TIME Depression

No, Antidepressants During Pregnancy Don’t Harm Babies’ Hearts

Silhouette of Pregnancy
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The latest study finds no significant increase in heart malformations in babies whose moms used antidepressants during pregnancy

That should reassure the 8% to 13% of women who take antidepressants while expecting. Concerns about the risks of the drugs, primarily selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), on the developing fetus prompted the Food and Drug Administration in 2005 to add warnings about the risk of heart defects in babies born to moms taking antidepressants. While studies have shown up to a three-fold increase risk in some congenital heart abnormalities associated with antidepressants, doctors couldn’t be entirely sure the higher risk wasn’t due purely to chance. Now, the New England Journal of Medicine reports that may indeed be the case, thank to the work of Krista Huybrechts, in the division of pharmacoepidemiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and her colleagues.

In their analysis involving 949,504 pregnant women, 64,389 of whom used antidepressants during the first trimester, the rate of heart defects in newborns was similar between the groups. “Based on our study, there is no evidence to support a substantial increased risk of cardiac malformations overall,” she says.

She and her team specifically focused on adjusting for potential confounding factors that could explain the heart malformations, such as age, how many children the women had had, diabetes, hypertension and use of psychotropic medications. Even after accounting for these effects, they found no strong association between antidepressant use and heart defects.

While the findings should be reassuring for expectant mothers who take antidepressants, Huybrechts says that “heart defects are one factor in a whole range of potential risks” associated with the drugs. Some studies hint, for example, that the medications may contribute to hypertension in newborns, as well as other adverse health conditions. “The study provides quite solid evidence of the low risk in terms of cardiac malformations, but the treatment decision should consider the whole range of other potential adverse outcomes,” Huybrechts says. “[Decisions also need to consider] potential risk of not treating women who are severely depressed and required pharmacologic interventions. It’s one piece of the puzzle but definitely not the whole answer.”

TIME

FDA Wants to Limit Your Salt Intake. Is That a Good Thing?

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There’s a lot of confusion about salt – do we eat too much? Is eating too little salt bad for you? Are some people more sensitive to its unhealthy effects? How much is enough? Here’s what you need to know

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) caused a stir when the agency announced it wants to limit the amount of salt Americans eat from processed foods. They cited studies linking too much sodium to high blood pressure and therefore a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney problems. But conflicting reports from leading experts in recent years make the agency’s job tougher—and leave consumers wondering who’s right.

The FDA is proposing a voluntary guideline to lower the amount of sodium food manufacturers add to their products (this is pursuing a mandatory lowering of trans fats by manufacturers and in restaurants). While some companies are on board with the idea—Wal-Mart says it will reduce sodium in some of its foods by 25% in the coming year, ConAgra reports it has already cut sodium by 20% in some of its products, and Subway restaurants have dropped sodium by 30%—some experts don’t believe the voluntary changes will have much effect.

“I applaud the FDA for wanting to put out voluntary guidelines for the food industry to lower salt,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic. “But I don’t think the consumer will see an effect. If sales are fine with a product and remain fine with a higher sodium content, and more sodium increases shelf life and increases taste, then it’s a slippery slope for a food manufacturer to start lowering sodium.” Compared to the mandatory trans fat reductions, she says, which require companies to find other substitutes for the trans fats while maintaining the food’s integrity and taste, the incentive to do so with voluntary measures may simply be too weak to contribute to a measurable difference.

MORE: Study: Salt Accelerates Aging in Overweight Teens

According to federal health officials, Americans eat about 3,300 mg of sodium a day, 75% of which comes from prepared, processed or restaurant food. The latest dietary guidelines recommend that most adults consume about 2300mg daily—which is about a teaspoon, but that’s hard to measure when it’s coming in a packaged food or a meal prepared by someone else. That advice is based on studies that show that people who eat more sodium have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure, which can contribute to heart disease, stroke and kidney problems.

