TIME Infectious Disease

Deadly Stomach Bug Infects About Half a Million in U.S. Each Year, Study Shows

Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, was linked to 27,000 deaths last year

Nearly half a million Americans are infected by a deadly stomach bug every year, according to a recent report.

A study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that an estimated 453,000 cases of Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, infection in the United States in 2011, which resulted in 29,000 deaths. That’s almost double prior infection estimates.

C. diff bacteria release toxins that drugs can’t fight; those infected usually contract it from hospitals or health care related settings, though sickness typically occurs after one leaves the hospital. A new, more severe strain of the bacteria was discovered in 2000. Ordinary antibiotics and hand sanitizers are considered no match for the bug, which causes severe diarrhea, inflammation and sepsis.

The CDC says that soap and water are essential to stopping its spread, NBC News reports. The Department of Health and Human Services will begin punishing hospitals that fail to reduce rates of C. diff in their facilities by 2017.

Read next: Measles Outbreak in U.S. Tops 150 Cases

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TIME Heart Disease

Risk for Stroke is Greater in People Who Oversleep

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Regularly sleeping over eight hours may be a sign of a serious health risk

Oversleeping feels like a treat on the weekend, but regularly sleeping too much is actually a sign that there may be a medical problem at play. According to a new study, people who sleep more than eight hours a day have a higher risk for a stroke compared to people who sleep between six and eight hours.

In the new study, published in the journal Neurology, researchers followed nearly 10,000 people between the ages of 42 and 81 for almost 10 years. They recorded both the amount of sleep they typically got each night, as well as whether they had a stroke.

Around seven out of 10 of the men and women slept between six and eight hours, and about one in 10 slept more than eight hours a night on average. The people who slept the most had a 46% higher than average risk of stroke when the researchers accounted for other variables that could contribute to risk. Their risk was about double that of people who reported getting a typical amount of shut eye each night.

Though the study only shows an association, but it’s fairly surprising since in the past, sleep deprivation has been linked to a greater stroke risk, too. The researchers speculate that long nights of sleep may be linked to increased inflammation, which can eventually lead to cardiovascular problems.

“Prolonged sleep might be a useful marker of increased stroke risk in older people, and should be tested further for its utility in clinical practice,” the authors conclude. Stroke isn’t the only risk that’s linked to sleeping too much. Physicians sometimes use sleep duration as a indicator for how well a patient is feeling. Getting too much sleep can often mean something under the hood is off.

“If people are sleeping too much, it’s a bad sign,” says Dr. David Gozal, a pediatric sleep disorders physician at the University of Chicago Medicine. “Very few people can sleep more than what they need. It’s a sign there is an underlying health-related problem, whether it’s depression, cancer, or neurological deterioration. It’s usually not a good thing.” Gozal was not involved in the study.

If you like to sleep in on the weekends, don’t fret. Occasionally spending extra time in bed is likely not a bad sign, experts say, but when it becomes a regular habit, it might be worth checking out. For now, the researchers of the new study say their findings need further investigation, and priority should be given to understanding the underlying mechanisms.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Things You Should Know About Cholesterol

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Recent research shows no substantial relationship between the consumption of dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels

Cholesterol seems to be one of those words that’s in everyone’s vocabulary, but many of my clients are incredibly confused about what cholesterol is, and how it affects their health. It also happens to be buzzing in the media at the moment, thanks to a new report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a group of top nutrition researchers who advise the government about what and how Americans should be eating.

If you’re feeling a little perplexed by all this cholesterol talk, here’s a simple breakdown of what you really need to know.

Cholesterol is only found in animal-based foods

There are two types: dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol is the cholesterol found in foods, and only foods of animal origin contain it, because animals’ bodies naturally produce this waxy, fat-like substance. So when you eat an animal-based food (think eggs, dairy, meat, seafood) you’re ingesting cholesterol that an animal’s body produced. Plant-based foods do not contain any cholesterol, so if you see a jar of nut butter marked “cholesterol free” know that they didn’t remove the cholesterol—it just wasn’t there to begin with.

Read more: 16 Most Misleading Food Labels

Cholesterol is essential for your health

Even if you ate zero animal foods, you’d still have cholesterol in your body. That’s because your liver produces cholesterol and it’s needed for several key functions, including the making of hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest food. While cholesterol is vital, it isn’t considered to be an essential nutrient, meaning something you must obtain from foods, like vitamin C or potassium. That’s because your body produces all of the cholesterol it needs.

