TIME Research

One Third of the World’s Population Suffers From Untreated Tooth Decay

Dental check-up
Echo—Cultura RF/Getty Images

Untreated tooth decay can engender cavities, infections, abscesses, oral pain and diseases

Untreated tooth decay is a problem for more than 2.4 billion people worldwide, with some 190 million new cases forecasted each year, finds a new study in the Journal of Dental Research.

Experts say this is a worryingly large number for a problem that is both well-known and highly preventable.

“It is alarming to see prevention and treatment of tooth decay has been neglected at this level,” says the study’s lead researcher Dr. Wagner Marcenes.

Scientists conducted a global survey of 378 studies looking at nearly 5 million people from 1990 to 2010. The results showed that 2.4 billion people suffer from untreated tooth decay in their permanent teeth, with 621 million children facing untreated decay in their early, temporary teeth.

Untreated tooth decay can engender cavities, infections, abscesses, oral pain and diseases. Ignored, it can impede a child’s growth and cause work absenteeism and unproductivity in adults. Dental decay is an effect of mouth acids dissolving the exterior teeth layers.

Scientists impute dental decay to high consumption of sugar, cautioning the public that children are not the only offenders.

“What is clear is that this is a major public health problem,” added global oral health expert Professor David Williams of the Queen Mary University of London.

[BBC]

TIME Archaeology

Oldest Known Fossil in Human Lineage Found in Ethiopia

The remains are estimated to be some 2.8 million years old

A handful of teeth and a partial jawbone unearthed in Ethiopia are now thought to be the oldest fossil ever found of the species that evolved into humans, researchers say in a new report.

The U.S.-led team that discovered the fossil a couple hundred miles away from the capital, Addis Ababa, believe the remains are some 2.8 million years old, making the fossil around 400,000 years older than other discovered remains thought to be from the Homo genus, which scientists believe to be our lineage.

The researchers reported their findings in the journal Science and said they have could help fill in some evolutionary gaps that are still uncertain. Prior to the genus Homo, there was the hominid Australopithecus afarensis. Researchers say the specifics of the evolution between the two during that time is still unknown.

“By finding this jaw bone we’ve figured out where that trajectory started. This is the first Homo,” study author Brian Villmoare of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas told The Guardian. “It marks in all likelihood a major adaptive transition.”

TIME Infectious Disease

Superbug Found at Second L.A. Hospital

General View Of Cedars-Sinai Hospital Where Kim Kardashian Gave Birth To A Baby Girl
Frederick M. Brown—Getty Images General View of Cedars-Sinai Hospital on June 17, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.

An additional 64 may have been exposed at Cedars-Sinai

Four patients have been infected with a deadly superbug at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, the hospital said Wednesday, and an additional 64 may have been exposed.

Cedars-Sinai began investigating a possible link between CRE infections and one Olympus Corp. duodenoscope used from August to February of 2014 in a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), according to the Los Angeles Times. That involves putting a scope down a patient’s throat to diagnose and treat problems in the digestive tract, like gallstones and cancer; about 500,000 people undergo ERCP every year.

MORE: What You Need to Know About the California ‘Superbug’

A similar outbreak occurred at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center in mid-February. There, five people were infected by medical scopes with CRE bacteria, and two of them died.

CRE, or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, kills up to half of those infected. One of the four patients at Cedars-Sinai has died, but the hospital said it was for an unrelated reason.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME Nutrition

More Kids Are Eating Fruit at School, Study Finds

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JGI/Jamie Grill—Getty Images/Blend Images School girl holding lunch on a tray

And they're throwing away less food too

The government’s effort to encourage children to eat more fruit is working, a new study finds, and they’re throwing less food away too.

The study published Wednesday in Childhood Obesity concludes that since updated government-subsidized lunchroom guidelines aimed at getting kids to eat more nutritional meals went into effect in 2012, the percentage of students choosing fruit in the cafeteria increased from 54% to 66%. Children are also throwing away less food, with researchers noting that students ate 84% of their (healthier) entrees, up from 74% in 2012.

The results of the study, by researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut, are based on 12 middle schools in an urban school district. The researchers followed students beginning in spring 2012, when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was implemented, to spring 2014.

Critics of the regulations have long claimed that students were throwing away the healthy food forced upon them in school, increasing both wastes and costs.

The School Nutrition Association, an advocacy group backed in part by major food companies, told the New York Times that the study was too narrow to prove anything conclusive. “We have lots of concerns about this study because, among other things, it only collected data on one day each year at these schools,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the association.

But researchers argue that while this was a limitation of the study, the fact that 17 different entree options were offered across 36 days negates the concern that an extremely popular entree day, like Pizza Day, could skew the findings. The researchers concluded: “The new requirement for students to select a fruit or vegetable with each lunch is an effective strategy to improve the nutritional quality of school meals.”

