TIME medicine

This Is a Baby’s Brain on Pain

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Symphonie—Getty Images

For the first time, scientists map newborn babies’ brains on pain, and the results are surprising

In a first, researchers at Oxford University have watched infants as young as a day old as their brains process a light prodding of their feet. The results confirm that yes, babies do indeed feel pain, and that they process it similarly to adults. Until as recently as the 1980s, researchers assumed newborns did not have fully developed pain receptors, and believed that any responses babies had to pokes or pricks were merely muscular reactions. But new research published Tuesday morning changes that.

Taking advantage of the fact that newborns less than a week old tend to sleep through anything, Rebeccah Slater, an associate professor of pediatric neuroimaging at Oxford, and her colleagues placed 10 infants who were 1-6 days old in an fMRI machine. The researchers, who reported their findings in eLife, observed which areas of the infants’ brains became more active, or consumed more oxygen, as the scientists lightly poked their feet. They did the same for adults and compared the brain images.

In adult brains, 20 regions were activated by the painful stimulus, and the newborns shared 18 of these. “The infant’s brain is much more developed than I was expecting,” says Slater. “I might have thought that some information might have gone to the sensory areas of the brain — telling the baby something was happening on the foot, for example — but I didn’t necessarily think it would go to areas more commonly involved in emotional processing such as the anterior cingular cortex, which is thought be involved in the unpleasantness associated with an experience.”

Even at birth, then, a baby’s brain possesses the foundation for quickly evaluating anything he or she experiences, including painful stimuli. “I hope this provides incentive to more researchers to find better ways of measuring pain in babies, and prioritize the importance of providing the best pain relief possible in children,” says Slater.

Slater found that newborn brains are still immature in some ways, however. Any stimulus, whether it’s a painful one or a sensory one such as a smell, tends to activate widespread regions of the brain. That signals that the baby’s brain is still trying to learn what’s what and distinguish different stimuli. The poking triggered even the newborns’ olfactory system, for example, even though the sensation had nothing to do with smell.

Second, babies tend to register all stimuli as having the same intensity. Even light pokes “feel” the same as harder ones, reflecting their still inexperienced system in distinguishing levels of activation.

But the fact that they are experiencing pain in almost the same ways as adults do is very revealing. Now that there’s evidence that the brains of babies do indeed process pain, that may change the way doctors treat newborns, especially those who are premature or need extra medical attention in the neonatal intensive care unit. In a recent study, scientists tallied an average of a dozen procedures including needle sticks that babies experienced every day; more than 60% of those infants did not receive any pain medication, either in the form of a topical numbing cream or other pain relief. Having these experiences may make these babies more sensitive to pain later in life, says Slater. A study of circumcised baby boys, for example, found that those who received pain relief felt less pain when getting vaccinations three months later than those who didn’t receive any pain medication.

“Now that we have seen for the first time what is happening in babies’ brains while they experience something mildly painful,” says Slater, “there should be a big drive to try to treat pain in these children, especially those having a high number of procedures performed in their early days.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Kraft Mac & Cheese Plans to Go for a More Natural Look

Views Of Kraft Foods Products At A Supermarket Ahead Of Earns
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images Boxes of Kraft macaroni & cheese are displayed in Fog Hill Market in San Francisco, Calif. on Feb. 5, 2013.

The change is expected to go into effect in January 2016

Your bowls of Kraft mac & cheese could look a bit different starting next year.

Kraft Foods Group will no longer use synthetic coloring or artificial preservatives in its original Macaroni & Cheese in the U.S., the company announced Monday, and it will also remove synthetic coloring from Kraft Dinner Original meals in Canada.

Customers have long identified the pasta dish with the iconic orange color, but the manufacturer says it will turn to natural color alternatives derived from sources like turmeric, paprika and annatto.

The company’s announcement called the move an “on-trend update” to the brand and explained that customers “want to feel good about the foods they eat and serve their families, including everything from improved nutrition to simpler ingredients.”

The change is scheduled to come into effect in the U.S. in January 2016.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Eating Insects Isn’t as Eco-Friendly As People Say

Insects: Our Food Of The Future?
Sean Gallup—Getty Images Dried grasshoppers, mealworms and crickets seasoned with spices

Crickets aren't so green after all

Crickets are often trumpeted as the future of food, an edible, eco-friendly solution to a some-day protein shortage that livestock just can’t fix. Even the United Nations promotes insect-eating as a promising, protein-packed way to feed the 9 billion people that will live on earth in 2050. “A benefit of insects as an alternative animal protein source is that they can be reared sustainably on organic side streams (e.g. manure, pig slurry and compost),” their report reads.