But health experts admit that there is nothing magic about the 2,300 mg threshold, and that there isn’t direct evidence that lowering sodium to that level can lead to fewer deaths from heart disease. “Studies show a clear relationship between sodium reduction and [lower] blood pressure, even below 2,300mg,” says Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, professor of medicine and epidemiology at University of California San Francisco, and member of an Institute of Medicine panel that issued a 2013 report on Sodium Intake in Populations. “Unfortunately none of those studies followed people long enough to really look at heart attack and strokes and deaths from heart disease.” Other studies have, however, connected higher blood pressure to these outcomes.

There also isn’t strong evidence that certain groups of people, including African-Americans, who are at higher risk of adverse health effects from hypertension, those older than 51 years and people with diabetes or kidney problems, benefit from dropping their sodium intake to no more than 1,500mg of sodium daily, but the 2013 IOM report didn’t find strong scientific support for that advice.

Confusing matters even more is the fact that some people are more sensitive to the effects of salt on blood pressure than others. So some have argued that advice to lower salt intake shouldn’t apply to everyone, but only those who might be adversely affected. To that, Kirkpatrick says everyone is affected by too much sodium in their diet. “Regardless if you are salt sensitive or not, salt is not something you have in excess for general health. You just don’t need it in such high amounts,” she says.

MORE: New Dietary Guidelines: Cut Salt and Sugar, Eat More Fish

Is there such a thing as too little sale? There the studies from Italy suggesting that eating too little sodium can increase risk of heart problems. But the participants included those with heart failure, and experts say the patients may not have accurately reported their daily salt intake. “There still is no good data suggesting an adverse effect of reducing sodium intake,” says Alice Lichtenstein, professor of nutrition, science and policy at Tufts University.

All of which means that lowering sodium is still a worthwhile goal—though the FDA’s voluntary guidelines may not help you get there.

Kirkpatrick advises her patients to go even lower, and shoot for the 1500mg mark, rather than the 2300mg target. “If you give people a limit, chances are that that they will stick to that limit, or go higher,” she says. “That’s human behavior.”

The good news, at least for the salt-craving American public, is that salty is a taste that is acquired. “If we gradually lower the amount of salt we eat, our taste receptors will get down regulated, says Bibbins-Domingo. “And that happens relatively quickly, in six weeks. If we can get food companies to lower the amount of sodium they use, we will start to crave salty foods less.” And maybe see health benefits from that as well.

TIME world cup 2014

Analyzing John Brooks’ Dream About Scoring The Winning Goal

APTOPIX Brazil Soccer WCup Ghana US
United States' John Brooks celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil on June 16, 2014. Ricardo Mazalan—AP

Two days ago, US soccer player John Brooks dreamed about the game-winning he goal he made. Here’s what science says about that

Wouldn’t it be nice if our dreams were like a crystal ball that foretold our future? That every night as we slumbered, we’d learn if we’re going to get a raise, or win the lottery, or, if you’re like soccer player John Brooks, find out you will use your head to score a last-minute goal in a World Cup game?

Last night, the soccer player scored a goal in the 86th minute, which was an unlikely turn of events because he was not a starting player—in fact, he’s a back-up defender, and defenders hardly ever get substituted. When asked about the goal, he said he dreamed it—even the part about it being after the 80-minute mark and using his head to get the ball in the goal.

Of course his dream was not literally “predictive” but it begs the question: Can dreams prime us for success in waking life?

Dreams a combination of what we have already experienced and the things that occupy our minds during the day, says Antonio Zadra, professor of psychology at University of Montreal who studies dreams. “People have dreams related to their current concerns and preoccupations,” says Zadra. “In all of these players’ cases, [playing in the World Cup] is an ongoing drive, so it’s not surprising that it impinges on their dreams.” And Brooks, like any good player, would likely want to prove his prowess on the field, making it likely that would show up in his dreams. And it makes sense that he dreamed of making the goal in the 80th minute, late in the game, since he isn’t part of the starting lineup.

MORE: United States Beats Ghana 2-1 in Team’s Opening Group G Game at World Cup.

