TIME Diet/Nutrition

How to Block the Hunger Pangs When You Diet

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The hardest part of a diet are the cravings. That’s because dieting goes against the body’s developed-over-millions-of-years instinct to feed when energy levels drop. There’s a network of neurons that is exquisitely designed to sense when the body’s cells need more calories to fuel the metabolic, enzymatic, muscular, neurologic and sensory things they do. So when the body wants calories, we eat.

But what if it were possible to fool the body into thinking that it was full — without eating a bite?

Now scientists say you may be able to have your cake and not eat it — at least a little more easily. They worked with mice, but their findings could lead to new obesity treatments for people as well. In two papers published in Nature and Nature Neuroscience, researchers from different groups culminate a 15-year search for the specific nerve circuits in the brain responsible for hunger and satiety.

Scott Sternson, a researcher and group leader at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus, investigated the signals that prompt us to eat. Do we eat to silence the negative sensations we get when we’re hungry? Or do we eat simply because we like the taste of food? Previous studies in animals suggests the latter, and the fact that we eat even when we’re not hungry also supports the idea.

But Sternson reports in Nature that his team found evidence it’s the desire to get rid of the unpleasant feelings associated with hunger that drives eating. Something called agouti-related peptide neurons (AgRP) are critical for regulating when animals eat. When calories dwindle and energy drops, AgRP are active, fueling appetite. “When we start to lose 5%, or 10% of body weight, that’s when these neurons are kicking in. And they are a big part of why most diets fail even though people do succeed in initially losing weight,” he says.

That may explain why diets go awry too. Sternson says AgRP nerves may not be active at the start of the diet, but as we lose weight, and the body senses that fewer calories are coming in, the neurons become more active, compelling us to fill up the missing calories and making us feel unpleasantly hungry all the time.

Sternson gave recently-fed mice mice different flavored capsules. Those flavors were associated each with either turning on or turning off the AgRP; when the mice were offered the flavored capsules again, they tended to favor the flavor they associated with when AgRP was turned on, and they felt hungry.

But when they did the same test on mice who hadn’t eaten in a while, the animals tended to favor the flavor linked to when AgRP was turned off — that’s when they didn’t feel the hunger pangs and the physical pain associated with hunger. Indeed, when they did more experiments that allowed them to peer inside the animals’ brains and see which nerves were active, the AgRP neurons started to quiet down as soon as the animals saw food, even before they began eating. But if the mice did not eat after seeing the food, the neurons would rev up again and remind the animals — painfully — that they hadn’t eaten.

But simply interrupting AgRP neurons wouldn’t be the safest way to support weight loss, says Dr. Bradford Lowell, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and senior author of the other paper, published in Nature Neuroscience. Not only do AgRP neurons regulate appetite by driving animals to eat, but it also tries to conserve what energy remains by helping the body burn fewer calories. It signals the sympathetic nervous system, which controls things such as heart rate and blood pressure, to work less efficiently. And that could have negative effects on the heart.

The ideal situation would be to find something downstream of AgRP’s signaling that can be manipulated more safely. And that’s what Lowell spent the past 15 years doing. In his latest paper, he reports on a cluster of cells in the hypothalamus that might be just such a target. Unlike the neurons that trigger the heart-related symptoms when AgRP is activated, these nerves act as the hunger hub. Called melanocortin 4 receptor cells (MC4) hey are responsible, Lowell found, for feelings of satiety. Activating AgRP normally turns these cells off, so animals will feel the uncomfortable symptoms of hunger and start eating.

But one question that Lowell was keen on answering was whether animals eat to quiet down the hunger pangs of whether they simply eat because it activates reward and pleasure centers in the brain. By using the latest laser-technology that can activate specific neurons, they studied hungry mice and turned the MC4 cells on in one room and off when the mice wandered into another room, essentially tricking them into thinking they had just eaten, even if they hadn’t. Not surprisingly, the mice tended to spend more time in the room where the cells were turned on, and they felt “full.” “They were not eating any food but the mice chose to hang out in the room where their satiety signals were turned on. And they really liked it,” says Lowell.

