Health briefs: Most common cause of food illness is the food

  • Updated: February 16, 2013 - 6:57 PM
Spoiled shellfish and unrefrigerated mayonnaise are notorious for causing digestive troubles, but the most common cause of food-borne illness is leafy vegetables, according to a new study, and the most common cause of death is contaminated poultry.

A study in the March issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases estimates that 1,451 people died from 1998 to 2008 in outbreaks of food-borne illness. Meat and poultry accounted for 28.7 percent of deaths, dairy products (including eggs) for 14.5 percent and vegetables for 16.4 percent.

But more than half of all food-borne illnesses were caused by plant foods, which made more than 4.9 million people sick. Leafy vegetables like spinach led the list, with 2.1 million people falling ill after eating them.

Drink together, stay together

When it comes to drinking -- as in so many other facets of marriage -- compatibility may be key to keeping couples together.

Researchers reviewing data collected from 19,977 married couples in one county in Norway reported that spouses who consume about the same amount of alcohol were less likely to divorce than pairs where one partner is a heavy drinker and the other is not -- especially when the wife is the one doing the drinking.

By reviewing such a large data set, the team, which reported its findings Tuesday in the online edition of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, were able to tease out some of the alcohol-related dynamics within couples that lead to marriage dissolution.

They found that divorce was generally more common in couples with high rates of alcohol consumption, but that the highest divorce rates were found in couples where only the woman was a heavy drinker. Among couples where the wife reported being a heavy drinker (a measure that including admission of an indication of "hazardous drinking") and the husband a light drinker, the divorce rate was 26.8 percent; when the positions were switched and the husband was the heavy drinker, the divorce rate was 13.1 percent.

More people are dying in hospice

More people are dying in hospice care rather than in the hospital, though the shift hasn't led to less aggressive treatment or lower costs as patients spend additional time in intensive care units in the last month of life.

Hospice care among the elderly doubled to about 40 percent in the past decade, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. For many, the transition to hospice came only in the final few days of life, often after time in the ICU and multiple hospitalizations.

Hospice care programs treat pain and discomfort of dying patients whose underlying disease can't be cured. The programs often enable patients to die at home and are far less costly than hospital care.

Joan Teno, a doctor who focuses on end-of- life care and one of the study's authors, said she is troubled that terminally ill patients aren't admitted sooner to hospice, where they can benefit from supportive care, instead of first going through lengthy intensive care unit and hospital stays.

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