Read Next: The 50 Healthiest Foods of All Time (With Recipes)

TIME Heart Disease

Statins May Seriously Increase Diabetes Risk

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Getty Images

Statins can lower cholesterol and even tamp down inflammation to keep the risk of heart disease down. But these commonly prescribed drugs may increase the risk of diabetes, and by a considerable amount

Doctors may have to weigh a serious potential risk before prescribing statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs that are among most prescribed drugs in America. In a study published in Diabetologia, scientists from Finland found that men prescribed statins to lower their cholesterol had a 46% greater chance of developing diabetes after six years compared to those who weren’t taking the drug. What’s more, the statins seemed to make people more resistant to the effects of insulin—which breaks down sugar—and to secrete less insulin. The impact on insulin seemed to be greatest among those who started out with the lowest, and closest to normal, levels of blood glucose. And the higher the dose of the statin, and the longer the patients took them, the greater their risk of diabetes.

Previous studies have suggested that statins can raise blood sugar levels, and increase the risk of diabetes by anywhere from 10% to 20%, but none have documented an effect this large. Doctors often consider statins for patients who are at higher risk of heart disease, and one of the risk factors for future heart trouble is diabetes. So how do these results affect that decision?

“It’s a good news-bad news scenario,” says Dr. Robert Eckel, past president of the American Heart Association and professor of medicine at University of Colorado School of Medicine. “Although there is convincing evidence that patients on statins are at increased risk of new-onset diabetes, the benefit accrued [from statins] in reducing risks of heart attack, stroke and fatal heart disease trumps the effects of being new onset diabetics.”

In other words, the good that statins can do for people who are not yet diabetic but at higher risk of heart problems outweighs the increased risk of diabetes.

MORE: New Guidelines for Cholesterol Treatments Represent “Huge Change”

And while the increased risk that the Finnish scientists found — 46% — is noteworthy, Eckel points out that the study involved only white men, and therefore may not be generalizable to a broader population. It’s not clear what the men’s family history or personal history of diabetes was; some may have had other risk factors for the disease that put them at higher risk of developing diabetes anyway, even if they didn’t take a statin.

Those who developed diabetes while taking statins were similar on many metabolic measures to those who developed diabetes but weren’t taking statins, suggesting that “that statin treatment increased the risk of diabetes independently of the risk profile of the background population,” the authors write. In a separate, U.S.-based study on statins, researchers found that those who went on to develop diabetes while taking statins also had risk factors for the disease before they started taking the medications.

MORE: Should You Take Statins? Study Says Heart Benefits Outweigh Diabetes Risk

Which means that for confused patients, and their doctors, the current advice about who should take statins doesn’t change. The results, in fact, highlight the need for a discussion rather than just working through a checklist before prescribing statins. For patients who may not yet be diabetic, but are vulnerable to developing the disease and also may need a statin, Dr. Neil Stone, lead author of the 2013 American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association cholesterol guidelines, says he stresses the importance of lifestyle changes in diet and exercise.

“If you have a patient who is prone to developing diabetes, you’re getting into a higher risk group, because they also have risk factors associated with heart disease. So they have the potential to benefit from statins. If they are going to take a statin, I tell them we are going to help you get more fit, and work with your lifestyle. It’s even more important because if you don’t do that, and the patient decides to take the statin and go on with their unhealthy habits, then they are going to be even more prone to developing diabetes,” says Stone.

The patient’s family history of diabetes is another important part of the decision to start someone on a statin. It’s all about making sure that each patient’s risks and benefits are weighed carefully. And the potentially greater risk of diabetes created by statins should be part of that consideration. “Communication here is everything,” says Eckel.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

You Asked: Why Can’t I Eat Raw Meat?

Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Well, you could. But you’d be rolling the dice.

Sushi restaurants are nearly as rampant as Starbucks stores. So why is raw fish okay to consume, while raw beef, pork and other land animals are typically not on the menu?

For one thing, the parasites and bacteria that set up shop in raw animal meat are different and more dangerous than the ones you’d find in raw fish, says Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

From salmonella and parasitic E. coli to worms, flukes, and the virus hepatitis E, Tauxe says the creepy crawlies that may inhabit raw meat tend to be more harmful to humans than the microorganisms you’d find in raw fish. “Perhaps it’s because our bodies are more closely related to land animals than to those of fish,” he explains.

The way animals are slaughtered and packaged also has a lot to do with their health risks, says Dr. Eugene Muller, a microbiologist at Framingham State University in Massachusetts. “Parasites and bacteria tend to come from an animal’s gut, not its muscle,” he says. If your butcher nicks open an animal’s intestines, any harmful microorganisms released could contaminate all the meat the butcher is preparing.

