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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Vitamin D helps maintain bone health, but could it also help prevent cancer? Researchers think it could lower the risk of colon cancer, because of its role in pathways related to cell growth and regulation.This large international study looked at vitamin D blood levels of 5,700 people with colon cancer and 7,100 without it in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. This new research comes from scientists from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and 20 other medical centers around the world.The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that being deficient in vitamin D (under 30nmol/L) was associated with a 31 percent higher risk of colon cancer in both men and women, after they followed them for an average of 5.5 years.Having “adequate” levels of vitamin D was linked with a 22 percent lower risk of colon cancer in women, but no significant difference in men. At higher blood levels, beyond 100nmol/L, there was no added benefit.Colon cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the U.S., and represents 8.1 percent of all new cancer cases. According to the ACS, the lifetime risk of colon cancer is 1 in 22 for men, and 1 in 24 for women.It is important to be aware that too much vitamin D can be a problem. The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine previously suggested avoiding levels over 125-150nmol/L, due to possible links to kidney stones, mortality, pancreatic cancer, cardiovascular events, and falls and fractures.What is the sweet spot for vitamin D levels? Future recommendations on optimal vitamin D doses may trend higher (75-100nmol/L) for colon cancer prevention. Now the dose recommended for bone health is a bit lower (less than 50nmol/L).Though vitamin D is created when skin is exposed to sunlight, people should not spend more time in the sun to change their colon cancer risk – because their skin cancer risk would rise. Experts recommend that the best way to up vitamin D intake is from food (egg yolks, dairy, or fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel). With regards to supplements, people should talk to their doctors regarding a blood test to measure their vitamin D levels, to determine if their levels are low enough to require supplements. Other studies have found vitamin supplements aren’t as effective as vitamins from food.There’s more work to do. This study used just a single blood sample to estimate vitamin D levels, and it’s an observational study that only lasted a few years. Since the researchers didn’t take any action, they just looked at associations, they can’t say that low levels of vitamin D “caused” colon cancer, just that they are linked somehow. In addition, some racial/ethnic subgroups were not well represented in this study. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The rate of suicide for women increased by a staggering 50 percent between 2000 and 2016, according to a new study by the CDC.The rate of suicide for men increased 21 percent over the same period, the study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.Lead author Dr. Holly Hedegaard told ABC News that the report uses the most recent data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) “to update trends in suicide from 2000 through 2016, and describes differences by sex, age group and means of suicide.”The study comes at a critical time, in light of the heartbreaking, newsmaking suicides by designer Kate Spade and TV cooking personality Anthony Bourdain.Though men still commit suicide more frequently than women, this sobering new report reveals the rate of increase in suicides was approximately even until 2007, when female suicide rates started to rise faster.The ratio of male-to-female suicide rates was 4.4 men to 1 woman in 2000; it dropped to 3.6 men per one woman in 2016.A leading cause of death, especially in teens, young adultsSince 2006, suicide rates have been increasing by a staggering 2 percent per year. Since 2008, suicide has ranked as the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in the U.S.In 2016, suicide became the second leading cause of death among those aged 10-34 and the fourth leading cause among those aged 35-54. Nearly 45,000 people died from suicide – approximately one death every 12 minutes -- in 2016, according to the CDC.Methods of suicide vary by age group and genderKate Spade, who died at age 55 by suffocation, was unusual for women in her age group, according to the new report. Suffocation is the most common method of suicide for young women (under age 25), poisoning by drug or gas is most common in women aged 45 and over.Bourdain, who died at age 61 by suffocation, was also unusual. Men 15 and over are much more likely to die by firearm use. The CDC recently reported that people without known mental health conditions were more likely to be male and to die by firearm.Dr. Hedegaard told ABC News, “This report shows that the methods of suicide differ by age group and sex. The observed patterns might help inform prevention efforts.”Although the federal program Healthy People 2020 target is to reduce suicide rates to 10.2 per 100,000, this NVSS report, made with information on suicide deaths from death certificate records from all 50 states, shows that we have a ways to go.The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- On a platter of cheese, pretzels and donuts, most people will probably reach for the donuts, according to a new study.That could be because the brain values foods like donuts, with both fats and carbohydrates, more than foods high in only fats, like the cheese, or only carbs, like the pretzels.People could be wired to want that deadly combo: Fats and carbohydrates together."We were interested in exploring mechanisms that drive food reinforcement," lead author Dana Small, director of Yale University’s Modern Diet and Physiology Research Center, told ABC News.So how do the digestive and emotional system work for different types of macronutrients, like carbs and fats? And how do "man-made," processed foods that contain both fats and carbs affect these mechanisms?To find out, the researchers took fMRI images of participants' brains while showing them photos of different foods. They were given a limited amount of money they could use to bid on their first-choices of the foods.Their answers were telling. Most were willing to pay more for foods with fats and carbs together -- mostly processed foods like donuts, M&Ms or hamburgers -- as opposed to foods with just carbs, like bread and pretzels, or those with fats and no carbs, like cheese or salami. The brain scans showed participants' brains lit up more when they were shown foods containing fats and carbs, regardless of the number of calories, amount of sugar or portion sizes.This suggests that foods with both fats and carbs activate the reward centers in the brain and are more alluring and habit-forming, almost the same way drugs are addicting. The participants were also not as good at predicting the number of calories of foods with fats and carbs together, or carbs alone. They were better at guessing the calories of foods with just fats."Our study shows that when both nutrients are combined, the brain seems to overestimate the energetic value of the food," Small said.The findings of the study suggest that the brain may have distinct pathways that guide information about the fat-and-carb combination foods.This study may also provide "important insight in understanding how the food environment is contributing to the obesity and diabetes pandemic," Small said.But,the study was limited in some ways: It did not evaluate what participants normally consume in their lives. What if somebody eats a lot of M&Ms normally – or never eats M&Ms, but is offered some? In addition, this was a small study done in Western Europe and eating habits can differ by culture.Small said further research could give more information about why people crave the foods known to lead to obesity, why people eat even when they aren't hungry, why it is difficult to lose or keep off excess weight and how the brain-gut connection works for people with eating disorders.