It may be that as many as 13% of older adults are addicted to highly processed comfort foods, a new survey finds. Craving cookies, chips, packaged snacks and soda was seen in adults aged 50 to 80, according to new data from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, from the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. Women had higher numbers of addiction to these foods than men, especially those in their 50s and early 60s. Older adults who were overweight or experiencing poor mental health or isolation also had much higher percentages of possible addiction to processed foods. Researchers suggested that doctors should screen for these addictive eating habits, so that patients can get referrals to nutrition counseling or programs that help address addictive eating. “The word addiction may seem strong when it comes to food, but research has shown that our brains respond as strongly to highly processed foods, especially those highest in sugar, simple starches and fat, as they do to tobacco, alcohol and other addictive substances,” said researcher Ashley Gearhardt, an associate professor in the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychology. “Just as with smoking or drinking, we need to identify and reach out to those who have entered unhealthy patterns of use and support them in developing a healthier relationship with food,” Gearhardt said in a university news…  read on >  read on >

Many adults with epilepsy have agoraphobia, or a fear of public places, new research suggests. That impacts quality of life and is something doctors should include in other screening that looks for anxiety or depression, the investigators said. “We know that agoraphobia can lead to delays in patient care because of a reluctance to go out in public, which includes appointments with health care providers,” said lead study author Dr. Heidi Munger Clary, an associate professor of neurology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. “So, this is an area that needs more attention in clinical practice.” Her team used data from a neuropsychology registry study to analyze a diverse sample of 420 adults, ages 18 to 75. The patients had epilepsy and underwent neuropsychological evaluation over a 14-year period at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. “More than one-third of the participants reported significant phobic/agoraphobic symptoms,” Munger Clary said in a Wake Forest news release. “We also found that phobic/agoraphobic symptoms, along with depression symptoms, were independently associated with poor quality of life, but generalized anxiety symptoms were not.” The findings suggest a need for future studies, to develop more comprehensive screening for these types of psychiatric disorders in epilepsy, Munger Clary said. “Symptoms of agoraphobia do not fully overlap with generalized anxiety or depression symptoms that are often…  read on >  read on >

Treatments for gum disease may have little benefit for heavy smokers, new research shows. The study findings suggest the need to rethink treatment of the common gum disease periodontitis, according to researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark. “To our surprise, we could see that the disease had actually grown worse in some parameters in the hardest-hit group, despite the fact that this particular group had received the most extensive, individually designed treatment,” study co-author Julie Pajaniaye, a dental hygienist, said in a university news release. Periodontitis, or gum disease, leads to breakdown of the teeth’s supportive tissue and, in serious cases, can result in loss of teeth. For the study, the researchers studied the effect of different levels of smoking on results of gum disease treatment. Heavy smokers with the most severe forms of gum inflammation got no benefit from the treatment, the study found. Heavy smokers with moderate periodontitis had a 50% effect from the treatment, compared to lighter smokers. About 40% of the population is affected by periodontitis and 18% of Danes smoke daily or occasionally, the study authors noted. Treatment of the disease is adapted to the individual patient, including deep cleansings of affected teeth, education about the harmful effects of smoking and, in some cases, surgery. Pajaniaye said the findings illustrate the need to include referrals to smoking cessation courses in…  read on >  read on >

Carbon monoxide is a silent, odorless killer, but even during winter heating season, it’s possible to stay safe. This dangerous gas is produced when fuels burn incompletely. This can happen in furnaces, both gas- and wood-burning fireplaces, space heaters and vehicles that burn fossil fuel. It’s also possible in water heaters, gas clothes dryers and stoves, as well as other equipment, including grills, generators and power tools. The Nebraska Regional Poison Center offers some tips on staying safe, recognizing carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and treating a person who has been poisoned with the gas: Start by installing carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home. Replace batteries every six months. Have all fuel-burning appliances inspected regularly. Ventilate fuel- and gas-burning heaters to the outside. Do not use a gas range or an oven to heat a room. Never use a charcoal grill or hibachi inside, the center advises. Run generators at a safe distance from the home. Don’t run them next to a window or a door, which can be dangerous. Avoid sitting in a car with the engine running if deep snow or mud is blocking the exhaust pipe. Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open. Have your vehicle’s muffler and tailpipes checked regularly. CO poisoning can be mistaken for flu. Symptoms include headache, nausea,…  read on >  read on >

Natural gas stoves have become the latest flashpoint in America’s increasingly volatile political culture, after a top federal regulator publicly mulled over banning the appliances. “This is a hidden hazard,” the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) commissioner, Richard Trumka Jr., said in an interview. “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.” Trumka quickly walked back that statement, saying that the agency wants to assess the hazards posed by indoor gas stove emissions but has no plans to ban gas stoves. But the question now is on the front burner — to what extent do gas stoves pose a health hazard to the average American? A growing body of evidence shows that gas stoves do indeed emit a wide variety of harmful pollutants into a home’s air, including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde, and even the sort of particulate matter that contributes to smog, experts say. “All of those are known to have negative impacts on human health,” said Dr. MeiLan Han, chief of pulmonary and critical care at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Some of these pollutants are emitted through microscopic leaks that occur even when a stove is off, said Eric Lebel, a senior scientist with PSE Healthy Energy in Oakland, Calif. Others are generated by the stove’s blue flame. However, researchers…  read on >  read on >

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it can’t regulate CBD supplements because there isn’t enough evidence on their safety. The agency also called on Congress to create new rules for what has become a burgeoning industry. “The use of CBD raises various safety concerns, especially with long-term use,” FDA Deputy Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “Studies have shown the potential for harm to the liver, interactions with certain medications and possible harm to the male reproductive system. CBD exposure is also concerning when it comes to certain vulnerable populations such as children and those who are pregnant.” “The FDA’s existing foods and dietary supplement authorities provide only limited tools for managing many of the risks associated with CBD products,” Woodcock added. “Given the available evidence, it is not apparent how CBD products could meet safety standards for dietary supplements or food additives.” “For example, we have not found adequate evidence to determine how much CBD can be consumed, and for how long, before causing harm,” Woodcock noted. “Therefore, we do not intend to pursue rule-making allowing the use of CBD in dietary supplements or conventional foods.” Meanwhile, the FDA has warned some companies about making health claims for the ingredient, which the agency said it plans to continue doing. How to regulate CBD supplements has become a pressing public health…  read on >  read on >