Packaged ground beef is particularly likely to house sickness-causing bacteria or parasites, says Dr. Lee-Ann Jaykus, professor of food science at North Carolina State University. That’s because a single package of ground beef could contain meat from dozens of cows, Jaykus says. “One contaminated animal could corrupt dozens of batches,” she explains. For that reason, she advises never eating hamburger that’s red or rare in the center.

Both Muller and Jaykus say whole cuts of beef are less risky because they come from a single animal. “Anything harmful lives on the surface of the meat, not inside the muscle,” Muller says. “So if you like your steak very rare, just searing the outside will likely kill anything harmful.”

Jaykus agrees, but says you have to watch out for something called “mechanically tenderized meat,” which involves puncturing the beef with small needles or blades to make it more tender. She says many restaurants and grocery stores sell meat that’s undergone this process because it improves the texture of cheaper cuts like sirloin or round. “This process can force contaminants into the muscle tissue where searing the outside won’t kill them,” she says. “You don’t see this at high-end steakhouses, but it’s an issue with steaks purchased for home cooking and in some restaurants.”

Most of these concerns and caveats also apply to lamb, pigs, chickens and other land animals—though Muller says pigs and chickens tend to carry some harmful microorganisms you don’t find in cows or sheep. “But I don’t think many people really want to consume raw pig or raw chicken,” he adds.

Fish is a different story. Setting aside the differences between fish and mammals when it comes to the number, type, and frequency of potentially dangerous organisms they may harbor, fish tends not to be ground or mixed. That lowers the likelihood of a single disease-carrying salmon or tuna contaminating others, Jaykus says.

Also, any raw fish you consume at a sushi restaurant are caught in colder waters and frozen before you eat them. “This kills the encysted worms and other parasites,” Tauxe says. Unfortunately, freezing doesn’t kill parasitic E. coli and many of the harmful microorganisms you’d find in meat, Muller says.

With raw fish, oysters and other uncooked seafood, you’re taking a risk, Muller says—though not nearly as big a risk as eating that bloody tenderloin or tartare.

Read next: The 50 Healthiest Foods of All Time (With Recipes)

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TIME Aging

The World’s Oldest Person Is Totally Chill About Turning 117

Misao Okawa, the world's oldest Japanese woman poses for a photo with her great-grandchild Himaki and grandchild Takako Okawa on her 117th birthday celebration at Kurenai Nursing Home on March 4, 2015 in Osaka, Japan.
Buddhika Weerasinghe—Getty Images Misao Okawa, the world's oldest Japanese woman poses for a photo with her great-grandchild Himaki and grandchild Takako Okawa on her 117th birthday celebration at Kurenai Nursing Home on March 4, 2015 in Osaka, Japan.

Misao Okawa was born on March 5, 1898

The world’s oldest person has lived through two World Wars and the invention of the first airplane, but it doesn’t seem like a long time to Misao Okawa.

“It seemed rather short,” Okawa said on Wednesday, the day before her 117th birthday, the Associated Press reports. When Okawa was asked about the secret to her longevity, she said nonchalantly, “I wonder about that too.”

Okawa was born in Osaka on March 5, 1898 and was recognized as the world’s oldest person by Guinness World Records in 2013. She has slowed down in recent months but still eats well and is healthy, according to her Osaka nursing home.

She married her husband, Yukio, in 1919, and has three children, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 1931.

Japan has more than 58,000 centenarians, more than any other country in the world.

Read next: 13 Secrets to Living Longer From the World’s Oldest People

[AP]

Read next: Europe’s Oldest Woman Says Being Single Helped Her Live to 115

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TIME medicine

4 Things to Know About Zinc And Your Cold

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Zinc can help treating a cold, but it doesn't prevent

Zinc is often touted as a way to fight the common cold. But while research suggests it does work, there are some caveats. Tod Cooperman, MD, president of the independent testing group ConsumerLab.com, provides the scoop:

Zinc helps treat—not prevent—a cold

Popping zinc within 24 hours of the start of symptoms helps shorten your sniffle, according to a 2013 Cochrane review. The authors say significant effects were seen at doses of at least 75 mg (the equivalent of three or four lozenges) per day, taken as long as your cold lasts. How does it work? The theory, according to the Mayo Clinic, is that zinc may keep cold viruses from multiplying and taking up residence in your nose and throat. But don’t bother taking it just to take it; there’s no evidence it’ll actually prevent a cold.

Read more: Best and Worst Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

Pick a lozenge, not a spray

Back in 2009, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration warned against using zinc gel sprays and nasal swabs after receiving more than 130 reports of people losing their sense of smell after using these products. (The manufacturer pulled the products from store shelves, though they claim no link has been established.)