Read more: 27 Mistakes Healthy People Make

There are “good” and “bad” types of cholesterol in your blood

The two types of blood cholesterol you hear about most often are HDL (the “good” kind; think happy cholesterol) and LDL (the “bad” kind; think lousy cholesterol). HDL and LDL are actually carriers of cholesterol called lipoproteins. HDL is good because it carries cholesterol away from arteries and back to the liver, where it can be removed from your body. LDL—the bad type—has the opposite effect. Too much LDL can lead to a build-up, which clogs and narrows arteries, and creates inflammation. This chain of events can lead to a sudden rupture, which sends a clot into the bloodstream, causing a heart attack and/or stroke.

Read more: 9 Subtle Signs You Could Have a Heart Problem

Dietary cholesterol may not impact blood cholesterol as much as previously thought

The old thinking was that consuming dietary cholesterol added to the cholesterol that your body naturally produces, thus raising the amount in your blood. This was perceived to be risky, because too much blood cholesterol has been shown to up the risk of heart disease, the top killer of both men and women. One often-cited statistic is that every 1% increase in total blood cholesterol is tied to a 2% increase in the risk of heart disease.

For many years, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that dietary cholesterol should be limited to no more than 300 mg per day. To put that in perspective, one egg yolk contains about 185 mg, three ounces of shrimp contains about 130 mg, two ounces of 85% lean ground beef about 60 mg, and one tablespoon of butter about 30 mg. The brand new report eliminated this cap, however, because the committee believes that the research shows no substantial relationship between the consumption of dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels. As such, they concluded, “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

Read more: 14 Things Heart Doctors Tell Their Friends

The new guidelines aren’t carte blanche to other kinds of animal fat

Nearly every media outlet covered the release of the report from the Dietary Guidelines committee, zeroing in on the omission of cholesterol limits—but that doesn’t mean it’s now healthy to go out and down cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizzas. The committee is still concerned about the relationship between blood cholesterol and saturated fat from foods like cheese.

You may have heard about another recent report, which concluded that a lower intake of saturated fat wasn’t linked to a lower risk of heart disease. That’s true, but it’s not the whole story, because the risk really lies in what you replace the saturated fat-laden foods with. When people curb saturated fat, but eat more carbohydrates, they lower protective levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, and drive up triglycerides (a type of blood fat), a combo that may actually up the risk of heart disease. But numerous studies have shown that replacing foods like butter and cheese with plant-based fats like almond butter, avocado, and olive oil can help lower heart disease risk.

Bottom line: the number one message from the new Dietary Guidelines report is that we all need to be eating less sugar and processed foods, and more plants, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and lentils. So if you have cholesterol from something like eggs, pair them with other whole, nutrient-rich plant foods, like veggies and avocado, combined with some fruit, black beans, sweet potato, or quinoa. That’s good nutrition.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

8 Things You Don’t Know About Supplements

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The author of a new book about vitamins shares some tips

In early February, the New York Times reported that New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman launched an investigation into some of the largest supplement retailers. DNA testing revealed that 79% of supplements tested did not contain what the labels on their bottles claimed, though the industry criticized the testing methods used by the attorney general.

The wild, mysterious world of vitamins and dietary supplements is the subject of author Catherine Price’s new book Vitamania. Here’s what she thinks every American needs to know before popping another over-the-counter pill.

1. Vitamins and supplements are not required to undergo safety or efficacy testing before they’re sold. “I feel like people don’t really think about the implications of that,” says Price. “I could pretty much create something this afternoon in my kitchen and sell it and not have to do any kind of testing ahead of time.” That’s not to say all supplements are not safe; it’s just to say that the companies that make them don’t have to show evidence of their safety before they go to market.

2. There’s no regulatory definition for a “multivitamin.” “If you buy a multivitamin from Centrum, it could be totally different from a different company’s product,” says Price. That’s confusing if you’re trying to compare brands while you shop.

3. Vitamins and supplements are not the same thing. There are only 13 vitamins: vitamins A, C, D, E, K and eight B vitamins. Supplements are any substance you ingest by mouth that’s intended to supplement the diet. “While vitamins are dietary supplements, all dietary supplements are not vitamins,” says Price. “There are an estimated 85,000 dietary supplements in the U.S. marketplace.”

