All Sauce from Weekly Gravy:

Teens have a higher risk of self-injury — deliberately cutting or burning themselves — if they have a fraught relationship with a struggling parent, a new study shows. Teenagers were nearly five times more likely to self-injure if, when they were 6, their moms and dads reported stress and discomfort in their role as parents, researchers found. Teens also had a nearly doubled risk of self-harm if they perceived parental hostility and negativity at the age of 6, researchers report. “Stress in parents is hypothesized to have widespread negative impacts on child development, including the development of behavioral problems,” said researchers Tove Wichstrom and Lars Wichstrom, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. “It is therefore possible that increased stress contributes to the emergence of risk factors in children,” including a higher risk of self-injury, they added. For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 759 Norwegian adolescents at ages 12, 14 or 16 to determine the teens’ rate of non-suicidal self-injury. About 10% of the teens reported self-injury within the past year, with girls nearly 12 times more likely than boys to cut, burn or otherwise injure themselves. Such self-injury is typically a way to cope with emotional pain, sadness, anger and stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s rarely meant as a suicide attempt, but rather as a means of…  read on >  read on >

Ultra-processed foods can cause dozens of terrible health problems among people who eat them too often, a new review warns. Researchers linked diets high in ultra-processed foods to an increased risk of 32 separate illnesses. In particular, these foods are strongly tied to risk with early death, heart disease, cancer, mental health disorders, overweight and obesity, and type 2 diabetes, researchers said. For example, ultra-processed foods are associated with a 50% increased risk of heart-related death, a 48% to 53% increased risk of anxiety and common mental disorders, and a 12% risk of type 2 diabetes, researchers said. And the more of these foods people eat, the higher their overall health risks, results showed. Ultra-processed foods include packaged snacks, sugary drinks, instant noodles, sweet cereals and ready-to-eat meals. The products undergo multiple industrial processes to make them tasty and shelf-stable, and contain additives like emulsifiers, coloring agents and chemical flavors. Unfortunately, ultra-processed foods now account for up to 58% of total daily energy intake in some high income-countries, and are proliferating in low- and middle-income countries, researchers said in background notes. “Notably, over recent decades, the availability and variety of ultra-processed products sold has substantially and rapidly increased” in countries around the world, wrote the research team led by Melissa Lane, an associate research fellow with the Deaken University Institute for Mental and Physical Health…  read on >  read on >

The eyes may have it when it comes to the early diagnosis of autism in children, a new study finds. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), have pinpointed a gene that affects how kids’ eyes react when they turn their heads. Typically, people use what’s called the vestibulo-ocular reflex to help their sight coordinate with their head movement. However, kids with autism appear to have a gene that puts this reflex into overdrive, and the change can be picked up on vision tests. That might help speed research into autism, said study co-author Kevin Bender, a professor in the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. “We can measure it in kids with autism who are non-verbal or can’t or don’t want to follow instructions,” Bender said in a university news release. “This could be a game-changer in both the clinic and the lab.”  The significance of the variant in the eye-tracking gene, called SCN2A, was first spotted in mice. If you shake your head, your eyes still stay more or less “centered,” the researchers explained. But in mice with a particular form of the SCN2A gene, that wasn’t the case. Their vestibulo-ocular reflex got stuck. Would this aberration show up in children with autism? To find out, Bender’s group conducted a study involving 5 kids with autism and 11 of their siblings who…  read on >  read on >

Folks hoping to quell their anxiety would do best to use cannabis products that don’t get them high, a new clinical trial has found. The non-intoxicating marijuana compound CBD appears to help manage anxiety better than THC, the chemical in weed that gets people high, researchers say. Patients with anxiety randomly assigned to smoke CBD-dominant products experienced greater improvements in mood than people smoking THC-heavy products or products with an even split between CBD and THC. “Our study suggests that CBD products may be able to relieve anxiety in the moment for adults who use them, and possibly longer-term, in a way that is meaningful and doesn’t necessarily produce the same risks or harms of THC or prescription medications,” said senior researcher Cinnamon Bidwell, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience with the University of Colorado Boulder. About one in five U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, making it the most common mental illness in the country, researchers said in background notes. Prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications are on the rise, and the drive to legalize marijuana has made cannabis products an attractive treatment option for people with anxiety. Adults rank anxiety among the top three medical reasons for turning to cannabis, alongside sleep and pain, researchers said. However, some studies have suggested that using cannabis too frequently or leaning on potent products high in…  read on >  read on >

PFAS “forever” chemicals, increasingly linked to health risks, will no longer be added to food packaging handled by American consumers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday. “Grease-proofing materials containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances [PFAS] are no longer being sold for use in food packaging in the U.S.,” Jim Jones, the agency’s Commissioner for Human Foods, said in a statement. “This means the major source of dietary exposure to PFAS from food packaging like fast-food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, take-out paperboard containers and pet food bags is being eliminated,” Jones noted. PFAS were long used in food packaging because they resist grease, oil, water and heat, the FDA explained. However, there’s mounting evidence that certain types of PFAS are tied to “serious health effects,” the agency said. According to the nonprofit National Resources Defense Council, “PFAS have now been linked to a wide range of health risks in both human and animal studies — including cancer [kidney and testicular], hormone disruption, liver and thyroid problems, interference with vaccine effectiveness, reproductive harm and abnormal fetal development.” They’re known as “forever” chemicals for a reason. “The structure of PFAS means they resist breakdown in the environment and in our bodies,” explained Eric Olson, the NRDC’s senior strategic director of health and food. “Second, they move relatively quickly through the environment, making their contamination hard to contain.…  read on >  read on >