Though you can no longer buy zinc nasal spray, it’s still available as a throat spray, which might be problematic, according to Dr. Cooperman. “If you spray it into your throat it can still go up your nose,” Dr. Cooperman says.

The best way to go is still the good old lozenge. Just make sure you suck—not crunch—it: “It needs to dissolve slowly to be effective so it can coat your throat,” explains Dr. Cooperman.

Read more: Best and Worst Exercises to Do When You Have a Cold

Not all lozenges are created equal

In order for a lozenge to provide enough zinc to be effective, it needs to contain between 13 and 23 milligrams, Dr. Cooperman says. Yet only two of the four lozenges Consumer Lab tested—Cold-Eeze Homeopathic Cold Remedy and Nature’s Way Zinc—provided enough. (There are other brands of zinc they didn’t test.)

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

You can’t pop ’em like candy

The safe upper limit for zinc in adults is 40 milligrams per day, as determined by the Institute of Medicine. While it’s okay to exceed that 40mg limit for three to five days (or roughly the length of a cold), you still don’t want to down the lozenges like crazy. At most, only take one every three hours if you’re sick, and limit yourself to one a day if you’re healthy: “Too much zinc can actually depress your immune system,” explains Dr. Cooperman.

Read more: How to Stop a Cold In Its Tracks

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Research

New Hormone Discovered That Curbs Weight Gain, Diabetes Just Like Exercise

“This represents a major advance in the identification of new treatments for age-related diseases such as diabetes”

Scientists have discovered a new hormone that mimics the health benefits of exercise by normalizing the metabolism and slowing the weight gain caused by fatty diets.

Appearing in the scientific journal Cell Metabolism on Tuesday, the study found the newly discovered MOTS-c hormone increases insulin sensitivity, allowing the body to more effectively process glucose sugars, according to a press release from the University of Southern California.

Insulin is a hormone that is used to move glucose sugars from food into the blood stream; resistance occurs when levels are high for a long period of time — commonly from a poor diet — which increases the body’s tolerance to the hormone and can lead to type 2 diabetes.

The new MOTS-c hormone targets muscle tissue and reverses age-dependent and diet-related insulin resistance.

“This represents a major advance in the identification of new treatments for age-related diseases such as diabetes,” said Dr. Pinchas Cohen, senior author of the study.

Researchers injected the new hormone into lab mice eating high-fat foods that usually lead them to become obese. The injection suppressed the weight gain and also reversed the insulin resistance caused by their diet.

While tests were only administered on mice, the necessary mechanisms are present in all mammals, humans included.

Read next: 5 Non-Diet Factors That Can Affect Your Weight

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TIME Addiction

Heroin-Related Deaths Have Quadrupled in America

New federal data reports bad news for America's heroin problem

Heroin-related deaths quadrupled in the U.S. within just three years, according to new federal data.

The new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows that from 2010 to 2013, drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin increased fourfold, from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 people to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people. The rate was about four times higher among men than among women in 2013.

Heroin-related drug-poisoning deaths have increased in all age groups, races and ethnic groups, the data show. Every region in the U.S. also experienced an increase, and the Midwest experienced the biggest jump.

One reason for the spike is America’s growing painkiller problem. The NCHS released another report last month showing that significantly more people over age 20 are using opioids. The number of people who used a painkiller stronger than morphine increased from 17% to 37% from the early 2000s to about a decade later.

CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality.

People who are hooked on painkillers may make the switch to heroin since it’s cheaper and doesn’t need a prescription, according to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the chief medical officer of the Phoenix House, a national nonprofit drug and alcohol-rehabilitation organization. Both drugs come from the opium poppy and therefore offer a similar high. “We are seeing heroin deaths sky rocketing because we have an epidemic of people addicted to opioids. There are new markets like suburbs where heroin didn’t used to exist,” says Kolodny. (He was not involved in the research.)

MORE Why You Don’t Know About the Heroin Vaccine

Prior data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that painkillers are a growing problem. In 2014, the CDC reported that physicians wrote 259 million painkiller prescription in a single year — the equivalent of a bottle of pills per American — and almost 50 Americans die every day from a prescription-painkiller overdose. The agency recommends that states run prescription-drug prescribing databases to track overprescribing and consider policies that reduce risky prescribing practices.

As states and the White House struggle to tackle opioid addiction, some experts are skeptical about whether such efforts are enough to solve the problem. “We are dealing with the worst drug epidemic in our history,” says Kolodny. “There’s no evidence it’s plateauing.”

Read next: Ohio Steps Up Fight Against Heroin Deaths

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