4. Most dietary supplement ingredients and vitamins are not made in America. Sometimes the pills may be manufactured in the U.S., but the raw ingredients typically come from out of the country. “A large percentage of the ingredients in dietary supplements come from China, and there are nearly no vitamin manufacturing plants in America,” says Price. “Considering how dependent we are on vitamins and fortified foods to meet our needs, it’s surprising how dependent we are on other countries to keep us healthy.”

5. It’s difficult to tell if a supplement is of good quality. “People ask me all the time, ‘How do I pick a good dietary supplement?'” says Price. “The unfortunate thing is that given the state of regulation right now, that is an extremely difficult question to answer.” Looking for evidence that the product has been tested by a third party can help. She recommends visiting sites like the subscription-based site ConsumerLab.com, which randomly tests products, and the similar company LabDoor. There are also two independent verification programs called United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and NSF International (NSF). “If you are a supplement user, you should really use these to help pick your brands,” says Price.

6. Dietary supplements can be spiked with prescription drugs. The three biggest categories where this can happen are weight loss, body building and sexual enhancement, Price says. “What I like to tell people is that if you think your Chinese herbal supplement is just as good as Viagra, it’s probably because it has Viagra in it,” she says with a laugh. You can read more about some of these cases here.

7. More is not better. Taking more vitamins or supplements does not provide extra benefit and could cause harm. Be sure to tell your doctor what you are taking, since supplements can negatively interact with your other medications, and respect the upper-limit dose suggestions on the bottle.

8. You probably ingest supplements even if you don’t realize it. “There’s so much fortification in our food supply that for most people you are probably getting a multivitamin just from the foods you are eating,” says Price. “Most people don’t need to get a separate multivitamin.” In some cases, supplements are needed. For instance, Price agrees with the recommendation that women of child bearing age take folic acid to prevent birth defects.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Better Grocery Stores Alone Can’t Improve Kids’ Diets, Study Finds

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Even if you build them, they won’t come, says the latest study on finding ways to get more healthy foods to young children

There’s been a lot of talk lately about food deserts and lack of access to healthy, nutritious food for many families living in rural and lower-income urban areas. So the solution seems to be to increase the availability of healthier fare, and what better way than to build a full service supermarket in the neighborhoods without one?

That’s what a government-sponsored program called Health Food Financing Initiative does, enticing supermarket chains to build stores in lower income areas with favorable tax credits. These stores are also required to meet some criteria meant to make the most of their presence in areas where fresh and nutritious foods are harder to come by. In New York, for example, the state program requires that at least 30% of a store’s floor space be devoted to perishable foods like produce and fruit, with at least 500 square feet dedicated specifically to fresh produce.

MORE: How the Nation’s Nutrition Panel Thinks You Should Be Eating

A new study published in journal Public Health Nutrition looked at whether the supermarkets are actually making a difference. Brian Elbel, associate professor of population health and health policy at New York University School of Medicine, and his colleagues compared eating habits in families in a part of the Bronx with a new supermarket and in a close by neighborhood without one.

To capture any change in the families’ food-buying habits over time, the researchers stopped parents on the street in these neighborhoods and asked them questions about their eating and food buying patterns, and then called the participants around six months later, and again a year after that first encounter.

The results were sobering. While there was an increase in those who said they shopped at the supermarket between the first and second rounds of questioning, that difference disappeared a year later. What the families were buying also didn’t change much, despite the supermarket selling fresh and healthy foods. At the start of the study 77% of those living in the neighborhood with the new supermarket said they had fresh fruits and vegetables in their homes, which dropped to 68% by the second follow up. The other neighborhood, however, showed a similar decline, from 78% to 65%.

MORE: Most Schools Still Don’t Meet Federal Nutrition Standards

In fact, both neighborhoods showed similar changes in food-buying trends, including positive ones such as a decrease in the availability of cookies, cakes, pastries and salty snacks in the home, so Elbel says it’s not possible to attribute them to the presence of the supermarket in the one community.

“It’s very clear that a supermarket alone does bring access to healthy food,” says Elbel. “But at the same time, does it bring unhealthy stuff, and introduce new products to the neighborhood that weren’t there before? Potentially.”

