New Energy Health

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Alcohol can rewire the teenage brain

0000 alcoholAlcohol is a drug. And every day, more than 4,750 American kids aged 15 and younger take their first full drink of this drug. That’s according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA. And the problem is not just that this consumption is illegal. Kids who start drinking before age 15 also are five times more likely to become alcoholics or abuse alcohol than are people who wait until adulthood for their first sip. Another big problem for kids who experiment with this drug is that they are more likely than adults are to consume too much alcohol over a short period of time. This is known asbinge drinking.

What few people realize is that binge drinking poses many risks that go well beyond getting drunk and acting irresponsibly. That’s why an organization of doctors has just issued a new report laying out those risks. It appeared in the August 30 issue of Pediatrics.

Lorena Siqueira is a pediatrician at Florida International University and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami. She studies teen alcohol

How this vitamin can foster pimples

vitaminVitamin B12 causes bacteria normally found on the skin to start pumping out chemicals that can give you zits. The new finding suggests that taking supplements of the vitamin unnecessarily can trigger acne.

Details appeared June 24 in Science Translational Medicine.

Vitamin B12 is important for making red blood cells and for brain function. The vitamin also has been known to sometimes cause acne. Dezhi Kang works at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. He and his colleagues wanted to find out why the vitamin was sometimes linked to pimples. So they gave vitamin B12 supplements to 10 people with clear skin. One of them developed acne a week later.

Triggering the zits was a bacterium that normally lives on our skin. It’s called Propionibacterium acnes. Among people with pimples, some of these germs have genes that are more active than normal; other of the germ’s genes are less active. Among the less active genes are ones that these bacteria rely on to make vitamin B12.

In the new experiment, P. acnes bacteria

Cool Jobs: Researchers on the run

health-running--bedrest-exercisehis is one in a series on careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics made possible with generous support from Alcoa Foundation.

Jerry Husak never expected to be an athletic trainer, let alone a lizard trainer. Yet he’s become an expert at getting the little reptiles to race on a treadmill. His secret? Once in a while, gently prod their tails or back legs with a paintbrush.

Husak is a biologist at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. Although he calls his subjects “Olympic lizards,” he’s not readying them for competition. Instead, their training is helping his team learn about the effects of exercise in all animals — including people.

From professional sports stars to casual joggers, human athletes are always trying to perform better. Even non-athletes want to know how they can stay in shape without getting injured. That’s why exercise scientists bring athletes — and animals — into the lab. They want to learn what happens inside a moving body and what can go wrong.

Here are three researchers who are studying the science of running — the simplest kind of exercise —

Depression of either parent during pregnancy linked to premature birth

Depression in both expectant mothers and fathers increases the risk of premature birth, finds a study published in BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG).

Depression in women during pregnancy is known to be associated with low birth weight and increased risk of premature birth. Maternal stress, such as the death of a loved one, lack of social support, or a difficult or abusive relationship, has also been shown to increase the risk of premature birth. However, little research has examined the impact of paternal depression on the health of the mother or the unborn child.

In this study, more than 350,000 births in Sweden between 2007 and 2012 were investigated for parental depression and incidence of either very preterm birth (between 22 and 31 weeks) or moderately preterm birth (32-36 weeks).

For both men and women, depression was defined as having had a prescription of antidepressant medication, or receiving outpatient/inpatient hospital care, from 12 months before conception to the end of the second trimester of pregnancy. People with depression were classed as ‘new’ cases if they had had no depression in the 12 months prior to diagnosis, all other cases were defined as ‘recurrent’ depression.

While both new

Akie Abe, Japan’s First Lady, is taking over MTV Staying Alive’s Twitter on April 11 to talk about HIV

Japan’s First Lady, Akie Abe, will be taking over MTV Staying Alive’s twitter account on Saturday, April 11, to answer your HIV-related questions.