Still, says Zadra, dreams can be self-fulfilling. Similar to the way that visualization works, Zadra says that having positive dreams can feed into real-life outcomes. “During REM sleep, all the areas of the brain responsible for controlling motor behavior are activated as if you were awake,” he says. “If you are dreaming of skiing or scoring a goal or playing the piano, your brain is actually commanding all the motor areas as if you were awake.” Part of the brain stem inhibits the actual movement so you don’t hurt yourself while you sleep, but as far as your brain is concerned, you “live” whatever you dream.

“If Brooks dreamed that he scored the goal, all of that feeds into his instinctive reactions, and it’s one more positive thing going into the instinctive and instantaneous decisions that he makes on the pitch.”

Of course, the flip side is that negative experiences in dreamland can have make you feel less confident and potentially less capable in waking life. So while it’s not exactly “scientific, “what your first coach and your parents always told you is probably good advice: think positive, and good things will happen. Maybe.

TIME E-Cigarettes

10 New E-Cig Brands Hit the Market Every Month

A series of studies shows just how prevalent e-cigarettes are, and what that means for smokers, non-smokers and would-be smokers alike

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In the most comprehensive look at e-cigarettes to date, from how they are used to how they are marketed and where they are sold, researchers are surprised by how quickly the devices have taken hold worldwide.

In nine studies published in the journal Tobacco Control by the State and Community Tobacco Control Research Initiative (SCTC), scientists looked at where e-cigarettes are sold, the status of state laws regulating e-cig sales and use, and how taxes and pricing may affect the popularity of the devices, among other topics.

MORE: 5 Sketchy Things We Still Don’t Know About E-Cigarettes

When it comes to e-cig marketing, researchers found that about 10.5 new brands appear online every month, touting 242 novel flavors. “The most surprising thing was how quickly they became available across the country,” says Frank Chaloupka, a professor economics at University of Illinois and a co-author of the study. “A few years ago, they were hardly available anywhere, and by 2012, they were available in about a third of the stores we were going into.”

He and his colleagues found that at least initially, e-cigs were targeted in areas with weaker tobacco regulations, including areas with lower taxes and more lenient smoking policies in public places. E-cig makers, says Chaloupka, likely focused their early marketing strategies in areas with the greatest density of smokers.

MORE: Industry Is Winning the E-Cig Regulation Battle

That may be shifting, however, as the latest data suggests that e-cigarettes are now marketed more heavily in higher income communities, and less so in lower income neighborhoods, which traditionally have higher proportions of smokers. That may be because e-cig manufacturers are promoting claims that their products are safer than traditional cigarettes and are also hoping to capture those who may turn to their devices to help them quit smoking. “Groups that are more likely to switch to e-cigarettes in the long run are more interested in the health benefits, and tend to be more highly educated and have higher incomes” says Chaloupka.

That’s supported by evidence from some of the other studies in the series; scientists led by researchers at Harvard University’s School of Public Health conducted the largest study of e-cig use in Europe and found that the bulk of users were young smokers who had tried to kick the habit in the past year. These smokers were twice as likely to try e-cigs as smokers who hadn’t tried to quit.

MORE: Here’s Why Bacteria Like E-Cigs

On the one hand, the quick penetration of e-cigs into nearly every retail outlet, from pharmacies to convenience stores, grocery stores and gas stations may help more smokers to try the devices and try to quit. On the other hand, the ubiquity of the devices, and the unsubstantiated claims about their safety over regular cigarettes, may lead younger smokers to try them and potentially serve as a gateway to tobacco-based cigarettes. “Just the fact that their availability increased so rapidly means that people, especially kids, may see them a lot more in the stores they go into, and perceive them as normative, and that could by contributing to the big increases in use that we are now seeing,” says Chaloupka. The percentage of teens who have ever tried e-cigarettes doubled from 3.3% in 2011 to nearly 7% in just one year, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced its intention to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products; although they don’t contain tobacco, the agency says the devices meet the “statutory definition of a tobacco product.” As such, the FDA wants to ban sales to minors, require health warnings and keep e-cigs out of vending machines. The proposal is up for public comment until July, and may take another year before they become enforceable. In the meantime, 34 states have laws addressing e-cigs, but primarily to prevent minors from buying them and to ensure they don’t violate existing smoke-free air laws.