While healthy foods were available at the store, for example, they were not always the most affordable items, or the ones that the store promoted with special discounts or deals. Cost, it seems, overrules nutrition for many families making food-buying decisions.

While programs to increase the availability of full service food stores are laudable, Elbel says his results highlight the fact that access isn’t the only answer. “We can definitely imagine criteria that would make it more stringent for stores to qualify for these programs, and provide more detail on how the store is structured, what products are promoted or which products are available and how they are priced,” he says. “The question is, if we provide the tax credits and these constraints, will stores still be interested in opening in [food desert] neighborhoods? I don’t know.”

MORE: Nearly 60% Of People Use Nutrition Info on Menus

It’s also possible that the supermarket didn’t have the impact public health officials anticipated because the neighborhoods already had reasonable access — a train or bus ride away — to full service stores, before the new store opened. Almost 90% of the participants said they shopped at a supermarket, not convenience stores, for meals they made at home, so the new store likely didn’t do much to change that pattern. That suggests, says Elbel, that policy makers may also need stricter definitions of food deserts or areas that need nutritional attention.

“Just building a supermarket is not enough,” he says. “We need more data on what exactly a food desert is, and exactly where to place a supermarket. We have to look at access more broadly, and make clear that improving health is not just about access.” That’s a bigger challenge, but as the study shows, needs to be addressed if healthier fare is going to find its way onto more dinner plates.

TIME Crime

Ohio Steps Up Fight Against Heroin Deaths

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Heroin-related fatalities have surged in recent years

Ohio lawmakers are looking to expand access to a drug that helps revive heroin overdose victims, as the state attorney general attempts to reduce its cost.

An Ohio House committee approved a bill Wednesday that would allow any individual—not just emergency responders—to provide heroin overdose antidote Naloxone to friends and family members without a prescription and/or fear of prosecution.

MORE: Heroin Deaths Have Doubled in 2 Years

The bill expands a law passed last year that provided increased access to the drug and allowed police and emergency responders to carry it. The latest bill, approved by the House Health and Aging Committee, would also allow pharmacies to hand out the drug without prescriptions.

Naloxone has been shown to temporarily revive overdose victims, allowing them to breathe and giving paramedics time to save their lives.

Heroin overdoses have grown into a public health crisis in Ohio within the last few years. According to the Ohio Department of Health, heroin-related deaths have increased from 16% of all drug-involved deaths throughout the state in 2008 to 35% in 2012, when 680 people died from a heroin overdose.

MORE: Holder Urges Use of Drug to Fight Heroin Overdoses

As heroin-related deaths have increased, the price of Naloxone has gone up as well. According to the Dayton Daily News, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is currently negotiating with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc., to decrease the cost by getting a price rebate for the drug.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

How Facebook Is Helping Suicidal People

Facebook will offer suicide prevention resources to users posting troubling messages

Facebook is going to give timelier help to users who post updates suggesting thoughts of suicide, the company announced on Wednesday.

According to a Facebook post written by Product Manager Rob Boyle and Safety Specialist Nicole Staubli, a trained team will review reports of posts that appear to be suicidal and if necessary send the poster notifications with suicide prevention resources, such as a connection to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline.

The Facebook support posts are expected to look something like this:

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They also will contact the person reporting the posts, providing them with options to call or message the potentially suicidal friend, or to also seek the advice of a trained professional.

The new approach is an update on a clunkier system, implemented in 2011, that required users to upload links and screenshots to the official Facebook suicide prevention page.

For the project, Facebook worked with suicide prevention organizations Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Save.org.

The company was clear that the update was not a replacement for local emergency services.

TIME Reproductive Health

How a Baby Was Born Encased in an Amniotic Sac

Silas Johnson born still in the amniotic sac at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, part of the Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Dec. 6th, 2014 in Los Angeles.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Silas Johnson born still in the amniotic sac at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, part of the Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Dec. 6th, 2014 in Los Angeles.

The physician was so surprised that he snapped a photo on his phone

Correction appended

Silas Johnson is barely a day old and is already an internet sensation. The Los Angeles infant was born three months early, and was remarkably still completely encased in his amniotic sac, making it appear as if doctors delivered a large bubble with a tiny baby inside.

