TIME Diet/Nutrition

Energy Drinks Are Hurting Young Kids

TO GO WITH AFP STORY-LIFESTYLE-US-DRINK-
Cans of energy drinks are displayed in a store in San Diego on November 10, 2006. AFP/Getty Images

Poison centers are fielding calls about adverse health events from energy drinks for kids as young as six

Over 40% of calls to U.S. poison centers concerning energy drinks are for kids under age 6, some of whom reported experiencing symptoms like serious cardiac and neurological problems.

In a new study that examined the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System, looking at reports from Oct. 2010 to Sept. 2013, researchers found that of the 5,156 reported cases of energy drink exposure, 40% where unintentional exposures by kids. Symptoms related to the heart, like abnormal rhythms, were noted in 57% of the reported cases. Neurological issues were reported in 55% of the cases.

American Heart Association

Prior data has shown that young kids are passing up caffeinated beverages like soda, but are instead consuming more energy drinks and coffee. The FDA is currently investigating the risks of added caffeine in products consumed by young people.

The trouble with energy drinks is that they are not always regulated the same way as other beverages. For instance, some are considered dietary supplements, and don’t need FDA safety approval. The FDA considers caffeine to be safe, but some energy drinks can contain up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per can, as compared to 100-150 mg in a coffee, the study’s authors say.

Researchers are unsure what part of energy drinks can cause adverse health problems. It’s possible other ingredients besides caffeine can result in medical issues.

The American Beverage Association responded to the study, which is not yet published but was presented recently at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions:

“This abstract has not been published and therefore the authors’ full methodology and analysis is not available for review. In the past, various experts have raised concerns regarding misinterpretation and inherent limitations of data from National Poison Data System when it comes to Energy Drinks. Based on the most recent government data reported in the journal Pediatrics, children under 12 have virtually no caffeine consumption from energy drinks.

Even so, leading energy drink makers voluntarily place advisory statements on energy drink packaging stating that energy drinks are not recommended for children. They also have voluntarily pledged not to market these products to children or sell them in K-12 schools. These guidelines and more are noted in the ABA Guidance on the Responsible Labeling and Marketing of Energy Drinks.

TIME Heart Disease

How Mindfulness Protects Your Heart

Mauro Speziale—Getty Images

Tuning in to your body is good for your health

Self-aware people have better heart health, a new study suggests.

People who are mindful score higher on healthy heart indicators, according to recent findings published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine from Brown University researchers. The team looked at whether having something called “dispositional mindfulness”—which means you’re the type of person who’s very aware and attentive to what you’re feeling and thinking at any given moment—was a factor for heart health. They found a pretty significant connection: people with high mindfulness scores had an 83% greater prevalence of good cardiovascular health.

Having dispositional mindfulness doesn’t necessarily mean you’re regularly practicing mindfulness processes, like meditation. For some people, being more present is a natural part of their personality. For the rest of us, some say, it can be learned.

In the study, the researchers asked 382 people to evaluate statements that measure their level of mindfulness. Participants responded to statements like “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present”on a six point scale ranging from “almost always” to “almost never.” The participants who scored highest with the best mindfulness scores also had very healthy scores when it came to the seven American Heart Association indicators for cardiovascular health. Those include avoiding smoking, being physically active, having a healthy body mass index, consuming decent amounts of fruits and vegetables, and maintaining good cholesterol, blood pressure and fasting blood glucose levels.

The associations appeared to be strongest with factors including smoking, BMI, fasting glucose and physical activity. “The society we live in right now is very promoting of cardiovascular disease…cigarettes are still pretty inexpensive, and jobs are sedentary,” says study author Eric Loucks, an assistant professor in epidemiology at Brown University. “People who are more mindful tend to have more awareness of where their mind and bodies are at. By increasing our awareness, we might become more aware of the impact of what we are doing on ourselves.” If a mindful person is less physically active, Loucks suggests, they might notice that they have less energy.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has been taught in some medical settings for years, and Loucks points out that mindfulness scores tend to go up with the practice. “It does seem like mindfulness can be taught,” he says. “I think it’s good for it to be available for people who are interested in it…we shouldn’t force people to go mindfulness [training] if they don’t want to go. But it has the potential to be a resource.”

