After states legalize the sale of weed for recreational use, on-the-job injuries rise among younger workers, new research shows. U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics for 2006 through 2020 show that legal “recreational marijuana sales were associated with a 10% increase in workplace injuries among individuals aged 20 to 34 years,” the study authors concluded. They note that prior research involving older workers did not show this effect. In fact, older workers’ injury rates typically decline after recreational weed is made legal in their state, perhaps because older folk are only using their marijuana to ease pain. In contrast, the rise in injury among younger workers may be because “marijuana use diminishes workers’ cognitive functioning or acts as a gateway to harder drugs,” the researchers theorized. The study was published Feb. 23 in the journal JAMA Health Forum and co-led by Dr. Joseph Sabia, chair of the economics department at San Diego State University. As the researchers noted, “since 2012, 24 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and sale of small quantities of marijuana for recreational purposes.” Would such moves encourage young workers to get high on the job, putting their performance at risk? To find out, Sabia’s group used Bureau of Labor statistics to track changes in the rate of workplace injuries among young employees, before and after laws allowing recreational marijuana sales…  read on >  read on >

An open question for weight-loss drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Zepbound has been whether folks will keep the pounds off when they stop taking them. Regular exercise could be the key to quitting the drugs without regaining weight, a new Danish study says. “It is actually possible to stop taking the medication without large weight regain, if you follow a structured exercise regime,” said senior researcher Signe Sorensen Torekov, of the University of Copenhagen. As little as a couple hours a week of exercise maintained the weight lost with the drugs, researchers found. “Our study offers new hope, as we have shown that the majority of those who take weight-loss medication and exercise regularly are able to maintain the beneficial effects a year after treatment termination,” Torekov said in a university news release. For the study, researchers recruited four groups of test participants. One group was given a weight-loss drug, a second group was asked to exercise regularly and a third group was given the drug and asked to work out. The fourth group received a placebo. The results showed that the exercise groups experienced an improvement in their quality of life. And those taking the drug while exercising kept the weight off once they quit the medication. The new study was published Feb. 19 in the journal Lancet eClinical Medicine. “All it takes is…  read on >  read on >

FRIDAY, Feb. 23, 2024 (HealthDay news) — Artificial intelligence can match and even outperform human eye doctors in diagnosing and treating glaucoma, a new study finds. The GPT-4 system from OpenAI did as well or better than ophthalmologists in assessing 20 different patients for glaucoma and retinal disease, researchers report Feb. 22 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology. “AI was particularly surprising in its proficiency in handling both glaucoma and retina patient cases, matching the accuracy and completeness of diagnoses and treatment suggestions made by human doctors in a clinical note format,” said senior study author Dr. Louis Pasquale, deputy chair for ophthalmology research at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai. The results suggest that AI could play an important support role for ophthalmologists as they try to manage patients’ glaucoma. “Just as the AI application Grammarly can teach us how to be better writers, GPT-4 can give us valuable guidance on how to be better clinicians, especially in terms of how we document findings of patient exams,” Pasquale said in an infirmary news release. Glaucoma is notoriously difficult to diagnose. About half of the 3 million Americans with glaucoma don’t know they have it, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Glaucoma occurs when fluid pressure builds up inside the eye, damaging the optic nerve and creating blind spots in…  read on >  read on >

Infection with the COVID-19 virus triggers the production of an immune system protein that’s long been associated with fatigue, muscle ache and depression. Trouble is, for folks suffering from Long COVID this protein overproduction does not stop, researchers at the University of Cambridge report. “We have found a potential mechanism underlying Long COVID which could represent a biomarker — that is, a tell-tale signature of the condition. We hope that this could help to pave the way to develop therapies and give some patients a firm diagnosis,” said study co-author Dr. Benjamin Krishna. There was another silver lining from the research: Vaccination against SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, appears to lower production of the culprit protein, called interferon gamma (IFN-γ). “If SARS-CoV-2 continues to persist in people with Long COVID, triggering an IFN-γ response, then vaccination may be helping to clear this,” said Krishna, who works at the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology & Infectious Disease. According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 7% of Americans say they have experienced Long COVID. Most cite persistent fatigue as the major symptom, but Long COVID can also bring brain fog, chronic cough and other issues. The exact causes of the illness have remained unclear. In the latest study, Krishna’s team tracked outcomes for 111 COVID patients admitted to…  read on >  read on >

A ban on menthol cigarettes would likely lead to a meaningful reduction in smoking rates, a new review argues. Almost a quarter of menthol smokers quit smoking altogether after menthol cigarettes were banned in their country or community, researchers report Feb. 21 in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research. “This review provides compelling evidence for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes,” said lead researcher Sarah Mills, an assistant professor of health behavior at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In December, the White House in December announced that it would postpone until March a ban on menthol cigarettes that has been in the works for years. “Our review of the evidence suggests this delay is causing harm to the health of the public, especially among Black communities,” Mills said in a journal news release.  Menthol cigarettes have been targeted by public health officials because studies show the cooling effects of menthol masks the harshness of tobacco, making it easier for young people to start smoking. For this study, researchers conducted an evidence review, pooling data from studies that have examined the effects of menthol cigarette bans. More than 170 U.S. cities, two U.S. states, the European Union and several other countries have already banned the sale of menthol cigarettes, researchers said. About 50% of menthol smokers switched to non-menthol cigarettes…  read on >  read on >

A person’s diet can influence their risk of obstructive sleep apnea, a new study says. Those who eat a healthy plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts are less likely to suffer sleep apnea, according to findings published Feb. 20 in the journal ERJ Open Research. On the other hand, people who eat more meat or indulge in unhealthy vegetarian diets high in sugar, carbs and salt are more at risk for sleep apnea. “These results highlight the importance of the quality of our diet in managing the risk of OSA [obstructive sleep apnea],” said lead researcher Yohannes Melaku, from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly and their breathing starts and stops during the night, causing regular brief wakefulness, researchers explained in background notes. Sleep apnea can increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, researchers said. For this study, the team analyzed responses from more than 14,000 participants in a regular U.S. survey on health and nutrition. This is the first large-scale analysis investigating the link between diet and sleep apnea, Melaku said. “There’s a gap in our knowledge of how overall dietary patterns affect OSA risk,” Melaku said in a journal news release. “With this study, we wanted to address that gap and explore the association between…  read on >  read on >