Johnson was born at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center via C-section, curled in the hallmark fetal position within, and his hands were visible pressing against the clear membrane of the sac. His physician was so surprised by the rare birth that he snapped a photo on his cell phone while his team rushed to ensure that the baby’s breathing and heart rate were normal.

The sac is the baby’s home during gestation, filling with fluid to cushion him during pregnancy. Just before birth, it normally ruptures — the so-called ‘water breaking’ that signals an expectant mom that labor is underway. (In cases where the water doesn’t break, doctors can puncture the sac to release the fluid.) In Cesarean sections like this one, doctors frequently pierce through the sac as they make their incision to remove the baby.

Silas Johnson born still in the amniotic sac with mother Chelsea Philips at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, part of the Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center at  on Dec. 6th, 2014 in Los Angeles.
Cedars-Sinai Medical CenterSilas Johnson born still in the amniotic sac with mother Chelsea Philips at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, part of the Maxine Dunitz Children’s Health Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Dec. 6th, 2014 in Los Angeles.

In vaginal births, the sac remains in the mother as part of the placenta, and isn’t released until the placenta is removed in the afterbirth. But in some births, parts of the sac follow the baby through the birth canal.

While seemingly unusual, births ‘en caul,’ in which the infant remains entirely inside the sac during the journey through the birth canal, can be intentional, particularly when the baby is premature. Dr. Amos Grunebaum, director of obstetrics at NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, purposefully delivers some of his babies in the sac, as a way to protect them during the delivery process. “It protects the baby from being injured; it serves as a cushion around the baby.”

Amniotic sacs and its fluid are connected to the placenta, which provides oxygen to the baby. So as soon as the baby is born, the sac must be ruptured to help the baby breathe.

“There are a lot of myths surrounding en caul births,” says Grunebaum. “There are many, many difference sources in the literature where people think the person delivered that way has certain powers.”Johnson’s mother Chelsea isn’t worried about that, but told CNN after seeing her doctor’s picture that “Silas, you’re a little special baby.”

Correction: This article originally misstated the baby’s last name. It is Johnson.

Read next: How to Parent Like a German

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Food Ingredient That Could Be Messing With Your Gut

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Scan the fine print on almost any processed food in the grocery store and you’re likely to find emulsifiers: Ingredients such as polysorbate 80, lecithin, carrageenan, polyglycerols, and xanthan and other “gums,” all of which keep ingredients—often oils and fats—from separating. They are also used to improve the texture and shelf-life of many foods found on supermarket shelves, from ice cream and baked goods, to salad dressings, veggie burgers, non-dairy milks, and hamburger patties.

Now, a new study released today in the journal Nature suggests these ingredients may also be contributing to the rising incidence of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease by interfering with microbes in the gastrointestinal tract.

This news may surprise consumers, given the fact that emulsifiers are approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and appear in many foods otherwise considered “healthy,” including some in which their presence helps to reduce trans fats and gluten, and many labeled organic and non-GMO.

“What we’ve been attempting to understand for the past several years is the increase in metabolic syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases” that affect digestion, explains Andrew Gewirtz, Georgia State University professor of biology and lead study author. Metabolic syndrome includes obesity, increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes. All these conditions, Gewirtz explains, “are associated with changes in gut bacteria.”

The recent, dramatic increase in metabolic-related diseases cannot be attributed solely to genetics, says Gewirtz. Human genetics haven’t changed in recent decades. So he and his colleagues set out to investigate environmental factors that might be responsible, including “modern additions to the food supply.”

Previous suggested that emulsifiers could be implicated. So for the new study, researchers fed mice emulsifiers through water or food. The experiment used polysorbate 80 (common in ice cream) and carboxymethylcellulose, and found that it altered microbiota in a way that caused chronic inflammation. They tested the emulsifiers at levels below those approved for use in food and also at levels modeled to mirror “what a person would eat, if they eat a lot of processed food.”

Mice with abnormal immune systems fed emulsifiers developed chronic colitis. Those with normal immune systems developed mild intestinal inflammation and a metabolic disorder that caused them to eat more, and become obese, hyperglycemic, and insulin resistant.

The inflammatory response prompted by eating emulsifiers, explains Gewirtz, appears to interfere with “satiety”–the term scientists use for behaving like you’ve eaten enough–and can lead to overeating. Mice experiencing this inflammation therefore developed more fat. “There’s a chain of events,” says Gewirtz.