But when they repeated the study with mice that had dined on chow, the results were different. This time, the mice didn’t show any preference and the satiety signals didn’t seem to affect them. That means that the animals ate mainly to get rid of the hunger pangs, and that given a choice, they would rather feel full.

That’s the same with people, and explains why diets are so hard to keep up. It’s a challenge to constantly fight the instinctive desire to quiet those hunger calls. But, says Lowell, it may be possible to manipulate the MC4 cells and fool the body into feeling the same satisfaction that comes with a full belly. “If we artificially turn on the downstream neurons of MC4, we are countering the adverse effect caused by AgRP being active. We are artificially removing the effect of the AgRP neurons on them,” he says.

And doing that, says Sternson, could help people who start a diet to stick with it. “We think it’s critical to understand all we can about these neurons, and how they control hunger when we start to loose weight. The more we understand the proteins that these neurons express, the more intelligently we can conceive potential treatment strategies,” he says. And those therapies might even make it possible to be hungry without feeling hungry, making them them the ultimate diet enabler.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Ways to Get Slim on Autopilot

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Streamline your day-to-day diet decision making

“Just tell me what to eat.” Weight-loss experts say that’s the number one thing they hear from women who are trying to slim down. And no wonder: Whether it’s the endless aisles of food at the grocery store or a seemingly harmless salad bar, research shows that the more options you have, the more likely you are to blow your calorie budget.

The culprit? Decision fatigue. When faced with lots of choices, the regions of your brain responsible for willpower and regret become overstimulated, upping the odds that you’ll make poor decisions—and feel less satisfied with the selections you make even when they’re good ones.

“We think choice makes us happy, but the truth is, it can cause a lot of unnecessary anxiety,” says Judith Beck, PhD, author of The Diet Trap Solution and president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Philadelphia. Most of your eating habits should be automatic, similar to putting on a seat belt when you get into a car, she says: “Making choices in advance helps you stay on track because it eliminates the ‘Should I? Shouldn’t I?’ struggle every time you need to decide something.” (Like when your co-worker brings in brownies—again.)

Here are five ways to streamline your day-to-day decision making so you can drop a few and feel less stressed in the process.

No. 1: Forget your “free day”
It’s a popular allowance among conscientious eaters, many of whom chronicle their mouthwatering splurges (waffles and whipped cream!) with #cheatday. But chowing down on whatever strikes your fancy as a reward for sensible eating the rest of the week can undo your hard work. Data from the National Weight Control Registry shows that people who lost a significant amount of weight are more likely to regain it if they allow themselves to eat with abandon on weekends and holidays. Even one day of chasing fries and cake with bottomless margaritas can more than double your regular calorie intake—and those calories add up. “When you step on the scale on Monday and see you’ve gained, you’ll probably feel discouraged, which undermines your resolve to keep eating healthy,” Beck notes. Plus, she adds, “it’s difficult to get back on track after a day- or weekend-long blowout. Normal eating feels like deprivation.”

No. 2: But treat yourself every day
Beck tells her patients to enjoy just one indulgent food a day. “Cookies, chips, fudge: Everything is fair game, provided you choose your treat in advance and stick to a moderate portion that fits into your daily calorie allotment,” she explains. If you’re going to have some chocolate after dinner, it’s easier to turn down a tempting cupcake at your nephew’s birthday. (And if it pains you to pass on the cupcake, you can make that the next day’s treat.)

No. 3: Say yes to soup Sunday
Or Tuna Taco Tuesday, or a big salad with protein as your go-to weekday lunch.

Self-control is like a muscle: The more you exert it (burger or branzino? Candy bar or nutrition bar?), the more fatigued it becomes, until you almost unconsciously make the decision you normally wouldn’t (burger and a candy bar, please!). Willpower is overrated,” says Jane Burrell Uzcategui, RD, instructor of nutrition at Syracuse University. “If you’re constantly relying on your brain to make the right choice, you’re constantly going to be disappointed.”