The findings are still preliminary, and the reasons for the connection are still inconclusive. But if corroborated, mindfulness interventions may be non-invasive ways to help people adopt healthier behaviors.

TIME

Eating Fruit Cuts Heart Disease Risk by 40%

Heart with coronary vessels
Pasieka—Getty Images

An extra helping of leafy-greens is good for your heart

Eating fruit every day can lower risk of heart disease by up to 40%, new research suggests.

A new study that looked at more than 451,680 participants over seven years asked the group to report their fruit consumption, whether it be never, monthly, 1-3 days per week, 4-6 days per week, or daily.

The researchers found that compared to people who never eat fruit, those who eat fruit every day cut their heart disease risk by 25% to 40%. Those who ate the most amount of fruit also had much lower blood pressure compared to the participants who never ate fruit.

The study is not the first to find a connection between eating fruit and having better heart health. One study of about 110,000 men and women over 14 years found that people who eat fruit and vegetables every day had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and some studies have found that citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruits have especially protective benefits.

Next time you’re in need of a snack, grab an apple over a bag of chips. It’s surely not the last time science will say it.

TIME Heart Disease

New Heart Drug Saves More Lives Than Standard Treatment

A new drug may replace the current standard of treatment for heart failure

Drug maker Novartis released highly anticipated results from its clinical trial, PARADIGM-HF, showing its new heart failure drug cut cardiovascular deaths by 20%. The results were announced at the European Society of Cardiology meeting on Saturday.

Novartis has been testing a drug called LCZ696 for chronic heart failure in hopes of replacing ACE inhibitors, one of the mainstays of heart failure treatment. In March, an ethics council that was monitoring the trial data simultaneously requested the company end the trial since it was clear that participants using LCZ696 lived longer without being hospitalized for heart failure compared to those using the standard-care ACE inhibitor, enalapril.

Anticipation over the drug’s results has been mounting since the recommended closure of the trial; results were so impressive that the treatment showed potential to become the next standard of care. The latest trial showed significantly more patients on LCZ696 were alive, and they had 21% fewer hospitalizations compared to people on enalapril. They also found that the drug doubled the effect enalapril had on all-cause mortality, which is the holy grail of trial end points.

About 20 to 26 million people live with heart failure across Europe and the U.S., and even with treatment it has a poor prognosis and costs $100 billion to treat globally. The majority of those costs come from hospitalizations.

“We thought, what if we could replace the cornerstone of heart failure treatment, ACE inhibitors,” says Patrice Matchaba, development head for Novartis’ critical care franchise. “That’s why we designed PARADIGM and it was a bold decision to make.”

LCZ696 is a pill taken twice a day and is part of a new class of drugs that blocks receptors exerting harmful effects on the heart. The treatment protects the heart by reducing muscle strain, which allows the heart muscle to recover.

Fewer patients using LCZ696 discontinued the trial for adverse events, but the group did have more hypotension and non-serious angioedema compared to patients on enalapril. They had less renal impairment, hyperkalemia and cough.

Matchaba says Novartis will be submitting to the FDA by the end of 2014 and that they’ve already received fast-track status. They will submit in Europe the first quarter of 2015.

TIME heart

Pigs Can Grow Their Own Pacemakers

And the scientists say that the technique, which involves cutting edge reprogramming of cells, may be tested in people soon

Pacemakers are remarkable devices that save the lives of 300,000 people in the U.S. each year. They essentially take over for failing hearts, but since the devices require invasive surgery to implant in the heart, researchers have been looking for less invasive approaches to keeping the heart ticking. And now, reporting in the journal Science Translational Medicine, Dr. Eduardo Marban, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, has a lead—thanks to pigs.

“We were able for the first time to create a biological pacemaker using minimally invasive methods, and show that the new pacemaker cells suffice to support the demands of daily life,” he said. “When the pigs exercised, the hearts beat faster. When they were at rest, their hearts slowed down.”

He and his colleagues say that a single gene can transform existing heart cells to take over the function of ailing pacemaker cells in the heart, The group tested their theory in mice, and were encouraged enough by the results to predict that human trials may be as close as three years away.