MORE: The Future of Smoking

The safety of e-cigarettes isn’t clear yet, despite claims by some manufacturers that they are less dangerous than traditional cigarettes. While they don’t envelop smokers in the carcinogenic smoke emitted by burning tobacco, they do contain other compounds such as propylene glycol, which the FDA is still studying for its health effects.

TIME Cancer

Sitting Can Increase Your Risk of Cancer By Up to 66%

For a change, the cancer-promoter isn't something you eat or breathe, but something you do every day

By now we’re pretty familiar with the biggest cancer-triggers in our lives – processed meats, smoking, and tumor-causing pollutants in the air, to name a few. But it turns out there’s another hidden cancer contributor that occupies much of our daily lives: sitting.

In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers report that people who spend more hours of the day sitting have up to a 66% higher risk of developing certain types of cancer than those who aren’t as sedentary.

MORE: Get Up! Sitting Less Can Add Years to Your Life

These results go beyond the advice by most health professionals for everyone to become more physically active. In reviewing 43 studies in which volunteers were asked about their daily activities and their cancer incidence, the investigators found that the link between sitting and cancer remained strong no matter how physically active the participants were. In other words, even people who worked out regularly but who spent more hours on the couch watching TV, for instance, showed higher rates of cancer than those who didn’t sit as much.

Sedentary behavior was associated with a 24% greater risk of developing colon cancer, a 32% higher risk of endometrial cancer, and a 21% increased risk of lung cancer. When the researchers delved deeper into different types of sedentary habits, they found that watching TV was linked to a 54% higher risk of colon cancer and a 66% greater risk of endometrial cancer. For every additional two hours that participants spent sitting during the day, their risk of colon cancer rose by 8%, and their risk of endometrial cancer went up by 10%. They didn’t find a link between sedentary behavior and other types of cancer, including breast, prostate, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The findings, says Dr. Graham Colditz, of Washington University School of Medicine, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, highlight the difference between being physically active and being sedentary. It’s not enough to just be active—it’s also important to sit less. But most public health messages aren’t stressing the distinction. “People are not talking about sitting time in the same way as physical activity,” he says. “Guidelines say limit the time spent sitting without drilling into how long or what types of sitting they are talking about.”

MORE: Now There’s Another Reason Sitting Will Kill You

The difference is important, especially since the latest research suggests that sitting too much may have its own, independent harms on our health. A recent study, for example, found that people who got up and did light to moderate walking after lunch had lower blood sugar levels and less of a peak in blood sugar than people who didn’t get up after eating.

Part of sitting’s adverse effects, especially on endometrial cancer, which is strongly tied to obesity, may be through weight gain. Obesity can promote cancer-causing processes such as inflammation and may enhance certain hormones that are linked to tumor formation. Weight gain can also lead to lower levels of vitamin D, and that can contribute to higher risk of colon cancer.

The authors also point out that TV viewing in particular may be associated with higher rates of certain cancers since TV watchers tend to drink more sugared sodas and unhealthy, processed snack foods that can both contribute to obesity and increase exposure to potential food-based cancer-causing agents.

MORE: Watching TV: Even Worse for Kids Than You Think

Cutting back on sitting time may not be easy, however, since most office workers tend to sit at a desk in front of computers. But Colditz says there are ways to be less sedentary, either at home or at the office. Try to take breaks every couple of hours, to take a quick walk around the halls or to step outside (bathroom breaks don’t count). And not eating lunch at your desk can also be a way to schedule a physical break in your day. What you don’t want to do, he says, is to make a habit of sitting (in a car or bus or train) to work, sitting at your desk for most of the day, eating lunch at your desk (again, while sitting), and then finally getting up to go home, where you may spend several more hours sitting in front of a TV.

TIME Heart Disease

Processed Meats May Hurt Your Heart, Study Finds

It can be harmful to the heart on a couple of levels

Red meat isn’t at the top of anyone’s heart-healthy list, but few studies have investigated the difference between processed red meats, such as ham, salami, sausage, bacon and hot dogs, and unprocessed ones, such as cuts of steak.