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With a 5-year-old daughter she said was unable to walk and talk, a Mississippi mom urgently warned parents to check their children for ticks.Jessica Griffin wrote on Facebook that doctors in Mississippi performed a multitude of tests and a CT scan on her daughter, Kailyn, suspecting everything from a stroke to a neurological syndrome -- until they found the cause of little girl’s odd symptoms: A tick on the crown of her head.Once the tick was removed, Kailyn’s symptoms subsided and she was "completely back to normal," her mom said.“PLEASE for the love of god check your kids for ticks! It’s more common in children than it is adults!” Griffin urged in her Facebook post.Here is more about how and why ticks can cause paralysis and worse.What is tick paralysis?Tick paralysis is caused by a toxin found in tick saliva, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although it is rare, tick paralysis is important to recognize because it can be fatal or nearly fatal.What are the symptoms?Symptoms usually begin with numbness or tingling, fatigue or weakness. In addition, muscle pain, restlessness and irritability can occur.As it progresses, people can become more wobbly, with double vision and difficulty talking or swallowing, which can present as drooling. Usually there is no fever and no headache.Tick paralysis can also look like stroke, causing weakness on one side of the body. Reflexes can be absent and, in severe cases, respiratory muscles can be affected, making it difficult to breathe.Symptoms do not start right away, but typically start to appear after the tick has been feeding on the person or animal for four to seven days. Which ticks can cause paralysis?More than 40 tick species worldwide are known to cause tick paralysis. In the U.S., the tick species that causes the most cases of paralysis in humans are the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick.How is it diagnosed and treated?If someone who has been outdoors in the spring or summer months suddenly becomes weak and appears to be getting worse, tick paralysis could be the cause. Most cases occur in children.Unlike many other bites, tick bites don’t usually hurt or itch at first. While they can start small, once the tick swells up as it feeds, it can become more visible.Tick paralysis has been frequently misdiagnosed as another disease that causes paralysis called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), according to a 2010 meta-analysis in the Journal of Medical Toxicology.The main treatment for tick paralysis is completely removing the tick, including all of its mouthparts, since they contain the salivary glands that produce the toxin. Symptoms usually improve with 24 hours, according to the CDC, after the tick has been completely removed.Other tick-borne diseasesSeveral other diseases are associated with ticks, the most well-known include Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Other tick-borne diseases include Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, ehrlichiosis and babesiosis.The best way to avoid tick bites that can cause disease is to avoid walking through or brushing against vegetation and perform daily self-examinations for ticks. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and enclosed shoes, can also help.
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  • Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Donuts, cookies, pastries, the candy dish, the vending machine and more -- are office foods making people fat?Perhaps. The first national study looking at what people eat at work and found that workers took in an average of 1,200 calories worth of food and beverages per person, per week. The foods they ate came from a variety of places -- the cafeteria, vending machines, common areas and even meetings and worksite social events -- and sometimes were even free.The study surveyed 5,222 employees across the U.S., asking what foods they got from their workplace during a seven-day period. Researchers found that a quarter of these employees, most of whom were college graduates, women and non-Hispanic whites, did get food and beverages at work."Nearly one in four working adults obtained food at work during the week, and the food and beverages that they got added up to an average of nearly 1,300 calories, more than half the recommended daily calorie intake for the average adult," lead author Stephen Onufrak, an epidemiologist in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told ABC News. "With employees spending eight hours a day on average at their place of employment, a lot of people may not be aware of all of the calories they get from work, especially from foods they get for free."Free food was the most common source of what people ate at work in the study, at 17 percent, versus those who purchased food at work, at 8 percent.The foods were seldom a healthy salad or included a side of veggies –- they tended to be processed, high in salt and included "empty" calories, things like pizza, soft drinks, cookies, brownies, cakes, pies and candy. The study suggested ways for workplaces to promote access to healthier foods, noting that changing employees' health behaviors has the potential to reduce both sick days and health care costs for companies -– added motivations to the public health concerns.Some of the suggestions?Cafeterias could promote a salad bar over a pizza or burrito station. Vending machines could swap their cheese-flavored corn chips, at 250 calories with little nutritional value, for sunflower seeds that include healthy fats and fiber, at 160 calories.Listing calories, and nutritional content, on vending machine and cafeteria items could also help deter employees from eating some unhealthier items.Since a lot of the food items obtained by employees were free, employers may also want to consider promoting policies to encourage healthy food options."Employers can encourage healthier foods at meetings and events, especially when the employer is providing free food to employees," Onufrak said. "Providing delicious, appealing, healthy food can also help to create a culture of health at a workplace."This study was limited in some ways, including that it was based on participants' memory of what they ate in a seven-day period.The findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal; they were presented by the researchers at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, the first week in June.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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