Gewirtz explains that the emulsifiers appear to disturb both the bacteria normally present in the gut and the gut’s protective mucus layer. Something in the chemistry of the emulsifiers seems to change the microbiota and how these bacteria interact with the intestine itself. The combination, Gewirtz says, sets the stage for inflammation.

Gewirtz is quick to say that these food additives are by no means the “only cause of the obesity epidemic or inflammatory bowel disease.” But emulsifiers may be a factor contributing to excess eating.

He also points to the fact that emulsifiers are “very common” food additives and their increased use in the food supply “roughly parallels the increase in these chronic diseases.”

That emulsifiers appear to be associated with metabolic and digestive problems and are used in some reduced-fat, dairy and gluten-free products that consumers may be choosing for health reasons, prompts additional questions. Next, the scientists plan to test additional emulsifiers and to follow up with tests in people.

Another important point, says Gerwitz, is that these–and many other–food additives are inadequately tested by the FDA. A 2013 study found that almost 80 percent of the chemicals the agency allows in food lack testing information that would help the FDA estimate the amount people can safely eat.

Maricel Maffini, who co-authored the 2013 study, suggests the FDA’s current system of approving food additives could be improved by requiring additive safety to be reviewed periodically and by basing safety information on how much people actually eat. With additives like emulsifiers in so many different foods, some people may be eating far more than the FDA estimates, says Maffini.

Gewirtz and colleagues also note that the FDA classifies some food additives­–including various emulsifiers­–as Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS), meaning they are not subject to FDA “premarket” review. The upshot is that FDA oversight may not be keeping up with the latest science, adding to shoppers’ existing confusion about what appears on ingredient lists.

According to Marion Nestle, NYU professor of nutrition and food studies, this study “suggests that artificial emulsifying agents may not be harmless and that their use should be scrutinized carefully.”

This article originally appeared on Civil Eats.

Read next: Deadly Stomach Bug Infects About Half a Million in U.S. Each Year, Study Shows

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TIME

Chewing Tobacco Could Be Banned In California Ballparks

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Jeffrey Phelps—Getty Images A baseball and chewing tobacco before Colorado Rockies v Milwaukee Brewers baseball game at Miller Park on April 20, 2012 in Milwaukee.

Lawmakers want the substance, linked to cancer and nicotine addiction, thrown out of the homes of America's national pastime

Two California lawmakers are teaming up to take on a classic trapping of American baseball: chewing tobacco.

At a baseball field near the state capitol, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond introduced first-in-the-nation legislation on Wednesday that would prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco—including electronic cigarettes—wherever organized baseball is being played. San Francisco supervisor Mark Farrell is slated to introduce a similar bill in the coming days, which could put at ban in place at the San Francisco Giants’ stadium even if Thurmond’s measure fails.

If Thurmond’s bill passes, that would mean no more chaw for fans, coaches or players at the state’s five major league stadiums, as well as smaller ballparks.

On Tuesday, the Washington D.C.-based Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids announced their support for legislation that “will send a simple and powerful message to kids as spring training gets underway: baseball and tobacco don’t mix.” Advocates behind the measure are calling it the “Knock Tobacco Out of the Park” campaign, saying that the substance linked to cancer and nicotine addiction has no place in the homes of America’s national pastime. “We have a great opportunity to protect our players and stand up for kids by getting tobacco out of the game,” Thurmond said in a statement.

“It’s time for San Francisco and California to lead by example by showing our youth and the public that tobacco is proven to be harmful and has no place where our children play or look up to their favorite sports hero,” said Farrell.

Major League Baseball officials endorsed the idea in a statement on Tuesday:

“Major League Baseball has long supported a ban of smokeless tobacco at the Major League level. We have sought a ban of its use on-field in discussions with the Major League Baseball Players Association. Currently, players, managers and coaches cannot use smokeless tobacco during interviews or Club appearances. Personnel may not carry tobacco products in uniform when fans are in the ballpark. The use of smokeless tobacco has long been banned in the Minor Leagues, where the matter is not subject to collective bargaining.”

An official ban would have to be decided in coordination with the major league players association, and some have already expressed skepticism. “Some players are probably going to fight it,” Oakland A’s outfielder Josh Reddick told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I know players who put in a dip every inning.”

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