To find out if there’s a meaningful health difference, researchers at Warsaw University and the Karolinska Institute analyzed data from 37,035 middle aged men who answered questions about their diet and were followed for nearly 12 years. After adjusting for things such as their age, other health conditions and their consumption of fruits and vegetables, the scientists found that the men who ate the most processed red meat had a 28% higher risk of having heart failure than those who ate less. And those who ate the most sausages, hot dogs and hams were two times as likely to die of heart failure than those who ate less.

Over the study period, that breaks down to a 38% increased risk of dying from a heart-related event for every one to two slices of ham. Many processed meats are also smoked, cured and treated with salt, which can add potentially harmful chemicals—and possibly be more dangerous to the heart.

Men who ate more unprocessed meat—which included things such as pork, beef and hamburger—did not show the added risk of heart problems. But overall, those who ate more red meat (both processed and unprocessed) did have a higher rate of heart disease. That’s consistent with previous studies that linked high consumption of red meat with heart disease. So the best option for the heart may be to bypass the deli counter altogether, but for meat lovers who can’t give up their meat, choosing unprocessed cuts might be a better option. “Unprocessed meat is free from food additives and usually has a lower amount of sodium,” said Alicja Wolk, senior author of the study from the Karolinska Institute, in a statement.

 

TIME Heart Disease

A ‘Vaccine’ for Heart Disease Could Mean No Pills, Lettuce or a Gym

It’s the latest in gene therapy, and it’s lowered cholesterol and heart attacks in mice. People are next

Doctors, and especially doctors who do research, don’t like to use the words cure or eradicate. They know how dangerous that can be, since the human body is so unpredictable. But Dr. Kiran Musunuru is showing some uncharacteristic swagger about his latest success in lowering heart attack risk among some lucky mice.

Taking advantage of advances in genetic engineering, a team lead by Musunuru, who holds positions at Harvard University’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have edited the genomes of mice and successfully protected them from heart disease. The results, published in the journal Circulation Research, hint at an entirely new way of avoiding the leading killer of Americans by possibly cutting heart attack risk by up to 90%. “What has me excited as a cardiologist is that my goal is eradicating disease,” says Musunuru. “There is no bolder way I can put it. I want to eradicate the disease and this offers one potential way to do it.”

MORE: Experimental Cholesterol-Lowering Drug Shows Promise

He admits that it may be 10 years or more before the technique is ready for testing in people, but these first results are enough to justify the research that could make that happen. “This approach in general will be a game changer,” says Dr. Deepak Srivastava, director of cardiovascular disease and stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the Gladstone Institutes, who was not affiliated with the study.

Here’s how they did it. In 2003, genetic information was gleaned from a French family that carried a genetic mutation giving them low LDL cholesterol, the kind that, when it’s high, can lead to heart disease. Using a new genetic engineering technique that allows scientists to splice more efficiently into specific locations on a genome, Musunuru was able to essentially bestow the genetic advantage from the French family onto his mice, slowing down production of a protein that normally keeps LDL circulating in the blood. With less of the protein around, less LDL remains in the blood; those with the PCSK9 mutation showed as much as an 88% lower risk of heart disease compared to people without the genetic change.

The genetic monkeying was accomplished with the help of a virus, which has a remarkable ability to get into cells. The virus was injected, along with the DNA-disrupting machinery, into the liver of the mice. Within days, more than half of the liver cells had been genetically edited and the mice showed 35% to 40% less cholesterol in the blood.

So far, says Musunuru, there have been no negative effects of the genetic disruption. But he says more research needs to be done to make sure that introducing the changes won’t come with unforeseen consequences. “When we go in there we want to make sure we are not introducing new spelling errors in the genome,” says Srivastava, who is also using the technique for stem-cell based therapies to treat heart disease. Says Musunuru, “I think I can confidently say that with this tool, this technology will work on live, breathing human beings, but we need to figure out the safety; that’s the barrier to overcome before we can test these therapies.”

MORE: Who Really Needs To Take a Statin?