Between Sunday, April 5, and Tuesday, April 7, you’ll be able to send Akie Abe your HIV-related questions via twitter. Just tweet your question and include the hashtag #AkieAbe.

The First Lady will be posting her answers to selected questions via @MTVStayingAliveon Saturday, April 11.

As First Ladies go, Akie Abe is pretty awesome. She is a dedicated AIDS campaigner and in a speech she gave last year at UNAIDS, she promised to work the rest of her life on ending AIDS by “amplifying the voice of the voiceless”. What better way to do this than to shout about HIV on one of the world’s biggest media platforms, MTV!

HIV is still a massive problem, especially for young people—globally, 42% of all new HIV infections occur in young people and Asia has had the largest AIDS-related death toll outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

The MTV Staying Alive Foundation is working with Akie Abe to help raise awareness of HIV in Asia.

MTV Staying Alive and the First Lady will also

Internet use may harm teen health

Connecting with other teens online may be fun. But spending too much time on the Internet could lead to health problems, a new study reports. Heavy Internet use appears able to put teens at serious risk of high blood pressure, it finds.

As the term suggests, high blood pressure exerts extra outward pressure on vessel walls. With exercise, blood pressure increases. At rest, that pressure should return to a relatively low, background level. But in some people, it remains relatively elevated, even at rest.

High blood pressure in children and teens often continues into adulthood, says Andrea Cassidy-Bushrow, who led the new study. That’s a problem, she says. Persistent high blood pressure can trigger serious health problems, from kidney disease and memory loss to eye damage and heart disease or stroke.

Cassidy-Bushrow works at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Mich. As an epidemiologist, she investigates causes of illness.

Obesity and diets high in salt are among factors known to boost blood pressure. But researchers worry that other, less obvious, factors also may play a role. Previous studies had linked screen time — watching television or playing on a computer — and high

Table salt and shellfish can contain plastic

Scientists have found tiny plastic bits, known as microplastics, in salts collected from supermarkets across China. The researchers analyzed 15 brands of salt. They turned up plastic bits in table salt extracted from seas and lake water. They also found plastic bits in rock salt mined from underground deposits. By far, however, sea salt contained the most plastic. In a second study, the same team found similar plastic fibers in shellfish.

The new findings should, perhaps, come as no surprise. For years, studies have reported finding microplastics in ocean water. And in 2011, scientists showed that laundering clothes made of nylon and other types of plastic shed bits of lint. The wash water carried that lint down the drain and eventually into rivers and the ocean. Plastic bits have since turned up in sea animals. But the new paper is one of the first to report microplastics in food to be eaten by people.

It found that sea salt had 550 to 681 particles per kilogram (2.2 pounds). Each kilogram of lake salts had 43 to 364 particles. Rock salts had seven to 204 particles per kilogram.

These new data suggest that sea salt may be dragging microplastics from tainted water

Study equates sleepless nights with high-fat diet

A good night’s sleep does more than help you feel rested. It also may help prevent insulin resistance, a condition that underlies most diabetes. That’s the conclusion of a new study by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Scientists had known that lack of sleep inhibits the body’s ability to use glucose. This sugar powers our cells. But the new study finds that low sleep has a similar effect on the body as a high-fat diet when it comes to using glucose. Both cause cells to begin ignoring the signals ofinsulin. This hormone tells cells that food (in the form of glucose) is available and then helps them use it. When cells start tuning out the hormone’s presence, a condition known as insulinresistance develops. Glucose, also known as blood sugar, then begins to build up in the blood instead of feeding cells.

Over time, cells can become so resistant that they almost completely ignore insulin. This may eventually lead to a serious disease known as type 2 diabetes. Many people die from complications of diabetes each year.

Josiane Broussard works at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She wondered whether lack of sleep and a high-fat diet worked in the

Heart damage linked to obesity in kids

A big, strong heart is important to staying healthy and active. But hearts can grow too big. Now, a study finds that obese children as young as eight often have enlarged, potentially unhealthy, hearts.