According to the advocacy group Autism Speaks, one in every 36 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Early diagnosis is crucial to helping to treat the condition, but how is a diagnosis done? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an updated review of what’s involved in diagnosing autism in kids. “Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder [ASD] can be difficult because there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorder,” the agency noted. “Doctors look at the child’s developmental history and behavior to make a diagnosis.” At what age can a diagnosis be made? According to the CDC, the time at which a child receives a diagnosis varies. Sometimes an ASD can be detected as young as 18 months, or even before, but only by the age of 2 can a diagnosis by a trained professional be considered reliable. Unfortunately, in many cases a diagnosis of autism may not come till later in childhood. Some people are unaware that they have an ASD until they are diagnosed as an adult. Ideally, a reliable diagnosis should take place in childhood, when therapies are most effective, the CDC said. Monitoring development As children grow, conversations between parents and health care providers that center on kids’ skills and abilities should be encouraged, the CDC said. Tracking your child’s development — how…  read on >  read on >

Live musical performances speak to the soul, stimulating the brain in ways more powerful than listening to a recorded tune does, new research finds. “Our study showed that pleasant and unpleasant emotions performed as live music elicited much higher and more consistent activity in the amygdala [the emotional center of the brain] than recorded music,” said lead researcher Sascha Fruhholz, a professor of cognitive and affective neuroscience at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. “The live performance also stimulated a more active exchange of information in the whole brain, which points to strong emotional processing in the affective and cognitive parts of the brain,” Fruhholz added in a university news release. Music can have a strong effect on emotions, and prior studies have shown that listening to recorded music stimulates emotional and imaginative processes in the brain, researchers said. But it’s not clear whether listening to music in a live setting — at a music festival, rock concert, opera performance or piano bar — triggers a different response in the brain, researchers said. To examine this, researchers performed MRI brain scans on the amygdala of 27 people as they listened to a pianist playing live music. During the performance, the pianist adapted his performance to intensify the audience’s emotions, based on the MRI feedback. The participants also listened to a recorded copy of the same…  read on >  read on >

In a new study, yoga appears to have bolstered the brain health of older women who had risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. The study can’t prove that the ancient practice will slow or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s, but it did seem to reverse some forms of neurological decline, researchers said. “That is what yoga is good for — to reduce stress, to improve brain health, subjective memory performance and reduce inflammation and improve neuroplasticity,” said study lead author Dr. Helen Lavretsky. She’s a health psychiatrist at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, part of UCLA Health. The researchers noted that, because they live longer and are affected by changes in estrogen levels as they age, women have about twice the odds of developing Alzheimer’s compared to men. The new study involved more than 60 women ages 50 or older. All were patients at a UCLA cardiology clinic and already had reported memory issues and risk factors indicating poorer brain blood flow. Lavretsky’s team divided the women into two groups. One joined weekly sessions of Kundalini yoga (focusing on meditation and breathing work rather than physical poses) for 12 weeks; while the other took memory enhancement training, where stories or lists are used to help boost memory powers. The researchers tracked each woman’s neurological health using blood samples that tracked…  read on >  read on >

Pesticides and herbicides used in farming appear to increase people’s risk of Parkinson’s disease, a new, preliminary study finds. People exposed to pesticides and herbicides are 25% to 36% more likely to develop Parkinson’s, according to a study to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s upcoming annual meeting in April. The Parkinson’s risk was specifically higher in the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains region of the country, researchers said. “Our methods enabled us to identify parts of the nation where there was a relationship between most pesticides and Parkinson’s disease and subsequently pinpoint where the relationship was strongest, so we could explore specific pesticides in that region,” said researcher Brittany Krzyzanowski of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. The region where farm chemicals are most strongly linked to Parkinson’s includes parts of Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive degenerative disease of the nervous system. Patients become less and less able to control their body, suffering from tremors, leg stiffness and gait and balance problems. For the study, researchers reviewed records of 21.5 million people enrolled in Medicare in 2009 to determine the rate of Parkinson’s disease in various parts of the country. The team then looked for a possible relationship between those rates of Parkinson’s and the…  read on >  read on >

Tattoos are a trendy way to decorate your body, but a new study reveals that the inks used in the process often contain unlisted substances that could cause health problems. An analysis of tattoo inks from nine manufacturers in the United States found the contents rarely matched the label of the product. Of 54 inks analyzed, nine out of 10 (90%) had major discrepancies with the labeled contents, such as different pigments or unlisted additives, researchers report. The study comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prepares to regulate tattoo inks as part of new powers granted by Congress in 2022’s Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act (MoCRA), the researchers noted. “The FDA is still figuring out what that is going to look like, and we think this study will influence the discussions around MoCRA,” said senior researcher John Swierk, an assistant professor of chemistry at Binghamton University-SUNY. “This is also the first study to explicitly look at inks sold in the United States and is probably the most comprehensive because it looks at the pigments, which nominally stay in the skin, and the carrier package, which is what the pigment is suspended in,” Swierk added in a university news release. Health experts typically are focused on skin cancer or the pigments in tattoo ink when it comes to the potential risks of tattoos, the…  read on >  read on >