro cameras can be attached in two different locations: on the dog’s back and underneath its chest. With Fetch, you can watch your dog chew its bone close-up or frolic through a dog park.

GoPro's new Fetch Dog Mount in action.
GoPro’s new Fetch Dog Mount in action. GoPro Inc

The harness is washable and includes a tether to make sure the camera stays in place. The harness is by no means cheap, costing $60 (camera not included), and as of Wednesday afternoon, the product was already out of stock. You can check it out here.

The other dogs at the dog park will be so jealous.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46,457 other followers