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

Marban has been working for more than a decade to find a better way to keep pacemaker patients’ hearts pumping at the right rate. In particular, he was focused on the 2% of them who need to go on antibiotics to treat an infection—because the devices are foreign objects implanted into the body, infections are possible—and in the interim have their pacemakers removed to be cleaned. During that time, these patients receive a temporary pacing device connected to a catheter, but the catheter itself may be an additional source of infection and make the antibiotic treatment less effective.

MORE: Single Gene Responsible for Group of Heart Disease Risk Factors

In Marban’s experiment, he simply loaded deactivated cold viruses, which are able to easily infect cells, with a gene—called TBX18—that is active during fetal development but later shuts off. Earlier studies showed that simply bathing cells in TBX triggered normal heart cells to start morphing into the ones that keep hearts working. That’s exactly what happened in the seven pigs whose hearts were injected with the gene. A small proportion of their normal heart cells, the size of a peppercorn, were transformed into electrically pulsing cells and essentially took over the pacemaker function of the pigs’ hearts.

Dr. Eugenio Cingolani, director of the cardiogenetics-familial arrhythmia clinic at Cedars Sinai and a co-author of the paper, said that while encouraging, more studies on the efficacy of the genetic reprogramming process, as well as a more in-depth analysis of the potential adverse effects are needed.

But the findings represent a promising first step toward a potentially new technique for treating certain life-threatening conditions.

“This development heralds a new era in gene therapy, where genes are used not only to correct deficiency disorders but to convert one cell to another to treat disease,” said Marban. “Now that we and others are hot on the trail of developing therapeutics based on this principle of cell reprogramming, I anticipate that the flood gates will open and people will look for genes of interest to do whatever they want in particular organs or tissues of interest.”

At the very least, he believes that a hardware-free, biological pacemaker based on the technique could become reality.

TIME heart

VIDEO: Here’s How Your Heart Actually Works

In a short video, Edmond Hui explains how the human hearts actually pumps blood

The heart has baffled scientists for centuries, and its inner workings still confuse a lot of people. So Dr. Edmond Hui set out to make a video that would explain it in clear terms once and for all.

In the video above, Edmond Hui retraces how scientists used to think the heart worked compared to how it actually works.

TIME movies

Intense Movies May Be Dangerous for People With Weak Hearts

Robin Tunney In 'Vertical Limit'
A scene from the 2000 movie 'Vertical Limit' Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

Dramatic scenes that leave moviegoers’ chests pounding could be dangerous for viewers with already weak hearts, a small study shows, drawing a link between emotionally stressful cinematography and potentially dangerous cardiac changes in audience members

It’s no surprise to anyone who’s felt their heart jump into their throat while watching a scary movie that these scenes can be stressful. But can that stress be measured by scientists — and is it dangerous?

In a small study published yesterday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, researchers tracked how emotional stress — in this case, watching a harrowing five-minute clip of the rock-climbing movie Vertical Limit — affects the heart. They measured the blood pressure, heart rhythm and breathing speed of 19 heart patients while they watched the scene and found that the clip affected the stability of their heart beat while also increasing blood pressure and how quickly the patients were breathing.

“If someone already has a weakened heart, or if they experience a much more extreme stress,” said study author Dr. Ben Hanson of University College London, “the effect could be much more destabilizing and dangerous.”

(Researchers recreated those breathing patterns without subjecting the patients to the clip and found no such change in heart rate, suggesting that the emotional stress — and not just the increased respiration — was to blame.)

In a statement about the study, Dr. Ben Hanson, one of its authors, said that the results did vary but the observation of cardiac changes was consistent. So, though there’s no reason for healthy movie fans to worry, those with preexisting heart problems might want to take it under consideration.

Watch the clip at your own risk here:

 

TIME

Researchers Are Going to Dose 18,000 Volunteers With Little Chocolate Pills

Chocolate bars heap
Getty Images

Rest of the world dies of envy

Researchers will feed intense concentrations of chocolate to thousands of volunteers to see if it improves their heart health.

No, this isn’t a chocoholic’s fever dream, this is a three year study just launched by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and chocolate-maker Mars Inc.

According to AP, the study expands on previous research of cocoa flavanols, the essential nutrients in dark chocolate, which have been shown to lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

Lest anyone think about self-medicating in the name of science, researchers caution that the pills also strip out sugar and fat. They also contain concentrations of chocolate nutrients that no one could get from regular candy bars without bursting.
[AP]

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