Check in with us as we feature the latest trends, research and news in medicine, health and science. A team of Star Tribune staffers will aggregate updates from news wires, websites, magazines and medical journals.

Smoking banned in most U.S. homes

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: September 4, 2014 - 3:22 PM

The percentage of U.S. homes with smoke-free rules increased from 43 percent in 1992-1993 to 83 percent in 2010-2011, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the same period, the study found that among households with no cigarette smokers, the national percentage of smoke-free home rules increased from 56.7 percent to 91.4 percent. The increase was even more dramatic among households with one or more adult smokers; the national percentage of smoke-free home rules increased nearly five-fold, from 9.6 percent to 46.1 percent.

However, the fact that less than half of all households with smokers have adopted smoke-free rules is still a concern, because nearly all nonsmokers who live with someone who smokes inside the home are exposed to secondhand smoke. The home is a major source of secondhand smoke exposure, especially for children. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes more than 41,000 deaths among nonsmoking adults each year, and causes respiratory problems and SIDS among children.  
Read more from CDC.

E-cig start is linked to switch to regular cigarettes

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: August 26, 2014 - 10:58 AM

Youth who had never smoked conventional cigarettes but who used e-cigarettes were almost twice as likely to intend to smoke conventional cigarettes as those who had never used e-cigarettes, a new study shows. 

More than a quarter million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes in 2013, according to a new CDC study. That is up from about 79,000 in 2011.

Among nonsmoking youth who had ever used e-cigarettes, 43.9 percent said they intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year, compared with 21.5 percent of those who had never used e-cigarettes.

There is evidence that nicotine’s adverse effects on adolescent brain development could result in lasting deficits in cognitive function.  Nicotine is highly addictive.  About three out of every four teen smokers become adult smokers, even if they intend to quit in a few years.

The CDC study was published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Read more at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Massive red tide threatens Florida

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: August 11, 2014 - 3:50 PM

The largest red tide bloom seen in Florida in nearly a decade has killed thousands of fish in the Gulf of Mexico and may pose a greater health threat if it washes ashore as expected in the next two weeks.

The patchy bloom stretches from the curve of the Panhandle to the central Tampa Bay region. It measures approximately 80 miles (130 km) long by 50 miles (80 km) wide.

Red tide occurs when naturally occurring algae bloom out of control, producing toxins deadly to fish and other marine life. The odorless chemicals can trigger respiratory distress in people, such as coughing and wheezing.

"It could have large impacts if it were to move inshore," said Brandon Basino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). "It has been killing a lot of marine species, especially fish, as it waits offshore."

The agency has received reports of thousands of dead fish, including snapper, grouper, flounder, crabs, bull sharks, eel and octopus. This is the largest bloom seen since 2006.

The phenomenon has existed for centuries, but such a large bloom is being closely monitored in Florida because it could impact beach tourism and commercial fishing.

A smaller red tide bloom, closer to shore, contributed last year to a record number of deaths among Florida manatees, an endangered sea mammal.


Cigarettes down, cigar smoking up

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: August 1, 2014 - 11:12 AM

In the United States, cigarette use declined from 2000 to 2011, but cigar smoking more than doubled during the same period.  

An analysis from the 2012–2013 National Adult Tobacco Survey found that more than one in 20 U.S. adults smoke cigars every day, some days or rarely. This report expands upon those findings, using data from the 2012–2013 NATS to further characterize cigar smokers by the usual type of cigar smoked using the following categories: little filtered cigars, cigarillos/other mass market cigars, and premium cigars. The findings indicate that among U.S. adult cigar smokers, 61.8% usually smoke cigarillos/MMCs, 19.9% usually smoke premium cigars, and the remainder (18.4%) usually smoke little filtered cigars.

For more information, go to the Centers for Disease Control.

Highest calorie Xtreme restaurant meals of 2014

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: July 31, 2014 - 11:40 AM

At 3,540 calories, it's the "single unhealthiest" meal the group could find on more than 200 chain restaurant menus it reviewed for the 2014 edition of its not-very-coveted Xtreme Eating Awards. The awards go to dishes and combos especially high in calories, fat, sugar and salt.

The group found it easier than usual to find nutrition offenders this year, says the center's Paige Einstein, a registered dietitian.

"In the past, our winners have usually had about 1,500 calories," she says. "Most of these dishes have at least 2,000." They often are on menus that feature new, lighter options, too — but "those are much smaller parts of the menu," Einstein says.

While Red Robin gets the top spot, the Cheesecake Factory gets the most — three — for its Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic (2,410 calories), Bruléed French Toast (2,780 calories) and Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake (1,500 calories).

To burn off those calories, the center says, you would have to do:

• 12 hours of brisk walking for the Monster Burger meal
• 7 hours of lap-swimming for the French toast.
• 5 hours of jogging for the chicken pasta dish
• 4.5 hours of aerobics for the cheesecake.

The list also includes a spare rib plate from Famous Dave's; a combo plate from Chevys Fresh Mex; a seafood platter from Joe's Crab Shack; a steak dish from Maggiano's Little Italy; and a deep-dish chicken-bacon-ranch pizza from BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse.

Read more from USA Today.


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