An enlarged heart won’t kill someone. Indeed, elite athletes who are exercising their muscles — including their heart muscle — may end up with a big, powerful heart. But in couch potatoes, an enlarged heart can be a sign of developing heart disease. And that’s what the new study uncovered.

Among very overweight kids, “Even the youngest children in our study, who were only 8 years old, had evidence of heart disease,” notes Brandon Fornwalt. He works at the Geisinger Health System in Danville, Penn. There, he studies how muscle in the heart expands and contracts to pump blood throughout the body.

His team used magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to take pictures of 40 kids’ hearts. The children were all between 8 and 18 years old. Half were obese, meaning overweight to an unhealthy degree. The rest were at a healthy weight. From the MRI images, the scientists could see that 40 percent of the obese children had enlarged hearts

New gene resists our last-ditch drug

Antibiotics are drugs that can kill bacteria. But many germs have evolved genes that make them immune to one or more of these drugs. In some cases, only one lone drug remains that can kill them. If bacteria found a way to resist — ignore — that last drug too, these killer germs might be unstoppable. Infections that were once easy to treat would become incurable. And, new data show, bacteria are dangerously close to that scary future.

Scientists have just reported finding a bacterial gene that lets germs resist drugs that doctors use only as a last resort.

The bacteria, discovered in China, can resist the drug colistin. That’s an antibiotic that doctors reserve for the sickest patients, those sick from germs resistant to all other drugs. It’s not time to panic — yet. Instead, scientists say, it’s time to take a hard look at how doctors, and farmers, use antibiotics on a daily basis. That won’t get rid of the colistin-resistant bacteria. But it could help prevent other resistant germs from evolving.

Why colistin resistance is a big deal

Most bacteria die when hit with an antibiotic — a drug doctors use to target them. But a

Allergies linked to obesity and heart risks

Sometimes, the body’s immune system goes into overdrive. It’s meant to fight disease and foreign microbes. But at times it may inappropriately fight against healthy parts of its own body. This is known as autoimmune disease. Common examples include asthma and allergies. Children with such diseases face a higher than normal risk of becoming overweight and developing conditions that could lead to heart disease, a study now finds.

Asthma is a disease affecting the lungs’ airways. It can make it hard to breathe. Eczema (EX-eh-mah) is an autoimmune disease that makes the skin rough, itchy and red. Allergies act up when the body thinks something harmless in the environment is actually dangerous and then tries to fight it.

Jonathan Silverberg looked for people with any of these conditions who had been interviewed as part of a major U.S. health survey. Silverberg works at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Ill. As a dermatologist there, he treats skin disorders, such as eczema.

For the new study, he reviewed data from interviews of more than 13,000 U.S. children and teens (and their families). Some 14 percent of children up to age 17 had asthma. Another 12 percent had eczema.

Back off the bacon and cold cuts?

In October 2015, bacon lovers around the world panicked. A major international health group issued a report saying that eating processed meats may contribute to cancer. These foods include bacon, cold cuts, hot dogs and other types of sausages. People who eat too much red meat (such as beef) and processed meats daily face an increased risk of a deadly cancer, the new report concluded.

The report came from the World Health Organization, or WHO. An agency of the United Nations, it’s based in Geneva, Switzerland. A group of 22 WHO experts reviewed findings from more than 800 studies. Their conclusion: Eating too much red meat — including beef, pork, or goat — likely leads to cancer.

The news media gave the new report lots of attention. “Bad day for bacon,” said one headline. “Bacon causes cancer,” read another. One even said, “Processed meats rank alongside smoking as cancer causes.”