Because insects emit far fewer greenhouse gases than livestock and consume way less water, they have a comparatively tiny ecological footprint, and they’re thought to thrive on basically anything, even organic waste. That last point sums up the main ecological appeal of eating insects; growing the grain used in animal feed takes up huge water and energy resources.

But do crickets really have the potential to be the new beef? Not yet, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE. When researchers raised crickets on several different diets and tried to see how much protein they could squeeze out of them, they got some disappointing results: just not a whole lot of protein.

MORE: Why, On Second Thought, Maybe You Shouldn’t Start Eating Bugs

In the experiment, researchers raised crickets on one of five different diets. They replicated each diet three time and harvested the crickets after two weeks. One group ate corn-, soy- and grain-based feed, while others survived on food waste or crop residue. The researchers measured how big the crickets grew and how much edible protein they produced.

Diet made a huge difference, the study authors found. Those that ate a diet of processed food waste had a feed and protein conversion rates no more efficient than that of chickens. Nearly all those fed straight food waste died before they could be harvested. And the most successful crickets were those that ate a grain-based diet similar to what most poultry eat. They had a 35% protein conversion rate, which is only slightly better than chickens.

So even if the whole world took a page out of Mexico’s cookbook and developed an appetite for chapulines—crunchy fried crickets—the small protein payoffs may not even be worth it if we’re feeding them what chickens eat, the authors suggest.

“I think the sustainability claims on this topic have been overstated given the current state of knowledge,” wrote study author Dr. Mark Lundy of the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources in an e-mail.

Even if they can’t survive on as many organic sidestreams as we originally thought, Lundy doesn’t think that insects are out of the running as the future of food.

“I’m all for exploring alternatives, and I am impressed by the amount of innovation that has sprung up around insect cultivation and cuisine in the last few years,” he says. “However, I also think we need to be clear-eyed about what the sustainability gains are and aren’t, and focus our innovative efforts and limited resources to where they will have the most lasting impact.”

Swapping chickens for crickets–while feeding them the same thing—is unlikely to make a real difference. “Insect cultivation is more likely to contribute to human nutrition at a scale of economic and ecological significance if it does not rely on a diet that competes with conventional livestock,” he says, “but more innovation is needed for this to become a reality.”

TIME Cancer

Most Women Should Not Get Yearly Mammograms, Group Says

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A U.S. panel of experts reaffirms its recommendations

Six years ago, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) caused a stir when it changed long-held breast-cancer-screening recommendations and advised women to wait until age 50 rather than 40 to start getting mammograms. The task force also said women should do it every other year, and women under age 50 were told that the choice to get mammograms at their age was an individual one.

In the intervening years, that’s become a less controversial opinion, partially because of growing evidence that too much screening can lead to anxiety-ridden false-positive results, overdiagnosis and overtreatment. On Monday, the USPSTF released its updated recommendations, which look very similar to the recommendations released in 2009.

The new draft guidelines suggest women ages 50 to 74 get a mammogram every two years and women ages 40 to 49 should make their own decision on whether to start screening in consultation with their doctors. The task force also concluded that there was not enough evidence to make a recommendation for or against mammograms for women ages 75 and older, 3-D mammography or additional screening besides mammograms for women who have dense breasts. The guidelines will now undergo a public commenting period, and you can send in comments here.

“In 2009, to suggest that mammography has limitations and that it has harms and that we need to look at the balance was not the way most people were thinking about it,” says Dr. Michael L. LeFevre, past chair of the USPSTF. “Much has been written about mammography in the last five years. I think people understand that it is a good test, it’s not a perfect test, and that there may be some significant harms associated with it.”

The task force added a nuance in the new guidelines that highlights which women might want to consider mammography more strongly, saying women in their 40s who have had a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer are at a higher risk, and may benefit from mammography at a younger age than women who are at an average risk.