Having default snacks and meals reduces the number of decisions you make on any given day—so you’re more likely to eat well at other times. “I tell clients to have 5 to 10 staple recipes and switch them up: Make a different cut of meat one night, or try a new sauce in your weekly stir-fry,” says New York City dietitian Lauren Slayton, RD, author of The Little Book of Thin.

No. 4: Have backup meals at the ready
Don’t let an insanely busy day or burned dinner send you straight into the arms of the Papa John’s deliveryman. Instead, stock up on a few fast-fix meals that fit your diet criteria, so you’re prepared when things go awry.

Preplanned meals are smart even when you’re not crazed. In a recent study, researchers at ConAgra Foods asked people to have a light (270-calorie) frozen meal in place of their usual lunch three days a week for a month. Not only did folks report feeling satisfied hours later, they consumed 500 fewer calories per day.

“Having to measure portions or calculate calories can be tedious, and if you’re tired, it’s not going to happen. The reason frozen meals worked is because they offer options but eliminate guesswork,” explains Kristin Reimers, RD, whose study inspired a wellness program that helped more than 2,000 employees lose as many as 2 pounds a week by eating a microwave meal with under 450 calories at least once a day.

No. 5: Cut yourself off
Willpower can be weakest at night—which is why it’s so easy to intend to have just a little ice cream before bed, only to look down and discover that you’ve emptied half the pint. An easy fix: Tell yourself, “I don’t eat after 9 p.m.” (or a similar time that makes sense for your schedule). Says Beck, “Rules work, even when they’re self-imposed.”

What’s more, knowing that the kitchen is closed may make it easier to hit the hay—and being well-rested bolsters your willpower so you can make wise, waist-friendly food choices tomorrow.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Addiction

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

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The bill covers both cigarette and e-cigarette use

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

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

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

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

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

[AP]

TIME Obesity

Kindergarteners Watch More Than 3 Hours of TV a Day

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With more screen time, the effects add up fast

For kids as young as kindergarten-age, watching even a small amount of TV daily is linked to obesity and overweight, finds a new study. Kids who watched an hour of television a day were more likely to be overweight or obese than kids who watched less than an hour of TV per day.

Presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, the study looked at data from more than 10,000 kindergarteners and followed them through first grade.

Kindergarten students in the U.S. spent an average of 3.3 hours watching TV every day, the study finds, and that screen time comes at a high price. Kids who watched 1-2 hours of TV per day had an increased odds of obesity 47% above the group that watched less than an hour a day, and an increased odds of overweight 43%.

“Television is a very passive activity,” says study author Mark D. DeBoer, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia. Combine the ill effects of sitting with TV-related behaviors like more snacking and exposure to commercials selling unhealthy food, and the effects can add up.

It took very little TV time to have a big effect on weight; DeBoer says he didn’t see much difference in the weights of children who watched 1-2 hours a day versus those who watched more than two hours.

That’s likely because kids miss out on physical activity when they’re plopped in front of the tube. “In this age range, when you’re not sitting and doing something, you’re running around,” DeBoer says. “As much as they don’t go out and jog, kindergarteners are still at an age when they are frequently, if not constantly, on the move.”

DeBoer says he hopes his study can help shift guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which currently recommends that children spend no more than two hours a day watching screens. Instead, he says, parents should be encouraged to cut TV time even more and replace it with activities like reading to their children, going to museums and visiting other educational destinations. “This may be a step toward changing that recommendation in the future,” he says.

TIME Cancer

New Documentary Chronicles One Dad’s Effort to Honor His Son’s Short Life

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"The game has given me a way to grieve and mourn"

When a Colorado man’s one-year-old was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2010, he decided to create a video game that would both honor his son’s life and give others a peek into the family’s reality of living with a child who would die too young.