Is eating bacon really as dangerous as smoking? No. Smoking is still much, much worse. Do people need to stop eating red meat and processed meats altogether? Again, no, although diners may want to limit how much they eat.
“You shouldn’t be eating well-done cooked meats, or barbecued chickens, or barbecued steaks, or processed meats

The truth about zits

Have you ever woken up in the morning only to feel a throbbing ache on the side of your nose? You wander into the bathroom, and — horror of horrors! — a huge red zit sprouted in the middle of the night. If you’re lucky, this doesn’t happen to you on school picture day or the night of a dance. But it could. At some point, pimples will erupt on the face of about 17 in every 20 people. This unpleasant skin condition, known as acne, plagues teens more than any other age group.

Acne hurts. And it can be embarrassing. But some lucky people never get zits — not even as teens. Rumors abound about what causes or prevents acne. Some people blame outbreaks on a diet too rich in dairy products or on sloppy personal hygiene. The truth, it turns out, is more complicated. While hygiene and diet may play some role in an outbreak, teens could cut out all milk and cheese and wash their faces twice a day and still break out.

In fact, washing too much can actually make acne worse, notes Rita Pichardo-Geisinger. She’s a dermatologist at Wake Forest Baptist

FDA wants to ban indoor tanning by teens

In the average U.S. city, there are more tanning salons than Starbucks. More than 1 million people visit them every day. But sitting under tanning-bed lights increases the risk of skin cancer, especially in children. Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed a new rule that would prevent anyone under the age of 18 from indoor tanning.

Almost one-third of all white, non-Hispanic, high-school girls in the United States have used a tanning salon in the past year. The salon’s light bulbs emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation that leaves users with a sun-kissed glow. Sunlight contains the same wavelengths. Indeed, the sun’s UV radiation is responsible for natural tanning — and sunburns. But the lamps used by tanning beds can expose skin to 10 times as much of this radiation, per minute, as natural sunlight can. And studies have shown that people who start tanning when they’re young can increase their risk of skin cancer by 75 percent. The biggest concern is the cancer known as melanoma (Mel-ah-NO-mah). It’s especially deadly.

That’s why the FDA wants to limit the amount of ultraviolet radiation to which children are exposed. Sophie Balk thinks that’s a really good thing. She’s a pediatrician at the

Bronze Age mummies unearthed in Great Britain

Signs that ancient Britons mummified their dead were kept under wraps — until now.

The Bronze Age corpses had been buried at sites throughout Great Britain. Close inspection of their bones indicate the bodies had been intentionally mummified, a new study finds. The remains date to between about 4,200 and 2,750 years ago.

Thomas Booth of the Natural History Museum in London and his colleagues analyzed bones from 34 bodies. Sixteen showed little to no bacterial damage. That suggests mummification had blocked rapid decay of a corpse’s flesh, Booth’s team says. The researchers describe their findings in the October Antiquity.

The hot, dry climates of ancient Egypt and South America’s Andes preserved ancient mummies there. Such arid environments would have deprived gut microbes of the moisture they would have needed to survive long enough to break down tissue. But damp Britain would have offered corpses no such protection against such decay.

Mummies there would now consist of little more than skeletons — unless they had ended up in watery bogs. Then a lack of oxygen should have killed any gut bacteria.

At a time when ruling classes increasingly controlled farmland, mummies could have helped affirm a

Stress may break diet willpower

You’re cramming for a test, worried about a band tryout or at risk of not finishing up some big class project on time. This is stress. And you realize it is hard to hold off eating a doughnut or dish of ice cream. That junk food looks oh so good. It can be hard to help reaching for it. And a new Swiss study now suggests why.

Indeed, the study finds, your brain may be conspiring against you. In some people, it may crumple the willpower to eat right.

Silvia Maier works at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. She and her colleagues invited 41 young men into the lab for 3 hours of tests. They started by showing each man 180 food items on a computer screen. Each time, they asked the men to judge how healthy, tasty and appealing the food was.