MORE: Diagnosed With Breast Cancer? Get a Second Opinion

In the past year, there’s been compelling evidence in support of the 3-D mammogram as an accurate — and perhaps better — screening tool. One June study showed 3-D mammograms can pick up more breast cancers and lead to fewer callbacks for more testing than 2-D mammography. LeFevre says that while it’s a promising technology, he doesn’t think there is enough evidence to prove if it will result in improved health. “We are going to have to see more than just detection. There have to be more studies that look specifically at the outcomes in order for us to be certain,” he says.

Despite the fact that the mammogram recommendations happened over six years ago, many doctors still insist on yearly mammograms for their patients over age 40. The American Cancer Society also continues to recommend that women age 40 and up get yearly mammograms.

“There are plenty of women in the position with people just telling them you need to have a mammogram every year. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that is still going on,” says LeFevre. “On the other hand, I think women are being more proactive about their discussions of mammography, and I think that’s reflective of the environment change we are in.”

The task-force guidelines are intended for women ages 40 and up who do not show signs of breast cancer, have never had breast cancer and do not have risk factors like a genetic mutation that put them at higher risk. High-risk patients should consult with their doctor for an individualized screening plan.

“Mammography helps. We can reduce women’s likelihood of dying of breast cancer by undergoing some regular screening at some interval during certain ages. That’s a common theme across almost all organizations that look at this,” says LeFevre. “We think we should be doing it in a way where we maximize the balance of benefits and harms. That’s our topline message and that’s what I hope women hear.”

TIME Cancer

New Trials Show Promise For Future Skin Cancer Treatment

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In some cases, the results were even better than the current frontline treatment for the cancer

Drugs that spur the immune system to target cancer cells may prove an effective skin cancer treatment, according to two clinical trials published Monday.

The drugs, called immune checkpoint inhibitors, had impressive results in treating advanced melanoma, according to the trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In some cases, the results were even better than the current frontline treatment for the cancer.

One trial showed the drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) had better outcomes compared to the commonly used treatment for skin cancer, Yervoy (ipilimumab). The other trial showed patients’ tumors responded better to a combination of the drugs Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy than just Yervoy on its own. However, around half of patients getting the combination therapy experienced moderate to serious side effects.

Such treatments could also prove expensive. According to the Wall Street Journal, the drugs used in the combination treatment study, for instance, come at a hefty price with a four-treatment course of Yervoy costing $120,000 and Opdivo costing $12,500 a month.

The study results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. The trial with the combination drugs was funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb and the other trial was funded by Merck.

[Health Day]

TIME Cancer

Breast Cancer May Increase 50% By 2030

By 2030, the number of breast cancer cases in the United States will grow by 50% compared their 2011 rates, according to new research from the National Cancer Institute.

In the new study, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting, researchers used cancer surveillance data, census data and mathematical models to arrive at projections. Part of the reason the numbers are so high, they note, is because women are living longer. Another factor is the increase in screening that enables doctors to spot and diagnose more cases of in-situ tumors—very early stage growths that may not require treatment—as well as more invasive tumors.

MORE: This Mammogram Saves Lives and Money

The data comes amid concerns about the over-treatment of breast cancer. Last year, an analysis of women with stage 1 or stage 2 breast cancer in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found little difference in survival rates 20 years after diagnosis between women who had an unaffected breast removed and those who did not.

“There’s certainly concern, especially in the older patients, about over-diagnosis of breast cancer, and that’s one of the reasons that screening mammography can become very controversial in older patients,” says Dr. Sharon Giordano, MPH, department chair of health services research at MD Anderson Cancer Center. (Giordano was not involved in the research.) “We don’t want to end up diagnosing and treating a disease that would never cause a problem during the person’s natural lifetime.”

Not all in-situ breast cancer progresses into a dangerous condition, Giordano explains. “One of the unanswered questions is, how do we identify the in-situ cancers that are the ones that go on and progress to a life-threatening illness, and which are the ones that we should be leaving alone and not subjecting people to invasive surgery and radiation for treatment?”

The researchers also teased out some more hopeful projections: that the number of estrogen-receptor negative (ER-negative) cancers, the kind that don’t need estrogen to grow and don’t typically respond to endocrine therapy, will drop from 17% in 2011 to 9% in 2030. That may be good news, since ER-positive breast cancers tend to grow slower and have better long-term survival rates. The reasons for the expected drop aren’t clear yet, the study authors say, but one contributing factor could be that women are having children later in life, and having a child young is a risk factor for ER-negative tumors.