Ryan Green told TODAY that his game, called That Dragon, Cancer and set in the family’s house and with hospital scenes, would help his family remember Joel and prompt a larger discussion about death and mourning. The game’s website states it allows players to”relive memories, share heartache, and discover the overwhelming hope that can be found in the face of death.” Poems and spiritual messages appear throughout the game, Green said, and it even includes Joel’s laugh.

Joel died in March 2014 at age 5, but Green continues to spread his message. The documentary Thank You for Playing, which screened this month at the Tribeca Film Festival, chronicles the making of the game, which is due to be released later this year.

“Life moves on,” Green, who lives with his wife and four other children, said. “The game has given me a way to grieve and mourn. We have been open with the kids and when grief strikes, we can talk about it.”

TIME Research

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

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Babies are using mobile media

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Yoga Helps Older Adults Battle Depression and Anxiety

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For many older adults, the thought of stepping into a yoga class swarming with yogis more flexible than Gumby might provoke anxiety. But the practice itself may be just the antidote the over-60 set needs, suggests a recent review of studies about relaxation exercises. Those who did yoga and other calming activities saw greater reductions in their anxiety and depression than people who didn’t.

The body of literature on yoga’s relaxation benefits spans all kinds of people, but the authors thought adults aged 60 and older deserved their own analysis. Up to 40% of older adults report anxiety, they note, and anywhere from 15-20% of the elderly experience depression. So in the review published in the journal Aging & Mental Health, researchers scrutinized 15 studies—12 of them randomized controlled trials—from the past two decades that looked at different methods of relaxation. They gauged the effectiveness of six techniques: yoga, listening to music, tensing and relaxing different groups of muscles, massage therapy and stress management training.

MORE: Is Bikram Yoga Safe?

The most effective ways to alleviate depression were yoga, the music intervention and the muscle tensing and relaxing exercise—called PMRT, for progressive muscle relaxation training. The music and yoga interventions were the best for anxiety.

Yoga had the strongest staying power. Positive effects from the stretching, breathing and meditation exercises stuck around six months later in older adults. “It could help counterbalance the negative effects of ageing, improve physical functioning, postpone disability, decrease morbidity and mortality, stimulate the mind, and increase hope, reducing the risk of anxiety and depression,” the study authors write.

MORE: 15 Ways Exercise Makes You Look and Feel Younger

And good vibes from PMRT lasted 14 weeks after the intervention ended. “It is believed that the PMRT has a tranquilising effect, triggers a sense of peacefulness, helps participants retreat mentally from their problem and curtails negative thoughts, reducing depressive symptoms,” the authors write.

The most effective intervention, of course, is the one you enjoy doing—and these results suggest that it’s never too late to find your favorite way to unwind.

 

TIME public health

4 Health Products You Should Never Buy Online

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Beware these sketchy online purchases

Whatever you need, you can get it online. That can make shopping for health products a little bit, shall we say, sketchy. “The people selling certain products to you don’t care about your health and just want money. With greed comes a lot of fraud,” says Josephine Dlugopolski-Gach, assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Loyola University Health System. While you have to be careful with whatever you buy, these four products below can run you into a lot of trouble—and harm:

Certain prescription medications

If a site will let you buy meds without a prescription, that’s a big red flag—especially for certain medications. Listen to this warning from the Drug Enforcement Administration: “Buying online could mean doing time.” Even if you have good intentions, you can’t legally buy “controlled substances” online like Xanax or Ambien without an Rx. And prescriptions from cyber docs won’t cut it, says the DEA. The law is different depending on your state, but most require you to see a doctor you have a relationship with in person. In addition to that, buying from a bad site could leave you with medication that’s fake or contains dangerous ingredients. For example, the FDA purchased the flu-stopping medication Tamiflu online in order to test it. They found it wasn’t Tamiflu at all, but a combination of talc and acetaminophen.

It’s perfectly fine to buy prescription medication from a state-licensed US-based online pharmacy; these sites often can help you save money. To know if they’re legit, Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach suggests making sure they have an actual phone number, have a licensed pharmacist on staff, and require an Rx to fill your order. You can check the legitimacy of the site at the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. And use common sense. “If the deal sounds too good to be true, you’re probably not going to get the right medication,” she says.