Then the researchers stressed out 29 of the guys. They did this by asking each to stick one hand in ice water for three minutes. If the water was too unpleasant, the volunteers could remove their hands, but must continue looking into a video camera. The men were also encouraged to put

Ancient teeth point to Neandertal relatives

Modern humans — our species — go back roughly 200,000 years. But over much of their early history they weren’t the only hominids walking the Earth. Among well-known fellow travelers were Neandertals (which died out around 30,000 years ago). A line of hominids closely related to them is known as the Denisovans (Deh-NEE-so-vins). Over time, Neandertals and Denisovans interbred with humans. But no one is quite sure when. So scientists have been quite curious about where early non-human species lived and when. New data now suggest that Denisovans may have emerged as a separate hominid line at least 110,000 years ago.

They interbred with humans in East Asia at least 44,000 years ago. David Reich works in Cambridge, Mass., for both the Broad Institute at MIT and at Harvard University. In 2011, his team reported that some 5 percent of genes in native groups now living in Australia, New Guinea and on several nearby islands trace to Denisovans. This suggested Denisovans must once have been widespread throughout Asia.

But until now, the only purely Denisovan DNA had come from a single finger bone that turned up in 2008. And it wasn’t found in the South Pacific. It came from Denisova Cave (hence the population’s name) in

Cool Jobs: Finding foods for the future

This is the first in a series on careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics made possible with generous support from Alcoa Foundation.

Meet dulse, a seaweed with a secret.

This translucent red alga grows along northern, rocky coastlines of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. And its colorful, leathery fronds hide a remarkable flavor. When tossed with oil and fried in a pan, they taste like bacon.

“I think it is a food of the future,” says Chris Langdon. This marine scientist has been studying dulse for more than a decade at Oregon State University in Portland. During that time, he has found new ways to grow it faster. The alga not only grows cheaply and easily, he notes, but also is rich in protein. Those qualities haven’t been lost on creative chefs who are searching for new ways to incorporate this unlikely treat into their recipes.

DLT, anyone? (That’s a dulse, lettuce and tomato sandwich.)

People need to seek out new foods because the world has so many mouths to feed. As of 2015, there are more than seven billion people on Earth, according to the United Nations. And by 2100 that number may double, according to some predictions. Feeding all of these people means not

Meditation may boost teen memory

If you tend to forget your homework or are easily distracted, take heed. A new study shows that teens can improve their memory with a practice known as mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness involves paying attention to what is happening in the current moment. It requires pulling the mind back to the present when thoughts wander. No worrying about the future. Or over something that happened in the past. Just focus on the here and now. And do so without judging events as good or bad.

This mindfulness can be applied to the practice of meditation. In meditation, people focus their attention to get rid of jumbled — and often stressful — thoughts. Basic meditation usually involves “clearing the mind” by sitting still and focusing on the breath. To train in mindfulness meditation, a person also starts by focusing on the breath. Then he or she concentrates on other bodily sensations. For example, by thinking about the crown of the head, someone can imagine any headache or stress dissolving away. That attention is then moved to different parts of the body. The goal is to reduce tense muscles and stress. With practice, people learn to maintain an awareness of

Explainer: What is skin?

body’s largest organ — skin — is active, living tissue. It serves as tough but flexible armor to keep harmful microbes, chemicals or strong rays of light away from more sensitive inner tissues. At the same time, nerves within the skin relay important information about the world around us by sensing pain, textures and temperatures.

The skin you scrub every day in the bath or shower is only the outermost layer, called theepidermis (Ep-ih-DER-mis). The epidermis is constantly shedding dead cells from its surface as new ones grow to take their places. Beneath that outer layer, the dermis contains blood vessels. An even deeper layer is called the subcutis (Sub-KEW-tis). It stores reserves of fat that act as a cushion to help protect muscles and bones from bumps and falls.

Look closely at your nose in a mirror and you’ll see what looks like tiny pits on the skin. These are pores. The epidermis hosts some 5 million of them. Hairs grow from the dermis up and out of each pore. (Most of these pores and hairs are too small to see.) Organs called glands sit near the bottom of each hair. Some of these glands produce sweat to help cool the skin.

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