Drug companies are also working on drug-based ways to interfere with PCSK9, and lower LDL levels, but those therapies are antibodies that bind to the protein that the gene makes and need to be injected, at a doctor’s office, regularly. The genome editing strategy would be a one-stop therapy that could permanently protect against excessively high cholesterol levels.

“The way I think about it, it’s about how to make the average person like that person who won the genetic lottery and is protected against heart disease,” says Musunuru. “We want to extend the benefits the fortunate few have to the entire population. That would be the dream.”

TIME fertility

Guys, Your Smartphone Is Hurting Your Sperm

It may be time to take the phone out of your pants pocket, gents. A new study found that the low-level electromagnetic radiation (EMR) that mobile devices emit lowered sperm motility by 8%, and viability by 9%

Even while the debate over whether cell phones cause cancer rages on, researchers are starting to explore other potentially harmful effects that the ubiquitous devices may have on our health. Because they emit low-level electromagnetic radiation (EMR), it’s possible that they can disturb normal cell functions and even sleep.

And with male infertility on the rise, Fiona Mathews at the University of Exeter, in England, and her colleagues decided to investigate what role cell phones might play in that trend. In their new research, they analyzed 10 previous studies, seven of which involved the study of sperm motility, concentration and viability in the lab, and three that included male patients at fertility clinics. Overall, among the 1,492 samples, exposure-to-cell-phone EMR lowered sperm motility by 8%, and viability by 9%.

(MORE: Frozen Assets)

Previous studies suggested several ways that the magnetic fields might be wreaking havoc on sperm — they could be generating DNA damage by promoting more unstable oxygen compounds, or because most men carry their phones in their pants pockets, the fields, which can cause up to a 2.3°C temperature increase on the skin, could be raising the temperature of the testes enough to suppress and interfere with normal sperm production.

(MORE: Why the Latest Study on Cell Phones and Brain Cancer Won’t Be the Last Word)

Exactly how much the cell phones are contributing to lower-quality sperm isn’t clear yet — the researchers note that how long the phones are kept in pockets, as well as how much EMR the phones emit (most are legally required to stay below 2.0 W/kg) are also important things to consider when figuring out an individual’s risk. But the lab-dish studies do show that sperm are affected by the exposure, and that provides enough reason to investigate the possibility that cell phones may be contributing to lower-quality sperm and potentially some cases of infertility. More good reason to keep cell phones away from your body when you’re not using them — easier in theory than in practice, however.

TIME Cancer

Six Diet Guidelines for Preventing Cancer

No food is guaranteed to keep cancer away, but even without conclusive evidence, researchers say it makes sense to follow these guidelines for avoiding major cancers

Sticking with a plant-based diet is a good way to avoid cancer, according to scientists at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which just released six dietary guidelines for cancer prevention, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. More fruits and vegetables, and less alcohol, dairy and processed meats, could lower the risk of cancers in the mouth, lung, breast and colon. Ready for a cancer-fighting diet? Here’s what the group recommends, from its press release:

  1. Limit or avoid dairy products to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Findings: Consuming thirty-five grams of dairy protein each day, the equivalent of one and a half cups of cottage cheese, increases risk of prostate cancer by 32 percent. Drinking two glasses of milk each day increases risk of prostate cancer by 60 percent.

Note: Calcium supplements appear to have the same effect as milk intake. Men who supplement with more than 400 milligrams of calcium per day increase risk for fatal prostate cancer by 51 percent.

 

  1. Limit or avoid alcohol to reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, and breast.

Findings: One drink per week increases risk of mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancers by 24 percent. Two to three drinks per day increase risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.

Note: The alcohol itself (rather than additives) appears to be the cause of cancer, and all types of alcoholic beverages (wine, beer, and spirits) are problematic.

 

  1. Avoid red and processed meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum.

Findings: Each 50-gram daily serving of processed meat, equivalent to two slices of bacon or one sausage link, increases risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent. Each 120-gram daily serving of red meat, equivalent to a small steak, increases risk of colorectal cancer by 28 percent.

Note: The heme iron, nitrites, heterocyclic amines, and overabundance of essential amino acids in red and processed meats are all believed to contribute to cancerous cell growth in the body.