“In sum, our results suggest that although breast cancer overall is going to increase, different subtypes of breast cancer are moving in different directions and on different trajectories,” said study author Philip S. Rosenberg, PhD, a senior investigator in cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute, in a statement. “These distinct patterns within the overall breast cancer picture highlight key research opportunities that could inform smarter screening and kinder, gentler, and more effective treatment.”

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

This Adam Sandler Movie Has Inspired a Method of Dementia Care

Sony Pictures

One facility is using a technique from "50 First Dates"

One home for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is using a method inspired by an Adam Sandler movie to help jog residents’ memories at the start of each day.

In the 2004 film 50 First Dates, actor Adam Sandler’s character creates a video that actress Drew Barrymore (whose character loses her memory each day) plays each morning to remind her who she is and what happened to her. The Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York City has family members of its residents doing the same thing as Sandler’s character, the Associated Press reports, recording videos of themselves providing messages and anecdotes for the patients to watch every morning.

“[The film] was fluff, but it made me think,`How could that translate to our residents with memory loss?'” Charlotte Dell, director of social services at the home told the AP.

The Associated Press notes that people with Alzheimer’s present differently and that one technique may not work for everyone.

[AP]

 

TIME Running

Meet the Man Who Won’t Stop Running

Scott Jurek has been an Ultramarathoner for twenty years

Scott Jurek thought Ultramarathoners were crazy, until he tried his first one.

Twenty years ago Jurek considered himself an average runner, but after falling in love with the long distances of Ultramarathoning — any race over the traditional 26-mile marathon — he really found his groove.

He has won the Western States 100-mile race seven straight times, the Badwater 135 mile race twice, and the 153 mile Spartathalon three times. In 2010 he set an American record at the 24-hour World Championships, running a total of 6.5 marathons in 24 hours.

Two decades after he ran his first Ultramarathon, Jurek is still going strong. He hopes to use his success in his unconventional sport to inspire others to push their minds and bodies beyond what they ever thought was possible.

TIME medicine

Most Americans Think Medical Marijuana Shouldn’t Be Used By Kids, Poll Says

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And 80% think adults shouldn't use medical marijuana in front of children

While most Americans think medical marijuana should be allowed for adults, a majority says the drug shouldn’t be used by or in the presence of children, a new poll shows.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that 63% of American adults think their state should allow the use of medical marijuana among adults. But only 36% think it should be allowed for children and teenagers under age 18. The poll also found that 80% think adults should not use medical marijuana in front of children. Ten percent know someone with a medical marijuana card or they have their own.

Close to half of the states currently allow the use of medical marijuana.

“Our findings suggest that not only is the public concerned about the use of medical marijuana among children, but that the majority of Americans worry that even exposure to it may be harmful to kids’ health,” Dr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and a professor at University of Michigan Medical School, said in a statement. “As is typical with anything involving health, the public’s standards are much higher when it comes to protecting children’s health.”

 

TIME Healthcare

How to Tell When Feeling Tired Is a Sign of a Health Problem

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When should I see my doctor about my low energy?

In our go, go, go lives, it’s not always easy to spot problematic lack of energy. But if you’re sleeping a solid seven to eight hours a night and still feeling sluggish, that should raise a red flag. The best advice is to pay close attention to exactly how it feels so you can describe it to your doctor in detail. If your fatigue is more like weakness, for example, the problem might be your thyroid gland, which regulates energy levels; either an overactive or underactive thyroid can zap you. Blood tests will show if there’s an issue, and your doctor can prescribe medicines that help.

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

More general daytime sleepiness or fogginess, on the other hand, is more likely related to stress or a lingering infection. Your doctor might order a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea, which causes your breathing to pause while you snooze. This can disrupt your z’s, even if you don’t notice. To treat it, your doctor might prescribe a mouthpiece or breathing machine so you can get good rest.

Read more: A Sleep Meditation for a Restful Night

If you also have breathlessness, that’s a possible sign of a heart condition like cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes overgrowth of the heart muscle. Treatment ranges from diet changes to surgery to remove tissue or implant a pacemaker. Finally, if you feel apathy, too, that’s a sign of depression or grief. Thankfully, most of the time persistent tiredness can be solved with a little detective work.

Read more: 11 Secrets to All Day Energy

Health‘s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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