Weight loss supplements

You never know what you’re going to get when you buy a weight loss supplement online. The FDA points out that in their testing, they’ve discovered supplements—even herbals—were tainted with hidden and unsafe ingredients. Many are also not FDA-approved, meaning their claims haven’t been checked out and aren’t regulated. (It’s on the individual companies to tell the truth. They don’t always do that.) “A lot of times, these weight loss pills are just stimulants. They contain a lot of caffeine, which is not safe, especially if you have a cardiac condition,” says Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach. “I’ve seen people go into the ER on the verge of a heart attack.” While building long-term healthy habits is often the best way to keep weight off, if you want to check out something that promises to help you lose weight or rev your metabolism, “tell your doctor what you’re interested in before you buy it, even if it’s marketed as natural,” she adds.

Breast milk

You hear “breast is best”—but it’s not if it comes from an online source, suggests an editorial in The BMJ. The problem is, breast milk online is an unregulated industry, so it can be contaminated with viruses (like hepatitis or HIV), bacteria (if not stored or shipped properly) alcohol, prescription medication, and illegal drugs, notes Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach. What’s more, in a new study in the journal Pediatrics, researchers tested 102 samples and found 10% were topped off with cow’s milk, which can cause an allergic reaction. It’s understandable that people might want to buy breast milk–aka “liquid gold”–if they can’t produce their own due to cancer treatment or other reasons. Or that other women would want to donate or sell their milk if they produce more than enough. However, the temptation to make more money by adding cow’s milk might be too much for some online sellers. Organizations like Eats on Feets and Only the Breast (which broker such sales) do recommend pasteurizing all milk and screening donors for HIV and other diseases (among other safety suggestions), but many people don’t follow the guidelines, according to a CNN report. “If you can breastfeed that’s wonderful, but if you can’t, formula is the next best thing,” says Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach. “It’s not worth risking going to an online source and getting breast milk from a stranger.” If you do want to donate milk, there are nonprofit milk banks that collect, test, pasteurize, and store human milk for infants, mostly at-risk neonates in hospitals; go to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America for more information.

Hormone products

If you are approaching menopause, you might be tempted to buy hormone replacement medications, creams, or herbs online. “Some women want a quick fix to get their sex drive or chutzpah back,” explains Diana Bitner, MD, an ob/gyn at Spectrum Health Medical Group in Grand Rapids, MI. “I have patients who have bought testosterone pellets on their own. They end up taking so much of the hormone they have really bad side effects, like hair growth, voices deepening, and rage issues,” she explains. Many of these products are not effective, safe, and contain variable amounts of active ingredients.

Same goes for buying soy. “Women will buy a ton of this online and say it doesn’t make them feel better, so they buy more and more,” Dr. Bitner explains. Only about 30% of women’s bodies can actually utilize soy to lessen menopause symptoms, so you may be wasting your money. For any hormone treatment, even if it’s labeled “natural” you need a doctor’s guidance; she can ensure you get the right hormones in the right amount every time that work.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Addiction

Health Officials Worry as HIV Cases in Indiana Grow

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Health officials say families are using drugs together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Diet Pepsi Will No Longer Contain Aspartame

The company maintains the low calorie sweetener is safe, but recognizes consumers don't want it

PepsiCo is removing the artificial sweetener aspartame from Diet Pepsi, the company has announced.

The low calorie sweetener, which is far sweeter than sucrose, has become a controversial ingredient in recent years. Consumer groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest say it should be avoided by the public as a possible carcinogen, even though the FDA calls it “safe for the general population.”

But thanks to its bad reputation, the company will replace aspartame with two different artificial sweeteners, Reuters reports. A PepsiCo executive explained in the announcement that “while decades of studies show aspartame is safe, we recognize that consumer demand is evolving.”

The new recipe will go into effect in August.

[Reuters]

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