 

  1. Avoid grilled, fried, and broiled meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas.

Findings: Four types of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are associated with cancer of the colon and rectum. HCAs form from creatine and amino acids in cooked skeletal muscle, increasing with higher cooking times and higher temperatures. When ingested, HCAs can disrupt DNA synthesis.

Note: In addition to the cancers listed above, HCAs are also associated, to a weaker extent, with cancers of the breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas.

 

  1. Consume soy products to reduce risk of breast cancer and to reduce the risk of recurrence and mortality for women previously treated for breast cancer.

Findings: Evidence from Asian and Western countries shows that soy products are associated with reduced cancer risk. Chinese women who consume more than 11.3 grams of soy protein, equivalent to half a cup of cooked soybeans, each day during adolescence have a 43 percent reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer, compared with women who consume 1.7 grams. Research in Shanghai shows that women with breast cancer who consume 11 grams of soy protein each day can reduce mortality and risk of recurrence by about 30 percent. U.S. populations show similar findings: the higher the isoflavone intake from soy products, the less risk of mortality and recurrence in women with breast cancer.

Note: When choosing soy products, opt for natural forms, such as edamame, tempeh, or organic tofu, as opposed to soy protein concentrates and isolates, common in powders and pills.

 

  1. Emphasize fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of several common forms of cancer.

Findings: Fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, help reduce overall cancer risk. A high intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage, is associated with an 18 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer and reduced risk of lung and stomach cancers. Women who consume the most carotenoid-rich vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, lower their risk of breast cancer by 19 percent. Overall, women who consume the highest quantities of any kind of fruit or vegetable reduce breast cancer risk by 11 percent. A high intake of tomato products has been shown to reduce risk of gastric cancer by 27 percent. Garlic and other allium vegetables, such as onions, significantly reduce risk for gastric cancer, while a Western diet (high amounts of meat and fat with minimal amounts of fruits and vegetables) doubles therisk.

Note: Some components in soybeans, green tea, turmeric, grapes, tomatoes, and other plant foods have the ability to regulate apoptosis (a natural process for destroying unhealthy cells), an important pathway for cancer prevention.

TIME Developmental Disorders

The Lifetime Cost of Autism Tops $2 Million per Person

In addition to medical costs, autism takes a financial toll in hidden ways as well, according to the latest tally

U.S. and U.K. scientists have completed the most comprehensive analysis of the costs associated with supporting a child with an autism-spectrum disorder (ASD) over a lifetime and found that those whose ASD is linked with intellectual disability can accrue up to $2.4 million while those without intellectual disability require about $1.4 million in medical, nonmedical and indirect costs. And that’s on top of the average $241,000 that it takes to raise a child to age 18 in the U.S.

(MORE: Using Movement to Diagnose and Treat Autism)

About 79% of that cost is due to services such as medical care, home health care, special education and after-school care — and 9% is due to wages that caregivers give up to tend to an autistic family member. The latter came as a surprise, says the paper’s senior author, David Mandell, director of the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research at the University of Pennsylvania, who points out that not enough of the debate about autism’s toll includes consideration of the indirect consequences of the condition. But, he says, “I think these costs are avoidable by having much better, comprehensive intervention systems and workplace policies that are much friendlier to families with children with disabilities.”

These estimates, published in JAMA Pediatrics, are higher than previous ones, and highlight how diverse the costs of autism can be, from the more obvious medical fees to the hidden economic, social and even less tangible psychological ones.

(MORE: Behavior Therapy Normalizes Brains of Autistic Children)

By comparison, here is how the lifetime cost of autism compares with costs for other conditions (note that figures come from different studies published with data from different years and have been adjusted for inflation. They are for general comparison only).

Lifetime cost
Raising child to age 18 years $241,080
Raising child with ADHD + $1,291,000
Raising child with Down syndrome
+ $533,000
Raising child with asthma + $26,000
Raising obese child
+ $19,000 (medical only)

Sources: USDA, Journal of Pediatric Psychology, EPA, Partnership for America’s Success, Pediatrics

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